Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
March is the final full month of the New 52, so appropriately enough it also brings the solicitations for the first full month of … well, whatever we end up calling these books. (The Fine 49? The Diverse Curse-Reversers? The Too Few For 52 Redo?)
Actually, this month it’s more like the Thrivin’ 45, because these solicits don’t include four ongoing series already announced as part of the post-Convergence lineup: Justice League United, Cyborg, Mystic U and Dark Universe. No doubt they’ll benefit from the extra month’s rest.
Among all the new and returning series are a number of associated changes and comebacks. There’s Tight-Shirt Superman, Mecha Batman, Pointy-Wristed Wonder Woman, Hoodie Green Lantern, the reintroductions of Reneé Montoya and Kate Spencer, and Selina Kyle back in the Cat-suit. Even with all that, though, there’s So! Much! More!
Let’s get started, shall we?
Finally, it’s here. After months of speculating about the practical effects of DC Comics’ cross-country move, the publisher revealed its regular lineup, which starts in June. With 20 new ongoings and four new miniseries joining 25 returning titles, it’s widely seen as the end of the New 52. I wrote about that aspect of DC’s news over the weekend, but today it’s time to dig into the emerging details of the new superhero line.
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Actually, let’s begin with one more nail in the New 52’s coffin: Just 12 of those initial 52 ongoings will continue unabated in June’s lineup. Moreover, eight of those 12 are books DC will publish until the last sun flickers out: Action Comics, Superman, Detective Comics, Batman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Justice League. The other four charter New 52 members surviving to June are Batgirl, Catwoman, Green Arrow and Aquaman.
As discussed here last week, the final page of Forever Evil promised a particular kind of big event as its follow-up. However, the just-concluded miniseries also inflicted more immediate consequences on the Justice League; it’s those I’ll be talking about today.
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I previously mentioned that the New-52 relaunch/reboot didn’t really add a new “structural” feature to the superhero line, in the way that “Flash of Two Worlds” established the Multiverse or Crisis on Infinite Earths facilitated all those legacy heroes. At the time I didn’t really mention the addition (or re-integration) of the WildStorm and Vertigo characters, but I still don’t think that’s as big a deal as the Multiverse or the generational timeline. The difference is that Flashpoint brought in characters mostly to the present-day DC Universe, whereas COIE and (to a lesser extent) the original Multiverse both dealt regularly with larger spans of time. In the latter cases, the superheroes first emerged in the runup to World War II, and those adventures ended up informing their modern-day counterparts. While the New 52 had books like Demon Knights and All Star Western that were set even further in the past, they could only influence the main superhero line obliquely.
DC Comics’ current publishing pattern seems to center around growing various franchises, like Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and the Justice League. Aquaman is one of the publisher’s more familiar faces, he’s rooted pretty deeply in the superhero line, and he’s even had a good bit of multimedia exposure. However, when the April solicitations came out at the end of January, I wasn’t sure the world had been clamoring for another Aquaman title.
After reading the first issue of Aquaman and the Others — written by Dan Jurgens, penciled by Lan Medina, inked by Allen Martinez and colored by Matt Milla — I’m still not entirely convinced. AATO #1 is a solid first issue, dealing largely in traditional superhero matters, but its last-minute attempt to tie into the larger DC Universe comes from out of left field, and threatens to hijack the main narrative. Otherwise, it’s a fine reintroduction which gives newcomers a good glimpse at characters who are still pretty obscure. Still, those good fundamentals will have to overcome the why-should-I-care factor.
Aw yeah! In my household, the best news from DC’s June solicitations is the six-issue Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse miniseries. I showed the cover to my 5-year-old and she was crestfallen to learn it didn’t come out for another three months. At least she can fill the time reading the other paperbacks (and Superman Family Adventures) and watching Frozen on an endless loop.
I may also have to get the Li’l Gotham figures, although at $13 a pop they are pretty pricey. Perhaps just Batman and Robin.
Oh, there’s more? What could it be …?
LET’S GO PLACES
The solicitation for Futures End #6 — advertising Ray Palmer, Frankenstein and Amethyst’s trip into the Phantom Zone — makes me irrationally optimistic about the series generally. I think the New 52 needs this series (or something like it) to present a coherent shared universe, because for the past two and a half years it’s been a clash of disparate styles and an array of changes without much to pull it all together. If Futures End can manage a good-sized, eclectic cast, and convince readers they’re all able to function in the same basic environment, that’ll go a long way towards giving the superhero books common ground.
