Monday, June 16, 2008

DC's September previews reviewed

Written by Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming
Art by Keith Giffen & Al Milgrom
Cover by Amanda Conner
Darkseid makes a list and checks it twice! Plus, a shotgun wedding, alternate universes, more OMACs than you can shake a stick at and the very important return of Super-Turtle all wait for you in this all-new, all-ridiculous third issue.

There seems to be a lot of talk about replacing Dan DiDio today. (Well, more than usual, anyway). Can we vote on it? ‘Cause if so, I say Jann Jones.

Written by Matthew Sturges
Art by Andre Coehlo
Cover by Rafael Albuquerque
After getting roped into Border Patrol duty, Blue Beetle learns you can’t fight City Hall! He can still fight Intergang, though – but they’re not going to make it easy for him! Guest-starring Doctor Mid-Nite!

You know, all they had to write for the solicitation to this comic would have been, “Look at Blue Beetle’s hat!” and I would have bought it.

I mean, look! Look at his hat! This comic is going to be awesome!

Written by Chuck Dixon
Art and cover by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund
Guest writer Chuck Dixon goes back to the future and brings our heroes into the past for “Vicious Cycle” Part 2. When Booster’s attempts to right a wrong from Batman’s early days goes horribly wrong, he must look to the newest member of his Time Masters team to set things straight.

Speculation time! See that part where it says “the newest member of this Time Masters team?” See who’s butt and who’s dad is on the cover there? Remember how Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz are leaving the book, and the next writer hasn’t been announced yet? Remember the Jurgens is taking over rumor? Could pre-Killing Joke Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon be joining the cast of Booster Gold permanent like?

It fits. A displaced-in-time Batgirl played a major role in Jurgens’ Zero Hour.

DC UNIVERSE: DECISIONS #1-2 Written by Judd Winick & Bill Willingham. Pencil art by Rick Leonardi. Covers by Stephane Roux. Election season is upon us, and the stakes have never been higher! An unknown villain is attempting to assassinate the presidential candidates, and only the heroes of the DCU stand in the way. As Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Superman, Batman and more try to learn the killer’s identity, they are faced with the difficult task of reconciling their own personal ideals with the mission at hand. Brought to you by writers Judd Winick (GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY, TITANS) and Bill Willingham (FABLES, DAY OF VENGEANCE) and featuring sensational art by Rick Leonardi (ROBIN, SUPERGIRL)! Issue #1 on sale September 10; issue #2 on sale September 24 • 1 and 2 of 4

This is one of those books that, in theory, sounds like my ideal comic book, since it mixes the two things I spend the most time online reading about these days—superheroes and presidential politics.

I’d be really skeptical even if it weren’t being written by the tag team of Judd Winick and Bill Willingham. The results of injecting real world issues into the fantasy setting of the DC Universe are almost always bad and, worse, damaging, trivializing the real world events and tarnishing the appealing fantasy nature of the characters.

As long as I’ve been reading DC Comics, it seems like the trend has been to move further and further away from the DCU-is-the-real-world-but-with-500-superheroes take and more towards one that is a complete fantasy world.

Story by story, this tends to work fine, but, in aggregate, it gets pretty messy.

For example, how many Iraq and Iran analogues are there in the DCU at this point?

Is there an Iraq War in the DCU? (I believe Lois Lane was covering the “Quarac War” during Greg Rucka’s Superman run).

Was there a 9/11? I’ve heard 9/11 referred to in DC Comics, but there was no explanation of why Superman didn’t stop the planes (and rightly so; I’m not complaining!).

Was George W. Bush ever president of the DC U.S.A.? Because Luthor won the 2000 election, and then I lost track of what was happening in the Oval Office (Pete Ross took over for a bit, right? But then there was that guy in Amazons Attack and Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters).

Now, I would imagine that this poorly-named series will feature imaginary candidates belonging to imaginary political parties, which seems to drain all of the appeal of the 2008 Presidential Election + DC Superheroes formula.

