"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
I wasn’t a fan of the first volume of the Geoff Johns-written original graphic novel series that attempts to reinvent Batman for a new generation (to put it somewhat mildly). In addition to being wholly unnecessary — the Dark Knight is almost constantly being reimagined for mass audiences — Johns made a series of strange changes to the basic story and cast, seemingly reflective of a desire to be different for the sake of being different. That, and, ultimately, he presented a story that contradicted Batman’s idealistic “no guns, no killing” philosophy by having another character save Batman from certain death by killing the villain with a gun.
Given how confounding I found that first volume, I was surprised – and happily so – to find this sequel is a much stronger work. Johns, penciler Gary Frank, inker Jon Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson return to their very particular story of the beginning of Batman’s crime-fighting career … or, at least, a Batman’s crime-fighting career. It’s a distinction likely lost on the intended audience, but this is the Batman of the current, post-crises alternate Earth designated “Earth One.”
Geoff Johns has revealed finished art from the long-awaited second volume of Batman: Earth One by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Brad Anderson.
The original graphic novel is scheduled to arrive on May 6, nearly three years after the debut of the first volume. They’re part of the Earth One line that retells the earliest adventures of some of DC Comics’ superheroes, free of current continuity. Teen Titans: Earth One was released in November, with Superman: Earth One Vol. 3 scheduled to hit shelves in February.
DC unveiled the covers for the new volumes of Superman: Earth One and Batman: Earth One in August.
Fox appears to be bringing even more comic-book flair to its heavily promoted Gotham with a series of Who’s Who in the DC Universe-style character images. IGN has debuted the first, featuring Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as drawn by Gary Frank, known for his work on Action Comics, the “Curse of Shazam” story in Justice League, and the upcoming Batman Earth One.
Warner Bros. Television promises more images will be revealed in the lead-up to the Sept. 22 premiere of Gotham on Fox.
As noticed by CBR Senior Editor Stephen Gerding, the first cover to the freshly announced new Ms. Marvel series, illustrated by Sara Pichelli, appears to be an homage to Gary Frank’s cover to debut issue of another comic starring a teenage girl hero, 1996’s Supergirl #1 — from the angle to the blank background to the juxtaposition of casual wear with superhero iconography.
That volume of Supergirl lasted 80 issues, so it could be a good portent for the Ms. Marvel book, which features a Muslim teenager named Kamala Khan stepping into the title role, in a series written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona.
While many of us were enjoying our holiday, Comic-Con International organizers were busy releasing the programming schedule for Thursday, July 18, the first full day of the San Diego convention. The rundown for Friday, July 19 should come along early this afternoon.
As we’ve come to expect, Thursday’s lineup is a healthy mix of comics, television, toys, fantasy and film (although light on the latter, which take center stage on Friday and Saturday). The comics programming includes panels from Avatar Press, Bongo Comics (it’s the publisher’s 20th anniversary), BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, DC Entertainment, Kodansha Comics, Marvel, Monkeybrain Comics (it’s that publisher’s first anniversary), TwoMorrows, Vertigo, Viz Media and Warp Comics.
However, that’s only for starters, as there are spotlights on Chris Samnee, Jeff Smith, J.H. Williams III, Dan Parent and Gary Frank, The Walking Dead‘s 10th-anniversary panel, and discussions about digital comics, gender in comics, LGBT webcomics and much, much more.
Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:
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 only had $15, I’d walk out a happy camper despite only having one book, because that book is 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22 (Viz, $12.99). While your typical American comics fan may have no idea who Naoki Urasawa is, he is in my mind undoubtedly the best cartoonist working today. Twenty-two books in and he hasn’t let up, delivering comics’ example of long-run storytelling perfection a la Sopranos. Friend is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve seen in comics in some time, and the mad assemblage of childhood pals out to stop him are some of my most treasured fictional friends.
