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Grumpy Old Fan | Canceling the future: DC’s August solicits

See, he dials L-E-G-I-O-N, and it transports him to the 31st Century...

See, he dials L-E-G-I-O-N, and it transports him to the 31st Century…

DC Comics’ August solicitations include both the end of “Trinity War” and of four series, including the latest Legion of Super-Heroes title. Otherwise, not much jumps out at me. Even the collected-edition section isn’t that diverse, as it’s heavy on “Death of the Family” books and pretty light on the vintage reprints.

NOT QUITE DEAD

If Talon weren’t a Bat-title, I’d say it was getting ready to be canceled. Issue 11′s solicitation refers to an “epic finale,” with Batman pitching in to help “eliminate the Court of Owls once and for all.” However, because so much work went into making the Court of Owls a credible threat to the Bat-clan, I doubt they’ll be eradicated completely. Likewise, I don’t think Talon is going anywhere, at least not yet.

Similarly, the continued existence of Batman Incorporated is one of the questions posed by the sure-to-be-epic conclusion of Grant Morrison’s Bat-work. In other words, is a revamped Club of Heroes so wrapped up with Morrison that it can’t survive without him? More to the point, is a Morrison-less Batman Inc. still marketable? Presumably the answer rests in the sales numbers for August’s Batman Incorporated Special — which, incidentally, appears to indicate just who among the various Inc.’ers survives the end of the regular series. I guess DC isn’t worried about spoiling such things, because it’s done something similar with the last couple months of Lantern Corps solicits.

TRINITY WAR IS OVER (IF YOU WANT IT)

The triptych of covers for August’s Justice League titles involve the various Leaguers clustered around a big glowing orb. (Probably not the Orb of Confusion.) Now, for the past two years I’ve been predicting the end of the New 52 status quo in one form or another, and the conclusion of a high-profile crossover like “Trinity War” offers an excellent opportunity to push the ol’ reset button. This is especially true considering Pandora’s involvement in the timeline shenanigans which led to the relaunch. However, now that the opportunity is here, two years really doesn’t seem like the right time (as it were) to roll back all or part of the changes. You might ask, if not now, when? Well, the window for a wholesale undoing isn’t getting any bigger; but all the same, two years doesn’t seem like much of a chance to give a line-wide housecleaning. Marvel’s “Heroes Reborn” stunt lasted about a year before everyone was reintegrated into Earth-616 through Heroes Return, so perhaps the window has closed already, and we fans of the old stuff might just have to wait for a particular book’s tone to shift organically, and/or a particular character to reappear on his or her own schedule.

That really has nothing to do with “Trinity War,” but more pertinent analysis can be hard when all you have to go on are a few paragraphs and some covers. Overall I’d say “TW” has some hints of 1999′s Day of Judgment (a demon takes over the Spectre, requiring a trip to Hell to get a suitable host) with some Identity Crisis (a superhero is murdered) and a little reorganizational work. I’d almost say that “[t]he end of the Justice Leagues” means cancelling one of the titles (Dark, most likely) and/or replacing Justice League with Justice League of America — just so JLA is once again the heavy-hitter flagship title — but all that seems a bit premature too. Maybe it’ll just mean disbanding temporarily in order to shuffle the lineups again.

CROSSOVERS

“The ‘Psi-War’ epic begins!” in Aug. 28′s Superman #23, but it “continues” two weeks earlier, in the 14th’s Superboy #23 (probably just non-linear storytelling). It sounds decent, mixing Hector Hammond with the HIVE and the Psycho-Pirate, and tying it all in with Superboy’s backstory. The previous Super-crossover, “H’El on Earth,” relied a little too much on Supergirl’s willingness to throw the Earth under the cosmic bus, but this one looks more straightforward.

Both Green Lantern and GL: New Guardians use the new villain Relic, although neither seems to have anything to do with the other outside of his involvement; so I’m not sure how much of a crossover it’s supposed to be. The NG solicit sure makes it sound important, though.

