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Grumpy Old Fan | Greener pastures in DC’s May solicitations

Uphill, both ways …

So this is what happens when you praise Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern run

Let’s be clear: I do not generally have violent mood swings. My sense of well-being does not depend on the fortunes of DC Comics. I don’t pretend to have any special insight into the publisher’s inner workings, and I’m sure the reverse is equally true. However, after saying many nice things about Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, and then eviscerating the humorless “WTF Certified” last week, it was pretty surprising to see the May solicitations address both topics.

NEXT, RAFALCA JOINS THE LEGION OF SUPER-PETS

The Green Team may have been a group of entitled, self-satisfied jerks with an abnormal need for validation, but if anyone can make them lovable — or, alternatively, entertainingly clueless — it’s Art Baltazar and Franco. I don’t see this book as DC scraping the bottom of the character barrel. Rather, I take it as a good-faith attempt to update a (perhaps misguided) concept for the sensibilities of our time. Not quite “at least they’re trying,” but … at least it’s not another big-name spinoff, you know? (Although a new Steel series is always welcome.) Regardless, the over/under for this book has to be somewhere around 6 issues.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC asks ‘WTF?’ for the wrong reasons

DC Comics Presents … Superman and Slylock Fox!

When I talked about DC Comics’ April solicitations a few weeks back they hadn’t yet been “WTF-Certified.” (Caleb has an excellent roundup of the WTF specifics, and I am unlikely to improve on his observations.)  That phrase suggests strongly either that DC is no longer interested in anyone young enough to use “Why The Face” in casual conversation; or, conversely, that polite society now freely tolerates even an abbreviated F-bomb.

Whatever the reasoning, DC wants its April fold-out covers to be SO! SHOCKING! that even the casual browser cannot refuse them. This is not a bad goal in and of itself. Indeed, we might quibble about which quick exclamation best captures such a “must-read” impulse — OMG! would be too Bieber-feverish, and “wait, what?” is taken — but as far as real WTF covers go, these are a bit tame.

See, back in the olden days, when print publications actually sold well, a comic’s cover absolutely had to command the consumer’s attention, and thereby encourage him or her to spend a few hard-earned coins (ask your parents, kids) on the new DC titles. The late Julius Schwartz is supposed to have said that a book would sell well if its cover boasted a gorilla, a motorcycle, the color purple and/or a question posed to the reader. (During Mark Waid’s editorship of the 1980s Secret Origins, its 40th issue got all four.) As there was no Internet providing potential readers with constant updates — and therefore requiring a steady stream of update-friendly factoids — the cover had to do all the heavy-lifting.

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The Fifth Color | Fast forward to Marvel comics in April 2013

Age of Ultron #6 - Variant CoverSo here I was, gentle reader, tapping away at the keyboard this morning, polishing up my thoughts on Wolverine’s current employment trajectory and comparing it to a popular comedian from the ’80s when I got a message from my distinguished colleague, Mr. Tom Bondurant.

“Why is Marvel releasing solicits Friday afternoon, like the Pentagon doing a big document-dump?” he asked via Twitter, causing me to drop everything and run to my favorite and most trusted news source, this very website. Lo and behold, Tom was right, and Marvel’s solicitations for April had gone up just in time for the weekend. Normally, these are released in a timely fashion, as we comic book fans and retailers have a rhythm worked out for peculiar way we look forward to, order and then receive comics. Having these guys show up on a Friday and, more telling, having them seemingly reiterate information we learned throughout the week feels as if that rhythm is mutating somehow — that we might get previews for events in a different way and that Marvel promotions might be delivered to us differently in the months to come. This could either be the herald of a new way to talk about our future in our present about comics that have come out in the past, like trades or reprints, or it could be a very busy week at the Bullpen and they only got this list out today.

Either way, April is waiting. Read on!

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Grumpy Old Fan | Unfolding DC’s April solicitations

Work it, Dr. Fabulous!

Occasionally I talk about how perfunctory the monthly solicitation ritual can be … but not so for April!

