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In late 2011, when DC Comics relaunched its entire superhero line with the New 52, some characters were completely overhauled while others saw no changes at all. But with the debut last month of Justice League of America’s Vibe, we saw writers Geoff Johns and Andrew Krisberg attempt to transform a D-list character — a comic-book punchline — into a new hero and a force to be reckoned with. The artist tapped to help make that happen was Pete Woods.
Beginning his career in the 1990s an intern at Wildstorm, Woods has quietly become a trusted artist in DC’s stable. He’s had extended runs on Robin and Catwoman, but his most celebrated work came when he partnered with writer Paul Cornell to give Lex Luthor a chance ot shine in Action Comics. Woods recently completed a run on Legion Lost, and split time doing brief stints on Aquaman as well as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble while preparing for his current assignment on Vibe. He’s an artist’s artist, constantly refining his style and innovating in his approach. But he’s also an editor’s artists, consistently meeting deadlines.
I reached out to Woods to talk about his current gig, and discovered he’s in the early days of switching up his style. After years of doing much of his work digitally, Woods decided to return to his roots and draw his pages the traditional way. The computer’s still there for the odd task, but this 17-year comics veteran is going for a fresher, more organic style by doing it all by hand.
The big new Justice League of America #1 is kind of a mess. It asks a lot of its readers without delivering much right away.
This is something of a mixed result where JLA writer Geoff Johns is concerned. He tends to start well, at least for me. I liked his first issues of Blackest Night and Flashpoint, the introductory volume of Batman Earth One, and his recent work on Green Lantern Simon Baz and the just-concluded “Throne of Atlantis” storyline. However, JLA #1 (drawn by David Finch) either takes a fairly counterintuitive approach to its own premise, or is playing some sort of long game which isn’t readily apparent, and (again) doesn’t quite flow from the book’s Justice League lead-in. More successful is (Justice League of America’s) Vibe #1 (written by Johns and Andrew Kreisberg, pencilled by Pete Woods, and inked by Sean Parsons), which grounds its hero so solidly in League lore it almost overshadows its fellow spinoff.
SPOILERS FOLLOW for JLA #1, Vibe #1, and the conclusion of “Throne of Atlantis” in Justice League #17.
Justice League International had respectable sales, but nevertheless was one of the earlier cancellations of DC Comics’ New 52. Justice League Dark is similarly doing decent business, but, like JLI, it’s still not doing anything close to the monster sales of the Geoff Johns-written flagship Justice League.
So it’s not exactly surprising that DC is taking another whack at expanding the Justice League into a franchise, and that for this second attempt, Johns is involved. On Wednesday the publisher debuted Justice League of America and Justice League of America’s Vibe, and both will almost certainly be considered successes (the former has more than 50 state-specific variant covers as an added kick in the pants).
But are they good comics? I could answer yes or no, but that would make for an awfully short post. Join me below for a discussion of each.
Last year was a good one for spy fans. We got new Bond and Bourne movies, Homeland continued to be a much-discussed television series, and films like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty proved that espionage films can also be art. Even The Avengers got in on the spy action by playing up S.H.IE.L.D. and the spy backgrounds of Black Widow and Hawkeye. Spies aren’t going away either, not with the recent debut of The Americans and a bunch of spy movies in the works, including a couple of John le Carré adaptations and a big-screen take on the video game Spy Hunter.
Borrowing from its 2012 cinematic blockbuster, Marvel is letting the spies infiltrate its comics, too. That was especially noticeable last week with the simultaneous release of Secret Avengers #1 and Avengers Assemble #12, each featuring Black Widow and Hawkeye in an espionage adventure with superpowers. But as alike as they were, each came at the idea from a wildly different angle and achieved results that were just as dissimilar. One was awesome. The other, not so much.
As DC Comics begins to parcel out its February solicitations, we learn the Vibe solo title announced last week will be called Justice League of America’s Vibe, which may be as much about trademark as it is about marketing the series’ connection to the far more recognizable team franchise. The new Katana solo title is called simply Katana.
Even with “Justice League of America” in its title, the Vibe series is destined for a difficult time in an unforgiving marketplace. DC acknowledges as much in the solicitation text, which begins with, “No, that’s not a typo,” and refers to Vibe as “THE most unlikely” member of the JLA. But with Geoff Johns as co-writer (with Arrow co-creator Andrew Kreisberg), Pete Woods on art, and fan favorite David Finch providing not one but two covers, the book may have a fighting chance.
Long one of the jokes of the DC Universe, the Puerto Rican break-dancer Vibe (aka Paco Ramone) was introduced in 1984 by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton as one of the members of Aquaman’s Detroit Justice League. While there have been attempts to redeem the sonic vibration-manipulating hero in recent years, he’s probably fared better in animated form on Justice League Unlimited and Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block.
Justice League of America’s Vibe #1 arrives Feb. 20.
DC Comics released Green Lantern Annual #1 this week by Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, Pete Woods and Cam Smith, the prologue to their “Rise of the Third Army” crossover event that’ll run through the various Lantern titles. It’s a jam-packed issue, featuring the reveal of the Guardians’ nefarious plans, the introduction of someone called the First Lantern and what the Third Army looks like, Guardian-on-Guardian violence, more of the Hal/Sinestro bromance and of course a holdover from the last big Green Lantern crossover, Black Hand.
