Thursday, March 31, 2016

DC's June previews (finally) reviewed: The Special "Rebirth" Edition

"Okay, who wants out of the New 52? Who wants a new costume? Just take my hand!"
Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! Definitely not another reboot! It's a "Rebirth," or so DC Comics has been terming and teasing their next big marketing and branding push, scheduled for June of this year.

They originally announced Rebirth back in February, revealing the titles, price-points and schedules, but holding back on the creative teams. Those they finally announced last weekend during WonderCon, and you can read them all here. Because DC held off on announcing the teams until they could do so at a convention, their solicitations for the books they plan on shipping in June of this  year were delayed a few days, and my writing about them were delayed a few more days because, um, I've been busy (Season 2 of Daredevil really devoured my discretionary free time).

The exact nature of "Rebirth" has only been spoken of in pretty broad and vague terms, but those in the know who have been doing the speaking-about seem pretty insistent that this is not a widespread hard continuity reboot of the DC Multiverse setting of the kind that occurred in the wake of 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths or 2011's Flashpoint (although if you peruse the June solicitations, you'll see a lot of changes that suggest some degree of continuity rejiggering, perhaps more in line with the here-and-there approach of 1994's Zero Hour or 2005-2006 Infinite Crisis/52).

The name is a very clear call-back to Geoff Johns' own miniseries 2004's Green Lantern: Rebirth and 2009's The Flash: Rebirth, both of which restored previously discarded elements of their franchises, created new elements and aimed for a nice, balanced, make-every-fan-happy approach (Green Lantern resolved the Hal vs. Kyle vs. John debate by making all three of them Green Lanterns, and Guy, too; Flash brought Barry Allen back as The Flash, but had him running alongside rather than replacing Wally West as The Flash). The former was a bit more successful than the latter, and had a much longer lasting impact (Most of The Flash: Rebirth's changes would be deleted during the New 52 reboot that followed rather quickly on its heels, erasing all of the speedster characters save Barry Allen). While the in-story retcon was Johns' chosen method of retooling those franchises, it was pretty easy to do in the case of Green Lantern, given the title character's power-set ("do anything") and the fact that Hal Jordan was, at the time, The Spectre (DC's God stand-in).

One would expect the changes of "Rebirth" to similarly be accomplished by some sort of in-story tinkering, then, and the appearance of a God-like hand-in-space on the cover of the special, a familiar cosmic symbol relating to the creation of the universe in DC's crisis comics, is likely no coincidence.

As for the line, DC seems to rather wisely be paring it down from the random (and high!) number of 52 books a month to a much more manageable number, and to be focusing on the most marketable characters and franchises, rather than taking too many risks on books that would have a hard time reaching issues #24 even if they weren't competing against 51 other DCU books (not to mention all those other DC and Marvel and the rest of the direct market books). And, again, wisely, rather than trying to increase their profits and market share by charging more for individual books, like raising the price of the 100,000+-units-per-month Batman from $2.99 to $3.99 or $4.99, they're just going to ship it (and many other books), twice a month.

That makes sense from a business standpoint, and it positively delights my wallet. As for how it will work creatively, well, DC's going to need to be very smart, as it will likely take twice as many artists to make those books. It's early, but it seems like in many cases they've found two very compatible artists (Patrick Gleason and Doug Mahnke on Superman, for example), or tried to build in a strategy for differing artists (publishing two story arcs simultaneously in Wonder Woman, for example, with two artists switching consecutive issues, each tied to a specific story arc). It will be very easy for the publisher to fuck this up, and the resultant books looking as messy as their weekly comics often do, but here's hoping they've learned enough to plan well ahead.

The strategy seems to split the difference between that of "The New 52" (52 new books by the same guys making the pre-Flashpoint books, all designed and drawn to fall within a Jim Lee-defined "house style") and the "DCYou" (more diverse leading characters, more diverse tone and art styles, more new creators), and it's certainly tempting to give DC the benefit of the doubt, to assume they've learned from their mistakes with their last two efforts at line-wide revamp and that they are really, truly, totally going to get this one right, and that the results will satisfy both their sales goals and the audience's desire to read well-written, well-drawn comic books starring DC's superheroes.

Looking over the titles and creators once again, I'm a little surprised to see some of them. Surely the market has spoken on whether, and how badly, it wants to read comics starring Deathstroke (he's had two titles since 2011, the first lasting 21 issues, the second and ongoing one lasting 16 so far), John Constantine (<i>Constantine</i> lasted 23 issues, was replaced by <i>Constantine: The Hellblazer</i>) and Red Hood Jason Todd (<i>Red Hood and The Outlaws</i> lasted 41 issues, then was relaunched as <I>Red Hood/Arsenal</i>) , hasn't it? Other books seem to have been rejected by DC readers pretty thoroughly in recent years based solely on their creative team turn-over, low sales and reboots–Green Arrow, Teen Titans–but hell, at least they have ongoing multi-media adaptations to justify their continued existence. Constantine already had a movie and a TV show, and neither took. Maybe it's time to retire him for a few years?

I was also a little surprised to see Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens so prominently featured again. Both have done some great work in the past, and are generally reliable talents, but they have each had so many credits over the past four years, and their books keep failing. I'm sure they're nice guys, and I don't want to see them unemployed or anything, but it seems like maybe DC could find someone else to work on Superman and Blue Beetle at this point...?

They are just two of the many, many returning names. Dan Abnett, Brett Booth, Tony Daniel, Scott Snyder, James Tynion, David Finch, Patrick Gleason, Bryan Hitch, Eddy Barrows, Mikel Janin, Tom King, Scott Lobdell, Tim Seeley, Doug Mahnke, Francis Manapul, Clay Mann, John Romita Jr., Gene Luen Yang, Steve Orlando, Ardian Syaf, Dexter Soy, Peter Tomasi, and Robert Venditti are among the creators who will be returning, although many of them will be on different books.

Long-absent creators returning to DC include Greg Rucka, Phil Jimenez, Christopher Priest (!!!), and among the new and most surprising gets is probably cartoonist Hope Larson, who will be the new writer of Batgirl.

That surprised me not only because Larson's work is very personal, very idiosyncratic and doesn't exactly suggest someone perfect for superhero universe comics (now a Batgirl original graphic novel written and drawn by Larson? I'd be trembling with excitement about such a prosepect!), but because the Batgirl creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr did perhaps the platonic ideal of a character redesign/reboot/refresh in the pages of Batgirl, giving her a new costume, new supporting characters, a new setting and a new focus, and they did so organically, between "The New 52" and "DCYou" initiatives.

I would have expected to see them continuing on Batgirl, or perhaps moving to a related book like the upcoming Batgirl and The Birds of Prey or Supergirl (Good news: DC is finally fucking publishing a Supergirl comic). Instead, they're completely absent.

In fact, many of my favorite artists and writers that are currently or have been recently working on DC Comics weren't mentioned at all in the solicitations, including Tarr, Stewart, Fletcher, Doctor Fate artist Sonny Liew (Hey, check out his The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye ogn from Pantheon), Black Canary artist Annie Wu, Swamp Thing artist Kelley Jones and All-Star Section Eight artist John McCrea.

While the books themselves are mostly rather conservative in their choices–a lot of Bats, a lot of Supers, a lot of names familiar from film, TV and cartoons, zero WildStorm characters and only one Vertigo import*–there are at least a few oddballs. I'm genuinely surprised to see the Yang-written New Superman, for example, or the Jimemez-written Supermwoman and, most of all, The Super-Sons, featuring Damian Wayne and Superman and Lois' son Johnathan (from Superman: Lois & Clark, not their adoptive son from The Phantom Zone).

Not all of these books are launching in June, of course. That's another rather smart thing DC is attempting this time around. Rather than releasing their entire new line avalanche style in a single month, the publisher is staggering the releases, making it easier for shop owners and readers to sample the books a few at a time, rather than feeling forced to decide if they really want to read Action Comics, Superman, New Superman, Supergirl, Superwoman and The Super-Sons all within the same month, for example.

While this all looks pretty hopeful on paper (or computer screen, I guess), the one thing casting a shadow over the entire endeavor is the fact that this is still very much a Dan DiDio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns joint and, well, those are the same guys who have been in charge of the DC Universe as a fictional setting and a line of comic books for about a decade now. The guys presenting "Rebirth" are the guys who presented "DCYou," and The New 52, and the Countdown/Infinite Crisis/52/"One Year Later" cycle of stories.

