Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Warning: There will be a good bit of “in my day” talk in this survey of DC’s February solicitations. It’s the unavoidable contradiction of the publisher’s current superhero-comics model: Make everything “new,” but tease enough of the familiar old elements to keep longtime fans interested. While this practice goes back decades in corporately run superhero comics, the New 52 has tried so hard to distinguish itself that the old ways sometimes stand in even starker contrast.
Probably my biggest frustration with Forever Evil is its limited scope. Oh, sure, every electronic device on DC-Earth says “THIS WORLD IS OURS,” and writer Geoff Johns has teased a revamped Blue Beetle and Doom Patrol — but from the three issues published already and the three more solicited, it looks to be nothing more than Luthor’s Legion of Doom (plus Batman and Catwoman) vs. the Crime Syndicate. Ho-hum. We know the three Justice Leagues are imprisoned, the Teen Titans are bouncing through time, the Suicide Squad is depleted, and Nightwing is the Crime Syndicate’s prisoner, but where are the rest of the superheroes? What happened when they presumably rose up to challenge the Syndicators?
It’s a poor excuse to say the Green Lanterns, the Red Lanterns, Supergirl, Power Girl and the Huntress, Batgirl, Black Canary, the Birds of Prey, Batwing (and whatever remains of Batman Incorporated), Batwoman, Talon, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Animal Man and Swamp Thing (who still might show up in the “Blight” arc), Stormwatch, the Movement, Jonah Hex and even the just-canceled Green Team are all so busy with the events of their own titles that none of them could be bothered to help fight off an evil Justice League. There are some pretty heavy hitters in that list, and it would have been nice of Johns and company to devote at least a few panels to their whereabouts. Aren’t these big-event crossovers designed to involve the entire superhero line? Don’t they do that by saying “Hey, here are some characters you might have missed out on reading?” Shouldn’t they focus on more than just a handful of titles? I know everyone hates having the individual books’ storylines interrupted, and someone who just reads All-Star Western doesn’t want to have to learn all about Forever Evil, etc., etc. That still doesn’t prevent FE itself from giving shout-outs. The Crime Syndicate took over the world, folks. The. Whole. World. Forever Evil should reflect that.
At least OMAC and the Metal Men are getting in on the action (in Suicide Squad and Justice League, respectively). Also, February’s JLA is bringing back Despero, who shares a trinocular skull with Pandora’s Box. I’ll be curious to see how they’re related (because you know they just have to be related).
And I would have loved for FE’s climax to be a callback to the JLA/JSA team-ups of yore, by using Earth 2’s proto-Justice Society to help defeat the Crime Syndicate — but as it happens, Earth 2 is in the middle of its own “evil Superman” storyline, so that might look a little awkward.
A FINAL FATE DEFANGED
As February brings the penultimate issue of Forever Evil, I presume the “final fate of Nightwing” will involve some game-changing gambit that tilts the odds against the Crime Syndicate. Whether he’ll die in the attempt is probably 50/50. Bleeding Cool theorizes he’ll become a Talon, which is probably as good a move as any. For decades Dick Grayson’s appeal was his status as the “happy Batman” — all of the fighting and detective skills, and a people person to boot — and a big part of that came out of his many years of superhero experience. Take that away, as the New 52 relaunch did when it implemented a five-year timeline, and you’ve got a more generic character. Apparently, in order to fit Dick’s truncated history into said timeline, the relaunch also took away a big part of his development: namely, his close relationships with Bruce and Alfred, which came out of all those adolescent years at Wayne Manor. Now he’s just the oldest graduate of the Robin Intern Program. Again, this is something that would have meant a lot more in the pre-relaunch DC Universe. Now it relies mostly on fan affection for the character — which, one would imagine, was built largely on those pre-relaunch stories.
POINT/COUNTERPOINT: WOMEN OF DC
Good for DC for giving Lois Lane a special issue, and with a primarily female creative team (Marguerite Bennett writing and Emanuella Lupacchino drawing) to boot. In 2011, Flashpoint had that tie-in miniseries Lois Lane and the Resistance, but near as I can figure, the last main-line Lois special was part of 1998’s “GirlFrenzy!” event. Here’s hoping this leads to a bigger role for Lois, whether it’s in the Superman titles or (gasp!) maybe even in her own series.
Of course, the new Joker’s Daughter also gets her own special in March, courtesy of Bennett and artist Meghan Hetrick. I’ve been following the character in Catwoman and in her “Villains Month” issue, and I remain unimpressed. Her big thing seems to be intimidation, but she comes across more like something from a demented focus group. Even that is kind of appropriate, as the original Joker’s Daughter was actually Two-Face’s teenaged daughter Duela Dent, who dressed up like various Bat-villains (Catgirl, Riddler’s Daughter, etc.) just for kicks. Not the best way to ground a character, but the DC of the mid-‘70s probably wasn’t that focused on her anyway.
CROSSOVERS THE WAY YOU LIKE ‘EM
Diehard Gail Simone fans were probably buying The Movement already, but just to make sure the books’ audiences overlap more completely, Batgirl visits Coral City in The Movement #9. You’d think that’d give the book a little sales spike, although my hopes are not high for its future.
It may not be an old-school JLA/JSA team-up, but the main-line Batman and Superman finally meet their Earth-2 “daughters” in Batman/Superman #8 and Worlds’ Finest #8 (to be continued in April). I’m looking forward to this crossover not because of its old-school overtones — although with Paul Levitz involved, there’ll be some — but because the New 52 versions of these characters seem a lot closer in age than their pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths counterparts. Back in those days, the Earth-One Batman/Earth-Two Huntress relationship was especially complex, with Helena Wayne getting to know a younger, more intense version of her late father, and Bruce Wayne getting a good look at his potential future. The smaller age difference means that’s less pronounced in the current versions, but it could still be there. The Earth-One/Earth-Two versions weren’t that great for Superman and Power Girl, but that could have been because Superman already had a mentor-protegé relationship with Supergirl, which doesn’t exist in the New 52.
And speaking of Supergirl, I’m not that bothered by her upcoming Red Lantern status. After the whole “All Star Rainbow Lantern Corps” thing in Blackest Night, it seems like more of the same. The New 52 Supergirl doesn’t have the veneer of innocence that previous versions did, and she’s been through a lot in a short period of time. True, a significant portion of that was forced drama (the whole “I’m in love with H’El” thing), but it makes more sense that this version has a reservoir of rage to channel. Besides, I doubt it lasts more than six issues.
The Green Lantern/Red Lantern flipbook is a neat idea, though.
In a nice vote of confidence, Batman ‘66 Vol. 1 gets the hardcover treatment. There are new volumes of the Karl Kesel/Terry and Rachel Dodson Harley Quinn series and the Ed Brubaker-written Catwoman series. There’s also a new edition of Bruce Wayne — Murderer?, which seemed to me to be a rather random choice until I remembered the Brubaker-inspired Captain America: The Winter Soldier movie was coming out in April; and DC might want some Brubaker-written Bat-product to ride its coattails. Finally, for a long time Showcase Presents Jonah Hex Vol. 2 was one of those nigh-mythical collections (like Showcase Presents Captain Carrot and the Suicide Squad reprints) that was always being promised and always being canceled — so keep your fingers crossed, because my SPJHx Volume 1 has been rather lonely.
Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?