Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
DC Comics goes bad in September, turning all 52 slots of its superhero line over to its less-savory characters. That’s pretty much the story of the superhero solicitations, although there are some interesting collections coming this fall.
On its face, Forever Evil sounds like a pretty straightforward, traditional superhero story. I think the “heroes disappear, villains romp” plot was even an episode of Super Friends. Accordingly, all things being equal, I have no problems with using it for a line-wide crossover. No doubt the DC Comics of 2013-14 will season it with plenty of violence and depravity, sucking away my goodwill accordingly; but those details will have to wait until the comics themselves come out.
THE SHAPE OF EVIL
In fact, the part of “Villains Month” that interests me most is its structure. Yes, there are 52 single issues coming out of the superhero line in September, plus Forever Evil #1. However, those 52 issues ostensibly “represent” only 18 series: Action Comics, Aquaman, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman/Superman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Detective Comics, Earth 2, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Justice League, JL Dark, JLA, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. Furthermore, 16 of the 52 are Bat-books, more than the Justice League books’ 10 issues and twice as many as the Superman books’ eight issues. Add Batman/Superman #3.1, and 35 of the 52 will have “Batman,” “Superman” or “Justice League” on their covers. In fact, 16 of the 18 series are already on my pull list (sorry, Green Arrow and Teen Titans), so I’ll probably be putting back a fair amount of these, which won’t make my comic shop’s job any happier.
At least the writing chores seem to be spread around, although there are 12 writers with at least two assignments, combining to write some 30 issues. Geoff Johns’ name is on five issues (counting FE #1), but his only solo credit is Forever Evil. Johns and Sterling Gates team up on three of those, with Johns and Bedard on a fourth. Gates and Tony Bedard each have an additional solo writing credit. Matt Kindt writes four books by himself, while Brian Buccellato, Greg Pak, Charles Soule and Peter Tomasi each has three. (Buccellato shares writing credit on one with Francis Manapul.) Sholly Fisch, Ann Nocenti, Frank Tieri and James Tynion IV each has two issues, while the remaining 18 issues each have a unique writer.
So I’m guessing that despite all the oh-noes talk in the actual Forever Evil solicit, the heroes themselves will come back in fairly short order. I mean, October should look a lot like August in terms of new issues of Superboy, All Star Western, Batwoman, etc.; and they won’t feature a bunch of bad guys running amok. Either that or 4evEv — an abbreviation which, if it’s not already Dan DiDio’s vanity plate, might make a dandy hashtag — will be fairly self-contained.
In fact, the issues themselves look to be fairly self-contained, with few appearing to tie directly in the events of the main miniseries. Surely they are designed point the way back into October’s regular DC fare, but come on — is there anyone out there who is so much of a completist that if they buy, say, Justice League, they’ll get all the Point-Whatever issues titled Justice League, regardless of contents and/or creative team? Is that the kind of cynical foundation upon which “Villains Month” rests?
Well, of course it is; so that’s why we’re getting 52 villain spotlights with little apparent connection to each other beyond the 4evEv framework, and only the various creative teams guiding readers and retailers as to which issue goes with which (if any) ongoing series. Regardless, those of us inclined to Kremlinology and/or conspiracy theories might see some hints of future ongoing series, like a Shazam! ongoing (coming out of the Johns/Gates/Edgar Salazar Black Adam special), or a new Lobo or Eclipso series. Otherwise, it’s another 52-part grab-bag disrupting regular programming for a month.
OK, the Dial E “issue of Justice League” was a nice surprise. I prefer to take this as a sign of how Dial H was appreciated within the DC offices, if not by the larger marketplace. Wonder how it would do under a Vertigo relaunch? It never had the greatest connection to the main superhero line, and its internal mechanics would allow for such a move. Besides, it would be a nice complement to the now-at-Vertigo Astro City.
Presumably the Reverse-Flash origin being presented in Flash #23.2 isn’t the origin of Eobard Thawne, the venerable villain who facilitated Flashpoint — and therefore the entire New 52 relaunch — because as far as I know, he’s still bouncing around the Multiverse somewhere. Accordingly, whenever he comes back, watch out.
EVIL CREATIVE TEAMS
Kindt writes and Aaron Lopresti draws Earth 2 #15.2, which seems to match up with the main Earth 2 title. Original writer James Robinson is leaving, and I don’t know if Kindt is coming in; but he and Lopresti would be a good team.
