Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
As the fall premieres of DC’s various superhero television series tick closer, the updates dive deeper into comics lore. I certainly wasn’t expecting a “Flash of Two Worlds” homage (eee!) to be part of the marketing, nor did I think Matt Ryan’s John Constantine would himself cross over to Arrow. Otherwise, Arrow is teasing Oliver’s mayoral run; The Flash has cast Wally West; Supergirl promises Red Tornado and General Zod; and Legends of Tomorrow may take its tone from Justice League International.
However, for me the most intriguing news is the impending arrival of Hawkman. I’m curious about how Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Geoff Johns, et al., will try to make him appealing (or at least watchable) for the broader TV audience. I say that a bit skeptically, because Hawkman has never really done much for me.
Concluding this week, DC Comics’ Convergence put the big in “big event”: There were 89 individual comic books – a nine-issue weekly miniseries and 40 two-part miniseries – created by more than 75 writers and pencilers, plus a comparable legion of inkers, colorists and letterers.
Because of the sheer size, it’s difficult to review the event in its entirety, so I’m not going to bother picking it part here. The main series wasn’t particularly good, while the 40 tie-in series varied from terrible to excellent, with most of them falling somewhere in between.
In case you’ve watched this leviathan of a superhero event passing by without reading much – or any – of it, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some of those excellent books, the ones that you should read if you decide to pick up any of Convergence, regardless of your interest in, or affection for, particular characters.
With rumors circulating about cameos by the Flash, Aquaman and even Martian Manhunter in the Man of Steel sequel, it’s likely only a matter of time before Warner Bros. gets around to everyone’s favorite Thanagarian (and/or reincarnated Egyptian prince). If studio executives have any doubts, Good Mythical Morning presents an argument for why Hawkman deserves to headline his own movie that, if I’m understanding it right, would be pitched as “Any Which Way But Loose meets Fly Away Home meets Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
There’s also a trailer which, to be fair, features a costume only slightly worse than the one Hawkman wore on Smallville.
The Forever Evil and “Gothtopia” crossovers don’t exactly dominate DC Comics’ January solicitations, but compared to the more mundane goings-on in the other series, they tend to stand out. For that matter, Forever Evil doesn’t sound like it’s promising much more than a lot of clenched jaws, dark humor and grim spectacle.
Still, if it has to happen sometime, it might as well be in January. I don’t mind January so much; it’s the darkest month of the year, but after a hectic holiday season it’s a chance to catch one’s breath. Going back to work after New Year’s Day and realizing there’s not much more to do but look forward to spring is like waking up at the crack of dawn and surveying a wide, flat, featureless plain — gray from the winter cold and just barely lit by the first rays of the distant sun — and realizing that if you’re going to make it across that plain, you’d better start walking.
Sometimes you just have to get through January, is what I’m saying — but sometimes getting through it isn’t so bad.
Whew! How was that for an intro? Weren’t we talking about comics?
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The big new Justice League of America #1 is kind of a mess. It asks a lot of its readers without delivering much right away.
This is something of a mixed result where JLA writer Geoff Johns is concerned. He tends to start well, at least for me. I liked his first issues of Blackest Night and Flashpoint, the introductory volume of Batman Earth One, and his recent work on Green Lantern Simon Baz and the just-concluded “Throne of Atlantis” storyline. However, JLA #1 (drawn by David Finch) either takes a fairly counterintuitive approach to its own premise, or is playing some sort of long game which isn’t readily apparent, and (again) doesn’t quite flow from the book’s Justice League lead-in. More successful is (Justice League of America’s) Vibe #1 (written by Johns and Andrew Kreisberg, pencilled by Pete Woods, and inked by Sean Parsons), which grounds its hero so solidly in League lore it almost overshadows its fellow spinoff.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for JLA #1, Vibe #1, and the conclusion of “Throne of Atlantis” in Justice League #17.
According to recent convention scuttlebutt, DC Comics is apparently canceling its latest Hawkman series, the New 52-launched Savage Hawkman, perhaps as early as May’s Issue 20.
That is not the least bit surprising, really, given the publisher’s historical difficulty in keeping readers interested in Hawkman, and given the way in which the title and the character were served by the line-wide reboot and the accompanying creative-team chaos. It’s too bad, though, given how easily DC could have simply published the sort of Hawkman title the 21st-century super-comic audience would support, rather than The Savage Hawkman.
The series launched in September 2011 along with the other 51 new series comprising DC’s New 52 initiative, featuring a rebooted continuity for the then 71-year-old hero and a redesigned costume featuring more armor and pointed edges (most notably a set of Wolverine-like claws frequently waved in the direction of the reader on the covers). The creative team consisted of artist-turned-writer/artist Tony S. Daniel, who was just handling the writing, and Philip Tan, who was providing the art.
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).
