Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | DC goes dark in November

Ironically, not part of the "blackout"

Not part of the blackout

There’s no solicitation for Justice League 3000 in November, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Reworking a first issue from scratch, with a new artist and what sounds like a new tone, undoubtedly isn’t something even one of the Big Two can do on short notice. Instead, DC Comics goes back to the Bat-well both for November’s only new series, and to goose the sales of various superhero titles.

As always, though, there’s enough in the new batch of solicitations to keep us busy this week — so without further ado …

ALWAYS BET ON BLACK

Apparently “Zero Year” will include a “Blackout In Gotham” plot point that can stretch into a dozen other DC titles, including non-Bat-books like Action Comics, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps and The Flash. This makes a certain degree of sense, as it takes place back in the “before-time” of the George W. Bush administration, before the various superhero jurisdictions were established, so you’d expect someone like Superman to take a road trip if he thought Gotham needed him. However, thanks largely to this being Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, the blackout — which, as far as I can tell, would otherwise be just one part of one title’s flashback storyline — ends up involving more books than DC’s actual line-wide Big Event, Forever Evil. The latter includes the eponymous miniseries, three ancillary miniseries and the three Justice League books, but only two other ongoing series (Teen Titans and Suicide Squad, each of which has been tied into 4EVEv since it started). The total is “Zero Year” 13, Forever Evil 9, and almost half of the latter’s score is miniseries. Personally, I don’t mind a discrete Big Event, and I’m not surprised that DC would exploit “Zero Year.” I’m just a little surprised at how heavily it seems to be relying on “Zero Year” in November.

As for the substance of Batman #25, surely we’ve all noticed that this big Riddler arc is called “Dark City,” which was half the title of “Dark Knight, Dark City,” the Riddler arc that Grant Morrison incorporated into his recent Batman work?

Getting lost among the other big crossovers is the second half of “Krypton Returns,” which (as in October) links Superman, Supergirl and Superboy. It appears to be both a sequel to the “H’El On Earth” crossover from several months back, and a way to tie into the “World of Krypton” backups that have been running in the back of Action Comics recently. Anyway, because Krypton is the Titanic of the DC Universe, I think we all know how this story will end — shocking, heretofore-unknown details notwithstanding, of course — so it’s nice to see DC trying some misdirection in the Superman #25 solicitation. “A hero will fall,” eh? I bet it’s not Supes or Jor-El.

COMINGS AND GOINGS

I was concerned that the Action crossover into “Zero Year” would screw up the retroactive continuity of Supes’ and Bats’ first meeting, currently the subject of Batman/Superman. However, B/S writer Greg Pak takes over Action (with artist Aaron Kuder) just in time to jump into “Zero Year.” Otherwise, Marguerite Bennett writes Batgirl’s “Zero Year” tie-in, John Layman writes Catwoman’s (with one of my favorites, Aaron Lopresti, on art), and Chris Sprouse and Karl Story guest-draw Flash’s tie-in.

In non-“Zero Year” news, J.M. DeMatteis is your new Justice League Dark writer, Tom Taylor is the new writer on Earth 2, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund are the new art team on Batman/Superman, and if you have a favorite artist, he or she is probably drawing at least part of Harley Quinn #0.

OH, WHAT THE HECK, HERE’S SOME MORE BATMAN

Speaking of Harl, this new series probably capitalizes as much on her popularity in video games and Suicide Squad as on her relationship with the Joker. I have to admit I had little interest in Harley’s first series back in the ‘90s, although I heard good things about it. This time, I have even less interest in Harley as a character, but the first issue’s creative roster seems hard to ignore.

Putting Carrie Kelley in the spotlight of the renamed Batman and Robin #25 makes me wonder if we’re not heading for some sort of “Battle for the Vest” miniseries next summer, once “Zero Year” is over and DC has to either put up or shut up on who’ll be the next Teen Wonder. For a while it looked like Harper Row was the frontrunner, but DC is sure trying to make Carrie a big deal.

CLEARLY, SCRAPPY IS FROM EARTH-3

Thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch the very fun first season of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, and now I’m trying to decide whether to get the second-season DVDs or just wait for a more complete set. Anyway, seeing the new Scooby-Doo Team-Up miniseries makes me wonder whether it’s set in SD:MI’s continuity, or indeed, whether “Scooby-Doo continuity” is even a thing about which to worry.

