Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DC's December previews reviewed

December will be another month, and, this being 2014, that means it will be another month in which DC will publish themed variant covers for much of their line. This December, that theme will be "Covers Drawn by Darwyn Cooke," or, put another way, "Good Covers." Which is a little weird, right? Shouldn't all of the covers be good all the time?

I think this Comics Alliance headline puts it pretty perfectly—"Darwyn Cooke Illustrates 23 Variant Covers for the DC Universe You Wish Really Existed"—but as striking as the images all are, they are more striking still when you contrast them to the covers they are variants of.
Cooke's DC heroes, almost all of which are drawn in some version of a Silver Age or classic get-up (with possible exceptions of Wonder Woman and Supergirl, which look like his own, original designs), are all instantly recognizable, wearing smooth, bright, clear costumes that look easy to draw (and easy to draw well), and they are almost always engaged in feats or actions that make having superpowers, or being a superhero, look like a good, positive, even fun activity.

(For the life of me, I never understood why DC didn't turn to someone like Darwyn Cooke or Alex Ross to redesign their entire universe for the New 52, rather than Jim Lee, whose costume re-designs before then included, what, the universally reviled dog-collar costume for Green Lantern Kyle Rayner? The hot-pants and exposed abs costume of The Huntress?)

Let's look at a few of the variants vs. regular covers, for contrast.

For example, Cooke's Action Comics cover features Superman using his speed and ability to fly to rescue a little boy from a deadly train accident, smiling with some combination of joy and relief:

The regular Action cover? Superman standing over a field of ashes and skeletons:

Here's Cooke's Wonder Woman variant, where the powerfully-built but still pneumatic and beautiful Wonder Woman uses her magic lasso and super-strength to defeat an army of foes in a dynamic panel:

Here's artist and co-writer David Finch's cover for the same book, in which a skinny Wonder Woman arches her back, squeezes her legs together awkwardly, opens her mouth in a strange expression and reaches a deformed hand up toward what I imagian are meant to be the Stymphalian birds, while Amazons look on, one with a completely unreadable expression:
(In the Cooke image, which bears an identical, vaguely mythological setting, Wonder Woman looks like she's yanking the world apart around her; in the Finch drawing, it looks like she's going to topple over because someone bound her knees and  ankles or something).

Or wait, here's a pretty good contrast. This is Cooke's variant for The Flash, featuring the character in his original, perfect superhero costume—one of the all-time greatest designs—outrunning various speedy vehicles with satisfied determination:

Meanwhile, interior artist Brett Booth draws a darker, future version of The Flash—one willing to take his foes' lives—upside down and in agony, as a foe with glowing, skeletal hands does something bad to him:
The single-sentence solicitation for the issue simply reads, "Behold the all-new, all-murderous Flash!"

Yeesh.

Anyway, this month DC has 45 "New 52" ongoing series, for those of you keeping track. Other than some nice variant covers, let's see what DC has to offer in the month of December, shall we...?


AQUAMAN AND THE OTHERS #8
Written by DAN JURGENS
Art by LAN MEDINA and ALLEN MARTINEZ
Cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
On sale DECEMBER 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Others try to survive the repercussions of their secret histories as Cheshire and the KGBeast look to thin the team’s ranks – permanently!


Wow, still not canceled! If it made it this far, I guess it's safe to assume it will make it to at least #12 now.


Now that's a costume redesign...!


BATMAN AND ROBIN #37
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
Variant cover by DARWYN COOKE
On sale DECEMBER 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
Batman vs. Darkseid! The penultimate chapter of “Robin Rises” is here! Can Batman bring Damian Wayne back from death? Concluded in this month’s [sic]


I know Grant Morrirson's given us Batman vs. Darkseid repeatedly, so that lopsided mismatch doesn't really sound all that exciting, but I kind of like the idea, or at least the implication, of Darkseid as DC's devil figure (or, at least, its Hades/Pluto), and Batman having to therefore confront him w hile trying to rescue his dead son from the "hell" of Apokolips.

I like the omega symbol-shaped smoke or energy radiating out of Darkseid's eyes on the cover, too. That's a nice little touch.

The Cooke cover for this book shows Batman with Dick Grayson in his original Robin costume:
That's interesting because DC is so against that particular costume for whatever fucked-up psychological reasons, that when they rebooted the DCU and retconned their entire history, that suit never, ever existed, so no Robin, not even Dick Grayson, ever wore it. When we do see flashbacks to Grayson's time as Robin—most recently in Grayson: Futures End #1, he was wearing what looked like a busier version of Tim Drake's Robin costume, with long pants.