In each case, DiDio and other DC executives, editors and creators would say the equivalent of "We realized this wasn't working the way we wanted to, and so we've proposed this fix," and then, a few months later, they same the same thing, but this time the fix is different, or in the opposite direction of the previous fix, and then again. And again.

Basically, the guys who see problems with DC's line keep screwing with it dramatically, and then, realizing they've screwed with it too dramatically, try to correct course and over-correct in the process, and then over-correct again.

It's a little like riding a bus in which the driver is lost, but keeps thinking he's found the right path and assuring you this time you're going to get where you're going, only to realize a few hours later he needs to turn around and go back in the opposite direction. Man, just pull over and call for help. Someone will come find you and get you on the right path. (Wait, is this metaphor even working?) Or maybe confess, "Hey, I have no idea where I'm going; maybe someone else should drive for a while?

But enough about DC's "Rebirth" in general. Let's refocus on the first of the "Rebirth" books, those that will be coming out in June of this year.

Shall we...?


ACTION COMICS #957
Written by DAN JURGENS
Art by PATRICK ZIRCHER
Cover by MIKEL JANIN
...
“PATH TO DOOM” Chapter One
Superman returns to Metropolis just in time to meet the city of tomorrow’s newest protector: Lex Luthor. But it’s not long before these dueling titans meet someone unexpected — the new Clark Kent!
DON’T MISS: ACTION COMICS returns to its original numbering with this issue!
On sale JUNE 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


Not only do we get Jurgens writing Superman yet again, but we'll be getting Jurgens writing Superman vs. Doomsday. If the title of this issue's story isn't a strong enough clue, Doomsday is explicitly mentioned in the solicitation copy for Action Comics #958 (this being one of the book's shipping twice a month now), and is also on the cover.

As my friend pointed out, the woman on the right half of the cover–Lois Lane, presumably–was apparently modeled by cover artist Mikel Janin to look just like Claire Forlani.

But let's not let wondering who Janin used for photo reference distract us from the costume tweaking. Superman is no longer wearing a dumb suit of armor, and his S-shield looks like it's been restored to its classic size.

He's still going around shorts-less though, and seemingly wearing a Man of Steel-esque half girdle...thing...? More dramatically though, check out his boots. They're blue! That's different. Very, very different. I don't think I've ever seen Superman rocking blue boots anywhere before.

Less dramatically, Wonder Woman's "W" is gold/yellow rather than silver/metallic, so it looks like she's regained her traditional color scheme. At least on this cover.

As for Luthor's new duds, we'll discuss those a bit below.


I'm not interested in the new Aquaman book at all, despite really liking Aquaman in general, but look, it's Garth/Tempest! And it looks like he'll be wearing an outfit that is at least approaching the general direction of the one that he wore as Aqualad in the Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! cartoons, which I think is his best costume (and overall design).


BATMAN: REBIRTH #1
Written by TOM KING and SCOTT SNYDER
Art and cover by MIKEL JANIN
Variant cover by TBD
...
Longtime Batman and Eisner Award-winning writer Scott Snyder co-writes with rising-star writer Tom King!
EVIL 365: Gotham City faces the threat of the Calendar Man!
One-shot • On sale JUNE 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


I plan on sitting out the new Batman series, which will feature artwork by–ugh–David Finch*, but I'll probably check out this Finch-less issue, if only because of the villain. Here's hoping the Rebirth-ed Calendar Man is 365-times cooler than the New 52 one was!


DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art by GARY FRANK, IVAN REIS, ETHAN VAN SCIVER, PHIL JIMENEZ and others
Cover by GARY FRANK
It all begins here. Do not skip to the last page. Do not let a friend or message board ruin this comic for you. The future (and past) of the DC Universe starts here. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
THEY SAID IT: “Rebirth is about focusing in on the core of the character and their respective universe,” says writer and DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. “It brings back what has been lost: the legacy of the characters, the love and the hope of the DCU!”
...
One-shot • On sale MAY 25 • 80 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


Check out that price point. While there will likely be ads in this book, meaning this is not quite an 80-Page Giant, that's still a pretty good deal on a book of that size. Even those insanely cheap, "Why Marvel Doing This? Oh, Just To Screw With DC" books that Marvel will be publishing in June under the "Timely Comics" banner will only feature 60-66 pages worth of story in them.

I honestly have no idea how DC brings back it's past after the events of Flashpoint/The New 52, although I'm guessing re-integrating the JSA and lengthening the "age" of the DCU's modern age of superheroes back to 10-12 rather than 5-7 years will do a lot of it. How that gets accomplished, I don't know, but I do hope Johns finally resolves the hows and whys of the reboot in the first place, since Pandora's harnessing of The Flash's speed and time-travel shenanigans to create The New 52-iverse out of the post-Crisis DCU, the WildStorm Universe and the Veritgo-iverse has never been explained. At least, not to my knowledge.


THE DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL VOL. 1 TP
Written by PAUL KUPPERBERG and JOEY CAVALIERI
Art by CARMINE INFANTINO, BOB OKSNER and others
Cover by RICH BUCKLER and DICK GIORDANO
In these 1980s tales from THE DARING NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERGIRL #1-12, Supergirl relocates from Metropolis to Chicago—and meets evil in new forms, including the villainous Psi! Plus, while battling the evil foursome known as the Gang, Kara stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens all of her new hometown! Guest-starring the Doom Patrol!
On sale JULY 13 • 208 pg, FC, $19.99 US


Well this collection seems to be over a year late, but I suppose if anyone excited about the charming TV show who wanted to read comics about Supergirl when i first came out still want to read not-awful comics featuring the character come July, then they'll have this to look forward to.

I've never actually read any of these comics, but it's got Carmine Infantino art, so i can't be that bad. It still kind of depresses me how far back one has to look for comic books featuring a Supegirl who is simply Superman's cousin from Krypton rather than all of the later nonsense (These are, after all, like 30 years old).


DEATHSTROKE #19
Written by JAMES BONNY • Art by PAOLO PANTALENA • Cover by TYLER KIRKHAM
With the life of his daughter Rose hanging in the balance, Slade Wilson is forced into a tense alliance with Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins. And before he can carry out his vendetta against Victor Ruiz and his mercenary army, Slade must first engage in a violent rematch with his latest deadly foes, Lawman and Snakebite. Can Deathstroke survive this all-out “Blood Feud”?
On sale JUNE 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+


Woah, woah, woah...Lawman is one of Deathstroke's deadly foes? This guy?
I had no idea!


THE DEMON VOL. 2: THE LONGEST DAY TP
Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art by JOHN McCREA, PETER SNEJBJERG and others
Cover by JOHN McCREA
The Demon is back for more violent, over-the-top adventures in this collection, featuring never-before-reprinted stories, which feature the unexpected return of Merlin, who warns Jason Blood of Etrigan’s demonic offspring! Then, The Demon and Jason Blood trick Captain Scumm into selling something he can never get back. And don’t miss appearances by Hitman! Collects THE DEMON #49-58.
On sale JULY 27 • 272 pg, FC, $19.99 US


I'm really glad to see this being solicited. I just read the first volume a few weeks ago, and it was great. I had previously read much of the first volume in different formats previously–single issues scored from back-issue bins, in that one Hitman trade–but it was nice to be able to just sit and read then all straight through between a single set of covers like that.


DETECTIVE COMICS #934
Written by JAMES TYNION IV
Art and cover by EDDY BARROWS and EBER FERREIRA
...
“RISE OF THE BATMEN” Chapter One
An unknown predator begins outdoing Batman, taking down dangerous threats with military precision. It’s up to the Dark Knight and series costar Batwoman to rally and train the young heroes of Gotham City to end this mysterious threat!
WHAT NOW: Batman and Batwoman begin training Spoiler, Red Robin and Cassandra Cain, but is the villainous Clayface ready for redemption?
On sale JUNE 8 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


First things first, let us take a moment and say a prayer of thanks that Red Robin Tim Drake is no longer wearing The Worst Costume of The New 52, which has been hurting my eyes and wearying my soul for well over four years now.

I'm a little surprised to see that he's going back to wearing a costume that looks so similar to the original Robin costume he wore, however, particularly given the fact that he's still using the name "Red Robin" and the fact that in The New 52 reboot, Tim Drake was supposedly never Robin, but took the Red Robin name from his first day on the job, so as to distinguish himself from Dick and Jason.

