Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
We’ve known for a while that DC’s superhero line will go through some changes in the wake of Forever Evil, and as the March solicitations bring the end of that Big Event, not surprisingly the month looks rather transitory. In fact, Forever Evil #7 is scheduled to appear on March 26, just as the final issue of Blackest Night — also written by Geoff Johns as a spinoff of his highest-profile series, in case you’d forgotten — dropped on the last week of March 2010. (It must be pure coincidence that these solicits feature a $200 White Power Battery tchotcke.) Back then, BN #8 was supposed to “set the stage” for the “next epic era of DC Comics,” which turned out to be about 18 months long and featured the biweekly sort-of-sequel miniseries Brightest Day. This time, Forever Evil #7 teases the importance of the “Hooded Man” and promises to “leave the DC universe reeling and reveal the secrets to the future.”
So, yeah, sounds like another cliffhanger ending, perhaps even leading into another big-deal miniseries — specifically, the May-debuting weekly Futures End. Considering that the three tie-in miniseries (ARGUS, Arkham War and Rogues Rebellion) all seem to feed into FE #7, the actual content of that final issue may well be a giant scrum, not unlike the final issue of Flashpoint, in which some cosmic button is pushed, defeating the Crime Syndicate but at a significant cost to DC-Earth. As it happens, there’s no mention of the “Blight” sub-crossover (bringing together Phantom Stranger, Pandora, Constantine and JL Dark) feeding back into Forever Evil, but I’m not sure how much it’s supposed to relate, beyond being about the JLD trying to pick up the post-invasion pieces.
I hate to be so cynical about all this, but I am not reading much else between the lines. To be fair, though, in hindsight the solicit for Blackest Night #8 is similarly opaque.
Elsewhere, the brief “Gothtopia” event running through Detective Comics and assorted other Bat-books concludes in March, as does the “First Contact” crossover teaming up the main-line Batman and Superman with Earth-2’s Huntress and Power Girl. As the latter mentions “unlock[ing] the secrets” of Earth-2’s Superman — who these days doesn’t quite match up in all respects to the main-line Supes — I wonder to what extent the Earth 2 series will intersect with the main superhero line. (And yes, I feel compelled to use terms like “main superhero line” because the term “Earth-1″ sounds too much like those original graphic novels that come out every now and then. That reminds me — where are we with the Wonder Woman book?)
I like Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest well enough, and clearly I hope they’ll have more interaction with the MSL. However, sometimes I think DC plants these crossover seeds when it never really intends to revisit them, and despite the promise of “major repercussions,” odds are that’ll turn out to be the case here. DC’s Big Events tend to be foretold in giant flashing neon, not in a couple of mid-range series which (while very fun) not everyone reads. Accordingly, the great Justice League/Earth 2 crossover of 2015 will probably exist only in my imagination.
On smaller scales (no fish pun intended), looks like Swamp Thing will show up in Aquaman pretty soon, while Supergirl is getting more entrenched in the Red Lantern Corps, and Deadman helps the Flash with the mystery of Nora Allen’s murder. Batgirl is particularly well-connected in March, getting a little I, Vampire action in her own series and continuing her team-up with The Movement.
Last month Lois Lane and the Joker’s Daughter got one-shots, and in March it’s Amanda Waller, courtesy of writer Jim Zub and artist Andre Coelho. I’m not especially invested this version of Amanda (or the Suicide Squad, for that matter), but that doesn’t mean anything about the book’s actual merits. I wonder whether this special is intended to capitalize on the character’s frequent appearances in other media, but it may just be the case that someone had a decent idea for an Amanda Waller one-shot and DC thought it could sell.
I have to agree with Caleb: It wasn’t much of a stretch to make the post-Damian Wayne Batman and Robin into Batman and [Other Bat-Character]. Once you get into things like Batman and Aquaman, however, you’re pretty much in Brave and the Bold territory. This being DC, of course, why use a prosaic title like that when a more direct, mundane alternative is available? My 5-year-old daughter has been writing out birthday cards that say “Here is a present for you,” and they appear to work just fine.
I’m tempted to say the “savagery of Man-Bat” killed Batman: The Dark Knight, but that would be a little too cute. Writer/artist David Finch launched TDK as part of fall 2010’s Batman Incorporated push, when it was a big deal that Bruce Wayne would headline an ongoing, in-continuity Bat-book. (Dick Grayson was under the cape and cowl in Batman, Detective and Batman and Robin, and was the Batman in JLA; while Bruce got Batman Incorporated and TDK.) Because the New 52’s reorganization shifted everything back to Bruce, and because Finch appeared increasingly to need help putting out each issue, it became harder to justify TDK’s existence.
