Grumpy Old Fan | Summertime blues for DC in August
Considering that the July solicitations also previewed September’s Futures End tie-ins, and the final issue of Forever Evil arrives this week after being scheduled originally for March, the August listings feel like just one more ingredient in a jumbled publishing stew. When it’s all done, maybe we’ll see that it’s all worked together. Now, though, we might have to wait until the October solicits for a clearer picture of where DC’s superhero line is going.
In the wake of the New 52’s various revisions, the Grant Morrison-written The Multiversity miniseries seems like an artifact — if not a relic — from the pre-relaunch days. Like the Morrison-written Batman Incorporated, it was originally conceived in that environment, when legacy characters abounded and beloved Silver Age elements were reemerging. Of course, with Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest, Forever Evil and Futures End, parallel worlds have hardly been absent from the New 52; so perhaps The Multiversity is meant to expand that storytelling device even further. I get the feeling that many things are about to change (again) for DC’s shared superhero line, and if some Morrison-infused characters are going to be part of that, I hope they stick around for a while.
I do like the idea of Power Girl and Huntress returning to Earth-2. For one thing, it’s their home, so it represents another wrinkle in their character arcs. Moreover — let me adjust my I Remember When hat — both characters were meant originally to work in an “alternative history” setting. On the main DC-Earth, PG and Huntress are somewhat redundant next to Supergirl and Batgirl; which is why Crisis on Infinite Earths killed off Supergirl and Huntress. On Earth-2, though, they can take their places as the heirs of Superman and Batman. Earth 2 isn’t short on female characters, but if the Worlds’ Finest duo becomes a regular part of the book, they’re automatically part of the A-list.
Before heading back home, though, Huntress guest-stars (along with Black Canary) in Batgirl #34. It’s not exactly getting the band back together, but I do think the whole “daughter of Batman” angle plays well in a lot of character combinations.
Meanwhile, the New 52 gets its Helena Bertinelli in the pages of Grayson. It’s not hard to see the Helena Wayne Huntress moving back to Earth-2 permanently so this Helena can take over. Then again, another alternate take on Huntress may signal a different path for this new version. While the Helena Bertinelli of Arrow is the Huntress already, she’s not exactly ready to join the Birds of Prey.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
By the way, is it hard for anyone else to believe it’s only been a year or so since Morrison left Action Comics and ended Batman Incorporated, or since Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke left Green Lantern? I was reminded of their GL work by the listing for August’s Justice League #34, which spotlights the new — and fussily accessorized — Power Ring. (Seriously, with all the emerald pouches, packs and doodads, she looks like a refugee from 1995. Plus, I know her costume incorporates the chubby-X Power Ring logo, but it makes her boots look like they’re topped with little hearts.)
Also, the Justice League solicit reminds me that this week’s Justice League #30 was delayed so it wouldn’t leapfrog the (also delayed) final issue of Forever Evil. I read a lot of comics, and I try to keep up with as many as I can, as best I can; but I hadn’t really missed either Justice League or Forever Evil. That said, this week’s combination of Forever Evil #7 and JL #30 set up a scary-good status quo for the League, and I’m looking forward to the next few months’ worth of JL.
Probably jumping a little bit to conclusions about the Flash solicit, but having Wally West meet his super-speedster uncle (the Reverse-Flash, which is a nice twist) suggests pretty strongly that he may not get his powers from a similar lightning-and-chemicals accident. While that’s a goofy origin, writers like Bill Messner-Loebs and Mark Waid used it to reinforce Wally’s feelings about Barry, and therefore about his superhero career. No doubt the current Flash writers realize this, and will give Wally’s origin a comparable emotional component.
POUR ONE OUT
Among the six titles canceled as of August are Phantom Stranger and Pandora. Last month I thought their days might be numbered, even though they will each have Futures End tie-ins in September. The same goes for Superboy, Birds of Prey and Batwing, three charter New 52 series whose last hurrahs apparently also will be those Futures End tie-ins. Finally, All Star Western is canceled with August’s Issue 34. It too was a charter New 52 series, and writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti just celebrated their 100th issue on the character. Being set in the Old West meant it wasn’t part of Futures End, though; so no tie-in.
Still, for several years Hex has been a reliable (if low-selling) feature, and Birds of Prey and Superboy have likewise established fairly stable places on DC’s mid-list, so you’d have to think they’ll be back at some point. BOP went away for a little over a year as part of the 2009-10 “Dick Grayson Batman” reorganization, and returned with old hands Gail Simone and Ed Benes writing and penciling.
This time, Batwing (and the Birds, for that matter) can continue in the short term as part of Batman Eternal. As for Pandora and Phantom Stranger, it looks like their books will end without ever sharing new-comics shelves with the Question, the third member of their Trinity of Sin. I suppose they too could be relaunched as an all-inclusive Trinity of Sin series.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Superman crossover “Doomed” just kicked off, and according to the August solicits it’ll end just before Labor Day. That’s a little more than three months’ worth of comparing the Man of Steel to the Gray Hulk. Actually, it doesn’t seem that bad so far, but it is yet another Superman Gone Bad storyline to put up against Forever Evil, Earth 2 and Injustice. Anyway, every week in August promises a new chapter of “Doomed,” with Action Comics, Superman/Wonder Woman, Supergirl and the final Doomed bookend on the schedule. Meanwhile, August brings the second issue of Superman, by Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson, which apparently has little to do with big gray monsters.
