INTERVIEW: "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" Hunt Rebirth's Oracle
The Forever Evil and “Gothtopia” crossovers don’t exactly dominate DC Comics’ January solicitations, but compared to the more mundane goings-on in the other series, they tend to stand out. For that matter, Forever Evil doesn’t sound like it’s promising much more than a lot of clenched jaws, dark humor and grim spectacle.
Still, if it has to happen sometime, it might as well be in January. I don’t mind January so much; it’s the darkest month of the year, but after a hectic holiday season it’s a chance to catch one’s breath. Going back to work after New Year’s Day and realizing there’s not much more to do but look forward to spring is like waking up at the crack of dawn and surveying a wide, flat, featureless plain — gray from the winter cold and just barely lit by the first rays of the distant sun — and realizing that if you’re going to make it across that plain, you’d better start walking.
Sometimes you just have to get through January, is what I’m saying — but sometimes getting through it isn’t so bad.
Whew! How was that for an intro? Weren’t we talking about comics?
With two issues published and the next three solicited, Forever Evil seems to be shaping up like Flashpoint: a lot of attention paid to how bad things have gotten, and relatively little to actual plot. Specifically, the “raid” on the Crime Syndicate’s headquarters in Forever Evil #5 reminds me of the Flash/Batman/Cyborg plan to break into Superman’s bunker in Flashpoint. That sounded like a game-changer when it was advertised, but what I really remember from the end of Flashpoint is a giant super-scrum and the Flash’s sprint through the time stream. Blackest Night worked best for Green Lantern scholars, but at least that gave it a decent structure.
The “Blight” crossover starts next week and runs through March, so naturally you’d think the January solicits would flag the issues involved. And they have been, sort of; the solicit for Phantom Stranger #15 says it leads into Constantine #10, which leads into Pandora #7, which leads into Justice League Dark #27, which is “continued from Constantine #10.” I am really on the fence about “Blight,” because I already read JL Dark and (for now) Pandora, but this is seriously making me consider dropping both until “Blight” is over. I am just not that invested in the desolate-wasteland aspects of Forever Evil, and the thought of committing to an 18-part ancillary story — even one that only involves two more titles a month for four months — seems depressing, regardless of the merits.
Speaking of tie-ins, your Forever Evil January crossover tally is 10, which includes January’s issues of
OLD NAMES, NEW ROLES
I do like Justice League #27 hinting that the Metal Men are coming back, although (like the Ted Kord tease in Forever Evil #1) who knows when they’ll materialize. I also like JLA #11 pitting two shape-shifters against each other. (Suspenseful!) Still, what with JLA and Rogues’ Rebellion both headed to Gotham City, it feels like another crossover is in the making.
Unless that indeterminate “his” refers to the “mystical serial killer,” the solicit for The Flash #27 suggests that its villain “might” have killed Barry Allen’s mother. This bothers me, because Nora Allen’s death in the post-Flash: Rebirth timeline seemed rather gratuitous, like Geoff Johns thought Barry needed just a smidge more tragedy. You know, because grieving for his murdered wife, then (years later) racing to stop his arch-enemy from killing his fianceé, only to be arrested and tried for murder himself, and then being reunited with Iris very briefly before sacrificing himself to save all of Creation, wasn’t enough somehow. Anyway, I thought Flashpoint was going to try and fix that one thing in and among all its other changes, so that New 52 Barry would have two live parents. After all, the “old” Professor Zoom wasn’t around to kill Barry’s mom in the new timeline, so why would she have to stay dead? Now I guess Nora has become Barry’s version of Samantha Mulder.
Both Green Arrow and Katana have referred recently to “Outsiders,” which doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me. Maybe I should be reading Green Arrow, because the two sets of references don’t seem to be matching up.
On a related note, I want to point out that the “new group of villains called LOCUS” (in Justice League 3000 #2) shares a name with the villain group from Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s now-out-of-continuity JLA: Year One. I’m sure that’s a coincidence, because that Locus was tied into the Appellaxians, whose intergalactic combat led to the League’s formation.
ODDS AND ENDS
For me, the big creative-team news doesn’t appear in the solicitations. As revealed at NYCC, Flash’s Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are moving over to Detective Comics (while Buccellato and Patrick Zircher stay on Flash, at least for now) — but as Caleb pointed out, Marguerite Bennett appears to have replaced James Tynion IV as writer of Talon.
Superman Unchained is skipping January and Vibe and Katana won’t make it past December. Meanwhile, Green Team gets the ax with January’s Issue 8.