On the same day the solicitations were released, Comic Book Resources launched its new “B&B” column, featuring editors Bob Harras and Bobbie Chase, and chock-full o’ factoids about various books. Moreover, the solicits were themselves packed with new story arcs, new creative teams, and an even more heightened feeling of coyness.

A big part of this coyness comes from April’s cover gimmick. Actually, we readers can only see half of the gimmick — because while every New 52 book will sport a fold-out cover, the solicits only show the left side. (Makes me wish there were a retailers-only edition of Previews, as this is just the kind of thing which surely irritates them.) To add to the anticipation, every New 52 solicitation ends with a question. Accordingly, this month more than usual, the solicits are structured precisely to set up dire consequences and leave them unresolved. Suspenseful!

Ah, but that sort of thing only encourages me. Let’s dive in, shall we?
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The Fifth Color | Forward into the past with Marvel in March 2013

Indestructible Hulk #5

Indestructible Hulk #5 - Hulk fights Attuma!

In just three months, we will be pretty entrenched into the new NOW! of Marvel. So far, so good, right? Can’t say that they’ve all been hits, but considering the alternative (*cough*reboot*cough*), I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

Will this be an era that’s looked back at as a radical change in publishing and a landmark era of storytelling for Marvel? I get the feeling that a lot of people are hoping so, most of them in marketing. This is a fresh face for the Marvel brand, and we should be looking at a moment that will be well-documented by journalists, historians and (more importantly to the layman) comic book price guides. Sadly, my precognitive powers are only available in March solicitations, so let’s look at those and see what NOW! will look like then. Or THEN! I’m not sure.

First, let’s talk about the trades. I rarely get to do so because they’re always at the bottom and there’s normally a huge amount of comics to sort through and events to define before we reach the reasonable road of the trade paperback. But in March, Marvel NOW! will officially be the final status quo on the shelves, so we’ll begin a steady stream of trades for major titles in hardcover and softcover format.s The first volumes of Uncanny Avengers, Iron Man and Avengers will be out in hardcover, with Fantastic Four, Red She-Hulk and X-Men: Legacy getting softcover editions; I think the change in format probably has to do with the price of the original issues.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s March solicitations come in like a lion

The sociopathic apple doesn't fall too far from the incredibly-driven tree

No small amount of drama accompanies the March solicitations, thanks to Gail Simone’s unexpected dismissal from Batgirl.  There’s also turnover at Swamp Thing and Birds of Prey, potential clues to the end of “Death of the Family,” and the usual I-remember-this! commentary on collections.

Ready? O-kay!

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL

The big stories are the departures of Simone from Batgirl and Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette from Swamp Thing. It seems particularly odd in Simone’s case because it leaves the fate of Batgirl’s current antagonist in the hands of a different writer. Maybe that means Simone’s original plans for him didn’t go over particularly well with DC, or maybe it’s something totally unrelated. Either way, looks like it’ll be at least another month (in January’s Issue 16, her last issue) before we learn anything significant. At any rate, Ray Fawkes writes two issues of Batgirl starting with Issue 18.

As of March, Jim Zubkavich is your new Birds of Prey writer, Andy Kubert draws the lead story in Batman #18, and Trevor McCarthy draws Batwoman #18. Also, in a move that threatens to have me try out Phantom Stranger, the very fine J.M. DeMatteis comes aboard as co-writer with Issue # (guest-drawn by the equally fine Gene Ha and Zander Cannon).

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Grumpy Old Fan | The freak flag flies for DC in February

Abraham Lincoln, Supervillain Hunter

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.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s January solicits: See 2013 — and die!

Sadly, no Slim Pickens variant

The biggest news from this round of solicits is probably the cancellations of Blue Beetle, Grifter, Legion Lost, and Frankenstein. I’ve been buying Beetle and Frankenstein, so I’m sorry to see them go.

