PREVIEWS: "Civil War II," "Punisher" & More Marvel Comics on Sale June 1, 2016
Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.
In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them? Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.
Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!
As for Ardian Syaf moving to Aquaman, I have no complaints. I am tempted to say something snide like “as long as he can draw whales, scales,= and tridents,” but I do like his work, and he seems like a good fit for the character.
It’s funny: As Rob Liefeld’s influence on Hawkman wanes, I find myself more interested in what Fabian Nicieza and Joe Bennett bring to the book. However, judging by the solicits (as I haven’t read any of the book past Issue 1), it also seems like Hawkman has been struggling to find some sort of direction, regardless of who’s in charge. This is not entirely new. Hawkman’s had some pretty talented writers, including Tony Isabella, Timothy Truman, John Ostrander, Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Walt Simonson (doing Hawkgirl, but still), but once they got past the question of how to make the character work in the larger superhero context, I’m not sure any of them made a convincing case for why his series should have an extended run. I mean, Geoff Johns went above and beyond the call of duty fixing what was, at the time, one of the poster children for screwed-up continuity, and got people excited about the character — and then, from what I could tell, the Hawkman series incorporated that reincarnated-romantics subplot, which is not necessarily what I would associate with a character with big wings who flies around clubbing people.
Now, I say that, and it reminds me that one of the better Hawkman stories I read was Kyle Baker’s Wednesday Comics strip, which was basically Hawkman flying around clubbing people, which for all I know may be the current series’ entire purpose. I guess it’s just hard to tell through all the shiny, pointy bits which it seems bent on emphasizing. Also, I note that Earth 2 #7 will feature the secret of its Hawkgirl, so there’s an opportunity to compare and contrast.
The Flash has traditionally been pretty deep into superhero-pseudoscience, so it does my withered heart good to see The Flash #15 talking about time travel and the “Speed Mind.” Besides infusing the title with a distinct visual style, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been working hard not only to explain Barry’s powers, but to use them inventively.
Wonder Woman #15 has one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long time. I’d want to buy that issue even if I’d never heard of either character. It is somewhat ironic that Wonder Woman has spent much of its current volume doing its own thing, but now is shifting gears to bring the New Gods back into the larger superhero line.
In the case of Green Arrow’s fortune, the New 52 giveth and the New 52 taketh away. I am trying hard not to frame this as a “glad the old status quo might come back” statement, but I do think Green Arrow was more interesting as a less-wealthy, socially-conscious crusader. And speaking of Green Arrow …
YOU LOOK FAMILIAR
For some reason I am perpetually surprised by DC doing adaptations from other media, even though they have a long history of tie-in titles based on various superhero cartoons, plus Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, Supernatural, Fringe and Smallville. In that vein, I am once again somewhat surprised to see an Arrow tie-in comic, despite the amount of sense it makes. I do wonder how Arrow will affect the Green Arrow status quo, because they look a little divergent — but that sort of thing hasn’t stopped DC in the past.
However, I think I can be surprised a bit more legitimately by the Django Unchained adaptation, which was not exactly on my radar. It’s arguably not even in the same ballpark as the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo graphic novel, since that’s more an adaptation of the book than the movie(s). Interestingly, the solicitation doesn’t list a scripter for the Django miniseries — but it’s gotta be someone other than Quentin Tarantino, since you’d think DC would publicize the heck out of Tarantino doing comics work.
I know I have been talking about Dan Jurgens’ Firestorm as if it will last for a while, but the more I think about it, the less optimistic I am. Although the Captain Atom guest-shot promises pretty expressly that it’ll pay off in the future, it doesn’t have to be in the pages of Firestorm.
The two characters do have a bit of a history, though. Pat Broderick, the original penciller of Cap’s 1987 revival, was also the original penciler on the 1982 Firestorm revival. ‘Stormy had a cameo in an early issue of Captain Atom, and Cap guest-starred in Firestorm a few months later, early in John Ostrander’s run. It was a nice bit of synergy, and the two kept running into each other over the next few years. I suppose today the closest analogue might be Animal Man and Swamp Thing, particularly since Cap and Firestorm were later revealed to be Earth’s “Quantum Elemental” and “Fire Elemental.” Anyway, maybe that means Cap becomes a semi-regular part of Firestorm, or maybe it just sets up a minor plot point in “Trinity War.”
As for “Trinity War,” my guess is that all the Black Diamond/Eclipso teases will end up informing next year’s big crossover. Eclipso’s pre-relaunch origin was tied into the Spectre’s, so now that the Spectre was “helped into existence” by the Phantom Stranger, I suppose the Stranger will do something similar for everyone’s favorite dark deity. Maybe he’ll turn out to be Pontius Pilate.
