EXCL. PREVIEW: "Avatar: Smoke & Shadow" TPB Threatens the Fire Nation
There’s a lot to like in DC Comics’ December solicitations, most of it due to the return of some old friends and the uber-nostalgic glimpses at a traditional status quo. It’s not like the New 52’s changes are being rolled back — I have no illusions about that, and I’m not sure how it would work if it did happen — but DC is always best served when it can channel the familiar aspects of its past in vibrant new forms.
THERE YOU GO AGAIN
I am starting to think Secret Six is the comic Gail Simone was born to write, even more so than Birds of Prey. There’s always been a dark undercurrent running through her DC work, from BOP to Batgirl to The Movement, but only with the Sixers could she really cut loose. Indeed, as much as I enjoyed Scandal, Bane, Deadshot and the rest, I’m eager to see what she can do with six cryptically united strangers, most of whom will probably be new to us.
Those who believe the traditional, pre-New 52 DC Universe is still out there, somewhere in the Multiverse, can reasonably hang their collective hat on the return of the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in Justice League 3000 #12. I’d go even further, and say this version of Beetle and Booster probably follows directly from the two “Super Buddies” arcs that Giffen, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire produced in the mid-2000s. The second one, I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, ended rather pointedly with Beetle and Max Lord sharing a happy moment. That, of course, stood in stark contrast to the Countdown to Infinite Crisis special, in which Max shot Beetle in the head, and then (a few months later) successfully dared Wonder Woman to execute him. Therefore, the Beetle and Booster of JL3K hail from an Earth where things turned out quite differently — but ironically, they’ve been awakened in a dystopian future where the Justice Leaguers are darkly twisted versions of their old selves. Not that Giffen and DeMatteis can’t find some comedy there, but I’m having trouble summoning up a bwah-hah-hah.
Comics | Reporter Henry Hanks asks three experts about the increasing tendency toward “headline-grabbing plot twists” in comics, such as the death of Damian Wayne, and which ones they think have been the most successful. “I strongly believe that The New 52’s Batgirl can be seen as a great example of a major plot shift or re-imagining of a story that required readers to let go of a long-loved character (Oracle) and begin to believe in Batgirl as a new character, one who’s recovered from a life-threatening attack,” says Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and convention speaker. “The character essentially presented the determination, resilience and psychological strength that she needed to put the cape back on after a severe injury, just as readers were challenging her ability to represent a strong rebooted character. It’s as if we could relate to the weight on her shoulders, because we were a part of that process. [CNN]
When Batman and Robin #18 arrives in stores Wednesday, you’ll notice the cover by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray is decidedly different from the one solicited by DC Comics in December. Gone are the hopeful red hues of a Gotham City at sunset, replaced by the somber blue-gray tones of night.Gone, too, is what might be mistaken for a grin on Bruce Wayne’s face, now eclipsed by shadow.
And oh, yeah, it’s also missing a grinning Damian Wayne, soaring through the air at his father’s side, replaced by the darkness within the folds of Batman’s cape. Never has Gleason’s skull-shaped signature seemed more appropriate.
While the other Bat-Family titles receive completely new covers for the “Requieum” storyline, which deals with the aftermath of Damian’s death in Batman Incorporated #8, Batman and Robin #18 is the only one to boast a modified image — one made more eerie by the absence of Robin.
It’s an entirely silent issue,” writer Peter J. Tomasi told Comic Book Resources. “No text, no sound effects, storytelling at its purest form — show don’t tell — and, holy crap, does Patrick Gleason show why, in my humble opinion, he might be one of the best Batman artists ever. He knocks it out of the park.”
Today, ROBOT 6 introduces its new weekly feature “By the Numbers,” which takes a look back at the events of the past five days … in numbers. The biggest, or at least most-discussed, story of the week was undoubtedly Grant Morrison’s decision to kill off Damian Wayne in Batman Incorporated #8, a little something to remember the writer by as he wraps up his six-year run on the Dark Knight.