Naturally, this means we can look forward to four new titles in February. If I had to guess, I’d say a new Shazam! ongoing series will spin out of the current Justice League backup, but according to January’s solicitation, the backup doesn’t seem to have reached a suitable stopping place. It’s possible that February’s Issue 17 could wrap everything up one week and lead into Shazam! #1 the next, but that would depend on Justice League shipping on time (in the third week of the month), and I’d think DC would want more wiggle room in case of a delay. Accordingly, the odds of a Shazam! series in the next batch of solicits seem rather long.

Still, the backup series has been running in Justice League since #7, so (counting the Shazam-centric Issue 0, but subtracting the lack of backup in Issue 13) February’s Issue 17 would mark its eleventh installment.  That is subject to change, since the October solicits advertised a Shazam! backup which was not in the actual issue.  Still, if my rough math is correct, that’s about 154 total pages of story — more than the New Teen Titans: Games paperback, but less than the Superman/Shazam collection — but the solicit for January’s Issue 16 (part 11, remember) just talks about continuing the origin. With that in mind, even if Issue 17 concludes the backup, the character could still appear in JL as a Leaguer until he does whatever he’s going to do in “Trinity War.” Yadda yadda yadda, now I think probably no new Shazam! series until that event is over.
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The Fifth Color | Forward into the past with Marvel in December 2012

Avengers Arena #2It won’t even be January before the Marvel Universe changes as you know it. Yep, the slow roll of Marvel NOW! continues to rearrange our common landscape into something new. As longtime readers, we both hate and fear change yet long for it deep down in our bones. Spider-Man shouldn’t change his costume! But that black version was really cool! It’s a constant war we wage internally and externally and, as a comic shop employee, I have seen its front lines. But as change and hope war with one another on the fields of the Marvel Universe, we should all spare a moment and look behind us. Sure, NOW! might be a confusing and frightening place, but what about the after-NOW! What will grow in the fields, plowed and sown with new titles? Deep down, there’s something I think we all want, both large companies and small readers: new fans.

It all comes down to new fans, another reader to the story, another dollar to the register. Commerce continues as more people pick up or download (legally!) a story and read along. It’s a simple, basic wish and I would like to think everyone shares it, at least all the people who would come to a comics blog and read these very words. So please, Dear Reader, take all this news of new No. 1 issues and of titles that are ending with a grain of salt. It’s a bitter grain for sure, but one that’s going to flavor unseasoned palettes and help new fans get a taste for the Marvel style.

Are you hungry? I’m hungry. I’m going to go grab a snack and then we’ll talk about the NOW! ahead of us, Marvel solicitations for December 2012.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December is getting closer all the time

Not the face!

Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.

In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them?  Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.

Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!

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Grumpy Old Fan | The games begin for DC in November

Control of the Firestorm Matrix will be decided by Rock-Paper-Scissors

College basketball season starts back up in November, so that makes thinking about bracketology only a little less premature. Looking at the various discrete (and, occasionally, indirect) crossovers happening throughout November’s New 52 solicitations, I couldn’t help but picture the field of 68, with each individual game a step along the way to … “Trinity War,” I guess …?

OPENING ROUNDS

Green Lantern’s “Rise of the Third Army” occupies the four GL titles, of course, but it also brings in Justice League, where the solicit for issue #14 wonders where Hal is. (After reading this week’s GL #12, I have a better idea about that.) Likewise, GL #14 guest-stars the League.

From the solicits I wonder if “ROT3A” takes place mainly in GL (with a little JL on the side). “Night of the Owls” was advertised that way (you only need to read Batman, because the other Bat-books dealt with ancillary stories) and it kind-of fits with the way the New-52 books have hyped their creative teams. Johns, Scott Snyder, and Jeff Lemire are responsible for a total of seven books (GL, JL, Aquaman, Batman, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, JL Dark), and each writer has at least one book in some sort of crossover this month.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Feeling lucky? DC’s October solicits

Image Comics Presents Arkham Asylum

July’s a great time to anticipate October: football; temperatures on the brisk side; the crisp smell of falling leaves; the cold rains that somehow aren’t depressing. I also like that DC Comics seems to be settling into its own seasonal patterns, using the fall to set up a slew of new creative teams and launch big new storylines. Having all those #13 issues in the run-up to Halloween doesn’t hurt either.

