Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.
So, without further ado …
JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”
The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”
I don’t have much to add about the variant-cover gimmick for JLA #1. Instead, I was curious about the Steve Skroce variant for JL #17. While I am not unfamiliar with his work, it had been a while since I’d read a comic he’d drawn — and no wonder, since he seems to have been primarily a Marvel artist. In fact, according to the Grand Comics Database, his only DC work was a Loose Cannon short story from Showcase ‘94. So, welcome back, I guess …?
Actually, here are my two thoughts on the 52-cover Justice League of America #1 package. First, even if I went in for variant covers (which are not that big a deal to me), I would want exactly one of the state-flag covers; namely, that of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, land of my birth. However, as I live in Tennessee, I presume that’s extremely unlikely, unless DC has made it ridiculously easy for retailers to order specific states in specific numbers. I would expect my Memphis store to order a bunch of Tennessee covers, with some Arkansas and Mississippi thrown in. Thus, while you might get some variety depending on your location, it seems like an extra layer of logistics for something that might not make a whole lot of difference.
Second, the $150 package of all 52 covers sounds like a relative of the doorstop-worthy New 52 No. 1 hardcover from this time last year. It’s a souvenir of a marketing ploy, only this time you get one issue with 53 covers (right? It’s not 52 copies of the same issue), as opposed to 52 different comics (most of which are not standalone stories). The covers themselves are pretty much all the same, except for the flag details, and it costs you $150. Surely DC figures there is a market for this, but evidently it is one with which I am unfamiliar.
All things being equal, the combination of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino (plus the apparent end of Ollie’s wealth) would get me to read Green Arrow. However, I just cannot get excited about the character if he’s not a loudmouth liberal. To be sure, that’s my hangup, and it’s no fault of DC’s. Still, as this will be GA’s fourth regular creative team in 18 months, there’s not much incentive to get excited about these guys. I’ll probably check out Issue 17, and I’ll be rooting for Lemire and Sorrentino regardless, because otherwise it just starts to look like DC is keeping the book around to piggyback on the TV show.
Savage Hawkman is also starting to look more inviting, although not to the degree that I’m actually ready to read it. Still, I’ve always thought the Shadow-Thief was a cool villain, and it’s good to see that he’s not too Silver Age-y for the New 52.
Although I am far from a Legion scholar, I liked what I’ve read of the Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen run; and I read all of the Giffen/Tom & Mary Bierbaum “Five Years Later” title. So it’s a big deal for Giffen to rejoin Levitz on LSH, and perhaps even a bigger deal than the Jim Shooter issues from a few years back. Still, Giffen has had a rather eclectic stint at DC over the past few years, from his clever Doom Patrol to penciling Dan DiDio’s Outsiders, and the New-52 versions of OMAC, Green Arrow and Superman. Accordingly, as with Lemire and Sorrentino’s Green Arrow, I wish Legion well, and hope Levitz and Giffen have another long run.
Can’t remember who said it, but I think the Katana solicit is the first real mention of the New-52 Outsiders. (I thought Red Hood’s group was the de facto New-52 Outsiders, in spirit if not in name, but apparently the “real” Outsiders ran their course already.) Black Lightning is guest-starring with Blue Devil in DCU Presents, and Looker got that National Comics (R.I.P.) tryout issue, so start anticipating the New-52 versions of Halo, Geo-Force and especially Metamorpho, perhaps sooner than you think.
Speaking of “new” versions, I am genuinely looking forward to the reintroduction of Doctor Fate in Earth 2 #9. So far the proto-Justice Society consists of familiar names (Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Atom). However, back in the day, when I was first learning about Earth-Two via the JLA/JSA crossovers, I liked seeing Doctor Fate because he didn’t have an Earth-One counterpart. In other words, he helped personify the differences between the two worlds. Therefore, I’ll be looking to see how much the New-52 Fate makes Earth-2 feel even more different.
And in other “new” news, that Superman crossover will feature a character called Oracle, who’s apparently important enough to require a Herald. I take nothing more away from the solicits, except that it doesn’t look like Barbara Gordon will be using the Oracle name anytime soon.
ODDS AND ENDS
I agree that one reason it’s called Justice League of America’s Vibe is to avoid confusion (and possible trademark infringement) with Vibe-the-magazine. However, I still say DC needs to do something with Shazam! to distinguish those characters from the song-identification software. (Oh, and also, there’s apparently no “Shazam!” backup in February’s Justice League, so that feature’s conclusion gets pushed back another month.)
I’m not sure why, exactly, but nothing really brings home the “busy-ness” of the New-52 Teen Titans’ costumes like having them drawn by Dan Jurgens on the cover of Firestorm #17.
Without spoiling the current issue, this week’s Batgirl #14 apparently sheds a good deal of light on the “status quo change” and Jim Jr. mention in the solicit for Batgirl #17. At the same time, though, the most immediate change to Babs’ status quo seems to concern something which hasn’t gotten a whole lot of play in the book so far. Based on Batman #14, the stakes look a little higher for Nightwing, which makes the solicit for NW #17 sound even more ominous.