Although the five-years-later setup of Futures End won’t be here until May, it got me thinking about a not-so-new New 52. The current comics take place some five years after Superman and company debuted — plus, apparently, a year for the face-free Joker to recuperate — so if you add five more years, it’s like double the amount of history! Well, double the amount of history that “matters,” I guess.
As I have been pretty critical of the present timeline, I’ll be curious to see how Futures End treats those additional five years. I suspect that, for the most part, they’ll be five years of “filler,” in the sense that mostly bad, Futures End-specific things happened during that time to bring DC-Earth to whatever sorry state we see in FE #1. I’ve heard that when all the New 52 books jump ahead five years (in September, naturally), they’ll reflect where their creative teams would like to take the characters in five years — but those will only be single issues, as opposed to the year-long weekly installments of Futures End. Besides, my bitter, resentful impulses remind me that it might well have been simpler just to start off with a 10-year timeline that would only have tweaked the old pre-relaunch status quo, not thrown out huge chunks of it.
Because it’s the day after Christmas, and I don’t want to write 1,500 words about Forever Evil and its Justice League tie-in — except to say they both felt a lot like stereotypical Lost, and not necessarily in a good way — here’s a stocking’s worth of number-based observations about DC past and present.
Twelve Crisis issues: I talk a lot about 1984-85’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, mostly because it so completely transformed not just DC’s shared-universe continuity, but its publishing philosophy. On its merits, Crisis is a mixed bag, pairing stunning visuals with a sometimes-flabby narrative. However, despite its sprawl, COIE ended up with a definite structure. The first four issues deal with a mysterious antimatter onslaught which destroys whole universes, apparently including the familiar Earth-One and Earth-Two. The final page of Issue 4 is nothing but black “smoke” clearing away, revealing blank white space. Issues 5 and 6 offer vignettes on the five surviving universes, as time periods intersect in “warp zones” and ordinary people see multiversal counterparts of departed loved ones. Issues 7 and 8 are, to put it bluntly, the Big Death issues, with Supergirl saving her cousin from the Anti-Monitor and the Barry Allen Flash destroying Anti-M’s latest doomsday weapon. Issues 9 and 10 feature the “Villain War” and a two-pronged time-travel assault on Anti-M’s efforts. That ends with a shattered, otherwise “blank” comics panel, as the Spectre wrestles Anti-M for control of history itself — and issues 11 and 12 feature the heroes of a new, singular universe fighting a final battle against the Anti-Monitor. Today’s decompressed (and sometimes decentralized) Big Events focus more on character moments and slow burns, and more often than not they don’t have to streamline fifty years of continuity, but Crisis remains a model for just how big an Event can be.
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Comics | A CGC-certified 9.2 copy of The Brave and the Bold #28, featuring the first appearance of the Justice League, was sold by Pedigree Comics for $120,000, a record price for the issue (cover-dated February-March 1960). ““The sale for $120,000 is a record price for any copy of Brave and the Bold #28, almost doubling the only recorded 9.4 sale (from April, 2004) of $60,375,” said Pedigree Comics CEO Doug Schmell. “The other 9.2 copy (with off-white pages) fetched $35,850 in May, 2008. This book is beginning to rise dramatically in demand, popularity and value, evidenced by the recent sales of two 8.5 examples (in September, 2013 for $45,504 and for $40,500 in June, 2013).” [Scoop, via ICv2]
Passings | “He took me seriously”: Shaenon Garrity writes the definitive obituary of webcomics pioneer Joey Manley, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 48. She talks to a number of the creators who worked with him over the years and puts his accomplishments into perspective. [The Comics Journal]
When DC Comics’ Justice League of America relaunches in April as Justice League Canada, it will introduce a young Cree superheroine inspired in part by Shannen Koostachin, a teenage activist who lobbied the federal government for a new school in Attawapiskat First Nation, on the James Bay Coast. Koostachin died in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 15.
“I think if I can capture some of that heart and some of that essence in this character,” writer Jeff Lemire told CBC News. “Perhaps she’ll almost be a guiding spirit in the creation of this character.”
Announced in August, the series will find the Justice League moving to Canada in the wake of “Trinity War.” Lemire had previously revealed the team lineup would include Adam Strange, reintroduced as a Canadian, as well as a Canadian teenager, but this interview provides more details.
For instance, we now know that Hawkman and Green Arrow — currently part of the Justice League of America roster — will remain, and that the initial storyline involves the infiltration of “a secret alien bunker” near James Bay. That’s where the new superheroine enters the picture, as two local teenagers sneak into the bunker once the Justice League leaves, and it’s learned one of them is part of a legacy of Cree heroes.
