REVIEW: "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Makes the Future of DC Comics Look Genuinely Bright
Manga | Huge news for manga fans this weekend: Yen Press has picked up the license for Fruits Basket, one of the top-selling shoujo (girls) manga of all time. The story of Tohru Honda, a teenage orphan who becomes involved with a large family that suffers from an ancient curse, Fruits Basket was originally published in North America by Tokyopop and arguably helped create the manga boom of the mid-2000s. The series often made the USA Today bestseller charts, and together with Sailor Moon, it brought girls and women into the comics world in large numbers for the first time in decades. Also, it’s a cracking good read. Yen Press will publish it in deluxe two-in-one omnibus format with a new translation. [Anime News Network, Yen Press]
An enormous bat that walked on four limbs stalked the ancient rainforests of New Zealand 16 million years ago, scientists reveal in a finding that at long last grounds Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 in historical fact.
Three times larger than today’s average bat, the mystacina miocenalis is even being referred to as “Batman,” at least by the Daily Mail. (What is it with British newspapers and Batman, anyway?) Paleontologists discovered the fossil remains near Central Otago in sediment from a prehistoric body of water known as Lake Manuherikia, part of a subtropical rainforest.
Three years ago, British musician/DJ/producer Akira the Don performed at the first (and, alas, only) MorrisonCon, and even appeared on a panel with Grant Morrison. Now, it seems, the writer is returning the favor.
This morning, Midnitemen — it’s a collaboration between Akira the Don and Wade Crescent — released the video for its debut single “Killer,” starring none other than Morrison, who does very Morrison-esque things, like glare maniacally.
WB Games will offer a special Serious Edition of the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight video game that comes with a limited-edition 25th anniversary hardcover of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean.
Although the $70 comic bundle, which includes the video game and an in-game skin of Batman as he originally appeared in Detective Comics #27, hasn’t been officially announced, it was spotted on the Amazon.com listing. According to the ad, it will only be available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Although Convergence races on, it’s not DC Comics’ only cosmically minded title. This week brought a couple more takes on everyone’s favorite bit of heavenly housekeeping, as Justice League #40 kicks off “Darkseid War” and The Multiversity #2 concludes Grant Morrison’s meta-epic. Each makes clear connections to Crisis on Infinite Earths (and thus, by extension, to DC’s pre-Crisis output), and each reflects its writer’s philosophy.
However, where one extols the virtues of infinite creative diversity, the other focuses on the cyclical nature of it all. Today we’ll see which issue uses its approach more effectively.
SPOILERS for both issues, of course …
I hope it was by design that DC Comics released both The Multiversity #2 and Justice League #40 on the same day the two-month Convergence event reached its halfway point. However, it’s difficult to identify a plan in the publisher devoting the bulk of its output for the final week of April to three unrelated stories about the Multiverse. DC released 18 comics this week, and, of those, just five had nothing to do with its Multiverse.
If you haven’t been reading any of those titles — and if you haven’t, I’m afraid you’re not going to find this review terribly engaging — here’s a quick reminder of what’s going on in those three stories about the Multiverse:
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, gazes into his crystal ball and predicts some new wrinkles to the convention scene this year, including more sophisticated use of technology: “New innovations such as beacons and near-field communications now enable real-time integration between digital content and the event itself in real time. In English, this means attendees can get instant notifications of nearby items that fit their specific interests, which could help navigate confusing and noisy exhibit halls.” And they could be used for real-time gaming as well. [ICv2]
Winter finally caught up with the Memphis suburbs over the past couple of weeks, bringing nasty bouts with freezing rain and (currently) a little snow. Digging out from under the ice has been more tedious than anything else, but the persistent cold kept us all housebound for a little while. Of course, compared to folks in other parts of the country, we are very lucky.
Still, the mere idea of days at home with nothing else to do made me want to search the DC archives on comiXology for decent binge-reading material. Everything from the New 52 forward is available there, so the following recommendations are for older series. I’ve tried to stay away from the bigger names, and go instead for stories and series which might make the time indoors a little more tolerable. They’re also organized according to Convergence eras, so even if you’re not coping with the cold, you can still look forward to April and May.
Last month when writer Grant Morrison hyped Nameless, his newest Image Comics collaboration with artist Chris Burnham, by name-dropping concepts such as “nihilistic philosophy,” I found myself thinking “Christ on a crutch, that sounds dreadful.” Years ago I made my peace with how to appreciate Morrison. I do not dislike Morrison–I count his Animal Man and Doom Patrol runs among among my top 10 favorite comics series that I have read.
At first glance, The Multiversity: Guidebook #1 — this month’s chapter of Grant Morrison’s grand epic exploring DC Comics’ Multiverse — looks like a somewhat-skippable book, supplemental material of the sort that the publisher used to release under the title Secret Files & Origins.
Everything seems to bear that out, from the content advertised on the cover (like the already well-traveled map of the Multiverse) to the artists involved (Marcus To and Paulo Siqueira are good, but not of the same superstar status as previous Multiversity artists) to the particular Earths the cover boys come from (the Batman on the left is from Morrison’s new version of the world of The Atomic Knights; the Batman on the right is an off-model drawing of the character from an Earth introduced in Morrison’s brief Action Comics run).