If I had $30, I’d come back to comic stores on an American tip, starting off with Godzilla: Half Century War #2 (IDW Publishing, $3.99) by James Stokoe. I missed this when the first issue came out, but since then I’ve found it and relished its pure cartooning chaos. The first issue was an ideal debut, and I’m interested to see Stokoe take Lt. Murakami to Vietman in the ’60s for the ongoing war on Godzilla. After that I’d get the satisfying chunk, Dark Horse Presents #16 (Dark Horse, $7.99). I’ve been repeating the same praises every month, so let me try to spin it differently. This new issue, I have little idea what’s in it besides the return of Crime Doesn’t Pay; there’s a new series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in it I have heard nothing about, but DHP has re-built its track record of excellence and I’m fine spending $7.99 sight unseen. My final pick would be Daredevil #18 (Marvel, 2.99). Chris Samnee is quite different than the original artists on the book, but is excelling with Mark Waid in a new way — and that’s good. Instead of aping what had gone before, Samnee assuredly gives us his own style that would make any true fan of art in comics smile.
Oh ,wait, I found some money. I know, I’ll buy Memorial, Vol. 1 (IDW, $24.99). I missed this in singles, and this hardcover looks like the perfect chance to me to make up for past mistakes. These covers by Michael WM Kaluta really get my heart beating, and I’ve been wanting to read more of Chris Roberson on his own. The preview on IDW’s website gives me the impression it’s got down-to-earth personality amidst a fantasy world, and reminds me of classic supernatural fiction like A Wrinkle in Time or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
There are a lot of existential questions one could ask about this project: Why does it exist? Why is it an original graphic novel instead of a comic book series? Why is it subtitled “Earth One”? What does that mean, this year? What does it have to do with Superman: Earth One? Who on Earth is it for? Why was DC Comics promoting it as the more-or-less official Dark Knight Rises tie-in, distributing previews the week of the film’s release? And so on.
The whys I asked myself the most once I actually started reading it, however, regarded the particular choices writer Geoff Johns made while creating it. It’s full of significant, even radical, changes to the familiar elements of what you might think of as the basic Batman story and cast, and many of those changes seem completely random, in service of nothing in particular … save maybe a pretty messed-up message.
I’ve read just about every single comic Johns has written, and while I wouldn’t’ go so far as to say I’m a fan of his writing, I’m definitely very interested in it. I enjoy reading it for its faults as much as for its strengths, and I share his interest in the colorful characters and deep, complex history of the DC Universe, which the bulk of his writing has been concerned with.
In my experience, his very worst work has been that done without the crutch of DCU continuity, the sort of anything-goes wheel-reinventing he’s attempted on the recent Justice League reboot, with which he was paired with the direct market’s most popular artist Jim Lee, who brings strong drafting skills to Johns’ script, but little personality, flair or emotion. Johns’ very best work, on the other hand, has involved in-progress characters he was shepherding from a pre-established Point A to his own desired Point B, with artists capable of emotive character design and accessible, warm work. (His too-brief run on Superboy with Francis Manapul leaps immediately to mind, as does his early Stars and STRIPE with Lee Moder and his long, uneven run on Green Lantern with various artists of various skills and styles.)
Creators | While acknowledging the agreement that names Bob Kane as the sole creator of Batman, The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna and Bill: The Boy Wonder author Marc Tyler Nobleman make the case for giving writer Bill Finger a screen credit on The Dark Knight Rises. [Comic Riffs]
Conventions | Although Comic-Con International is usually thought of as a stage for movie studios, major comics publishers and video-game developers, Mark Eades looks at the event as a showcase for small businesses, from artists to toymakers. [The Orange County Register]
Conventions | Robot 6 contributor Brigid Alverson reports on the kids’ comics scene at Comic-Con International, including news that Papercutz will produce a comic based on the viral web phenomenon “Annoying Orange.” [Publishers Weekly]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are D.J. Kirkbride and Adam Knave, writers of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, which was released last week by Monkeybrain Comics.
To see what Adam, D.J. and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
More than two years have passed DC Comics first announced that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank were working on an “Earth One” graphic novel starring Batman, one that Johns said would allow the duo to “break the restraints of any continuity and focus on two things: character and story.”
A lot has happened in that time; DC Comics went and did a whole line-wide reboot, tossing out histories of various characters and starting from scratch, allowing “makers” to “break the restraints of continuity” on all of DC’s characters. Does that negate the need for an Earth One graphic novel line, then? The most base answer would be no–the first Superman:Earth One graphic seemed to do pretty well for DC, sales-wise. Plus Batman’s always been a popular enough character to warrant multiple books, out-of-continuity digital stories and countless Elseworlds tales back when DC was regularly publishing them. If the market can support Batman Incorporated, Batman & Robin and even Batman: Death by Design, why not Batman: Earth One? Besides, he has a new movie coming out later this month.