If they were going to keep Tim as Red Robin, than I assumed he would end up wearing a version of his original costume that was all red and black, perhaps hewing closer to the Robin costume designs on the Young Justice cartoon, or like that worn by Tim Drake in Batman: The Animated Series, when he replaced Dick Grayson as that Batman's second Robin.

I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but, well, I clicked on Barrows' cover for 'TEC #934 for a closer look at the costumes and that's when I saw it: Tim's new costume has double R's, for "Red Robin."

Sigh.

Look, I don't want to keep complaining about Tim Drake's costumes, particularly since this one is so much better than his last one, but here's a good rule of thumb for how many letters a superhero should have on their chest.

The best superheroes have one letter.
Dave Bullock

The worst have two or more.
Alan Davis

Surely you don't want to be known as the Geo-Force of Robins, do you Tim?

Also, look at Cassandra Cain! She's basically wearing what she wore in the pages of Batman & Robin Eternal, but with a completely unnecessary helmet covering her entire head. And it doesn't even have bat-ears on it!

I'm hoping that she'll become Black Bat, and get a costume closer to that one, in the very near future.

I'm not sure how I feel about this particular book.

On the one hand, I like the idea of Gotham's many teen vigilantes all functioning as a team, and it's something I know I've wondered aloud about a few times, particularly when discussing Batman Eternal, Batman & Robin Eternal, Batgirl and Convergence: Batgirl. And I like James Tynion as a writer okay. I'd say most of his comics that I've read have been pretty okay, and some of the ones that disappoint tend to do so not because of a failure at the craft level so much as my wanting them to be more ambitious or, on a purely fannish level, to align more closely with my own particular visions about the characters (see Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

But, on the other hand, I do not Care for Eddy Barrows' art at all. His work on the current Martian Manhunter book has been the best of his career, but man, I think back to his work on Teen Titans and shudder. (Actually, take a close look at that cover, again, and you can see some of the problems with Barrows' work. This is just a cover, meaning he's not called on to do any real storytelling, at least, not in sequential images, and it's still a mess. Spoiler just kind of out their in the middle of nowhere, the characters all hiding their hard-to-draw feet in obvious ways, Tim's bizarre pose...)

If Barrows is going to stick around long, maybe this will end up being a wait-to-borrow-the-trade-from-the-library book (Better artists for this book, choosing only from artists that DC has hired to draw some of these characters recently? David LaFuente, Scott McDaniel, Bengal, Babs Tarr, James Harvey, Khary Randolph. Alain Mauricet, Moritat)

You know who is noticeably absent from that cover though? Harper "Bluebird" Row, who partnered with Tim throughout Batman Eternal, has been living with Spoiler since the end of that series and has recently been sharing an adventure with Cassandra in Batman & Robin Eternal. I sure hope this doesn't mean she's being killed off, or erased from continuity**...

Similar, Duke Thomas seems like a natural character to appear in this title, although I suppose it's possible he will give up Robin-ing after the events of We Are Robin.


DOCTOR FATE #13
Written by PAUL LEVITZ
Art by IBRAHIM MOUSTAFA
Cover by TONY HARRIS
From a windowless tower in Salem, Massachusetts, a man who is familiar with Doctor Fate, Kent Nelson, smells trouble coming. But will he be able to properly teach the former medical student and current possessor of the mystical power, Khalid Nassour, how to truly be Doctor Fate before all New York City is aflame?
On sale JUNE 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


The sole reason I was reading this title, at least for the first six or seven issues, was because Sonny Liew is such a great artist. Here, it seems they have subtracted even that from the book, and Liew is providing neither interior art nor the cover. I can't imagine this issue will prove all that popular, then, but I also imagine it's on it's way out, along with most of the other books that aren't part of "Rebirth," so that it hardly matters.

What went wrong? Well, my guesses would be...

1.) Overall mediocrity. It was fine, but not spectacular, an with so many superhero books on the stands these days, being "fine" isn't that far removed from being not-worth-reading.

2.) The lead. It was a Doctor Fate book, not a Batman or Spider-Man book, so there was always going to be a bit of an uphill climb for it.

3.) The pacing. Paul Levitz wrote this like it was Ultimate Spider-Man, rather than a brand-new(-ish) character, taking over half a year to tell us the character's origin story and set up his first complete adventure. It's 2016, so "decompression" isn't the fresh, new thing it was in 2000, and, again, people are less likely to be patient with Doctor Fate than thy are with Spider-Man.

4.) The New 52. With DC's first-generation of supeheroes (and most of their third and fourth) wiped from continuity, there was no Doctor Fate in the shared-setting...except the alternate dimensional version that starred in the Earth 2 books, which were garbage. This then was a legacy character whose legacy no longer existed. I'm sure there are some ardent Doctor Fate fans in the world, just as I'm sure that many of them wouldn't be on board for a new series featuring a new character with no relation to the no-longer-extant version. (Although, based on this solicitation copy, I guess Levitz is introducing New 52 Kent Nelson...?


FUTURE QUEST #2
Written by JEFF PARKER
Art and cover by EVAN “DOC” SHANER
...
Still reeling from their encounter with the ghost from outer space, Jonny and Hadji reach the wreckage of the vessel that burst through the vortex. The ship’s sole survivor doesn’t remember what she was fleeing, or even her own name…but she does know her pet is called Blip. Plus: journey to Earth’s past, 45,000 years ago—and witness the birth of the world’s first fantastic hero: Mightor!
On sale JUNE 29 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T


From creative team to premise, this looks like it's set to be the Hanna-Barbera remix comic best positioned to be both high-quality and high-selling. While some of the others may have a "What the fuck?" factor in their favor, this one is more likely to elicit an "Oh cool!"


I'm still not interested in reading Green Arrow, but I wanted to point out the important change to the character that is part of "Rebirth": Oliver Queen has his little beard back!

...

You know, now that I think about it, I wish they would have just gone ahead and entitled this book Green Arrow's Beard's Rebirth.


Hey, take a close look at who GA and Black Canary are fighting on that cover. It's Wild Dog...s. Is DC rebirth-ing Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty's late-1980s vigilante character as some kind of street gang or something? Boo!


GREEN LANTERNS #1
Written by SAM HUMPHRIES
Art by ROBSON ROCHA
Cover by ROBSON ROCHA and JOE PRADO
...
“RED PLANET” Chapter One
New Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz promised to protect others in brightest day or blackest night, but as “Red Planet” begins to rise, the partners find themselves confronted with an unimaginable threat from Bleez and the Red Lanterns!
THEY SAID IT: “I am psyched for GREEN LANTERNS!” says writer Sam Humphries. “Myself, Simon, and Jessica are all new to the DC Universe. We’re gonna have a blast exploring it—if we don’t destroy it first.”
On sale JUNE 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


While I'm in no hurry to spend more time with the napalm blood vomitting Red Lanterns than I already have, I'm really glad to see the return of Green Lantern Simon Baz, one of actually new characters of the New 52 that showed a great deal of potential, and whom I grew to actually like quite a bit, despite the way DC initially introduced the character (In fact, while reading about him in Green Lantern, after a while I kind of wanted he and B'dg to take over the book and let Hal Jordan leave when Geoff Johns did).

Also, it looks like Power Ring Jessica Cruz, who Johns has been using in his Justice League, will trade in the evil power ring from Earth-3 for an actual Green Lantern ring, becoming Earth's sixth or seventh Green Lantern, but its first female Green Lantern.

So that's cool.

Sam Humphries is a really good "get" for DC too.


HARLEY’S LITTLE BLACK BOOK #4
Written by AMANDA CONNER and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art by BILLY TUCCI
Cover by AMANDA CONNER
...
Harley’s been to some very strange places in her bizarre life…but an alternate-reality time-travel trip is a new one even for her! Somehow, some way, Harley’s managed to find herself in the world of the Bombshells, a universe where female heroes have taken to the battlefield of World War II! And most unbelievably of all…she’s gonna meet herself?! Our heads hurt already.
On sale JUNE 22 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T+


DC's been increasingly in the habit of making the settings of particular Elseworlds or out-of-continuity stories visit-able worlds or places in their Multiverse, so I guess it's no real surprise that the Bombshell-iverse would interact with the DCU at some point. I am a little surprised that it happened so quickly, though, and that it would be happening in this particular book. Bombshell Harley has had a relatively minor role in the series so far.

I would love to see Conner draw this issue, just so we can see her takes on the various characters. She's an excellent pin-up artist, and the fact that the characters are all based on vintage girlie pin-ups would certainly play to Conner's strengths. Sadly, she's just doing the cover.


