Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
In many ways, for longtime DC superhero readers, this is the first week of the rest of our lives. This is the week the first batch of New-52 second issues come out, and as such, this week the New 52 stops being a September-specific gimmick. We all know the second issue is where the rubber meets the road. Accordingly, in conjunction with a look at December’s titles, here’s where I am after a month of first issues.
Back when the September solicitations came out, I listed 37 books that I was planning at least to try:
Action Comics, All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman And Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, The Flash, Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE, The Fury Of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Grifter, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Men Of War, Mister Terrific, Nightwing, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Static Shock, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman
In the weeks that followed (and because Comics And Collectibles offered a good discount), I decided to read all 52. Based on that, I revised my original list slightly, to 36 books:
Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batwing, Batman And Robin, Batwoman, Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Flash, Frankenstein, Fury Of Firestorm, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Grifter, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Men Of War, OMAC, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Static Shock, Stormwatch, Superboy, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, and Wonder Woman
So yeah, not much has changed, mostly because a big chunk of the New 52 are books I would read anyway. Still, making the field are Animal Man, I, Vampire, and OMAC, while the bubble has burst for Captain Atom, GL: New Guardians, Mister Terrific, and Nightwing. However, as I said back in June, some of these series might be dropped before the end of their first arcs — so you’re on notice, Blackhawks, Catwoman, and Red Lanterns.
Now on to December….
TAB A, MEET SLOT B
December’s books look full of clues to the New-52 backstory. Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes ostensibly bridges the gap between the relaunch and Grant Morrison’s voluminous work. Because it features Cyborg’s New-52 origin, Justice League #4 appears to be a make-or-break issue for those of us wondering if those old New Teen Titans stories still fit Vic’s revised history. Similarly, Action Comics #4 may answer the same question about John Henry Irons’ role in “Reign of the Supermen.” More origin-story clues are advertised for Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, and Batwing, while Batgirl and Deathstroke’s solicits tease answers to mysteries from their first issues.
Otherwise, a few series — Hawkman and Frankenstein; maybe Animal Man, Batgirl, and Blackhawks — seem to be wrapping up their first arcs with issue #4. I would have expected each initial arc to cover six issues, but it’s not like that’s a hard-and-fast rule.
Since I am mentioning Batgirl a lot, I’ll note that she’s guest-starring in the December issues of Birds Of Prey and Nightwing. Likewise, Green Arrow shows up in Grifter, Deathstroke involves the Blackhawks, John Constantine visits I, Vampire, and Demon Knights connects explicitly to Stormwatch.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Ray may turn out to be another fine-to-good series from the writing duo of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and the very talented penciller Jamal Igle. I’ve always enjoyed Igle’s work, and I have a renewed appreciation for Gray & Palmiotti after reading their Power Girl and last week’s All Star Western. However, The Ray just looks horribly generic, and appears to lack the legacy connections which made previous versions more distinctive. Plus the line “light powers are less than handy in keeping his girlfriend happy” is just cringeworthy.
I know it’s already on Vol. 2, issue #3, but the solicitations reminded me that Batman: Odyssey is coming back, just in time to make the rest of the superhero line look sober and sensible.
My old friend Sam Greenwell worked on the first batch of Just-Us Leaguers, which I thought included a Superman and maybe a Green Arrow, but these look new (or at least updated) and I don’t see any sculptor’s name in the solicits. Seems like the first wave, from several years ago, included Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash. Anyway, I like the Aquaman and Green Arrow.
The DC Comics Presents Batman: The Secret City collection includes a couple of late-period Legends of the Dark Knight stories which I remember as being pretty decent. At the time, the Oracle story aimed for poignance because it let Barbara return to being Batgirl, sort of. I suppose it would have something of the same effect today, even with her back in the Batsuit for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure what’s noteworthy about the Mr. Freeze story, except its timing. It came out in the two issues before “Snow,” the excellent five-parter featuring the late Seth Fisher drawing a script by J.H. Williams III and D. Curtis Johnson. Freeze was the villain in that one too, if you hadn’t guessed already; but “Snow” was more about Batman’s early efforts to put together a team of Shadow-style operatives. Anyway, I mention all of that because seven issues in a row of Mr. Freeze was pretty unusual (and probably still is).
DC Comics Presents Captain Atom reprints the Action Comics backup series, but I wonder if that won’t be too confusing for readers who might only know Cap in his New-52 incarnation. Personally, I’d rather have a collection of the very fine ‘80s revamp, not least because the distinctions would be more clear. (Contrapositive proves the rule: DC is reprinting Resurrection Man, which apparently hasn’t changed a whole lot for the New 52.)
Speaking of clear distinctions, a new edition of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s Catwoman issues is very welcome news. I heard Cooke describe the development of these issues at last year’s WonderCon, and I’ve been hoping they’d come back into print. Same goes for the Flex Mentallo hardcover, which has been on my Amazon wishlist for a while now. Like a dope I missed it originally, and I’ve only seen random pages here and there over the years.
The new Secret Origins hardcover should be fun, since it includes the Silver Age origins of Aquaman and Wonder Woman, classics like “Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt” and the Justice League’s origin story, a relatively-comprehensive Silver Age Superman origin from 1961, Jack Kirby drawing the Challengers of the Unknown, and the Enchantress’ and Animal Man’s 1960s roots. Of course, most of these characters have been revised and/or updated incalculably over the past 40-50 years, but by and large the stories themselves still hold up.
I’m eager to see the THUNDER Agents Chronicles, but I’m a little surprised that the title is getting the Chronicles treatment ahead of, say, Teen Titans, Legion of Super-Heroes, or the Justice Society stories from All Star Comics.
Wasn’t there a new edition of DC Universe By Alan Moore not too long ago? Well, for those who missed it, here it is again, newly augmented with some of Moore’s WildStorm work in keeping with those characters’ DCU integration. Strictly speaking, I would say the WildStorm stories exceed the parameters of the book’s title, but I give DC credit for not just putting out the same old collection. While we’re on the subject, it looks like the new Seven Soldiers Of Victory paperback reworks the old four-volume collection into a two-volume one — which is nice, I guess, but it doesn’t supersede the four books I already have.
I’ll probably end up getting Showcase Presents The Spectre, just to see how consistent the character is from his Silver Age relaunch through the ironic-punishment ‘70s and into a more metaphysical phase. The story in DC Comics Presents #29, where Superman tries to bring Supergirl literally back from the brink of death and ends up in the Spectre’s jurisdiction, is a good example of the latter. Shame this book is coming out in January, because it would be a great Halloween read.
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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?