O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
DC Comics in September brings together two gimmicks. This being corporate-run superhero comics, naturally these two things have been tried before. September’s unified cover themes remind me of January 2009’s “Faces of Evil” (not particularly uplifting) and January 2011’s “Salute to White Space.” The new “Zero Month” recalls August 1994, when every main-line DC superhero title got an Issue #0 in the wake of July’s weekly, timeline-tweaking Zero Hour miniseries. Just over four years later, in September 1998, the weekly DC One Million miniseries launched all the superhero books into the 853rd Century with #1,000,000 issues.
Personally, I’m looking forward to September 2013’s Roman Numeral Month, September 2014’s Hexadecimal Month, and September 2015’s Binary Month (can’t wait for Justice League #100100!).
A VERY GOOD PLACE TO START
As you’d expect, many of the zero issues involve the characters’ New-52 origins. Here’s my not-exhaustive list of the ones which appear to have changed (again), with notes about their pre-New-52 histories:
Catwoman: Amnesiac flight attendant turned thrill-seeker; later, ex-prostitute.
Jason Todd: Originally circus aerialist; later, street thief.
Kara Zor-L: Sent to Earth-Two in suspended animation.
Helena Wayne: Inspired to become Huntress after Catwoman’s death forced Batman’s retirement.
Kon-El: Created by Project Cadmus following Superman’s death; used combination of Luthor’s and Superman’s DNA.
Guy Gardner: GL candidate finally activated after both Hal Jordan and John Stewart; spent several years comatose; recruited by faction of Guardians during Crisis On Infinite Earths.
Beast Boy: Contracted rare disease; treatment gave him shape-shifting animal-oriented powers and turned his skin and hair green
Terra: Like her brother, born with the ability to manipulate the earth.
Tim Drake: Watched the Flying Graysons die; later deduced Batman and Robin’s secret identities; much later, convinced Batman and Nightwing to make him Robin III.
Barbara Gordon: Saved Bruce Wayne from Killer Moth while on way to costume party dressed in bat-costume.
Dick Grayson: Parents killed by gangsters; taken in by Batman as first Robin; created Nightwing identity after leading Teen Titans gave him a taste of independence.
Animal Man: The short version is, he was given his powers by aliens. The long version involves Grant Morrison.
Presumably we have to wait until September to see how much of that is still valid. In fact, some origins are still pretty new, as with the revelations about Wonder Woman’s backstory being a big plot twist in her inaugural New-52 storyline. Likewise, I’m curious about Batwoman #0, since the “Go” storyline in Detective seemed to cover Kate’s development pretty comprehensively.
By the way, I’m guessing the guy in the red armor with the guns on the cover of Earth 2 #0 is the Earth-2 version of the Crimson Avenger. In the old unified timeline, the Crimson Avenger was considered the first masked mystery-man, and Grant Morrison had the JLA use his original costume as part of their initiation rituals. (Nothing skeevy, though.)
Thought we knew the story of Jonah Hex’s scar, so I’m not sure what’s new in All-Star Western #0.
The “future of the entire DC Universe” line in the Superboy #0 solicit may refer just to the Legion’s future, not necessarily some new line-wide crossover.
Wonder if Swamp Thing will show up in the Constantine-centric Justice League Dark #0?
Instead of new origins, some characters are just having their histories slightly revised. These books include Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Action Comics, Superman, Supergirl, Blue Beetle, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein, I, Vampire, Demon Knights, Stormwatch and G.I. Combat.
Among the other Bat-books, it looks like Batman Incorporated continues to do its own thing, flashing back only to the fall of 2010. Maybe there’ll be some coordination with Batwing #0 and the Batman Inc. agent killed in Batman and Robin; maybe not. Speaking of which, the breathless “Guest-starring Batman!” in Batwing #0’s solicit makes me chuckle, because Batman has been a pretty constant presence in Batwing all along.
The other main Bat-books are all reminiscent of 1994’s Zero Month, when the four Bat-titles each explored an aspect of the origin. This time around, Batman: The Dark Knight #0 spotlights Joe Chill and the conspiracy to kill the Waynes — but I really hope this is more mob-related, and not some centuries-old Owl-related plot. Otherwise, I’ll start to blame the Owls for frustrating traffic patterns. Thankfully, the gear-heavy Batman #0 looks pretty fun.
It’s the nature of fandom to become irrationally consumed by details, but for the life of me I cannot figure out why Barry Allen’s mother needed to die. Yeah, yeah, he tried to save her and ended up creating the Flashpoint timeline, but that still seems like so much Reverse-Flash misdirection. Here’s hoping Manapul and Buccellato can make a silk purse from it in Flash #0.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort are your new Superman creative team. I did like Lobdell’s Superboy work, and Rocafort had been drawing the pre-relaunch Action Comics, but neither really excite me. We’ll see.
A few of the zero issues have intriguing guest artists, including Kano on Swamp Thing #0 and Bernard Chang on Demon Knights #0. Gail Simone and Ed Benes (who drew a lot of Birds Of Prey issues) are reunited for Batgirl #0. Also, I may have to get Red Hood #0 just to see how Dwayne Turner’s doing. His work was one of the better aspects of the Claremont-meets-the-‘90s Sovereign Seven.
Similarly, I haven’t read Green Arrow since the New-52’s first issue turned out to be so bland, but I may have to check out issue #0. I did like Judd Winick’s take on the old Ollie Queen, and I’m curious to see how he treats the Ollie/Roy relationship. Presumably heroin is still involved.
So long, Captain Atom, Voodoo, and Resurrection Man — see you in random DC Universe Presents issues!
