Monday, May 18, 2009

DC's August previews reviewed

DC has released their full solicitations for the month of August, which means it's time for our monthly ritual of prejudging books that won't be out for months based solely on the creators involved, the pictures of the covers, a few sentences worth of information and my own biases and prjudices. Open a second window and point it here for the full solicits, and follow along below.

Let's start with the "The Red Circle" revival...

J. Michael Straczynski dives into the DC Universe at last – and he’s bringing four of the finest heroes of the Golden and Silver Ages with him!

Completely reimagined for the modern world from their original appearances in Archie/MLJ publications, these four heroes will show you a side of the DC Universe you’ve never seen before!

Arriving weekly throughout the month of August, these specials thrust four amazing new characters into the heart of the DC story!

Er, “four of the finest” might be pushing it a little…

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Tom Derenick & Bill Sienkiewicz
Cover by Jesus Saiz
The Civil War claimed many lives...but one of those lives still hasn’t ended! Union doctor Robert Dickering found himself on the wrong side of the battle lines, and despite his heroic treatment of a fallen enemy soldier, he also found himself on the wrong end of a noose! But a shadowy power stepped forth in the twilit moments between life and death and offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse: to forever roam the Earth, saving the lives of innocents condemned like himself – or hastening the deaths of the guilty! But in taking the seemingly righteous mission of the Hangman, has he accepted God’s work? Or has he become the vengeful fist of the Devil himself? Featuring art by Tom Derenick and Bill Sienkiewicz, the acclaimed team behind REIGN IN HELL!

Of the four, this is the one I’m probably most likely to try out, based on the art team. I like Tom Derenick’s pencil work, and I love the way Sienkiewicz’s inks can transform the lines of some pencil artists in interesting ways. The premise of this hero seems a little too similar to all of the other supernatural vengeance agents in the DC Universe—The Spectre, Ragman, the new Crimson Avenger, the new El Diablo, etc. Someone should to a story where they all turn up to collect the same evildoer at the same time.

Oh my God, they set Gung Ho on fire! Oh, that’s actually “The Inferno.” He looks like Gung Ho on fire. I’ll pass.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Roger Robinson & Hilary Barta
Cover by Jesus Saiz
Billionaire John Raymond has it all – fame, fortune, and a brilliant mind! He also has a brother with the one trait John lacks: compassion. No matter how relentlessly awe-inspiring John’s achievements get, it’s his brother who’s always seen as the hero. So John sets out to upstage his brother one more time. He’ll show the world just how much heroism money can buy as the amazing (and suspiciously well-equipped) Web. But when a dark fate arrives for his brother, John learns first-hand what a hero leaves on the line, and that there are worse losses than the ones that hit your checkbook! Featuring art by Roger Robinson (THE BRAVE & THE BOLD, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS)!

I really liked Roger Robinson’s work on Batman: Gotham Knights (particularly the way he drew boots), and wondered why I hadn’t seen much of him since. I’m glad to see he’s getting some more work from DC now, and I’m extremely curious how Hilary Barta’s inks will look on his pencils (DC sure seems to be assigning some interesting inkers on these books), but I don’t think I’ll be able to look at this costume long enough to read any pages featuring it. It’s a tough call give how many terrible costumes there are in the world of supereheroes, but, for the moment at least, I’m going to go ahead and declare this the very worst.

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens
Cover by Jesus Saiz
Lieutenant Joe Higgins was dying in the dirt of a battlefield in Afghanistan when they whisked him away to a top-secret facility and saved his life with nanotechnology so experimental they couldn’t dare to use it on a living man. Now Higgins has been enlisted to a whole new mission – to be the public face of the American fighting man as the patriotic Shield! But today’s grueling military battles test the limits of patriotism and the limits of the technology that keeps him alive. And the shocking secret behind that technology may be too much for his bullet-riddled heart to bear. Featuring art from Marco Rudy (FINAL CRISIS)!