Lots of arcs concluding this month: “Throne of Atlantis” in Justice League and Aquaman, “Gorilla Warfare” in The Flash (with the Reverse-Flash on deck), Grant Morrison’s last issue of Action Comics (which I thought was last month), “H’El On Earth” in the other Super-titles, the Wonder Woman team-up in Batwoman #17, and “Death of the Family” in Batman #17. “Everything changes” in Stormwatch #17, but I don’t think DC is ready to let go of the concept just yet, considering that All-Star Western #17 features the S-W of the Ollld West.
The Swamp Thing and Animal Man solicits make it sound like “Rotworld” is concluding in February, but they both use kinda squishy language (uh, so to speak), so I won’t be surprised if they’re still in the process of concluding when March rolls around.
Nowhere close to finishing is Geoff Johns’ multi-year Green Lantern mega-story. Accordingly, I should not be surprised that February starts a whole new round of intertitle GL crossovers, this time called “Wrath of the First Lantern.” Again, I continue to enjoy Johns’ GL work (and have enjoyed it since the beginning), but at some point it has to end, right? Right …?
I suppose that the new version of Alan Moore’s DC Universe stories (now with extra WildStorm) just about covers all the bases, so if by chance you haven’t gotten one of the other versions, you’re in luck. However, I am not so dismissive of the new Gotham By Gaslight collection, because it includes both Victorian Batman stories at something close to their original cover prices. “Inexpensive and good” is always welcome.
That DC Comics Presents story reprinted in Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume 2 looks pretty cool — a Superman/Challengers of the Unknown team-up written by Bob Rozakis and pencilled by Kirby, except for one sequence drawn by Alex Toth. Not that the rest of the collection doesn’t look worthwhile, because it definitely does; but I had forgotten (gasp!) about that DCCP issue.
You know how I’m always going on about how Geoff Johns never talks about Hal Jordan’s Spectre career, despite him putting Hal into the Spectre in the first place? Well, come March, you’ll have a Day of Judgment paperback collecting the whole story. (By the way, spoiler alert.) It’s a pretty decent crossover — not one of DC’s best from that period, but loads better than Genesis — and it features some very Mignola-esque art from Matt Smith and company.
Everyone who sort of gapes in amazement that DC is publishing a Marshal Law collection, rest assured I gape too. It’s like Rupert Murdoch putting out a new edition of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.
If you bought Showcase Presents All-Star Squadron Volume 1 and were wondering where the JLA parts of the JLA/JSA/All-Stars crossover had gone, you will want to pick up Crisis on Multiple Earths Volume 6. In fact, if you pick up the unfortunately-abbreviated COME Vol. 6 for the promise of George Pérez drawing the gorilla-bodied Ultra-Humanite and making Signalman look cool — and you will want it for those reasons, trust me — you might want to snag SPASS Vol. 1 too, because the solicit says COME doesn’t include those issues either. However, it does include the two-part “Black Canary isn’t her mom anymore” continuity patch, which isn’t bad for what it is. (Hint: the story involves the Earth-One Johnny Thunder, so if the phrase “Earth-One Johnny Thunder” means anything to you, you will want to read it.)
I realize many of you are probably tired of me going on about New Teen Titans, but the third Omnibus finally collects a chunk of the series which hasn’t gotten a lot of attention over the years. It’s the post-“Judas Contract” period, when the group got ready for Donna Troy’s wedding and also found time to a) destroy HIVE headquarters, b) witness Trigon’s greatest victory and most decisive defeat, and c) totally screw up the prosecution’s case against Deathstroke. (Seriously, that last part includes a continuity mistake so blatant it was called out in the lettercolumn almost immediately. Well, “immediately” being a relative term when you’re talking about snail-mail-driven letter columns, of course. I’d like to think that today’s communications technologies would have made the reaction that much harsher, but the correction that much swifter. But I digress.) This will be an uneven collection in terms of quality, but I think it’s fascinating to see how Marv Wolfman and George Pérez tried to run two Titans titles simultaneously, basically using one to set up stories and/or subplots in the other, so that they’d all make sense when arranged in the proper order. That’s a lot to ask for $75 retail, but it’s worth it.
AND FINALLY …
Young Justice and Hellblazer get the ax as of February, and I suspect their cancellations have to do more with external factors. It doesn’t look good for book or show that the YJ comic is canceled while the show is on hiatus; and it’s likewise an ill omen that Vertigo’s Hellblazer is being replaced with the New-52’s Constantine. I don’t see the latter as leading to the death of Vertigo, mostly because Vertigo has established its own identity so definitively over the past twenty years; but by the same token, I wonder if Hellblazer is really such an existential threat to Constantine. After all, Marvel did pretty well with two Punishers, one for the MAX line and one for the squares, so why not “Hellblazer MAX?”
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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?