Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Crime | Police have surrounded an industrial park in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, 25 miles north of Paris, where the two suspects in Wednesday’s massacre at the offices of satire magazine Charlie Hebdo are believed to be hiding. Police say brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi have taken over a print shop and are holding a hostage, and have reportedly told negotiators they wish to die as martyrs. The Associated Press reports that a second, apparently linked siege at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris is believed to involve Amedy Coulibaly, suspected of killing a police officer on Thursday. Police say he’s holding at least six hostages. [The Guardian]
[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.]
Ever since its return under the Vertigo banner, Astro City (from Kurt Busiek, Brent Eric Anderson, and company) has been pretty great on a consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been a highlight of my pull list; but the current run has really been something special. Last month’s issue #15 — concluding the story of a sweet little old robotics genius and the supervillain who sought to ruin her — was particularly heartwarming. (What’s that? Something in my eye? No, I’m just tired….)
Then, however, I read this week’s issue #16. Readers looking for familiar pastiches will be rewarded immediately, since the broad strokes of the story are deliberately reminiscent of Silver Age Superboy and Lex Luthor. (The energy-headed hero Starbright also looks a bit like Firestorm, but that’s more incidental.) It’s a tale of awkward friendship, super-powered rivalry, and an act of simple kindness which literally transforms a life. As Busiek reveals on the letters page, the middle part of the story comes from his unpublished eight-page script for an installment of the backup feature “Superman: The In-Between Years.” In hindsight it’s easy to see how that script would have worked as a look into the developing dynamics between the Collegian of Steel and his former friend — but as usual, Astro City has taken those elements in undreamt-of directions.
Superman is the world’s greatest superhero, Wonder Woman is the world’s greatest superheroine. They have so much in common — their superpowers, their costume colors, their hobbies, their social organizations — that they seem perfect for each other … if only it weren’t for that nosy reporter friend, or girlfriend, or wife, or object-of-his-affection that’s kept the Man of Steel more or less spoken for over the course of his 75-year career.
I suppose that’s why Superman and Wonder Woman so often become a couple in various out-of-continuity stories like Kingdom Come and Injustice, and a large part of why DC Comics decided to use its 2011 reboot as an opportunity to make the pair a super-powered power couple, one of the more dramatic, non-sartorial changes in either characters’ milieus the reboot has so far introduced.
Not a lot in DC Comics’ May solicitations really strikes me as “new.” That’s due partly to a lot of the new books being set to launch a month earlier. Generally, the superhero line continues to contract, while The New 52 — Futures End kicks off, the New 52 version of Doomsday keeps rampaging through the Superman titles, and Batman Eternal rolls on. Nevertheless, I do have the irrational sense that the line is gearing up for something even more significant, and will be adding new series over the next few months.
Still, if we’re to get excited about the regular fare, we may have to read between the solicitations’ lines — so let’s get on with it, shall we?
* * *
A NEW 52 FOR THE NEW 52
And here it is, Futures End. Last year I wrote the New 52 needed its own version of 52, the year-long miniseries that spanned time and space to focus on the lesser lights of the superhero line. I talked about exploring the geography of the still-new shared universe, doing character studies, and essentially giving the reader a good sense of place and/or connection.
DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.
I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.
So here are six things DC is doing right:
1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So find out what we thought about It Came!, Astro City, Wolfsmund and more.
As Stan Lee sayings go, “Every comic book is someone’s first” isn’t quite as well-known as “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s nevertheless one that comics editors and creators should integrate and internalize just as thoroughly. It’s probably much less true today, now that comics are sold primarily through specialty shops (and, increasingly, online) instead of on newsstands and spinner racks, than whenever Lee first said it.
But regardless of whether Executive Assistant Assassins #13, Fearless Defenders #7 or Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #81 — to pick three titles from this week’s shipping list — will actually be anyone’s first comic book, as long as publishers continue to sell comics as serialized stories, then the thought that one of those could be someone’s introduction is a pretty good guiding principle for creating those comics.
With that in mind, this week I read a handful of second issues of some prominent new books from the biggest players in the direct market, with an eye toward how friendly the material might be toward a new reader starting the series — or comics in general — with that issue.
Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross and Alex Sinclair returned to Astro City this week, with a brand-new first issue published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. The creative team introduces us to several new characters, including the fourth wall-breaking Broken Man and the anime-inspired American Chibi. Old favorites are also still in residence, including Samaritan and Bill Pullam, one of the ordinary citizens we met earlier in Astro City’s history.