So putting aside the question of whether we need another Batman graphic novel, much less another take on the origin story, how does this one stack up? Tom gave his review on Thursday, and here are a few more opinions from around the web for your consideration:
Admittedly, it’s harder to get Superman right — that is, it’s easier to craft a satisfying Batman story than it is to tackle the Man of Steel. On top of that, the creative team of Batman Earth One is the well-oiled combination of writer Geoff Johns and penciler Gary Frank, who proved fairly effective on (yes) a series of Superman stories a few years back — not like the first-time teaming of J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis on Superman: Earth One.
Therefore, I had higher expectations for Batman: Earth One, because Johns and Frank (with inker Jonathan Sibal and colorist Brad Anderson) had the wind at their backs. In fact, that tailwind helped them craft a satisfying standalone introduction. Batman: Earth One takes full advantage of the graphic-novel format, mixing bits of the Darknight Detective’s history with a few new wrinkles to make a distinctive, cohesive whole that rises above its various high concepts. The worst thing I can say is that all the references reminded me superficially — and only superficially — of Johns’ fan-serving Justice Society episode of Smallville. Still, even if BME1 were just a TV pilot, I’d be pretty excited for the series.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, of course:
Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]
Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]
Creators | Alex Zalben talks to James Robinson about his rebooted version of DC Comics’ Justice Society in Earth 2, and the process of creating a world of one’s own: “It always starts with certain plot points that immediately come to you, and you always want those moments to happen at some point, and you work towards them. There are some characters that come to you almost fully formed in your mind, and those are you anchors. And same with the world, there are some aspects of the world that you say, this is what I want to do, here or there, or there. They’re the anchors, and you slowly begin to add the other pieces so it links, and forms, and becomes a whole tapestry.” [MTV Geek]
Creators | Geoff Johns talks about the new, more nuanced version of Billy Batson that he and artist Gary Frank are creating in the Shazam back-up stories in Justice League: “Billy is trouble, but trouble in a way that I think we’ll find understandable, relatable and fun. He has a heart, a big one, but he also has a protective shell around it. He’s mischievous, independent and strong. He’s conflicted, tough and sad. And many other things. For us, Billy had to be as complex and as interesting as his alter ego.” [Hero Complex]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Beth Scorzato, managing editor of the excellent comics news and commentary site Spandexless.
To see what Beth and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
DC Comics kicked off their New 52 reboot last August with Justice League #1, putting two superstar creators–who also happen to be members of the company’s management team–on their flagship team title.
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee told a six-issue story about how this new version of the League came together to fight Darkseid and an invasion from Apokolips a few years back. That story ended a month ago, and this month brings a new chapter and a guest artist to the comic, as Johns teams with Gene Ha for a story that gives longtime Wonder Woman supporting character Steve Trevor a role with the League. Also of note in this issue is the beginning of a back-up tale featuring the New 52 debut of Shazam!
So what do folks think about the League’s jump to the present day? And what about the Billy Batson back-up? Here’s a round-up of what a few people thought …
“The Villain’s Journey, Prologue”:
Greg McElhatton, Comic Book Resources: “With Justice League #7, Geoff Johns and guest artist Gene Ha jump the series forward to the present day and I’m sure most readers will be saying, ‘It’s about time.’ Reading this comic, I can understand why and it makes me wish we’d started at this point all along. Thanks to a lack of ‘this is how they all met,’ we end up with a much zippier pace. A threat raises its head, the Justice League shows up and quickly defeats it. Each plot point is hit quickly and effectively and then the story moves forward. Johns also shows us how the different members are getting along with one another and longtime Wonder Woman supporting character Steve Trevor is given a larger role as well. As the new addition to the line-up, Cyborg’s position within the League is well-defined, in some ways taking the spot that Oracle had in Grant Morrison’s JLA. It makes more sense to have him on the team now, and it’s nice to see him working out without either dominating or fading into the background of the comic.”