Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | New beginnings in DC’s June solicitations

You unlock these doors with the key of imagination

You unlock these doors with the key of imagination

It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)

FIRST, AN ENDING

The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.

DON’T CALL ME CHIEF

With Superman Unchained and Batman/Superman, there are now four regular Superman titles. (Okay, maybe three-and-a-half.) However, B/S (unfortunate abbreviation, that) and Action are both scheduled for the first week of June, with Unchained on the second week (alongside Superboy and Smallville Season 11) and Superman on week four. This leaves Supergirl alone in week three. I suppose the month is front-loaded to account for delays, but for someone who bought the weekly Super-titles back in the day, it looks kinda odd.

As for Superman Unchained itself, I’m predisposed to like it. I like Scott Snyder’s writing, and Jim Lee did a fine job on Superman’s “For Tomorrow” arc several years back. However, while I’m sure everyone gets along just fine on the Superman books, I wonder which one now becomes the flagship. Snyder seems to have taken the lead on the Bat-titles, thanks to Batman heading up the two big crossovers which have dominated the last year or so. When the New-52 Superman books debuted, the spotlight was split somewhat evenly. Grant Morrison and Rags Morales headed a high-profile revamp in Action Comics, but being set in the past separated it from the rest of the superhero line. Meanwhile, George Pérez got to tell present-day stories (for a little while, at least) in Superman. After Pérez left Superman, the book treaded water for several months until Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort came along, while Morrison and company continued doing their own thing in Action. Now Lobdell and Rocafort have headed up the Super-books’ own crossover (Action not included), and Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel will take over Action in April. None of these are scheduled to interact anytime soon, and I’m sure Unchained will have enough time to establish its own identity before that happens — but when it does, what then? Morrison and Morales aside, the New-52 Superman hasn’t been defined all that well, at least not in the kind of way that would distinguish him from previous incarnations. Do we expect Scott Snyder, Scott Lobdell, or Andy Diggle to take the lead on that? Do any of them really need to?

FAMILIAR FACES, NEW BOOKS

Oh, how I have missed Astro City! It’s not like ROBOT 6′s readership needs to be introduced to Samaritan, Winged Victory, the Confessor, et al., but I hope the DC bullet on the cover gives this title the sales boost it deserves. In return, Astro City can only help class up any publisher lucky enough to print it. Here’s to a long and eventful stay.

The phrase “prequel to Trinity War” reinforces my theory that Pandora may be of more interest, at least at first, to folks curious about the New-52 as a concept than Pandora as a character. Like I said last week, that could change, and frankly I hope it does. There’s always room for a good new character, but you can show cosmic tinkering in a miniseries.

I thought J.M. DeMatteis was supposed to be joining Keith Giffen as co-writer of the Larfleeze series. That would at least get me to check it out. Larfleeze is a decent supporting character who hasn’t quite made the case for his own title. However, DeMatteis compares him to G’Nort, and Giffen promises lots of new characters and situations, so it sounds more promising than I would have imagined.

ODDS AND ENDS

This month’s only intertitle crossover involves Birds Of Prey and Talon, but there are other meetups: Kid Flash and the other Teen Titans guest-star in Flash #21; Flash and Swamp Thing are still in Justice League Dark, and Jonah Hex pops into the present in All-Star Western. Also, Green Arrow #21 mentions “the mysterious Outsiders,” but I doubt that’s a reference to the old Batman/Nightwing-headed team.

Batwoman exists in an odd corner of the Bat-verse. Part of it is very down-to-earth, grounding Kate Kane firmly in military training and tradition, and giving her a complex viewpoint otherwise. However, practically since her introduction in 52 she’s fought an evil cult alongside a group of were-creatures, and she’s just coming off a team-up with Wonder Woman where they fended off a giant sea monster. It’s almost the inverse of the regular Batman vibe, where the villains are merely murderous psychopaths and the heroes have more of the fantastic elements. Nothing specifically to do with Batwoman #21, except that there’s a beast-person on the cover. Should look pretty with Francisco Francavilla drawing, too.

A welcome superfecta from Scott Snyder includes Batman #21, The Wake #2, the new Superman Unchained and an American Vampire one-shot with regular AmVam artist Rafael Albuquerque. I wasn’t expecting to see any new American Vampire until the fall, so that last is an especially pleasant surprise. Other writers with four titles in the June solicits include Jeff Lemire (Green Arrow, Animal Man, JL Dark and Constantine) and Ray Fawkes (Pandora, JL Dark, Constantine and Legends of the Dark Knight).