VOILA!

It’s like Christmas in August! Get ready to learn “the secret behind Pandora’s Box” (Justice League #23), “Superboy’s ultimate nemesis” (Superboy #23), “the fate of the Black Diamond” (Demon Knights #23), “the true nature of the Kollective” (Stormwatch #23), and “the true nature of Waller’s new deal with the team” (Suicide Squad #23). Also, “Black Canary learns a devastating truth” in Birds Of Prey #23), “a major villain emerges from the shadows” in Threshold #8, and Dial H #15 has “all the answers you’ve been looking for.”

BAT-NOTES

I counted 50 New 52 titles in these solicits, including the Batman Incorporated Special. This includes three books with “Justice League” in the title, two with “Trinity of Sin,” five Superman-family books, five Lantern Corps books, and fourteen in the Batman family. Presumably there’ll be one fewer Bat-book next month, but 13 out of 45 is still almost 1 in 3 main-line DC superhero books with a Bat-connection.

Batman: The Dark Knight #23 features Clayface, who was just captured in this month’s Batman #20. I’m not saying you can have too much Clayface (although I’m sure that’s possible), just that I never thought I’d have to consider it. Alex Maleev draws the issue, though, so it should look good.

As far as C-list Batman villains go, I’ve always liked the Wrath, so I’m eager to see his return in upcoming issues of Detective Comics.  Because Alfred tends to get short shrift in these “villain attacks Wayne Manor” storylines, it’s good to know (per the ’Tec #23 solicit) that everyone’s favorite butler at least holds his own.

Batman and Nightwing #23 (the solicitation for which helpfully adds “Guest starring Nightwing!”) finishes off the “five stages of grief” arc by asking if Batman could have saved Damian. I think we all know the answer, particularly as the fifth stage — spoiler! — is “acceptance.” Accordingly, I suspect this issue will finish going through all the DC-specific methods for bringing someone back from the dead (Lazarus Pits, magic, nanobots, etc.), and if I remember Tomasi’s love of continuity accurately from his work on Nightwing, it should be laid out pretty efficiently.

My prediction for All Star Western #23, also involving Batman somehow, is lots of scowling and clenched teeth.

POTPOURRI

The American Vampire Anthology’s creative teams threaten to bring out a string of cringeworthy, Crypt-Keeper-esque puns: A murderer’s row! A killer lineup! A book to die for! By the light of the Fabio Moo– OK, that’s enough.

I don’t read Fables, but if I did I’d be super-excited about it getting the Jess Nevins treatment. He’s tracked down all manner of literary allusions across a number of genres, and he should do right by Fables.

Speaking of doing right by venerable characters, Wonder Woman — or at least her Smallville counterpart — shows up in Smallville Season 11 #16. I’ve enjoyed writer Bryan Q. Miller’s sequel series a lot more than I did the actual Smallville, mostly because it’s done what the TV show was set up specifically never to do. In that respect I suppose it’ll be instructive to see how he presents a character who almost had her own David E. Kelley TV show, and who might still get her own CW TV show one of these days.

Also, it looks like Batman Beyond Unlimited is being relaunched as Batman Beyond Universe, complete with new creative teams. I’m glad it’s continuing, but I thought the new creative teams were a part of the old series, along with the new “Batgirl Beyond” who’s getting ready for her own debut.

COLLECTIONS

Remember when Secret Society of Super-Villains was one of those old series that would apparently never be collected? Now it’s coming out in paperback (although I wouldn’t count on this paperback having everything listed in its solicit).

I’m looking forward to the DC One Million Omnibus, but I kinda agree with Caleb that it may be a little too complete. Sure you get all the Superman, Starman, Batman, etc., tie-ins; but you also get single-issue alternate takes on late-‘90s series like Chase, Chronos, Hitman and Azrael. In fact, I already own everything in this book except the Chase, Creeper, Hitman, Impulse, Lobo and Resurrection Man issues, so that makes this book a little less economical. Still, I’d have to dig through a lot of longboxes to get ‘em all. Wonder if this means there won’t be a cut-down version of DC One Million to go along with the re-edited JLA paperbacks?

