REVIEW: "DC Universe: Rebirth" #1 Makes the Future of DC Comics Look Genuinely Bright
Some months the solicitations don’t inspire much in the way of analysis. The superhero serials just sort of chug along, and maybe there’ll be an unusual creative team or an idiosyncratic collection to enliven things. Not so with DC’s October solicitations, which include a number of new series, storylines, and creative changes.
This next bit will sound conspiratorial, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable supposition. I believe — or at least I would not be surprised to learn — that all these debuts and changes are starting in October because that will give them at least six issues to resolve themselves before the big springtime move to the West Coast. For example, six issues is pretty much the minimum for a collection, so if any of the new series just drop immediately into the sales cellar (I’m looking at you, Klarion; say hi to GI Zombie), DC can still have enough for a trade paperback. That’s not to say a reboot is inevitable next spring — notwithstanding one panel in Robin Rising that should jump-start such talk — but I could see a good bit of the superhero line taking a potential victory lap over the fall and winter. (Apparently I am not alone in thinking this.)
Of the three weekly series DC Comics is releasing this year, Futures End is arguably the most “important.” It spans the entire superhero line, bridges the gap between Forever Evil and 2015’s Big Event, and promises to change the New 52 irrevocably.
None of that apparently is deemed sufficient to attract new readers, because Futures End’s preview issue kicks off with 20 pages of your favorite characters either turned into, or slaughtered by, giant killer spider-bots.
To be fair, maybe the folks behind FE wanted to attract those readers already interested in a certain other let’s-prevent-the-robot-holocaust storyline from their crosstown rivals. But it’s not just X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Terminator or even Star Trek: First Contact (where you can hear the Borg Queen gloat “Watch your future’s end”) that Futures End echoes. Just off the top of my head, evil and/or assimilated versions of our heroes appeared in Final Crisis (remember Wonder Woman’s Female Furies?), in the Swamp Thing/Animal Man crossover “Rotworld” — which, by the way, I seem to be alone in liking — and in Flashpoint’s dog-eat-dog timeline. A future ruled by OMACs was also part of the Justice League: Generation Lost miniseries. Back in the day, “changing the bad future” was the plot of 1991’s summer crossover Armageddon 2001 and the unrelated JLA arc “Rock of Ages,” and 1992’s Eclipso: The Darkness Within featured “heroes turned bad.”
When DC Comics relaunched its superhero titles in 2011 with the New 52, one of the effects was the integration of characters from the former Wildstorm imprint into the DC Universe. Those Wildstorm heroes had a good showing in Flashpoint and in the New 52’s debut titles, but by way of attrition, their presence soon dwindled.
After already seeing series like Voodoo, Grifter,Team 7 and the Wildstorm-esque Ravagers canceled, today we learned that Stormwatch will end in April with Issue 30. It gives a little bit of time for recently hired series writer Jim Starlin to wrap up, but its cancellation is another bad sign for fans of Wildstorm.
[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]
As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.
Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.
The Twitter tirade unleashed by Rob Liefeld last week when he announced his abrupt departure from three DC Comics titles boiled over this weekend as the outspoken creator took aim at Batman writer Scott Snyder and Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort.
On Wednesday Liefeld, who had been writing and penciling Deathstroke and plotting Grifter and The Savage Hawkman, criticized DC for what he described as ‘massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything” and “editor pissing contests,” singling out Associate Editor Brian Smith as “a little bitch” and “a big dick.”
Snyder, among other creators, came to Smith’s defense on Twitter, writing that, “from my small experience with him, [Smith] has been a great guy to work with. To be fair, I know absolutely nothing of what went on on Rob’s books (Rob has always been really supportive of me and Jeff and others). But I’d feel bad, having worked with Smitty on N.O.T.O. [“Night of the Owls”] and now Joker, […] if I didn’t say that he’s been a stand-up guy to deal with. Again, nothing against anyone, just deal w/Smitty every week now, and I’d feel bad not saying.”
About that time Liefeld tweeted to his followers, “It’s not you. It never has been. It’s Batman.” That apparently triggered a direct-message exchange with Snyder that Liefeld later made public, first by copying the writer’s private comment, “I can assure you Batman doesn’t sell the way it does because it’s Batman. It sells that way because of me and Greg [Capullo],” and then by posting screencaps (below).
Rob Liefeld, who teased last month on the heels of Grant Morrison that he too would be leaving DC Comics soon, announced his abrupt departure this morning with a flurry of tweets criticizing his editors and the handling of the New 52. Although he’s listed in the solicitations for Deathstroke, Grifter and The Savage Hawkman through November, the writer/artist states that next month’s zero issues will be his last.
“Officially got off the DC52 treadmill this morning,” he wrote, adding, “I believe in what DC is doing, but had to preserve my sanity. I walked off all 3 books. Can’t wait to see any attempts to spin. I have every email.”
Liefeld was among the original creators when DC launched the New 52 a year ago, penciling and later also writing Hawk & Dove before moving in May to Deathstroke (writing and penciling), The Savage Hawkman and Grifter (plotting both).
“This is the 4th time I quit in the last 4 months. This time it will stick,” he wrote from a theater, where he was watching The Expendables 2. “Never thought the Image section of my book would be topped. This last year was a humdinger. The DC52 chapters will go top all of it. […] Reasons are the same as everyone’s that you hear. I lasted a few months longer than I thought possible. Massive indecision, last minute and I mean LAST minute changes that alter everything. Editor pissing contests… No thxnjs. Last week my editor said ‘early on we had a lot of indie talent that weren’t used to re-writes and changes … made it hard.’ Uh, no, it’s you.”