I won’t turn down a new Showcase Presents DC Comics Presents book, but the Phantom Zone paperback reprints one of the best late-period Bronze Age Superman stories. While that sounds like a lot of qualification, I really enjoyed this miniseries. Opening with an ingenious escape — which, in its inevitability, is all the more horrifying — the Zoners wreak havoc all across Earth-One. They send the Justice League Satellite hurtling out of the solar system, trap Supergirl in the Fortress of Solitude, and imprison Superman in the Zone. It’s a blockbuster plot told with skill and style by Steve Gerber, Gene Colan, and Tony DeZuñiga, and it includes an imaginary-ish apocalyptic follow-up (drawn by Rick Veitch and Bob Smith) from the final days before the 1986 Superman relaunch.

ZERO DARK KNIGHT

For various reasons I’ve been pretty hard on some aspects of the New-52 relaunch. At the top of that list is the shortened timeline, reduced to “five years” from a previously nebulous 10-plus. Especially frustrating was the initial word that the Bat-books were relatively untouched. This proved unworkable pretty quickly. On that level, it’s good to see Scott Snyder taking 11 issues to tell the New-52 origin of Batman in the “Zero Year” storyline. By placing Batman in flashback mode for 11 issues, the present-day Bat-books can worry a little less about coordinating with it. Also, if my math is right, “Zero Year” will conclude in April 2014′s Batman #31, just in time for the 75th anniversary of Batman’s debut (in Detective Comics Vol. 1 #27, cover-dated May1939, but close enough). Of course, by that time there will already have been a Detective Vol. 2 #27 (presumably cover-dated December 2013), which you’d have to think would be anniversary-related as well.

Anyway, I really do like the idea of a somewhat-comprehensive Batman origin story, which to my mind hasn’t been attempted seriously since 1981′s Len Wein/John Byrne/Jim Aparo Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries. Now, I know what you’re going to say, but “Batman: Year One” didn’t try to pull together various pre-existing elements of Batman continuity like ULOB did. Instead, it was basically an expansion of the page-and-a-half “Who He Is and How He Came to Be” origin from Detective #31, which along the way changed the backstories of Alfred Pennyworth and the Gordon family. (Previously, Gordon had been an older Commissioner when Batman came along, his biological children were Barbara and Tony, and Alfred came to Wayne Manor after Dick Grayson did.) Not that I don’t like “Year One,” just that its goals were different from ULOB.

For that matter, I don’t expect “Zero Year” to be the continuity quilt that ULOB was. Snyder told IGN as much:

This is not, “Why is Damian as old as he is?” Or, “Why does this character functions as he or she does in the 52?” That said, it’s an intensely personal story to me and Greg about why Bruce does what he does and who he is for us, and done in a way that hopefully you’ve never seen. But will some of those questions be answered? Will some of those continuity things you’re curious about be addressed? Sure.

But if you’re going into it looking for answers to all that stuff, it’s not designed for that reason. That’s definitely not the impetus for why we’re doing it; we’re not doing it to explain away some of the questions about the 52. We’re doing it because we thought it was the biggest and boldest and most personal story we could do with Batman right now.

However, “Year One’s” structure allowed for all kinds of additions. The original Legends of the Dark Knight anthology was based around the conceit that those out-of-continuity stories all took place within a “Year One”-like setting, if not between the events of “Y1″ itself. This led ultimately to the two Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale maxi-series, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, which themselves had to be reconciled with (and were eventually deemed by many fans to be superior to) the subsequent in-continuity “Year Two” and “Year Three” arcs. Thus, Snyder and his collaborators have the chance with “Zero Year” to claim this particular period for themselves, and give Batman a fairly stable foundation which can be revisited but not amended (or unbelievably contorted).

That said, June also brings Batman/Superman (which, somewhat counterintuitively, looks to be part of the Superman office) and its early years setting. Presumably the lines of communication are open between Snyder and B/S writer (it’s just the abbreviation; I don’t believe it) Greg Pak so that each gets what he needs without handicapping the other. Likewise, I’m expecting Snyder and/or Pak (if only parenthetically) to place the first Justice League arc in its proper chronological context. It would be nice to see Dick Grayson/Robin towards the end of “Zero Year,” but I’m not counting on it.

And speaking of Robin, there’s a good chance “Zero Year” pushes the next one’s introduction to summer 2014. Right now Harper Row looks about as inevitable as you can get, particularly in light of this week’s Batman #18. She shows up in June’s Detective Comics as well, which makes sense. She’s Snyder and Capullo’s creation, but if she’s going to be Batman’s new “intern,” she should be familiar to readers of all the regular Bat-books. Still, since she is Snyder and Greg Capullo’s creation, I expect if she’s nominated they’ll handle her costumed debut after “Zero Year” ends. Otherwise, Batman and Robin #25 seems like the next obvious choice, and it comes out in October….

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Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?

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21 Comments

I am in the minority here, but I gave the first dozen issues of Snyder’s Batman a shot. Mulled it over, and decided to drop it. Hearing that he is going to be devoting the better part of a year to Batman’s origin, I am glad I dropped out.

