Johns & Frank Aim for 'Surprising and New' in Latest "Batman: Earth One" Volume
Some months the solicitations don’t inspire much in the way of analysis. The superhero serials just sort of chug along, and maybe there’ll be an unusual creative team or an idiosyncratic collection to enliven things. Not so with DC’s October solicitations, which include a number of new series, storylines, and creative changes.
This next bit will sound conspiratorial, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable supposition. I believe — or at least I would not be surprised to learn — that all these debuts and changes are starting in October because that will give them at least six issues to resolve themselves before the big springtime move to the West Coast. For example, six issues is pretty much the minimum for a collection, so if any of the new series just drop immediately into the sales cellar (I’m looking at you, Klarion; say hi to GI Zombie), DC can still have enough for a trade paperback. That’s not to say a reboot is inevitable next spring — notwithstanding one panel in Robin Rising that should jump-start such talk — but I could see a good bit of the superhero line taking a potential victory lap over the fall and winter. (Apparently I am not alone in thinking this.)
BY THE NUMBERS
Both the October and August solicitations — the latter being a better comparison due to September’s one-shots — include issues for 43 ongoing series. Basically, the six series canceled in August (All Star Western, Batwing, Birds of Prey, Pandora, Phantom Stranger and Superboy) will be replaced by Arkham Manor, Deathstroke, Gotham Academy, Klarion, Lobo and Trinity of Sin. That leaves the Bat-books’ portion of the line unchanged, with 11 ongoing series in each month. However, there’s no new Superman book replacing Superboy (canceled in August, but check out the new issue of Supergirl). The Green Lantern and Justice League franchises remain unchanged, with five and four titles respectively.
The Deathstroke relaunch continues the recent practice of bringing back an original New 52 character or series under different circumstances. The August solicits include 25 of the original New 52 series, plus three to four series taht are essentially different versions of original New 52 books. Teen Titans and Suicide Squad have returned after a few months away, Grayson basically replaces Nightwing, and considering that he starred in the first several issues of New 52 Green Lantern, Sinestro might be in this category as well. Thus, while the number of original New 52 books drops to 21 in October, arguably the representation of those originals is slightly up.
Also, each month has one double-shipping title: Harley Quinn in August (issues 9 and 10) and Justice League in October (issues 34 and 35). However, because it includes four annuals, an extra issue each of Batman Eternal and Futures End, and the first four issues of World’s End, October’s total New 52 output is 10 issues greater than it was in August.
NEW KIDS IN TOWN
Gotham Academy comes from the impressive team of writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl, none of whom I’d have expected to see on a Bat-book. Same goes for the new Batgirl team of Fletcher and Cameron Stewart (co-writers) and Babs Tarr (artist). I’m really looking forward to both of these titles, but I wonder how well they’ll fit into DC’s plans for the Batman line as a whole. To put it bluntly, when the next “Death of the Family”-style crossover comes along, will they be expected to participate? And if they don’t, will the company hold that against them? I’m not sure that it would, as staying out of crossovers seems to have worked fine for Batwoman.
The other new Bat-book, Arkham Manor, already seems to have a built-in expiration date. Last week I argued that Grayson was maybe just a placeholder until Nightwing came back, but who here thinks DC will keep super-criminals housed in its stateliest residence for the foreseeable future? I suppose Bruce could move back downtown …
As Caleb pointed out last week, the return of Deathstroke apparently aims to capitalize on the character’s prominence as head bad guy on this past season of Arrow. The previous Deathstroke series lasted 21 issues (including eight under the guidance of Rob Liefeld), so I suppose there’s your benchmark for the success of this one. It’s being written and penciled by Tony S. Daniel, who also launched the New 52 versions of (Savage) Hawkman and Detective Comics. He lasted eight issues on Hawkman and was succeeded by — guess who? — Liefeld, who also did eight issues (including a crossover with Deathstroke); and like Deathstroke, Savage Hawkman ended up with 21 issues. Synchronicity!
