"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
One tagline for the big alien-invasion movie Independence Day cautioned, “Don’t make plans for August.” Well, perhaps the biggest news coming out of DC’s August solicitations is the pervasive sense of foreboding they have about September. Rich Johnston maintains that a whole crop of new No. 1 issues is on tap for the fall, but there are no “FINAL ISSUE!” blurbs to be found on any of the current ongoing series.
While that doesn’t rule out a line-wide relaunch, the solicits also seem to say that readers won’t have to worry about a line-wide reboot. As noted in this space a couple of weeks back, the degree of change will probably be different for different titles. Nevertheless, now that we have a better idea of how August will look, let’s see what it says about September….
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MY HEART WILL GO ON
Exhibit A for the “pick up where you left off” theory is War of the Green Lanterns #2, which promises that its ending “will fuel the next year’s worth of GL tales!” Presumably that includes the return of Green Lantern, perhaps with a new No. 1 issue for Sector 2814’s new GL. (Although each of the four Earthling GLs has held the title at some point, I’m guessing it’ll be John, because Kyle and Guy are firmly ensconced in GL Corps and Emerald Warriors. I don’t think DC will go outside the box on this one — but movie-star Sinestro would sure make for an interesting year.)
Exhibit B is Gates Of Gotham #s 4-5, “set[ting] the stage for a bold new direction in the Bat books!” Here, I suspect “bold new direction” excludes Batman Incorporated, Grant Morrison’s bold, still-fairly-new direction, as well as whatever David Finch intends to do with the late-again Batman: The Dark Knight. That leaves the venerable Batman and Detective Comics, and the barely-two-years-old Red Robin, Batgirl, Batman And Robin, and Gotham City Sirens, none of which seem like good candidates either for relaunching or renumbering. (Why renumber a title in the very high triple digits when you know you’re just going to go back in a year? For that matter, why give a new No. 1 to a book whose first issue wasn’t that long ago?) Perhaps a consolidation is coming: Batgirl and Red Robin, Batgirl and Gotham City Sirens, Red Robin and Batman and Robin, and/or an expanded Detective Comics with room for multiple short features. There is a tease that Dick Grayson might not be Batman for much longer, but I think readers have gotten used to him in the cape and cowl. Oh, and Batwoman is supposed to relaunch in the fall too (almost forgot!).
A handful of titles seem content to spend August telling their own stories, uncompromised by handed-down deadlines or big-event changes. These include Xombi, Zatanna, and Power Girl – although the latter two sport guest creative teams. While THUNDER Agents #10 advertises the end of a particular arc, it even comes right out and says this isn’t the end of the book.
Otherwise, I don’t see much in August’s solicits which would change my earlier thoughts. Given their prominence in Flashpoint, we’ll probably see renewed efforts to push Wonder Woman and Aquaman into bigger sales. I suspect the same holds true for other characters Flashpoint will emphasize, like Kid Flash and perhaps even Lois Lane in a solo series.
WELCOME BACK …
Chief among these may be the Marvel Family. Not only does Flashpoint recast them as more of a group effort, but August also promises a second DC Comics Presents collection from the ‘90s Power Of Shazam! title. Ever since the end of 52 revealed a new Earth-5 as the successor to the old Earth-S, I’ve been wondering whether DC would give the Marvels their own Earth again, where they didn’t have to worry about the shifting social mores of main-line Earth-DC. Supposedly that’s part of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity project, and if Flashpoint does anything with the Multiverse, it could easily help set up Multiversity. (Of course, I’m sure Flashpoint will be setting up any number of DC projects, but I just have a feeling about the Multiverse.) Anyway, the bottom line is, there’s a lot of Captain Marvel stuff coming down the pike, and I have to think it’s in preparation for a new Marvel Family book.
Another almost-certain Flashpoint spinoff is Secret Seven, the magic super-team featuring Shade the Changing Man, the Enchantress, Raven, a few players to be named later, and someone called “Princess” who (when we consider Rip Hunter’s chalkboard, seen most recently in this week’s Booster Gold) is most likely Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. I don’t pretend to have any influence over what DC does, but I’ve used Amethyst in this space as a good example of a DC character who’s pretty easily marketable to a wider audience. Like Captain Marvel (as it happens), she’s a teenager who assumes an adult personality when she travels to the otherdimensional Gemworld for sword-and-sorcery adventures. To put it bluntly, she’s the kind of character who might do well away from the particular tastes of the Direct Market … so it’s a little quixotic to say DC should publish more Amethyst comics. Still, we’ll see how she performs in Flashpoint, and whether that leads to reprints and/or something new.
Then there’s Frankenstein, whose Seven Soldiers miniseries was very well-received. His Flashpoint miniseries looks to build on its predecessor’s tone of no-nonsense mayhem. Frankenstein doesn’t share anything like the contacts Captain Marvel and most of the Secret Seven all have with the regular DC Universe, so for him to get a post-Flashpoint spotlight would be a pretty big deal.
… TO THAT SAME OLD PLACE THAT WE LAUGHED ABOUT
DC doubles up on the Retro-Active books in August, so much so that I made a chart to keep track:
8/3: Batman ‘80s, Wonder Woman ‘80s, Flash ‘80s
8/10: JLA ‘80s, Superman ‘80s, Green Lantern ‘80s
8/17: Batman ‘90s, Wonder Woman ‘90s, Flash ‘90s
8/24: JLA ‘90s, Superman ‘90s, Green Lantern ‘90s
That’s three per week for four weeks — almost in Flashpoint territory! I’ll get ‘em all, though. It’s probably just the nostalgia talking, but I don’t see a clunker in the bunch. While I’m always glad for more Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire wackiness, most gratifying are the reunions of creative teams who haven’t done much DC work in recent years: Bill Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRocque on Flash; Messner-Loebs and Paris Cullins on Wonder Woman; Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove on Superman; Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler on the other WW; on Green Lantern, Len Wein and Joe Staton, and Ron Marz and Darryl Banks; and on Batman, Mike Barr and Jerry Bingham, and Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. Good to see them back in familiar saddles.