The only of the old Archie heroes from DC’s short-lived Impact line to also be a part of this Red Circle initiative. I wonder if they’ll be publishing trades of the Impact books, which might sell okay now given the fact that some of their creators are much bigger names now (like Mark Waid, for instance).

This is the character I’m most interested in, as it’s the one I’ve seen the most of before, but I’m not sure who’s going to be drawing it. The credit says Scott McDaniel, whose work I’ve grown really tired of over the past few years, but the body of the solicit says Marco Rudy, whose credit as working on Final Crisis, which is news to me. Was he an inker on FC maybe?

Please see The Last Days of Animal Man #4 for this month’s solitary example of superhero cheesecake by an artist who can actually draw women. (Okay, I’m just being a jerk; Guillem March’s Gotham City Sirens cover is both sexy and recognizably human at the same time, too).

Written by Steve Vance
Art by Jennifer Graves, Christine Norrie, Daniel Krall and J. Bone
Cover by Darwyn Cooke
It’s not easy being the new girl in school – especially when everyone else has super-powers. Lauren is new to the mall-and-beach town of San Narciso, CA. Should she hang with the super-powered popular girls? What mystery lies behind the school’s walls? And most importantly, what to wear? Collecting the 2003 miniseries for the first time!

I have no idea why this book is just coming out now, but I really enjoyed it the first time around, and would recommend it based on—Oh come on, just look at that art team; how could you not want this?

Written by Bryan Q. Miller
Art by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
Cover by Phil Noto
Variant cover by J.G. Jones
In the wake of “Batman R.I.P.” and BATTLE FOR THE COWL, a new heroine has emerged in Gotham City, and as she begins her nocturnal crusade to take back the night, she will truly learn what it means to wear the mantle of the Bat. But who is this young woman, and why has she donned the cape and cowl?

Hey kids, want to break into writing comics? Here’s how. First, break into writing TV. Second, ask DC or Marvel for a job.

This is the new Batgirl ongoing, which is being written by Bryan Q. Miller, whose entire resume as far as I’ve been able to determine consists of writing a single episode of Smallville (If Miller does have more credits to his name, and has worked in comics before, and I’m just being a terrible douchebag, please let me know). Apparently, he was able to segue that single credit into doing a fill-in arc on the troubled Teen Titans series and writing a new Batgirl comic.

I’m not sure I understand the fascination New York-based corporate comics (as Dirk Deppey calls the Big Two) has with television writers, which seems to be in direct opposition to TV writers’ own perception of comics. Like, the comics guys seem to think anyone who’s ever written for TV must be good at writing comics, because they keep hiring them, whereas the TV guys must think writing comics would be a swell gig, as they keep seeking out work there.

This is probably worth a post somewhere else, but I don’t think anyone form the world of TV has actually written any comics that really sold worth a damn.

There’s Joss Whedon and his Buffy Season crew, but that seems a special case. And there’s Damon Lindeloff’s Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk might be an exception, but even then one has to wonder how much having Wolverine, The Hulk and Leinil Francis Yu contributed to that success.

But all these other guys whose shows I’ve never watched and thus have a hard time keeping straight, like the guys who do Batman Confidential arcs or Superman/Batman and Green Arrow/Black Canary and so on? Those books don’t sell well and, in many cases, also happen to be terrible comics (I haven’t read all of them, so I’m speaking in general here; the dude on GA/BC might be the bees knees for all I know…sales are awful though).

Being able to move 25,000-40,000 comic books a month featuring Batman, Superman or some combination of the two isn’t exactly an accomplishment. Chuck Dixon can do that. I’m not saying that to slam Chuck Dixon, I’m saying it to point out there’s little point looking outside the industry to find folks to provide bad superhero comic scripts that sell poorly when there are plenty of people in the industry who can write scripts that won’t sell any worse, and likely have more experience and more fans.

So who’s the new Batgirl? Well, it’s hopefully Stephanie Brown. I say that not because I like the character (I kind of loathe her, actually), but because the other two likely candidates are Misfit, who has superpowers and would thus make a weird bat-character, and current Batgirl Cassandra Cain, whose costume is in the picture there.

