INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
August marks the end of the New 52’s first year — and whether it’s the practicalities of collected editions or a prelude to mass cancellation, there’s a lot of finality in these solicitations.
Storylines conclude in All Star Western, Aquaman, Catwoman, Deathstroke, Frankenstein, GL Corps, Legion of Super-Heroes, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, Voodoo, maybe GL: New Guardians, and the main Justice League book. Big changes are coming for Stormwatch, Captain Atom and Green Lantern. August also sees the final issues of Justice League International (about which more later), iZombie and Scalped.
On the other hand, new stories begin in Flash and Batman, and the big Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover kicks off. Better yet, J.H. Williams III returns to art on Batwoman with Issue 12, which not only starts a new storyline but guest-stars Wonder Woman. It’s somewhat ironic for a guy who drew the guest star-heavy Chase that his Batwoman work hasn’t ventured too far into the larger DC Universe, so I’m really looking forward to his Wonder Woman. (Along the same lines, I can’t wait to see what Gail Simone does with Batwoman in the latter’s Batgirl appearance.) Apparently the Next Six titles also just keep humming along.
Collectively, it may make the next four weeks a waiting game. With September set to include fifty-two zero issues, at least one of those will replace JLI on the schedule. From now until the September solicits are released, I wouldn’t be surprised if DC announced more cancellations in order to free up those zero issues for new series’ debuts.
THIS AND THAT
The solicits include a couple of noteworthy one-shots: the Kid Flash solo story in DC Universe Presents #12, and National Comics’ spotlight on Looker. I get DCUP already, and I don’t read Teen Titans, so the Kid Flash issue will be a good sampler. Why anyone needs another Looker story is beyond me, but such is the mission of National Comics. “The corrupt world of high fashion and modeling” deserves our attention, to be sure.
I presume the “mysterious new Green Lantern” introduced in Superman Annual #1 is the same GL from the Free Comic Book Day preview, namely the one who’s getting punched into next week by Superman.
Tom DeFalco takes over writing Superboy from Scott Lobdell, who will be going to Superman, where he’ll replace Dan Jurgens, whose Justice League International just got canceled. Therefore, whither Dan Jurgens in September? Still drawing Superman, maybe, but I’m unaware of any new DC writing gig.
On the whole I’m relieved by the note for G.I. Combat #4 that the book “continues next month,” even though its inaugural features wrap up their storylines. I suppose that’s a reminder for readers and retailers that it’s not really just a miniseries.
Many of the sturdier books in this batch of solicits were revealed a while back, including Superman: Earth One Vol. 2, the Alan Davis Batman collection, and Showcase Presents Amethyst. Otherwise, two reissued Green Arrow collections seem timed to appear alongside the new Arrow TV series. I suspect Mike Grell’s seminal The Longbow Hunters will be more compatible with Arrow’s urban-vigilante interpretation, but Brad Meltzer and Phil Hester’s Archer’s Quest was a nice way to explore the details of Ollie’s superhero history.
And then there’s the V For Vendetta book-and-mask combo. Lucky for DC this was revealed so close to the Watchmen toaster, or it’d look especially tacky. Nothing says Fight The Power! like a Guy Fawkes disguise approved by a huge corporation.
THE WORLD OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW
Probably the biggest news on the solicits’ superhero side is Justice League International’s cancellation. Although August’s Issue 12 is the last monthly installment, apparently the series itself concludes in JLI Annual #1, out August 29. (Looks like all the Annuals come out that day, 52 weeks since Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 Dun dun dunnn!)
It’s surprising for a couple of reasons. First, despite some dropoffs, JLI has been fairly middle of the road in terms of sales. (It sells just a smidge worse than Justice League Dark, which I wouldn’t have expected, but it’s still ahead of books like Superboy and Green Arrow.)
Second, JLI had been shuffling its lineup and otherwise trying to distinguish itself from the other two League books. To me that suggested DC was willing to give writer Dan Jurgens some time for the changes to sink in. Instead, it looks like those twelve issues and an Annual will comprise basically two arcs, each of which ends with the team in a shambles. Not exactly the best argument for a relaunch.
It makes me wonder why, if DC were going to cancel one of its team books, it’d pick JLI. Excluding the Green Lantern and Legion titles, August’s solicits include 10 New-52 team books: the three Justice Leagues, Teen Titans, Birds of Prey, Stormwatch, Suicide Squad, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Demon Knights, and the newcomers Ravagers and Earth 2. So far, JLI is outsold by its fellow League books, Teen Titans and Red Hood, so why not ax Stormwatch, Suicide Squad or BOP?
More to the point, I am surprised that DC would want to cancel a known quantity like the current JLI — even though it’s only superficially similar to its 1980s namesake — apparently in favor of standing by less-traditional team titles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad whenever DC doesn’t do something reflexively conservative, but that’s why it’s surprising.
Still, assuming JLI returns in some form (presumably with OMAC and Blue Beetle), DC will need to justify its existence. Originally, “Justice League International” was simply the Justice League, and the comedy was just part of its style. That League defended the U.N. Headquarters from terrorists, fought otherd-imensional analogues of the Avengers (hmm …), stopped a Fourth World weapon of mass destruction, infiltrated the rogue nation of Bialya, and helped defend the Earth from the invading Alien Alliance. In other words, notwithstanding the occasional foray into island-based resort ventures, it did the same kinds of things you’d expect from the Justice League.
The New-52 JLI doesn’t have that luxury of exclusivity. Instead, its distinction from the “real” League is its official U.N. imprimatur, which includes the notion that it’s more transparent than those mysterious vigilantes up on the satellite. However, the public seems to like those vigilantes pretty well, which contributes to the JLI’s apparent irrelevance.
So what to do with a U.N.-based super-team (especially since that other UN-based outfit, the Blackhawks, is currently in limbo)? Jurisdiction and public perception don’t seem to make much difference, at least not if the next JLI is going to be fighting alien invasions or thwarting global super-crime. The answer may once again come down to style — but maybe not in the way you’re thinking. One of the best U.N.-sponsored globally conscious team titles to come out of any comics publisher in the past several years was Checkmate. Especially as produced by writers Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann and artists Jesus Saiz and Joe Bennett, it was a fascinating blend of intrigue, politics, covert ops and super-fights. Imagine Batman not as a gruff voice of experience on the battlefield, but acting more subtly as Batwing’s JLI sponsor and Batman Inc.’s advocate to the United Nations.
A JLI book which took such an approach might come out something like Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke’s Justice League Elite. That wouldn’t be so bad by itself, but if the next JLI included high-profile superheroes like Booster Gold and Guy Gardner, having to juggle public images with office politics and the dangers of diplomacy, it could be a real change of pace for the League books.
Or, you know, DC could just make it another “proactive” super-team like Extreme Justice …