Tom Bondurant, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Grumpy Old Fan | Autumn means changes for DC in November

The falling leaves drift by the window/The autumn leaves of red and gold

The falling leaves drift by the window/The autumn leaves of red and gold

Following DC Comics’ solicitations over the past few months has been fairly intriguing. The company’s West Coast move in early 2015 looms over all its actions, and makes it hard to gauge whether a new series or new creative team is a long-term commitment or a brief burst of experimentation. Moreover, that makes it tempting to say that anything you don’t like — or, for that matter, anything you do like — might be gone by April.

Oh, well. A little paranoia can’t hurt, but we’re not here to talk about that. Open a window to the November solicits and read along!

NEW FOLKS

November brings new creative teams for Wonder Woman (the Finches and Richard Friend), Superman/Wonder Woman (Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke) and Supergirl (Mike Johnson, Kate Perkins and Emanuela Lupacchino). I’m still in wait-and-see mode on the Finches. However, after several years of reading Tomasi and Mahnke’s work, I feel like I know what’s coming from them. S/WW should look great, as Mahnke is no stranger to either Superman or Wonder Woman, having drawn JLA and various issues of the New 52 Justice League. I suppose I’m cautiously optimistic about Tomasi, because this is the sort of book that plays to his strengths. He’s good at reconciling and unifying different perspectives on characters, and that’s pretty much what S/WW has always had to overcome. Ironically, it’ll probably be less of a concern in the absence of Azzarello and Chiang, but I suspect Tomasi will keep those elements around.

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For Gail Simone, an ending and (sort of) a beginning

batgirl34-facebook

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Gail Simone brought to a close her tenure as Batgirl writer and helped kick off the digital-first Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman series this week. Both issues were well within her comfort zone, featuring large casts of characters locked in spirited combat a la Wonder Woman #600 and Secret Six #36. Both had callbacks to previous Simone successes, one of which pleased this longtime fan immeasurably. (No spoilers, but let’s just say she’s a Bird of Prey I didn’t think I’d see in the New 52.) Perhaps most importantly, both showed their headliners fully in control of their respective situations. For Batgirl that came at the end of a long, somewhat depressing series of subplots, and in Sensation it was a well-executed rebuttal to anyone who thinks Wonder Woman can’t be as hardcore as her gothic-avenger colleague.

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Grumpy Old Fan | The legacies of ‘Earth 2′

Compare and contrast

Compare and contrast

Last week I wrote about Earth 2 in the context of its Supermen. The most recent issue, Earth 2 #26, brought some closure to the Apokolips-invasion plot and subplots, and this week’s Worlds’ Finest #26 does much the same for its displaced heroines. The September issues of both series will jump forward five years to tie into Futures End, and October brings the Earth 2: World’s End weekly miniseries.

Therefore, as these were the last couple of issues before everything will no doubt start to change, I want to talk this week about Earth-2′s unique place in the New 52′s multiverse, and what it might say about DC’s approach to legacy characters.

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Trapped in a world he never made …

Howard-the-Duck-tease

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

For whatever reason, Marvel is bringing the original Howard the Duck comics back into print. These are pretty great comics on their own, from creator/writer Steve Gerber and artists like Val Mayerik, Frank Brunner and Gene Colan. However, this is a Best of 7 because Howard the Duck itself facilitates all sorts of discussions. We can talk about creators’ rights via Gerber’s disputes with Marvel, and we can go from there to the extent to which a unique voice can (or should) be replicated by successors. (Personally, I thought the 2007 Ty Templeton/Juan Bobillo miniseries was pretty fun.) On a more superficial level, there’s the publisher’s biggest filmed fiasco.

Still, it does come down to the comics. In an era when the Big Two were expanding their scopes and testing their limits, Howard the Duck was one of the biggest experiments of the mid-1970s, and one that paid off in such entertaining fashion. Anything that brings it back into the spotlight is fine by me.

Grumpy Old Fan | This week in bad Supermen

WARNING: Contents May Have Shifted

WARNING: Contents May Have Shifted

On Tuesday, Comic Book Resources interviewed Superman writer Geoff Johns, penciler John Romita Jr. and inker Klaus Janson, who (as the headline put it) want to “inject optimism” into the series. As part of that interview, Johns contended that the Man of Steel’s desire to connect with his fellow Earthlings makes him “more relevant now than ever.”

Considering a couple of ongoing storylines, this current focus on positivity sounds like a voice crying in the wilderness. Today we’ll look at the end of Earth 2’s “The Kryptonian” — which features two alternate Supermen — as well as the latest installments of “Doomed” in the regular Super-books.

Naturally, SPOILERS FOLLOW for Earth 2 #26, Superman/Wonder Woman Annual #1, Action Comics Annual #3 and Action Comics #34.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Grant Morrison and the music of the spheres

Big Blue on the Great White Way

Big Blue on the Great White Way

In 2008-09, Grant Morrison wrote (and J.G. Jones and others drew) DC Comics’ big-event miniseries Final Crisis. While it wasn’t the last cosmic-minded crossover, in many ways it was the crest of a wave that had been building since 2004′s Identity Crisis. The fallout from Identity Crisis sparked a new “Crisis Cycle,” leading into 2005-06′s Infinite Crisis, 2006-07′s 52, 2007-08′s Countdown, and various smaller-scale tie-ins.

