Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DC's October previews reviewed

Halloween is in October, so it seems to be an appropriate month for DC to include "monster variants" of many of their titles. These are just what they sound like—images of the title characters depicted as monsters of one kind or another, like the above Flash cover by Ryan Ottley, which, like the Marvel Zombies comics, depicts a superhero as a zombie. Some of the others are a lot more inspired, to the point that I really like them, and would love to read comics in which the interiors matched the titles (That's how Archie's awesome Afterlife With Archie series began it's life actually, a Francesco Francavilla-drawn zombie cover of an Archie comic that writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and the publisher decided was so awesome it needed a comic to go with it).

Beyond that, October looks like an interesting month at DC, with a few new titles launching (two of which are Batman-adjacent titles, of course), and a few new creative teams coming aboard, like the already quite-celebrated-by-the-Internet Batgirl team. DC's also launching a third weekly series, which, impossible as it seems, actually looks less interesting than Futures End, and the never-ending Green Lantern crossovers will now involved The New Gods, which is...well, it's something (I've noted before, in relation to the announcement of the new and not-yet-canceled Infinity Man and The Forever People title, how odd it is that DC has been reintroducing the New Gods characters quite haphazardly in a half-dozen different titles by different creative teams, with little apparent coordination).

Here's a link to the complete solicitations, and my own slightly-belated assessment of them is, of course, below.


ARKHAM MANOR #1
Written by GERRY DUGGAN
Art and cover by SHAWN CRYSTAL
...
On sale OCTOBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
When catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, where will Gotham City house the world’s most dangerous criminals, and when inmates are found murdered, what is Batman prepared to do in search of justice? Arkham’s madness comes home in ARKHAM MANOR! A bold new series brought to you by the mad minds of Gerry Duggan (Deadpool, Nova) and Shawn Crystal (Deadpool, Wolverine and the X-Men).


One of the first suspension of disbelief problems I had with the Batman line of comics when I first started reading them as a teenager had to do with the fact that Arkham Asylum was so easily and frequently escaped from. The Alan Grant-written storyline "The Last Arkham" from the initial issues of The Shadow of The Bat introduced the new character of Jeremiah Arkham and featured a brand-new, upgraded, high-security version of Arkham that was meant to be practically escape-proof (which heightened the mystery element of the fact that Mr. Zsasz seemed to be able to be killing people on a nightly basis while locked away in the asylum).

"Well," I thought, "That should take care of that; I guess the writers will just have to be more creative about what happens to the villains at the ends of each story from now on, as they can't keep getting dropped off and sprung from Arkham each story arc any more."

I was so young and foolish then. Since then, of course, Arkham has become even easier to escape from, since writers and artists are (understandably) more hesitant to create new villains for Batman, and the increase in the number of Batman titles means the same pool of villains must be dipped into repeatedly, sometimes within the same month for different titles. (Also hard on the old suspension-of-disbelief? The fact that none of these guys ever gets executed, or at least sentenced to death, or, hell, killed by a police officer or a drone-launched missiles. In the New 52, not only is The Joker a mass-murderer with hundreds of deaths to his name, but so too is Harley Quinn, The Scarecrow and even The Mad Hatter, whose plots have involved large-scale, terrorist-like attacks).

I used to wonder why billionaire Bruce Wayne didn't devote his wealth, even if it took all of it, to building an impregnable Arkham Asylum and, later, wondered why Batman didn't just take some of his vilest villains into permanent custody himself in the Bat-cave. I imagined a story in which Batman would call on Mister Miracle to help him build an completely escape-proof cell in which to keep The Joker indefinitely in the Bat-cave; given Batman's willingness to break so many other laws, surely kidnapping a mass-murderer to prevent him from murdering again would be the sort of ethical line Batman would have no problem crossing, right?

This...isn't really that story, but it sounds close enough to be interesting. I can't tell from the image or the solicitation if this is meant to be in-continuity (in-new52ity) or not, as it sounds like the premise for a limited series or an Elseworlds/Imaginary Story type of thing, rather than an ongoing.


BATGIRL #35
Written by CAMERON STEWART and BRENDEN FLETCHER
Art by BABS TARR
Cover by CAMERON STEWART
MONSTERS Variant cover by KEVIN NOWLAN
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes… so when a fire destroys everything she owned, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life — and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl… and discovers all-new threats preying on her peers! It’s a re-invention of Batgirl from the boots up, by the incredible creative team of Cameron Stewart (BATMAN INC.), Brenden Fletcher (WEDNESDAY COMICS), and rising star Babs Tarr!


