Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Archie: The Married Life Book Six (Archie Comics): This is a phone book-sized collection of the final seven issues of Life With Archie, the series set in a possible future where Archie is married to Betty … and Veronica, in two alternate timelines. The narrative jumps between those parallel realities in a way that can be downright confusing when read in such a huge chunk as the collections offer.
While the stories feature the same fairly sprawling cast — and the character designs and are style are, as usual, in perfect harmony no matter whose names are in the credits — there’s more differences between the two timelines than just which girl Archie settled down with. In one timeline, Jughead is dating Ethel; in the other he’s having a baby with Midge. Likewise, Reggie is either a newspaper reporter or a mechanic with a reality show, and Moose is either Riverdale’s mayor or Riverdale High School’s janitor. And so on.
There are a few things both universes share, however, like Kevin Keller having been elected to the U.S. Senate, campaigning on gun control, an issue driven home by a mass shooting in the nearby Southport Mall. And, of course, in the final two issues, the “Death of Archie” and the epilogue that follows, the story is carefully, delicately crafted so that every line and every panel can be read so they’re the conclusions of both storylines, despite all the differences between the two.
Jae Lee’s work on Superman/Batman has simultaneously been among the most unique and divisive of DC Comics’ New 52. After years working on Marvel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, Lee’s return to superhero work has found a balance between iconic and creepy; while his style might seem tailor-made for the likes of Batman and Catwoman, his depiction of Superman has been both haunting and boyish in all the various main- and alternate-universe incarnations.
And now, DC is using those designs as the basis for a line of collectible figures.
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World (DC Comics): The greatest virtue of the Greg Pak-written World’s Finest team-up title is also its main drawback: There’s really great, flat-out gorgeous artwork by Jae Lee … except when their isn’t. Lee draws the lion’s share of the book — about 70 of its 100-plus story pages — and it’s some of the artist’s best comics work; his heroic figures pose through a series of complex layouts, their anatomy and features those of real, if exceptionally beautiful, people, rather than musclebound action figures. The too-busy New 52 costume designs are stripped down to their essentials, the various bits of technology all look like mobile art installations, and Lee’s vision of a Gotham City park is appropriately, if amusingly, dark, twisted and exaggerated.
He might not have been the best possible choice for this particular storyline, which involves two different Batmen, Supermen and Catwomen, given his use of silhouettes and sparse panels, and the cacophony of color-coded narration boxes have to do a little more work than they might otherwise. But it’s jarring to the point of shocking when fill-in artists appear to help Lee, with Ben Oliver-drawn climaxes for the first and last issues/chapters, and an extensive Yildiray Cinar flashback in another issue. There’s also a rather tacked-on origin story of Darkseid and the main villain for the story arc, which appeared in September’s Justice League #23.1, drawn by two more artists.
There’s a lot of new information coming out of Marvel as the publisher preps us for the next major event, even as the current one is just getting its sea legs. But for the moment, I want to talk about the past. This week, the original Marvel Knights Inhumans miniseries returned to the shelves in a super-sexy oversized hardcover, and it’s been a long time coming — not just because it was originally promised in the late 2000s, but because this one series is a milestone not only for the characters but for the company as well.
When this series — written by Paul Jenkins and illustrated by Jae Lee — was released, I was working at my first comic-shop job in the City of Industry, California, and I was pretty much a mainstream X-Men junkie. I’m not saying the issues weren’t any good, but there is a candy coating that went over a lot of ’90s comics: We didn’t ask them to do much besides look pretty and accumulate value, and that’s exactly what they did. At Marvel, Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti were given the opportunity to grab unique creators and kind of make the Marvel Knights imprint their own. That obviously started with the incredible reinvention of Daredevil, Christopher Priest’s amazing work on Black Panther, and the Punisher series no one likes to talk about. All of those titles challenged the reader to think differently about well-known characters, and put a more “adult” spin on them than you’d find in your average Marvel title. The artwork was phenomenal; Lee was in almost a transitional state between the hyper-stylized work we’d seen in Namor the Sub-Mariner in the early ’90s to what he does now. But I don’t think it was the art that really drew me into the Inhumans series; it was the simple fact that I was invited in.
As Stan Lee sayings go, “Every comic book is someone’s first” isn’t quite as well-known as “With great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s nevertheless one that comics editors and creators should integrate and internalize just as thoroughly. It’s probably much less true today, now that comics are sold primarily through specialty shops (and, increasingly, online) instead of on newsstands and spinner racks, than whenever Lee first said it.
But regardless of whether Executive Assistant Assassins #13, Fearless Defenders #7 or Tarot Witch of the Black Rose #81 — to pick three titles from this week’s shipping list — will actually be anyone’s first comic book, as long as publishers continue to sell comics as serialized stories, then the thought that one of those could be someone’s introduction is a pretty good guiding principle for creating those comics.
With that in mind, this week I read a handful of second issues of some prominent new books from the biggest players in the direct market, with an eye toward how friendly the material might be toward a new reader starting the series — or comics in general — with that issue.