With Morrison at the helm, though, Final Crisis turned out to be pretty esoteric. Apparently this pleased almost no one, being a) too steeped in DC lore for the casual reader, and b) not sufficiently tied into the regular comics, and thereby not rewarding the every-Wednesday folks who’d been following all the buildup.

Nevertheless, two FC plot points had immediate effects on the superhero line that, for all intents and purposes, have carried over into the New 52: It brought back Barry Allen and “killed” Batman. I was reminded of the latter two weeks ago, when a one-panel flashback in Robin Rises: Omega indicated pretty strongly that Darkseid’s Omega Effect (coincidence?) sent the New 52′s Caped Crusader bouncing through the time stream, just like his continuity-complicated predecessor. Accordingly, like so many DC stories of yore, Final Crisis still seems to have happened, even if in a significantly altered form.

Before we get too much further, rest assured this post isn’t dedicated to figuring out how a Final Crisis-shaped peg fits into a one-panel Robin Rising hole. Instead, I want to talk about how another FC plot point is helping to alter my perceptions of continuity.

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Holy second chances! ‘Lost’ Two-Face episode comes to ‘Batman ’66′

BATMAN-'66-tease

What’s this? DC Digital Editor Jim Chadwick doubling down on the delayed debut of television’s Two-Face? An unproduced script from the immortal Harlan Ellison to be adapted for the Batman ’66 digital-first series?

That was the word from the DC Digital panel at this year’s Comic-Con. Not to be outdone by IDW’s adaptation of Ellison’s original “City on the Edge of Forever” script, writer Len Wein, penciller Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and inker Joe Prado are bringing Two-Face into the Batman ’66 world.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Robin Rises’ but ‘Zero’ soars

My hero

My hero

Wednesday was Batman Day, the official date for celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. It’s fine to have a Batman Day, I guess — I’ve been getting emails from online bookstores saying “Celebrate Batman Day with our sales!” so it’s coming across in practice like President’s Day — but Batman is so ubiquitous in pop culture that you might as well have a McDonald’s Day or a Coca-Cola Day. (In a perfect world there would be a Rockford Files Day.)

Anyway, appropriately enough, each of the two regular Bat-books DC published this week looked at one end of Batman’s timeline. Batman Vol. 2 #33 wrapped up “Zero Year,” the latest (and perhaps the most epic) version of the character’s origins; and Batman and Robin Vol. 2 #33 presented “Robin Rises, Part One,” the latest chapter in Damian Wayne’s posthumous saga. While the former ended impressively, the latter is off to a slow start.

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Grumpy Old Fan | In October, DC wants trinities of win

Two Guys, A Girl, And Apocalypse

Two Guys, A Girl, And Apocalypse

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.)

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Changes to the Bat-books show DC stepping out of the man cave

batgirl

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.

This week DC Comics announced a big change in Batgirl: namely, a new creative team of writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher and artist Babs Tarr. Coming aboard with October’s Issue 35, they bring a nifty new look and setting. After three years of grim but determined storytelling from writer Gail Simone and various artists (most recently Fernando Pasarin), Barbara Gordon is heading into Gotham’s “hip border district” for graduate school, and she’s leaving all the bad times behind.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Grayson’: A spy ring to what?

Another legacy: bad hair

Another legacy: bad hair

(Note: Post title is taken brazenly from a Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff on the serial The Phantom Creeps.)

When DC announced Grayson in April, I wrote about the dangers of separating Dickie G. first from his mentor, and then from his friends in the Titans. Because Grayson is predicated on removing Dick from the superhero realm entirely, I’ve been ambivalent (at best) about this book. Even after reading the first issue — which was a good introduction to the series, and which stood on its own nicely — I still have some concerns. Most of these come from a desire (perhaps unwarranted) to judge a series in a larger context. Therefore, today we’ll talk both about the debut issue of Grayson (written by Tim Seeley and Tom King, drawn by Mikel Janín, and colored by Jeromy Cox), and whether that sort of big-picture evaluation is fair to it.

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First let’s get some of the obligatory historical perspective out of the way. Dick Grayson has been around for almost 75 years, longer than just about all of DC’s A-listers, including The Flash, Hawkman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Moreover, Dick/Robin has been adapted for various non-comics venues for almost as long, starting with radio and movie serials in the 1940s and continuing right through to today’s Teen Titans Go! Many of these more recent adaptations either alluded to, or showed directly, Dick’s transition to the Nightwing identity; and collectively they speak to the general public’s awareness of the character and his particular dramatic functions.

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Grumpy Old Fan | How Wonder Woman’s past can help the Finches

To coin a phrase

To coin a phrase

After three years, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are wrapping up their Wonder Woman run. Starting with November’s Issue 36, the new creative team will be writer Meredith Finch and her husband, artist David Finch.