That development, naturally, stirred memories of 1988, when DC Comics bumped off a far less-popular Robin in an even more controversial manner: by having the readers decide whether Jason Todd lived or died … by calling a 1-900 phone number. The Joker may have wielded the crowbar, but Batman fans handed down the death sentence.
First I’d like to thank DC Comics for plastering its latest spoiler unavoidably across the Internet bright and early Monday morning. It did confirm something I’d suspected since before Christmas, but being surprised still has a certain appeal, you know?
(That assumes this isn’t reversed in an issue or two. Kyle Rayner was killed one issue and revived the next during a Blackest Night crossover, and something similar is eminently possible, albeit unlikely, in this case.)
Anyway, Caleb has done a great job covering the event’s immediate impact, and Corey and Michael have also talked about significant aspects of you-know-what, so for my part I’ll be taking a closer look at the “position” itself. Some people study the presidency, some the papacy, and some of us have spent most of our lives reading about … well, you know.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, I suppose.
In the swelling tide preceding Batman Incorporated #8, the promised death of the current Robin and the impending finale of Grant Morrison’s six-year opus, something jumped out at me about the writer’s previous work for hire: He has a propensity to kill the characters he introduces into the universes of Marvel and DC Comics before he leaves.
Think back to his first major mainstream superhero book, JLA. In it, Morrison and Howard Porter revived the team in a back-to-basics approach featuring the seven most popular and iconic members. But during that time Morrison also created (with Mark Millar and N. Steven Harris) the Mesoamerican hero Aztek. Launched in his own series — whose first issue teased his impending death — Aztek later joined Morrison’s JLA and was killed in JLA #41, the writer’s final issue.
Here we go again. A major news outlet has enthusiastically run the exclusive story that a major comic book character dies in a comic released today. Superhero deaths and their inevitable resurrections have been a staple of comics for decades thanks to the sales bump they tend to get from press coverage. But the giddy acceptance of superhero deaths is starting to crack.
Since the heady days of “The Death of Superman,” mainstream news has loved a dying superhero icon. In 1992, Superman’s death was such a big deal, newspapers were writing hand-wringing editorials about what it could mean for the state of America. Right from the start, DC Comics only guaranteed he would be dead until March 1993, but somehow that got lost in the din of cultural symbolism and frenzied collectability. People really thought he was dead, even if they sensed it was financially the stupidest thing DC could do. Needless to say, Superman came back. And ever since, it seems Marvel and DC have been chasing that same media buzz by (temporarily) killing off their marquee characters, whether it be Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man or even the Human Torch. But with each passing media blitz, an interesting thing is happening: Mainstream outlets are beginning to become just as jaded about superhero deaths as we longtime readers are.
Warning: Spoilers for Batman Inc. #8, The Dark Knight Rises, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus follow.
Grant Morrison’s reflection on his Batman run is interesting, in that it offers insight into what the writer thinks makes the character tick, but the part that jumps out at me was the very end where he brings up Robin and asks, “What son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?”
It’s something I’ve been thinking about since seeing Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. As flawed as that film is, it has some intriguing ideas about the relationship between creator and creation, whether that’s alien and human, inventor and android, or parent and child. On that last dynamic, Charlize Theron’s character Vickers observes, “A king has his reign, and then he dies. It’s inevitable.” That’s a horrible thing to say about your father. It is, however, true.
Hey, have you somehow managed to avoid hearing about the thing that’s going to happen in that one comic book Wednesday? The thing the writer and publisher are so excited about that they’ve been hyping it up in various media?
If so, then you must be the sort of comics fan who doesn’t like to have story points spoiled for you in advance, so out of respect for you, and respect for the diligence you’ve shown in so far being able to avoid having the story — whatever it is, in whatever book it’s unfolding — spoiled for you, I’m going to bury this entire post below the break.