Business | Following weeks (if not months) of rumblings, Warner Bros. has made it official: Jeff Robinov, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group president who oversaw the 2009 restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment, will leave the studio following a reorganization that establishes a new leadership team: Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema. It doesn’t appear as if Robinov will be replaced. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, who initially reported Robinov, presumably will answer directly to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; following a shakeup last month in the television and home entertainment division, Nelson reported to both Robinov and Tsujihara. [The Hollywood Reporter]
With just three weeks until Marvel Knights Animation’s Inhumans motion comic arrives on DVD, Shout! Factory has released a trailer for the adaptation of the 1998-99 series by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee.
It’s the eighth title produced by Shout! Factory since 2009, joining the likes of Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., Iron Man: Extremis, Black Panther and, most recently, Astonishing X-Men: Unstoppable.
Debuting in November 1998, the Eisner Award-winning series follows the race of genetic outsiders as Black Bolt and the rest of the Royal Family attempt to repel attacks on their island kingdom of Attilan from without and within.
Available beginning April 23 for $14.97, the Inhumans DVD includes “A Look Back at The Inhumans” with Jenkins, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and Supervising Producer Kalia Cheng.
It will be the eighth title produced by Shout! Factory since 2009, joining the likes of Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., Iron Man: Extremis, Black Panther and, most recently, Astonishing X-Men: Unstoppable. The Inhumans DVD will be available beginning April 23 for $14.97.
Debuting in November 1998, the Eisner Award-winning series follows the race of genetic outsiders as Black Bolt and the rest of the Royal Family attempt to repel attacks on their island kingdom of Attilan from without and within. Inhumans ran for just 12 issues.
While a 15-year-old series — rather than, say, something from the Avengers or Iron Man stables — may seem an unusual choice to receive the motion-comic treatment, it’s probably worth noting that Marvel Studios is gearing up for Phase Three of its cinematic universe, one that will include some of the company’s more offbeat properties, like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange. An Inhumans movie was confirmed in October 2011 as part of the studio’s agenda, and the third phase that begins in 2015 seems as likely a home for the project as any.
See the official synopsis for Marvel Knights Animation’s Inhumans below:
Adding to such recent revivals as Strange Adventures, Ghosts and Young Romance, Vertigo will publish the science-fiction anthology Time Warp #1 in March. Although the announcement at MTV Geek doesn’t specify that the title is a one-shot, all of the previous ones have been.
The issue will feature stories by the likes of Damon Lindelof, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham, Dan Abnett, Peter Milligan, Ray Fawkes, Simon Spurrier, Gail Simone, Rafael Albuquerque and Tom Fowler, with covers by Eduardo Risso (in full below) and Jae Lee.
Time Warp doesn’t have quite the august history that such titles as Young Romance and Strange Adventures have: Debuting in 1979 amid the renewed popularity of science fiction, and in the wake of the DC Implosion, the anthology lasted just five issues. However, it featured an impressive lineup of talent, including Steve Ditko, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, Paul Levitz, Gil Kane, Arnold Drake and Denny O’Neil.
While fans and retailers at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo were given a first glimpse at interior art for DC Comics’ sprawling Watchmen prequels, BuzzFeed now provides the best look yet at pages and character designs from Before Watchmen in the form of photos of a binder at the DC offices. Among the images are interiors from Rorschach, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Silk Spectre, by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, Ozymandius, by Len Wein and Jae Lee, and Curse of the Crimson Corsair, by Wein and John Higgins. There are also character designs by Bermejo, Conner, Cooke, Higgins, Andy and Joe Kubert, and Lee.
Before Watchmen debuts in June.
DC Comics has updated its New Frontiersman promotional website with a first, albeit small, look at interior artwork from Before Watchmen, the sprawling prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The portfolio, featuring art by the likes of Lee Bermejo, Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Adam Hughes, J.G. Jones and Jae Lee, was shown Thursday at the Diamond Retailer Summit and Saturday at the “DC All Access: Before Watchmen” panel at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
As DC Comics’ Before Watchmen announcement rolls out from multiple news and entertainment outlets, so too do our first looks at covers for all seven prequels to the groundbreaking 1986 miniseries.
Okay, almost seven, as USA Today has only offered a detail of one of Lee Bermejo’s covers for Rorschach (at right), his four-issue miniseries with Luthor and Joker collaborator Brian Azzarello. To make up for it, though, there’s a cover by original Watchmen colorist John Higgins for a Crimson Corsair story by he and original Watchmen editor Len Wein.
We also have a Dr. Manhattan cover by Adam Hughes (courtesy of CBR), Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke (Hero Complex), Nite Owl by Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert (Heat Vision), Ozymandias by Jae Lee (Underwire), and Silk Spectre by Amanda Conner (Entertainment Weekly). UPDATE: Now, thanks to The New York Times, we also have one of J.G. Jones’ Comedian covers.
Check out the covers below. We’ll update if more, and in some cases larger, images become available.
UPDATE: DC Comics has released hi-res versions of each of the covers, which we’ve added below.