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Fans of the weekly format — like yours truly — had an interesting new comic book day. That’s because all three of DC’s weekly series concluded on Wednesday, and the publisher kicked off its next weekly series with a zero issue.
When it comes to weekly comics, the first and last issues are the most important. Weeklies have a distinct advantage over monthlies, in that readers tend to be more forgiving from issue to issue. Perhaps the art is rough, but we excuse it, because we understand the brutal deadline pressure. Perhaps the story drags and stalls, but because a new issue arrives each week, we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the flaws — and there’s always the hope it will get better with the next installment, which, of course, is just seven days away. But when we reach the final issue, that hope is gone, and readers discover whether their investment in the story— time and money — was worthwhile.
I’m a big fan of weekly comics in general, and DC’s experiments with the format over the past decade in particular. Some of those weeklies have been among the best DC comics I’ve ever read (Wednesday Comics, 52), some have been so bad I checked out after after the first few issues (Countdown, Earth 2: World’s End), and some have fallen in between (I enjoyed Trinity, and have never hated The New 52: Futures End enough to drop it).
Batman Eternal, which published its 50th issue Wednesday, has been a great example of what’s so enjoyable about weekly comics (there’s something for you at the shop every Wednesday, they offer space for a large cast and sprawling story), in addition to providing a good blueprint for future weeklies (co-plotters, a small group of rotating scripters who also serve as consulting writers, and a focus on a single franchise), even while representing the main weakness of the format (without massive amounts of lead time, super-speedy artists or a carefully assembled roster of artists with compatible styles, the books will necessarily feature sub-par, often disjointed artwork that will only read worse in trade).
I’ve actually gotten more and more excited about Batman Eternal the longer it’s run, as there’s been a mystery to the storyline regarding the identity of the villain. On more than one occasion a villain appears who seems to fit the bill, only to be dismissed later, revealing that he’s either working for someone else, or was invited to take part in a conspiracy to destroy Batman and Gotham City by a person unknown to him.
Writers James Tynion IV and Noah J. Yuenkel have teamed with artist Matt Fox for UFOlogy, a six-issue miniseries debuting April 1 from BOOM! Studios. Set in the Midwest, the story centers on two teens, Becky and Malcolm, who uncover a mystery involving aliens that somehow traumatized both of their parents more than a decade ago. To mark the launch of this new series, BOOM! Studios asked artist Alison Sampson to create a Jackpot Variant, which will only be one for every 100 copies of Fox’s main cover.
Sampson shared with ROBOT 6 the creative process behind her cover:
On the heels of its three-project deal with Justin Jordan, BOOM! Studios has announced a new horror miniseries from The Woods writer James Tynion IV and his House in the Wall collaborator Eryk Donovan.
Told in three 48-page issues, each covering a 24-hour period, Memetic follows “the progression of a weaponized meme that leads to the utter annihilation of the human race within 72 hours. The root of this apocalypse is a single image on the internet, a ‘meme’ in the popular sense. A meme that changes everything.”
The meme in question is the hypnotic “Good Times Sloth” (above), which the publisher unleashed last week online. Presumably our world is safe, at least for the time being.
“James Tynion IV is one of the brightest new voices to emerge in recent years, and it’s been a flat-out joy to make a home for his original projects at BOOM!” Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon said in a statement. With Memetic, James and Eryk show us the destructive power of the internet, a terrifying look at how imagery and ideas can shape the behavior of our culture.”
Memetic #1 is scheduled to arrive Oct. 22.
Retailing | While Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection cracked Nielsen BookScan’s Top 20 graphic novels sold in bookstores, making it the first Marvel or DC Comics release since January to do so, the April chart was again dominated by three familiar titles: The Walking Dead, Attack on Titan and Saga, which claimed a combined 13 spots. The horror series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard led the trio with six volumes, followed by Hajime Isayama’s dystopian fantasy with four, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera with three. The 36th volume of Masashi Kishimoto’s hit manga Naruto was No. 1 in April. [ICv2.com]
Events | On the eve of the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival, The Japan Times looks at both the growing presence of manga, and Dork Shelf talks with festival director Christopher Butcher about its Comics vs. Games 3 showcase. Meanwhile, the National Post is running a series of conversations between artists attending TCAF, beginning with Georgia Webber and Seo Kim, and Réal Godbout and Nick Abadzis. You can read more of its festival coverage here. [Toronto Comic Arts Festival]
Although we might reasonably expect a solid dose of black-caped entertainment in each installment of the weekly Batman Eternal, its brain trust has called the first three issues its “pilot episode” — that is, an arc that sets up the premise and introducing key characters and concepts. Therefore, today we’ll take a look at the pilot, plus a few notes on this week’s Issue 4.
