Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DC's July previews reviewed

Clay Mann's cover for Action Comics, depicting Doomsday, Superman and a Clark Kent

DC has released the solicitations for the comics they plan to publish in July of this year, and just what the heck is happening to their universe's increasingly fluid and flexible history and status quo during their "Rebirth" initiative still isn't clear. You'll find some clues scattered throughout, of course, but it seems like, for the most part, if there is any sort of rebooting, retconning or rejiggering, it should be fairly mild. There's a lot of carry over from The New 52, a term they're apparently trying not to use any more (although it's much less cumbersome than post-Flashpoint, if you ask me), and some titles look barely affected.

That's not the case for DC's flagship character, however. After Convergence we learned that the pre-Flashpoint Superman and Lois Lane ended up in the post-Flashpoint, New 52's Earth-0, after having spent a year together in Brainiac and Telos' domed city (and having a kid together, who will apparently be going by the name Superboy now).

It doesn't look like they will be smooshing the two Supermen together into a single Superman, and while I'm not exactly sure how there can even be two of them if Earth-0 was made out of the raw material of the pre-Flashpoint DCU (with two other alternate universes blended into it), then New 52 Superman should just be an altered version of pre-Flashpoint Superman, right...?

Anyway, I assumed that "Rebirth" would somehow blend the two characters together. Having read the first two chapters of Peter Tomasi's "The Final Days of Superman," in which New 52 Superman discovers he's dying (yeah, just like in All-Star Superman), it seems possible that New 52 Superman will die, and old Superman will replace him.

This is...problematic, for a couple of reasons. First, it would make Superman at least 11 years older than his peers like Batman and Wonder Woman. And then it would mean he would have all the memories of the old DCU, while the current DC characters would never really consider him their Superman. And then there's the fact that he didn't come to this continuity alone, but brought Lois Lane with him, meaning there are also two Lois Lanes in the DCU at the moment.

I'm still hoping for some kind of rejiggering of the two that reconciles them, but I don't know; the clues currently all point to the current version of Superman dying and being replaced by the previous one. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

And, after waiting for three months, here are some of the things we'll be seeing...

"WHO IS ORACLE" Chapter One: Batgirl and Black Canary are together again, working a case that strikes right at the heart of their partnership! Someone's uncovered the greatest secret Barbara Gordon ever kept: her time as Oracle, the most powerful hacker on the planet. And not only do they know her secret, they're using her name to sell dangerous information to criminals! Now one of those deals has brought some major heat to Gotham City...Helena Bertinelli is out of Spyral, wearing the hood of the Huntress, and making mafia blood run in the streets! Everything you thought was hidden will be revealed if the Oracle has their way...
On sale JULY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Well, this solicitation copy answers one of my questions about this new series, namely who on Earth The Huntress was. Her New 52 continuity is ridiculously convoluted (She was introduced as Helena Bertinelli, but later revealed to be Helena Wayne, the Robin of Earth-2 who adopted the late Bertinelli's name and the guise of The Huntress to hide her true identity, and then they introduced another Helena Bertinelli in the pages of Grayson...did I get that right?). It looks like they're simply turning Grayson's Bertinellin into The Huntress II and, I would imagine, ignoring the existence of Huntress I as hard as they can.

I suppose that could work, although I'm still in mourning for the Birds of Prey line-up that never was–

Now what's all this about Barbara Gordon having been Oracle? Because she totally wasn't Oracle in DC's post-Flashpoint, New 52 continuity. Is this another suggestion that there's an element of continuity rejiggering, or at least some strategic retconning, going on as part of "Rebirth"...? Or when the solicitation copy writer refers to Babs' "time as Oracle" as "the greatest secret Barbara Gordon ever kept," does that mean she was Oracle, but no one ever knew, not even the readers...?

Hmm... It's hard to imagine how that would work, given that Flashpoint knocked just about every Oracle story I can think of out of continuity so completely it's hard to even imagine Babs having Oracle-ed in the current continuitiverse, but I guess we'll see...

England swings and so does the Dynamic Duo in this historic pairing of two of the hippest shows from 1960s television. DC Comics and BOOM! Studios join forces to bring these iconic characters together for the first time!
As Bruce Wayne shows the beautiful head of a UK electronics company the sights of Gotham, they are interrupted by the felonious feline Catwoman! Unwilling to leave Miss Michaela Gough unprotected, Bruce resigns himself to the fact that Batman cannot save the day. But some new players have arrived in town -- though even as the lovely, catsuit-clad Mrs. Peel and her comrade John Steed take control of the situation, nefarious plots continue apace!
On sale JULY 6 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED E • DIGITAL FIRST

Steed and Peel...? Oh, from the old Avengers TV show! Huh. I wonder why they didn't just call his comic Batman Meets The Avengers...? I have to imagine that would move a lot more comics. I can't see any reason why–OH. Yeah. Nevermind.

