Wednesday, September 11, 2013

DC's December previews reviewed

Can I ask a stupid question? Of course I can! This is my blog. I can ask all the stupid questions and offer all of the unsolicited, stupid opinions I want!

Okay, so remember the last issue of Flashpoint, wherein the mysterious woman we now know to be Pandora, unified the DC Universe, The Vertigo "Universe" (which was actually just the DC Universe, but let's not quibble) and The WildStorm Universe into a new universe that became The New 52, saying something about how all three universes must combine in order to meet the coming threat?

I wonder what she was talking about. It wasn't Darkseid, obviously, as a half-dozen DCU characters beat him all by themselves. During "Trinity War," I don't think there was a single representative of the WildStorm Universe involved, and her own series seems devoted to defeating The Seven Deadly Sins, which she seems to be doing more-or-less solo, without help from anyone from Earth-Vertigo or Earth-WS.

Now Forever Evil has launched, and the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 has invaded, seemingly killed off all the Leaguers and are in the process of conquering Earth by organizing all of its villains into a huge army of sorts. Is that the threat she was talking about?

Because it's still mostly a DCU effort to battle them back, with Vertigo's John Constantine, Swamp Thing and maybe Black Orchid pitching in a little bit. I didn't see anyone from the WildStorm Universe at all. In fact, looking through the solicits, the only book that seems to have anything at all to do with WildStorm characters anymore is StormWatch, a team that is a mixture of old WildStorm characters from The Authority and StormWatch and from the old DCU (and, at least at the beginning, a few original characters). That book's not selling so great and, according to its solicits, doesn't seem to have anything to do Forever Evil (wasn't secretly guarding the DC Universe from things like invasions from alternate universes their whole deal?).

Now it's not that surprising that the WildStorm influence has been waning. None of those characters or books has been at all popular for a very long time now. But it is surprising that  DC hasn't at least kept a couple token characters around at least long enough to justify the formation of the New 52, particularly if this is it, the thing Pandora created the New 52 in order to combat (Although, given her ignorance of the invasion in the pages of her book and the "Trinity War" crossover, there's no real indication that she knew about the Crime Syndicate coming).

Just something that struck me while reading this. If the in-story raison d' etre for the New 52, creating a new universe of heroes capable of repelling a threat no single universe could survive on its own, then it seems counterproductive that one of those three universes seems to be sitting this potentially existential threat out...and to be retiring from defending the new universe altogether.

Anyway, DC's December solicits! You can read all of 'em at  Comic Book Resources, or just read my observations and snide remarks below.

Written by JEFF PARKER
1:25 Variant cover by PAUL PELLETIER and SEAN PARSONS
On sale DECEMBER 31 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
“Sea of Storms” begins with the debut of new AQUAMAN writer Jeff Parker! The Earth’s crust is grinding to life, releasing deadly volcanoes and bizarre creatures…so humanity’s first instinct is to blame Atlantis! And as the plates pull apart, the pressures of ruling a kingdom under siege are weighing on Aquaman and Mera as well

Uh-oh! Looks like one happily-married couple just learned that DC retroactively and randomly annulled their marriage this week, despite the fact that the publisher's Chief Creative Officer has been writing them as a married couple since 2010, well over a year on both sides of the New 52-boot!

I'm really disappointed to see Jeff Parker taking over the books, because I had just finally decided to drop it after months of conflict, figured I would switch to trades on it (Johns' run was infuriatingly slow-paced, written for the trade and filled with aggravating, space-wasting splash pages).  And now one of my favorite super-comics writers comes aboard, and I have to decide whether to start reading it monthly again or to continue to trade-wait! Damn you, DC! 
Well, I guess I have a few months to decide if I want to return to the book or not. Writer I Really Like + Artist I Rather Like + One of My Favorite Superheroes is a hard equation to resist.  If I do, I hope I find that Parker is writing for the individual issue, rather than the six-issue collection, unlike a certain other Aquaman writer who has a first name that sounds exactly like Parker's first name, only spelled differently.

 Another nice Batwing cover by Darwyn Cooke. The character has drifted from his original design and that design's inspiration, but, when Cooke draws the costume at least, he looks fairly awesome. 

