Sunday, May 06, 2007

From the Pages of 52

Ready for the second round of the Official EDILW 52 Post-Game Armchair Editing? You know I am!

In this installment, we're going to take a look at how DC could best capitalize on the success of 52, both creatively and commercially. So we'll be breaking spin-offs into three categories: The comics that DC has already announced, the ones they should announce, and the ones they shouldn't announce.

Each series, be it imminent or hypothetical, will be followed by two scores, with the first number designating the project's creative potential on a scale of one to ten (with one being World War III and ten being All-Star Superman), and the second number designating the project's commercial potential (with a one being Manhunter and a 10 being Justice).

Comics That DC Has Already Announced:


There's no question that 52 (and Geoff Johns' JSA run before it) made a star out of Captain Marvel's evil double, so finally giving him a book of his own to star in was a no-brainer. It's somewhat odd to see it coming so soon after the end of 52 though, since he was given a rather elegant send-off into limbo (not the bit with the boots, but the end of #50, where he's left wandering the world guessing his new magic word).

Re-powering him in the near future should probve problematic (dude is up there with Hitler in terms of bodycount now, right?), although his series could very well focus on his past, or, even more interestingly, as his presnet stuck in Teth-Adam form. Can DC resist temptation and keep him a powerless human being throughout an entire series? It will be interesting to see. Writer Peter Tomasi's Light Brigade was a very good series, penciller Dough Mahnke is an incredible talent, able to handle quiet emotion even better than big supehero brawls (which he does quite well, as his run on JLA proved), and inker Christian Alamy rules the school, on both pencils and inks. 7/10


Now this is something of a surprise, even though I didn't really believe that Booster had died way back in Week 15, and he was long my prime suspect for Supernova. But on the list entitled DC Characters That Are Capable of Carrying Their Own Monthly In Today's Market, I'd suspect Booster Gold to be somewhere between Martian Manhunter and Space Cabby (Fercrisakes, I can barely take his name as the name of a superhero seriously, let alone as a title of a good comic book, and I love the lug). Nevertheless, the very last issue of 52 seems to have given his book a neat premise, even neater than the time-travel focus that was mentioned when it was first announced (which would have made it like the ill-fated but excellent series Chronos), since it now seems he'll be exploring the new, economy sized multiverse (which would make it more like Exiles, I guess).

Plus, he's got a cast including Supernova, Rip Hunter and Skeets, so that's something (now just add a Ted Kord to the mix—shouldn't be too hard to save him from death using time travel a la Marvel's Captain Marvel and a few dozen other super-characters I can think of—and we're really cooking). Based on the cover, the first storyline will involve Booster journeying to an earth where pre-invasion Iraq was run by a Baathist regime consisting of characters throughout the old DC multiverse, and he's hunting them down for the U.S. marines.

The announced creators are, at the outset, Johns and Jeff Katz. As an architect of the new multiverse, Johns is obviously a perfect choice. I'm less sure about this Katz character, mainly because DC hasn't had much luck (creatively or commercially) with recruiting professional writers from other media to handle their characters of late (Think those knuckleheads who wrote Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, Jodi Picoult, Tad Williams, John Rogers and Richard Donner*).

Art comes courtesy of penciller Dan Jurgens. I really like seeing an artist of his caliber drawing characters primarily known by other talents (on that cover above, for example, we get to see a Jurgens version of Frank MIller character and a C.C. Beck character). The cheif (okay, only) pleasure of that ill-considered ten-part "History of The DCU" that ran in the back of the first ten issues of 52 was seeing Jurgens "covering" other artists throughout this series. 8/10


Now this is weird, on just about every level. The Four Horsemen? They only appeared in a few issues of 52, and were all killed in thier last appearances (one is even currently a pair of boots, which should be showing up in Black Adam at some point). Weirder still is that DC is calling this book 52 Aftermath—it weakens what is currently a pretty strong brand (in the same way that putting "from the pages of 52" atop the World War III books did), and how is it that those five words are somehow deemed more likely to move books off the shelves than the names of DC's top three icons?

I've got next to nothing to go on here, but I suppose it's nice to see DC's "Trinity" actually doing something together. I've said before that I think the concept is more than a little forced (Sure, Wonder Woman is the third most well-known DC character, but there's as big a gap between her overall Q-rating and that of Superman and Batman's, and a much, much smaller gap between hers and, say, Robin, Aquaman, Supergirl or even the Flash). Superman and Batman seem to team up a couple times a week—they even share an ongoing title devoted to their team-ups—but how often does Wonder Woman get included in their adventures unless there's a whole Justice League involved? Rarely, to the point of hardly ever.