The cover of Superboy #15 almost makes it seem like he’ll be sporting the traditional red-and-yellow S-shield that was part of his more traditional superhero costumes. It reminds me how much I liked the original Karl Kesel/Tom Grummett “Kid of Steel,” although that character was very grounded in the early ‘90s into which he debuted. Naturally I know next-to-nothing about the crossover this issue services, but if it brings this Superboy closer to the “Kid,” I’ll be impressed. Specifically, I’ll be impressed that DC would risk alienating late-period, pre-relaunch Superboy fans further by recalling Kon-El’s less-than-mature status quo. I might like it, but I’m not sure anyone else would.
Despite Batwing’s participation in “Night of the Owls” (and a pretty good streak of having Batman appear in just about every issue of his book), it looks like he’s gotten a pass from “Death of the Family.” As with “NOTO,” Batwoman’s completely out of “DOTF,” but I almost wish that was a plot point. The Joker could have Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Red Hood, Nightwing, Batgirl, Alfred, Black Bat, Gordon, Catwoman, et al., each locked in inescapable deathtraps, when suddenly Batwoman and Batwing get the jump on him and save the day. It’s like having a random cabinet secretary staying home from the State of the Union in case something cataclysmic happens. Still, I bet Veterans’ Affairs misses having that one month’s worth of extra sales …
NEW AND/OR DIFFERENT
I am still on the fence about the new Phantom Lady miniseries. I thought it was somewhat uneven, and I remember not liking its pacing. However, I plan on getting issue #2, to see if it settles down. How I end up feeling about PL will probably influence whether I get Human Bomb, which is apparently the next link in the chain leading to yet another Freedom Fighters series. I do like Jerry Ordway, though, so HB has that going for it.
(Note, however, that I would totally buy the heck out of Human Bob-Omb, no questions asked.)
I also like that Jolly Roger Studios has found a way to work The Whistling Skull into the Elseworlds of JSA: The Liberty Files. Here’s hoping the character doesn’t become the sole property of DC Comics.
ON THE WAY OUT, ON THE WAY BACK?
Sweet Tooth and G.I. Combat have these solicits’ only official final issues, but I agree with Todd Allen that there are probably more dead series walking. (Not Demon Knights or I, Vampire, thankfully.) Grifter, Deathstroke, Legion Lost and Ravagers might not end in December, but I’m not sure they have much longer to go. Conventional wisdom seems to be that the various pieces of WildCATS are moving back into place, but I wonder if a similar Gen13 relaunch isn’t also on the way.
Sleeper is a title I read in paperback form several years ago, but I only have two or three of the books and I’m pretty sure that’s not the whole series. Still, who — who, I ask? — can refuse a whole omnibus full of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips doing what they do so well?
I am glad to see a new Death of Superman collection, because it probably means new collections of World Without a Superman and The Return of Superman. (Death does not stand alone all that well, but the mega-arc it kicked off a mega-arc was a high point for that period of Super-stories.) I have the latter two books from back in the day (and of course I have all the singles), but I am hoping that any new collections feature the same fine production values as the recent Knightfall books.
However, it’s a little hard to figure why DC would press on with the Man of Steel paperbacks. (Maybe because they share the name with the movie?) It’s not a bad idea, reprinting 25-year-old stories from the last big reboot, but it seems like a tough task convincing today’s newer readers they need to have these books. Since this Volume 7 reprints up to Action Comics #597, maybe the series will conclude with Volume 8’s reprint of Action #600, the conclusion of the last big “Superman tries to date Wonder Woman” arc. It probably won’t go much beyond that, because Byrne left not long afterwards.
Having just made room for JLA Archives Vol. 10 on my Justice League shelf, and having noticed therein that there are only two new-edition Morrison/Porter JLA paperbacks so far, I was glad to see JLA Vol. 3 solicited. However, if the solicit is accurate, the book will be incomplete. It wouldn’t reprint issue #27, which was a pretty clever Amazo story. It also wouldn’t reprint the DC One Million miniseries (written by Morrison, of course), without which issue #1,000,000 might not make that much sense. In fact, the DC One Million paperback was about 200 pages, and it reprinted various and sundry snippets of other #1,000,000 issues along with the miniseries’ four issues and JLA #1,000,000 — so, if we’re limited to the solicit’s 344 pages, the book would include issues # 22-27, plus the 200-odd One Million material. The four-part “Crisis Times Five” (issues #28-31) would have to wait for Vol. 4, though. Sounds about right to me — how about it, DC?
In other shelf-space news, the promise of Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 6 means I have to start making some decisions myself. The aforementioned JLA Archives Vol. 10 goes up to issue #93, and my continuous collection of Justice League of America singles starts at around #121. SPJLA Vols. 5 and 6 would definitely bridge those gaps — but DC could very well have another couple of Archives volumes in production, and I’d rather have color reprints. In any event, I have until January to think about it. Besides, SPJLA Vol. 6 finds the Satellite Era really starting to gel, with Dick Dillin and various inkers getting into a good groove, and some then-young DC writers putting the League through its paces.
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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?