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.
… Specifically, thank goodness this is the last batch of solicitations before the New-52 lineup. As with the previous two sets of solicits, these exist partly to advertise November’s books, but also to keep consumers excited about September’s. Paradoxically, however, that means I can’t really get excited about them until September’s books arrive, and with them some real context.
As always, though, there are more things in the solicits than the New-52, so at least we can discuss some things substantively.
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This is our fourth summer in Memphis, but we hadn’t taken the Graceland tour until this weekend. It helped that twenty-odd relatives came into town for a big reunion, and one of them had been jonesing especially hard for an Elvis fix.
As for me, not so much. I have always been curious about the King, mostly as an historical figure; and as my musical tastes have developed, I’ve learned to appreciate the profound effect his life had on the culture at large. Many years ago I read Peter Guralnick’s exhaustive two-volume biography, and I have a couple of greatest-hits CDs and the “Aloha From Hawaii” concert. (I was, however, somewhat disappointed not to hear Captain Marvel’s costume and/or Captain Marvel Jr. mentioned in the tour’s discussions of Elvis’ infamous caped jumpsuits.)
Following their announcement that they were starting everything over and relaunching all their titles with new first issues this fall, DC Comics today announced the creative teams for ten of the titles.
And while Tom may have other thoughts on his mind this week, here are some of my quick thoughts on those announcements:
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman: Now all we need to know is whether she’s forming a rock band or not … but seriously, art wise, in my eyes, perfect choice. I’m a huge fan of Chiang’s, so I was just hoping we’d see him on any regular title. And Wonder Woman seems like a great fit. Azzarello, meanwhile, probably isn’t the first name I would have thought of when thinking about Wonder Woman, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Of the creative teams revealed so far, this is probably becoming my favorite, or is at least tied with …
Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar on Firestorm: Back at WonderCon in 2010, Simone and Van Sciver teased that they were working together on something. Could they have been talking about Firestorm? Maybe; Simone also said on Twitter that she and Van Sciver have another as-yet-unannounced project they’re working on, so it could have been something else. I like the fact that Van Sciver is co-writing the book (rather than drawing it), and it’s getting a bit of a reboot. “Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are two high school students, worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control.” So you have two writers with very different worldviews writing a character composed of two other characters with wildly different worldviews. That’s actually pretty cool. Yildiray Cinar, meanwhile, has been killing it on Legion, so he’s a plus to a team I was already liking.