On the positive side, it's written by Keith Giffen, who should reeaallly be doing some more writing at DC these days, and drawn by 52 pencil army veteran Patrick Olliffe, whose art I look forward to seeing in a less deadline pressurized book. 5/5


No cover image of this book yet, nor has an artist been announced (or, if there has, I totally forgot who it was), but this was actually one of the earliest 52 spin-offs announced. It's also one that perplexes me. I really dig Steel; I have since "Reign of the Superman." Morrison and Waid used him quite brilliantly in JLA (though I was more than a little irritated that Waid dumped him from the line-up when he inherited the title), his own monthly had some ups and downs (with the Preist/Cowan run that ended it consisting of the most consistent up**), and I've often found myself unreasonably concerned about his well-being (Our Worlds At War) and character design (I don't know who designed that bug helmet, but it sucks).

Now, what Steel has to do with Infinity Inc., other than the fact that Natasha/Steel II (Or Steel III, if we count Commander Steel's grandson as Steel I?) joined the a team which co-opted that name, and that he himself kicked a few of their asses, I don't know. The pitch for this book is that John Henry and Natasha would be leading a new team of Infinitors, forging the loser leftovers from the Everyman Project into real heroes.

All of which strikes me as a pretty shrug-inducing idea for a monthly, particularly from writer Peter Milligan, who already wrote the hell out of the concept of shallow, fame-hungry heroes-as-celebrities once with X-Force/X-Statix. I'd much prefer a more flexible Steel solo title (even if it begins by dealing with Everyman Project/52 fall-out) and/or Steel back in the League (even if mainly/only in a building-stuff for the knuckleheads on the team capacity—outside the Trinity, it's not exactly a group that has any rocket scientists, and steel is both a literal and metaphorical rocket scientist).

Finally, this book uses the tried-and-false tactic of taking a DC brand name of next-to-no-value (Blue Beetle, Atom, Firestorm, Aquaman, Manhunter) and giving it to different characters, thus successfully alienating the only people who actually are attracted to that brand name. 4/2

Comics DC Should Announce:


I've mentioned this one before, but I'll mention it again because, goddamit, this would be awesome. Seriously, close your eyes and think about what the best part of 52 was—why yes, that's right, the Oolong Island bits. And who was the star of those? Doc Magnus. Paired with Waid's mission statement for the team, setting Magnus and his inventions up against the very mad-scientists he co-starred with in 52 seems like an easy continuation of the series (as well as a natural and organic one).

When one considers that Metal Men film is apparently currently in development, this really, really has to happen.

Unfortunatley, DC has screwed this pooch almost immediately, with the Metal Men's post-52 appearances consisting of cameos in "The Tornado's Path" and a horribly drawn, completely nonsensical story in Superman/Batman. While Waid and Morrison would be perfect (as would Darwyn Cooke or Michael Allred or Evan Dorkin or Kyle Baker, none of whom seem terribly likely), so too would Tom Peyer, Scott Beatty, Ty Templeton, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and...that's all I got off the top of my head, actually. After reading the first issue of Mark Verheiden and "Pat Lee"'s story in Superman/Batman, I'm tempted to say anyone but them, but I'm sure there are actually all sorts of people who could fuck a series like this up. 10/10


And speaking of things that just have to happen, there's the incredibly happy ending that the Four Horseman of 52 managed to give the Dibneys in #52. On one hand, this seems like a nice set-up for future Dibny stories, but on the other, it seems like a perfect place to end their story, doesn't it? It is, after all, Ralph's version of heaven, and why muck it up by having us watch them? I say put this book off until Mark Waid has the time and inclination to write it. (In the meantime, we can always see the Dibnys and Sat. Era or JLI Era stories in JLA: Classified, or a Croaton Society mini set in the past). 7/7


This is another one I'm repeating myself on, but if there's one thing we pride ourselves on here at EDILW, it's consistency (Which is a nicer way to say redundancy). Now that the villain behind Skeets (or, in this case, inside him) has been revealed, it's clear that on one level, 52 boils down to a story of Captain Marvel villains Black Adam, Dr. Sivana and Mr. Mind fighting one another and much of the DC Universe.

