Grumpy Old Fan | Deja vu for DC in September
What’s more, “all the same” isn’t much of an exaggeration. The 41 New 52 titles that are getting Futures End one-off tie-ins bear the same prices, release dates and copy as they did in the July solicits. The September listings do add cover art and credits, which are important details; but they don’t change the gist or tone of the previewed plots. More on this later.
Otherwise, these solicits contain only a handful of additional main-line superhero titles. These include the second Multiversity issue (with the awesomely alliterative subtitle Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World), the final issue of Superman Unchained, four issues each of Futures End and Batman Eternal, and the first Teen Titans: Earth One hardcover.
Therefore, this month’s solicitation roundup might get a little weird.
As it happens, both Multiversity and Superman Unchained have endured delays of various lengths. That’s a tenuous link — we might also say that both projects are very creator-specific, and we might try to connect that to the delays as well — but I thought it was appropriate in light of the logistics that appear increasingly to drive DC’s September events.
First, both series must conform at least superficially to the New 52 status quo. The seeds of Multiversity go back to Grant Morrison’s time co-writing 52, when he and his colleagues thought about each taking a parallel world and writing a one-shot about it. (Based on what Morrison told Comic Book Resources in 2009, he’d have gotten the Nazi Earth-10, with Mark Waid on the Marvel Family’s Earth-5, Geoff Johns on Earth-2 and Greg Rucka on the “Charlton” Earth-4.) Later, after Morrison had dealt more directly with the Multiverse and its system of Monitors in Final Crisis, he planned Multiversity as a follow-up. Specifically, he told CBR that Multiversity would “tie … real closely to the [post-52, post-Final Crisis] DC Universe, and what’s happening there.”
Naturally, one expects the New 52’s subsequent changes to affect Multiversity, just as they affected Morrison’s relaunch-spanning Batman saga. However, considering that Forever Evil dealt with an invasion from Earth-3 and Futures End and World’s End depend on an invasion from Earth-2, the Multiverse is getting a workout regardless of what Morrison plans to do with it.
Likewise, as a standalone Superman story Superman Unchained will probably hold up pretty well — but it’s been hard trying to figure out where it’ll fall on the overall Superman timeline. With Geoff Johns, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson taking over Superman next week, and the “Doomed” crossover running through August in various other Super-titles, there are probably going to be two separate Superman story tracks, which would make Unchained the third. At least we can guess that Unchained’s arc takes place before Forever Evil and the Johns/Romita/Janson run picks up after Forever Evil. DC as a whole hasn’t been that good about orienting readers to these kinds of basics — for example, when does Batman Eternal take place in relation to Batman & Robin and Detective Comics?
It’s all part of the familiar tension between creative impulses and shared-universe practicalities — but again, that tension has seemed a bit more heightened in the context of the New 52. Certainly there are readers (and professionals, no doubt) who would like all the pieces to fit together nicely, just as others could care less as long as the story they’re reading makes sense on its own. Still, both Multiversity and Unchained are intended, at least in part, to add to the overall lore of the New 52 generally and Superman specifically. That implies a certain subordination to the shared universe, like it or not. In that respect I suppose one might justify that subordination as a chance to comment on how the Multiverse and/or Superman et al. are being handled by other creative teams — not necessarily in a “we’re doing it better” kind of way, but more like “here’s what’s special about ours.”
Still, that subordination is a lot more pronounced in those New 52 books which are being replaced with Futures End tie-ins. The fact that DC solicited these issues two months ago, and hasn’t changed so much as a letter of any plot summary, suggests that it’s more committed to those plots than to the creative personnel executing them. Now, plot summaries are subject to change, and DC probably wanted to solicit these issues early — orders were due May 29 — so it would avoid the shortfalls which plagued last September’s Villains Month. I’m not really sure why the books are part of these solicits, which were released over two weeks after that May 29 deadline. I’m not aware of any special returnability provisions, although I suppose retailers are free to order more if they are so moved. In any event, if DC keeps using September as an excuse to goose the marketplace with line-wide stunts, that has real potential to backfire.
