SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
The sprawling intertitle crossover “Doomed” wrapped up this week with the release of Superman: Doomed #2. It’s a 40-page installment produced by writers Greg Pak and Charles Soule and artists Ken Lashley, Szymon Kudranski, Cory Smith, Dave Bullock, Jack Herbert, Ian Churchill, Aaron Kuder Vicente Cifuentes, and Norm Rapmund (assisted ably by colorist Wil Quintana and letterer Taylor Esposito). However, it’s getting some attention due to the final page.
Yes, “Doomed” began as a sequel to an as-yet-unseen event — the New 52 version of the monster’s first deadly battle with Superman — but it’s ended, like many a crossover before it, as a tease for the next big thing. Moreover, it’s joined by the only Futures End special one-shot without its own series (yet); namely, Futures End: Booster Gold.
Accordingly, today’s all about how everything might start to make sense, and how it doesn’t quite make sense for DC to go that way.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for the finale of “Doomed” and for Booster Gold.
The final issue of Forever Evil was originally scheduled to come out this week, but now seems to have been delayed until May 21. That’s too bad, at least for those of us who’ve been following the thing since September (because those delays evaporate in collections). However, it gives me some time to digest what’s been presented so far. It also offers a chance to look back at a 2002 graphic novel that features a couple of the same peripheral elements.
Forever Evil #1 is an uneven debut for the seven-issue miniseries, revealing that the Crime Syndicate — for those who came in late, basically an evil Justice League from the parallel Earth-3 — has killed all the Leaguers and is recruiting allies among DC-Earth’s supervillains. Although a handful of scenes are genuinely chilling, much of it is exposition and survey, with some of that geared apparently toward ancillary miniseries. Geoff Johns’ script works well when his characters can give speeches, but turns awkward and simplistic in crowd scenes. David Finch’s pencils are appropriately murky and grim, although there’s not a lot of subtlety; and inker Richard Friend seems to have gotten quite a workout. (This is the superhero-comic equivalent of a downpour at dusk.) Fortunately, colorist Sonia Oback manages to bring some variety to the gloomy proceedings, whether it’s brightening up a neon-lit cityscape or energizing a crackling solar corona.
Still, for the start of the first “universe-wide” Big Event of DC’s New 52, Forever Evil #1 feels like an apocalyptic tease. The issue’s main shocks aren’t as shocking as one might imagine, and the demands of a shared superhero universe will require them to be reversed. There’s undoubtedly more carnage to come, but for now it’s an exercise in attitude.
Naturally, there’s more after the jump. SPOILERS FOLLOW …
Serialized storytelling provides superhero-comics publishers a pretty handy buffer. Anything can be judged unfairly, perhaps even after the whole story has been collected. Don’t like a preview image? Wait until the issue itself comes out. Don’t like how the story is going? Wait for it to end, so you can evaluate it in a more proper context. Don’t like how the story ended? Hey, at least you got the thrill of following it issue by issue.
There will always be a certain distance between fans and professionals, simply because the pros know where the stories are going and the fans can only make educated guesses. The previous paragraph’s view of it may be cynical, but I don’t think it’s too far off. Beyond nostalgic, blue-sky wishes for publishers to stop aiming low, and for fans to stop assuming the worst, I don’t have any easy solutions. Sometimes I just wish these sorts of observations weren’t necessary.
Having said all that, I’m not going to call the latest Superman/Wonder Woman pairing (in this week’s Justice League #12, as you might have heard) The Dumbest Thing DC’s Ever Done. I’m not sure it’s even in the Top 20. Heck, I’m not sure it’s the dumbest thing DC’s done in the past 12 months.
What I will say is that it misses the point.
Last week a slip of the tongue by longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy revealed that DC Entertainment is possibly working on an animated adaptation of last year’s Flashpoint event series. If true, that would be one of the quickest turnarounds from page to screen, and this potential return got me to thinking: What if DC returned to Flashpoint in comics?
We’re not talking Flashpoint 2: Electric Bugaloo or anything of that nature (although Ambush Bug might approve), but superhero publishers and fans have shown an immense love for juggling alternate universes with a different set of rules and a different continuity. DC is debuting Earth 2 this week, and in the past has shown a fiery propensity to see how the other side lives. And across town at Marvel, they’ve made several successful jaunts to alternate timelines: from miniseries revisiting the Heroes Reborn and 2099 worlds to the ongoing Age of Apocalypse.