Art and cover by STEVE PUGH
Fred and Wilma variant cover by IVAN REIS
Barney and Betty variant by WALTER SIMONSON
Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm variant cover by DUSTIN NGUYEN
Cave Pets variant cover by DAN HIPP
Coloring book cover by STEVE PUGH
Welcome to Bedrock, where Paleolithic humans head to dinner for a taste of artisanal mammoth after shopping at Neandertall & Big Men's Clothing, where Wilma shows her modern art, and where, if you take a plane, you could literally end up sitting ON the tail section. Join Fred and Barney as Mister Slate sends them on a mission to show some Neanderthals a night on the town in hopes of luring them into this new system called "working for a living." In Slate's Quarry, of course. Is Fred's ship about to come in? Find out when the gang finishes out the evening at the employee hot tub party, where they learn how the one percent lives here in Bedrock, home to the world's first civilization and the modern stone-age family -- The Flintstones. Don't miss this extra-sized debut issue!
On sale JULY 6 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Of the various Hanna-Barbera "reboot" comics that DC will be rolling out, this one looks like it might the be the weirdest, if only because The Flintstones are so synonymous with one particular design, the live action movies being the only real deviations.

This is somewhat ironic, because simply reading the solicitation copy above makes this sound like it will be the most straightforward of the series, as least in that there is no grand high-concept, as with Scooby Apocalypse or Wacky Raceland (Even Future Quest has the "crisis" motif of a grand cross-over between many of the heroic franchises), and even tonally it sounds like the main source of humor will be dumb (read: awesome) prehistoric and geological puns.

I honestly can't imagine Steve Pugh drawing a Flintstones comic, and that's even with an example of his Flintstones art staring me right in the face. I don't normally list all the variants, but I wanted to in this case because, as weird as Steve Pugh's Flintstones might sound, can you imagine Ivan Reis'...? Or Walter Simonson's...?

Art and cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
Superstar artist Ethan Van Sciver returns to the world of Green Lantern! In the absence of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro and his fear-inducing Yellow Lantern Corps patrol the universe as its sole protectors -- but deep in space, a green light still burns. Harnessing the remainder of his will, Hal Jordan must become a one-man GL Corps to defeat his greatest foe and restore freedom to the cosmos.
On sale JULY 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Isn't Ethan Van Sciver currently in the world of Green Lantern? I thought he was drawing the current GL Corps mini-series? At least, he drew the last issue of it that I personally read.

Both the solicit for this copy and that for the first issue of Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps accentuates the fact that Hal is the last GL in the universe, but I'm pretty sure everything's going to work out okay for the Corps. I mean, not only do we know that Green Lantern Simon Baz and the current Power Ring will both be Green Lanterns post-"Rebirth," but the title of this book is Hal Jordan AND The Green Lantern Corps, rather than Hal Jordan, OMGLC....

Art and Cover by MORITAT
John Constantine's lost weekend in New York City was fun, but London's where his heart is -- only a pissed-off demon and a curse on his soul stand in his way. Even Constantine's questionable ethics are pushed to the limit when he puts eight million souls on the line to get what he wants...
On sale JULY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

If ever there was a character that needed some downtime...

Written by BRYAN HITCH
Variant cover by JOE MADUREIRA
Spinning out of the events of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1, a new day dawns for Earth's greatest heroes as they welcome three new members to the team, including...Superman? Who is this strange visitor from a dead world -- and can he be trusted? Batman and Wonder Woman aren't so sure.
On sale JULY 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Here's another indication that the Superman sticking around post-"Rebirth" is going to be the one from Superman: Lois & Clark, rather than the one from the current DC Universe/Earth-0.

I'm a little surprised to see Hitch taking over DC's flagship as its writer, as he's had relatively little writing experience and his current book, JLA, which he has been both writing and drawing, hasn't been very good.

The writing's fine, really. I man, there's nothing drastically wrong with it, and DC certainly publishes more poorly-scripted comics, but it's not actually any good either. It's really the exact definition of mediocre, and having been devoted so long to telling a single, not-terribly-compelling story, it's also been pretty dull...and disconnected from the goings-on of the DC Universe in general (I was kind of surprised in the issues that I read that Hitch didn't seem to be familiar even with the only four-year-old Justice League continuity, for example).

