Robot 6

Grumpy Old Fan | DC wants January’s comics to keep you warm

Superman vs. giant monsters on Aaron Kuder's cover for January's Action Comics

Superman vs. giant monsters on Aaron Kuder’s cover for January’s Action Comics

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?

FOREVER EVIL

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

  • the four “Blight”-related regular series listed above;
  • the three non-“Blight” regular series (Justice League #27, Suicide Squad #27, JLA #11); and
  • the three tie-in miniseries (ARGUS, Arkham War, and Rogues’ Rebellion).

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 outMarguerite 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.

BATMEN

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.

COLLECTIONS

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.

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

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Comments

12 Comments

Yeah, I’ll be getting that Men of War showcase too.

Locus coincidence ? No, just a 52 nod to a previous incarnation, but still…

You really should be reading Green Arrow, it’s the only DC title that’s held my interest. Lemire and Sorrentino’s run had been an excellent read every month, and and interesting new concept for the Outsiders.

Wow, a collection of Conner’s Power Girl? It was good stuff. Might have to break down and get it.

You may be happy to know that the original Hawkworld mini was conceived as something like Hawkman: Year One, and meant to take place in the past–it was only the ongoing series that started messing with continuity.

The “Martian Manhunter” trade is making me hope that they’ll finally collect another overlooked 90s epic, Walt Simonson’s “Orion”.

How great would it be if the Kelley Jones Batman book came with gigantic, pointy pop-up bat-ears on the front cover? The foot-long (or more) ears are what I always think of when Jones gets brought up.

Wasn’t “Hawkworld” originally more of an “Elseworlds’ thing than a “Year One” thing? Then DC decided that since it was popular — a lot more popular than Hawkman had been in a very long time — to continue it as in continuity and contemporary. That was what screwed up the continuity.

Admittedly, it was popular for the simple reason that it was indeed very good.

You’ve never read Hawkworld??? I’m a grumpy old fan that was never into Hawkman either but finding this comic a year or 2 after it came out, along with Longbow Hunters helped to keep me reading comics. and scanning the back issue bin. Along with Vertigo, Green Arrow, Suicide Squad & The Question, Hawkman kept me reading comics in my early twenties. Post Crisis DC in the early 80s was the definition of revolutionary and innovative comics. If only the New 52 had been as successful, they tried but lacked the artistic leeway.. Hawkworld/Hawkman was a great political pallet of showing a hero who on earth was a conservative but a staunch liberal on Thanagar. Great perspective! Read all of Ostranders Hawkworld issues(they account for the continuity everyone says doesnt work)!

I’m riding out the insanity that is The New 52, by only sticking with Aquaman. I’m willing to give Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier a try. Other than that I’m reading Batman ’66, because it is a fun book, written by Jeff Parker, and it’s the Batman that introduced me to comics and super-heroes. So, I’m there. There’s a trade collecting the stories that were adapted into episodes. So, I’m there for that, too.

Great column, as ever, Tom. I hate the murdered Norah Allen thing too, but it has already been established in the new 52 stuff – poor old Henry is in jail. So if this story shows he’s not guilty, great (I’m guessing it’ll be Barry’s old mentor boss, who seems to have been having a thing with Norah – ugh, sullied! – meaning he’ll likely turn out to be Barry’s dad. Bah on forced irony!

(Of odour we, I’m probably wrong!)

Didn’t like Hawkworld one bit.

It wasn’t really Hawkman, just somebody else borrowing the name.

Hawkworld was an interesting story but replacing the iconic wings with what looked like flatpack cardboard boxes was weird.

For some reason I don’t care to read about Blight at all but maybe that will change after we are introduced, I do pull Constantine and follow Forever Evil after all.

The biggest baddest Blight I know of was in FIRE UPON THE DEEP!!!

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