Of course, now we get to judge them all harshly, based on a few sentences and a photo for each….

COMINGS AND GOINGS

John Layman and Jay Fabok come aboard Detective Comics, replacing Tony Daniel. Daniel leaves regular Bat-work after several years writing and penciling in various combinations. I was never really enthralled with his writing, which seemed content mostly to approximate what a Batman story should be; but if Detective’s sales are any indication, I am in the minority. Daniel moves over to Justice League for two issues, so that likely eases the pain.
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The Fifth Color | Forward into the past with Marvel in September

Space Punisher #3

SPAAAAAAAAAACE!!!

Hey, did anyone else notice that $3.99 books are coming with a free online copy? This announcement must have missed my eagle eye because this week it sort of came to me as a happy surprise. I know I’ve only recently learned to love the digital comic, and it’s actually been super-helpful when I miss an issue or want to share my comics with people in another state. Having Avengers vs. X-Men be so interactive really warmed me up to letting comics online and in person coexist comfortably. If you haven’t bothered with it yet, try it out and create your own little library online for free.

Also, as I turn my gaze toward the end of summer and the new cycle of comics due to hit the shelves in September, I wonder why some titles have two solicitation entries or just one with the numbers listed together? Won’t each comic have enough information to be sold as a separate entity, or are we getting to the point in modern comics storytelling that 32 pages can’t contain the decompression? Why are some books twice a month and others just one? Join me, won’t you, as we take a look at what Marvel will be sending our way this September and try and make heads or tails of the future.

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Grumpy Old Fan | My hero Zero: DC’s September solicits

The Lana/Lois team-up YOU demanded!

DC Comics in September brings together two gimmicks. This being corporate-run superhero comics, naturally these two things have been tried before. September’s unified cover themes remind me of January 2009′s “Faces of Evil” (not particularly uplifting) and January 2011′s “Salute to White Space.”  The new “Zero Month” recalls August 1994, when every main-line DC superhero title got an Issue #0 in the wake of July’s weekly, timeline-tweaking Zero Hour miniseries. Just over four years later, in September 1998, the weekly DC One Million miniseries launched all the superhero books into the 853rd Century with #1,000,000 issues.

Personally, I’m looking forward to September 2013′s Roman Numeral Month, September 2014′s Hexadecimal Month, and September 2015′s Binary Month (can’t wait for Justice League #100100!).
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Grumpy Old Fan | High noon: DC’s August 2012 Solicits

I would make a don't-turn-your-back-on-Max joke, but it's still too soon

August marks the end of the New 52′s first year — and whether it’s the practicalities of collected editions or a prelude to mass cancellation, there’s a lot of finality in these solicitations.

Storylines conclude in All Star Western, Aquaman, Catwoman, Deathstroke, Frankenstein, GL Corps, Legion of Super-Heroes, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, Voodoo, maybe GL: New Guardians, and the main Justice League book. Big changes are coming for Stormwatch, Captain Atom and Green Lantern. August also sees the final issues of Justice League International (about which more later), iZombie and Scalped.

On the other hand, new stories begin in Flash and Batman, and the big Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover kicks off. Better yet, J.H. Williams III returns to art on Batwoman with Issue 12, which not only starts a new storyline but guest-stars Wonder Woman. It’s somewhat ironic for a guy who drew the guest star-heavy Chase that his Batwoman work hasn’t ventured too far into the larger DC Universe, so I’m really looking forward to his Wonder Woman. (Along the same lines, I can’t wait to see what Gail Simone does with Batwoman in the latter’s Batgirl appearance.) Apparently the Next Six titles also just keep humming along.

Collectively, it may make the next four weeks a waiting game. With September set to include fifty-two zero issues, at least one of those will replace JLI on the schedule. From now until the September solicits are released, I wouldn’t be surprised if DC announced more cancellations in order to free up those zero issues for new series’ debuts.
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