On sale DECEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Kate Kane's life has always been one of intrigue and adventure, but since she took on the mantle of Batwoman, things have been in overdrive with no sign of slowing down! Join us as Batwoman starts her next chapter and faces a threat that might just have her rethinking her career as a hero!

The whole stupid saga of DC not giving J.H. Williams III any and everything on this title to keep him around is just insane, even by the fairly insane standards of DC's apparent treatment of its creators. Interest in Batwoman Kathy Kane pretty much starts and stops with Williams, and while I'm sure there are a few dozen people who read the book mainly to support a female character carrying a book and another few dozen who do so to support a gay character carrying a book, the rest of those people reading Batwoman were doing so to look at pictures of Williams' art.

I read the TEC arc, and the first and third volumes of the New 52 book, and it was a weird book. I won't say the writing was particularly good, but the book boasted a hard to replicate virtue of being a book unlike any other out there. It was an incredibly unique book, and a perfectly singular experience. 

I don't see the point of it without Williams' art though, and was wondering who they would get to replace him. Jeremy Haun is doing this issue...but I don't know if he's doing all of 'em going forward. I think Phil Jimenez is probably the ideal artist, being an accomplished writer as well (Remember, Williams was drawing as well as co-writing), and while his style isn't much like Williams (no one's is, which is one of the draws), he does have a similarly baroque style, one that can look quite realistic and given to the sorts of heavily detailed, heavily imaginative spreads that would drive a lot of artists mad. Plus, you know, he's gay, giving DC a double argument that they're not anti-gay because they wouldn't let Kate Kane marry her girlfriend, they just hate marriage that much (Except for Animal Man and Aquaman's marriages...although I guess they say Aquaman isn't married, which kinda makes me want to look through my New 52 issues of Aquaman for all the instances of Mera calling him her husband or Aquaman calling Mera his wife, but I don't think that's the best use of my time; hell this isn't even the best use of my time).

I suppose it's hard to have too too much sympathy for Williams and co-writer Blackman, given the fact that this is hardly the first time creators have had an extremely difficult time dealing with the current editorial structure at DC (Abhay Kholasa said it best here: "'How could that shit come as surprise to anybody?' asked a small blind Amish child who hadn’t really been paying close attention this entire time... How? How is that possible? Had one or both of them buried alive face down?").

On the other hand,  DC did seem to leave them mostly alone-ish on the title for the most part, allowing them to kinda sorta ignore most the New 52-boot the way only Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder and the guys who made all the Green Lantern were able to (From what I've read of Batwoman, it picked up characters with long, complicated DC continuities like Maggie Sawyer and Mr. Bones and Cameron Chase pretty much where they left off before the reboot; I even read Chase refer to her father being Acro-Bat when she was a child, which would have been looooong before the "Five Years Ago" of the New 52 timeline, assuming Chase is not a 15-year-old girl who Doogie Howsered her way into the government agency that monistors DC superheroes and isn't ARGUS).

Also, Batwoman didn't have to have a "Night of the Owls" or "Death of the Family" tie-in issue. 

Andreyko's a fine writer, and did a fine job on a similar superhero before (Manhunter). Haun, if he's the same Jeremy Haun I'm thinking of, is a fine artist...but he's also an unenviably poor bastard with the unhappy task of following Williams on a book Williams more-or-less invented, visually. I suppose the way forward now is to simply make it one more Batman spin-off book, and not skipping the next "Death of the Family" Bat-crossover that Scott Snyder engineers. As long as it does numbers that high once a year or so, it hardly matters what happens between tie-ins (see, for example, Batgirl, Birds of Prey and Nightwing).

Written by ANDY KUBERT
Art and cover by ANDY KUBERT
On sale DECEMBER 31 • 32 pg, FC, 3 of 4, $3.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with three covers. Please see the order form for more information.
Damian Wayne has been bruised and beaten to a pulp…but nothing before will compare to his latest confrontation with the horde of villains in this issue. When pitted against Professor Pyg, DC villain’s month darling Jakanapes and other baddies, how will Damian survive—especially when he finds a certain clown waiting for him at the finish line?

Well, that shark-looking guy with the huge head and machine gun looks interesting...