LONG LIVE THE LEGION!

I put the over/under of a new Legion book at three months, and I’m inclined to take the under. (Remember when DC canceled The Flash after just 12 issues?)

Relaunching the Legion isn’t exactly new. It goes at least as far back as 1984, when the regular book was retitled Tales of the Legion to make way for a new LSH #1. Two years later, when the Superman revamp eliminated Superboy, the Legion had to deal with that as well. The “Five Years Later” revamp came along in 1989, with its own patch on Superboy; and five years later (as it turns out), Zero Hour rewrote Legion history entirely. That lasted ten years and spanned three Legion series (LSH, Legionnaires, and The Legion), but it was succeeded by the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson “threeboot.” Regardless, Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer brought back the sorta-kinda-original Legion in 2007′s JLA/JSA crossover “The Lightning Saga,” and 2008-09′s Legion of Three Worlds confirmed them as the “new” regular version. Indeed, the New 52 didn’t seem to have much effect on that version beyond a new first issue and a companion series, Legion Lost. Therefore, although Mark Waid tweeted that the Legion has been published continuously for 40 years, that still includes seven relaunches (of one kind or another) — and at least three separate continuities — since 1984. And yes, I would argue that the 1984 “Baxter-Paper” series represented a relaunch, because (just as New Teen Titans did, around the same time) it jumped ahead in the timeline, so the “softcover” (i.e., original) series could catch up with it.

One thing that strikes me about the Legion’s voluminous history is the way it interacts with our perception of time. That sounds very metaphysical, so I’ll try to boil it down. For someone like me, who’s been reading superhero comics continuously for 30-odd years, the Legion is just one of those DC mainstays. It’s as much a part of the superhero line’s makeup as, say, Aquaman or Hawkman. The Legion was there before me, and I think it’ll be there as long as DC publishes superhero comics.

Furthermore, the Legion has always seemed to reward its longtime fans, either by building on its history or by working in enough nods to that history to sustain the latest relaunch. For someone who’s been a part of Legion fandom — perhaps even casual fandom — Legion lore may be best acquired gradually, one issue at a time. It only feels like five, ten, twenty, or forty years if you step back and realize how long it’s been since you started reading. (That story about the Nightwing/Batgirl wedding produced a similar feeling in me, when I realized Dick’s been Nightwing for almost 30 years, and it’s been 25 years since The Killing Joke.) The great irony (for lack of a better term) of our current age of reprints is that if you wanted to, you could probably catch up on a good bit of Legion history, given enough time and effort. Like any other long-running series, LSH is now this big chunk of info-matter — a thing to be mainlined in marathon reading sessions, and not so much doled out issue by issue, month by month. The question then becomes whether there’s still a market for all that old material. Again, conventional wisdom seems to be that there will always be a Legion book, because there’s always been a Legion book.

If that circular argument remains unbroken, it means simply having a Legion book isn’t as big a question as justifying a Legion book — which, again, goes back to all those relaunches. Speaking as someone who dipped in and out of the Legion books for about 18 years (from “Five Years Later” to the end of Waid/Kitson), and who’s probably best-acquainted with the post-Zero Hour and “threeboot” teams, the thought of tackling all that old-school continuity makes a relaunch more inviting. The ironic thing about the New 52 relaunch is that the Legion seems barely to have been touched, continuity-wise. It tied into the New 52 Superman because writer Grant Morrison used some Legionnaires in Action Comics, but that presented the team simply as a part of Superman’s history, and vice versa. However, with all that said, I think it’s easier for a longtime fan to revisit those old stories than it would be to shine them up for less-experienced readers. Along the same lines, if you’re used to a Legion whose history spans the decades, you might be less inclined towards a relaunch. The post-ZH Legion lasted for ten years (and was relaunched “softly” about six years in with the Legion Lost miniseries), and the “threeboot” got six — practically eye-blinks in the team’s 55-year existence.