The initial "Rebirth" announcement featured a book called "The Super-Man," which has since been changed to New Superman. When I first heard the original title, I immediately connected it to this cover, which was already solicited for May release, and assumed that The Super-Man would be a new book starring Lex Luthor, seeing as how he has the look (bald) and moral alignment (bad) that Joel Siegel's first conception of a super-powered character he called The Super-Man had.


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #12
Written by BRYAN HITCH
Art by NEIL EDWARDS and DANIEL HENRIQUES
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
Green Lantern’s ring has been hacked! Someone has a personal vendetta against the League, attacking them where they are the most vulnerable!
On sale JUNE 22 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA ANNUAL #1
Written by BRYAN HITCH
Art by NEIL EDWARDS and DANIEL HENRIQUES
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
The vendetta of the League’s newest enemy puts them through the ultimate test by releasing the DCU’s most dangerous super-villains from prison!
On sale JUNE 29 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T


This may have already happened–I know there was a random Martian Manhunter solo story slotted in to fill a late-shipping issue of this book already–but I see that the title sold as Bryan Hitch writing and drawing the Justice League is now just Hitch witing the Justice League while someone else draws it for him.


Jesus.

I noticed that in this week's DC comics there was a house ad for this series calling it "A Fresh New Take On Scooby And The Gang For A New Generation," but I'm pretty sure this is a fresh new take on Scooby and the gang for the old generations. The new generation seems quite content to rewatch the original Scooby cartoons on TV and on DVD, along with all of the original movies based on the original show's formula, designs and characterizations, and the new shows like Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo (Both of which are excellent, by the way).


SUPERMAN: REBIRTH #1
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art by DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA
Cover by DOUG MAHNKE
...
The world needs a Man of Steel, but can Superman protect the world while raising a super-son with his wife, Lois Lane?
IT BEGINS: Now it's Clark's turn to be Pa Kent and teach his son what it means to be super, but who is hunting Superman's son—and why?
One-shot • On sale JUNE 1 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


No complaints about this particular creative team. Tomasi is a very good writer. And while he's written a few bad issues, he's got more good comics to his name than bad ones. Dough Mahnke is an excellent artist, who has been drawing Superman in various capacities for years, and has worked with Tomasi before.

This isn't the superstar team that was Gene Luen Yang and John Romita Jr., or even Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, but that's a fine creative team for any DC Comic.

Reading the solicit, it looks like this Superman is the one from the pages of Superman: Lois and Clark, which was the pre-Flashpoint one from the pages of Convergence, aged by 5-6 years.

I would guess the two Supermen (that guy, and the New 52 Superman) will somehow merge into a single character, but that's just a guess. Either way, this is a big, dramatic lurch in the opposite direction of The New 52 reboot of the character, that wanted to make him a younger character; this Superman would be even older, or at least, by comics publisher/editor standards, "feel" much older.


SUPERMAN #1
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
...
“THE SON OF SUPERMAN” Chapter One
The Last Son of Krypton must decide whether to help his young son use his new and rapidly increasing abilities, or hide them from the world.
THE CREATORS: The team supreme that brought fans the adventures of Damian Wayne in BATMAN AND ROBIN returns for the adventures of Superman and his offspring.
On sale JUNE 15 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


Like most of the titles shipping twice a month, this one will need two artists to stay on schedule. And Doug Mahnke is being paired with Patrick Gleason, which is about as good a fit as you could hope for, in terms of pairing two artists with stylistic similarities.


SWAMP THING #6
Written by LEN WEIN
Art and cover by KELLEY JONES
The stunning conclusion to Len Wein and Kelley Jones’ smash-hit miniseries! The fate of his home hinges on Alec Holland and his allies as shocking information is revealed about his friend-turned-foe Matt Cable.
On sale JUNE 1 • 32 pg, FC, 6 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T


Wait, this has been a "smash-hit" miniseries...? Really? Awesome! Does that mean we'll be getting some more Len Wein/Kelley Jones Swamp Thing comics? Or at least some Kelley Jones Swamp Thing comics? Or even just Kelley Jones-drawing-anything comics? Because I am on board with any of those options.


TEEN TITANS EARTH ONE VOL. 2 HC
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art and cover by ANDY MACDONALD
After months on the run from the twisted project that created them, Cyborg, Terra, Beast Boy and Garth are near their breaking point, barely surviving on what they can steal, squatting in the ruins of an abandoned subdivision. But as they reach their lowest ebb, their creator, Dr. Niles Caulder, is ready to make his move…and they’re about to learn that they weren’t the only kids to go through Caulder’s twisted process! There are more children with powers out there, and unlike our heroes, they were raised for only one purpose—to be the living weapons Caulder wants ALL his Titans to be!
Writer Jeff Lemire (GREEN ARROW, ANIMAL MAN) teams up with artist Andy MacDonald (THE NEW 52: FUTURES’ END) to deliver the next chapter in the Earth One series!
On sale AUGUST 10 • 144 pg, FC, $22.99 US


I'm tempted to say that it seems like it's been an extraordinarily long time since Teen Titans: Earth One Vol. 1 was published, but the space between volumes of DC's various Earth One series is generally a lot longer than their page counts would seem to indicate, perhaps because their chapters aren't published serially, and so their aren't as many regular deadlines to hit.

I do believe this is the first time that the artist changed between books on an Earth One series, though. Terry and Rachel Dodson drew the first volume of Teen Titans: Earth One.


WACKY RACELAND #1
Written by KEN PONTAC
Art and cover by LEONARDO MANCO
...
The world has ended, but the race has just begun! Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect and the rest of the Wacky Racers vie for the finish line in a contest where the winner takes all and second place is death. Today’s trial: the shattered maze of freeways known as the √úberpass, where they’re beset by giant sand beasts, mutated insects, and worst of all, Dick Dastardly’s murderously poor sportsmanship. The last thing they need after surviving the race is a brutal bar fight in a local dive, but that’s just what they get!.
On sale JUNE 8 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T


That's it...drink it in. I get the feeling that "Wacky Races reimagined as Mad Max" is a premise that sounds a lot more entertaining than reading a comic book series based on that premise might be, but why not?


WONDER WOMAN #1
Written by GREG RUCKA
Art and cover by LIAM SHARP
...
“THE LIES” Chapter One
Why has the Lasso of Truth stopped working for the Amazon Princess? Start down the rabbit hole as dark secrets from Wonder Woman’s past unravel her present!
THEY SAID IT: “Drawing Wonder Woman isn’t just drawing a comic, it’s drawing an icon—the most famous and recognizable female superhero in the world,” exclaims artist Liam Sharp. “To get to draw her in her 75th year, with a new storyline scribed by no less than Greg Rucka, makes this without a doubt the most important drawing gig of my 30 years in comics.”
On sale JUNE 22 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T


Uh-oh. It looks like Wondy's changed into her Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice costume. That doesn't necessarily bode well, nor does the suggestive copy that her magic lasso has "stopped working" (So? She mostly just uses it garrote people these days anyway, preferring the phallic, deadly sword to her peaceful weapon of capture and submission) and "dark secrets."

That said, look! Look, everyone! DC has assigned their Wonder Woman book to a readable creative team! Hooray!

I'm intrigued by the presence of Liam Sharp, an excellent artist whose style and resume don't exactly suggest him as an obvious choice for a DC superhero comic, and I've rather mixed feelings about the presence of Greg Rucka.

Part of me thinks he's already had his chance to write Wonder Woman, and while his take on the character and his world might not have been to everyone's tastes, he did an all-together fine job, at least up until the end of his run, when the book and the character became swept up in some of the sillier plot elements of Infinite Crisis. While I'd like to see new creators with new takes on Wonder Woman, I can definitely appreciate the logic of having a known quantity on the book (For example, I can look at this solicitation and know that I'll like this comic okay enough to add it to my pull-list, rather than having to try it out), and for DC wanting to make up for the presence of David and Meredith Finch on the book for the past...however long it's been.

Rucka on Wonder Woman almost seems like an apology to fans of the book. Sorry about the Finches and Brian Azzarello's weird mangling of Wonder Woman's back-story, guys; what can we do to make it up to you? You liked Greg Rucka's run, you say? Done.

I feel like Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman again is a little like DC guiltily buying us ice cream. But that's fine. I like ice cream.



*The actual solicitation copy for the first issue of the new Batman series reads "Superstar artist David Finch returns to the Dark Knight alongside writer Tom King for this five-part storyline," so I suppose it's possible that Finch will only be around for that first story arc, and then perhaps they'll assign the book to someone who can draw comic books well.

