For those who have followed DC’s promotion of Justice League 3000, this week’s inaugural issue must arrive with something of an asterisk. Announced in June as the latest reunion of Justice League International’s Keith Giffen (plot and breakdowns), J.M. DeMatteis (script) and Kevin Maguire (pencils), within two months the series became an unflattering example of creative-team chaos. In August, artist Howard Porter replaced Maguire, thereby postponing the series’ October debut. According to Maguire, DC apparently wanted something more dark and gritty, which doesn’t quite fit the style we now know as “bwah-ha-ha” — but by the same token, one wonders (as did Maguire) what DC thought it would get from the trio’s collaboration.
Still, to echo Donald Rumsfeld (and, 15 years earlier and more to the point, my entertainment-journalism professor), you review the comic you have, not the comic you wish you had. The first issue of Justice League 3000 reads like an artifact from the mid-1990s, when DC cranked out dystopian-future Elseworld stories fairly regularly; and Porter’s art is emblematic of the issue’s gritty, scratchy tone. This isn’t JLI. It’s not of a piece with Giffen and DeMatteis’ work writing Booster Gold, or even the current Larfleeze. It’s more like the short-lived, Giffen-written Threshold, crossed with an original-variety Marvel 2099 title.
In short, this first issue isn’t bad, just rather frustrating. I suppose the series has potential, and its creative team probably deserves a couple of issues to advance the plot. Regardless, JL3K #1 starts off negative and teases even more. It doesn’t give readers much optimism, outside of a vague sense that at some point, things can only get better.
SPOILERS FOLLOW, of course.
Have you ever heard the expression, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well?” Have you heard about DC Comics’ He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, whose first six-issue miniseries was just collected? Have any of the people involved with the creation of those comics heard of that expression? Because from the results, it sure doesn’t seem to be the case.
The comics are poorly made — among the worst I’ve seen produced by an industry-leading publisher — but they’re bad in a very particular way.
They aren’t unreadable; I made it all the way through He-Man and The Masters of the Universe Vol. 1 without giving up. If pressed, I’m sure I could come up with some worse, more poorly made comics from DC in the recent past, but I might have difficulty thinking of worse comics from creators of such a relatively high caliber as some of those involved with this project, or an example of a series so bewilderingly bad.
Seemingly rushed through production like a term paper written the night before it’s due, many of the comics’ problems appear to originate with there being just too many creators working too fast and with little communication to meet a particular deadline. But,the funny thing is that it’s just a He-Man comic that no one in the comics-reading audience seemed particularly excited about, let alone interested in.
So it’s hard to imagine a reason DC decided to steam ahead with its creation to meet an arbitrarily chosen deadline before, say, nailing down a single creative team. Put another way, this is a bad comic book, and I can tell you what makes it a bad comic book, but I can’t hazard a guess as to why the people responsible for it made the decisions they did that resulted in it being so bad.
Oh, DC, you came so close to a slam dunk. If you had told me Keith Giffen, J. Marc DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire would be working on Legion of Super-Heroes, I’d have been beyond excited. After all, Justice League International was nothing if not a superb ensemble comedy, and what richer source of super-ensemble action does DC have than the Legion?
Instead, though, we’re getting Justice League 3000, set in the Legion’s 31st century and apparently following the events of August’s final Legion issue, but not explicitly tied to the 55-year-old super-team. This raises two questions. First, whither the Legion itself? DC has previously put the Legion on hiatus, although never for too long, so one wonders how long it’ll lie dormant this time. Second, why does it have to be such a familiar Justice League? The initial roster includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Green Lantern, with redesigns (courtesy of Howard Porter) that retain some fairly familiar elements. Is the League being “Avengers-ized,” so that every major super-team must have some “JL” in its name?
And those two questions combine for a third: How sustainable is JL3K, really?
The Masters of the Universe first crossed over with the DC Universe — well, Superman, at least — in July 1982′s DC Comics Presents #47, which found the Man of Steel teleported to Eternia, where he teams with He-Man to battle Skeletor, and again that same year in a special preview story. Three decades later, it’s happening again with DC Universe vs. Masters of the Universe, which kicks off in August.
However, one superhero appears to be getting a head start.
To entice fans to subscribe to its new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series, DC Comics has partnered with Mattel to create a limited-edition variant cover created using Masters of the Universe action figures. A 12-issue subscription can be purchased here.
Written by Keith Giffen and penciled by Pop Mhan, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 features the return of She-Ra to Eternia as He-Man’s newest enemy. It goes on sale April 17.