Of course, the phrase “pilot episode” comes from television, and Batman Eternal so far feels very much like a TV show. Specifically, it has the feel of a TV show with a season or two under its belt. I say that both because Eternal starts off trading on previous Bat-history and bringing older characters into the New 52 status quo, and because it plunges right into the thick of things, assuming its readers know the basic Batman setup. There are no gratuitous operatic displays of Batman soaring over the skyline, cape billowing in the wind. For that matter, not counting a couple of standard Batman intimidation scenes, and a narrow escape for a returning character (all in Issue 3), the pilot’s big action sequences are confined to the first issue.
What fills out these three issues otherwise is a lot of conversation, devoted mainly to laying out who will be doing what. Cops talk about office and city politics. Batman exposits with Gordon, Alfred and Catwoman. Alfred checks in with the extended Bat-clan.* Reporters discuss the latest big story. Criminals (super and otherwise) plan for what’s coming. To a certain extent this is a function of the overarching plot, and the end of Issue 3 suggests things are going south quickly — but whatever those developments are, Batman Eternal would rather leave them off-screen in favor of people talking about them. To his credit, artist Jason Fabok finds ways to make these discussions visually interesting, mostly by playing with shadows and camera angles. Still, not to spoil Issue 3, but if this were a TV pilot, it’d probably show the carnage and use the dialogue as voice-overs.
That said, Eternal’s first arc is neither dull nor anticlimactic. Overall, the series’ premise is well-suited to its format, and the first three issues are generally successful at establishing that premise. They’re not perfect, but collectively they build to a pretty dire situation that, at this point, seems to justify recruiting all the Bat-people for the better part of a year. Eternal pretty clearly runs with the notion of Gotham City — or, at least, an id-fueled notion of what Gotham should be — “attacking” Batman. Current head Bat-guru Scott Snyder used that to inform the “Court of Owls” storyline. Here, though, that notion on a larger scale allows Eternal to justify its scope and length.
DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint has been releasing one-shot anthologies on a fairly regular basis, using them to dust off old titles like Strange Adventures, The Witching Hour and Mystery in Space, which gives contributors a general theme, and likely helps the publisher maintain trademarks.
Despite once being as common as mutant superheroes are today, anthologies of any kind haven’t been readily embraced in the modern marketplace, and one imagines the ever-increasing costs of comics doesn’t help. These Vertigo titles, featuring short, generally forgettable, riff-like stories from a multitude of creators — which the law of averages suggests will include some stories a reader won’t like — will run you $7.99, just two bucks shy of an ad-free, spine-having trade paperback collection of Image Comics’ Pretty Deadly … or Vertigo’s own FPB: Federal Physics Bureau.
This year the imprint is trying something slightly different: It’s still publishing $8 anthologies, with a variety of creative teams riffing on a theme, but rather than raiding long-faded DC titles (sorry if you were waiting for a revival of More Fun Comics or Adventures of Bob Hope),Vertigo is going with a sort of printing theme. Four anthologies, published on a quarterly basis, each using one of the four basic colors of traditional printing: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. If nothing else, this will make repackaging and reselling these stories in a trade format a little easier, as the theme will be consistent between a series of anthologies.
The cyan issue debuted this week; it’s a very strikingly designed comic. The cover by designer Jared K. Fletcher is simple and understated, and it pops off the comics rack and begs for special attention. Even the two-page table of contents, in which each story is given a paint swathe-like panel of cyan/different shades of blue, is lovely (I feel tempted to make a joke about combining the thrill of reading a table of contents with the thrill of picking out a paint color, but I can’t; I genuinely dug those pages on an aesthetic level).
So the idea is rather inspired, as is the design — but how are the stories? Par for the course, I suppose. Some good, some bad, some mediocre; some clever uses of the theme, some that seem to ignore it all together. Let’s take a look, shall we?
I have to imagine there were almost as many forehead-slaps as high-fives in the room at the meeting where someone suggested DC Comics devote their next weekly comic to the Batman franchise. There had to be as many people thinking, “Why didn’t I think of that?” as there were people saying, “Good thinking!”
“More Batman” has rarely been a bad business decision for the publisher, and not only is the franchise carrying more than its fair share of the 52-ish books that make up the DCU line, the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo flagship title continues to perform at crazy-high numbers. So why not produce another Batman book, and rather than sticking it in a corner of the franchise, far from the main book, the one that seems to “count” the most, why not tie it closely to Snyder’s book? And hey, why not ship the thing weekly? Again, high fives!