Oh well. The good news is, I’ve got a few weeks to re-read Unchained and Final Crisis.
Stripping out most of the New 52 solicits and realizing that there were still a total of eight Batman Eternal and Futures End issues kind of put the whole weekly-series thing in perspective. Since May, DC’s been cranking out eight to 10 issues per month. When Worlds End comes along in October, that’ll go up to 15 issues (for five Wednesdays) before dipping back to a mere 12 per month through March (assuming just four in the five-Wednesday December). DC’s presumably diverting a lot of resources into producing these weekly series — which I suspect means less attention to the monthlies, at least until the West Coast move is completed next spring.
The weekly schedule also means that the developments teased in these solicits are about 11 issues away. That puts an extra burden on the anonymous PR person tasked with compiling the things. Either s/he has to make something unfamiliar sound super-exciting (Lois’ unexpected ally!), or s/he needs to convince the consumer that what’s going on right now will pay off at least 11 issues later. Thus, I’d say the latter is behind exhortations about “the true evil of Cadmus Island” (probably the cyborg OMACs) and the “move on TerrifiTech.” However, it can backfire too: you mean the TerrifiTech raid that’s been built up over the past three issues will have to wait until September?
By the way, with all the attention on Futures End’s Masked Superman, I keep forgetting that the actual Superman should still be around for Futures End. After all, he was part of the OMAC’ed goon squad from the Free Comic Book Day issue. I’m guessing his disappearance has a lot to do with the Earth-2 War, and probably the residual angst from seeing his counterpart totally corrupted by Darkseid.
Moving on to a book which isn’t part of the New 52 Multiverse despite having the name of an alternate Earth in its title, Jeff Lemire and the Dodsons’ Teen Titans Earth One hardcover is officially on the schedule for November (right before Thanksgiving, in fact). I’m still unclear on whether the Earth One books share the same continuity — you’d think they would, given the common title — but as there’s so far no sidekicks coming out of the Superman or Batman OGNs, there’s no opportunity for a traditional Teen Titans. In fact, Lemire told CBR in March that TTE1 assumes there are no adult superheroes “yet.”
Still, those are petty concerns. Lemire’s DC work has been pretty good, especially on Justice League United. From the cover (and from what he said in that CBR interview), it looks like he’s using versions of Cyborg, Changeling (aka Beast Boy), Starfire, Raven, Jericho and Terra, and moving them from Manhattan into the Pacific Northwest. I’m really looking forward to this book, and hope it lives up to its potential.
This month’s Not Sure Why entry is Gotham City Sirens Book One, reprinting the first 13 issues of the 26-issue series. I guess it’s capitalizing on Harley Quinn’s renewed popularity, as well as the loose connection to the upcoming Gotham TV show (which will feature Young Catwoman and Young Poison Ivy). I always thought it was a sort-of patch on Birds of Prey and Catwoman, both of which had been canceled as part of the 2009 “Battle For the Cowl” reshuffling of the Bat-line. I don’t remember it being an especially bad series, but it didn’t hold my attention for very long.
The Teen Titans: A Celebration of 50 Years hardcover won’t go on sale until Nov. 5, but usually the solicits for these retrospective books have a decent list of actual stories. It’s a no-brainer to say they’ll include the work of Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez, and Geoff Johns and Mike McKone. We might also guess that the stories will include both “first appearances” (i.e., the Kid Flash/Aqualad/Robin story and the first proper “Teen Titans” story), plus the one where Speedy joined and Wonder Girl’s first origin story. Throw in a couple of representative ‘60s stories (the Mad Mod and Ding-Dong Daddy, say), at least one issue from the ‘70s revival (I vote for the “Titans West” arc, although the revised origin story from the final issue would be good too), and then you can start thinking about which New Teen Titans and Johns-era Titans stories are worth including. Really, to be complete, the book should have at least one story from the sidekick-free, Dan Jurgens-driven Teen Titans, as well as at least one Young Justice story, as it was basically a Teen Titans book under a different name. Oh, and from the Wolfman/Pérez era, I vote for New Teen Titans #2 (first appearance of Deathstroke) and #39 (Kid Flash leaves and Dick gives up being Robin).