So, if you already know what I’m talking about, read on!
“I chose to build my story around the basic trauma, the murder of his parents, that lies at the heart of Batman’s genesis. It seemed to me there would be a part of Bruce Wayne that resented his parents for leaving him and especially resented his father for not being Batman that night, so the principal villains were an archetypal bad father figure in the form of Dr. Hurt and a dark mother in the form of Talia, our villain for the concluding chapters of the story. This master theme of damaged and ruined families was nowhere more in evidence than in the creation of Damian, the first ‘Son of Batman’ to be acknowledged in the canon. In many ways this has been Damian’s story as much as it has been the story of Bruce Wayne and it’s a story that had its end planned a long time ago – for what son could ever hope to replace a father like Batman, who never dies?
– Grant Morrison, in an essay on the DC Comics website, addressing his more than six-year stint
writing the Caped Crusader, from Batman to Batman and Robin to Batman Incorporated
Last week’s solicitation roundup included the prediction that “Death of the Family” would kill young Damian Wayne. As most of you know, Damian is supposed to be about 11 years old, was raised by the League of Assassins, and has served (for the past “year or so” of comic-book time) as the latest Robin, the Boy Wonder. The solicitations were strangely silent concerning him, and thanks to the peculiarities of comic-book deaths, I figured he could take it.
That was last Thursday.
Since last Friday, I have rolled around that morbid prediction in my head, along with countless other real-world doomsday scenarios and nightmare moments. I am a fantastically lucky individual, and that is not meant as any kind of boast. I mean it simply to say that nothing remotely horrible has happened to me — no broken bones, no extended hospital stays, no natural disasters; and certainly nothing as devastating as my child’s death.
No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl. There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.
As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).
Cosmic Book News snagged a copy of the DC Comics: The New 52 preview a day early — street dates be damned! — and uploaded scans of the opening pages of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League #1, the vanguard of DC’s line-wide relaunch. It’s an entertaining enough sequence, with Gotham City’s finest pursuing Batman across rooftops as he, in turn, chases some sort of raggedy cyborg villain, only to come face to face with Green Lantern for the first time.
But it’s the first panel, above, that captured my attention, as it establishes the events as unfolding “five years ago,” “when the world didn’t know what a super-hero was.” That the first issue of Justice League takes place in the past isn’t a surprise, but the time frame may be. It could also prove tricky for Batman’s history.
This Wednesday marks the release of writer Bryan Q. Miller‘s Batgirl 19, an issue in which “the “Order of the Scythe unleashes its first weapon in their war on Batgirl”. Miller was kind enough to do an email interview with me last week. I was surprised he was able to make the time, as I found out in the course of our discussion last week was also when he officially cleaned out his Smallville offices, where he served as executive story editor in the show’s final season. In addition to discussing Miller’s thoughts on Batgirl, we also delve into the collaborative aspect of writing Smallville. Miller also takes this interview as an opportunity to ask fans of the book to help spread the word about how great a series it is. As a fan of the series myself, I hope word of mouth on the series continues to grow and agree with Miller’s belief that “Stephanie Brown is ready for a bigger spotlight”.
Tim O’Shea: I’m looking forward to Batgirl going up against Slipstream, if for nothing else to see how she tackles someone with superspeed. Was that part of the appeal of pitting those two characters against each other?
Bryan Q. Miller: Batgirl’s been very re-active, as opposed to pro-active. As the Reapers start throwing themselves at her, she’ll have to learn to start being more of the latter, and less of the former. What someone with superspeed (like Slipstream) does for Steph is forces her to have to think even faster on her feet. Their first encounter may not go all that well, either.
Not since Bane broke all the lunatics out of Arkham Asylum has Batman had this eventful a week. Perhaps to avoid the avalanche of news coming out of San Diego next week, DC has spent the past few days announcing a slew of new Batman projects and creative teams. And heck, even Marvel got in on the act, sorta…