Still, DC isn’t in the habit of contracting the Batman line. At the risk of loading up on qualifiers, I think this is the first time since 2006 that an ongoing in-continuity Bruce Wayne-centric series has been canceled. Back then it was Gotham Knights, which had run since 2000 as the replacement for Shadow of the Bat, which itself had run since 1992.
I was also surprised to see Talon canceled, because it spun out of the popular “Court of Owls” arcs headed up by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo in the main Batman book. Its 17 issues were a pretty decent run, and the character showed up in affiliated books like Birds of Prey and March’s issue of Batgirl — and DC is less shy about canceling lower-tier Bat-titles — so it’s not like it just faded away.
ODDS AND ENDS
If J.H. Williams III were still doing Batwoman covers, I’d be very eager to see what his “Robot Chicken Variant” looked like.
Will Pfeifer is the new Red Hood writer as of March’s Issue 29. From what I can tell, he’s remembered pretty well for following Ed Brubaker on Catwoman. I’ve never been able to get into Red Hood, but he’d at least make me want to try it.
So far, Robert Venditti’s run as Green Lantern writer has tried to blend Geoff Johns-style “mythology” stories with more straightforward outer-space superheroing. In that respect, March’s GL #29 looks like the culmination of a lot of Venditti’s plotting, with the Corps on the brink and Hal Jordan at the end of his rope. However, it’s still very odd to me that the issue’s solicit would focus on “Hal asks for help” as its major character moment. I know writers and editors from at least the Johns era forward have seen Hal’s indomitable will — which, yes, is a job requirement — in terms of Hal not necessarily being right all the time, but being able to do and/or get what he wants, and more than likely on his own terms.
(That was an awkward sentence.)
And yet, making it “unthinkable” (even in a solicitation) for him to ask for help puts Hal in a very simplistic light. Unfortunately, this may be part and parcel of the current Green Lantern approach. Having spent the past few years testing Hal and company, blowing up Mogo and Oa, and pitting our heroes against various Lantern Corps and the GLC itself, why not go for more of the same? It hasn’t been all bad — sprinkled in and among the backstage drama have been some decent outer-space-superhero stories — but what would be wrong with a little stability? Maybe that’s what Green Lantern Corps (featuring John Stewart’s squad of Lanterns fighting Durlans) is for.
One of the few team-ups dictated by wardrobe, the Paul Dini-written Black Canary/Zatanna one-shot is on March’s schedule. With Joe Quinones drawing, it should be pretty good, and it looks like it’ll follow the pre-New-52 style. I’m not even sure that Black Canary and Zatanna are that close these days.
March’s final issue of Animal Man might not be the end of Buddy Baker (Jeff Lemire will write him into Justice League Canada), but I’m glad Lemire is getting to bring his run to a close, rather than having the book limp along without him. It’s probably safe to say that Animal Man was one of the more pleasant surprises in the New 52’s original lineup, and as someone who’s followed it through various artistic changes and the probably-too-long “Rotworld” crossover, I have to say I always found it entertaining. Here’s hoping the Baker clan enjoys the Great White North.
On the bright side (again, no bloodsucker-weakness pun intended), American Vampire returns, better late than never. Not much more to say, except that I’ve missed having regular installments of Pearl, Skinner and the rest of Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s sharp-tongued crew.
The first JSA Omnibus looks like a pretty comprehensive beast. Note that it’s not JSA By Geoff Johns, although he’s certainly the main selling point. Instead, the book includes two miniseries (one of which came out about a year before the JSA series) which focused on solo stories by assorted creative teams. It also reprints the Goyer/Johns/Pacheco/Merino graphic novel Virtue and Vice, featuring the JLA and JSA against Despero and the Seven Deadly Enemies Of Man. About the only thing missing from this period — which appears to be 1997-2000ish — is the five-part “Crisis Times Five” arc from JLA which introduced Jakeem Thunder and set up the modern-day JSA’s return. Still, if you’re getting this, you’ve probably got that already.
Part of me thinks that the Absolute All Star Batman And Robin is DC’s final admission that no, Frank Miller and Jim Lee will never finish this series, so it might as well get a top-of-the-line collection. In the mid-2000s, ASB&R was a shining example of unreasonably-delayed wretched excess, but today I suspect that both Miller and Lee thank the Lord for Neal Adams and Batman: Odyssey.
Carmine Infantino’s Bat-work was a sea change in the mid-‘60s, and today it stands out as one of the more distinctive takes on Batman and Robin. Therefore, I’m glad to see him get an artist-specific Batman collection. His stories were spaced out when they originally appeared, with Sheldon Moldoff still drawing the bulk of Batman and Detective, and it’ll be good to have all of Infantino in one place.
Well, that’s what jumped out at me this month. What looks good to you?