Certainly DC doesn’t want to have Hal Jordan endorsing John McCain and Olliver Queen endorsing Obama, but that is exactly what would make this comic fun to read. In my experience, people aren’t interested in politics in the abstract during presidential campaigns—“I don’t care who’s running, I just like watching the debates for the policy discussions!”—but because of the specific people running.

So take that out, take the parties out as well (as I suspect they will, but I’m just guessing) and what is there of interest really?

I’m still morbidly curious about this project, and will likely track the trade down from the library next year or whenever, if only to see how they handle the characters who aren't Green Arrow and Hawkman.

At any rate, Dave Campbell already wrote the consummate politics of the superheroes story, and you can read it for free here.

Written by Jack Kirby
Art and cover by Jack Kirby & Mike Royer
One of Jack “King” Kirby’s most memorable creations returns in this title collecting the entire, original 16-issue series from the early 1970s! Part man, part elemental fury, Etrigan the Demon was bound to Jason Blood by Merlin to defend Camelot, only to become a demonologist in the modern-day DC Universe.
Advance-solicited; on sale November 19 • 384 pg, FC, $49.99

Between the Fourth World Omnibus series, the OMAC collection and this, DC seems to want me to blow my whole $600 stimulate-the-economy check on Kirby reprints instead on something sensible, like rent, bills and food.

I’m glad to see them working their way through all their Kirby material though. That means it’s only a matter of time before they get to this.

Written by J. Torres
Art by Tim Levins & Dan Davis
Cover by Sean Galloway
The Family Dynamic meets the dynamic duo known as Blackbird and Little Wing! But are they friends or foes? Or could they even be... family? One thing is for certain, there's no time for such questions with Tragedy Ann, the drama queen of crime, and her loony lackey Tom Foolery threatening to blow up Storm City!

This looks good.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco
Covers by J.G. Jones
It's one month after the Anti-Life Equation was released worldwide. Millions now toil as slaves of Darkseid, while the Justifier shock troops of Apokolips lay waste to the planet Earth and hunt down its protectors. The remaining free humans and superheroes are stationed around the world, besieged within the walls of ten very familiar 'Watchtowers', as they fight a desperate, losing battle against the triumphant forces of evil.
While Green Arrow and Black Canary attempt to deliver the secret of humanity's last hope across America's blasted wastelands, the Outsiders brave the horrors of the Bludhaven bunker in search of Batman. The ultimate battle is coming...but which heroes will become villain – and vice versa? And what part do the Secret Society have to play in the dawning of this new Age of Evil? Darkness is falling and death rules the day. Is this truly the end of the Age of Super Heroes? Don't miss FINAL CRISIS #4: “How to Murder the Earth!” Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers by J.G. Jones that will ship in approximately 50/50 ratio. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.

Hey look, art by J.G. Jones and Carlos Pacheco! Guess they weren’t as far ahead as they thought.

That’s really too bad. I like Pacheco a lot and all, but I really have a hard time believing DC can’t produce a seven or eight issue event series without needing multiple artists. Millennium managed the same art team for eight issues, and that thing shipped weekly.

How could this possibly even happen? DC had time to plan and create an entire year-long weekly series, which has already ended, building up to Final Crisis, so they knew they were going to be doing a big tentpole crossover starting in May of '08 back when they were brainstorming a sequel to 52.

Also, Howard Porter’s design for Darkseid in that other story Grant Morrison wrote about Darkseid conquering earth looked a lot cooler than the one on this cover.

Written by Alan Burnett
Art by Paco Diaz & Drew Geraci
Cover by Brian Stelfreeze
The epic “This Was Your Life, Wally West” kicks off in high gear as Flash faces a scary blast from the past in a new story written by Alan Burnett (Batman: The Animated Series, SUPERMAN/BATMAN). Plus, Keystone City is abuzz over the new threat in town, who just might be the finish line for the Flash!

