Monday, December 10, 2012

DC's March previews reviewed

The biggest news in DC's solicitations for the comics they plan to publish next March is a single change in the writer's credit of a single title: The preview for Batgirl says "Written by Ray Fawkes," and notes that it's the "first of two issues by guest writer Ray Fawkes!"

As you may have heard here, or perhaps here, Gail Simone was apparently dumped—via e-mail!—as the writer of Batgirl. Her last issue will ship in February, and while one imagines her replacement has already been picked out, it looks like Fawkes will be filling in until at least May's.

Now, creative team changes are commonplace, and laughably so among The "New 52" line of DC books, with several creators departing books suddenly amid acrimony and accusations.

What's significant about this writer leaving this title, beyond her legion of fans on the Internet, which will likely result in a lot more discussion of this particular creative change, is four-fold.

First, Gail Simone has been writing Barbara Gordon for a very, very long time—a century, by the standards of the life-expectancy of modern corporate comics creator runs. Simone wrote Gordon as Oracle in the first volume of Birds of Prey from 2003-2008 and in the short-lived second volume from 2010-2011 (at which point it was canceled to make way for a third, New 52 volume). She wrote Batgirl since it's September 2011 relaunch.

Second, at the time of New 52boot, Simone was the only female writer among the 52 writers, and the only female of the writers and pencil artists among those creating those 52 books. (It's been a while now, but I think there was one female inker, and a cover or two by women). The situation has improved since then, notably with Ann Nocenti returning to super-comics for DC, but female creators at DC are still a rare thing, and reducing their numbers of reliable creators by even one seems like a big, drastic move (Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this reduces the number of female writers on DCU titles from three to two; that is, by a third).

Third, Batgirl was specifically sold to DC readers, particularly Barbara Gordon fans, with the assurance that it would be a Gail Simone comic. Restoring the use of Gordon's legs and essentially demoting her from DC Universe information officer and leader of the Birds of Prey to the more poorly-drawn of the two red-headed, female versions of Batman was an enormously controversial move in some quarters (At that point, Barbara Gordon had been Oracle about as long as she had been Batgirl). Co-publisher Dan DiDio tried to reassure readers that since long-time Oracle writer Simone was involved, they'd have nothing to worry about; Simone herself went to great lengths to reach out to angry fans and assure them she wouldn't even be doing the book if she thought it wasn't going to be a good move.

Fourth, it's all very mysterious. With many of the other creative team changes in the New 52, low sales seem to have been a factor. Batgirl was selling very, very well. Looking at its position among the rest of DC's line, it was outselling Wonder Woman, Teen Titans and The Flash, half of the Green Lantern (New Guardians, Red Lanterns), line and even a huge chunk of the Batman line (Catwoman, Batwoman, Red Hood and Batwing).

I don't suppose we'll know why Gail Simone is no longer writing Batgirl for DC until the new writer is announced, but unless it's Geoff Johns or DC somehow snagged someone incredibly unexpected like, I don't know, Neil Gaiman or Mark Millar or Taylor Swift, it's kind of hard to imagine how this will work out well for the publisher, and be worth the days, weeks and even months of backlash they're going to earn.

Other than that, I honestly don't see a whole lot of interest in this month's solicitations. If you'd like to follow along, allow me to recommend paymasters Comic Book Resources or ComicsAlliance as good places to do so.

Otherwise, proceed...

Art and cover by EDUARDO FRANCISCO
1:25 Variant photo cover by DC COLLECTIBLES
On sale MARCH 6 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
• All-new digital adventures in print for the first time!
• The new, monthly AME-COMI ongoing series begins here!
• The Ame-Comi Girls team up for the final showdown with Brainiac!
• Starring Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Supergirl, Batgirl, Robin, Steel and The Flash!

Ongoing, huh? I don’t know. I signed up for the miniseries in large part out of curiosity. That should be well sated by the time March rolls around.