As I said last week, this sounds like the exact sort of solicitation we should have read in like June of 2011, in reference to the relaunched and rebooted Barbara Gordon: Brand-new awesome-looking costume, exciting creative team featuring talented creators who weren't working on DCU ongoing monthlies during the years immediately preceding the reboot (I never quite understood the implied "These comics suck, we need to restart them all, and have the exact same people who were making the sucky ones make the new ones" argument of the reboot), one of whom is an up-and-coming, rising star who most DC readers will be meeting for the first time here.

And, as I also said the other day, better late than never.

I am amused by the fact that Babs' comic book will now be drawn by an artist also named Babs.

As everyone's already seen and gushed over Tarr's cover, here's the monster variant, by the almost always reliable Mr. Kevin Nowlan:
It's basically just Batgirl's original costume, only with nowhere for her voluminous red hair to stick out the back of the cowl. Those vampire fangs look hella goofy, though.


BATMAN #35
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Backup story written by SCOTT SNYDER and JAMES TYNION IV
Art by GREG CAPULLO and DANNY MIKI
Cover by GREG CAPULLO
...
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
...
From the superstar creative team that brought you a new start to the Caped Crusader comes the story that could end him. Be there in October for the biggest, deadliest and most epic story yet from writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo – “Batman: Endgame” begins here!


For the sake of Batman, the Batman line, Batman fans, DC Comics and me as a reader of good Batman comics, I hope the title of this story arc and the fact that this is the "biggest, deadliest and most epic story yet" from the creative team doesn't signal the departure of the Snyder/Capullo team any time soon. I may be mistaken, but I believe that come October, they will be the only creative team still working on their title since September of 2011, when all of the DCU comics relaunched (Well actually, come November; the last issue of the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman ships in October, although it's worth noting that Wonder Woman has had many more fill-in artists on a much more frequent basis then Batman has yet needed).


Chris Burnham's "monster variant" for Batman and Robin, featuring the title characters as mummies, is easily the coolest thing in this month's solicitations, and it's a damn shame it's only a cover. Admit it; after looking at that image, you want to read Batman: The Dark Pharaoh Returns as bad as I do, don't you?

Or wait, maybe that's Egypt's member of Batman, Inc. and his sidekick, Robin the Ba Wonder...?


BATMAN ETERNAL #30
Written by SCOTT SNYDER, JAMES TYNION IV, RAY FAWKES, KYLE HIGGINS and TIM SEELEY
Art by FERNANDO PASARIN
Cover by CLAY MANN
On sale OCTOBER 29 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The last time Deacon Blackfire took control of Gotham City, Batman nearly died...How will the city fare now that he wields unspeakable power?

"The last time"...? Seriously? Tim Drake's entire career as Robin has been retconned out of existence, along with Cassandra Cain, Oracle and Spoiler, but fucking Batman: The Cult is still in continuity...? Really? (Or is this just in reference to something in some New 52 Bat-title I missed...?)


Jon Bogdanove's monster variant cover for Batman/Superman #15 imagines the World's Finest team as a pair of superhero, crime-fighting werewolves.

The actual content of the comic book apparently involves Lord Satanus, Catwoman and Lois Lane, but eh, I think I'd rather read a comic book about Superman and Batman as werewolves, thanks. Can someone make that happen somewhere, please...?

BATWOMAN #35
Written by MARC ANDREYKO
Art by GEORGES JEANTY
Cover by RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE
On sale OCTOBER 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
The new storyline “Batwoman and the Unknowns” starts now with new artist Georges Jeanty (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)! Batwoman is neck-deep in danger with her new allies Ragman, The Demon, Clayface and Red Alice! What is going on and how did Batwoman end up here? Find out beginning in this issue!


I've been mostly ignoring this book since the creative team got kicked off it (and, it's worth noting, I didn't think the book was very good while they were on it, even if it was pretty and weird looking), but I do so love Ragman, one of my all-time favorite superhero costume designs, and I'm awfully fond of various versions of The Demon (though not the New 52 one introduced in the pages of Demon Kngihts, which looks to be the one being used here), so this has me curious.

That's a hell of a cool cover by Rafael Albuquerque, too...


CATWOMAN #35
Written by GENEVIEVE VALENTINE
Art by GARRY BROWN
Cover by JAE LEE
...
On sale OCTOBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
...
Meet Selina Kyle – Crime Boss of Gotham City! Spinning out of events in BATMAN ETERNAL Selina has accepted the family mantle and embraced her true criminal side, but is Gotham City ready for her reign? And with the Cat away, who’s the stranger haunting the empty rooftops of the city? Don’t miss the start of a bold new direction for Selina Kyle by the new creative team of novelist Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown (Five Ghosts, Iron Patriot).