But if DC canceled her ongoing series, turned her into a villain for no reason and in conflict of every single previous Cassandra Cain story, explained her heel turn in a 52 special, re-explained it in a Teen Titans arc, then gave her a miniseries in which a poor writer was supposed to make some sense out of it all, just to have her return to the role and an ongoing well, that’s kind of sad, isn’t it? To spend four years telling terrible, terrible stories, only to end up right back where you started, only with a far worse creative team and a fan-base that by all rights should have withered up and died?

Stephanie Brown is friends with Cassandra Cain, so her taking her pal’s costume for a few issues before getting her own new one makes some sense. I predict a Stephanie Brown/Barbara Gordon book, with Stephanie being Batgirl and Barbara being her behind the scenes coach/mentor figure. Like Batgirl was originally conceived. But really, who even gives a shit at this point? Certainly not the publishers, which makes it hard for a reader to get too excited about their wares.

Written by Steve Niles
Art and cover by Kelley Jones
Trick-or-treating in Gotham City can be terrifying — and tragic. Tonight, two people are invited to a party where they will be challenged to surviving the night in the most horrifying haunted house imaginable. Collecting the 12-issue series from Steve Niles and Kelley Jones!
Advance-solicited; on sale September 2 • 296 pg, FC, $19.99 US

I’m no expert on the matter, but that seems like an awful lot of pages for just $20; I assumed it would be split into two trades in the $15 range. I better see a blurb from Every Day Is Like Wednesday on there somewhere; I’ve been this series’ biggest champion!

Written by Kevin Smith
Art by Walter Flanagan & Art Thibert
Cover by Bill Sienkiewicz
Once again, Kevin Smith – the fan-favorite creator behind GREEN ARROW and Daredevil – teams up with Walter Flanagan – the artist on the acclaimed series BATMAN: CACOPHONY – for an all-new adventure starring The Caped Crusader. The stakes are high as Batman encounters a new vigilante under his wing amidst what Smith describes as a “backdrop of romance, intrigue, and geek-bait guest stars galore.” Trust us when we say that it’s as awesome as it sounds. BATMAN: WIDENING GYRE is just the start of things for Kevin in the Bat-Universe so get on board now!
On sale August 26 • 1 of 6 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Woah, woah, woah, “acclaimed?” I don’t think I read a single positive review of Cacophony, is acclaimed really the right word, or do I just not read the right kind of sites (i.e. ones with critics with terrible tastes)?

This one’s a six-issue series, giving Smith an even greater chance to fuck up the deadlines.

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Adrian Saef & John Dell
Cover by Andy Kubert
Deadman can't shut out the cries of the dead rising as he comes to the aid of the new Batman. It’s just in time, too, as the duo face a circus of zombies including the Black Lantern Flying Graysons!

And here’s another clue that Dick Grayson’s the new Batman to add to the clue pile.

I like Tomasi okay usually, and I do like Deadman, so I guess I’ll wait and see how the art looks.

Written by J.T. Krul
Art and cover by Ed Benes & Rob Hunter
Variant cover by Brian Haberlin
Black Lantern Titans are descending together onto Titans Island! Will the Titans be prepared to fight off their deceased allies? And how can Beast Boy not lose his heart to Black Lantern Terra? Explore the effect BLACKEST NIGHT has on the greater DC Universe in this 3-issue miniseries from writer J.T. Krul (JSA: CLASSIFIED, Fathom) and superstar artist Ed Benes (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

DC tries to cut into Marvel’s corner on coveted necrophiliac market with this cover, on which zombie Terra makes out with Beast Boy. I guess her dead body is composed of rock, reducing the ick factor a bit. Interesting to see Ed Benes on a Titans spin-off. Has someone wised up and realized maybe he’s not the bet artist for JLoA, or has JLoA fallen so far that a Titans spin-off might actually seem like a higher profile gig to him?

At any rate, bad artist plus writer I’ve never heard of by equals pass.

