Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
For a while it felt as if DC Comics was just going to talk about all its July books without ever soliciting them. News of Grayson and Robin Rising and relaunches of Suicide Squad and Teen Titans trickled out of the DC offices before the dam finally burst on Tuesday afternoon. (That’s why this week’s planned look at the “pilot episode” of Batman Eternal will have to wait.)
In fact, these solicitations are a little overstuffed, with a list of DC’s special September issues that lets us compare and contrast. Note too that while the September issues take place in The Future, they’re only two months removed from their July predecessors — so a good bit of current storylines may well be put on hold.
BECAUSE YOU LOVE THE NUMBERS
Here are the numbers. For the superhero line, DC is soliciting 42 regular ongoing series in July, plus the penultimate issue of Superman Unchained and an extra issue of Justice League. (It’s also putting out five annuals, five issues each of Batman Eternal and Futures End, a Harley Quinn special and the Robin Rising special, for a grand total of 61 single issues.) For September, there are 40 special Futures End tie-in issues, with 3-D covers like those on last year’s “Villains Month” comics. Basically, all the regular ongoing series except All Star Western, Justice League 3000 and Secret Origins get a Futures End issue in September. That doesn’t necessarily mean those three series are canceled, as none of them is part of Futures End’s “five years later” premise. September also includes a Booster Gold: Futures End issue, which one might reasonably think is a good indication of a new series for Booster — but I guess we’ll have to wait and see to be sure. Thus, July’s 42 ongoings, minus the three non-participating series, plus the Booster Gold issue, equal September’s 40 issues.
I have to say, it’s entirely possible that a series with a September issue still could be canceled in August. DC did that last year with Dial H, and books on the bubble could meet a similar end. The solicits for July’s Pandora and Phantom Stranger have a certain air of finality about them.
THIS AND THAT
I talked about Grayson and Robin Rising last week, so this week I will note only that July’s Secret Origins includes Damian’s origin, and the September issue of Grayson puts him in Russia, where the Suicide Squad will be in July. Speaking of which, given all that’s going on with Vladimir Putin and Russia in the real world, I’m a bit surprised that DC is sending the new Suicide Squad on a mission to DC-Russia. I doubt they’ll be headed to Crimea or the Ukraine, but who knows what will happen in the next two and a half months?
As mentioned above, Justice League ships twice in July, with the second issue concluding the “Injustice League” arc. Two quick thoughts: I don’t expect this to be the end of Luthor and Captain Cold’s involvement with the League, and neither do I believe the newest version of the Doom Patrol will have only two issues in the spotlight. Surely Geoff Johns intends to launch a more heroic DP out of JL.
I’m guessing the mysterious menace beneath Arkham Asylum, mentioned in the Batman Eternal solicits, is the New 52-ified Deacon Blackfire, whom we saw ministering to Doctor Phosphorus last week in B:E #2.
Because I haven’t been following the latest Harley Quinn series, I have no idea whether July’s Comic-Con special is rooted in one of its subplots; I’m sure it doesn’t matter. The issue sounds a lot like Harley’s zero issue, which also featured a bevy of artists doing rapid-fire gags. Ultimately it’s good to see DC putting out funny superhero comics — this week’s G’Nort guest-shot in Larfleeze #10 was pretty good — even if they’re not aimed squarely at me. Regardless, here’s hoping Harley Quinn’s success inspires more humorous entries into the superhero line.