I want to be surprised by a Klarion ongoing series, but after DC relaunched The Green Team and gave Larfleeze his own title, I suppose nothing’s off-limits anymore. Although I am all for DC trying new approaches and giving professionals the chance to develop who they want — I read all of Green Team and Larfleeze, if that tells you anything — I have no idea about this series. Klarion has been a supporting character/antagonist in most of the various Demon series (although not Demon Knights, which I guess was before his time). His only other headlining gig was as part of the Grant Morrison-written Seven Soldiers project, where his four atmospheric issues were drawn by Frazer Irving. Neither the solicitation text nor the cover preview gives me any insight into the series’ thrust, except to suggest that Klarion’s skin has gotten Smurf-blue and he’s gone from Puritan garb to T-shirts and Chuck Taylors.
Cullen Bunn is already writing one of DC’s cosmic baddies in Sinestro, so Lobo doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. I don’t want to say the Main Man is stuck in the late-‘80s/early-‘90s school of very broad and darkly violent storytelling, but he’s not exactly built for subtlety. It’s therefore somewhat surprising that he hasn’t gotten a New 52 solo series.
While Trinity of Sin doesn’t relaunch a couple of charter New 52 titles, it does consolidate the two books that had TOS in their own titles. Now it’s more of a buddy/team book, asking whether three quasi-immortal beings can get along when they stop being polite and start being real. I look forward to the storylines about cleaning toothpaste residue off the sink, picking up one’s not-quite-dirty clothes off the floor, whose turn it is to take out the recycling, and (in an Annual, no doubt) the eternal challenge of leaving the seat down. Who knows? If this book takes off, maybe there’ll be an Aquaman/Dolphin/Mera title called Trinity of Fin.
(I can do this all night, folks. Sonar, Black Canary and Onomatopoeia? Trinity of Din. Duo Damsel, the Crimson Foxes and Batwoman and Alice? Trinity of Twins. Jay Leno, Dick Tracy and Bruce Campbell? Trinity of Chins …)
NICE PARALLEL EARTH — SHAME IF ANYTHING HAPPENED TO IT
Nitpicking solicitation copy isn’t really the best way to go (although I do it a lot, apparently) — but the solicits for Earth 2: World’s End seem to be written for people who a) haven’t been reading Earth 2 over the past two-plus years, and b) aren’t tired of the whole “Superman’s gone bad and everybody’s getting killed” school of alternate Earths. I understand that the digital-first Injustice: Gods Among Us series sells pretty well, so it’s not hard to see why DC would want to promote a niche book like Earth 2 in that way, but it’s still somewhat misleading to make it sound like Injustice. The two books have different setups and arguably different tones, and DC might have originally wanted Earth 2 to be something more than a tragedy of the month.
Besides, just once I would like to read a story about a Batman who turned evil and took over the world, and the rag-tag assemblage who rose up in resistance. I mean, come on: It’s the ultimate “Batman has a plan” plot, isn’t it? First he’d take out all the heavy hitters (covering his tracks, of course), and because everybody would come to him for help, he’d be in a perfect position to direct their attentions elsewhere. He could frame whoever he wanted — hero or villain — and if somebody got too close to the truth, they’d have to work pretty hard to make sure he didn’t notice. It doesn’t have the bloodthirsty appeal of the proverbial Boy Scout vaporizing his enemies with heat vision, but it could be a smart, scary experiment.
While we’re on the subject, I’m not sure how the regular Earth 2 series continues in light of World’s End. Reading the two series side by side will probably give me a better idea, but right now I’m not expecting Earth 2 to last much past March. At least we know Power Girl can guest-star in Harley Quinn.
In other other-Earth news, the October Multiversity solicitation sounds a lot like what the pre-New 52 status quo might have become if left to its own devices — except for the hint that this Earth’s Donna Troy is Wonder Woman’s daughter, so it can’t be the Earth-August the New 52 replaced. Still, I’m hoping that this issue will comment on the previous administration’s legacy structure. Overall I thought it worked out pretty well, but it was starting to test its limits towards the end.
STARTS AND STOPS
Before he wrote for the Arrow show, Andrew Kreisberg wrote Green Arrow/Black Canary; and now he’s co-writing the current Green Arrow comic. This is the circle of life.