Second and third glances confirm that initial assessment of this book’s importance. On flip-through, you’ll note that about half of its 70 pages are devoted to illustrated prose in an airy, space-filling format, defining each of the 52 Earths and identifying a few of the key players.
But once you start reading the thing? Well, on a purely conceptual level, as a piece of comics writing and a piece of comics writing about comics, it’s probably the most ambitious, important and fascinating chapter of The Multiversity to date. And that’s in addition to being an extremely timely reminder of how to “read” DC’s continuity-realigning storyines and just what, exactly, it is that makes DC Comics and the DC Universe so special in the first place.
The marquee installment of The Multiversity may have been last month’s Pax Americana, but I was especially excited to see what writer Grant Morrison and artist Cameron Stewart (with colorist Nathan Fairbairn) would do with the Captain Marvel Family in this week’s Thunderworld. I was not disappointed. The Marvels have long been a sort of unicorn for DC’s superhero line, personifying both its potential and its abuse, and even its history (acquired as they were after the demise of Fawcett Comics). However, many modern takes on Cap and company often elicit negative comparisons to the character’s previous treatment. These boil down to some form of “why can’t it be like the old days?” (which, after all, is a common enough DC complaint).
Conventions | With the 20th Small Press Expo kicking off Saturday in Bethesda, Maryland, The Washington Post’s Lori McCue singles out three of the show’s biggest draws: appearances by Jules Feiffer, Lynda Barry and Bob Mankoff. Meanwhile, Michael Cavna spotlights Fear, My Dear, the new release from convention guest Dean Haspiel. [The Washington Post]
Creators | As he prepared to head out to Small Press Expo, Farel Dalrymple paused for an audio interview about his newest book, The Wrenchies, which will debut at the show. [Comics Grinder]
Creators | Writer Tom Taylor teases what we can expect in his new Superior Iron Man series. [Previews World]
Retailing | Books-A-Million had a good second quarter, and CEO Terry Finley gives at least part of the credit to graphic novels: “We also saw strong growth in the graphic novel category, with continued success with titles related to AMC’s The Walking Dead series and a renewed interest in several manga series [that] drove sales increases.” And to boost that, the retail chain, which operates more than 250 stores nationwide, is planning Marvel promotions throughout September. [ICv2]
Conventions | Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder Dan Farr is trying to measure how much money attendees are spending. In terms of hotel beds, at least, the convention seems to be dwarfed by trade shows, but with people coming to Salt Lake City from 48 states for the recent spinoff event FanXperience, that may be changing. Still, even in San Diego, attendees spend only about $600 per person; if Salt Lake attendees are similarly thrifty, the convention may not be a significant player in the Salt Lake City convention scene. [The Salt Lake Tribune]
Let’s get this out of the way: The first issue of The Multiversity is one of the craziest main-line superhero comics I’ve read in a long time. It’s self-referential. It attempts to engage the reader directly. It leaps around various parallel worlds in great flurries of color, off-kilter captions, and shouty dialogue. It’s apparently also a pretty-direct sequel to Final Crisis, writer Grant Morrison’s 2008-09 big-event miniseries, which — not that it matters much — took place under a different set of cosmological rules.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the interaction between those rules and the need to reference a potentially “invalid” story. Some readers may be frustrated (not unreasonably) by such interactions, and so far The Multiversity isn’t making things easier.
Again, though, consistency across continuity reboots is beside the point. Indeed, with a giant one-eyed bat-thing intoning “WE WANT 2 MAKE YU LIKE US,” consistency itself appears to be one of The Multiversity’s main villains. Change the emphasis slightly and the plot becomes more insidious. “We want to make you like us” — i.e., happy to exist in a state of “anti-death,” an everlasting “moment of ruin.” The imagery isn’t very subtle, and commentators have already compared the Gentry’s members to DC and other big comics publishers. For that matter, Morrison and artist Cameron Stewart made the globular, monocular corporate mascot Mickey Eye the symbol for all that was wrong in the superhero world of Seaguy. (Coincidentally, that hero also had a funny-animal sidekick.)
My review could end up being in the form of a cop-out, but saying that readers get out of Multiversity what they put into it might actually be the point of the series. As a superhero comic, The Multiversity #1 is perfectly decent. Penciler Ivan Reis, inker Joe Prado, colorist Nei Ruffino and letterer Todd Klein present it in an attractive package. (The fact that Reis is the current Justice League penciler probably has its own metatextual significance, given the subject matter.) However, just as the Multiverse is a framework for various parallel realities, so The Multiversity #1 provides a framework for engaging with those realities — and that’s a little harder to quantify.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, assuming plot still matters for this sort of thing.
Comics | Writing for The Advocate, Jase Peeples takes note of the diversity of DC Comics’ extended Batman family — from Batwoman to Batwing to Barbara Gordon’s roommate Alysia Yeoh — and talks with writers Gail Simone, Grant Morrison, Marc Andreyko, Tom Taylor and Chip Kidd. “I would like to think that people can pick up books like Batman Incorporated or The Multiversity and see their own lives reflected,” Morrison says. “But I’d always caveat that with the need for us to see more diverse writers and artists, because that’s when I think the walls will really come down. As a straight [white guy from Scotland] I can only do so much, and I find even sometimes when you do this, you do get accused of tokenism or pandering. I don’t mind it. I can put up with that, but I’d rather see a genuine spread of writers and artists creating this material.” [Advocate.com]