COMING SOON, THE PLATINUM-LEVEL CROSSOVER
If Superman Unchained were continuing, we might begin to see the Super-titles split into two tiers: the “big-name creative team” series (i.e., Superman and Unchained) and the “ready for crossover” series. We have seen a little of that in the Bat-books (most recently with “Gothtopia,” crossing over among Detective, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Batwing), and we’re seeing it in the Super-titles with “Doomed!” Yes, “Doomed!” just started in the Super-books, but it’ll still be going strong in July, with installments in Action Comics #33, Superman/Wonder Woman #10, Action Comics Annual #3 and Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1. Meanwhile, as long as we’re talking about extended Superman and Batman storylines, “Red Daughter of Krypton” and “Zero Year” both conclude in July. I’d expected the former to go a little longer, but I’ll be glad to see Kara back in the blue leotard. (As it happens, Guy Gardner will be wearing blue in September …)
WITH ONE BREATH, WITH ONE FLOW, YOU WILL KNOW
Apparently one of the big things in Futures End is (spoiler!) Green Arrow’s death, so the tease of a new GA in July’s Green Arrow solicit is appropriately suspenseful. Similarly, both July’s and September’s Aquaman solicits (as well as September’s Aquaman and the Others) involve Mera ruling Atlantis; and Nocturna appears to be a big part of both July’s and September’s Batwoman issues. Good job, synergistic solicits!
It’s reasonable to think that two of the September flash-forward issues would cross over, particularly when one is Justice League and the other is JL United, but the prospect of the League and Legion of Super-Heroes against an army of invading Martians makes my withered old fan’s heart beat just a little faster. It looks like there are at least a couple of other crossovers, too: Batman’s “extreme methods” in Batman, Detective and Batman and Robin; and Wonder Woman’s God of War posturing in her own title and in Superman/Wonder Woman.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
The creative team behind the new Star Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie looks pretty impressive. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti are always reliably entertaining, and Scott Hampton should bring an appropriately moody look to these adventures. However, despite the ridiculously high-concept premise of an undead soldier — adapted presumably from the previously established “G.I. Robot” feature — I don’t know how long these folks can keep the stories fresh (as it were). I mean, once you address the obvious moral issues and do a couple of “unstoppable killing machine” moments, what else is there?
So it looks like Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are leaving Wonder Woman pretty soon — although the listing for Wonder Woman #33 doesn’t offer many clues about when its new storyline will conclude. Those will leave some pretty big boots to fill, not least because the Wonder Woman creative team tends to be pretty closely scrutinized.
With the new Earth 2: World’s End weekly set to debut in October, I suspect Earth 2 and Worlds’ Finest are headed for the last roundup. At least they’ll continue in some form. Doesn’t look good for the original Earth-2 Superman, though.
None of the solicits for the Forever Evil-related Justice League hardcovers contains the phrase “Forever Evil.” (To be fair, they do include either the word “Forever” or the word “Evil.”) This despite the fact that Justice League’s issues wove subplots in and out of the events in the Forever Evil miniseries, while Justice League of America dealt with the heroes’ prison and Justice League Dark was part of the four-title “Blight” tie-in crossover.
I know I must seem often like a doddering idiot talking about the relative merits of single issues versus collected editions, considering that I have been reading the former for so long that it’s hard for me to imagine switching. However, it’s nonsense like this that only reinforces my single-issue habits. At the end of February I figured Forever Evil would be collected like Blackest Night, which was dumb for BN and remains so.
Why, if DC insists on these types of crossovers, is it content to keep collecting its series by title and not story? “Throne of Atlantis” was collected in an Aquaman hardcover and a Justice League hardcover, each of which contained relevant issues from the other series, but neither of which included exactly the same material. Even if DC wants to avoid such confusion going forward, the question remains: how are these things so hard? If you have one story, odds are you know when it starts and when it stops, and you know what it contains, and that way you can put it all in one place. If DC adapted Gone With the Wind, it’d probably do separate volumes for Scarlett, Rhett and Melanie, because, hey, you can read what you want, you know?
Indeed, that’s what it seems to have done for the Forever Evil tie-in “Blight,” which ran through JL Dark, Pandora, Phantom Stranger and Constantine, but is apparently being collected piecemeal as those series are being collected. What’s more, the 18 issues of “Blight” were all part of a single gigundo story, not four different perspectives on the same small incident — so it’s not like you could read, say, Pandora and get the gist of everything. The JL Dark hardcover is a good example. Because it contains two issues’ worth of “Trinity War” and six of “Blight,” you have to read it in conjunction with the other series’ collections just to avoid massive gaps in the narrative. Fortunately, the Constantine paperback comes out Aug. 6, so you can get a head start before the JL Dark hardcover comes out Aug. 20. The Phantom Stranger paperback drops in September, around the same time as the Forever Evil hardcover, and the Pandora paperback follows in October. Of course, impatient readers could always just download the issues themselves. With all that in mind, would it really have been more confusing to collect “Blight” on its own, even if it took up two or three books?