So where does that leave the Legion in the fourth quarter of 2013? Maybe relaunched with more of an emphasis on its Superman-family roots; or maybe as the rumored “Justice Legion,” paralleling today’s A-listers more closely. Any relaunch would naturally benefit from a high-profile creative team, and probably one with no prior connection to the series (as heretical as that might sound). I don’t have any ideas along those lines, but now I’m sad there will never be a huge, crazy crossover with Dial H. …

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Comments

31 Comments

Jake Earlewine

May 16, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Someone once said “The Legion of Super-Heroes is destined to be canceled and rebooted over and over again for all eternity.”

Wait — that was me that said that. About three cancellations ago.

(Now, unfortunately, that can be said about every superhero title.)

Actually, in 1984, while New Teen Titans v2 did jump ahead in the timeline, the two Legion books published stories that paralleled one another time-wise. Tales of the LSH writers (Mindy Newell did much of the writing) had the somewhat unenviable task of avoiding spoilers (like Karate Kid’s death) while writing their parallel tales.

Personally I wouldn’t count either NTT v2 or LSH v3 as relaunches, but that’s just me.

Titles tend to get cancelled a lot when people spend 10 minutes reading it at the LCS and then putting it back on the shelf to “stick it to the man!”

DC wanted to wrap up/cancel third-tier/failing titles, to make room for upcoming long and most anticipated over-due Multiversity titles, new Earth One titles and other unnamed surprise/announced titles, etc.

I’m with you on the Legion. It’s been “canceled” enough times just since I’ve been reading comics that I can’t work up any concern until it’s been off the shelves with no relaunch for several months at least.

Regrading DC One Million, I quite liked the Chronos #1,000,000 issue. It’s a chase through various crazy time periods, with future Flash John Fox trying to catch Chronos. I actually remember it better than the Flash or Impulse issues of the mini.

Well said, Ron.

The BATMAN: INCORPORATED special, with its “Club of Heroes” vibe, in the same month as the last of the five BATMAN & [NAME] issues makes me wonder if that’s a hint that Tomasi is once more following Morrison’s lead. Not covering a Batman Incorporated title per se, but having his title perhaps morph into a wider BATMAN FAMILY-style team-up book including those same Club of Heroes characters as a recurring part (or even prime piece) of the Batman stable?

After all, if TALON shows that it takes a Batman connection to be successful for a new book in the New 52, why not cultivate a group of Bat-but-Not characters along those same lines that can then be spun out into their own books as needed or wanted?

The Legion is an odd case.

It feels like an A-list DC property. There is a long, respected history. There are several absolutely classic runs. It seems like one of those titles that a lot of people have followed at one time, or another. However, it never seems to sell quite like an A-list comic.

That combination of high status and low sales makes some fans treat with a certain disrespect. It is a shame.

Stephen Conway

May 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I expect the Legion to return in a relaunch of Adventure Comics sometime before the end of the year, with either a Superboy or Supergirl association built in.

Andrew Collins

May 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

I’ve read Legion on and off since the early 80′s and honestly, I don’t think the franchise ever recovered from the Byrne Superman reboot that removed Superboy from continuity, completely altering the Legion’s long stated origin. DC could have handled that a lot better at the time. By the time the “5 Year Later” Legion came along, DC just seemed to be writing itself into a corner with the franchise that resulted in the only thing it could have- the Zero Hour reboot, which has also, of course, been since rebooted…

On the positive side, I’ll be picking up that last issue of Legion for the great Maguire artwork…

My own analysis on the Legion; What’s worked, what hasn’t, what might.

http://heshouldreallyknowbetter.blogspot.com/2013/05/so-they-cancelled-legion.html

@Rob: Best comment i seen in a long time.Spot on

I’ve been reading the Legion as long as I could read, close to fifty years. I buy it because I’ve always bought Legion comics but DC doesn’t make it easy. Sloppy artwork and incomprehensible storylines are damaging to something as bulletproof as Batman but lethal to something as complicated as the Legion. With two dozen characters, a futuristic setting, and constantly mutating continuity, the creative team for the title have to be at the top of their game. I don’t consider turning Timber Wolf into DC’s Wolverine a peak creative effort. I didn’t much like the Waid/Kitson reboot but at least they had a defined point of view. I loved Grant Morrison’s reintroduction of the “real” Legion but there’s been no memorable storyline since. The Levitz/Giffen stuff has been a murky mess. Maybe the fourteenth time will be the charm.

