Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DC's May previews reviewed

In May, DC will launch the second of the two weekly series they've announced (more on that below). The already in-progress weekly, the awkwardly titled Batman Eternal, has four different artists, one per issue, scheduled in May. At least some of them I know are great artists—like Guillem March—but I thought the plan was story arcs drawn by a single artist, so this could lead to a less-than-satisfactory product. Or maybe the four issues are standalone, done-in-ones, and the drastic shifts in art styles won't matter so much.

I saw the words "Batman '66 variant by Michael Allred" mentioned in a lot of the solicitations. I don't imagine I'll actually get any of those, as they seem tied to weird (to me) ordering schemes, but I'd like to see them. I hope they involve either the Batman '66-ization of the characters in the title featuring them, or maybe just Allred's version of the Adam West TV Batman teaming up with, like, stabby New 52 Aquaman or whoever on each cover.

As for the monthly count of how many titles are actually part of "The New 52" line these days, well, as is usually the case, the answer may surprise you! If you would be surprised to learn that it is actually not 52 titles. If you expected that, well then, i guess it wouldn't surprise you after all.

At any rate, I counted only 42 ongoing-ish titles scheduled for May. Add the one one-shot Superman: Doomed #1 and you get 43. Of those 42 ongoing-ish titles, two of them arethe weeklies, so, if you want to count those by number of issues published rather than by titles—and we probably shouldn't, as the concept was 52 new ongoing series—that's still only 49 books. DC needs new titles! Or to do something different with their branding! (New titles are presumably coming though, as there are some notable absences this month, like books featuring Nightwing, or the Teen Titans).

As always, if you'd like to read the solicitations in full—and you likely already have, since they apparently released them yesterday and I didn't even notice—then you can do so at several places. I looked at them here this month. And for thoughts on the books that jumped out at me this month, read on...

Someone get Steel a cape, STAT! Also, I don't really care for the New 52 Metallo...he just looks like a beefed-up Luthor with a toupee.

The solicitation for this issue, which I did not cut-and-paste into it, is about those guys teaming up to beat up Superman, who is going through ridiculous-looking changes as a result of his fight with Doomsday in all the other Superman books, which isn't something I'm at all interested in. But it makes me sad that Action Comics is tying into the other Superman books. Because, while I've only read the very first issue of the new Greg Pak/Aaron Kuder Action Comics (at $4, that shit's expensive...I could get a Starbucks for that, and milk it for like three hours while I read a bunch of comics and trades of the Barnes and Noble shelf the Starbucks cafe is in), it seemed like they were ding cool stuff about giant monsters, and the art was awesome. So, you know, things that look more interesting than being parts 1, 4, and 8 of a ten-part story about Superman fighting Doomsday, round 32, now with new continuity.



AQUAMAN #31
Written by JEFF PARKER
Art and cover by PAUL PELLETIER and SEAN PARSONS
1:25 BATMAN ‘66 variant cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
On sale MAY 28 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
The King of Atlantis vs. the Avatar of the Green! It’s Aquaman against Swamp Thing, with countless lives hanging in the balance! But why – and what does this mean for rest of The New 52? Find out here!

Aquaman vs. Swamp Thing? Has such a thing ever happened?!

Yes.
Yes it has.





BATMAN #31
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art by GREG CAPULLO and DANNY MIKI
Cover by GREG CAPULLO
1:25 BATMAN ‘66 variant cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
On sale MAY 14 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
...
The second chapter of “ZERO YEAR – SAVAGE CITY” reveals an entirely new Gotham City. Unraveling the mysteries set forth by the Riddler, Batman must learn to work with his new ally, Lieutenant Jim Gordon, and do whatever it takes to survive!