I'm not sure how Jackanapes qualifies as "DC villain's month darling," exactly. The book he appeared in, Batman #23.1, was billed as a Joker comic, and no one knew Jackanapes was even in it until last Wednesday (he wasn't mentioned in the solicitation and didn't appear on the cover). So even if that issue proves to be the best-selling or best-reviewed book of the month (which still has, let's see, three more weeks and 39 more comics to go before it's over), one has to imagine that the sales part at least would have everything to do with The Joker and nothing to do with Jackanapes. 

Written by MATT WAGNER
On sale JANUARY 15• 128 pg, FC, $14.99 US
Jason Blood travels to Cornwall to find the spirit of Merlin and lift the curse that binds him to Etrigan, The Demon. But unraveling a centuries old curse is anything but easy, and Blood learns more about his mystical alter ego than he could have imagined. Collects the 4-issue miniseries from 1987 and issue #22 of The Demon’s monthly series.

I've only ever been able to find two of these issues in back-issue bins, but I really liked 'em and wanted to read the other ones. I'll almost certainly pick this up to be able to do so (Plus, I imagine the colors and pages will look brighter and cleaner than the 20+-year-old issues I have, and this has  just gotta smell better).  

It's Matt Wagner writing and drawing Jack Kirby's Demon. I can't imagine what more one would need to know about this book to desire it.

EARTH 2 #18
Written by TOM TAYLOR
On sale DECEMBER 4 • 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 new Batman of Earth 2 tries to turn the tide in the war against the forces of Darkseid and Apokolips, but even as new allies reveal themselves the planet trembles before its new rulers.

Who is the new Batman of Earth 2? he asked, not really caring. Is it Terry Sloane? Is it Charles McNider? (Look, he's got black-out gas!) Or could it be the Dick Grayson of Earth-New 52? That would be kinda weird, but the color scheme matches, the solicitation for this month's Nightwing is really kinda weird sounding, and there was a grown-up Dick Grayson wearing a form of Batman costume on the original Earth 2, so there's precedent.

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
On sale DECEMBER 24 • 32 pg, FC, 4 of 7, $3.99 US

It’s all-out chaos as the DC Universe continues its march through darkness! War erupts across the Earth between the villains! Allegiances are formed! Rivals are murdered! And at center stage it’s Lex Luthor versus Batman—and their fight couldn’t come at a worse time as Deathstroke’s Hunting Party closes in on the world’s only hope against the Crime Syndicate!

While I was reading Forever Evil #1 last week, I was reminded of Grant Morrison's story of the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invading and attempting to conquer the "our" Earth, in his JLA: Earth-2 with Frank Quitely (there wasn't a multiverse at the time, so the number labels didn't really mean anything; if I recall correctly, "Earth-2" is how the folks from the alternate, evil universe referred derisively to the DCU's Earth).

The more economical, story and idea focused Morrison of that era got his whole story done in the space of a single original graphic novel, rather than filling out all the space a seven-month long line-wide crossover event would have allowed, and his solution to the conflict was elegant and clever. Regarding the "story" laws that governed  the world of the JLA, and the opposite laws that would govern an opposite earth where good = evil and evil = good, as laws as immutable as those of physics, Morrison posited that it was impossible for the evil JLA to ever "win" in the DC Universe, where the good guys in the JLA always win, just as it would be impossible for the Leaguers to ever win on the Crime Syndicate's world, where evil is always triumphant.

Given how much the premise of Forever Evil seems to owe that Morrison story (which itself owed a lot to the original Gardner Fox Justice League comics), I wondered how or if Johns might address that concept.

The more traditional (traditional to the point of tired cliche, really) way for villain team-ups to go sour, of course, is to have the villains come to some disagreement and ultimately come to blows, splintering and defeating themselves because, to a bad guy, the virtue of teamwork is too foreign, too alien, too unnatural to maintain forever.

Looking at this month's solicits, it looks like the shape of Forever Evil might be some variation of that, with the less bad villains of Earth-New 52 like Lex Luthor and The Rogue's trying to take down the Crime Syndicate and The Society for their own selfish reasons (Poison Ivy and Two-Face also seem unlikely to side with the Syndicate indefinitely, and Catwoman, if she's even really with them and not just drawn on some of the covers, is of course a member of one of the Justice League's now).