COLLECTIONS

I can’t speak for the Lobo/Judge Dredd team-up, but I remember the rest of the Batman/Judge Dredd oeuvre being some pretty entertaining examples of ‘90s excess. Writers Alan Grant and John Wagner were intimately familiar with both characters, as were many of the artists, so there’s a nice overall sense of authenticity (so to speak) when “I Am the Night” and “I Am the Law” get together.

As my Planetary collection is a combination of single issues and trade paperbacks, the Planetary Omnibus may well find a place on (a reinforced section of) my bookshelves. That Planetary/JLA is a real downer, though.

The Superman vs. Mongul paperback is pretty much all the Superman vs. Mongul you need. The DC Comics Presents two-parter which introduced Mongul features a nifty Superman-Supergirl team-up (although the collection apparently doesn’t include the follow-up, featuring the Spectre), and of course we all love “For the Man Who Has Everything.”

This month’s installment of “Huh, DC’s Reprinting That?” includes a decent selection of books. First is a new printing of Matt Wagner and John K. Snyder III’s Doctor Mid-Nite miniseries from the mid-‘90s. This Doc was later a big part of the late-‘90s JSA series (of course), where he dated Black Canary and served generally as That One Superhero Who’s Also A Surgeon. Anyway, the miniseries was pretty entertaining, as you might expect from Wagner and Snyder; and it featured new versions of some D-list Batman foes, the Fox, the Shark and the Vulture.

Second is another installment in DC’s series of Deadman reprints. The new Vol. 4 gets into the late ‘70s, when Deadman had a backup feature in Adventure Comics drawn by the great José Luis Garcia-Lopéz. It’s pretty affordable, and the fact that DC has gotten this far kind of makes me want to seek out the first three books.

However, nothing made me say “Huh!” more than the Creature Commandos collection. It might not have been the strangest thing to come out of the early-‘80s Weird War Tales — that may well be the Primate Patrol — but bless their abby-normal hearts (or heart substitutes), the Commandos have had something of a renaissance in the past few years, most recently in Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE.

MERCH

On one level I’m glad DC is offering a $200 Violet Lantern power battery and ring. It means DC thinks that somewhere out there are enough Star Sapphire fans with sufficient interest, not to mention disposable income, to warrant making such a thing. (And just in time for Valentine’s Day!) Moreover, it’s a tchotchke that — at least superficially — symbolizes an army of primarily female warriors, albeit an army whose leader wore some unrealistically designed, hyper-revealing outfits not too long ago. Accordingly, one imagines that an expensive violet-colored power battery might appeal in significant part to female fans, so this is a good sign in the sense that any outreach is welcome. Too many qualifications and weasel words in this paragraph? Maybe. Perhaps it all boils down to DC realizing that women have money, too. That’s progress, I suppose.

More affordable are the three Super Best Friends Forever statues-slash-“storage boxes,” which aren’t poseable (outside of those interchangeable heads) but which may be easier to explain. I’m waiting for some DC Nation DVDs …

AND FINALLY

Here is the thing about Forever Evil: it sounds like a perfectly valid event-style storyline. “Evil Justice League from another dimension takes over the world” is the kind of thing you expect out of a superhero comic. The possibility that it could feature a number of disparate protagonists, like Luthor, Nightwing and Batman, each working separately towards the same goal but with slightly different motivations, helps make it more attractive. However, as with Flashpoint (another “world turned evil” storyline), there is the possibility that the climax will involve some additional twist which Changes Everything. Indeed, arguably from Crisis on Infinite Earths forward, superhero-event comics have come back repeatedly to this idea of a world gone so horribly wrong that the only way to fix it is to start from scratch. Crisis destroyed whole universes before rebooting all of Creation. Zero Hour‘s antagonist wanted to restart time because he thought his world was irreparably broken. More recently, Final Crisis and Age of Ultron contended that global rewrites were the only way to set things straight. I’m not saying that Forever Evil will require a reset button, but it sounds like it will end with more than just putting the bad guys in Cosmic Jail.