The wording of the solicit is weird, though. The miniseries is half over, and the plot seems to be that various villains are fighting and capturing various heroes at the behest of Brainiac, so I would expect a “final showdown” in the last issue of the miniseries. But according to this, the conclusion of that conflict wont’ occur at the conclusion of the miniseries.

I imagine if that’s simply because these were being created on an ongoing basis digitally, and it was simply the way DC decided to package the print versions that there was a miniseries followed by an ongoing, with the climax of the former being held to the start of the latter.

Looking at the sales charts, this and the other digital-first series do seem to be selling quite respectably in the direct market as hard copies (that is, they don’t sell any worse than I imagine they would have if they weren’t published online first. Makes me wonder about the future of the digital/print balance; it certainly seems like DC wouldn’t have much to lose by putting everthing (or almost everything) online first, and then publishing the hard copies, as it’s doing with these.

Or maybe they could just do that with the lower end books, say, everything under 40K, and keep the best-sellers as the sorts of things you have to go to a shop to buy the day of release…? I don’t know.

Written by RAY FAWKES
On sale MARCH 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
• The first of two issues by guest writer Ray Fawkes!
• Batgirl must face the man who sold her out to The Joker during “DEATH OF THE FAMILY”…her own brother, James Gordon, Jr.
• Can Barbara help him, or will this conflict be the final nail in her family’s coffin?

Wait, weren't we just talking about this book? Well, there's your new creative team: For a time-wasting arc, at least. The only work of Fawkes that I recall reading was his excellent Josie and The Pussycats-meets-Mad Max graphic novel Apocalipstix, although a great deal of that had to do with Cameron Stewart's art.

Maybe if Stewart were drawing Batgirl #18-#19 I'd check 'em out, but it looks and sounds like it will be the same not-very-good art that the previous issues all had.

Backup story written by SCOTT SNYDER and JAMES TYNION IV
Backup story art by ALEX MALEEV
Variant cover by ANDY KUBERT
1:100 B&W Variant cover by GREG CAPULLO
On sale MARCH 13 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
Retailers: This issue will ship with four covers. Please see the order form for more information.
• Welcome guest-artist Andy Kubert!
• In the wake of unspeakable tragedy, Batman is in danger of losing his humanity!
• And in the backup story, fan-favorite character Harper Row returns—but will she be able to pull Batman back from the brink?
This issue is also offered as a combo pack edition with a redemption code for a digital download of this issue.

Hey, I've never even heard of this Harper Row person, and she's a fan-favorite? Oh my God, I've apparently gone so long without reading new Batman comic books that I am officially no longer a fan!

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
On sale MARCH 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
• You dare not miss this issue!
• It’s the BATMAN AND ROBIN story of the year!

In other words, they have no idea what this issue is going to be about. But the deadline was looming and they had to turn in some kind of solicitation text, no matter how brief and vague.

Art and cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:25 B&W Variant cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale MARCH 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
• The terrifying tale of the Mad Hatter’s origin continues!
• Batman is still two steps behind the Hatter’s current reign of terror…will Catwoman’s interference make it three


Well, that's both weird and gross at the same time. Did the Mad Hatter just cut a wound into Batman and is attempting to climb inside Batman...?

When this new creative team was announced, I was initially excited to check the book out. Then I read Hurwitz's Penguin miniseries, and changed my mind real fast.

I'll probably check out a library trade some day though, as I am curious to see what a Van Sciver run on a Batman comic will end up looking like.

This is kind of an interesting idea, poorly executed. The fact that her whip is the same color and texture as the image in the painting behind her doesn't really help.

Say what you will about some of Guillem March's more, er, notorious covers for Catwoman, that dude is a hell of an artist. Please see his Legends of The Dark Knight cover below for a good example.

On sale MARCH 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
• The star of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK is unleashed in his all-new ongoing series!
• Liar, cheater, manipulator…John Constantine is all of these, and yet he uses these skills and more to protect the world from the darkest corners of the DC Universe.
• What Constantine learns in this first issue will shake the very foundations of the New 52…and only he knows how to deal with it!