When Joe Kubert passed away in August, he left a sizable hole in the world of comics, by virtue of his lifelong career in the field, his fairly unique role as one of the medium’s first and most influential teachers, and his immense talent.
At the time of his death, many of the obituaries and remembrances mentioned he was still drawing comics at his advanced age, and that, in fact, he had projects on his drawing board.
I suspect a lot of people will be contemplating Kubert’s work this week, and mourning his loss, as Wednesday the major publisher with which he was most associated throughout his career released some of his latest and, sadly, last work, giving readers to chance to see some of that stuff of that was on his drawing board when he passed away: an eerie, unfinished story for a Vertigo anthology and the first issue of a new limited series bearing Kubert’s name.
The Vertigo anthology is Ghosts, and Kubert’s piece is “The Boy and the Old Man;” it’s about a brave old warrior on his figurative deathbed, lying there awaiting his end, and, ultimately, vigorously fighting against it when it arrives, in order to save a young man.
Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.
In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them? Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.
Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!
July’s a great time to anticipate October: football; temperatures on the brisk side; the crisp smell of falling leaves; the cold rains that somehow aren’t depressing. I also like that DC Comics seems to be settling into its own seasonal patterns, using the fall to set up a slew of new creative teams and launch big new storylines. Having all those #13 issues in the run-up to Halloween doesn’t hurt either.
Of course, now we get to judge them all harshly, based on a few sentences and a photo for each….
COMINGS AND GOINGS
John Layman and Jay Fabok come aboard Detective Comics, replacing Tony Daniel. Daniel leaves regular Bat-work after several years writing and penciling in various combinations. I was never really enthralled with his writing, which seemed content mostly to approximate what a Batman story should be; but if Detective’s sales are any indication, I am in the minority. Daniel moves over to Justice League for two issues, so that likely eases the pain.
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DC Comics celebrated America’s birthday today by announcing Joe Kubert Presents, a “far-ranging collection of stories from comics legend Joe Kubert.” The first issue of the six-issue anthology arrives on Halloween.
The 48-page first issue will feature a “Hawkman” story written and drawn by Kubert, as well as an “Angel and the Ape” story by Brian Buniak and a new “U.S.S. Stevens” tale by Sam Glanzman.
The story of DC Comics’ house art style during the superhero genre’s “Silver Age”, from about 1955 to ’68, is often repeated, and with good reason: it’s the most compelling explanation for why the company, until then always the top publisher of action comics, surrendered their dominance to Marvel, which has held onto the number one spot ever since. During the mid-’50s, in the wake of government censorship trials that effectively destroyed EC, the publisher of the most aesthetically advanced material the comic book format had yet seen, DC came to the fore with a visual identity crafted by future company art director Carmine Infantino: sleek and economical, with long, distended panel shapes, cookie-cutter settings that shifted almost imperceptibly from Swedish-modern suburban to futuristic, and an approach to portraying action that, perhaps in response to the recent outcry against excessively violent comics, emphasized grace and fluidity of motion over bone-shuddering impact. It was a style tailor-made for success in the socially conservative Space Age, and as the comics industry went comatose following its near-death experience, DC’s resurgent superhero comics provided one of a very few aesthetic and commercial bright spots.
I was going to open with some snotty Wow, the holidays went by super-quickly! comment, but then I read the first issue of Justice League in seven weeks. Sometimes DC gets ahead of itself; sometimes it’s a little behind. Happens to the best of us — sometimes you do two solicitation roundups in three weeks….
Anyway, with the January solicitations, the New-52 books each turn five issues old. Series wrapping up their first arcs this month include Blackhawks, Batwoman, Animal Man, and the Deadman feature in DC Universe Presents. (Not to worry about the latter, because there is a lot of Deadman in these solicits.) I’m not sure why five issues is such a wonky number for story arcs — there are five-issue miniseries all the time and they collect just fine. Still, I expected most of the New-52 books to take six issues for their introductory stories, and most of them may yet do that. Only a few books look to finish their first arcs after December’s issue #4s (Hawkman and Frankenstein, probably OMAC, maybe Batgirl), and those plus this month’s are barely an eighth of the relaunched line. It makes next month’s solicits more intriguing, I suppose.
Regardless, we live in the now (as it were…) so — onward to January!
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So here we are, the last week of the New 52 rollout, and I must say it’s been a fascinating — sometimes exhausting — ride. It’ll be good to get back to more normal posting next week, but I have enjoyed these marathon stream-of-consciousness reviews. Although DC has said over and over that these books are all part of the same revised universe, there are so many different styles and approaches on display (The early ‘90s! The mid- to late ‘90s!) that the line seems a lot more heterogeneous than it did five weeks ago.
Moreover, the realization that these books are the new status quo is only now starting to sink in. Overall it’s a good feeling, but bittersweet too. After all, I had 25 years to get used to the last line-wide revampings.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, as always.
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.