It was good to read that Sinestro #5 will tell us where Parallax went, because I really have been wondering. I’m also glad to see Green Lantern Simon Baz returning to the pages of Green Lantern, as he had all but disappeared from the comics while being imprisoned during Forever Evil. I do think that after a year, Robert Venditti, Van Jensen and company (including the reliably-good Bernard Chang on GL Corps) are starting to come into their own on the GL books, but I wish they wouldn’t feel compelled to go from one universe-spanning event to another.
I’m very glad to see the digital-first Sensation Comics announcement, although every time DC does something big with Wonder Woman it seems like my reaction is “it’s about flippin’ time.” Not only does it give Diana her own anything-goes anthology (to go along with Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman), its digital distribution helps reintroduce her to a potential new audience.
DC’s celebration of all things Batman kicks into high gear this summer, starting with a 64-page, $1 excerpt from The Dark Knight Returns #1. I’m curious to see what the excerpt is, as the first issue was only 48 pages. Either this promotional issue has 16 pages of filler, or it includes some material from Issue 2.
I’m not sure who would buy a $50 slipcased collection of three fairly popular Batman paperbacks. If you are a fan of Batman comics and you routinely have $50 to burn, I suspect you have already read, own or at least have an opinion on the merits of The Dark Knight Returns, Hush and/or Court of Owls. DC appears to be marketing these three books as critical gateways to all things Batman, with Dark Knight providing the “classic” interpretation, Hush the “all-star survey” — interestingly enough, for a Batman status quo which has been superseded in significant ways by Jason Todd’s revival and Barbara Gordon’s recuperation — and Owls the current approach. In other words, DC flogs two of these books rather heavily, and is including the third because it wants new readers to be aware of Snyder and Capullo’s admittedly stellar work. Still, you and I know, and DC certainly knows, that Batman’s history includes a considerable amount of stories which came out between 1940 and 1985. It just doesn’t have much interest in hyping them.
For that matter, Miller’s pre-Dark Knight miniseries Ronin is being reprinted again. DC could (and probably plans to, for all I know) give the slipcase treatment to Miller’s four main Batman works (Dark Knight, Year One, Dark Knight Strikes Again, All Star Batman & Robin), while re-dressing Ronin so it looks good on the shelf next to them. I don’t guess DC is planning anything similar around Grant Morrison’s Bat-work, although it could bundle that fancy new Arkham Asylum edition with Morrison and Klaus Janson’s 1990 arc “Gothic.”
I note that the new Batwoman paperback reprints the final arc from J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, and Trevor McCarthy; but it doesn’t collect the recent Batwoman Annual which actually finished up the story. I presume this is because the Annual came out long after the hardcover version of this collection, and the paperback only collects what the hardcover did. However, it would be nice for DC to use the paperback to correct that.
Along the same lines, last month I had some pretty harsh words for DC’s apparent failure to collect in one place all of the Forever Evil tie-in “Blight.” Since the August solicits have such a collection, at a not-unreasonable price point ($25 for 18 issues), I say thank you; and maybe I should have given you more of a chance to put this collection together.
Timed to appear alongside Fox’s Gotham series, the Gordon of Gotham collection reprints three four-issue, Chuck Dixon-written Jim Gordon miniseries. When it comes to Batman and Batman-related comics, “written by Chuck Dixon” and “from the 1990s” aren’t quite redundant, but there’s a lot of overlap in those circles. (We all know that Dixon was Birds of Prey’s original writer, right? How strange does that seem in hindsight?) In fact, these are pretty representative of ‘90s Batman comics generally, even though they don’t have a whole lot of Batman in them.
The Toe Tags Featuring George Romero collection is this month’s obscure DC reprint. Its biggest fault seems to have been timing, as it debuted in fall 2004 as part of the main DC line (as opposed to Vertigo or another imprint), after 2003’s The Walking Dead but well before zombies were ubiquitous. It probably got lost among all the super-people.
I don’t exactly need a paperback collection of New Teen Titans, as I already have the single issues, plus the Archives and assorted paperbacks that fill in the gaps of the Wolfman/Pérez era. Nevertheless, it’s nice that DC is reprinting these 34-year-old stories. Now a whole new generation of readers (who maybe couldn’t afford those Archives or the recent Omnibii) can see why no one cares about those irrelevant old stories — which, remember, have absolutely no bearing on anything DC has done since, be it print or television — except coots like me. Don’t get sucked in like I did, kids! You might start to like Donna Troy, and who wants that?
And here is the Futures Index for this week’s issue #3.
- Story pages: 20
- Number of pages with a “Five Years From Now” caption: 0
- Number of deaths: 1 (if you count the robot polar bear)
- Number of scenes of implied torture: 1 (if disguised killer extraterrestrials count)
- Subplots with the most pages: Frankenstein and Grifter (5 each)
- Number of pages for the Firestorm subplot: 3
- Number of pages the Firestorm subplot feels like it takes: at least twice as many
NOTES: I’m not quite prepared to say that Futures End got a bad rap right off the bat — you know, for all the grotesque scenes of body-horror and death — and the Firestorm subplot is accelerating down Interminable Hill. However, I do appreciate how Futures End is introducing its core players, and reminding readers that they’ve seen these folks already in the FCBD preview. For example, Frankenstein’s beef with SHADE adds another layer of intrigue to his eventual betrayal, and Batman Beyond has probably already altered the future by drawing Mr. Terrific’s attention. Overall, Futures End is painting a convincing picture of a paranoid postwar DC-Earth, where DNA recognition is commonplace and Grifter’s crusade isn’t so unusual in light of doppelgangers from a parallel world.
NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Amethyst and Father Time! Evil gems! The Key, maybe!