I'm also assuming The Joker will side with Luthor and The Rogues against the Syndicate. Looking at that cover image and trying to puzzle out who that is in the Batman suit (assuming it's not our Batman, since previous covers have shown Batman standing shoulder to shoulder with the villains and here he's fighting against Luthor). I wonder if it could be The Joker? After all, in Forever Evil #1, The Penguin tells Bane he's certain The Joker is hiding among the assembled members of The Society, wearing someone else's face.

Now, normally I'd say The Joker could never pull off a convincing Batman, given how different their body types are. But remember these covers (and the pages inside) are being drawn by David Finch, who drew those first few arcs of Brian Michael Bendis' New Avengers comic, where it was revealed that the big, burly man Ronin was actually the svelte female Echo, wearing a "padded suit" (Nevermind the fact that Finch, who is not very good, drew Echo like a foot or two shorter than Ronin and a good 150 pounds lighter).

Of course, on closer inspection, the Owlman costume on that cover seems empty, so perhaps Owlman, realizing how dumb his new costume is (The previous one, introduced in the previously mentioned Earth-2, or the one from the Justice League: Crisis on Two Worlds direct-to-DVD cartoon are both infinitely cooler than this one) simply decided that if Batman weren't around to wear Batman's costume, maybe he'd just start wearing that himself.

Anyway, Forever Evil: It will be just past the halfway point come December.


On sale DECEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, 3 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for more information.
The Rogues continue their flight from the ruthless Crime Syndicate, who have put a bounty on their heads. But en route back to Central City, Mirror Master’s powers malfunction, and they land in the middle of the events of ARKHAM WAR with pretty much every Bat-villain around going after the bounty!

See? The Rogues are fighting against the Syndicate. (Which is too bad; I was hoping they were rebelling against Gorilla Grodd, to avenge the death of "Chroma," The New 52 Rainbow Raider).

That's an awesome cover by Shalvey.

I can't remember the last time I read a good Man-Bat story, but I really like seeing the way different artists draw him, and that frozen pose, with th shards of glass seemingly moving all around him? That's awesome.

1:25 Variant cover by ADAM HUGHES
On sale DECEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
Harley is set to begin her new life, but she needs a job first! Enter the Coney Island Roller Derby! It’s game time as Harley sets out to destroy her competition—literally!

Well, both the regular cover and the variant should be great-looking. I'm not so sure about the interior art though, as Hardin's name doesn't ring a bell.  I probably woulda tapped Rick Burchett, if it were up to me, but it was not up to me.

See, this is why you should never half-ass the cover of the first issue of a new Justice League series, Jim Lee. It's only a matter of time before someone decides to do an homage to it (or at least allusion or echo of it), and it's only going to draw attention to how not-all-that-great your original was.  Compare this to the 564 different versions of Kevin Maguire's "Wanna Make Something Of It?" cover to 1987's Justice League #1.


No, I can't say it. Sorry.

Although, were I the editor of that book, I'd probably ask artist Eddy Barrows to redraw part of that cover before it shipped.

On sale DECEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Can Vibe save his brother, stop an alien invasion and stay alive? That last one may be a tall order!

Written by ANN NOCENTI
On sale DECEMBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Katana must choose: Side with her new Sword Clan allies or her old friend Shun as the Mad Samurai plots his revenge!

Oh hey, these books both survived past the eight-issue mark, which is where it seems that DC's most immediate and obvious misfires get canceled. I'm actually kinda surprised they're not both tying into Forever Evil; one weird aspect of the crossover seems to be that while the initial issue was trying to sell us on the fact that the Justice League/s were all killed, the solicitations for these issues make it clear that none of them really died (assuming these issues all take place after Forever Evil, and not before). Maybe if the main series was  bi-monthly, they could have tried to keep that suspense going a bit, but I guess putting the whole line in a sort of narrative holding pattern for seven months would have been a tall order, and lead to way more tie-ins than anyone on earth would have been interested in reading. 

But back to the point: Look! Vibe and Katana haven't been canceled yet! At this point, they could totally last a whole year! 