“Batman: Endgame” begins in Batman #35 — but Scott Snyder says he and Greg Capullo are not leaving. Whew!
While the bulk of “Superman: Doomed” may be over in August, it looks like October isn’t too late for a few epilogues, in Action #35, Supergirl #35, and Superman/Wonder Woman #12.
The Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang era of Wonder Woman also gets an epilogue of sorts, in the form of a Secret Origins story one week after their final WW issue.
The Legion of Super-Heroes guest-stars in the Justice League United Annual, which says “‘The Infinitus Saga’ begins” but doesn’t say where (or if) it continues. As the Legion and Justice League 3000 both come from the 31st century, and JL3K has a definite connection to today’s Leaguers, it’d be nice if DC were crafting some sort of crossover among JLU, JL3K and the main JL title. However, with “The Amazo Virus” kicking off in October’s Justice League #35, I don’t see it being involved in any other storylines for at least a few months. Maybe this is something else that’ll resolve closer to March?
The Green Lantern books lurch into another franchise-wide crossover, this time roping in the New Gods for “Godhead.” October gives us the first six issues — at least one issue per week for five weeks — with the only dedicated New Gods book (Forever People) not listed as an official chapter of the crossover. (FP’s writers, Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen, are also not involved in the jam session producing the Godhead special.) Maybe DiDio and Giffen have too much else on their plates to coordinate with the GL titles?
As of October, Georges Jeanty will be the new Batwoman artist. I remember him mostly from various ‘90s DC books, because I haven’t been reading Buffy. Coincidentally, he penciled this week’s Futures End (inked by Cam Smith and colored by Hi-Fi), and his work there fits pretty well into its “house style” aesthetic. By itself that doesn’t bode well for Batwoman, where J.H. Williams III set a pretty daring example for his successors. Nevertheless, Futures End doesn’t exactly encourage a lot of wild artistic experimentation, so maybe Batwoman will help in that regard.
I read Catwoman from the start of the New 52 series until right before the “Gothtopia” crossover. I stopped because it was getting bogged down in a shaggy would-be epic that started with her fighting the Penguin and descended (almost literally) into a story about underground communities and the Joker’s Daughter. I’ve read a good bit of Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s Catwoman work, and I actually enjoyed most of Judd Winick and Guillem March’s run (probably more than I should have); but I’m eager to see what Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown do with Selina as a power broker. It’s not that the “sexy jewel thief” thing has necessarily run its course, just that this seems like a new (but valid) perspective on the character. It also gets her back to her roots as a criminal, which is a side of the comics’ Selina not seen since, what, the late 1980s?
This week the Robin Rises: Omega special kicks off — or, more accurately, draws attention to — an arc that will probably a) decide Damian Wayne’s final fate, and b) return Robin to Batman’s side. If you think these will be accomplished by Damian coming back to life, you’re probably not alone. However, be advised that as of Oct. 15, it looks like Damian (spoilers!) will still be dead.
Last week I supposed that the mystery of the Masked Superman would continue at least until September. This week, the October solicits for Futures End react to the revelation of his actual identity. Moreover, the solicited Futures End cover shows an energy-being bursting out of the Masked Supes’ costume. It’s similar to the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Wildfire bursting out of his containment suit. Since MSM wears a blank-faced helmet not unlike Wildfire’s, and as the Legion will be showing up in Futures End (and tie-ins) in September, maybe MSM really is Wildfire, displaced in time a thousand years (or so) to help his old buddy Kal-El.
Also, despite a cameo of Bruce Wayne (unmasked but otherwise in costume) in an earlier issue, don’t expect to see Batman in Futures End before October’s Issue 26; and Jessica “Power Ring” Cruz won’t join the Justice League until its first October issue (#34).
ODDS AND ENDS
Advertising Red Hood by saying “Roy Harper is the only clean one” almost makes me want to read the issue. Writer Will Pfeifer is old enough to have grown up with a Roy/Speedy who was drying out from his early-‘70s junkie period, and who eventually became a federal agent charged with straightening out wayward teens. Somewhere along the way, though, Roy’s history with drugs got twisted around into a justification for him not just relapsing, but relapsing in laughably horrific ways. Part of me knows this is just a throwaway joke meant to convey the tone of a comic that wants to be irreverent, but part of me hopes this is an attempt to rehabilitate Roy in a more meaningful way.
