"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
There have been a lot of really strange Batman-Superman team-ups over the years, but I’m willing to bet this is the first time in which the World’s Finest are depicted as talking meerkats … who interrupt a 1970s-era gang fight.
Called A Heroic Journey, it’s a limited-edition custom comic produced by DC Comics for the insurance-comparison website comparethemarket.com. If you thought those costumed meerkats look as if they were drawn by Neal Adams, you’re right.
When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invaded and seemingly conquered Earth-New 52 in Forever Evil #1, claiming to have killed the members of the Justice Leagues, the home-Earth villains took over DC comics, scrawling their names over the logos of their foes and initiating other evil acts like using decimal points in their issue numbers and putting the wrong stories in the wrong titles. (A Dial H epilogue and a Lobo one-shot in Justice League comics? A Batgirl story in a Batman comic?). But, most nefariously of all, the villains of DC Comics raised the price of each issue by a dollar and launched one of the biggest gimmick covers schemes in the modern history of direct market super-comics: heavy, plastic, 3D lenticular covers primed to be collected more so than read, and sparking insidious speculation, goosed my unpredictable shortages to many retailers. The monsters.
But while most attention has been focused on the covers, there are, in fact, stories beneath them, and so for the past three weeks we’ve been not judging the books by their covers, but by their contents. (Here’s Week One, Week Two and Week Three, if you missed ‘em.) As in the previous months, I’ve been ranking the books on their overall quality, on a scale of one to 10: Not Very Good, Somewhat Disobedient, Naughty, Morally Deficient, Without Scruples, Iniquitous, Wicked, Maleficent, Evil and Absolute Evil (although, as none received a perfect 10, you might want to adjust your reception of my ratings up by one).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been noting how connected each is to the Forever Evil event that ostensibly led to this state of affairs at DC, so, if you’re only interested in these things for their narrative import rather than their creators or characters, you’ll know which are worth your attention. So let’s take one last wallow in the evil of (almost) every issue of this week’s Villains Month, and hope for the swift and triumphant return of our heroes starting next month.
DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.
Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.
But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.
Digital comics | Technology journalist Andy Ihnatko discusses the significance of DC Comics’ expansion of its digital-comics availability from comiXology and its branded app to the iBooks, Kindle and Nook stores: “Now, all of the company’s titles have a presence in the same bookstore where hundreds of millions of people worldwide buy the rest of their content.” [Chicago Sun-Times]
Conventions | Steve Morris reports in on this past weekend’s Thought Bubble convention, in Leeds, England, which sounds like it was amazing. [The Beat]
Conventions | Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, Young Lee has an account of Durham’s NC Comicon. [Technicianonline.com]
As DC’s “Zero Month” continues, this past week they introduced a brand new comic into the mix with Sword of Sorcery #0. The comic features two stories; the first is the return of Amethyst, written by Christy Marx and drawn by Aaron Lopresti, and the second is Beowulf by Tony Bedard and Jesus Saiz. It’s been a really long time since either concept graced the pages of DC Comics, so how did the new takes stack up? Here are some thoughts and comments from around the web:
Matthew Santori-Griffith, Comicosity: “DC is delivering my favorite of the New 52 Wave 3 titles so far with Sword of Sorcery, proffering two very different, but equally compelling, protagonists in Amy Winston/Amethyst and Beowulf. Marx and Bedard are both crafting very introductory tales here, but I actually can’t fault them for it. The take here is more fantasy than super-hero and readers may need a little more set-up for the less familiar genre tales.”
Minhquan Nguyen, Weekly Comic Book Review: “The plot itself is nothing much: the reclamation of a throne, a family power struggle, warring houses, and ancient history. This is Fantasy 101, but Marx seems to recognize that, so we should expect some new ideas down the line. In fact, Marx begins the process by drawing upon the rest of the DCU for inspiration, including the unexpected appearance of a certain magical mainstay towards the end. You don’t expect this particular bloke to show up in this particular title.”
Hiya kids, it’s time for What Are You Reading?, a weekly look into what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today’s special guest is Thom Zahler, creator of the delightful superhero/romantic comedy comic Love and Capes.
To find out what Thom and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
As DC Comics, retailers and fans prepare for another round of New 52 titles next week, here’s a collection of the latest news and such …
• DC’s Bob Wayne told CBR’s Kiel Phegley that they planned to extend certain sales incentives to retailers through December, and this week DC released more details on what exactly that means — additional discounts for qualifying retailers on certain books, returnability on many titles and variant covers for several books, including the fourth issues of Justice League, Batman, Action Comics, Flash and Green Lantern.