I guess we won’t be seeing short arcs, and one shots from DC brass anytime soon.

I’m still not quite convinced that Damian is really dead.

Think, “Lazarus Pit”.

He was not born biologically natural. He was well-engineered which means his DNA metabolism is very different from a regular human version.

Sounds plausible?

Welcome back, Astro City! We missed you!

@Nicholas- heck…they’ll probably have the Damian that died end up being a clone and the “real” Damian hidden away somewhere. I know it might not make sense but stories like that happen.

Surely everyone jumped to Lazarus Pit as soon as the kid died, right? I haven’t read it all yet but they must have an in-story reason why that’s a no-go. Or otherwise I expect the kid’ll be returning from the dead not too long from now, and then I wonder if the pencils from Batman Inc. #8 will be worth what they’re going for on eBay or not.

Tom, my bet’s on Superman Unchained as being the flagship book. It’s Scott Snyder, DC’s new second coming of Geoff Johns, plus Jim Lee. None of the other books hold that kind of cache.

It *is* weird to have four Superman titles again, though. They should give them New 52 Triangle Numbers, with, like, collars or something.

Of course Snyder isn’t going to try to answer the tough questions about the Bat Family mythos because there’s just no way that you can compress it all into five years. My guess is that things are going to be even more convoluted when this 11 issue arc is done. But anyway, over the last year or so, I’ve grown somewhat disenchanted with Mr. Snyder. Not saying that he doesn’t have his strengths, but I find his writing style to be often heavy-handed and the conclusions of his arcs to be often anticlimactic. The overwhelming praise that his run on Batman has gotten feels premeditated and hyperbolic.

And why the hell didn’t they just put him and Jim Lee on the main Superman title? Superman isn’t popular enough to support three books. Batman’s barely doing it. Maybe I’m being overly cynical, but I can’t think of any reason for “Superman Unchained” to exist, other than being a cash grab.

The only way I’d even consider reading this Pandora title is if her mission is to undo this clusterf*ck she created and bring back the REAL DCU.

Anyone who is still trumping Scott Snyder as of the best Batman writers ever is just in denial at this point.

I think Scott Snyder is doing for Batman what Geoff Johns did for Green Lantern. Like him or not he is writing some great Batman stories. Adding the Owls itself was great. Harper Row will be next Robin I am convinced. I think he will do the same for Superman expanding and adding to the character.

I dropped all but 2 dc books. I have no personal connection to any of these characters. How ironic that dc wants to push diversity in their characters, but has none in terms of their history. Rebooting the universe is a sign that either all the stories have already been told or lazy, untalented writers. Moore and Morrison never had to reboot swamp thing and animal man. I prefer to reread the real dc universe comics from my collection rather than this new stuff. I use to read over 20 dc books, now only batgirl and legion. I did enjoy hawk and dove and OMAC.

Now dc is going screw up batmans erly years with year zero? I have already read those stories, it’s called year one by Miller and at that time, it had never been done. Dc has no new ideas, just retreads of previous ones, watchmen, year one, first meeting of various superheroes, etc.

Snyder is a good writer, not great, but better than average. His plotting is really strong – finale of DOTF notwithstanding because P.U. – but I am not fond of his overall characterization of Bruce and he dialog is too verbose. 1st rule of comics – show, don’t tell.

Astro City – it is nice to see that back as it was since I did not care for all those retro mini-series. I don’t mind the renumbering.

DC is running into the exact same problems now that they had in the days after Crisis On Infinite Earths. Namely, that the main idea of compressing history sounds good (this time as a shorter one instead of one Earth for many) but the execution is full of potholes. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. As for Damian, no one has explained to me why he couldn’t have been hyper-aged in the tank. That one change fixes everything about his history. As for being dead, he is a character that can stay dead. The new clone can always be rehabbed into a new Damian at some point in the future. The son that isn’t a son sort of thing.

I do not have your faith in Giffen. He hasn’t written anything good in decades – 4 Horseman mini, last Ambush Bug mini, all his fill-ins since the late 90′s: unfunny and unmoving. And don’t get me started on his messy Kirby-rip-off art style.

When I heard Snyder was going to do an ELEVEN part series on Batman, I thought Oh God, not more decompressed storytelling! Making it Year Zero just adds to the mess it’s going to make in continuity. Owls was OK, Night of Owls unnecessary, DOTF was OK also but absolutely predictable in terms of outcome (duh). All these were too long and let’s not even get started on Swamp Thing/Rotworld!

@John S:

Batman was already the hottest thing in comics before Snyder got his hands on him. The only thing Snyder had to do was not screw up. He’s told some good stories, but nothing really innovative or groundbreaking. The Superman franchise has been floundering for a number of years now, and although I do believe Snyder can breathe an artificial interest in it, I haven’t seen anything from him that would suggest that he can revive it.