Given how much the DCU Green Arrow bit off of Batman—Arrowcave, Arrowcar, Arrowplane, teenage sidekick—it's kinda weird to see Batman biting off Green Arrow's style (GA showed up in Gotham in the first chapter of "Zero Year," so Batman totally saw a vigilante wielding a bow before this cover, in which he takes up deer-hunting in his spare time, using a gargoyle as a stand...deer hunting is extremely challenging in Gotham City, as there are no deer there).


BATMAN AND FRANKENSTEIN #31
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
Cover by PATRICK GLEASON
1:25 BATMAN ‘66 variant cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
On sale MAY 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
“The Hunt for Robin” continues! Batman is on the trail of Ra’s al Ghul in the hope of recovering the stolen bodies of Damian and Talia. But when all leads grow cold, he’ll need to call in help – someone who can go where no Bat has gone before. This looks like a job for...Frankenstein?!

And to think I thought it was weird when DC solicited Batman and Aquaman and Batman and Wonder Woman...I assumed this arc would be all about Batman teaming up with various members of his Justice League. Frankenstein was not even on my radar (Although Mahke drawing both Batman and Frankenstein, the character he re-created with Grant Morrison, should be awesome).

The title/numbering of this book continues to annoy the shit out of me. Even if Robin's dead, it looks like these stories have all been about him anyway, so why not just keep the original title, if you're not going to change it to Batman Team-Up or Batman Plus or Batman: The Brave and The Bold...?

Also, Batman and Frankenstein would make a hell of an ongoing, wouldn't it? It would have to be more interesting than Superman/Wonder Woman...


BATMAN ‘66 #11
Written by JEFF PARKER
Art by JONATHAN CASE
Cover by JONATHAN CASE
1:25 Variant cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
On sale MAY 21 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED E • DIGITAL FIRST
Retailers: This issue will arrive in stores with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
This one has it all! The Joker, Catwoman, and a cameo by just about every Bat-villain ever. No wonder Batman and Robin need Batgirl to help! Jonathan Case, the artist who launched BATMAN ‘66, returns to illustrate this epic full-length story.


While it bums me out that Allred's not providing the cover for this issue as per usual, I guess the fact that he's drawing a bunch of variant covers in May is a pretty good excuse, and Case's cover is pretty great, anyway.


Batman/Superman #11 will have a nice cover, thanks to Jae Lee.


HELLBLAZER VOL. 8: RAKE AT THE GATES OF HELL TP
Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art by STEVE DILLON
Cover by CLIFF CHIANG
On sale JUNE 4 • 384 pg, FC, $19.99 US • MATURE READERS
John Constantine heads toward a final showdown with a revenge-crazed Satan during a raging race riot! While trying to save his remaining friends, Constantine has a final reunion with his lost love Kit. Collects HELLBLAZER #78-83 plus HEARTLAND #1

Hey, remember when DC used to publish great comics featuring John Constantine...?


THE MOVEMENT #12
Written by GAIL SIMONE
Art by FREDDIE WILLIAMS II
Cover by STEVEN SEGOVIA
On sale MAY 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
There’s no length the Movement won’t go to if it means rescuing one of their own from a cult that has deep roots in Burden’s hometown.

That's four issues longer than I thought it would last when they first announced it.

Steven Segovia is a good artist.


DC COMICS PRESENTS: THE DEMON – DRIVEN OUT #1
Written by JOSHUA DYSART
Art by POP MHAN and ART THIBERT
Cover by JO CHEN
On sale MAY 14 • 136 pg, FC, $9.99 US
In this 6-issue epic from 2003, Jason Blood cuts a deal with a cult of modern-day alchemists to divorce him from The Demon for good… but the ceremony goes horribly wrong! In a fiery car crash, The Demon crosses paths with a young, troubled street racer. To tame The Demon and stop a Yakuza war, she’ll need the help of Jason Blood!

I wonder if DC is only publishing this now because they heard about the new All-New Marvel NOW! Ghost Rider series, in which a new host takes up a demon of vengeance and also there's some Fast and the Furious car-racing maybe, and it reminded them of the series they published a while back in which their demon gets a new host and there's some Fast and the Furious car-racing business.

