BEST BETS: "Jessica Jones," "Big Trouble/Escape from New York" & More October 2016 Highlights
Archie: The Married Life Book Six (Archie Comics): This is a phone book-sized collection of the final seven issues of Life With Archie, the series set in a possible future where Archie is married to Betty … and Veronica, in two alternate timelines. The narrative jumps between those parallel realities in a way that can be downright confusing when read in such a huge chunk as the collections offer.
While the stories feature the same fairly sprawling cast — and the character designs and are style are, as usual, in perfect harmony no matter whose names are in the credits — there’s more differences between the two timelines than just which girl Archie settled down with. In one timeline, Jughead is dating Ethel; in the other he’s having a baby with Midge. Likewise, Reggie is either a newspaper reporter or a mechanic with a reality show, and Moose is either Riverdale’s mayor or Riverdale High School’s janitor. And so on.
There are a few things both universes share, however, like Kevin Keller having been elected to the U.S. Senate, campaigning on gun control, an issue driven home by a mass shooting in the nearby Southport Mall. And, of course, in the final two issues, the “Death of Archie” and the epilogue that follows, the story is carefully, delicately crafted so that every line and every panel can be read so they’re the conclusions of both storylines, despite all the differences between the two.
In the fullness of time, all things come to an end: Futures, worlds, even month-long publishing initiatives. And so Wednesday brought with it the final batch of Futures End specials from DC Comics.
Of this week’s 10 releases, I read four, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of those were pretty good … and at least two of them even tied in to the events of The New 52: Futures End, the weekly series that nominally gives the one-shots a reason to exist.
Heck, one of them tied in to the series, which saw the release of its 21st issue this week, strongly and directly enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned up in one of the eventual trade collections of Futures End.
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A Centaur’s Life, Vol. 1 (Seven Seas): Easily the weirdest comic I read this month, Kei Murayama’s manga is about an alternate world where everything is the exact same as it is in ours, save for the fact that there are multiple races like centaurs, angel folk, goat folk, cat folk, dragon people and so on. Oh, and while human beings apparently still exist, the only one glimpsed is a medieval knight seen in flashback, having enslaved a centaur is some bizarre armor/restraining device in order to ride him.
What makes the manga so weird, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason, at least not in this first volume, for why our heroine Himeno is a centaur, and why her classmates are all various fantasy races living out an otherwise completely mundane existence.
Himeno is a sweet, shy, pretty and popular Japanese schoolgirl (who is also a centaur). She’s afraid of boys, likes hanging out with her friends, and love sweets, although she worries about getting fat. The stories are mostly of the frivolous high-school comedy sort that could easily have been told with human characters.
In the first story, Himeno is self-conscious about her genitals, which she’s never looked at, as she’s afraid they might resemble those of a cow the kids once saw on a field trip (unlike some centaurs, the ones in this comic keep their horse parts covered in elaborate pants that appear difficult to put on and take off). In another, her class puts on a play, and she’s cast as the female lead, while her best friend — a girl with bat wings, a spade-shaped tail and pointy ears — is the male lead. In another, she’s suspected of doing some modeling work, in violation of school policy regarding part-time jobs.
When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invaded and seemingly conquered Earth-New 52 in Forever Evil #1, claiming to have killed the members of the Justice Leagues, the home-Earth villains took over DC comics, scrawling their names over the logos of their foes and initiating other evil acts like using decimal points in their issue numbers and putting the wrong stories in the wrong titles. (A Dial H epilogue and a Lobo one-shot in Justice League comics? A Batgirl story in a Batman comic?). But, most nefariously of all, the villains of DC Comics raised the price of each issue by a dollar and launched one of the biggest gimmick covers schemes in the modern history of direct market super-comics: heavy, plastic, 3D lenticular covers primed to be collected more so than read, and sparking insidious speculation, goosed my unpredictable shortages to many retailers. The monsters.
But while most attention has been focused on the covers, there are, in fact, stories beneath them, and so for the past three weeks we’ve been not judging the books by their covers, but by their contents. (Here’s Week One, Week Two and Week Three, if you missed ‘em.) As in the previous months, I’ve been ranking the books on their overall quality, on a scale of one to 10: Not Very Good, Somewhat Disobedient, Naughty, Morally Deficient, Without Scruples, Iniquitous, Wicked, Maleficent, Evil and Absolute Evil (although, as none received a perfect 10, you might want to adjust your reception of my ratings up by one).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been noting how connected each is to the Forever Evil event that ostensibly led to this state of affairs at DC, so, if you’re only interested in these things for their narrative import rather than their creators or characters, you’ll know which are worth your attention. So let’s take one last wallow in the evil of (almost) every issue of this week’s Villains Month, and hope for the swift and triumphant return of our heroes starting next month.
Despite the efforts of Nightwing writer Kyle Higgins to put to rest rumors that Dick Grayson will die as a result of DC Comics’ Villains Month, the whispers continue, in no small part because there’s no issue of the series in September.
“Nightwing doesn’t have a book that month, but we’re back after September,” Higgins assured CBR TV last month. “We’re back with October. Actually, the finale of the first arc in Chicago with the Prankster and Tony Zucco, that culminates in October with Issue 24. We’re still around, we’re doing our thing.”
With the launch of Comic Book Resources’ new monthly feature with DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase arrives announcements of a slew of creative changes, including confirmation that Jim Starlin is the new writer of Stormwatch.
Best known for his work on Marvel’s cosmic titles, Starlin has been teasing since early December that he would take the reins on an existing DC series beginning in April. Yvel Guichet joins him as artist. Other creative shifts in April include:
• Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes will write the newly launching Constantine, taking over Robert Venditti with Issue 2. “Robert came to us with a fantastic pitch for Constantine,” Harras told CBR. “We really loved what Robert’s doing — he’s working on Demon Knights now, and he’s also working on another project for us that I really can’t go into which is a big deal for us. But at the end of the day, Robert and Dan [DiDio] and I spoke, and Constantine was, for him, one book too many. It was the one thing that we had to go, “If we want you to focus on this one project, maybe we should make a change on Constantine.”
Over on his blog, Teen Titans artist Brett Booth shows us some of his early designs for the character who eventually became Bunker. Originally the character was “going to transform into a monster,” Booth says, and the character went through several other iterations before they landed on Bunker and his bricks. “Scott wanted to do bricks so we did bricks.”
Following through on its pledge to create “a more modern, diverse DC Universe” with the New 52, DC Comics will introduce a gay teenage superhero in Teen Titans.
Series artist Brett Booth has revealed that Bunker will debut in November’s Issue 3 — he’s referred to as “The Wall” in the solicitation text — where he’s depicted as an openly gay teen from Mexico who “can create small force fields that look like bricks.” The character, whom the artist describes as “happy, fun-loving,” appears in the background in the cover of the first issue and again, more prominently, on the one for Issue 3.
“We’re trying to make being gay a part of who he is,” Booth wrote last night on Twitter.
Bunker isn’t the first gay Titan — that was probably Hero Cruz of Titans L.A., although there was a lot of fan speculation about Jericho when he debuted in 1984 — but he’s (likely) the first gay teen introduced into the post-Flashpoint DC Universe.
Teen Titans, by Scott Lobdell, Booth and Norm Rapmund, premieres on Sept. 28.
Update: On his blog, Booth has posted Lobdell’s description of Bunker:
If you thought the DC Comics New 52 trailers were done, think again. Teen Titans artist Brett Booth has posted one on his blog featuring the latest version of the young heroes.
Teen Titans #1 by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth arrives in stores Sept. 28.