WHEN ZERO IS NOT THE BEGINNING
Some of the zero issues seem primarily concerned with the present. Justice League #0 is a Shazam spotlight with a little Pandora on the side. DC Universe Presents #0 reminds readers that characters from cancelled New-52 books never really go away, and in fact can be used as kindling for future big-event bonfires. Same goes for Phantom Stranger, which may want to make up for its writer by assuring readers it’ll be Important. Meanwhile, Firestorm #0 sounds an awful lot like a final issue, but that may be calculated mostly to goose sales. After all, it’s not like Firestorm has historically been on any cancellation bubble.
The real action is in the Green Lantern books, where the “Third Army” storyline appears to be ramping up. For me, the New-52 Green Lantern has been a pleasant surprise, integrating a radical new status quo with the intricate mythology Geoff Johns has been building since GL: Rebirth. The prospect of “warring against the Guardians” is the kind of thing you only do once, so you want to do it right. That said, though, my eyes rolled hard at Red Lanterns’ mention of (sigh) another new prophecy. Really, GL handlers? Really? I know you want to be Star Wars, but sometimes you pick the wrong parts of Star Wars to emulate.
Speaking of cancellations (or, more particularly, avoiding them), odds are better that The Shade #12 (drawn by Gene Ha!) will finish out its run. I am sure that at no point in its twelve issues will we learn where exactly it fits in any specific timeline; and neither will it matter.
This month’s National Comics is “Rose and Thorn,” the latest iteration of DC’s classic heroine. I never minded seeing Thorn (Rose’s vigilante identity) whenever she showed up in Superman or Booster Gold, but I have to say I never wondered what she was up to the rest of the time.
On the other hand, “where’s Batman?” was a constant refrain during “Smallville’s” TV run. Now at last it can be told: in Smallville Season 11, Clark’s days of wearing hideous costumes are over, but Batman’s are just beginning. Hey, and
Robin a new Nightwing is there too!
Between the Amanda Conner hardcover, the 52 Omnibus, and Spaceman, it’s a good month for collections. Batman/Judge Dredd seems fortuitously timed, but I’m glad I didn’t wait lo, these several months for the Huntress paperback. Superman/Batman: Sorcerer Kings features an excellent two-part Chris Roberson/Jesus Merino story, and the eponymous arc isn’t bad either. (I didn’t read the Joe Kelly/Ed Benes story.) I wasn’t expecting a new series of Wonder Woman Archives, but apparently the Showcase Presents books generated enough demand.
Looks like Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4 collects the first Cary Bates stories, as the book moves out of the Broome/Fox/Infantino years and into the late 1960s. These sorts of transitions are endlessly fascinating to me.
I would make a joke about wanting to read the Swedish graphic-novel version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but then I was reminded of Kelly Thompson’s wise words about DC’s adaptation, now on the schedule for November 7. Don’t screw it up, DC.
And speaking of screwing things up — wow, that’s an unfortunate Starfire bust. The Catwoman statue looks a lot better, and I’m not just saying that because the sculptor is one of my best friends. In fact, the Catwoman statue literally stands in stark contrast to the anatomy-defying Catwoman #0 cover. Sure you’re having it both ways, DC, but do you really need to?
THEY WILL NEVER FORGET YOU ‘TIL SOMEBODY NEW COMES ALONG
Finally, we have the four latest New-52 books. The very existence of Talon #0 seems like a fairly big spoiler for the “Court of Owls” storyline; because the solicitation a) suggests that Batman won’t entirely destroy the evil organization, and b) alerts readers to be on the lookout for Calvin Rose. When I first heard about a Talon book, I wondered whether it might be a sneaky new Nightwing storyline. Instead, the top-agent-on-the-run makes it sound more like Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s “Manhunter” — which, in case I haven’t mentioned it recently, could really use a nice new hardcover, or maybe an Absolute Edition…?
But I digress. As fond as I am of Scott Snyder’s Batman work, the Owls haven’t yet grabbed me to such a degree that I’m actively anticipating this book. (Sad to see Guillem March leave Catwoman, though.) Neither am I particularly jazzed for The Phantom Stranger, because Dan DiDio is turning out to be a much better executive than he is a writer. While OMAC was fun, I suspect future comics historians will chalk that up to Keith Giffen’s contributions. Indeed, Phantom Stranger continues DiDio’s practice of working with hard-to-turn-down artists — including José Luis Garcia-Lopéz on “Metal Men” and Jerry Ordway on “Challengers of the Unknown” — and making those pairings easier to turn down.
Now, you might think I was really insulting Mr. DiDio by saying he’s a better executive, because fans have not exactly learned to trust his executive decisions implicitly. However, I will say that without his involvement, we might never have had the creator of Jem and the Holograms writing an updated-for-the-21st-Century Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. I am definitely looking forward to Sword Of Sorcery #0, because everything seems like a good fit between characters and creative teams, and because I have been lobbying for more Amethyst (just on general principles) for at least about three years. DC needs more books like this, and I hope this one finds a receptive audience.
Then there’s Team 7 (why can’t it cross over with Earth 2?), the title with a built-in expiration date. “Set in the early days of The New 52,” we learn from the Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey solicits that it ain’t around any more. The admonition that “[t]heir story will change everything you know” loses a little something when you consider that our New-52 knowledge is only a year deep, but I suppose that’s what reboots are for. “More on the history of Team 7″ appears in Deathstroke #0, so at least we have Rob Liefeld consulting on this apparently-critical chunk of New-52 lore. Still, if the whole point of Team 7 is to reveal hidden manipulations of the New-52’s first five years, why share it with another title at all? There’s no promise of a Team 7 tie-in in Grifter #0, but Suicide Squad #0 is already teasing its “shocking destruction.” Guess that means we won’t see its cancellation coming.