Liefeld is only the latest creator to exit DC’s New 52 titles amid complaints of a relaunch plagued behind the scenes by disorganization and indecision. Notably, George Perez expressed his frustration over the repeated rewrites and lack of creative freedom that he contends led to his run on Superman being cut short.
“Don’t look for any tell all interview with me,” Liefeld added. “Just follow this feed. … the best stuff has not been shared — not even close!”
“The Hipsters don’t know what to do when I draw feet. It confuses them.”
– Rob Liefeld, following the release of DC Comics’ solicitations for July, which include his covers for
The Savage Hawkman #11, Deathstroke #11, and Grifter #11. Characters’ feet are visible in all three images.
At first I wasn’t especially excited about too much in DC’s February solicitations. However, the more I looked around, the more optimistic I became. Six months into the New 52, some connections are starting to gel, and their interactions (well, as far as what you can glean from the ad copy) seem more organic. As always, there were a few pleasant surprises in the collected editions, and some details from which to spin hopeful speculation.
But enough with the purple prose — let’s hit the books!
TO UNLIMITED AND BEYOND
The gee-whizziest news of the February solicitations has to be the digital-first format of Batman Beyond Unlimited. I have not been the quickest to adapt to digitally-conveyed comics, mostly because my personal technology level hasn’t caught up. However, I do read a number of webcomics, as well as newspaper strips online, and if the price were right, I’d gladly sample BBU’s features on my computer before picking up the print version. Having Dustin Nguyen and (yay!) Norm Breyfogle involved doesn’t hurt either.
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Publishing | IDW’s Chief Operating Officer Greg Goldstein attributes a bump in the company’s September sales to several factors, including DC’s big relaunch: “The reality is the DC New 52 brought some people into comic book stores that hadn’t been in comic stores for a while, and we had the opportunity to sell them some of our books as well as the other books that are available to them. But clearly, people who had not been focused on comics came out of the woodwork a bit.” It didn’t hurt that IDW had its own launches of properties familiar to those outside of comics, including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, an ongoing Star Trek series and the Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover. [ICv2]
Legal | A Belgian judicial adviser has recommended that the nation’s courts reject a four-year-old bid by a Congolese student to have Herge’s 1931 Tintin in the Congo banned, or at least restricted, because of its racist depictions. The recommendation is being viewed as a major setback for the case, as the opinion of the Procureur du Roi (Senior Crown prosecutor) is requested and typically followed by the court. [The Guardian]
This week, I count at least five New-52 books picking up pretty much where they left off. Chief among these are Green Lantern and Red Lanterns; followed by Batwoman, which was supposed to come out months ago. Batman and Robin keeps its previously-announced regular creative team, and Legion Lost spins out of the pre-existing Legion of Super-Heroes. Overall I thought this week was pretty strong, but there were a few clunkers, including at least one book which really disappointed.
Just think — after this week, we’re more than halfway done…!
SPOILERS FOLLOW, but not too many.
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• At Comic Book Resources, Kiel Phegley checks in with direct market retailers after the first full week of the DC relaunch.
• USA Today previews Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1, which kicks off the “War of the Monsters” story arc. “It’s basically Frankenstein and these classic Universal monsters against as many other monsters as I could throw at my poor artist [Alberto Ponticelli],” writer Jeff Lemire says. “Literally, I had pages where he was drawing thousands of monsters. It’s really fun and big and over the top and a lot of black humor as the team gets to know each other and interact, and the readers get to know them, as well.”
• TV Guide previews Suicide Squad #1, written by Supernatural co-executive producer Adam Glass, who details his take on the radically redesigned Harley Quinn: “The thought was, let’s see her operate outside of the Joker, not being obsessed 24/7. One thing that I think gets downplayed with her is how smart she is. This is a woman who is a mastermind in her own right. […] We didn’t lose any of the humor. She’s still funny, she’s still sexy, she’s still a little crazy. This is Harley if she’s moved away from home, her chance to shine on her own.”
• Writer Scott Snyder talks at length with Complex about Swamp Thing, and his approach to Batman: “The way DC approached me about the relaunch was that it was a way to tell any story that you wanted about your favorite character, no holds barred. And the story I wanted to tell was one that was already really rooted in what’s already happened in Batman, but is accessible to anybody that hasn’t been reading Batman. It’s a big epic, ambitious story about Bruce Wayne and the way he thinks of Gotham as his friend and this kind of ancient evil under Gotham that exists, or may exist, that he has somehow overlooked as Batman. So it has to do with the history of the Wayne family and the Grayson family, and there will be big revelations about this enemy from the past, and this enemy is going to bring all the weight of history against the Bat family and try to crush them.”
On the heels of Monday’s Stormwatch teaser, David Macho has unveiled a trailer for Grifter #1, which integrates the Jim Lee-created Wildstorm character into the DC Universe in one of nine titles in “The Edge” group.
Cole Cash is a charming grifter few can resist. And yet he’s about to be branded a serial killer when he begins hunting and exterminating inhuman creatures hidden in human form – creatures only he can see!
Can the biggest sweet talker of all time talk his way out of this one when even his brother thinks he’s gone over the edge?
Written by Nathan Edmondson (Who is Jake Ellis?) and illustrated by CAFU (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents), Grifter #1 premieres on Sept. 14.
Following yesterday’s Twitter-thon of artwork from DC’s “New 52″ titles, several more tweets featuring various pages from various books hit today — including another puzzle by David Macho that revealed the above Grifter art by CAFU.
Follow the hash tag #52splash for more, or check out additional pieces after the jump.