DETECTIVE COMICS #37
Written by FRANCIS MANAPUL and BRIAN BUCCELLATO
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
Variant cover by DARWYN COOKE
...
On sale DECEMBER 3 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US
RATED T
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato return – and now’s the time to take back Gotham City! Anarky now!

I do so love Anarky, partiularly in his earlier appearances as a sort of Anti-Robin, but given what this creative team did to a "How Do You Fuck That Up?" character like Calendar Man, I'm not looking forward to seeing what they have in store for Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's philosophical vigilante anti-hero character.


GRAYSON #5
Written by TIM SEELEY and TOM KING
Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN
Variant cover by DARWYN COOKE
On sale DECEMBER 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Grayson is on a mission to stop Paragon from using the body parts of a dead villain to create something far more sinister!

Wait, a villain using the body parts of dead villains? Where did I read that plot? Oh yeah, the too-brief Peter Tomasi and Rags Morales run on Nightwingfeaturing...Dick Grayson.

That's the variant cover up there, by the way, one of the relatively rare examples of Cooke drawing the New 52 versions of the characters (the others being Justice League United, Harley Quinn and Batgirl. And maybe Justice League Dark; hard to tell with that one because the team is in the extreme background).


GREEN ARROW #37
Written by ANDREW KREISBERG and BEN SOKOLOWSKI
Art by DANIEL SAMPERE and JONATHAN GLAPION
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
On sale DECEMBER 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Blood will be shed when Green Arrow faces off against the assassin known as Merlyn!


New 52 Merlyn's hair and goatee are as weak as New 52 Oliver Queen's, apparently. I was going to comment on how much these two super-archers resemble Ultiamte Hawkeye, and then I noticed who drew this cover: Ultimate Hawkeye designer Bryan Hitch.


HE-MAN: THE ETERNITY WAR #1
Written by DAN ABNETT
Art by POP MHAN
Cover by STJEPAN SEJIC
Variant cover by DARWYN COOKE
On sale DECEMBER 24 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
...
The war to end all wars has begun in Eternia! Hordak and the villainous Dark Horde have taken over Castle Grayskull and plan to use it as a weapon to terrorize and rule the universe. However, a resistance is building led by She-Ra, The Sorceress Teela and the benevolent warrior He-Man! To what lengths will the Masters of the Universe go to reclaim their kingdom? What sacrifices must He-Man make to salvage his family legacy? Don’t miss a moment of this epic new MOTU series!


This doesn't sound so hot, and I've passionately hated every He-Man related comic DC has produced thus far, but that is probably the best cover I've seen so far, and the first He-man image DC has produced that looked even anywhere in the neighborhood as exiciting as your typical box art from the original toy line of the 1980s.

It would be weird if they had a Cooke variant on this though, wouldn't it?
Weird, but awesome!

Surely artist Guillem March deserves some kind of prize for this fucked-up masterpiece of a cover for Justice League Dark...


JUSTICE LEAGUE 3000 #12
Written by KEITH GIFFEN and J.M. DeMATTEIS
Art and cover by HOWARD PORTER
On sale DECEMBER 3 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Two words: Blue and Gold. Well, okay, three. Three words, the Blue and the Go...Wait, that’s four words. Okay, let’s try this. The team of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold are BACK! By Giffen and DeMatteis! Is the universe ready for either of them…? Are you?


Booster Gold and Blue Beetle return to a Justice League title, written by the writers most associated with their relationship, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, and drawn tby one of the artists most associated with the Blue and Gold team, Howard Port—Er, that's not right, is it...?

Hey, you know what would be cool? If Kevin Maguire were drawing this series. Then I bet that would get a lot of old school Justice League fans to see Blue and Gold in this book...


KLARION #3
Written by ANN NOCENTI
Art by TREVOR McCARTHY
Cover by FELIPE SMITH
...
On sale DECEMBER 10 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
Agents from S.H.A.D.E. are hot on Klarion’s trail, Zell’s powers are out of control, there’s a spy in the Moody Museum and buddybots are taking over the city! As if that weren’t bad enough, Klarion’s pagan magic finds its match in the tech wizardry of Coal and the Necrots. Will Klarion save his first new friends on Earth – or will he slip out a dimensional back door?


I only understand about 50% of the words in this solicitation. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.