DC invested a whole lot of time, money and shelf space last summer to developing and publishing the Flashpoint titles, and one of the complaints people had at the conclusion was the number of loose ends, as well as characters they wanted to see more of. This could be just a fun return trip if taken with measured steps — maybe a single ongoing series delving into this world.
And come to think of it, it might be a good place for Wally West to show up next.
Before we jump into 2012, I have one last bit of business to take care of: toting up my 2011 predictions, and offering a set for the new year.
1. The Green Lantern movie. Last year I predicted that GL would be “more lucrative than Captain America, not as much as Thor. It ended up making $116 million domestically ($219 million worldwide), well behind Cap’s $176 million ($368M globally) and Thor’s $181 million ($449M globally). Also, it wasn’t as good. I liked it well enough (and from what I hear I may like the Blu-Ray version more), but apparently I was in the minority.
2. Superman and Wonder Woman after JMS. I just had questions for this entry: will Roberson and Barrows stay on Superman? (No.) Will Diana keep the jacket and pants? (No jacket, pants optional.) Finally, I asked “[w]ill sales improve once ‘Grounded’ ends?” Guess that depends on how you define “ends,” because “Grounded” closed out that Superman series; and the next issue of Superman was a New-52 No. 1 which sold almost 100,000 more copies than its predecessor. We may never know what might have happened to Superman without the New 52, but probably not that.
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Three recent bits of DC news are running together in my mind. Cumulatively they may amount to nothing — housekeeping details and/or fallout from the New-52 relaunch — but individually they seem significant, because they may well speak to the proverbial “reset button” which DC claims does not exist. Put simply, I think that reset button exists, I think it affects all of the New-52 books, and I expect it to be revealed within the next year or two. Whether it gets pushed, and/or how much resetting occurs, is another matter.
While it may be overprotective to put a SPOILER WARNING so early in the post, I realize some of you may want to discover these things as they are actually published.
I don’t blame you — I was trying to avoid the Wonder Woman thing, but that’s what I get for reading convention coverage. (And yes, I have seen the recent news about a certain Flash character.)
Anyway, SPOILERS for potential DC milestones big and small….
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly column where we successfully answer the question in the title. Our special guest this week is Janice Headley, events coordinator, publicist and “ambassador of awesome” for Fantagraphics.
To see what Janice and the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click the link below.
I’m pretty sure every other DC-Comics blogger in the known universe will be doing this, but for me it is an imperative: from now through the end of the month, this space will give short, probably reactionary, and likely ill-considered reviews of all 52 new titles. Not surprisingly, then, this week is all Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1.
* * *
I liked Flashpoint #1 pretty well. I thought it was a promising start to a story that — in a daring departure for a big event — could stand on its own without universe-altering ramifications.
Of course, that was in early May, a lifetime ago.
While Flashpoint #5 finishes that story, it does so in a way that feels maddeningly hollow. Not the epilogue, mind you — that sequence just manages to avoid mawkishness, and is a well-done counterpoint to the end of issue #1. No, my problem with issue #5 (and to a lesser extent with the miniseries generally) is the way in which writer Geoff Johns apparently just decides he needs to wrap things up.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for Flashpoint #5, and later for Justice League #1 …
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’d spend it seeing the finale of DC”s major event with Flashpoint #5 (DC, $3.99) and then their Brand New Day, All-New All-Different, New 52 with Justice League #1 (DC, $3.99). I feel the thunder of Flashpoint was largely muted by the waves of announcements DC did over the summer, but Johns and Kubert crafted a unique story and I’m interested to see how they wrap it up. For JL, I’m a long-time fan of Jim Lee’s work going back to Alpha Flight, and any self-respecting comics journalist has to buy this issue just to see what’s happening. For the last bit of my money, I’d dig into Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force #14 (Marvel, $3.99) – if I wasn’t already buying it, I’d buy it again for the return of Jerome Opena on art.
If I had $30, I’d double-back to my local comic shop and get the finale of IDW and editor Scott Dunbier’s Rocketeer Adventures #4 (IDW, $3.99). They really instigated a fun anthology here of above-average talents that any publisher from Marvel on down would die to have. The next comics to enter my bag would be Invincible #82 (Image, $2.99) and Butcher Baker Righteous Maker #6 (Image, $6.99); both books are still on creative highs. For the small bills I had left, I’d get Journey Into Mystery #626.1 (Marvel, $2.99) and The Sixth Gun #14 (Oni, $3.99). I admit I was behind on JiM for a while but caught up by mainlining all the issues so far in an all-night bender. The Sixth Gun too I’ve been behind the curve on, but caught up after procrastinating for a couple years.