As you can see below, Hitch may be writing and drawing the Rebirth special, but he'll only be writing the upcoming ongoing, because a monthly is far beyond his abilities to meet the deadlines of, let alone a more-than-monthly book.

Do note who is providing the variant cover–another artist notorious for his inability to hit deadlines.

Written by BRYAN HITCH
The oceans rise. The earth quakes. And an ancient power rises to reclaim not just the world, but the universe itself -- and not even the combined might of the Justice League can stop it. An all-new era begins with this epic by comic book legend Bryan Hitch (JLA, The Ultimates) and master storyteller Tony S. Daniel (BATMAN: R.I.P., DEATHSTROKE).
On sale JULY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

That's right, "master storyteller Tony S. Daniel." I assume the solicitation copy-writer is just being extremely generous/disingenuous by referring to Daniel as such, but here's a scary thought: What if the solicitation copy-writer actually believes Tony S. Daniel is a master storyteller.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

Could there possibly be someone in the employ of DC Comics, even just a solicitation copy-writer, who has read so few comics that they think Daniel qualifies as a mast of the medium? I mean, even if you only read DC Comics, and you just started, like, three years ago, you can still find dozens and dozens of examples of artists who are better at visual storytelling than Daniel.

Art and cover by VICTOR BOGDANOVIC
"MADE IN CHINA" Chapter One: An impulsive act of heroism thrusts an arrogant young man into the limelight of Shanghai as China begins to form its own Justice League of powerful heroes. Rising from the ashes of The Final Days of Superman, award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang and on-the-rise art star Victor Bogdanovic introduce readers to Kong Kenan -- the New Super-Man! When the world needed a new hero, China made him!
On sale JULY 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

I was honestly sort of disappointed--and even a little confused--by DC's usage of a creator of Yang's caliber on their main Superman book, as despite how much input he might have had in the overall story, since he took the reigns of the title it's been stuck in franchise-wide crossover mode.

Here, finally, Yang gets to do his own thing, and DC gets to publish (hopefully!) easy-to-follow, discrete, Yang-written comics.

I really rather like the new Superman's costume, too, at least the color scheme. It is probably a coincidence, but amusing nonetheless, that the costume so closely resembles that of Mark Millar and Leinil Frances Yu's Superman/Captain Marvel analogue Superior from the pages of their Superior.

When a shocking encounter with Batman solidifies the Red Hood's status as a villain, Jason Todd goes deep undercover to take down Gotham City's criminal underworld from the inside. Along the way, Jason meets two unlikely allies: a disgraced Amazon warrior named Artemis and a half-baked Superman clone called Bizarro -- and the DCU's "Dark Trinity" is born!
On sale JULY 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

Like John Constantine (and Teen Titans, and Deathstroke, and Suicide Squad), this is a book that keeps getting tinkered with to no avail, and which could probably benefit from some time off (Unlike those other books, they haven't tried changing writers yet, though).

The idea of a "Dark Trinity" is interesting, but I don't think these three characters go together in such a capacity. If Red Hood is the "Dark Batman"–and really, he's more of a "Dark" Robin or, more precisely still, a "Dark" Nightwing–then his Wonder Woman equivalent should be New 52 Donna Troy, maybe, and...actually, there isn't a dark lieutenant Superman equivalent, at least not in this continuity, is there? I don't know what became of New 52 Supergirl or New 52 Superboy, the latter of whom I'm not sure I ever actually read a comic featuring, so I'm not sure where they are or how "dark" they were.

You can pick any of the three characters and see how they don't really fit together though. Bizarro, for example, is a reverse Superman, not an evil opposite or dark version of Superman...particularly if they're using the one from last year's Bizarro miniseries rather than the Frankenstein's monster-like version from Forever Evil. Batman and Wonder Woman don't have equivalents, unless you count Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' Batzarro from the pages of Superman/Batman and Bizarra from the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner/Eric Powell Action Comics story arc "Escape From Bizarro World." The closest character in Batman's section of the DC stable might be Man-Bat, which is who Scott Kolins paired with Bizarro to form a monster version of the World's Finest in his two-part Blackest Night tie-in arc from Superman/Batman.