However, I did wonder if this is DC’s way of reminding readers that the Flash, Green Lantern, and the Justice League weren’t always faithful to the classic Silver Age setups. The cynic in me says this is just a way to appease us lifers who were kinda fond of Wally, Kyle, and the JLI. (The cynic also thinks this is a good way to gauge interest in future reprints — for example, the Messner-Loebs/Cullins “space-pirate” storyline from Wonder Woman, or the Grant/Breyfogle Detective Comics.)
On the other hand, though, part of me thinks this is DC preparing its readers for another round of guard-changing: in addition to Sector 2814’s new Green Lantern, there could well be a new (or back-to-headlining) Flash, and/or a new Justice League lineup. If the “rebirths” of Hal Jordan and Barry Allen bookended a period when DC rolled back many of the big changes from the ‘80s and ‘90s, maybe 2011 will close out with even more upheaval.
ODDS AND ENDS
Although I never got into their Spider-Girl — but I did buy all five or so issues of Fantastic Five — it’s fitting that Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz take a crack at one of DC’s alternate futures in Superman Beyond #0.
Once again, The Spirit and Doc Savage keep the First Wave line alive for another month. Spirit #17’s lineup of guest creative teams looks especially intriguing — Brian Bolland, P. Craig Russell, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez should make Central City look extra-good. Likewise, guest artists Ryan Sook and Mick Gray should turn in a nice and spooky Jonah Hex.
August wraps up Green Arrow’s two-part story by James Patrick and Agustin Padilla. Last month I wasn’t sure they were just a guest creative team, what with the series’ inaugural year-long arc apparently over after Brightest Day. Now, considering September’s potential deck-clearing, Patrick and Padilla look like placeholders, with the book’s next long-term team put off for another month.
Congratulations to Teen Titans for reaching issue #100! Too bad September might return the book to single digits.
REPRINTS AND COLLECTIONS
“Tygers,” the Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill short story which informs so much of Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern, is reprinted yet again in Green Lantern Corps Super Spectacular #2. Ironically, the book’s other reprints work pretty well as a standalone story, although they too lay the groundwork for future GL epics.
Originally printed as a squarebound, tabloid-sized graphic novel, JLA: Heaven’s Ladder was quite literally a big deal. The precise timing escapes me — it wasn’t Waid’s first work as regular JLA writer (following Grant Morrison), but I think it was supposed to introduce the new team of Waid and Bryan Hitch. The story was appropriately outsized to fit the format, so I will be curious to see how it translates into a regular-sized comic.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mike Allred’s Teen Titans/Doom Patrol story from Solo #7 will be reprinted in DC Presents Teen Titans #1. It’s not the most subversive part of Allred’s Solo issue — that would be the “grim ‘n’ gritty Adam West” story — but it’s pretty good nonetheless. In fact, it’s too bad that not a lot from Solo gets reprinted, because even a selection of the superhero stories would make a pretty good hardcover.
Looking at the solicit for the new-edition Death In The Family paperback, it hit me — Jason Todd has been back from the dead for over five years. What’s more, Tim Drake has been Red Robin for almost two years. With that in mind, “A Death In The Family” and “A Lonely Place Of Dying” seem like ancient history. Hard, therefore, for an old fogey like me to picture them as formative Batman classics, arguably as important to the Bat-legend as O’Neil/Adams or Englehart/Rogers. For what it’s worth, I thought Marv Wolfman’s Batman was a marked improvement over Jim Starlin’s, so I may end up getting this just to compare and contrast.
And speaking of the late, great Marshall Rogers, his Legends Of The Dark Knight tribute looks like a must-have for any Bat-fan. You lose the beginning of Englehart’s epic Detective run (drawn by Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom), but you get the rest of it, plus Len Wein’s two-part Clayface III story, a Golden Age origin story written by Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil’s illustrated prose work “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three,” a pretty good Legends of the Dark Knight arc written by James Robinson from an Archie Goodwin plot, and the Englehart/Rogers swan-song sequel Dark Detective. I think the only thing missing is his brief stint on the short-lived “Batman” newspaper strip of the early ‘90s (written by Max Collins). My heart aches a little just looking at his Bat-work, because he did relatively little and he died way too soon. Regardless, Marshall Rogers is one of my favorite Bat-artists, and he deserves to be one of yours too. Can’t wait for this one — just in time for my birthday!
If Flashpoint will bring back supernatural superheroes like Frankenstein and the Secret Seven, why not reprint Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Night Force? From what I know about it (mostly from a preview in New Teen Titans), it looked like a decent attempt to recapture Wolfman and Colan’s Tomb Of Dracula mojo, and it should be a pretty good read.
Glad to see Sinestro Corps War getting the single-paperback treatment. I’ll probably get this one just for convenience’s sake. Same goes for the new JLA paperback.
Finally, although I won’t be getting this because I have both of the color paperbacks, Showcase Presents All-Star Comics Vol. 1 is a good introduction to the “Super Squad” era of the Justice Society. Set on Earth-2, back when the JSA was an annual guest in Justice League, these stories laid the foundation both for Infinity, Inc., and for the team’s multigenerational future. In fact, with that Infinity reprint solicited a few months ago, one might even think Earth-2 was making a comeback….
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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?