• Wired’s GeekDad talks to Tony Bedard about the relaunched Blue Beetle series, which is due in shops next Wednesday. Bedard notes that the new series will be “less convoluted” than the last one in terms of Beetle’s origin, noting that this time around it isn’t tied to Infinite Crisis. He also notes Ted Kord won’t figure into the new series: “I loved the Ted Kord Blue Beetle as much as anyone. But he doesn’t figure into this new Blue Beetle series at all. My mission right now is to make 15 year-old El Paso high school student Jaime Reyes into the best character and the best Blue Beetle imaginable. And I have really good material to work with there. As anyone who read the last series or caught his appearances on Brave & The Bold will tell you, Jaime is a character teens and twenty-somethings can really latch onto. He has a terrific supporting cast and I’m building a ‘rogues gallery’ for him that will knock your socks off. None of this means that Ted Kord never existed. It’s just that before we go back and rehash the past, we are going to build a solid future for DC, and Jaime Reyes is the future.”
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 ….
1. For Batman and Green Lantern, if it ain’t broke, DC’s not fixing it. In 2010, you had to go all the way down to the Direct Markets #109 bestelling title, the debut of J. Michael Straczynski’s abortive tenure on Superman, before hitting a DC book that wasn’t part of the Batman line, the Green Lantern line, or the Green Lantern-spawned Blackest Night and Brightest Day events. DC has rewarded the creators behind these franchises’ success by keeping them more or less in place, albeit with some title-swapping and artist-shuffling. Geoff Johns, Tony Bedard, and Peter J. Tomasi are still writing the three main Green Lantern series (along with the previously announced Peter Milligan on Red Lantern), while Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Tony Daniel, David Finch, and Tomasi are still handling the books with “Batman” in the title (with long-time Gotham Citizens like J.H Williams III, Gail Simone, and Judd Winick filling out the line).
2. DC’s rolling the dice big-time on an I Can’t Believe It’s Not Vertigo-verse. Today’s big announcement of new “dark” titles features such Vertigo characters as Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Shade the Changing Man, John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, as written by such Vertigo creators Peter Milligan (Hellblazer), Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth), and Scott Snyder (American Vampire). That’s quite a vote of confidence in Vertigo’s taste in creators, characters, and tone, especially given that many industry observers saw the line as an afterthought for the new regime. Of course, how this will impact Vertigo itself has yet to be seen. It’s also worth considering that Vertigo’s biggest and most durable hits over the past decade or so have tended to be creator-owned titles existing in their own worlds and straying pretty far from the imprint’s horror-magic roots, so launching eight shared-universe horror-magic books — over one-sixth of the new DC Universe line — is a gamble in and of itself.
Today’s Marvel announcement, regarding its intention to utilize CrossGen’s concepts at least partially in an attempt to do “a little more genre publishing” in 2011, was rather lean in terms of details. But don’t think that stopped Michael May and myself from compiling a Six by 6 list of CrossGen series we’d like to see return (in some form) and the folks we’d like to see creating them. As always with these lists, we’d love to read your input for what CrossGen properties and/or creators you’d like to see return in 2011.
1. Sojourn. Remember when everyone loved Greg Land? I do, because Sojourn was my favorite CrossGen series and apparently a lot of other people liked it too since it was one of the last to be canceled by the spiraling company. Arwen was a gorgeous, badass hero with a cool dog and a quest to collect five shards of a magic arrow that could kill the evil sorceror Mordath. It sounds like standard fantasy stuff, but Land’s detailed, realistic artwork (no one accused him of tracing back then) brought it to life. He wasn’t solely responsible for its success though. Ron Marz’s writing elevated the characters and situations from genre cliches to honest tragedy and human stories. I’d love it if Marvel could get him back on the book. Land too, if he can still produce the kind of work he did back in the day. (Michael May)
Last week, in my Tony Bedard/R.E.B.E.L.S. interview, we discussed that industry veteran Claude St. Aubin would be providing artist Andy Clarke with some relief on the DC ongoing monthly. I’m a long-time fan of St. Aubin’s work, in fact I interviewed him several years ago about Penny-Farthing Press’ The Victorian (and remember first noticing his work on Captain Canuck many years ago). So when Bedard said St. Aubin was “turning in the best work of his career”, I was eager to see a few pages.
Tony Bedard is a writer I’ve interviewed several times regarding various projects over the years. I greatly enjoyed his work years ago with CrossGen and since then I’ve often viewed a project more favorably if I found his name was attached. So when I heard he had a new ongoing series for DC, R.E.B.E.L.S. (core concept: Vril Dox [Brainiac 2] recruits a team to regain control of his L.E.G.I.O.N. police force), I contacted him for an email interview. This Wednesday, April 15, marks the release of the third issue in the series. (A preview of the first issue is available from DC here.)
Tim O’Shea: The first issue opens with a reference from the Encyclopedia Galactica, a nod to past incarnations of Legion books (as well as the works of Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams). When launching a new series that references the past but wants to make its own mark in the present (while telling tales from the future) how careful does a writer need to be in referencing the past with certain aspects while giving readers a fresh twist?
Tony Bedard: I want R.E.B.E.L.S. to be completely accessible to a new reader, and yet I want it to be loaded with references and “Easter eggs” for readers who are familiar with Legion lore. I guess the trick is not to make those bits essential to understanding the story. They’re in there as a bonus (and, yeah, the encyclopedia caption is a total homage to LSH stories of the past) but they’re not the point of the book. We’re just telling a fast and furious space saga, and everyone’s invited to join us.