As for Artemis, I think this would be her New 52 debut, but I stopped paying attention to the Finchs Wonder Woman after a few issues, so it's possible she's appeared there. Originally a darker, take-no-prisoners version of Wonder Woman who temporarily usurped the Amazing Amazon's book in the '90s, her equivalents would be Azrael-turned-Batman-turned-Azrael Again Jean-Paul Valley (recently introduced in Batman & Robin Eternal and The Eradicator.

Of course, that's just me dissecting the concept of this particular trio as a "Dark Trinity." Lobdell's pairing of the three isn't wrong or anything, it just doesn't feel too terribly natural. Of course, neither does having a resurrected Jason Todd adopt the name Red Hood and starring in a continuous series of canceled and relaunched ongoing monthlies all written by Scott Lobdell.

This line-up at least sounds more interesting than that of the original Red Hood, Arsenal, Starfire line-up–but then, every cast is greatly improved by the presence of Bizarro in it.

Robin recovers from the tragic death of his predecessor and faces untold threats -- all without the Dark Knight by his side. Collects ROBIN #1-6 and ROBIN ANNUAL #1-2.
On sale AUGUST 3 • 304 pg, FC, $24.99 US

I recently read the second volume of this series–despite having previously read all of those issues when they were originally published–and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm looking forward to future volumes, as I dropped the monthly Robin series around #4 or #5, only picking it up occasionally after that.

The first six issues of Robin feature 15-year-old Tim Drake getting a special early driver's license (since his dad needs driven around, being partially paralyzed and all) and a Robinmobile called "The Red Bird," a concept I hated at the time (One thing I really liked about some of the comics in Robin Vol. 2 was how Tim had to bum rides off Alfred to even get into the city without Batman; Alfred was like a parent dropping their kid off at some afterschool activity and then picking him up later). I also hated Tim's relationship with Ariana, come to think of it; maybe the combination of those factors is what caused me to drop the book, despite having read and enjoyed the three Robin mini-series that preceded the ongoing...?

Anyway, in addition to the new ride, these stories feature a lot of returning characters from Dixon's previous Robin stories in the minis and in Detective: Cluemaster, The Electrocutioner, Spoiler and The Huntress. I was really surprised to see that the first two Robin annuals, the first of which preceded the existence of the monthly, are included in here. Here are the covers, for an indication of why I was surprised:

As you can see, they are tie-ins to the Eclipso: The Darkness Within and Bloodlines summer annual tie-in events. It's been a while since I've re-read either, obviously, but, if I recall correctly, the first should hold-up okay, as it's relatively stand alone (It's penciled by Tom Lyle, the artist of most of Robin's appearances up until that point, but written by Anarky creator Alan Grant, rather than Dixon, who Lyle usually worked with. And, as you can see, it had an awesome Sam Kieth cover).

The latter is by Dixon and Kieron Dwyer, and introduced Razorsharp*, a kinda cool characther with a decent power, although the fact that she was a computer hacker, and part of a computer hacking gang that wore matching uniforms and called themselves the–and I am not making this up–The Psyba-Rats kind of dates the story in an incredibly peculiar way. Like, I'm fairly certain that the comic didn't present an accurate portrayal of computer hacking culture in the '90s when it was published, I can only imagine how bizarre it will read today. (Hey, is it weird that Razorsharp and Oracle never crossed paths? That seems weird to me.)

If I recall that story, it does not stand alone all that well, as relatively few of the Bloodlines annuals did. In each story, one of the half-dozen Parasite aliens comes to the city the comic is set on, kills and sucks the spinal fluid out of a bunch of people, one of them gets super-powers, and then the new hero and the book's protagonist team-up and drive the Parasite away. That happened like 56 times in 1993, until the miniseries that concluded the storyline.

This one's written by Dixon and penciled by Kieron Dwyer, and the cover is by Jim Balent. You might not recognize his work, given that Razorsharp's breasts are relatively small for a Balent character, and rather covered up.

Written by DAN JURGENS
The Man of Steel has died! Falling at the hands of the monster Doomsday, the Justice League's most powerful member is now gone, and along with killing him, the creature grievously injures Leaguers Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and more! How will the Justice League re-collect in this moment of crisis? Who will be the newest members? And how will they deal in a world without Superman? Learn all the answers in these tales from JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #69-77!
On sale AUGUST 31 • 240 pg, FC, $19.99 US

I was just speculating about this when writing about the first volume the other day. This will collect the second half of Dan Jurgens' Justice League America run, and while Superman and Justice League America sounds better than Dan Jurgens' Justice League America, it doesn't seem as accurate for the second volume as it might have for the first. After all, Superman is dead by the second of the eight issues collected in this volume.