Art and cover by HOWARD PORTER
1:50 B&W Variant cover by HOWARD PORTER
RESOLICIT • On sale DECEMBER 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

This title is resolicited. All previous orders are canceled.
The new series starring the heroes of today—tomorrow is resolicited, now with legendary artist Howard Porter (JLA) on board! But what are these heroes doing in the year 3000? And who (or what) brought them there? Get ready for a dose of wonder from the writing team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis!

Now guaranteed 100% Kevin Maguire-free!

Art and cover by WILL CONRAD
On sale DECEMBER 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
With the events of FOREVER EVIL looming, Nightwing enters the final stages of life as he knows it!

Ominous, ain't it? Doubly so when you realize that, despite what the credits say, that cover is by Scott McDaniel, the artist probably most strongly associated with Nightwing, having drawn more issues of Nightwing comics than any other artist. If they were going to do something big and special with the character, that's the guy they'd want drawing the cover.

It's also kind of amusing though, because it seems like Nightwing just started a new "life as he knows it," moving to Chicago to strike out on his own, far afield from Batman (again). But then, there's probably no DC super-character who has been jerked around more than Dick Grayson. That guy seems to get a new status quo every 3-12 months, pretty much ever since Chuck Dixon stopped writing him and McDaniel stopped drawing him, really.

A few questions about Steve Skroce's cover for Suicide Squad #26 (don't get excited; Skroce just draws the cover): Is that Steel? Steel, where are your cape and mask? (You look funny without 'em!) Is Steel eight feet tall, or is Captain Boomerang a hobbit?  I'm not sure which side Power Girl is on, exactly, but looking at the other five people fighting on that cover, how is there even a fight? Power Girl should be able to take out everyone else on the cover with asingle clap of her hands or hearty exhale.

With the exception of Steel. Him she'd have to punch once (Or maybe just flick him, depending on whether she goes for a body blow or a head shot).

Written by RAY FAWKES
On sale DECEMBER 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
A FOREVER EVIL TIE-IN! Pandora seeks answers from the one man who seems to have them…Earth-3's The Outsider! But first she must make it past a rabid Vandal Savage, who wants revenge for what Pandora has done to him! All this, and an unexpected visit from the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine!

In addition to appearing in his own book and Justice League Dark, you can also find Constantine guest-starring in Pandora #6Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger #14, DC Universe Vs. Masters of The Universe #6 and All-Star Western #26. He's like the Wolverine of the New 52!

Uh-oh. I think it's been over 24 hours sine I've mentioned how awesome Guillem March is. Look! Look at his cover for Phantom Stranger! Isn't he awesome? His Swamp Thing sure is horrifying, with his gaping  The angel on the right, if you haven't read any Phantom Stranger yet (and I don't blame you; the two issues I read weren't very god), is New 52 Zauriel. He doesn't look so bad here, but J.M DeMatteis has re-created him as a fairly generic humanoid angel character, and he looks like a big, bald black man, rather than the fairly alien gray-skinned, avian-esque character Grant Morrison and Howard Porter created him as (When we first met him, he was just wearing a generic angel toga; there he is all armored-up and looking more super-heroic though).

And finally...

Inspired by the designs from the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins video game, which introduces an original prequel storyline set several years before Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, comes four of Gotham City's most dangerous criminals!
*Action Figure* $24.95 US • Sold Separately • On Sale March 2014

Given what I've heard of the premise, I'm not sure I understand what Anarky might be doing in the latest of the Batman: Akrham video games, but that's what he will apparently look like. In keeping with the game's general aesthetic, he will look pretty dumb.


allstarmatches said...

I am told that the threat to which Pandora referred at the end of Flashpoint was an upcoming Daemonite invasion, which DC teased in a bunch of comics I don't read but then scrapped altogether.

Whether it's intentional on DC's part, I don't know, but it's best to read all Pandora dialog under the assumption that she is an idiot who is always wrong about everything. :)

David said...

DC has actually broken up Animal Man's marriage. That's how much they hate marriage.

SallyP said...

Yep, DC hates marriage a whole lot. I assume that they are all divorced or something, and trying to work things out this way.

But we are into the second week of the All Villains All The Time story...and I am bored to tears.

JohnF said...

Steve Skroce needs to work more. Like, a LOT more.