Now then …
I’m happy to see Showcase Presents Captain Carrot finally on DC’s schedule. It was a fun series that didn’t overstay its welcome, and the Oz-Wonderland War was pretty decent too. I have all these issues, but they’re not all in the best condition, so it’ll be good to have everything in one volume.
Along the same lines, I don’t buy a lot of Absolute editions, but I may have to make an exception for Absolute Batman Incorporated. While it’s only the last big chunk of Grant Morrison and company’s sweeping Bat-saga, it’s probably the chunk that stands alone the best — and the Absolute format would sure complement all that pretty artwork.
AND FINALLY …
I would be a lot more excited to read the new Teen Titans if not for that oversexualized Kenneth Rocafort cover. I liked a lot of Will Pfeifer’s previous DC work, and ordinarily I would be more excited about him working on the new series. However, the cover just screams “inappropriate,” not to mention “lowest common denominator.”
Others have spoken on this topic (and its aftermath) much more eloquently, and I defer to them. Among other things, this whole cluster reminds me of a Tom Tomorrow cartoon from 1997 or so that made fun of an Esquire cover featuring supermodel Christy Turlington. Although Esquire was (and still is) trying to market itself as a magazine for sophisticated, refined men, Ms. Turlington was looking seductively into the camera and tugging slightly at the button of her low-riding jeans. This, as the cartoon put it, conveyed a rather unsubtle message: “Hey, good-looking man who reads Esquire! How’d you like to get into my pants?” The cartoon concluded with a couple of sweaty lugs complaining that really, they were too sophisticated, and noting in their own defense “We read Esquire, do we not?”
The comparison isn’t exactly on point, but to me it speaks to a similar set of desires. DC wants to flatter a certain portion of its readership by using the old “edgy” angle, so the new Teen Titans cover puts Wonder Girl’s breasts front and center. It tells the horn dogs that this is a “sophisticated, mature” take on a team of teenage superheroes — as opposed to the kiddy-fied Cartoon Network versions, which attract a larger, more diverse (and therefore clearly less discriminating) audience. In reality, however, the cover has probably boxed in both DC and its intended audience, and fostered in them an “us-against-the-world” mentality, such that if anyone’s offended, it’s her own fault.
I can tell you right now that this cover has put me off buying the new Teen Titans. Again, I like Pfeifer, I’ve liked Rocafort pretty well on the Superman books, and for the better part of 30-odd years (from the mid-‘70s to the mid-‘00s) I have read some form of Teen Titans. Although that last part has undoubtedly contributed to whatever fannish entitlement I feel toward the Titans, I try to recognize that it’s not all about pleasing my particular sensibilities. My experience makes me a guide, not a gatekeeper. Indeed, when I finally stopped getting Titans (somewhere around 2004), it was because I couldn’t relate to the main characters anymore. They weren’t my generation of Titans — but more importantly, they were someone else’s.
At its best, Titans can create that sort of emotional attachment, regardless of who is Robin, Kid Flash or Wonder Girl. I know the counter-argument: “Give it a chance; we love these characters and we want to forge that bond too.” However, it doesn’t take much to undermine that sort of foundation, and this sort of objectification does a lot of undermining. The Teen Titans concept has shifted slightly over the past 50 years, from “sidekicks teaming up” to “young heroes coming into their own,” but if it’s now one of the last places where 15-year-old boys (or those who aspire to such status) can go for cheap thrills — First they came for Wonder Girl’s boobs, and I said nothing — everyone involved seriously needs to re-evaluate their priorities.