Art and cover by JILL THOMPSON
WONDER WOMAN: THE TRUE AMAZON is Jill Thompson's original graphic novel reimagining of the early years of the Amazon Princess Diana, who would grow up to become Wonder Woman. This fully painted graphic novel is unlike any Wonder Woman tale you have ever read, told as only Eisner Award- winning writer/artist Thompson could. When young Diana has the fawning attention of a nation, she grows spoiled. But a series of tragic events take their toll, and Diana must learn to grow up, take responsibility, and seize her destiny.

Steeped in the mythology of this iconic character's original conception, WONDER WOMAN: THE TRUE AMAZON is designed to appeal to a wide range of readers. It's a fresh, stand-alone interpretation of the most famous and iconic female superhero of all time and the fulfillment of a dream project by one of contemporary comics' most acclaimed creators.
On sale SEPTEMBER 28 • 128 pg, FC, $22.99 US

As I mentioned the other day, I've been reading DC's recently released Wonder Woman: War of The Gods**, which collects the portions of the massive storyline that ran through the Wonder Woman monthly and the War of The Gods miniseries. The Wonder Woman issues were drawn by Jill Thompson, and I always thought it was too bad that Thompson drew Wonder Woman so relatively early in her career, rather than a few decades later, during the post-Scary Godmother, post-Magic Trixie height of her powers.

And what do you know? She is drawing–and writing, and painting–an original Wonder Woman graphic novel! This was a really huge surprise for me, as when I ran across it in the solicits was literally the first I heard of it, and "Jill Thompson is working on an original graphic novel starring Wonder Woman" certainly sounds like the sort of thing people should have been talking about for a while now. I mean, I'm pretty sure DC and Grant Morrison mentioned his Wonder Woman: Earth One book sometime around 1987 or so.

I love Jill Thompson's work, and I love Wonder Woman, so I'm pretty excited about this, and can't imagine it won't be worthwhile, whatever direction Thompson chooses to go with it ("The mythology of this iconic character's original conception" sure sounds a lot like what Morrison and Yanick Paquette just did in Wonder Woman: Earth One, though; I wonder if that's merely bad phrasing though, and the solicit is actually trying to convey that the book will be steeped in the mythology that was a part of the character's original conception, which is a kanga of a different color. We'll see, I guess.)

The other language I couldn't help but underlining in red while reading? "Reimagining", "unlike any WOnder Woman tale", "a fresh, stand-alone interpretation"...those are all positives, of course, and it will be great to finally have a great Wonder Woman graphic novel you could put in any interested reader's hands (Earth One is pretty YA and up, rather than all-ages), but this sure sounds like it will be an "Imaginary Story"/Elseworlds-like book, than anything that might become part of Wonder Woman canon, and thus effect future Wonder Woman stories.

I've been reading a lot of great Wonder Woman comics lately–Renae De Liz's The Legend of Wonder Woman, Marguerite Bennett and company's DC Comics Bombshells, the aforementioned Earth One–but they all seem to be out-of-continuity Wonder Woman comics. Why can't DC do a great Wonder Woman comic that "counts"...? I'm really hoping that Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott and company can manage it...

*Her real name? Rae Sharp. She literally just added a "zur" sound between her first and last names to come up with her codename. Or hell, maybe her middle name was "Zora;" I wouldn't put it past Dixon.

**I'm only a few issues in, but so far it is not very good...perhaps because so much space is devoted to setting up the tie-ins, the pay-offs of which happened in all the other books that aren't included in the collection. For example, the second issue in the collection is Wonder Woman #58, and it includes a little numeral "2" beneath the "War of The Gods" banner on top of the cover, indicating that it is the second part of the storyline, which spread across everything DC was publishing at the time. The next issue in the collection is War of The Gods #2, and it has a little number "11" on it. Nine entire chapters passed between issues in this collection. Granted, many of those weren't exactly necessary, as has always been the case with these things, but that is a lot of comics to just skip over, you know? I personally would have preferred something big, huge and maybe multi-volume that collected every single chapter–that would better replicate what I currently have in my longboxes, allowing me to rid myself of many of those old comics and get the entire storyline, but perhaps that's just me. Great art, though! Sometimes I wonder why DC ever let anyone other than George Perez draw one of their crisis comics...

1 comment:

Carey said...

Regarding the Superman status quo, have you noticed after the seeming death of Nu52 Superman we're left with a Superman Red and Superman Blue in the Rebirth universe?