I really love weekly comics, although the format has some pretty unique pressures, which we’ve seen play out various ways as DC has tried different routes over and over to get to weekly comics, with no two efforts—52, Countdown, Trinity, Wednesday Comics, and the bi-weeklies Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost—really being produced in quite the same way.
The most obvious pressure is that getting these things to ship on time like clockwork often means sub-par art, so as much as I was personally looking forward to Batman Eternal, I was frightened as much as disappointed to see the art starting out bad; this was, after all, the issue that should be the best looking.
Passings | Maine cartoonist Jeff Pert, best known for his cartoons and illustrations of lobsters and moose, died Friday on his way to the hospital with chest pains. He was 55. His cartoons adorned souvenir postcards and coffee cups, but he was also an active part of the local comics community in Brunswick, Maine, a regular at Casablanca Comics, and a participant in the Maine Comic Arts Festival. Pert created his first comic when he was in fifth grade and sold copies to local comic shops. “They probably gave us the money and then threw them in the garbage, but we were happy,” said his collaborator (and best friend) Jon Dumont. Pert was known for supporting other artists and even persuaded his local state representative, Maggie Daughtry, to start drawing her own comics: Daughtry knocked on Pert’s door when she was campaigning for office, and, she said, “Within an hour of meeting him, he literally changed my life.” When Daughtry told Pert that she had dreamed of being a cartoonist as a child, he encouraged her to start drawing again, which she did. [Portland Press Herald]
Conventions | Declaring this weekend’s inaugural Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, Cumbria, England, a success, organizers have already announced the dates for next year’s event: Oct. 17-19. “Our first year has been everything we could have wished for,” said festival director Julie Tait. “There was a huge buzz right through Kendal – from The Brewery Arts Centre right to The Box on Wildman Street, as well as at the shopping centre and the library. The town has really got involved and there has been art work on every street. It feels like the weekend has involved everyone – from adults following their passion for Viz humour to kids learning how Peppa Pig was created.” This year’s festival featured guests ranging from Charlie Adlard and Ed Brubaker to David Lloyd and Trina Robbins. [Cumbria Live]
I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.
I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.
But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!
DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.
Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.
But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.
Happy Marriage?! Vol. 1 (Viz Media): Maki Enjoji’s Josei rom-com dispenses with the suspense of the typical will-they, won’t-they business, marrying off her heroine and the handsome, mysterious, prickly bachelor in the first chapter. Here, the couple starts off married, and then must get to know one another and fall in love.
Our heroine is Chiwa Takanashi, who works in an office by day and a hostess in a club by night, in an ultimately hopeless attempt to earn enough to get her ridiculous-with-money father out of his astronomical debt. She finds an unlikely way out of that situation when company president Hokuto Mamiya suddenly proposes marriage. It turns out the chairman of the board (and Hokuto’s grandfather) owes a debt of kindness to Chiwa’s family, and would only agree to let Hokuto have full control of the company if he marries Chiwa.
And that’s the set-up. The middle-class Chiwa suddenly finds herself married to one of the most eligible bachelors in Japan, and in the difficult situation of having to keep the marriage secret from almost everyone (something about the business advantage of a bachelor image, I think), and trying to make the most of a loveless relationship — although each chapter makes it more and more clear it won’t be loveless for too long.
If the DC Comics New 52 reboot hadn’t happened, Detective Comics would have reached its 900th issue this month. That wasn’t lost on DC, which celebrated the milestone this week with the release of an 80-page, $7.99 anniversary issue. The issue sports the New 52 debut of an old favorite, and a tribute to the number 900 in a story that ties into the larger ‘Emperor Penguin’ arc running through the comic. It also features back-up tales starring Bane, Man-Bat and the Gotham City Police Department, as well as a gallery of art by various artists.
So does this oversized issue do justice to its 900-issue legacy? Here are a few opinions from around the web …
Rather than continue Batman Incorporated following Grant Morrison’s announced departure, DC Comics will end the series with July’s Issue 13.
The news, revealed in IGN.com’s preview of the Batman solicitations, comes as little surprise, as the title was a vehicle for Morrison and artist Chris Burnham to tell the story of Bruce Wayne’s global team of heroes the writer began in 2010. The first arc volume ended in December 2011, following DC’s New 52 relaunch, with the second volume debuting in May 2012.