I am glad to see Fisch writing two of the Action issues. His backup stories during Grant Morrison’s Action tenure were always highlights, and I’m a little disappointed he wasn’t tapped to succeed Morrison. The current rumor has Pak and Aaron Kuder coming aboard Action, which would be great if proven true. Still, I liked Fisch’s work a lot, particularly because it came from a fairly optimistic place; and I’ll take two issues in September until something more permanent comes along. That “no compassion, no remorse, no mercy” Bizarro issue (Superman #23.1) would sound pretty dire if I didn’t think Fisch could put a less grim ‘n’ gritty spin on it.
Nice to see Graham Nolan back drawing his co-creation, Bane, in Batman #23.4; as well as Marv Wolfman once again writing his co-creation, Trigon, in Teen Titans #23.1, and Jim Starlin writing his creation, Mongul, in Green Lantern #23.2.
ONE GOOD MINISERIES DESERVES ANOTHER
It’s good to have Batman: Black and White back, but I’m glad it’s just a miniseries. After all, there’s already an open-ended Batman anthology in the digital-first Legends of the Dark Knight, and it’s not like the character doesn’t get any exposure. In fact, since the World’s Finest are covered in LOTDK and Adventures of Superman, I wonder what it would take to get a similarly-eclectic Wonder Woman title off the ground. Surely there’s enough out there for a one-shot …?
The Superman and Lois Lane Celebration of 75 Years hardcovers look like a very complementary pair, each representing a good selection of stories from the characters’ shared history. If I were going to complain about anything, it’d be that the Superman collection includes “For the Man Who Has Everything” — which I like very much, but which seems like it gets reprinted every other year — and the Lois collection includes “I Am Curious (Black!),” which is like being reminded on your birthday of your most embarrassing moment. The all-ages collections look similarly well-curated, with Morrison and Ben Oliver’s “Boy Who Stole Superman’s Cape” making it into both the Believe paperback and the 75th-anniversary hardcover.
I’m surprised to see Fraction collected, because it was one of a handful of series put out under the main DC imprint (i.e., not Vertigo or something else), dealing with ordinary people in superhero-type situations but not in the context of the regular superhero line. I never read those series, but that might just mean I have been missing out all these years. Or maybe DC is trying to pull in Hawkeye fans?
It’s kind of cool that “Throne of Atlantis” gets collected as an Aquaman arc, not a Justice League arc. It has more ramifications for the former, although it introduces the expanded League roster.
That is a crazy-low $19.99 price point for 13 issues of cra– uh, “unconventional,” unadulterated late-period Neal Adams Batman. If you were on the fence about checking out this series, that price just about makes it worthwhile. You just about need every issue under one set of covers, in order to keep up with the careening, barely-under-control plot and the wild jumps in logic. In other words, an inexpensive paperback may be the best way to experience the cocaine-cut Pixie Stick that is Batman: Odyssey.
The Deadshot: Beginnings paperback is a good example of DC’s split-focus marketing with regard to certain (shall we say) discrepancies between the New 52 and its various predecessors. Originally, Deadshot was a one-off trick-shooting Batman villain from the 1950s whose “costume,” such as it was, consisted of a tuxedo, top hat, domino mask, and pencil-thin mustache. Some 20 years later, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers pulled him out of obscurity and gave him a new costume (high-tech) and motivation (kill Batman, who’d humiliated him back in the day). By 1986, he was respectable enough to become part of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, and that made him a star. In 2005, Gail Simone brought him back to the spotlight in her new version of the Secret Six, and that endeared him to a whole new set of readers. Thus, the pre-New 52 Deadshot benefitted from a certain amount of history, although his own history wasn’t that hard to explain. By contrast, the New 52 version of the character has presumably been reworked so that the details of the old stories — i.e., the ones reprinted in Beginnings — no longer apply, because those old stories each built on one another in that clunky, reader-repelling sort of way. Accordingly, it’s always a little curious to me whenever DC reprints something which is significantly at odds with its current version of that particular thing, because I wonder who, exactly, benefits. Is it the old-timer like me, who’s happy to have these issues collected? Is it the New 52 reader who is genuinely curious about the original version and doesn’t mind being confused? (Admittedly, there could be more of these folks than I might imagine.) Is it the New 52 reader who thinks these stories are still controlling authority — and if it’s that one, what exactly makes them think that? The world may never know.
The answer seems a little easier with the Dark Knight Over Metropolis collection. The titular story was a milestone at the time, because … well, the solicit spoils the big emotional moment, but suffice it to say it marked a turning point in the previously-chilly, proto-Dark Knight Returns relationship between Batman and Superman. In 1990 these two were hardly the best buds they’d been prior to the 1986 relaunch, so this arc helped them along the road to bromance. That’s a long way of saying this collection is probably designed to capitalize both on the new Batman/Superman series and the general wave of Super-mania which DC fervently hopes will still be sweeping the nation around the time Man of Steel comes out on disc.
Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?