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 first part of “Trinity War” (in last week’s Justice League #22) relied rather significantly on the changes the New 52 relaunch facilitated: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Billy Batson/Shazam (hereinafter “Billy/Shazam,” or maybe just “Captain Marvel”) each acted in ways incompatible with long relationships.
In the old days, Superman and Wonder Woman would have been close friends, Superman and Captain Marvel would have had a unique (almost mentor-protegé) relationship, and Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel would at least have had some Greek mythology in common. However, the main conflicts of “TW” Part 1 depended on Wonder Woman being more of a warrior than an ambassador, Superman trusting her hostility, and Billy/Shazam not knowing either of them that well. As such, it appeared to exemplify the freedom a relaunch confers, specifically to ignore the restrictions of previous developments to put these characters quickly on opposing sides.
In other words, one might reasonably have seen Part 1 as a) realizing the New 52 allowed for a particular Shocking Event and b) working backward to create the conditions that would lead to said Event. “Because we can do this, how do we do it?”
If you can’t make heads or tails “Trinity War,” DC Comics’ universe-spanning crossover that begins Wednesday with Justice League #22, who better than Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns to explain it? And how better to lay out the premise of the six-part storyline than with a slickly produced video? (Bonus question: Just how many cups of coffee can one person go through?)
Seriously, “The Truth Behind Trinity War” is incredibly well done, and may even change the minds of a few people who previously had no interest in the publisher’s latest summer event.
“Trinity War” kicks off with Justice League #22, and then continues in Justice League of America #6, Justice League Dark #22, Justice League of America #7 and Justice League Dark #23 before concluding in Justice League #23 (there are also a handful of tie-ins; you can find the checklist here). Well, “concluding,” as the events of “Trinity War” lead into Forever Evil and Villains Month …
More than three months after teasing that he and his Green Lantern collaborator would reteam on “a new project later this year,” this morning Geoff Johns made it official: Artist Doug Mahnke will join him on Justice League of America.
The announcement arrives in a farewell message from the writer in today’s Green Lantern #20, which marks the end of a nine-year run that began with 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth. After praising artists Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, Johns continues, “And Doug Mahnke … he’s the current superstar I work with every month on Green Lantern and have for years now. Doug, you’re one of the most amazing and unique artists in the business. Your power, grit and sense of wonder can be seen at its very best in Green Lantern #20. I’m fortunate to continue working with Doug as we head over to Justice League of America.”
Don’t ask why — because the answer is too boring and has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg — but the other day I was thinking about the original 13 American colonies, and from there the general course of American history across the 18th and 19th centuries. Naturally, from there I imagined how DC Comics would solicit the story of a young nation. It ended up being something like a team book: Meet the states that will form a great democracy — and discover the shocking secret which threatens to tear them apart–!
And then, as fate would have it, DC released its July solicitations, and my stab at patriotic humor was somewhat justified. So there you go.
In any event, on to “Trinity War” –!
WORLD WAR T
Say, remember when “World War III” was an actual part of DC history? I’m not talking about the Great Disaster, or something that happened in the hazy interregnum between the present and the Legion of Super-Heroes, or even the final Grant Morrison/Howard Porter JLA arc. No, as part of 52 (2006-07), “World War III” was the name given to a week-long global Black Adam rampage. I bring it up because it’s no longer in continuity, and we still don’t know (beyond another “Villain Month”) what’s coming in September for the New 52’s second anniversary.
Apparently we misunderstood: The New 52 doesn’t refer to the number of titles DC Comics publishes each month but rather the number of times each title changes creative hands. That’s what it seems like sometimes, what with firings by email, quitting on Twitter, rehirings and more. The general impression from behind-the-scenes tales is that the New 52 is in chaos. However, the end product might suggest DC is actually somewhat holding it together.
Creative changes are nothing new; turnover is inevitable. The key is how that turnover is managed. The ideal is to have a long and satisfying run by a cohesive team smoothly transitioning to a new team. Lord knows that doesn’t always happen, and we’ve certainly been hearing about it not happening recently.
With all of the news of creators coming and going, or going before they even get there, it’s easy to get distracted from the results of the finished product. So, I decided to take a look at a sampling of DC’s New 52, from its launch in late summer 2011 to today, and see how the stability of various titles was affected by creative changes. For my survey, I looked at the Justice League family of books, which includes the flagship Justice League, as well as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and others generally associated with the JLA that haven’t had a big Hollywood movie.