I remember buying the first two issues of this, because I like The Demon and liked Pop Mhan's art at the time and Joe Chen's covers were gorgeous, but I also remember dropping it. And, a few years later, finding the rest of the series in a 50-cent bargain bin.

As to the contents, my memory is very hazy, which I suppose means it was mediocre. It wasn't good enough to impress itself upon my memory, but then it wasn't so bad that I remember being incensed by it either. So there you go. This isn't great and isn't terrible, and has Etrigan the Demon and cars in it.

Normally I'd say something like what a great value the DC Comics Presents format is, but, to be honest, if your store has discount back-issue bins, you may want to check their first.


JLA VOL. 5 TP
Written by MARK WAID
Art by BRYAN HITCH, PAUL NEARY, JAVIER SALTARES, DOUG MAHNKE, MIKE S. MILLER and others
Cover by BRYAN HITCH and PAUL NEARY
On sale JUNE 11 • 434 pg, FC, $24.99 US
In these tales from JLA #47-60 and JLA: HEAVEN’S LADDER, Batman’s betrayal and expulsion from the group leads to a loss of trust in the team! How can Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man face the fairy-tale nightmare of the Queen of Fables and the world-altering abilities of Dr. Destiny.

This series, however, I remember quite distinctly. This poor creative team...

Mark Waid was the ideal writer to follow Morrison's JLA run and, for several of his arcs, he managed to keep the big ideas going, but with a more character-driven focus. Heaven's Ladder is actually the zenith of the Waid run, which is kind of weird, given that it was published as an original graphic novel before Waid's run on the JLA monthly started.  That had big, crazy, cosmic ideas with mind-boggling stakes—god-like aliens steal planet Earth and take off with it, along with a whole string of other worlds—with a fairly large cast of Leaguers involved (In addition to The Big Eight that Waid used in his run, I believe The Atom, Oracle and Steel were involved as well).

Unfortuantely, that was the only entire story that the art team of Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary managed to illustrate without needing last minute fill-in artists to come in and finish their work for them.

So when I think of this period of the Justice League, I feel mostly disappointment, as it was full of so much promise, but almost every single story fell apart so badly visually that it was hard to read or even take too seriously (Waid's first arc, drawn by Howard Porter, was pretty strong too, and, unlike all of the Hitch-penciled arcs to follow, was all drawn by the same artist).

The other, unfortunate downside of the Waid run was the slimmed down cast. In a way, it was good in that it allowed him to do the character-focused stuff a little bit more deeply and convincingly, but the JLA went from something like 16-20 heroes to just eight. If I recall interviews from the period correctly, Waid used the Big Seven (plus Plastic Man) because those were the only characters he knew for sure that weren't going to be killed during Morrison's final arc; I believe he said he would have kept both Steel and Zauriel had he known they were going to survive (and it's too bad he didn't; I think it would have done wonders for both of those characters' statures if they had remained in the League for another writer or two's run on the title)..

Anyway, this collection seems to include the already-discussed Heaven's Ladder, and the second and third of the three arcs Waid wrote (I guess "Tower of Babel" must have appeared with some Morrison stuff in JLA Vol. 4). These two are both generally weaker than "Tower," although the first introduces a pretty cool villain in The Queen of Fables (who hasn't been put to good use by anyone since, Gail Simone) and the third features beings from The Sixth Dimension and the heroes with secret IDs being split into two people apiece. It's weird and melodramatic.

Waid's run ends with a whimper, as #60 is a one-off Christmas story in which Plastic Man tells Woozy's nieces and nephews about the time the Justice League teamed up with Santa Claus to defeat the infernal villain (and Mark Waid co-creation) Neron.

I'm not sure if they're including JLA #59 or not. That's a Joker's Last Laugh tie-in written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, in which some Leaguers fight Dr. Polaris at the South Pole. It is terrible.