I'm sure Venditti and Guedes are nice enough people, but nothing about that book—creative team, cover, solicitation text—seems momentous enough to merit the cancellation of the Hellblazer. Hell, at the very least they could have kept the Hellblazer creative team which was, what's the word, really good.

This Brian Bolland cover for March's issue of Dial H (which hasn't been cancelled yet, despite editor Karen Berger's announced departure) is so perfect I kind of don't even want to read the comic, for fear the contents won't be as wonderful as the potential the cover suggests.

I would just like to take a moment to point and laugh at Wonder Woman's ridiculous boobs on this cover. It's for Injustice, the comic book adaptation of the video game by the Mortal Kombat people about DC's heroes beating the bejeezus out of one another.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Backup story written by GEOFF JOHNS and MATT KINDT
Art and cover by DAVID FINCH
Backup story art by SCOTT CLARK

On sale MARCH 6 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
• The new Justice League of America team continues to form, but the question remains: What do these heroes want in return for their membership?
• Secret motives are everywhere, and the outcome will have a huge impact on this team and the rest of The New 52!
• Plus, the alien MANHUNTER’s back-up series begins revealing more about J’onn’s plans for this team...and the other Justice League.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand this “New 52” initiative. Prior to the September 2011 launch, DC spent a year on a pair of biweekly series reintroducing various characters into the DCU with new status quos: The Justice League International, Firestorm, Hawk and Dove, Swamp Thing, John Constantine and so on.

And then, a few months later, they scrapped all that to reitnroduce many of the very same characters into the DCU with new status quos, essentially scrapping a year’s worth of hardwork by some of their top talent. Like that of Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns.

Johns, for example, wrote Brightest Day, the biweekly follow-up to his own Blackest Night which retooled a whole bunch of characters to make them fit in with the DCU better than they have for years and years. One of those chracters was Aquaman, whose series Johns has been writing since the reboot, essentially starting over and redoing what he’d already done with Brightest Day.

And now it looks like he’ll be co-writing (with Matt Kindt, of all people!) a Martian Manhunter back-up. Martian Manhunter, of course, was another character Johns had already retooled in Brightest Day.

As with a lot of Lemire’s work for DC, I’d be a lot more interested in the Kindt co-written back-up if the writer/artist was drawing it as well.

See? Guillem March is a very good artist.

Wait a minute; has Batman been wearing those stupid kneepads all this time now and I just hadn't noticed until I saw this stupid Nightwing cover...?

Robert Pope's cover for this month's issue of Scooby-Doo made me laugh.

Backup story art by SCOTT KOLINS

On sale MARCH 13 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
• Former Green Lantern Jediah Caul leads an assault on the powers behind the game...a very ill advised assault.
• Introducing CAPTAIN K’ROT!
• In the backup feature, the hunt for Larfleeze’s stuff turns up evidence that the theft was an inside job!

While he’s not the last person I’d want to see drawing the New 52 version of Captain Carrot (Greg Land? Salvador Larrocca? Daniel Acuna? Ed Benes? Tony Daniel? There are a lot of artists I would want to see drawing the New 52 version of Captain Carrot), I can’t imagine Tom Raney’s style is very well-suited to the task.

It’s really too bad that there’s so much uniformity in the art in DC Comics at the moment; the fact alone sort of advane un-sell portenially fun books like this.

That said, based on the cover, it looks like K’Rot is going to be DC’s answer to Rocket Raccoon (Wait, didn’t Giffen recently write Rocket Raccoon for one of Marvel’s Annihilation minis?), based on Bucky O’Hare and/or the Giant Green Star Wars Rabbit.


JohnF said...

I love Gail Simone, too, but these Batgirl issues of hers were deadly boring.

A Hero said...

I never imagined that the words "DC’s answer to Rocket Raccoon" would be put together in a sentence, or that it would be so obviously true.

Flying Tiger said...

Gail Simone released from DC? Oh whither Mom's Friendly Robot Company when Mom herself be banished?