**Neither seems to be the case. I've since read Batman & Robin Eternal #26, the last issue in the series, and it explains why Harper's not hanging out with her friends on the cover Detective. And why Cassandra Cain's dumb new costume lacks bat-ears

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: March 30

Batman & Robin Eternal #26 (DC Comics) Well, this is it–the final issue of the weekly series, over-sized at the $3.99/38-page price point to allow enough room for a climax and a denouement. Regarding that climax, it's pretty much exactly what the last few issues have pointed towards. Mother puts a knife in Harper Row's hands and asks her to kill the captive Cassandra Cain. She decides not to, and so the pair team up with Dick, all the Robins and various allies to fight Mother and her Orphans.

The denouement is a bit more interesting. It jumps ahead a few months, after the events of Batman #50 (i.e. Bruce Wayne has gained his brain back, and is Batman once again). Both Haprer and Cassandra decide what they want to do next with their lives.

Harper decides to at least temporarily suspend her activities as crimefighter Bluebird (As much as I hate d her dumb costume and Cable-sized electricity guns, I liked the character, and liked her particularly as a foil to Tim Drake and/or Stephanie Brown, the latter of whom is her roommate. I was kinda hoping for a Teen Wonders comic at some point, which I guess Detective Comics will kinda sorta be becoming, although sans Harper, and kind of assuming she would be part of the upcoming Batgirl and The Birds of Prey, which no longer seems to be the case).

Cassandra decides to become a crimefighter–she will be appearing in the upcoming, James Tynion-written Detective Comics–and she takes maybe the worst superhero codename she could, given the events of this series: Orphan. Okay, yes, "Batgirl" and "Batwoman" are both taken, but her post-Batgirl codename "Black Bat" is still available. And I'm sure if we put our thinking caps on, we could come up with something else that's better than Orphan, which sounds more like the name of an X-Men character than a Gotham City vigilante. Blackbird? Black Robin? Nightwing?* Midnight? Lady Bat? Killer Bat?** The Blue Bat? Silent Knight?

Orphan was the name of her abusive, evil, asshole father David Cain, and the name used by Mother's top assassins. Cassandra rejected her father and Mother...so why would she name herself after them? Other than the fact that "Batgirl" is already, taken, of course.

Maybe this name is not final, and she'll reclaim her Batman, Incorporated identity of Black Bat in future issues of Detective...

This issue was scripted by Tynion, and drawn by four pencilers and four inkers, none of whom do all that noteworthy a job.

Despite its overall mediocrity, occasional all-around bad issues, I'm still sorry to see the book ending. I like a lot of these characters, and it's always nice to know you have at least one superhero comic waiting for you at the shop every Wednesday.


Jughead #5 (Archie Comics) Wow, five issues already? Jughead may have convinced a handful of his fellow students that the new principal is systematically transforming their high school into some sort of weird training and recruitment agency for some sort of sinister paramilitary organization, but they prove unable to convince any adults that this is, indeed, the case.

So Jughead and the gang convince Reggie Mantle to drive them to nearby Sunnyside, where they all encounter gender-flipped versions of themselves while trying to do recon on Principal Stanger's past conquests. This issue's dream sequence dusts off the Archie superhero characters, presenting them with evil versions of themselves that look an awful lot like their Utlimate equivalents. If Jughead's Captain Hero identity fighting an evil version of himself with five o'clock shadow in a junkyard is to subtle a superhero allusion, the last page sure isn't.

Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson continue to do what I would have told you a year ago was impossible: Make Jughead a creative, compelling and honest-to-God funny comic book.


Saga #35 (Image Comics) Hey, Lying Cat isn't the only lying cat! As much as I liked seeing another lying cat, this one dressed up like a king because why not?, I think this is probably my favorite part of this issue:
This was a pretty funny issue, and Fiona Staples fills it with excitingly strange little details and design work. Nice use of giant, weaponized water bears, for example; water bears being nature's most horrifying creation.



*I know, I know; Dick is reclaiming that name during DC's "Not a relaunch!" relaunch, "Rebirth." Otherwise, having her take on his old, unused superhero codename would make sense, given how much time she hung out with him throughout this series.

**Why not? Gotham's already got a Killer Moth and a Killer Croc.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Jesus fucking Christ, Zack Snyder.

In 1989, I saw Tim Burton's Batman, and it helped me fall in love with the comics medium that birthed such colorful characters. I just got back from seeing Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and it made me hate the film medium that Zack Snyder worked in to create such such a dark, punishing, illogical, nauseous fever dream of a narrative.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Off-model Avengers, assemble!

My three-year-old nephew likes Legos and he likes superheroes, and Lego makes a lot of superhero-themed play-sets. The only downside? They're awfully expensive. My sister thought she found a pretty good solution when she found a set of eight super-heroes, each with their own, individual vehicles, for sale for an extremely low price online, and so she ordered them to put in his Easter basket.

Something tells me that these might not have been completely official. While they look a lot like Legos, they don't have the Lego logo on them anywhere, and there are some...subtle differences from what one might expect to find in a set of officially-licensed and produced Avengers toys.

The first thing that struck my sister and nieces as fishy wasn't that each hero came with a vehicle, although I always think it's weird when a character who can fly like Thor has his own helicopter, or a character who is barely capable of logical thought like The Hulk, has a race car.

No, it was the fact that the vehicles came with no instructions as to how to assemble them. My eldest niece was able to find photos of them online though and then painstakingly went about assembling eight helicopters, race cars, boats and jeeps based solely on the photos of the finished products.

And then there's the fact that this Avengers line-up is a peculiar one. In addition to Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk and Thor, it features Wolverine and Spider-Man. My my sister and niece knew from the movies and cartoons that those last two didn't belong, but perhaps this toy set is reflecting the original New Avengers line-up, in which case they belong there as much as anyone else. As for what Superman and Batman are doing with the Avengers, however, your guess is as good as mine.

As you can see in the image above, Thor is wearing his movie costume, but it looks like he's dyed his beard and eyebrows a shade of red that's somewhere between burgundy and hot pink.

What's that, you ask? Is that a rifle in Spider-Man's hand in the background? Why yes it is!
In fact, both Spider-Man and The Hulk come with shotguns, just in case their super-strength and web-shooters aren't enough to get the job done. (Although, now that I look at the guns more closely, I see they both have scopes on them, so perhaps they are not shotguns after all, but some sort of high-powered sniper rifles? Okay, I can kind of see how Spider-Man's power-set, if not his morality, would make him an ideal sniper, but The Hulk? He would be the worst sniper.)

But if you think that's weird, it's certainly not as strange as Superman's accessory.
That's right, the guy with heat-vision is also packing heat, although his firearm is a handgun, which he can easily tuck into the belt holding up his red underwear.

Finally, here's Wolverine, who, like Thor, came with a helicopter that he can't actually fit inside.
He's the best there is at what he does, and what he does is ride balance on the tail of his helicopter, wearing a yellow outfit with green stripes on it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Meanwhile, at Comics Alliance...

I interviewed Tim Hanley, author of Wonder Woman Unbound, about his new book, Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of The Daily Planet's Ace Reporter. It's a fascinating book about one of the most fascinating characters in pop culture, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to ask Hanley more about it and its subject matter.

Regarding his cryptic clues about who or what he might right about next, I'm going to guess Catwoman, as she's the most prominent female character in the Batman story, and Hanley's already covered Wonder Woman and Superman (through Lois), so Batman seems like the natural progression (Well that, and he did say something about a villainous perspective).

The other clues were a little more intriguing. When he mentioned legacies, I thought most immediately of Robin, who would present another avenue through which to discuss Batman's history in pop culture, but, if he sticks with the female comics characters, maybe we'll get a book about Supergirl (who is naturally discussed a bit in the Lois Lane book), her inspiration Mary Marvel and Batgirl.

I have no idea, really, but whatever Hanley writes next, I'll be interested in reading it.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thoughts on Daredevil season two (episode two)

For a guy who binge-drinks at Josie's ever night and never sleeps, Mat's in damn good shape.
Oh hey, Daredevil's not dead after all! He totally survived being shot in the forehead and falling off a building. The dumb-looking costume did its job, and kept him safe from dying after being shot in the head and falling off a building.

I'm not really sure about the mechanics of that scene, as he ended up unconscious on another rooftop, though. Maybe he dragged himself there? Or bounced off the ground and landed on another rooftop, like a super bounce ball? I don't know.