“ADVENTURES” TIME IS UP
I’m not really surprised by the end of the digital-first Adventures of Superman, mostly because DC had already canceled its counterpart Legends of the Dark Knight. Again, it may just be a matter of logistics. Maybe DC figured it had accumulated enough continuity-free Superman stories to fill a few paperbacks, and it’s now going to focus on selling those paperbacks. (A Jerry Ordway/Steve Rude collaboration should sell itself.) The same fate may well await the new Sensation Comics.
I do wonder if these anthologies are tougher to sell than Batman ‘66 or Smallville Season 11. These solicits include a fifth paperback for Smallville, which is kind of amazing considering that some of the New 52 titles ended after only one or two collections.
Of course, it could just be a part of some behind-closed-doors maneuvering related to the rollback of the New 52 next year. After all, why publish a digital-first series where Superman gets to wear his red briefs again, if you’re just going to restore the briefs (I suggest using #ReBriefSuperman for your social-media activism) in 2015? Makes perfect sense to me.
And here is the Futures Index for this week’s issue #7.
- Story pages: 20
- Phantom Zone pages: 6
- Lois/Madison pages: 3
- Firestorm pages: 2
- Cadmus Island pages: 5
- Terrifitech pages: 4
- Number of deaths: 0 (not counting Stormwatch and the Pittsburgh Memorial)
- Number of dismemberments: 1
- Pieces of technology which will surely come back to bite their creators and/or the world at large: at least 3 (Dr. Yamazake’s transporter, the mentioned-but-not-seen OMACs, and the cyborged Plastique corpse)
- Nominee for most random dialogue transition: “Now, we have a lot of heavy equipment to move. We could use some help. Maybe that friend of yours? The quarterback fellow?”
- Runner-up: “I’ve always known bums have a nose for money. But you’re not a bum … are you?”
- Name I’m not sure whether to love or hate: “Fifty Sue”
NOTES: There’s a guy in the background of Lois’ “newsroom” with spiky black hair and big round glasses. I’d say he was Superboy in disguise, but that would be just too hard to take in light of Lois’ ongoing investigation into “Cal Corcoran.” For one thing, you’d think she’d have seen through his disguise pretty quickly; and for another, she’d probably be using his help to get the goods on the former Red Robin. Therefore, I have to think that’s meant to be Superman, because why else would you put a guy who looks like Clark Kent in close proximity to Lois Lane? (Unless it’s a “Commander Sonak” situation, where Lois wanted some bespectacled geek around to remind her of the good old days, like Admiral Kirk wanted a Vulcan science officer at the start of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I would call it a Vertigo situation, except for spoilers.)
Where the Ronnie Raymond subplot is concerned, less is more. I was happier (poor choice of words, probably) with the one-page scene in Pittsburgh than I have been with the sloppy, angry drunk episodes of the past few weeks.
I mentioned it indirectly above, but this issue apparently explains why Plastique, Coil, and the Key put off robbing Terrifitech until September. I hope Futures End comes up with something productive for them in the meantime.
Here’s hoping the name “Fifty Sue” comes from her having 50 different super-powers. Thanks to this issue, I’m having less trouble picturing her as an amoral mastermind, particularly if she’s on a vendetta against the sorry SOB who named her Fifty Sue.
Once again, the general structure of the issue changes this week. Now there are five separate storylines, none of which connect directly to the others (although there’s an oddly conspiratorial transition between the “Fifty Sue” revelation and the $50.00 bill Terry picks up; and the “science gone wrong” theme runs through the teleporter and Terrifitech subplots). Still, I thought the issue flowed pretty well, and I liked how the various plots advanced, even incrementally.
NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Three-eyed skull alert! Regrets over smoking tubes! Hangovers! Sword of the Atom! And … Cyber-Parasite?