There are few things I like more than talking about JLA, in case you didn't notice.

THE NEW 52 – FUTURES END #1
Written by KEITH GIFFEN, DAN JURGENS, BRIAN AZZARELLO and JEFF LEMIRE
Art by PATRICK ZIRCHER
Cover by RYAN SOOK
1:50 Variant cover by JOHN ROMITA, JR. and KLAUS JANSON
On sale MAY 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Five years from now, the DC Universe is reeling from a war with another Earth, leaving the world unprepared for an approaching evil that threatens to destroy the future. Can a time-traveling Batman Beyond help a massive cast of the DCU’s finest avert the impending apocalypse? Find out in this new weekly series that will forever alter the direction of The New 52! In this debut issue of The New 52’s weekly series, Batman Beyond arrives five years later! Grifter turns against humanity! And a Justice League member DIES!

The market has spoken, and it has said that it is not at all interested in the WildStorm characters, no matter how many times you reboot them, even if you mix them into the fabric of the DC Universe itself, DCs' readers just won't buy a comic book with Grifter on the cover.

And DC has responded, "Oh yeah? What about a weekly comic?"

Okay, I kid...I imagine he has a relatively small role to play in this over all story, which is...well, it's kind of hard to imagine what it's about, really. The solicitations for the first four issues mention a time-traveling Batman Beyond, Grifter,  Firestorm, Frankenstein, StormWatch, Lois Lane and The Justice League...several characters that have had their books cancelled, so maybe a big, ongoing crossover series like this, in which they play supporting roles to big events like the intro to (a...?) Batman Beyond to the New 52 continuity is a good place for them.

I'm not entirely sure I understand the plot as its laid out in the above solicitation, though. The DC Universe just got done with a war with another earth (The invaders from Earth-3 in the pages of Forever Evil), will it be the other another Earth (Earth-2) or an all-new another Earth we haven't seen yet? And I assume the time-traveling Batman Beyond is coming further back in time than just five years, if its Terry Sloane from the Batman Beyond continuity? Because if five years, New 52 Bruce Wayne's only gonna be, what, like 30 maybe? Certainly not pushing 80 or whatever he is in Batman Beyond.

The creators include Jeff Lemire, who seems to be DC's JV version of Geoff Johns, called in to "fix" characters or titles that aren't working right, plus DC's go-to fill-in creators Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen, and, oddly, Brian Azzarello.

I'm a lot less confident in this book than I am in Batman Eternal, which I at least know will star Batman and friends, but I will likely at least try out the first few issues, as I like reading comic books, and the promise of a new one (well, two counting Batman Eternal) every single week at the shop is an enticing prospect.


RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #31
Written by WIL PFEIFER
Art by RAFA SANDOVAL and PAUL NEARY
Cover by PHILIP TAN and NORM RAPMUND
On sale MAY 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Outlaws come face to face with the bounty hunter calling himself Lobo, but no one’s who they appear to be as Red Hood and Starfire endeavor to save Arsenal from the Main Man.


I like how in the two-and-a-half-year-old New 52 Universe, which is supposed to be all streamlined and less confusing for new readers, there's like three different Lobos.


SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #4
Written by SHOLLY FISCH
Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
On sale MAY 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
Is Titans Tower haunted?! Could there be more to the thumps in the night than a series of “ghostly” pranks by Beast Boy and Cyborg? Robin has called in some experts to solve the mystery – if Scooby, Shaggy, Cyborg, and Beast Boy ever stop chowing down on pizza and start looking for clues, that is!

Well, this is unexpected. The animated versions of the Teen Titans weren't even on my radar in terms of characters Scooby-Doo and the gang might conceivably I team-up with (I was expecting either Scooby-Doo-ified versions of Superman and Wonder Woman, ala Batman's appearances, or offbeat DCU characters with mystery-solving interests and/or animals (Elongated Man, Angel and The Ape, Krypto The Super-Dog, Rex The Wonder Dog, etc) or Warner Bros.-owned Hanna-Barbera characters of the sort Scooby has teamed up with in the past (The Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, for example) or could team with in the future (Birdman, Space Ghost, etc).