THE MULTIVERSITY: THUNDERWORLD #1
Written by GRANT MORRISON
Art and cover by CAMERON STEWART
...
On sale DECEMBER 17 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
...
The fifth chapter of the greatest adventure in DC Comics history is here!
Acclaimed for their collaborations on BATMAN AND ROBIN, SEAGUY and SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY: THE MANHATTAN GUARDIAN, superstar writer Grant Morrison and renowned artist Cameron Stewart deliver some magic to THE MULTIVERSITY with a breathtaking journey to Earth-5 – A.K.A. Thunderworld!

With a single word, Billy Batson transforms from boy reporter for Whiz Media into the world’s Mightiest Mortal – Captain Marvel! Along with the other members of the Marvel Family, Captain Marvel battles dastardly villains like Mr. Mind and the Monster Society of Evil! But now, his greatest foe has attacked the Rock of Eternity – the source of the Marvel Family’s power – and it could mean the end of reality as we know it! What impossible villains are Sivana teaming up with who could spell doom for the Multiverse? From where did Sivana’s children get their newfound super powers? And what does the appearance of one mysterious comic book mean for the heroes of Thunderworld?
Find out all that and more in this exciting issue that acts as chapter five of THE MULTIVERSITY.


Just wanted to note how odd it is that the out-of-continuity, alternate Earth version of the Captain Marvel character and milieu looks and sounds like the real, official version, while DC's current real, official version looks and sounds like an out-of-continuity, alternate Earth version.

Also, check it out: They used the words "Captain Marvel" and "Marvel Family"...!


SECRET ORIGINS #8
Written by TIM SEELEY, TOM KING, JEFF LEMIRE and ANN NOCENTI
Art by TRAVEL FOREMAN, CLIFF RICHARDS and STEPHEN MOONEY
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
On sale DECEMBER 24 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
Three more stars of the DC Universe shine as their origin stories are revealed! Don’t miss the DC Comics – The New 52 origins of Grayson by Tim Seeley, Tom King and Stephen Mooney; Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman; and Katana by Ann Nocenti Cliff Richards!


Well, we've already gotten Dick Grayson's origin as Robin in a previous issue of this strange series, and we've watched his origin as a secret agent unfold in real-time in the pages of Grayson, which will only be on issue #5 when this book ships, so I can't imagine what the secret origin of Grayson in this issue will actually cover.

Maybe just his parents meeting and conceiving him...?


SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #5
Written by CORINNA BECHKO and GABRIEL HARDMAN
Art by GABRIEL HARDMAN
Cover by LAWRENCE REYNOLDS
On sale DECEMBER 17 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST
Wonder Woman has accepted a covert mission from Queen Hippolyta: infiltrate Apokolips, find a group of Amazons imprisoned there by Darkseid, and bring them home alive. But a battle with the Female Furies almost proves fatal and throws Diana’s plans into chaos!


Well that sure looks like the worst cover ever, but if Hardman's drawing the interiors, then it should actually look pretty nice once you turn the cover.


SHOWCASE PRESENTS: BLUE BEETLE TP
Written by LEN WEIN and JOEY CAVALIERI
Art by PARIS CULLINS, BRUCE PATTERSON, CHUCK PATTON, ROSS ANDRU, GIL KANE and others
Cover by PARIS CULLINS and BRUCE PATTERSON
On sale JANUARY 28 • 584 pg, B&W, $19.99 US
This value-priced title collects the entire 24-issue run of BLUE BEETLE from the 1980s, including the Beetle’s battles against DC Universe villains Chronos and Dr. Alchemy. Includes appearances by The Question and the Teen Titans in stories from BLUE BEETLE #1-24.


Well that's unexpected. Welcome, but unexpected.

4 comments:

SallyP said...

I WISH that Maguire was drawing the return of Boostle! Oh wait...he was supposed to, wasn't he?

*sigh*

Every one of those Darwyn Cooke covers looks like the REAL DC Universe...as opposed to the weird alternate one we have now.

*double sigh*

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

I'm honestly just amazed the let Morrison say "Captain Marvel" instead of forcing him to go with "Shazam" as the character's name. I guess because it is an alternate universe DC felt it wouldn't mess with whatever they've got going on with the character in the main comics?

culturewarreporters.com said...

The weirdest thing for me about that Justice League Dark cover is how the little girl version of the woman in pink has a big ol' boob window on the front of her costume.

Sean said...

I absolutely agree with you about the Darwyn Cooke covers. Those drawings make DC look like a place with fun, adventure, suspense and heroism. I'd be buying every one of those stories. But I know that when I open the books and start reading they'll be muddy, dark, "gritty" stories about "heroes" whining and doing awful things. This is why I buy only a couple of things DC produces these days.