Wow, not even Michael Kaluta drawing it can convince me that The Specture looks cool with a goatee! That’s his cover to Braven and the Bold #26, wich features a team-up between Spectre II and Milestone’s Xombi, by writer John Rozum and artist Scott Hampton. (Scott Hampton?!)

Written by Jim Starlin
Art by Mike Mignola and Carlos Garzon
Cover by Mike Mignola
Don’t miss this new printing of the classic 1988 miniseries from Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola! COSMIC ODYSSEY assembles Superman, Batman, Green Lantern John Stewart, Martian Manhunter, Starfire, The Demon and others — at the behest of Darkseid!
Advance-solicited; on sale September 2 • 200 pg, FC, $19.99 US

This is completely fucking awesome, so make sure you buy it if you don’t already own it. It’s Mike Mignola drawing the DC Universe, which is really all you should need to know.

Written by Keith Giffen; co-feature written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Matthew Clark; co-feature art by Kevin Maguire
Cover by Matthew Clark
Variant cover by Matthew Clark and Kevin Maguire
Come one, come all! The world's strangest Super Heroes are back, and they brought those robot guys along with 'em! Thrill to the strange adventures of the Doom Patrol, with script by Keith Giffen and art by Matthew Clark! Whether you think you know 'em or you wouldn't know 'em if they bit you on the behind, this Doom Patrol's for you! But that's not all! Read all the way to the back cover for the all-new adventures of those elemental everymen, the Metal Men, featuring the triumphant return of the creative team that brought you JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL! That’s 40 full pages of comic-bookery for just under four American dollars. So why not try some Doom Patrol with a side order of Metal Men today?

Hmmm, two of DC’s quirkiest team concepts from the Silver Age sharing a single book, written by really rather great super-comics writers and illustrated by two different, extremely talented artists? What’s not to like about this? Well, I’m not crazy about Clark’s designs for the new Doom Patrol costumes, which look a little too Ultimates to me, and not even the Ultimates want to look like the Ultimates anymore, but that quibble aside, this looks like it should be a pretty great book. Don’t let me down, guys!

(Oh hey, DC posted some preview pages of the Metal Men back-up, and they look pretty great).

Written by Robert Kanigher and John Broome
Art by Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, Frank Giacoia and Joe Giella
Cover by Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert
The stories that introduced Barry Allen as the new Flash in the late 1950s are collected chronologically in trade paperback for the first time, with tales from SHOWCASE #4, 8, 13 and 14 and THE FLASH #105 and 106.
Advance-solicited; on sale September 23 • 160 pg, FC, $14.99 US

LIES! The cover says “All the Flash stories in the exact order they were published,” which isn’t true. This is apparently all the Flash II stories or all the Bary Allen stories in the exact order they were published. Which is stupid, because they are all cheaply available elsewhere. Where is my goddam Wonder Woman Chronicles goddamit?*

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver
The greatest threat to face the Flash Family in decades stands revealed! A new hero will step into an old speedster’s boots! And Barry Allen will make the ultimate sacrifice: his life! Oh yeah, you read that right, but you’ll never believe just what it means! They always say nothing will ever be the same, but trust us, this one will rewrite the history books!

At first I was just gonna say that I like how the dude got all Looney Tunes squished under the falling girder on the cover, but then I noticed that the Flash on the left is Barry, so there’s a new-new Black Flash. I assume that’s what it means when it sas “A new hero will step into an old speedster’s boots!” Also curious, the sentence that says “this one will rewrite the history books!”

Hmm…will Wally West take Barry’s place at the climax of Crisis on Infinite Earths and die, thus becoming the new Black Flash? I don’t know. Or even care overmuch. At this point, I just kind of want the story to hurry up and finish. I don’t know why exactly, but the uncertainty of the DC Universe is really stressing me out. They’re telling to many “who will be the new who” type stories at the same time for my liking.