That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. Even a big superhero event should come down to more than “we need to throw that switch!” Still, that “something more” doesn’t need to be something external. It can be as simple as the various characters’ reasons for wanting the button pushed. Maybe Luthor wants the world to see him as its rightful savior. Maybe Nightwing acts out of a combination of grief (because he thinks Batman’s dead) and the realization that now he’s ready to step completely out of his mentor’s shadow.

And maybe the externality is just the latest evidence that DC-Earth isn’t alone in the Multiverse. If Forever Evil and the current Batman/Superman arc demonstrate conclusively that there are other Earths, how long will it take for our Justice Leaguers to start exploring them? Maybe this will turn out to be the “Flash of Two Worlds” of the New 52, opening up storytelling possibilities as much as that seminal issue did.

Or, you know, maybe it’ll just leave Nightwing in a body cast for the first half of 2014, until he can recover sufficiently to help train the new Robin.

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

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Comments

15 Comments

Not Carrie….please not her. I have been so hoping Harper would play more of a role in Batman.

I’m pretty sure you only need to count comics written by Scott Snyder as far as clues to who the next Robin will be.

I love your thinking here Tom, regarding the overdue exploration of the multiverse.

I’m so disappointed to hear J.M. DeMatties is writing Justice League Dark. I just dropped Phantom Stranger because of his writing. I remember dropping the Hal Jordan Spectre title as well for the same reason. Why do they keep giving DeMatties supernatural titles to write? He’s not good at them.

@nWoJeffDW: Different strokes and all that but DeMatteis is one of the better writers when it comes to supernatural titles. His style may not be what you like but, fortunately, yours is not the opinion that counts. (I’ve never understood the appeal of Brian Bendis. The few books of his I’ve read haven’t displayed the kind of talent one would expect of someone working on Marvel’s top-tier books. Other people though seem to think he’s comicdom’s answer to William Shakespeare so he not only gets to write “A-list” titles but he also gets to basically set policy for the whole Marvel Universe, affecting even books that he has no connection with.)

So DC going black in November YO?

d
Sup!

I agree on the Planetary comments. I always wanted to get it but comixology had all the issue for $24.99 last month so I had to jump on that.

I’m glad the only monthly New 52 title I still buy, Batwoman, is staying out of this Year Zero stuff.

As for DeMatteis, I will admit, I tend to like his bwa-ha-ha material with Giffen a lot, but have never cared for the more metaphysical Seekers/Spectre/Moonshadow side of his writing. John Ostrander showed in his Spectre series that he could take a supernatural character that was a fairly one-dimensional gimmick and turn him into an incredibly compelling, sympathetic anti-hero. I think he would make a great choice on something like Phantom Stranger, personally…

“… all the Superman vs. Mongul you need”? Nay I say, Tom, nay. This collection sorely needed an excerpt from the Superman: Exile era, in which Mongul made Superman fight Draaga in the arenas of Warworld. A new Superman team was taking over just after John Byrne left, and this was good stuff — a de-powered, desperate Superman, a fearsome Mongul. The follow-up some years later, “Panic in the Sky,” was equally good, though Mongul himself wouldn’t return until “Reign of the Supermen.”

Glad to see Mongul get a trade-nod, but I’ve have liked to see at least a little post-Crisis stuff in it.

If DC goes black, will they ever go back?

“A hero will fall.”

Gotta admire their truth in advertising. They’re not claiming anybody’s going to DIE and actually stay dead. They’re just going to “fall”. And later they will get back up.

While DeMatteis is a solid writer, will his name draw in more readers for JLD? I was hoping Fawkes and Lemire put in a good couple of years before moving on.

@Jake- maybe someone will just trip or something. :)

DeMatteis earned a lifelong pass with me for his work on The Life and Times of Savior 28. Every Kirby/Cap America fan owes it to themselves to give it a read.

In spite of the bad premise and terrible new origin for the Phantom Stranger, JM DeMatteis has been great on it. Didio’s issues were surprisingly good too. in fact Didio’s Dog God was better, in that it had the Scottish Highlands’ accent.

I find the New52 Stranger very similar to Superior Spider-Man in that way, I hate the premise but really like the execution.

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