I enjoyed watching Foggy race from rooftop to rooftop looking for Daredevil, but, because he is, as Grotto calls him, a "doughnut of a lawyer" instead of a super-ninja like Daredevil, he can't just parkour from rooftop to rooftop, but has to run all the way up and down each building, using the stairs and/or eleavaors.

--They decided not to show how Foggy dragged big, bloodied Matt, all decked out in a devil-shaped suit of armor, from that rooftop to his own apartment, but I would have enjoyed seeing that.

--Say, isn't there some rule about how you're supposed to handle someone who has a head or neck injury? Aren't you supposed to not move them? Because unconscious Daredevil gets moved around a lot in this series.

--In this episode, Foggy again expresses his valid concerns that Matt is going to get himself killed one of these days, and that is going to cause some pretty big problems for him, above and beyond mourning his friend. Like, for example, if and when Daredevil gets caught or unmasked, alive or dead, that's going to be the end of Foggy's legal career, which is something he and Matt have worked on building together their whole lives.

My friend pointed out another reason for Foggy to be upset with Matt: He has to do all the lawyer-ing. With Matt spending so much time recovering from head injuries, Foggy and Karen have to do all the legal work, all the paper work, all the running of the office. Matt Murdock may be a pretty good friend and a pretty good vigilante, but he must be the worst co-worker.

--I liked the scene where Karen went to check on Matt, and let him know in no uncertain terms that she knows he's hiding something serious from her, something that results in his frequent injuries and failure to show up at office. In the same conversation, she demonstrates that she doesn't know--or even suspect--that he might be Daredevil.

Which makes me wonder what exactly she thinks Matt might be hiding. Does she think he's a raging alcoholic? ("Bit of the hair of the dog that bit you?" she asks when she sees a broken glass in the corner, that he dropped after his super-senses got temporarily haywire). Does she think he's in some kind of blind guy fight club? In deep with loan sharks to feed his terrible gambling addiction? What?

--He was awfully defensive about Daredevil too, when Karen suggested that Hell's Kitchen's embrace of their violent vigilante may have given rise to The Punisher, who similarly takes justice into his own hands.

--His recovery lead to a pretty good opportunity to show us shirtless Charlie Cox, though. The Netflix Marvel shows, like the Marvel movies have been big on shirtless men, while the ladies are hardly ever scantily clad. It's refreshing to see so much "female gaze" in these mass-media adaptations of stories from a medium so dominated by the male gaze.

--Is it just me, or does Deborah Ann Woll get prettier each episode?

--I think I'm already over my reservations about Jon Bernthal's Punisher. He seemed appropriately big and menacing in this episode.

--I wonder why Matt thought a hoodie and a back pack would be a good "disguise" for his visit to his tailor and his bloodhounding of The Punisher's lair...which was not the meat-packing place in the first episode, after all; instead, it's just a dingy apartment filled with guns and ammunition and explosives...which Matt discovered, but failed to call the police and tell them the location of. That's twice now Daredevil's failed to call the cops when discovering a major lead on The Punisher.

At the very least, he could have worn his old mask, the one he wore through the majority of the first season, when visiting his tailor. That, at least, would disguise his identity and better hide the fact that he was blind, should the tailor be able to see his face...which viewers could whenever they showed Matt in long-shot from the tailor's POV.

--I don't know how I feel about the D.A.'s office being the ones who came up with the name "The Punisher." Now that I'm thinking about it, coming up with a supehero name doesn't sound like something Frank Castle would do himself, so I don't know where his acquiring a name (and a costume) from would feel natural. I've never read the earliest Punisher comics, so I have no idea what the original, in-story origins of his codename and identity actually were.

--Punisher vs. Daredevil fight, round two! Are they going to do this every episode? Daredevil loses...again. Dude needs a sidekick or something. Maybe he should hire Jessica Jones, P.I. to help him with this case...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: March 23

Batman & Robin Eternal #25 (DC Comics) This is the penultimate issue of the series, which has turned out to be not only half as long as its predecessor Batman Eternal was, but also about half as compelling. Lacking the driving mystery element of the previous Batman weekly co-plotted by Scott Snyder and James Tynion (even if they did cheat at the end there), the concluding chapters of this series have been more inevitable than suspenseful.

The stakes are, technically, higher, as Mother had endangered the entire world here, but it's not like there's any real question of whether or not she'll kill our half-dozen heroes and their network of allies and conquer the world. And so in this issue we just take a few more steps toward the conclusion. If this issue and it's cliffhanger are any indication, than I suppose that conclusion will simply involve Dick Grayson fighting Mother, with the most likely assistance coming from Bluebird, Azrael and Cassandra Cain, who may not even get a costume or codename.

Javi Pina and Goran Sudzuka handle the art this time around, while Steve Orlando scripts. He does give Midnighter, whose monthly he's been writing, a pretty cool scene, albeit one that's not as violent as he might get in his own book (he's hanging out with Batman and his non-lethal protegees, after all) and much more poorly drawn than any scene in Midnighter.

There hasn't been a whole lot to this series over the past 25 weeks, but, at the same time, I'll miss it when it's gone. I do so enjoy knowing there will be at least one new comic book waiting for me at the shop every Wednesday, especially on particularly slow weeks like this one.


Circuit Breaker #1 (Image Comics) Despite my affection for Kyle Baker's work, I somehow managed to not hear anything at all about this book until I saw it sitting among the new books at the shop today and noticed that the lady on the cover looked a lot like Kyle Baker doing a Osama Tezuka impression (That, or I did hear of it, but then somehow failed to retain that information).

That, it turns out, is almost exactly what Circuit Breaker is. Baker is working with writer Kevin McCarthy, and together they imagine a somewhat meta, Tezuka-like Japan of the future. Or, as McCarthy has an old, Japanese lady say to our protagonist and title character, "This isn't Japan...we all live in a place that the rest of the world called Japan...Now there is only the super metropolis that the manga-ka kept warning us would happen."

McCarthy and Baker lay out and unfold the world a bit for us in the opening scenes, although pink-haired young woman Chiren does provide an info-dump, which she refers to as such, about half-way through. Her grandfather invented advanced robots to perform many roles in society, including war-fighting, and, eventually, those wars destroyed much of the world save Japan, which was forced to take in refugees from the destroyed-parts of the world.

Now there is a great deal of tension between the robots that are left and human beings, and robots are a despised and down-trodden class. Some strike back against humanity violently, and it's up to Chiren, the most advanced robot here "grandfather" ever created, to deactivate robots who would do humanity harm, trying to keep society from plunging into an all-out human vs. robot war.

It sounds a lot more serious than it is. Well, it is serious, but there are jokes and sly genre and media commentary, but the greatest pleasure is in seeing the way that McCarthy and Baker both use Tezuka's work for inspiration in a more direct, obvious, even naked way than most other cartoonists have or continue to do; this is a comic book that features the same tensions of many of Tezuka's robot stories and which uses Tezuka's charming, Disney cartoon-inspired style to make the characters all look somewhat cute, no matter the role they play.

Baker even fills the backgrounds with characters from Tezuka's comics (check out the third panel); giving them cameos as bit players in the story, the same way Tezuka himself used various characters he created as "actors" that appeared in parts large and small in many of his comics.

I know I'm sort of rambling here, but I think there's a lot of worthwhile stuff going on in this comic, and it will bear serious consideration and discussion in another three to five issues, when they've either finished their story or the first significant, novel-length chunk of a story.

For now, it's Kyle Baker doing Tezuka, so fans of either or both artists will definitely want to check this out. And even if you're not a fan of either–which likely just means you haven't read either; stop reading my dumb blog and go to your local library's website and just start reserving everything with either artist's name attached–then this is a comic about a robot girl who fights bad robots to keep the peace in a cartoon-y, futuristic fantasy Japan built from the raw materials of manga and anime history. So you're still definitely going to want to check this out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Marvel's June previews reviewed

Whose side is Peter Quill on? Who cares? Go back to space, Peter!
The big Marvel news for the month of June is the official launch of (sigh) Civil War II, which appears to be a sequel-in-name-only to the Mark Millar/Steve McNiven series, bearing nothing in common with the original save for the fact that it involves heroes fighting other heroes.