Written by Dwayne McDuffie
Art by M.D. Bright and Mike Gustovich
Cover by Denys Cowan
The flagship character from Milestone Comics is back in this new printing of the classic title collecting ICON #1-8. This is the title that introduced Augustus Freeman, a successful lawyer who covertly uses his alien super-powers to help those in need. But when a teenaged girl from the streets convinces him to use his abilities to inspire his people and becomes his sidekick, Rocket, the affluent Augustus embraces his true destiny and becomes Icon, the hero of Dakota.
Advance-solicited; on sale September 30
192 pg, FC, $19.99 US

Yayyy! No more back issue hunting for me!

Written by Len Wein
Art by José Luis & J.P. Mayer
Cover by Fabrizio Fiorentino
In part 2 of the 3-part “Royal Flush” arc, it’s the Justice Society of America villain Roulette vs. the JLA's old foe, Amos Fortune. And the stakes are high as the two baddies pit the JLA against itself!

Given that Dwayne McDuffie’s JLoA seems like its been little more than a stalling tactic for Geoff Johns to free up his schedule so he can write the “real” Justice League, the prospect to a short fill-in arc to it seems enormously unappealing. Especially if the arc features Amos Fortune, one of the half-dozen adversaries picked out of a hat to plug into formulaic stories.

On the other hand, Plas is on the cover. Decisions, decisions….

Written by James Robinson
Art and cover Mauro Cascioli
The team continues its proactive hunt for justice as the trail leads to an army of Super-Villains. But the big bad may be deadlier than all of the new team combined... Continuing the anticipated 6-part miniseries event from James Robinson (STARMAN, SUPERMAN) and rising star artist Mauro Cascioli (TRIALS OF SHAZAM)!

Well I should hope the big bad is deadlier than all of the Justice Leaguers combined, seeing as how Justice Leagures aren’t exactly known for their prowess at killing people…

Written by Mike Grell
Art by Mike Grell, Joe Rubinstein and Vince Colletta
Cover by Mike Grell
Air Force pilot Travis Morgan crashes in the primitive world of Skartaris, where he must learn to live by the sword — and a comics legend begins. Morgan becomes a leader of Skartaris in this paperback collecting 1ST ISSUE SPECIAL #8 and WARLORD #1-28.
Advance-solicited; on sale September 16 • 528 pg, B&W, $17.99 US

Thanks, DC!

*And alsoCaptain Marvel Chronicles and Plastic Man Chronicles. And I bet a Justice Society Chronicles would do pretty well too.


Jacob T. Levy said...

Spectre-Xombi team-up? I am so there.

John Foley said...

Cosmic Odyssey was freakin' awesome. That was back in the day when Superman would try to take a swing at Darkseid, and get smacked into next Tuesday. These days Superman can knock the taste out of Darkseid's mouth and is basically immune to the Omega Effect. Boooo.

Kid Kyoto said...

"J. Michael Straczynski dives into the DC Universe at last – and he’s bringing four of the finest heroes of the Golden and Silver Ages with him!"

What you don't think the Red Circle heroes are the finest the Golden Age had to offer?


Just because they were epic failures in the golden age, and their 60s revival, and their 80s revival, AND their 90s revival you don't think their great characters?

Don't you realize there a literally millions of 70 year old men who've been waiting for the Hangman to return?

Don't you know the number of good characters is a finite resource and we must reuse them whenever possiblem?

You know who doesn't keep reusing the same characters again and again and keeps making up new ones?


You don't want your industry to become like theirs do you? WIth books selling millions of copies a week and people from all walks of life reading them? That would destroy everything DC and Marvel have worked to build!

LurkerWithout said...


Also I'd love to see a story with all the Vengeance of God/Devil characters showing up for the same guy. Say Vandal Savage. Or the Joker. Just someone that one of them should at least attempt to take out long term...

Phillyradiogeek said...

I'm wondering if the new Batgirl will be Wendy from Teen Titans. Based on the Oracle miniseries, that's a distinct possibility. Oracle could still be the mentor figure.

Kid Kyoto: awesome comment! ANd so true.

kwaku said...

Giving titles to TV writers who have never written comics and only one or two episodes of a bad show seems like a pretty stupid move so I wonder why they keep doing it. And look at the titles they give them. Green Arrow and Batgirl are not the biggest characters but they are pretty big.
I'm sure some Indy/small publisher writers would put up with working for DC if it means another source of income and doubling the number of readers who know you name.