The Unwritten Vol. 1 is about to wrap up (with the conclusion of “The Unwritten Fables”), so I’m glad there won’t be a long wait for January’s Vol. 2. However, I thought American Vampire was supposed to return at some point in 2013 — specials notwithstanding — so it looks like at least February 2014 until the monthly series resumes.
Between its regular issue and January’s Annual, Earth 2 goes pretty deep into the lore of its new Batman. This puts another Batman in the apparent role of Chief Insurrectionist — as he was in Forever Evil, at least two Morrison JLA arcs, and a number of other evil-has-won scenarios over most of the past 20 years — ready to pit his stealthy brain against an array of world-shaking super-people. I also note that new Earth 2 writer Tom Taylor has been writing an extended Batman-vs.-Superman arc in the Injustice video game tie-in comic, so it’s even more of a motif these days.
January sees a rare kind of Batman crossover, namely one which isn’t driven by the highest-profile Bat-title. Starting in the gigundo Detective Comics #27, “Gothtopia” sounds like an alternate-timeline take on the Bat-books. It runs through January’s Batgirl, Batwing, Birds of Prey and Catwoman, but I’m surprised it doesn’t also include Nightwing (as this would be a good time for an alternate take) or Red Hood (which I understand has had some trouble with Ra’s al Ghul). In fact, I’ll be surprised if this produces any kind of bump in sales, as it starts in an anniversary issue and therefore might be dismissed as merely the kind of one-off “what if?” story typical of anniversaries.
I’m looking forward to Batman And Robin Annual #2 mainly because it’s a Dick-as-Robin story. If the New 52 had been rebooted across the board, rolling back everything to a true “five year” timeline that left Dick at the midpoint of his Robin career, I’d have been perfectly fine with that. However, I’ll be interested to see how writer Peter Tomasi treats a 15(ish)-year-old Dick who a) doesn’t have the same close bond with Bruce as he did under the old rules, and b) will nevertheless grow into one of Bruce’s closest confidants and most dedicated allies. Plus, Doug Mahnke is drawing it, so it’ll look fantastic.
The Batman by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones hardcover highlights a distinctive period in the mid-1990s Bat-books. In 1995, they had just come out of almost three years’ worth of constant crossover upheaval, from “Knightfall” to Dick Grayson’s first stint under the cowl in “Prodigal.” The art on those books ranged from Jim Aparo’s unique dynamism to Norm Breyfogle’s expressive cartooning to Phil Jiminez’s intricate, detailed work — and none of it looked anything like Kelley Jones. He had been providing covers throughout this period, but putting him (and inker John Beatty) on interiors guaranteed that Batman was going to plunge deep into all things dark and spooky. It wasn’t the safest choice DC could have made, but it was a smart one, because Moench and Jones produced some of the decade’s most entertaining Batman stories. They’ve done Batman miniseries and specials here and there, including the trilogy of vampire graphic novels which started with Red Rain; but having them on the main Batman series for almost two years felt like a monthly expansion of what the book could do.
On a purely continuity-conscious level I’m surprised DC is reprinting Timothy Truman’s Hawkworld miniseries. Honestly, I’ve never read it — my appreciation for Truman’s work never really overcame my apathy toward Hawkman — but I have always heard good things. It is probably worth picking up strictly on its own merits, and it did influence the next several years’ worth of Hawkman stories. It probably also led to the line-wide continuity tweaks of 1994’s Zero Hour, and Geoff Johns’ subsequent “fixes” several years later, but those shouldn’t affect one’s enjoyment of this miniseries.
Similarly, I’m glad to see DC reprinting John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s early issues of their Martian Manhunter series. It was my understanding that J’Onn J’Onzz got his own series in large part because every other member of the initial Morrison JLA had one (with Aquaman’s the most recent) — so while this may have started as a marketing opportunity, it quickly became a fan favorite.
Speaking of marketing the Justice League, it’s curious to me that the solicit for the first Justice League Omnibus doesn’t mention Superman or Batman. It’s accurate, because they weren’t in the early stories a whole lot, but I’d have expected DC to remind potential customers they were still there — as were the original Crime Syndicate, whose first appearance was in this volume’s last story arc.
Good for Amanda Conner that DC is reprinting all of her Power Girl work in one volume, and selling it as such.
Also good that Batman: Li’l Gotham is getting a paperback collection. It strikes me as targeted towards a slightly older crowd than, say, Tiny Titans or even Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade — but it’s still a fun, unique take on the Batman family.
I will probably get Showcase Presents Men of War — even though I already have Showcase Presents Enemy Ace, which includes MOW’s Enemy Ace stories — because it collects the whole series for $20.00, and it contains some pretty good stuff otherwise.
Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?