The original had its problems, certainly; in fact, it was actually little more than a series of storytelling problems illustrated and strung together in the shape of a comic book miniseries that the entirety of Marvel Comics would spend the next few years making sense of in all their other books. But, if nothing else, it was very much of its time, featuring various Marvel heroes coming down on different sides of the post-9/1l security vs. liberty zeitgeist (generally at random, since Iron Man's "security" side of the conflict involved building robot-clones of dead allies to kill other former allies for conscientiously objecting to the superhero draft and building an extra-dimensional Guantanamo Bay.

I suppose one could argue Civil War II is also of its time, at least in the way it reflects Marvel's current publishing priorities, like a tenuous connection to a previous storyline, trying to make Captain Marvel a thing and, of course, making it all about The Inhumans.

I suppose we'll see. Eventually. I was pretty engaged in the first Civil War, but having read like ten different event series like this written by Civil War II writer Brian Michael Bendis, I'm pretty confident that I'm not going to like it.

And on the subject of judging books by their covers (and the resumes and bodies of work of the people making them), let's look at what Marvel has planned for June! You can read their full solicits on Comics Alliance, and stay here for my unsolicited opinions on their solicitations...


THE ASTONISHING ANT-MAN #9
NICK SPENCER (W) • RAMON ROSANAS (A)
Cover by JULIAN TOTINO TEDESCO
• It's Ant-Man's Eleven! To pull off the job of a lifetime and stop a mastermind criminal, Scott has to pull together a new gang of... yeah, you guessed it. Criminals. It's a vicious cycle.
• Wait, are you allowed to count yourself in the eleven? This is confusing...
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Hey, remember when Marvel published a "MODOK's Eleven"...? The title of the series was officially Super-Villain Team-Up, but that was a fun mini while it lasted. I assume this will be rather fun as well; at least, I've yet to read a bad comic written by Nick Spencer


CIVIL WAR II #1 (OF 7)
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (W) • DAVID MARQUEZ (A)
Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
CIVIL WAR II 1 BLANK COVER VARIANT COVER ALSO AVAILABLE (MAR160714)
CONNECTING VARIANT COVER B BY Kim JUng Gi (MAR160712)
TEAM CAP HIP-HOP VARIANT COVER BY TERRY DODSON (MAR160713)
VARIANT COVER BY DAVID MARQUEZ (MAR160711)
VARIANT COVER BY STEVE MCNIVEN (MAR160709)
SKETCH VARIANT COVER BY STEVE MCNIVEN (MAR160710)
VARIANT COVER BY MICHAEL CHO (MAR160708)
TEAM IRON MAN HIP-HOP VARIANT COVER BY RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE (MAR160706)
CHARACTER VARIANT BY PHIL NOTO (MAR160707)
Hot Wheels VARIANT COVER BY MANUEL GARCIA (MAR160705)
BATTLE VARIANT COVER BY CHRIS SPROUSE (MAR160704)
PARTY VARIANT BY YASMINE PUTRI (MAR160719)
IT'S HERE!
The explosive first chapter in the comic event EVERYONE will be talking about. And we come out swinging with a blistering double-sized first issue from the creative team behind last year's best-selling debut of INVINCIBLE IRON MAN and Miles Morales. A new Inhuman, with the ability to profile the future, emerges and the ramifications ripple into every corner of the Marvel Universe. Lines are drawn, bodies fall, and the Marvel Universe will be rocked to it's very core. The action starts here!
56 PGS./Rated T+ ...$5.99


Well, it will certainly have more variant covers than the original did! That's the "Hot Wheels VARIANT COVER BY MANUEL GARCIA" pictured above. I think. Or maybe that's the regular cover? Maybe that's how the Marvel heroes will settle things this time around? On the race track?

The premise, already explained more thoroughly elsewhere on the Internet, is here presented as the emergence of a new mutant Inhuman with the power to "profile the future." Is that a big deal? Can't they ask Cable, Bishop, Rachel Grey or someone to confirm whether or not the profiles are accurate before they go to war over them...?

Do note that death and changes to the Marvel universe are promised, so, you know, business as usual.

Maybe I'm just tired, but after Civil War, World War Hulk, Avengers Vs. X-Men, Axis and the past few years of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers and New Avengers, there have been a lot of stories in which the lines are drawn and heroes fight heroes. It's hard to imagine this coming anywhere near the scale of Hickman's "Time Runs Out" story arc, which filled four trade collections of his two Avengers books, as the stakes in those conflicts were as high as possible (all reality), and he presented every single player as a real character with an understandable, if not relatable, motivation consistent with their past characterization and core personality traits.

I...don't have a lot of hope that the writer of House of M, Siege, Secret War and Age of Ultron can top, match or even approach that, but, again, I guess we'll see.


CIVIL WAR II: CHOOSING SIDES #1 (OF 6)
DECLAN SHALVEY, BRANDON EASTON, CHAD BOWERS & CHRIS SIMS (W)
DECLAN SHALVEY, GORAN SUDZUKA & LEONARDO ROMERO (A)
Cover by JIM CHEUNG
VARIANT COVER BY DECLAN SHALVEY
CHARACTER VARIANT BY PHIL NOTO
YOUNG VARIANT COVER BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
ACTION FIGURE VARIANT COVER BY JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
If you knew something bad was about to happen, would you stop it? How far would you go? The line is drawn. Everyone in the Marvel Universe has to ask themselves: are you with Captain Marvel or Iron Man? Kicking off an all-new series, this first issue features Nick Fury, Damage Control and Night Thrasher!
40 PGS./Rated T+ ...$4.99


Wait a minute, doesn't Iron Man being the world's most consummate futurist mean he kinda sorta sees the future already...?


DEADPOOL #13
GERRY DUGGAN, CHARLES SOULE, & DAVID WALKER (W)
MIKE HAWTHORNE (A)
Cover by FRANCISCO HERRERA
VARIANT COVER BY ROB LIEFELD
VARIANT COVER BY RON LIM
DAREDEVIL VARIANT COVER BY KHOI PHAM
POWER MAN & IRON FIST VARIANT COVER BY CHRIS STEVENS
ACTION FIGURE VARIANT COVER BY JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
HIT-MONKEY VARIANT COVER BY Brent Schoonover
An all-new epic four-issue crossover in one package! This issue of Deadpool (lucky number 13) LITERALLY contains two issues of DEADPOOL, one issue of DAREDEVIL, and one issue of POWER MAN & IRON FIST! When Deadpool take a gig protecting a banker who betrayed his cartel partners, they seek the help of Assistant District Attorney Matt Murdock, who calls in the assistance (and fists) of Power Man Luke Cage and Danny Rand, master of the Iron Fist! A mega-violent, street-level, face-punching, gut-busting, kung-fuing, ninjitsuing crime story guaranteed to knock your teeth out! Bringing together the writers of the DEADPOOL, DAREDEVIL, and POWER MAN & IRON FIST series: Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule, and David Walker!
96 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$9.99


I find both the audaciousness of publishing a multi-part, multi-book crossover all within the same set of covers and the naked, cynical marketing opportunism of knowing they can get away with it here because it's Deadpool kind of admirable. Regardless of what one thinks of the character, he's maybe the only one who has the popularity and the semi-aware nature to make these sorts of cash-grab comics do-able for Marvel.

And they're probably right in thinking they can sell a hell of a lot more issues of a $10 Deadpool comic than they can sell of $4 Daredevil or Power Man and Iron Fist comics.

Actually, if it's 80-88 pages, that's probably a hell of a value, as if it were published in four separate, $3.99 issues, it would cost one about $16, the same price a trade paperback collection of the arc might cost.


I don't know much about SCUBA diving, but I'm pretty sure that's not how you use SCUBA gear.


MS. MARVEL #8
G. WILLOW WILSON (W) • TAKESHI MIYAZAWA (A)
Cover by Cameron Stewart
...
CIVIL WAR II TIE-IN!
• Kamala gets called to the frontlines of battle--but this isn't a fight she can embiggen her way out of.
• Idols are tainted and Kamala must face the world with new eyes.
• It's time to grow up, Kamala. Who will you become?
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Here's an example of what the Civil War II tie-in covers will look like. It's not quite as striking as that of the original Civl War, which essentially cut the covers in half, featuring a horizontal illustration on the top half, and a solid color on the bottom half. I kinda like the strip along the top, but the logo at the bottom of the cover doesn't do anything for me.

I don't know. I guess we'll see what they look like on the racks, but they sure don't jump out in the way that the original Civil War's tie-ins did...