It’s a lot of plot, but how was the story? Here are just a few opinions from around the web; I would also point you to Caleb’s review and invite you to leave your own thoughts in our comments section.
Brian Hibbs, The Savage Critics: “Now, this is really a model of how an annual should be — it’s the culmination of the last year of story, in all ways. THIS is GL #13, and sets off a new status quo for the book for a smidge at least.”
It’s impossible not to be moved by the story of longtime comics writer and inker Karl Kesel and his wife Myrna, who less than four months ago adopted baby Isaac, the child of a heroin user who began life battling methadone withdrawal. Facing $67,000 in medical bills, in addition to the $25,000 for the adoption itself, and uncertain of how much would be covered by Myrna’s health insurance, Karl decided to sell the Silver Age Marvel collection he’d amassed over four decades.
Reading about the Kesels’ situation, a Reddit member named Razorsheldon rallied the troops to help the family while simultaneously attempting to save Karl’s comics. “Why not start a fundraising campaign to buy as many of his comics as we could so we could give them right back to him?” he wrote earlier this week. “I have no lofty expectations for this endeavor, but I thought even purchasing one comic would send the right message that there are people out there that are grateful that people like Karl and his wife Myrna exist to make this world a better place.”
Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.
What’s that, you say? Paul Grist’s new Mudman series starts this week (#1, Image Comics, $3.50)? Well, that’s how I’m starting my $15 haul this week. While I’m at it, let’s add Avengers Origins: Luke Cage #1 (Marvel, $3.99) and Kirby Genesis: Captain Victory #1 (Dynamite, $3.99), before finishing up with the third issue of Wonder Woman (DC, $2.99) for a superheroic week that goes from the earth to the gods, with some blaxploitation and aliens thrown in the middle for flavor.
DC would dominate the other half of my budget if I had $30. I’d be grabbing the third issues of Green Lantern Corps, Justice League and Supergirl ($2.99 each, except Justice League for $3.99), but I’m surprising myself as much as anyone else by grabbing The Bionic Man #4 (Dynamite, $3.99) for my final pick – I read the first three issues in a bunch this weekend and really enjoyed the book to date much more than I’d been expecting.
Although it seems like DC’s big relaunch announcement came out an eternity ago, it actually took the publisher less than two weeks to roll out the 52 titles and their creative teams for the big relaunch/reboot/overhaul coming in September. Now that the cats are out of their respective bags, I thought I’d see where various creators and characters will land after the reboot.
So I went back through DC’s August solicitations to see who was writing or drawing what, and tried to map everyone to their post-relaunch project — if they had one. However, looking at DC’s August solicitations, there seem to be several fill-in issues, so where appropriate I tried to map the most recent ongoing creative teams to their new projects (for instance, I consider Gail Simone and Jesus Saiz the regular creative team for Birds of Prey, even if they aren’t doing the last two issues before September hits). Keep in mind that I just went through the ongoing series and skipped over all the miniseries … of which there are a lot, what with Flashpoint winding up in August.
It’s also worth noting that although several creators didn’t appear in the “big 52″ announcements, that doesn’t mean their tenure with DC is necessarily over — some, like Frazer Irving, have said they have future projects that haven’t been announced. So I tried to note where creators have talked publicly about their post-relaunch plans with DC (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The same could probably be said for some of DC’s characters as well. Or, as Gail Simone said on Twitter: “Again, September is NOT THE END. There’s still plans for characters that we haven’t seen yet.”
So let’s get to it ….
–Artist Pete Woods, offering a helpful suggestion on how to get the upcoming Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Broadway musical back on track, now that artist Mark Bagley is once again working on Spider-Man.
DC Comics announced that Last Stand on New Krypton artist Pete Woods will join writer Marc Guggenheim on Action Comics in June, providing interior art for DC’s longest-running title. And they’ll be joined by cover artist David Finch, who began working at DC exclusively earlier this year (he drew the Lex Luthor you see to the right).
“I am absolutely thrilled to be working with Marc on Action Comics,” Woods told DC’s The Source blog. “I also feel incredibly blessed to have David Finch doing covers — I have been a fan for years. Marc and I have some fun plans for this book and intend for it to live up to it’s name!”
Guggenheim spoke about his upcoming work on the book with Comic Book Resources back in December, where he discussed the challenge of writing a character who theoretically could get out of any situation.
“It’s funny. I’ve actually given a lot of thought precisely to that problem,” Guggenheim said. “In part, one of the things I want to do is introduce some villains that Superman could be defeated by. The truth is, his powers are not infinite — he has weaknesses and he has limitations to his powers. Truth be told, I could come up with a cosmic character that could just squash him like a bug. But the bigger challenge is, if I were to tell that kind of story, convincing the reader that there is some legitimate danger. Just because it’s Superman, it means I’m not going to squash him like a bug. Even if I did a whole arc where Superman lost his powers, I think people would be kind of hip to the idea that Superman is probably going to come out of this OK. They’re not going to let me destroy a multi-million dollar property.”