I did not expect to see the Teen Titans. Especially since they've already met Robin...a very, very different Robin? And it looks like these may be the chibi-like Teen Titans of Teen Titans Go, the new comic based on the new cartoon, not the old comic with that title based on the old Teen Titans, which would mean a really, really weird clash of visual design styles.

I'm looking forward to this one, but more out of confused, excited curiosity than anything else.


SECRET ORIGINS #2
Written by JEFF PARKER, RAY FAWKES and SCOTT LOBDELL
Art by PAUL PELLETIER, SEAN PARSONS, PAULO SIQUEIRA and others
Cover by LEE BERMEJO
On sale MAY 28 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
Batman headlines the second big issue of SECRET ORIGINS, which also features The New 52 origins of Aquaman and Starfire!


Batman? Batman?! So is the plan for this series to feature re-tellings of the most-told origins of the New 52 versions of these characters? Because in addition to not really changing—parents murdered, seeks vengeance, dresses as a bat—Batman's had something like a half-dozen #0 issues telling different aspects of his origin, plus Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have devoted themselves to something like a 18-part "Zero Year" story arc, about Batman's origin.

Aquaman's origin has similarly been pretty well-told in The New 52 (Basically, it's his Silver Age origin restored).

Starfire, at least, is a character whose origin will have to be extremely rejiggered to work in a New Teen Titans-less universe, so that one makes sense.

Of course, I suppose DC started the series off with Superman's origin, and are following it with Batman's, in an effort to put a popular, marquee character on the cover of each issue to help sell it, as people are much more likely to buy a book featuring the origins of Batman, Aquaman and Starfire than they would be, say, The Red Hood, Arsenal and Starfire.

Still, it seems weird to see Batman of all characters there...

SINESTRO #2
Written by CULLEN BUNN
Art and cover by DALE EAGLESHAM
On sale MAY 21 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Sinestro’s face-to-face with the Yellow Lanterns, the Corps he built in his own image – but does he like what he sees? Or does he look upon his works and despair? It’s time to find out if the Sinestro Corps is strong enough for the mission he has in mind for them – and if they’re not, then they won’t stand a chance against the growing threat of the Pale Vicars!


Oh yeah, Sinestro has his own title now too, huh? At the rate they're expanding the Green Lantern franchise, it's only a matter of time before every character with a magic ring has his, her or its own title. I figure we're about eight: months away from Baz and B'dg: Green Lanterns and three years away from Green Lantern: The Unsociable Mogo.

Wait, what's that in the water? Moths? Moths don't swim! Well, maybe space-moths do. I don't know...


Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

That is all.

4 comments:

Rev'd '76 said...

The covers pretty much say it all for DC these days.

The Sook cover is pretty, albeit pretty generic. I thought it was Star Wars for a moment.

The Eaglesham cover's nice, too.

Hrm. When was the only successful ongoing Demon monthly? The 90s?

Lobo must be a fullblooded Czarnian again. Would explain the dupes about as well as noncommunicative editors...

Scott Beattie said...

I'm actually cautiously optimistic about Future's End.

In a roundtable discussion, the creators mentioned that this was an opportunity for them to tell stories about some their favorite minor and less popular characters (they specifically named Firestorm, Frankenstein, O.M.A.C., and Batman Beyond as the primary characters, plus "others"), which tells me that they're trying to do a 52-type story. Considering how much I liked 52, I'm hopeful.

Granted, these guys probably aren't of the same caliber as the 52 team, but they seem to be writing some of their pet characters, so I think it could be good.

SallyP said...

You know, I would probably READ a book about Mogo being unsociable!

That's...sad.

Arion said...

It seems a bit odd to me that DC is putting out two weekle series. I'm not sure if that' a good idea.