That's the cover of Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat, which might be the best comic book Marvel is currently publishing (that I've read). It's a tough call, because Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is, well, unbeatable. And, as the sign on the door says, that is Jessica Jones. Months and months late, Marvel seems to be attempting to maybe kinda sorta publish something with Jessica Jones in it, seeing as she had a much talked-about TV show and all. Weird that it's in the pages of Hellcat instead of a new Alias series or a Jessica Jones series, but what do I know?

I can't remember the last time I've seen an image of Jessica in a Marvel comic in which she is not holding a baby, so that's kind of cool.


SCARLET WITCH VOL. 1: WITCHES' ROAD TPB
Written by JAMES ROBINSON
Penciled by VANESA DEL REY, MARCO RUDY, STEVE DILLON, CHRIS VISIONS, JAVIER PULIDO, CHLOE POILLERAT, JOSE GILES & MARC LAMING
Cover by DAVID AJA
Witchcraft is broken -- and the Scarlet Witch is on a journey across the globe to fix it. From the back alleys of Manhattan to the serene Greek Isles to the Irish countryside, the former Avenger will face myths and legends from ancient lore, cure curses, and discover there's is even more to her complex family history than she knew. In Spain she will visit a church where witches like her were once burned at the stake -- and be haunted by the ghosts of the Spanish Inquisition! But will the powerful mage known as the Emerald Warlock be friend or foe to Wanda -- or the Uncanny Avengers? And as she solves magical crimes and pieces witchcraft back together, one vital question remains: Who shattered it in the first place? Collecting SCARLET WITCH (2015) #1-5.
112 PGS./Rated T+ ...$15.99


James Robinson's track record is pretty iffy, but there's no arguing with a list of artists like that. Have any of you been reading this series? What's the verdict? Is it worth reading in trade?


SPIDER-WOMAN #8
DENNIS HOPELESS (W) • JAVIER RODRIGUEZ (A/C)
• Even though, she's a mom now, Jessica Drew is still kicking ass and taking names as SPIDER-WOMAN!
• This time, she's tangling with the baddest fish in the sea – TIGER SHARK!
• FUN TIGER SHARK FACT: Did you know Tiger Shark has the DNA of both Namor the Submariner AND a tiger shark? Think about that for a second.
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


"Think about that for a second"...? Why do you want me to think about Namor having sex with a shark, solicitation writer?

I just read the first collection of Hopeless and Rodriguez's run on Spider-Woman, which is labeled Spider-Woman Vol. 2 because Marvel is horrible at trade collections, and it was a really great read. I'll review it sooner or later, but if the post-Secret Wars relaunch was as good as the pre-Secret Wars issues, than I'll be quite pleased to read this issue in trade someday too.


SPIDEY #7
ROBBIE THOMPSON (w) • ANDRE LIMA ARAUJO (a)
COVER BY KHARY RANDOLPH
• Spidey comes face to face with the voluminous villain Klaw!
• Guest-starring THE BLACK PANTHER!!!
32 PGS./Rated T ...$3.99


I can understand the temptation to alliterate when one's talking about a Marvel comic, but "voluminous" refers to the amount of space taken up, or how many words one might use...it refers to that kind of volume, not how loud something is. So it's more of a word for Volstagg or Deadpool, rather than the sound-based Klaw.


Okay, this is weird...

TIMELY COMICS
They're the comics everyone is talking about, now is your chance to hop on board before you get left in the dust! Marvel is proud to announce TIMELY COMICS, a new imprint of titles specially designed to get you caught up with hot All-New, All-Different Marvel titles! Reprinting the first three issues of select titles at an introductory price point of $3.00, Timely Comics will take you on a path through the restored Marvel Universe! The forming of the Avengers, Daredevil's fight for Chinatown, the birth of the Totally Awesome Hulk and so much more! These titles sold out and burned up the charts, so don't miss out on them now. Your new favorite series awaits, so get three issues for the $3.00 this June with TIMELY COMICS!
TIMELY COMICS: INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1
Reprinting INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #1
Reprinting ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #1 (A STORY) and #2-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: ALL-NEW INHUMANS #1
Reprinting ALL-NEW INHUMANS #1
(A STORY) and #2-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: CARNAGE #1
Reprinting CARNAGE (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: DAREDEVIL #1
Reprinting DAREDEVIL (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: DRAX #1
Reprinting DRAX #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: DOCTOR STRANGE #1
Reprinting DOCTOR STRANGE (2015) #1
(A STORY) and #2-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #1
Reprinting MOON GIRL AND
DEVIL DINOSAUR #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: NEW AVENGERS #1
Reprinting NEW AVENGERS (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: SCARLET WITCH #1
Reprinting SCARLET WITCH (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: SQUADRON SUPREME #1
Reprinting SQUADRON SUPREME (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: THE TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #1
Reprinting TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #1-3.
80 PGS./Rated T ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: ULTIMATES #1
Reprinting ULTIMATES (2015) #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: UNCANNY INHUMANS #1
Reprinting UNCANNY INHUMANS #1
(A STORY) and #2-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: VENOM: SPACE KNIGHT #1
Reprinting VENOM: SPACE KNIGHT #1-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00
TIMELY COMICS: WEB-WARRIORS #1
Reprinting WEB-WARRIORS #1
(A STORY) and #2-3.
72 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.00


Okay, so cute repurposing of the word "Timely," which, of course, is the name of the publishing company that eventually became Marvel in the 1960s, here applying it to refer to the fact that these comics are literally "timely." I don't know if I understand this right, though; these can't really be 60+-page reprints of new-ish comics being sold for just $3, can they? Because that is crazy cheap; Marvel charged $12 for the first three issues of all these series the first time around just recently, and they're already selling them for just $3? Hell, just glancing at the list, I see that some of the books being sold in trade paperback this month are also being sold in these "Timely Comics" collections; you can get the first half of, say, the first Totally Awesome Hulk trade paperback collection for just $3?

That seems like too good a deal to be true. Am I completely misunderstanding what these things really are...?

If not, I wonder what these will do to the back-issue market. Like, don't most stores sell their un-sold stock of new-ish comics at a reduced price in a dollar bins a few months after they leave the new comics racks?


THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #9
RYAN NORTH (W) • ERICA HENDERSON (A/C)
• The comic that got TWO #1s in its first year now reaches a new milestone: its very first #9!
• In Part 2 of "I Kissed A Squirrel And I Liked It," Squirrel Girl's date with a chump gets interrupted by MOLE MAN, who is a man who lives underground and can't see that well! Hence the name!!
• Squirrel Girl is really good at empathizing with bad guys and talking them down, but what happens when she's TOO good at that?
• Buy this comic to find out, because we show exactly that taking place! Spoiler alert: there's punches AND jokes.
• Not a dream! Not an imaginary story! ONE the following three things WILL ACTUALLY OCCUR in this issue! 1) A pleasant visit to a coffee shop with friends; 2) A man with fishy powers suggests using fish to solve a problem, big surprise; 3) SQUIRREL GIRL USES HER TAIL TO KNOCK THE SMIRK RIGHT OFF A DUDE'S FACE!!
• Haha whoa I hope it's the third one
32 PGS./Rated T ...$3.99


Squirrel Girl vs. Mole Man. That's the sort of fight that, 30 years or so ago, a blurb on the cover would say "had to happen."


UNCANNY INHUMANS #10
CHARLES SOULE (W) • Kev Walker (A)
COVER BY Giuseppe Camuncoli
• A spotlight on everyone's favorite Inhuman, Reader!!
• After the events of issue 7, Reader's best friend has vanished.
• What lengths is he willing to go to save those he loves? Seeing is believing...
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


What? There's an Inhuman named Reader? And Reader is everyone's favorite Inhuman? That's weird. I thought Lockjaw was everyone's favorite Inhuman.


VOTE LOKI #1
CHRISTOPHER HASTINGS (W) • LANGDON FOSS (A)
Cover by TRADD MOORE
Variant Cover by VALERIO SCHITI
Loki is many things -- god, trickster, brother, liar, son, villain, even hero. Now he wants to add one more thing to the list: President of the United States. That's right, the God of Lies has set his sights on becoming the ruler of the free world, but is this just another scheme? One thing's for certain -- with Loki's winning smile and silver tongue on the campaign trail, this election just got a lot more interesting...
32 PGS./Rated T+ ...$3.99


Those fretting about the imminent demise of the Republican Party this year can breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like Loki will be providing movement conservatives and party insiders the third-party candidate they can comfortably vote for, without feeling they have to hold their nose and vote for Hillary Clinton or simply stay home this November.