My reaction to the LSH cancellation: I’ll believe it’s gone once we’ve gone 3 months without a Legion appearance; although it might be guest appearances or back-up feature appearances for a while. Legion is the one series it’s impossible for me to rationally analyze, because it’s the one long-running title I’ve got the whole run of. (Adventure #247 remains the most I’ve ever spent on a book.)

Legion will be back, and sooner rather than later. I just don’t know exactly how yet.

abnett and lanning are already doing the best version of the Legion over at BOOM! studios. It’s called THE HYPERNATURALS.

as INVINCIBLE is to Superboy, so HYPERNATURALS is to the Legion.

couldn’t begin to care what DC does or doesn’t do with their version.

The only Legion book I liked in the last 20 years was the Waid/Kitson book.

I did enjoy the Johns/Frank Superman & the Adult Legion arc in Action a few years ago…

Legion canceled…?! It´s not a surprise. DC, do it the old fashioned way and add Superboy. The real deal – not the clone!!! Oh, it´s not possible? New 52 continuity? Put them in Earth 17 or something like that…

LevitzGiffenFan

May 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Thanks for the heads up on the HYPERNATURALS. I’ll check it out!

Legion has been one of the biggest letdowns of the new 52. They had some nice momentum going after Johns’ Action comics arc and the Levitz run in Adventure and the pre-52 series. Post-52, kinda felt like just another “meh” series from DC. Lost my interest quickly.

DnA are definitely doing the best “Legion comic” on the stands right now with Hypernaturals…

I agree with MJH about the difference between the Legion pre- and post-Flashpoint. I don’t think Levitz’ writing of the Legion has been nearly as good or consistent. The inconsistent artwork certainly hasn’t helpd.

At least part of the problem with Levitz since Flashpoint, I think, is that he hasn’t had as much room to build up his plots. Before FP, he was writing two titles, one of which, for 8 issues, he had 30 pages (39 in #1) to work with. Add in the annual and LSV special, I Paul Levitz scripted an average of around 52 pages of Legion stories per month between May 2010 and August 2011, and never less than about 40 pages. Since FP, he will have averaged 25 pages a month by the time he finishes, and that includes the Legion: Secret Origin mini.

Levitz has always been a writer who scripts for the long game in his LSH stories. For the most part, with the Legion in the past, he’s had the space to do so. With Levitz on only a single ongoing limited to 20 pages a month, in a time period where the average panel count per page is about 4 panels in most DC comics these days, I really don’t think he’s been able to tell his Legion stories in the manner to which he’s accustomed, and that’s affected the story quality.

Sadly, the Hypernaturals is ending with next month’s issue. Sadly because it is one of my favorite books and I agree that it is the best Legion book on the stands right now.

Chaim Mattis Keller

May 19, 2013 at 5:52 am

@Michael: what Grant Morrison re-introduction of the “real” Legion?

Could you be any more smug and awkward? This post is, like the others before, the definition of fanboy elitism. With a dash of pseudo intellectualism and pathetic attempts at wit. Sometimes the internet is too much to bear.

Levitz has had trouble adjusting to the new storytelling style (one word balloon per panel) and tried too hard in his return to writing comics. His first storyline should have paralleled maybe the Great Darkness Saga or An Eye for An Eye; instead, it was disjointed. He gave it his best shot and adjusted a bit. Still, the LSH was still lingering and was given a boost with Giffen’s return (read the order of credits in LSH #17 or #18), but Giffen left after only two issues. Anyone know the reason why? Was it the imminent cancellation? The Legion is my first love in comics and I only hope it returns in some form. LLL!!