“I think Scott Snyder is doing for Batman what Geoff Johns did for Green Lantern.”

EXACTLY this, but I think we mean very different things when we say it.

I am amazed how you could notlove Snyders Batman, but I also LOVED every single issue of Morissons Batman run, so theres that.
Sure, Snyder may not be groundbreaking, but he enriches the mythos a lot! The court of owls was such a great idea for a villain group, that could be important for the next 70 years of Batman comics. Oh and he is the first guy who wrote Joker even creepier and better (for my tastes at least) than Morisson.
Oh yeah, for me the last 7 years of Batcomics have really been great ones.

Wait, what is Flash doing in JLD? Unless that’s a typo and he meant “Frank”.

From the New 52, I have now… ZERO titles to order. I have dropped them all. An epic fail. And it has started with the axe on OMAC.

I hope that the new Astro City will be OK for new readers, like me. I do not know at all this title. But I fear the terminal DC Comics axe. Have you seen how quick DC Comics was to axe Insurgent, a 6 issues limited series??

And that’s my biggest fear with DC Comics: their abrupt “How to end a title” without telling the readers: “Hey!! This title sucks and costs us money, so, chomp-chomp!!” method. No respect at all for their readers. No respect.

So, I hope for this new series and I fear too. Eslse if my fear is bigger than my hope, my money will go elsewhere.

I have been back buying single issues of comics since G.J. ‘s Green Lantern Rebirth and G.M.’s Batman RIP but I’ve dropped everything gradually since the new 52.

Although I really enjoyed Snyder’s Batman since the beginning, the end of the Owls arc and the end of DOTF were really disapointing and ended up making me drop the book. Its not worth following a title if the payoff isn’t huge at the end. Might as well trade wait which I will do from now on.

Same with Green Lantern with the end of Blackest Night (pre-new 52), War of the green lanterns and now rise of the third army. What happened to committing to an ending and a resolution (no need for characters to die to that IMHO) and being creative instead of always keeping things open ended? (Last panel sequence of DOTF I’m looking at you).

In that train of thought, whilst I love Jim Lee’s art and I’m sure would enjoy Superman Unleashed its not worth investing into it just to have another weak payoff at the end. I’ll patiently wait, do something else and buy the trade for cheaper on Amazon the minute the book comes out.

It will be good to have Astro City back. The “Confession” storyline, from years ago, is just about a perfect superhero story, in that it projects the tone of classical superhero comics even as its idea of heroism becomes gradually more complicated.

Meanwhile, Scott Snyder is experiencing more of a backlash than his material deserves. It’s true that his protracted stories in Batman and Swamp Thing have started with a bang and ended with a whimper, moving into conventional territory after provocative opening acts, but then his foray into the past with Year Zero may signal a return to the kind of generational storytelling that made American Vampire and Detective Comics work so well. The problem may be that his stories have become more single-minded as they have expanded into big crossover epics, with too few subplots and minor characters to thicken the soup around the main action, so that they paradoxically feel paperweight compared to the more intimate horror of his work from about a year ago. But we may see a return to form as Snyder finds better ways to work his horror-story instincts into the rhythms of a broad-strokes cape drama. Those first few issues of Swamp Thing, before the transformation, have some real teeth.

Snyder has got to be one of the most overrated talents I’ve seen in a long while. Not that he’s bad, as a matter of fact, he’s perfectly adequate going along with the main theme of The New 52: blandness.

Superman got mired in DC’s wait for the Superman movie to see what they need to synergize with. Botch.

Looking forward to Astro City.

Wow, lots of hate for Snyder.

Brian from Canada

March 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Surprised at the hate for Snyder. Yes, his stories are long and occasionally verbose, but he’s got a great sense of tempo and how to build up the action — while still keeping Batman squarely where he is to not rock the boat before a movie.

Will Snyder’s book become the lead? Absolutely. Lobdell is happy to play second role, and Action — being set in the past — will not be able to take that spot. That Supergirl is the only book in a week isn’t surprising, since they want to keep her profile up for the moment: she’s joining Teen Titans soon.

Pak has already said he’s taking Justice League into account. That, to me, shows a rising consciousness in New 52 writers that chronology — especially with only two years worth of stories — is important not to screw up at this point.

Personally, I am glad for the break in crossovers at the moment. DC has to give them a pause, since they have a major event (“Trinity War”) about to hit many books in the summer.

I totally agree with your comments on Batwoman. If she weren’t a Bat, there wouldn’t be the interest in the character that she gets — which is sad, since she deserves it.

And Shazam? I *completely* agree that the buildup has been too long. It’s the type of story that, really, should have propelled DC Universe Presents forward — but DC’s been strangely scared to drop a Shazam book on its own. With his increased presence, I suspect they want to ground him more in the DCU before giving him his own book… especially with so many failures so far on books that (theoretically) shouldn’t have failed.

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