The Harley Quinn Annual will have “actual, honest-to-gosh smells.” This being a DC book, however, there’s a good chance those smells will actually be produced by someone other than the solicited creative team.
Gilbert Hernandez contributes a Wonder Woman story to the digital-first Sensation Comics. As much as I want to see that, I have the sinking feeling that DC will use Sensation for all the cool Wonder Woman stories, making the regular ongoing series dull by comparison.
A COUPLE OF COLLECTIONS
One of the best reasons to get the Tales of the Batman: Len Wein hardcover is the three-part Untold Legend of the Batman miniseries (drawn by John Byrne and Jim Aparo) which it reprints. However, it looks like it may also reprint the very charming “Once Upon A Time” (drawn by Walt Simonson) — a two-page gem (and, in its way, a backdoor crossover) from the excellent Detective Comics #500.
The Gallery Designs format sounds pretty cool, and I would be more excited for it if it were something other than Ronin. DC seems to realize this as well, since it characterizes the book as “the evolutionary stepping-stone between [Miller’s] Daredevil and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” (There I go again, nitpicking the copy.) Indeed, according to the Graphitti website, DKR’s own Gallery Edition is forthcoming. Maybe that’s a better way to get people to buy an oversized copy of something they probably already own. I’m not sure the first-time Ronin reader wants to shell out upwards of $200 for its Gallery Edition, but apparently there are enough Frank Miller completists to make this sort of project worthwhile.
Speaking of books people probably already own, there’s a 10th Anniversary edition of Identity Crisis coming for the holidays. Man, everybody’s having 10nth anniversaries these days …
And here is the Futures Index for this week’s Issue 11.
NOTES: Voodoo joins the list of characters from canceled series who have found new homes here (see also Grifter and Amethyst), and we saw Stormguard at Green Arrow’s funeral in Issue 2.
When I first read this issue I started trying to figure out the point of the Justin-eventually-kills-an-alien sequence. My initial reaction was, here are five pages about a regular guy (we know he’s regular because he’s schlubby) keeping a human-looking alien tied up in his basement for about two weeks; torturing said alien to the point of death; and then just cutting to the chase and shooting the alien in the head at point-blank range. This was on par with the “Grifter kills a bunch of aliens that happen to look like a cute family” sequence from Issue 1, except that Grifter didn’t keep them tied up in his basement while he tortured them for two weeks. After looking through the FE back issues, I found issue #3, which explained that Justin was experimenting on this alien in hopes of finding a weaponizable agent (like Drano, maybe?) which would kill them more efficiently than individual bullets. Issue #3 also mentioned that Justin had been possessed by one of these aliens, which gave him a slightly different perspective on said torture/experimentation. The point is, that was eight weeks ago with a couple of characters who haven’t been seen a whole lot since then — so while Justin’s trauma might mitigate his behavior, Futures End sure hasn’t sold that very well.
The other big development in this issue is the revelation about Ronnie Raymond’s wartime trauma. Seems he’s mad at the League, and filled with super-self-loathing (i.e., loathing of his super-self), because his hometown of Pittsburgh was low on the priority list and his mom died as a result. Again, that’s not an unreasonable motivation, but this issue portrays it pretty bluntly. The League snatches Ronnie out of a strip club for an intervention, Arsenal gets up in his face about Green Arrow’s death — which reminds us that GA arguably died because he was low on Ronnie’s priority list — and Jason is not very helpful (again, because of what Ronnie did to him). After opening up a little, Ronnie ends up closing himself off. If FE were a normal series, I’d say this scene was setting up a future reconciliation between Ronnie and Jason that would have dramatic, triumphant consequences for the League, if not the entire world. However, the way FE is going, it’s just as likely that Ronnie won’t be there when he’s needed. Yay, comics!
I did like the SHADE sequence, though. The “funny bone” joke was pretty clever.
NEXT WEEK IN THE FUTURE: Electro-torture! Amethyst versus killer robots! Plastique versus lasers and broken glass! And … Frankencanary!