It was unqeustionably DC's biggest hit of the year, and the largest swathes of it's stars came from Captain Marvel's cast...and not even any of the heroes, just some of his villains. Surely if Black Adam and company can carry a friggin' weekly, they could (help) carry a monthly, no?

Of course, one could argue that the success of the Marvel character in 52 owed more to the people writing them than the characters themselves, and one could point to the cancelled Power of Shazam! series as evidence of this. It's true that Cap isn't an easy character to "get," as Judd Winick's body of work so readily shows. Those that seem to get him the best—Morrison, Waid, Johns, Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Kurt Busiek, Jeff Smith—are all pretty busy dudes, with a lot on their plates (and the stature to work on pretty much whatever they want). And I'd personally prefer no Captain Marvel DCU comic to a wretched Captain Marvel DCU comic (a la Trials of Shazam). So maybe the time isn't right for a new Shazam! monthly, but don't sleep on it too long DC—if that Shazam movie ever gets made, you're gonna want to have a comic book on the stands by then. 10/8


Again, these are all series I've mentioned before, but here goes anyway: Batman, Robin and Nightwing sailing around the world traning, something that I'm actually surprised we haven't seen more flashbacks to yet; it's certainly a thousand times more interesting than Royal McGraw's weird continuations of '70s storylines, John Ostrander's inventorty-tastic tale of Grotesk and Johnny Karaoeke and whatever the hell's been going on in Robin and Nightwing OYL); what went down in Gotham City (they could even reuse the name Gotham Nights, from those early '90s miniseries about Gotham citizens who weren't sueprheroes or supervillains); the Teen Titans' nutty year (we saw some of it alluded to in "Titans Around the World," 52 and we got to see Terra II's heart get punched out for no reason in World War III, but I'd kinda like to see those 50 teens coming and going through the tower, as well as see how Wendy and Marvin hooked up with the gang and...hey, where the hell did they disappear to in the last story arc, anyway?); and the further adventures of Firestorm II's shortlived JLA (C'mon DC, the world needs more Ambush Bug and Super Cheif team-ups, and you're not really using JLA: Classified for anything right now anyway!) 10/10

Comics DC Shouldn't Announce:


I like Animal Man, and always have. He was pretty cool before Grant Morrison got his hands on him, and, obviously, he was much cooler afterwards (I have a soft-spot for vegan activists superheroes). I even dug a lot of the post-Morrison Vertigo stories, particularly those written by Jamie Delano, many of which would have fit into the DCU just as easily as the VU (with a few minor alterations).

In his just-ended weekly debriefs with Matt Brady at, Michael Siglain asked Newsaramites whether or not they'd want an Animal Man mini or ongoing. Some apparently did.

Well, they're wrong.

We don't need or want an Animal Man mini or ongoing, at least not at this point. Now, I always enjoy seeing Buddy Baker whenever he shows up, even if the stories aren't all that great, and am certainly in favor of him showing up in DC books a lot (even on a regular basis, in, say, JLoA or, possibly, a Forgotten Heroes book; though the former already has an animal-powered hero and the latter doesn't seem like a good publishing move at this point), but I don't think we need him in his own book.

It basically boils down to the fact that Morrison handled his last solo, ongoing DCU adventures so consumately in Animal Man that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot in the way of new story to least not new story capable of living up to what Morrison and several of his followers managed. A new Animal Man series seems predestined to suffer in comparison (A similarly effected character is Swamp Thing; I know there have been good Swampy stories since Alan Moore's run ended but, at the same time, most of seemed perfectly superfluous).

Sure, he worked fairly well here in 52, but then, he was part of an ensemble through most of it, and was partially written by Morrison throughout. as well A new Animal Man series would have to be able to be at least as good as (or at least not too much worse than) Morrison's Animal Man, and there are precious few writers capable of following Morrison in any successful fashion. Waid and Millar (sometimes), Tom Peyer and Jamie Delano have all done it successfully, but I have trouble thinking of any others.