All that cover is missing is a little dialogue bubble above the cat saying "Lying."

This is the most intersting sounding new direction for Catwoman in...forever? At least since she's had her own title she's been a thief with a heart-of-gold/sometime-vigilante, so having her return to crime and villainy, even if it's a softer, lesser-of-two-evils kind of thing, as this solicitation and the goings-on of Batman Eternal seem to suggest, sounds interesting.

Like Batgirl, this seems like another case where this is the sort of team and direction that would have made more sense with a rebooted Catwoman #1 in September 2011, not the start of Creative Team #3 (giver or take a team) on Catwoman #35 in October 2014, but, again, better late than never....


DEATHSTROKE #1
Written by TONY S. DANIEL
Art by TONY S. DANIEL and SANDU FLOREA
Cover by TONY S. DANIEL
...
On sale OCTOBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
The DCU’s deadliest assassin stars in his own ongoing series by writer/artist Tony S. Daniel! See him as never before in this explosive new series, with one surprise after another as we see Slade Wilson in the fight of his life!


Well, the one positive of DC's trying to keep 52-ish monthlies in print, despite the fact that the market couldn't support that many DCU titles, was that it meant the publisher could keep throwing out unlikely-seeming characters and concepts in new books that, even if they were swiftly canceled, allowed them to try something different and/or to renew whatever trademarks or copyrights are associated with them.

I was sorta hoping we'd see Shazam, Plastic Man, Kid Eternity, All-Star All-Star Squadron and Robin, The Boy Wonder, Angel and The Ape featuring Zauriel and Congorilla, The Red Bee, The Legion of Super-Pets, Club of Heroes, The Forgotten Heroes, The Wonder Twins and Cave Carson before they started re-launching books from the first wave of New 52 titles that were canceled, but whatever, DC's re-launching Deathstroke, one of the first 52 books of the New 52, canceled not really all that long ago. This time Tony Daniel's writing and drawing it, so maybe that will prove more salable than having Rob Liefeld attached...? Maybe...?


EARTH 2: WORLD’S END #1
Written by DANIEL H. WILSON, MARGUERITE BENNETT and MIKE JOHNSON
Art by ARDIAN SYAF, JORGE JIMENEZ, EDDY BARROWS and PAULO SIQUIERA
Cover by ARDIAN SYAF and JAIME MENDOZA
...
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 48 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times best-selling author of Robopocalypse and Robogenesis, delves into the world of EARTH 2 for the start of a new weekly series that will see the origins of a world much like the New 52 Earth, but yet so different. A world that saw its greatest heroes die – and new ones take their places. A world where Superman became it’ greatest villain, and a man named Zod seeks to save it, along with Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and other heroes. A world they can only save from the forces of Apokolips through great personal sacrifice! Death and destruction will follow each week, and you’ll never know who will live and who will die! It all begins with this extra-sized debut issue!


So here's DC's third weekly series, set on Earth-2, which, as that cover and the solicits for the first few issues will clue you in even if you haven't been paying attention to the title, bears less and less resemblance to the original Earth 2 conception, and has become more and more of an Elseworlds Justice League story.

Note the second-to-last line: "Death and destruction will follow each week, and you'll never know who will live and who will die!" I thought that was, like, all the DC comics now...?

Judging from this first batch of solicits, it looks like the writing team will all be involved with writing each issue, and each issue will feature multiple artists, which makes it different from both New 52: Futures End and Batman Eternal.


GOTHAM ACADEMY #1
Written by BECKY CLOONAN and BRENDEN FLETCHER
Art and cover by KARL KERSCHL
...
On sale OCTOBER 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
WELCOME TO GOTHAM ACADEMY! Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by...like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange is the students!

Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman MAPS is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!


GOTHAM ACADEMY is a new, monthly teen drama set in the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham City, with new characters and old plus a secret tie to Gotham’s past…


If this lives up to the promise of Batman comics + teen drama/high school comedy, then this promise to be the most exciting comic book in DC's line. To me. Until they publish a Chris Burnham Batman-and-Robin-as-mummies comic, anyway.


Jan Duursema's "monster variant" for Grayson. I honestly didn't recognize her work here, it's changed so much since DC/TSR's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, my gateway comic book.


GREEN ARROW #35
Written by ANDREW KREISBERG and BEN SOKOLOWSKI
Art by DANIEL SAMPERE
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
On sale OCTOBER 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Welcome new series writers straight from the hit TV show Arrow! Ollie is trying to put his life together after the grueling events of “Broken,” and finds himself back in Seattle on a mission from a mystery woman. Who is she – and what’s next for Green Arrow?