It’s a first issue that feels comfortably familiar but also refreshingly different, as we kick off what looks like a big event within the Astro City world. I definitely found it well worth my $3.99, but if you don’t believe me, here are a few more reviews that might convince you:
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s back to a full work week — unless, of course, you’re heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, for HeroesCon 2013.
However, before you board that plane or plot that route, there’s a New Comics Day chock-full of quality releases. Join our contributors for a rundown of some of the highlights.
Less than a month after DC Comics announced that Astro City will return in June as part of “DC proper,” the company has revealed the acclaimed superhero series by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross will actually be released under the Vertigo banner.
While that will make little difference to fans of the long-running comic, the move helps to bolster the mature-readers imprint, which only recently lost the Hugo Award-nominated Saucer Country and its longtime flagship Hellblazer (relaunched as Constantine in the DC Universe). Astro City will certainly stand out as a rare example of a superhero title on the Vertigo stable.
Debuting in 1995 at Image Comics before ultimately moving to Wildstorm, Astro City centers on the denizens of a mecca for super-powered beings. The title has been on hiatus since DC shuttered the Wildstorm imprint in 2010. The new series continues from the previous arc, a Silver Agent two-parter that served as an epilogue to Astro City: The Dark Age.
It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
Continue Reading »
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back for another round of Robot Roulette. It’s kind of like Vegas, without the mob connections or chances of actually winning money–comic creators spin the virtual wheel and get six questions thrown at them to answer.
Today Kurt Busiek takes his six questions and turns them into gold. Kurt, of course, is the award-winning writer of Astro City, Liberty Project, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Marvels, Avengers, Arrowsmith, Shockrockets, Thunderbolts, Iron Man, Kirby: Genesis, JLA/Avengers, Trinity, Superman: Secret Identity, Conan, Power Company and many, many more comics. You can find out more about him on his website.
My thanks to Kurt for agreeing to answer our questions. Now let’s get to it …
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
If I had $15:
I’m very excited to read Casanova: Avaritia ($4.99), the first new Casanova storyline in what seems like a dog’s age. There’s something about this series that seems to bring out Fraction’s best, perhaps it’s the mere fact he’s working with Fabio Moon and (this time around) Gabriel Ba allows him to rise to the occasion. That and The Boys #58 ($3.99) will probably round out my initial purchases.
[A quick note before we go too much farther: I started writing this post before DC’s big announcement about its September-and-beyond plans. In fact, I wanted this particular post to be about something other than Flashpoint and/or line-wide reboots — so depending on your perspective, I picked exactly the right week, or exactly the wrong week, to draw that line. In any case, it’s probably not hard to tell, from the past few weeks’ worth of posts, where I stand on current events.
[So there you go. On with the business at hand.]
Since it’s pretty much summer, and time to think about catching up on reading, let’s revisit DC’s list of “30 Essential Graphic Novels” — “best-selling titles that you must read[, ]whether you are just beginning to discover graphic novels or you are an established fan looking to expand your collection.”
The list is almost four years old, and has had a few minor updates. (Pride Of Baghdad replaced The Quitter, and Crayon Shinchan replaced Sword Of The Dark Ones.) For the most part, though, it’s the same compilation — heavy on the Batman and the Jeph Loeb, a decent amount of Alan Moore (but no Swamp Thing), a couple of Sandman books and Hellblazer, but no Wonder Woman, no Joe Kubert, and no Jack Kirby. While there are at least a couple of representatives from each of DC’s imprints, there aren’t many hints at the real scope of DC’s diverse publishing history.
Publishing | The 60th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first four days of release. It’s the first book to move more than 2 million copies in its first week of sales since the Japanese market survey company Oricon began reporting its charts in 2008. As we reported last week, this volume’s 3.4 million-copy first printing set a record, and propelled the series past the 200 million-copy mark. [Anime News Network]
Editorial cartoons | Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies has been laid off by the Gannett-owned Journal News in White Plains, N.Y. [Comic Riffs]
Publishing | Abrams has made three comics-related promotions: Susan Van Metre to senior vice president and publisher, overseeing all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books; Charles Kochman to editorial director of Abrams ComicArts; and Chad W. Beckerman to creative director, overseeing design for all comic arts books as well as Abrams Books for Young Readers and Amulet Books. [Abrams]