While it would be silly to pass judgment completely on the Finches four months before their debut, I have to say my initial reaction wasn’t entirely positive. Consider the creative teams on the four main books of Diana’s Trinitarian brothers. Although detoured by the “Doomed” crossover, Action Comics’ team of writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder has been well-received. Superman just kicked off the Geoff Johns/John Romita Jr. era. Detective Comics picked up Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato after their stylish success on The Flash; and Batman features the unstoppable Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. For that matter, Azzarello/Chiang was one of several distinct creative teams that debuted as part of the initial New 52 relaunch and set itself apart instantly from any DC house style. Besides Snyder/Capullo on Batman and Manapul/Buccellato on Flash, there were Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman on Animal Man, J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman on Batwoman, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino on I Vampire, Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen on OMAC, and Snyder and Yanick Paquette on Swamp Thing. Accordingly, Azzarello and Chiang have seemed right at home helming Wonder Woman.

By contrast, as a writing/drawing team the Finches are an unknown quantity. Meredith Finch has written a few one-shots; and since coming to DC from Marvel, David Finch’s projects have been plagued by delays.

Now, these may all turn out to be moot points. The Finches may have the perfect take on Wonder Woman. They are certainly very enthusiastic, even if he has been a bit tone-deaf. We won’t know for sure how their Wonder Woman will read until this fall — but I can still offer some historical perspective, and maybe a little advice.
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IDW’s ‘Wonder Woman’ collection reprints a Golden Age rarity

wonder woman_newspaper_ad_1943[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

For a character who had just debuted a couple of years earlier, the prospect of a Wonder Woman newspaper strip was a clear sign of the Amazing Amazon’s immense popularity. However, in the crowded, competitive field of newspaper comics — where the first Batman newspaper strip lasted only about three years, ironically because it was vying for space against the successful Superman strip — Wonder Woman couldn’t establish herself. Still, IDW has restored what history has all but forgotten, and this August the publisher will reprint the strip’s 19-month run.

I’ve seen a few weeks’ worth of these strips here and there over the years, and they’re a lot like the Golden Age comics. This is hardly surprising, since they were written by creator William Moulton Marston and drawn by original artist Harry G. Peter. However, the newspaper format apparently allowed Marston and Peter to open up their storytelling styles, allowing for a slightly different pace and a more long-form approach.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Johns, Romita take on Superman’s big blues

Expectations

Expectations

For their first issue of Superman, writer Geoff Johns, penciler John Romita Jr. and inker Klaus Janson (with colorist Laura Martin and letterer Sal Cipriani) have served up an intriguing blend of action and introspection. There are the requisite nods to semi-obscure (Titano!) and really obscure (J. Wilbur Wolfingham?) Superman minutiae, and one subplot seems destined to undo a New 52 development. However, while Issue 32 of Superman Vol. 3 is concerned with managing the Man of Steel’s status quo, a good bit of it revolves around the new character(s) that will apparently drive this story arc.

Accordingly, the issue doesn’t feel quite so much like the start of a bold new era (although it could well be); instead, the new creative team uses the issue to ease into its story, such that the action serves the character work. Considering that almost half of the issue involves fight scenes, that seems like an odd observation, but it’s kind of an odd issue overall.

The question then becomes whether those characters — Superman included — are compelling enough to follow month in and month out. Last month, Johns told Comic Book Resources that readers should “[j]ust give us one issue and that’s all. I think we’ll earn your trust and your time and your investment in one issue because I really believe in this first issue and I really believe in what we’re doing.”

Whether Superman #32 meets that standard is therefore somewhat unclear. It lays out the characters and their concerns pretty broadly, and (somewhat like Johns’ and Ivan Reis’ Aquaman) it depends to a certain extent on answering reader frustrations. Still, on balance, it works. This is a very good issue of the New 52 Superman, with all that implies.

Read on for more, and as always …

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Ellison’s ‘City’ displays its original edge

startrek-tease

[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

I grew up with Star Trek in the lean times of the mid-1970s, between the end of the Animated Series and the premiere of The Motion Picture, when fandom had to sustain itself with zines, comics and the occasional prose novel. In that spirit, I defy any of my Trekkie/Trekker contemporaries to not be transported (pun intended) by the first-issue cover of IDW’s six-issue City On The Edge Of Forever adaptation. It’s a note-perfect pastiche of one of those old paperbacks, with a surrealist Enterprise projecting (through a woman’s eye) a lone Starfleet figure fleeing into the heart of a 20th Century metropolis. With everything framed against a clock face and a smattering of stylized stars, it suggests the disjointed isolation of the Original Series’ most revered episode.

Writers Scott and David Tipton and artist/colorist J.K. Woodward have likewise done their best to reproduce the feel of Harlan Ellison’s late-1960s teleplay — although not necessarily the feel of a first-season Trek installment. Since this was still fairly early in Star Trek‘s history, Ellison’s work wasn’t exactly compatible with the producers’ collective vision.

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