So I vote no on Animal Man in his own new comic, but yes on more Animal Man in any (and everybody) else's comic. 3/7


I like Renee Montoya. I like The Question. But I don't like Montoya as The Question II. (Just like I like Aquaman and like Batman, but wouldn't like Aquaman as least not permanently***). Granted, Montoya-as-Question would probably be a lot less grating in a title of her own than as part of a huge story involving an ensemble cast (As I've complained about somewhere in then neighborhood of 50 times previously, Montoya's scenes were the only first-person narrated ones in 52), but her storyline was one of the least popular in 52 (along with Steel's) and thus she doesn't seem to be a great character to be given her own title. Also, the forced-legacy rule is in full effect here. Fans of the the Question are the only people who are going to be attracted to the name "The Question" on a comic book, but they're going to be more interested in one starring the Question, not a different character with the Question's name (This one strikes me as particularly tragic since Vic Sage is such an incredibly unique character, and that JLU recently raised his profile in mainstream consciousness more than it's ever been, and because Sage more closely resembles the Watchmen character he inspired than Montoya). I suppose one of the other 51 Sages could enter into the DCU at any moment now and resume Question-ing, so it's not as tragic as it was a few week's ago. 3/1


This is an ongoing title that has been rumored for a long time—even the swell-looking logo design has been leaked onto the Internet—although it hasn't been announced. I couldn't possibly be less interested. Kate Kane is a terribly uninteresting character, whose defining characteristics seems to be that she's a lesbian (albeit a man's fantasy of a lesbian, a "buxom lipstick lesbian" as the New York Times put it), is Jewish, and used to sleep with the new Question. Strike two is that her costume draws attention to her long flowing, easy-to-pull-in-a-fight hair and her lips.

The female version of Batman she'd be replacing in DC's publishing line if she does get her own ongoing is Cassandra "Batgirl" Cain, who was a much more complex and unique character (just grabbing randomly at elements of her character, she was illiterate, shy, quiet and thus far pretty much completely uninterested in the opposite sex), and had a much less male-fantasy gratifying costume (No matter what Johanna Draper Carlson says).

On the plus side, it would be cool to have a female super-person with the word "woman" instead of "girl" have her own comic book (Is Wonder Woman the only DC superhero with the word Woman in her name that hasn't been killed or erased from the timeline somehow at the moment?), but that could have been accomplished just as easily by changing Cassandra Cain's name, now that it's "One Year Later" and I think she's 18 now.

Personally, I'd likely pass on this book, unless they assemble a dynamite creative team. The one storyline that would interest me would be the one dealing with her origin, or the missing year in Gotham, during which a lot of pretty exciting things happened that we haven't seen (Harvey Dent, Kite-Man, Nightwing flirting, Commissioner Gordon returning, Apokalyptian firepit-making). Oh, and I suppose a meeting with Cassandra Cain and/or Oracle would get me to pick an issue up. 5/7

*I don't mean they're all creative failures; I really dug Williams' Helmet of Fate and first issue of Aquaman (his run already seems to be falling apart as of his second issue, however), I haven't read much of Rogers, and I haven't read enough from Donner to sum up his run. But none of them have been able to tell good stories and sell as well, say, Johns, David Goyer, Greg Rucka, Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer.

**Hey, 52 fans! Check out Steel #38 , which features a Steel/Question team-up!

***EDILW readers who have been taking their ginseng will remember I made a similar comment before; however, since I forgot when and where, I assume you all have too, so there, I've used it again.


James Figueiredo said...

I agree with you on pretty much everything, except Batwoman.

I think that, because the character's gay, there's an immediate tendency to think that's all there is to her, and to shout "affirmative action!".

But I don't think she's uninteresting as much as she is unexplored. Realy, from what's been shown of her, there's a lot of ground to cover - Ground that a good creative team could make gold out of.

You're totally right about her costume, though.


Anonymous said...

If they did decide to do an Animal Man book, which I'm sure they will, the only person I'd really want to see helm it would be Peter Milligan. Discounting Grant Morrison's epic reinvention of the character, Milligan's six follow-up issues were easily the best thing ever done with the character.

But he'd probably do best on a team. Like the Forgotten Heroes? Rip Hunter's cool again, right?

Unknown said...

I believe the artist on Infinity Inc. is Max Fiumara, who usually works for Avatar.

Tony said...

I've been trying to hold off buying comments, but I had to buy 52 No. 52 just so I could read this massive post.

I agree on most points. I agree Montoya's narration was irritating, but I think a Montoya/Question series could work in the right hands.

I think the blank face is as much a draw to the character as Vic Sage's personality. And Montoya could definitely pick up some Sage-ness to appeal to the longtime fans.

Feel free to discount this. I'm really just a fan of fedoras.