PREVIEW: Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Universe Presents: The Atom"
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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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.”
This week sees the print debut of Legends of the Dark Knight, the ongoing print version of DC’s digital-first Batman anthology. By design it’s not part of the regular Batman line, and therefore not counted as one of the New 52. However, it gives me an excuse to ask how many Bat-books DC Comics really needs.
Now, I don’t mean that to be as dismissive as it sounds. The current Batman line is built on years, if not decades, of steady readership and fan attachments, and you don’t just wave that away. Nevertheless, if there are only 52 slots in the main superhero line, must the Batman Family claim a quarter of them? The relaunch has made pruning these titles both easier and harder, and today I want to look at the opportunities it presents.
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The solicitations for DC’s May titles hit earlier today, bringing official word that five DC series have been canceled. Doom Patrol, JSA All-Stars, Freedom Fighters and R.E.B.E.L.S. join The Outsiders on the chopping block. They follow Azrael, Batman: Streets Of Gotham and Batman Confidential, which met their ends in March.
Looking at the most recent month-to-month sales figures for DC that Mark-Oliver Frisch analyzes on The Beat, it’s not surprising to see any of these titles ending. Probably the biggest surprise, if you were looking just at the numbers, is JSA All-Stars, which looks to be selling better than other monthly series not getting the axe, like Booster Gold and Power Girl. I bet many of the characters in it will find their way back to the flagship JSA title.
Freedom Fighters co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti commented on the cancellation of the book on Twitter, noting, “If a book doesn’t break even or make a profit, it gets cancelled and opens up the door for another title,” he said. “Wait for the big picture. things get cancelled and others get green lit. the nature of publishing.”
Doom Patrol, Freedom Fighters, Outsiders and L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S. have all ended before — despite their name, Doom Patrol has been resurrected four times since the original series ended — and no doubt they’ll all be back again somewhere down the road.
Because they went live around the same time as last week’s column, I’ve had the better part of a week to consider the April DC solicitations. I’d like to tell you I dug deep into the language and the numbers, forsaking all regular human needs in order to unlock the secrets of DC’s superhero springtime, but we all know that didn’t happen. I blame the football.
There could be a couple of reasons to cut two issues from the runs of Brightest Day and Justice League: Generation Lost. Twenty-four issues may be easier to collect, logistically speaking, than twenty-six. DC may also want to wrap up these storylines in advance of Free Comic Book Day (May 7 is the Saturday after the month’s first Wednesday), when I presume the big Flashpoint push will begin. The solicit for Flash #12 seems to indicate that Flashpoint starts in May.
It was both a frustration and a relief to see the DC solicitations this week. I was prepping a holiday column, because it’s my last chance to do something seasonal and I always like doing those. Part of what I wanted to say appears at the end, but the March solicits help keep the more sappy impulses in check.
Anyway, let’s see what’s under the tree, shall we?
The long-awaited Sugar & Spike Archives are finally on the schedule — but I am careful to note that similarly-anticipated projects like Suicide Squad collections and the New Teen Titans: Games graphic novel have also made it to the solicits without (so far) showing up on bookshelves. Therefore, Sugar & Spike goes in the “I’ll believe it when I hold it in my grubby paws” category. It’s also ironic to me that Sugar & Spike gets the Archives treatment just as DC seems to be phasing out the Archives line in favor of the imposing Omnibus format.
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There’s so much I find fascinating about Vaneta Rogers’s Newsarama interview with Steel #1 writer Steve Lyons that I hardly know where to begin. I suppose I’ll start by saying that there’s a lot to be excited about in the comic, which kicks off DC’s “Reign of Doomsday” event. For example, I’ve long argued that Steel is one of the most undervalued characters and designs in DC’s pantheon. Iron Man’s powers, Thor’s hammer, Superman’s cape, and an African-American folk hero’s name? That’s pure gold. And seriously, what a great design: The Alex Garner cover to the issue — itself part of DC’s genuinely awesome iconic-cover line-up for the month of January — is practically payoff enough. Plus, in a genre often (and accurately) decried for its lack of strong non-white heroes, John Henry Irons is an armor-clad, hammer-wielding, ‘S’-shield-wearing super-genius whose role in Metropolis’s scientific and business community is basically “the anti-Lex.” Tough to top that.
Similarly, at nearly two decades’ remove from the controversial “Death of Superman” storyline, I’m much better able to appreciate Doomsday him/itself. He’s no longer just the out-of-the-blue newcomer who got to deliver the coup de grace to the Man of Steel over more “deserving” villains like Lex Luthor (and set sales records in the process). Rather, he is to the villainous side of the superhero genre what the Hulk is to its heroic half: The power fantasy in its purest form, i.e. giant unstoppable guy pounds the crap out of everyone in his way. On an inner-eight-year-old level, that’s a thing of beauty. And remember how in his original appearances he slowly shedded a Kirbyesque jumpsuit-and-goggles look to reveal badass bone spikes and claws jutting out of every possible place on his body? He’s basically a microcosm of the direction of the entire superhero genre from that period, a walking symbol of ’90s excess at its boldest and best. Finally, in story terms, he accomplished the pinnacle achievement for any DCU villain: He killed Superman! Okay, so he got better, but still. As I believe Geoff Johns has argued, Doomsday’s name alone should scare the crap out of every character in the DC Universe. As such he’s a terrific basis for a crossover event.