I’ve been reading the LSH since 1966 and it’s had its ups and downs. I tried to like LEGION LOST but having to read all the other books to understand it annoyed me greatly. Yera as a Legionaire, divorced / separated from Gim? Uh-uh. I agree with everyone here that the post FLASHPOINT LSH is not as good as the pre-52 version. I wonder what would’ve happened had Giffen stayed on the book – what was up with that? He was there and then, he was gone. I’m also wondering if I’m the only one who LIKED the 5-year later LEGION. I thought the Giffen / Bierbaum run was imaginative, with excellent dialog and some great plot twists. I liked Laurel Gand as a replacement for Kara (and as Kara is my all-time favorite character, that is saying a lot) and I liked seeing what happened to the characters later on. Okay, I digress. BTW, a friend who does work for DC tells me DC may be looking to publish some “anthology” books and it wouldn’t surprise me if the LSH shows up in one if they do. Hmm – ADVENTURE COMICS does sound possible, doesn’t it?

Chaim Mattis Keller

May 20, 2013 at 7:54 am

BrettJ: You are not the only one who liked the 5 Years Later Legion. In my opinion, issues 1-36 (plus annuals) of that iteration of the Legion is one of the finest comic book stories ever written. It was that version that got me into the Legion.

Brian from Canada

May 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

I have read the Legion on and off for 30+ years now, and I totally agree it’s the A-book which isn’t an A-book: even the cartoon failed in that regard.

Legion Of Super-Heroes’ biggest problem right now is its page count. Count how many heroes are active in each issue and you’ve got less than a page per hero — far too little for new readers to pick up a book off the shelf. And the fact Legion Lost didn’t end with them returning into another book says volumes about how little faith DC has in making multiple Legion books.

But I don’t think an anthology book is the answer. It can’t be. DC’s anthology books are always paired on central concepts: westerns, military, sorcery… what would be the pairing here?

My biggest guess is that we are going to get Superboy into the Legion because:
a) Lure’s from the 31st century
b) Kid Flash is about to return to the 31st century
c) Superboy will be going with the Titans to the 31st century
d) DC mentioned plans for Supergirl to go into the Titans
and
e) it would be more connected to the past if Superboy were there.

Plus, it would give the Superboy book something to do. THAT title is flailing badly: without the crossovers, the book has no sense of direction.

Brian from Canada

May 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

I’ve said it a few times on CBR: ADVENTURE COMICS starring The Atom. Make the backup Element Woman and/or Adam Strange.

Outside of Cyborg, she’s the only the Leaguer without a solo book and she’s got a better angle than Vic does for a solo book. Plus, making it a JL tie-in will help get the split book up to a decent start while the other Leaguer (and Strange) could ensure classic DC readers get it.

As for Batman Incorporated… yes, Batman Team-Up seems inevitable.

In fact, as I see it, the next books will be: Batman Team-Up, Superboy & The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Adventure Comics, Shazam!, and another high concept book that fails.

Even though I have been a Legion fan my whole life, the only way that i envision a successful relaunch is if either Johns takes over or it’s called Batman and the Legion of Super-heroes.

Clayface, or should I say The Clayfaces are some of my favourite Batman villains. But I gotta say I miss Preston Payne (Clayface 3) the most, haven’t seen him in a while. Have DC reverted to only 1? Seems like a waste to me.

I also like the variety in the Batman line. There’s something for everyone. Isn’t there only 4 main Batman titles?? That’s not really a lot. Snyder’s snail pace storytelling is not for me and I can’t stand EVS’ art. So that only leaves 2 that I get. But with Inc finishing, I only have Detective – which is amazing! Highly Recommend it. But I want another choice. I want to read more than 1 Batman story a month.

Forgot About Batman & ….. – but that is a no go too. 8 issues for the first story arc pissed me off.

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