It looks like June is shaping up to be pretty big for DC’s superhero comics. There are five new ongoing series, including Superman Unchained, Batman/Superman, Larfleeze, Pandora and, best of all, the return of Astro City. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo kick off a revised Bat-origin in “Zero Year,” and the Green Lantern books get new creative teams. (There are spoilers for those GL books in the solicitations, but if you’ve been paying attention it’s probably nothing you haven’t already figured out.)
FIRST, AN ENDING
The “Shazam!” conclusion takes up all 40 pages of Justice League #21. It’s been a long time coming — starting way back in Issue 7, getting a 23-page spotlight in Issue 0, and skipping issues 12, 13 and 17. In the end it should clock in just shy of 200 pages, which would have made it a robust nine-issue miniseries. By comparison, Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One graphic novel was 138 pages. It may read better as a collection, because it hasn’t always seemed paced for a series of backup stories. Being absent from Issue 17 hasn’t helped either. Still, it should have three straight installments between now and June, so maybe it’ll finish strongly.
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As unlikely as it may seem, the Guardians of the Galaxy are poised to be the next Marvel team to get a tent-pole movie, following The Avengers (me, I was hoping for a Champions movie, as all but Hercules have been previously introduced in movies*).
The publisher has turned to Avengers-rehabilitation expert Brian Michael Bendis to write a new Guardians of the Galaxy series, and after teasing them in the first arc of Avengers Assemble, the comic featuring the cast from the Avengers movie, the writer is all set to launch a new Guardians monthly, penciled by Civil War artist Steve McNiven.
The title kicked off Wednesday with its first issue, Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 (market research apparently revealed that comics buyers are more attracted to decimal points than either the number 1 or even 0), and it isn’t a bad read at all.
It’s the origin of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, and while the story is essentially one character telling another his history, Bendis, McNiven & Co. depict it as a regular comic, rather than a long, dull conversation, as Bendis is often in the habit of doing. The last two pages reveal the cast.
And who, exactly, is this cast, and where did they come from? Based on the sales of the previous volume of Guardians of the Galaxy vs. sales of your average Bendis or McNiven comic, I imagine a lot of folks will be reading the new series without knowing much of that. And, as always, I think it’s worth keeping in mind who created these characters and how long ago (none of them are any newer than 1976, if you’re wondering).
So let’s take a look at your new Guardians of the Galaxy, shall we?
To see what Josh and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
With everyone focused on who will follow Gail Simone on Batgirl and the departure of Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing, we overlooked perhaps the biggest news to arise from DC Comics’ solicitations for March: that Captain Carrot will make his New 52 debut in Threshold #3, by Keith Giffen and Tom Raney. Only now he’s re-imagined as Captain K’Rot.
Created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw, the anthropomorphic rabbit was introduced in 1982′s New Teen Titans #16. A series titled Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! launched months later and continued for 20 fun-tabulous issues.
Giffen confirmed to Comic Book Resources that Captain K’Rot is indeed his take on Captain Carrot. Asked whether he was a longtime fan of the original series, Giffen quipped, “There was a series?” Ever the joker. He quickly added, “Every book needs a borderline psychotic, booze swilling, whore-mongering rabbit. I mean, c’mon!”
The comics veteran teased last month in a CBR interview about Threshold that the series’ “breakaway” star would make his debut in the second issue. This will be the one fans start buying the book,” he promised.
Safe bet that Captain K’Rot will be revealed in the final page or panel of the second issue, leading to his proper introduction in Threshold #3.
I hear a lot of rumbling from the February solicitations — the First Lantern, the last Hellblazer, the new JLA — like the Next Big Things are simmering under the surface. Yes, this is how DC wants me to think, but there’s no guarantee that my anticipation will live up to the books themselves. Still, at least things are happening, which is nice. There are endings and beginnings, changes and reintroductions, and a few good reprints too.
So, without further ado …
JUST BE GLAD IT’S NOT “20,000 LEAGUES”
The “expansion of the Justice League” advertised in Justice League #17 may be related to the new Justice League of America, but I suspect it will have more to do with the main League’s roster additions (which, if memory serves, were teased back in summer 2011). I base this mostly on the fact that JLA #1 comes out two weeks before JL #17, and therefore I doubt DC would want its latest high-profile first issue to spoil the end of “Throne of Atlantis.”
It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.
As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.
Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1 (of 12): I’m a sucker for Doctor Who, I think I’ve said that before, right …? No surprise, then, that I’m very much looking forward to this year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the BBC science-fiction show, with each issue spotlighting a different incarnation of the character. That Simon Fraser is providing art helps a lot, too; I’ve been a big fan of his “Nikolai Dante” work for 2000AD for a while. (IDW Publishing, $3.99)
One Trick Rip-Off/Deep-Cuts hardcover: Speaking of things that I’m a big fan of, Paul Pope easily fits that bill, so this enhanced reprint of his Dark Horse graphic novel — with more than 150 pages of rare and unseen work from the same period, including his Supertrouble manga — is far too tempting to pass up. (Image Comics, $29.99)
Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #1 (of 4): I was very impressed with Star Trek: Countdown back in 2009, and the way it teased the then-upcoming J.J. Abrams reboot without giving too much away, so I’m looking forward to see if this prologue to this summer’s sequel is just as fun. (IDW, $3.99)
Star Wars #1: Brian Wood and Star Wars feel like an odd pairing in my head, but everything I’ve read about this new ongoing series set after the first movie (which is to say, Episode IV these days) seems completely up my alley, and the 5-year-old within me is completely sold on the chance to see more stories set in the “true” Star Wars era. (Dark Horse, $3.50)
Young Avengers #1: Kieron GIllen and Jamie McKelvie pairing on anything is pretty much a must-read for me, but seeing them let loose on Marvel’s teen characters and seemingly determined to make them actually seem like teenagers. … Yeah, this looks like it may be one of my favorite superhero books in quite some time, I suspect. (Marvel, $2.99)
While I was enjoying my time at APE up in San Francisco, the New York Comic Con was raging on with announcements and such. Before I get into a rundown of the comic-related news coming out of the East Coast today, let’s jump back to yesterday real quick so I can update one of the items from my Friday round-up. I mentioned that Dark Horse would publish a comic based on the upcoming video game The Last of Us, but I didn’t know at the time the most important part — the always awesome Faith Erin Hicks is co-writing AND drawing the comic. That’s a “Stop the presses” moment if I’ve ever seen one.
Ok, now on to Saturday …
• Apparently space is the place at NYCC … following DC’s announcement of Threshold yesterday, Marvel officially announced the return of two of their cosmic titles — Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova. Guardians, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Steve McNiven, comes out in February and apparently will feature Iron Man, or at least someone in his armor. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness are the creative team for Nova, which features Sam Alexander, the Nova from Avengers vs. X-Men.
After a late afternoon opening to the general public on Thursday, the New York Comic Con kicked into high gear today with panels, announcements and the usual con craziness we’ve come to expect from big shows. Here’s a round-up of comic-related news and announcements coming out of Friday. If you missed anything from Thursday, I’ve also got your back. I’d also point you to Brigid Alverson’s rundown of the ICv2 sessions before NYCC that go deep on comic sales in 2011 and 2012 thus far, if you’re into that.
• Keith Giffen returns to the stars next year with Threshold, a new DC Comics series that features Blue Beetle, Space Ranger, Star Hawkins, the original Starfire and other space heroes, with a Larfleeze back-up. Giffen also seemingly confirmed that the current Blue Beetle series is coming to an end.
• Vertigo announced several new projects today, including The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Trillium by Jeff Lemire and an Unwrtten/Fables event that will see the Unwritten characters wander into the Fables comic. Snyder said that American Vampire will go on hiatus after issue #34 so he and artist Rafael Albuquerque can catch up on it. When it returns, it’ll jump ahead to the 1960s.
Having worked on comics like Legion of Super-Heroes and Marvel’s Annihilation event, among many others, Keith Giffen knows cosmic stories. He’ll get to flex those star-spanning muscles once again with a new DC Comics series called Threshold.
The comic will feature two stories — the first, drawn by Tom Raney and titled “The Hunted,” will feature the Omega Men, Blue Beetle, Star Hawkins, the original Starfire, Space Ranger,Space Cabbie and a new Green Lantern named Jediah Caul. It spins out of the Giffen-written Green Lantern: New Guardians Annual #1, and Giffen said it was like “doing a science fiction version of Battle Royale and giving everyone a gun.”
“… these characters and concepts will bump up against the New Guardians characters in the annual,” Giffen told Newsarama’s Vaneta Rogers. “So it’s a New Guardians story, but it will introduce readers to this concept. And then it spins out of the annual and the last issue of Blue Beetle. We’re trying to make Threshold a success and get as many eyes on this new ongoing series as possible.”
Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]
Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]