James said...

I understand the argument that TV writers shouldn't just be handed a super hero comic, but it doesn't always end terribly. Just look at what John Rogers managed to do with Blue Beetle for 25 issues, and he's one of those despised TV writers.

Phillyradiogeek said...

What I question about TV writers working on comics is: how much do they respect the medium? Were they comics devotees growing up, or do they just see this as another gig? I don't want to see someone handing in a hack story when someone who enjoys writing specifically for comics is being denied a break.

Tony said...

I didn't even recognize Mike Kaluta there. He can really do a lot better.

Tony said...

Another TV writer case in point -- JM Straczynski.

caleb said...

Kid Kyoto,

I bet there is a few seventy-something fans of The Web and Hangman in nursing homes out there totally enthused to hear their favorite heroes are coming back...and then they'll be super-pissed that DC changed them around a bit. Those poor seventy-something-year-old Red Circle fans...


I remember at least one issue of The Spectre where he went after the Joker and, it's cloudy now, but somehow The Joker got control of the Spectre Force. And then I guess the Spectre just gave up and never tried it again or something....


Yeah, there's nothing inherently wrong with looking to them as a talent pool (Rogers turned out to be pretty good, although he didn't stick around too terribly long), but I think the Big Two over-focus on them though, or perhaps just over-value seeing it on a resume.

I actually didn't know Rogers was a TV writer (or if I did, I forgot). What show/s did he work on?


That's where Marvel found Brian Michael Bendis and, yeah, that seems to have worked out quite nicely for Marvel. Marvel at least does seem interested in finding writers from self-publishing/small press endeavors still (Jeff Parker, Fred Van Lente, Matt Fraction, that Hickman fellow)


JMS is another good example. I know fans differ on his skills, and I read some godawful stories during his ASM run ("The Other," "Back in Black," "One More Day"), but I liked more of the stories I did read than I disliked. He's also really stuck around a really long time, and did okay with his deadlines.

I don't think I'm familiar with his TV work (Beyond the Ghostbusters cartoon. He wrote that right?) personally, but was he to Babylon 5 as Joss Whedon was to Buffy, like more of a producer/writer than just plain old writer?

Maddy said...

the dude on GA/BC might be the bees knees for all I knowHe's really, really, not from what I've seen. He's also writing the current arc of Batman/Confidential, but that's also been unimpressive so far.

Batman Confidential and Superman/Batman have had some good stories here and there, though. I'd say those two titles are a much better testing ground for writers that are new to comics, since they don't really affect the mainstream continuity, but it does seem odd they keep going for TV writers.

I'd LOVE to see Cassandra Cain stay as Batgirl. I don't know who would write it at this point, but I will continue to hope that some day a decent writer who actually likes the character will sneak his/her way into writing the book.

Kid Kyoto said...

"I remember at least one issue of The Spectre where he went after the Joker and, it's cloudy now, but somehow The Joker got control of the Spectre Force. And then I guess the Spectre just gave up and never tried it again or something...."

It was the John Ostrander run (probably the best the Spectre has ever been) and considering we all know he can't kill the Joker it was a decent enough story.

IIRC the Spectre enters Joker's mind (big mistake) and Joker get's his power. Spectre takes it back but realises the Joker is insane and cannot be held responsible. But as punishement makes the Joker briefly sane so he understands what he has done.

Kid Kyoto said...

"I bet there is a few seventy-something fans of The Web and Hangman in nursing homes out there totally enthused to hear their favorite heroes are coming back...and then they'll be super-pissed that DC changed them around a bit. Those poor seventy-something-year-old Red Circle fans... "

Good point!

Let's start a petition for DC to respect the characters and stop raping my grandfather's childhood!

Hdefined said...

"The Spectre, Ragman, the new Crimson Avenger, the new El Diablo, etc. Someone should to a story where they all turn up to collect the same evildoer at the same time."