What's next for Green Arrow? I don't know. Probably another new creative team in 8-12 months, the way that guy's title seems to go through creative teams.


HARLEY QUINN ANNUAL #1
Written by AMANDA CONNER and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art by JOHN TIMMS
Cover by AMANDA CONNER
...
On sale OCTOBER 29 • 48 pg, FC, $5.99 US • RATED T
...
We have to warn you, readers: This issue stinks! Seriously! Like, unpleasant odors are literally in the story! In this first-ever HQ ANNUAL, take a trip to Harley’s home of Coney Island in a groundbreaking “scent-ticular” issue, featuring actual, honest-to-gosh smells. This issue comes polybagged to contain the stench.


I have mentioned before that DC's latest take on Harley Quinn, as exemplified in her own title rather than Suicide Squad, is basically a sexy, scantily-clad, lady version of Marvel's Deadpool, right? Here's...what are letter are we on now?...Exhibit E.

Artist John Timms is one of the several artists who contributed to this week's mostly-bad Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International special (which I'll discuss at greater length in the near future); he's pretty good, and his Harley is probably the most overtly sexy of all the Harleys in the issue, wit the smallest, tightest depiction of her costume.


EDILW favorite Guillem March's cover for Justice League Dark Annual #2, the solicitation for which reads, in its entirety, "The JLD team struggles to contain the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets when both take human form!" So that's what's going on in that image.


I haven't really liked Justice League United, like, at all, but here's the October issue's monster variant, courtesy of EDILW favorite Kelley Jones.


KLARION #1
Written by ANN NOCENTI
Art and cover by TREVOR McCARTHY
1:25 Variant cover by FRAZER IRVING
On sale OCTOBER 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
Klarion the Witch Boy makes his New 52 debut and stands for the forces of chaos in this new ongoing series!


Klarion the Witch Boy! See, that's the kind of title it's nice to see DC throwing out there for a year before it gets cancelled, instead of the second attempt at a Deathstroke title in three years.

This appears to be Ann Nocenti and Trevor McCarthy's version of Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving's version of Jack Kirby's character, so, um, I have no idea what to expect.


THE NEW 52: FUTURES END #22
Written by BRIAN AZZARELLO, JEFF LEMIRE, DAN JURGENS and KEITH GIFFEN
Art by PATRICK ZIRCHER
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale OCTOBER 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
How will the world react to discovering the identity of the masked Superman?


Hmm, the cover seems to suggest Captain Marvel Shazam in the Superman suit, but he looks enough like Superman that he wouldn't really need a helmet like that, would he...?


SUPERMAN #35
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by JOHN ROMITA, JR. and KLAUS JANSON
...
On sale OCTOBER 22 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
...
The hit SUPERMAN run by Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. continues with “THE MEN OF TOMORROW” Chapter four! Superman and Ulysses are still dealing with the traumatic revelations of last issue, but the hunt for The Machinist must continue before his would-be-victims fall into his hands. But what happens when the two heroes learn the truth behind The Machinist and the cost to stopping his mad plan?


What's that? The Machinist?

Surely Superman's not going up against this guy...
Is he?

5 comments:

Eric Lee said...

I like the Halloween themed variant covers, though I prefer them to be more silly and cartoon and not realistic like that zombie Flash cover.

Jacob T. Levy said...

"Shazam, Plastic Man, Kid Eternity, All-Star All-Star Squadron and Robin, The Boy Wonder, Angel and The Ape featuring Zauriel and Congorilla, The Red Bee, The Legion of Super-Pets, Club of Heroes, The Forgotten Heroes, The Wonder Twins and Cave Carson"

I'm starting a "Caleb for EIC" write-in campaign. Who's with me?

Rev'd '76 said...

Catwoman as crime boss? This should have happened decades ago. I'm in.

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

If "The Cult" is still canon then that means that, in Batman's post-reboot 7-year history, Gotham City has been conquered and ruled by a supervillain at least 5 times:

1. By the Riddler in "Zero Year."
2. By Deacon Blackfire in "The Cult."
3. By Talia al Ghul's Leviathan organization in "Batman Inc."
4. By the Scarecrow in "Gothtopia."
5. By Bane in "Arkham War."
*. In addition to these, the Court of Owls ruled Gotham behind the scenes for centuries.

Are there any I'm missing? I haven't read all of the New 52 Batman-family comics out there.

That's more than one supervillain government every seventeen months! (I'm not counting the Court of Owls because they were already in charge before Batman's career began) Gotham City experiences more regime changes than the most war-torn of third-world countries!

Bram said...

Wildfire in the Superman suit? That's what that helmet's making me think of. No idea what;s going on in that series, or if that's even possible.