If I was to splurge, I’d splurge all over the July pack of 2000AD issues. Tharg’s book is a hard series to jump onto, but I’d recommend anyone just to dive in with a month’s worth and get a feel for it. I just realized they sell each issue online a month after it comes out in print, at almost half cover price. They come in CBZ and PDF format, which makes them pretty adaptable to any device.
DC Comics has been criticized for the sheer brutality and wholesale slaughter depicted in its blockbuster crossovers and events, where characters are decapitated, disemboweled and devoured with a frequency that approaches parody. But is it possible that Flashpoint, that concludes next week just as “The New 52″ debuts, has a butcher’s bill that makes the body count of Final Crisis seem like, well, kid’s stuff?
Like a U.N. observer, Funnybook Babylon’s Chris Eckert surveyed the sprawling battlefield — no easy task, considering there’s the core title, 16 miniseries and a handful of one-shots — and emerged with a death tally that’s staggering, as entire nations fell in alternate-timeline global wars involving Aquaman’s Atlanteans, Wonder Woman’s Amazons, Gorilla Grodd’s armies, and other factions.
“Given that everything is going to be returned to The New Normal at the end of it, DC has gone hog wild with killing people off in Flashpoint,” Eckert wrote. “It’s not just ‘shocking’ death scenes for beloved intellectual property: the Flashpoint Earth got seriously depopulated.”
… And here we are, the day after DC’s ongoing superhero line put a period on an era. Next week brings just two titles, Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, one sending off the old order and the other ushering in the new. Maybe you’re waiting for next week before starting (or coming back to) explore the superhero books. Maybe you’ve been reading since the start of Blackest Night or Infinite Crisis or even Identity Crisis. Goodness knows DC has tried hard for several years to increase its audience.
For me, though, this week closes the book (make the metaphors stop!) on some twenty-five years of Post-Crisis storytelling. Although there have been a number of reboots and relaunches during this period, it all goes back to the changes which started in earnest in the summer of 1986. I remember that summer well, both in terms of comics milestones and personal memories, because each was bound up with the others to various degrees. For me, Summer 1986 ended in a parking lot on a Friday afternoon in early September, reading John Byrne and Terry Austin’s Superman #1.
On the heels of its Comic-Con-exclusive Flashpoint #1 variant cover, DC Comics has announced it’s offering a similar — well, recolored — wraparound edition for attendees of FanExpo Canada, held Aug. 25-28 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The cover, by Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope and Alex Sinclair, will be available for $10 at the FanExpo Canada exclusives booth. Kubert is a featured guest at the convention, which means you could even get the variant signed, if you’re so inclined.
Comics | In a post subtitled “Why the new biracial Spider-Man matters,” David Betancourt shares his reaction to the news that the new Ultimate Spider-Man is half-black, half-Latino: “The new Ultimate Spider-Man, who will have the almost impossible task of replacing the late Peter Parker (easily one of Marvel Comics most popular characters), took off his mask and revealed himself to be a young, half-black, half-Latino kid by the name of Miles Morales. When I read the news, I was beside myself, as if my brain couldn’t fully process the revelation. My friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was … just like me? This is a moment I never thought I’d see. But the moment has arrived, and I — the son of Puerto Rican man who passed his love of comics to me, and a black woman who once called me just to say she’d met Adam West — will never forget that day.”
Publishers | DC Comics have released details on the midnight release of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 on Aug. 31. The publisher is offering a free over-ship of Flashpoint #5 for retailers who order 125 percent of their order for Flashpoint #1, and the publisher has noted that that these are the only two DC titles shipping that week that can be sold at midnight. The promotion is only available to U.S. and Canadian accounts; due to the Aug. 29 bank holiday, the midnight sale option will not be available to UK retailers. [ICv2]
Legal | Michael Dean looks at the recent ruling by New York federal judge Colleen McMahon that the family of Jack Kirby has no claim to the copyrights of the characters he co-created for Marvel. Dean notes, “Some legal observers were expecting Marvel to be the second major comics-publisher domino to fall when Toberoff filed on behalf of the Kirbys, but there is a key difference between Kirby’s comics work and Siegel’s: It was well established that Superman already existed as a full-blown character concept before Siegel and Joe Shuster pitched him to DC, whereas Kirby, who died in 1994, did most if not all of his Marvel work on assignment from the publisher. In the case of work for hire, the Copyright Act defines the instigating employer/publisher as the Author of the work.” [The Comics Journal]