There sure are a lot of bees on this cover. What you think of that Batman?

JOKER HC Written by Brian Azzarello. Art by Lee Bermejo & Mick Gray. Cover by Lee Bermejo. In the all-new, hardcover original graphic novel JOKER, writer Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS) and artist Lee Bermejo (HELLBLAZER covers) – the creative team behind the acclaimed miniseries LEX LUTHOR: MAN OF STEEL – show an even darker and more disturbing side to the most dangerous man in Gotham: The Joker. After yet another stint in Arkham Asylum, The Joker finds “his city” divided among mobsters and costumed villains. Not content to settle for a piece of the pie, The Joker vows to take back the whole damn enchilada by any means necessary. Look for appearances by a slew of Gotham’s most wanted, including gritty takes on Two-Face, Riddler, Killer Croc, Penguin, Harley Quinn and even Batman! Not since THE KILLING JOKE have you seen such a powerful tale of The Joker – you won’t want to miss this one! Advance-solicited; on sale October 22 • 128 pg, FC, $19.99 US

October? Three months after the big movie featuring the Joker comes out? Jeez, wait another month or two and you can try and coordinate with the DVD release.

Did any of you guys read Azzarello and Bermejo’s Luthor series? Is it worth tracking down?

Written by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Cover by Kevin Maguire
Art by Kevin Maguire, Steve Leialoha, and others
Batman, Green Lantern, Booster Gold and the other quirky heroes of JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL are back! First, the team battles a colony of spaceships known only as the Cluster, then track Mister Miracle back to Apokolips in this new volume collecting issues #14-22 of their acclaimed 1980s series.

Yes, they keep on coming! I love the cover too; almost everyone’s face is perfect: The cuddling Barda and Scott, the completely cut off Oberon, the sneaky Blue Beetle, the a-hold Guy Gardner, the posing-like-superheroes-are-supposed-to-pose Batman and J’onn…

In addition to the League on Apokolips, the introduction of Manga Khan and his smart aleck robots and Lobo vs. Guy Gardner, one contains the Bruce Wayne, super-spy story , so you’re probably going to want to want this one.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #25 Written by Dwayne McDuffie. Art by Ed Benes. Cover by Ed Benes. Vixen and Animal Man journey into the sacred Tantu Totem to solve the mystery of their altered powers. But Anansi, the African spider god responsible for these changes, has only begun reshaping the powers and histories of the Justice League, as eight-year-old Bruce Wayne shoots the burglar who killed his parents, Wonder Woman retires from the JLA after the tragic death of her husband, Superman, and The Green Lantern Corps quarantines Earth after one of their number destroys an American city. With the team’s history changing before Vixen’s eyes, is the JLA we now know gone forever?

That paragraph sounds awesome, and then I just glance back up at that cover—the twenty-fifth in a row featuring the Justice League either posing, milling around or laying on a pile of rubble—and see the “Art by Ed Benes,” and all my enthusiasm just dissipates.

Wonder Woman and Superman, married? Bruce Wayne shooting his parents’ killer? And the most exciting image Benes could think of was to just depict the League hiding one another’s feet? This looks like he just handed in a page of his sketchbook to give the colorists.

ROBIN #178
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art and cover by Freddie E. Williams II
The repercussions from “Batman R.I.P.” have shaken Robin to the core. With all his relationships fracturing and his place as both sidekick and son, boyfriend and best friend thrown into turmoil, how will Tim Drake determine the best course of action for his future? "Search for a Hero" begins an epic tale that could very well turn the Boy Wonder into a man!

So, reading between the lines, it seems Dixon leaving Robin (and Batman and the Outsiders) must have something to do with the “Batman R.I.P.”…or at least the post-“Batman R.I.P.” direction of the Bat-franchise.

So, um, did someone neglect to tell the guy writing two Bat-books what’s up with Batman? Are the various Bat-books not edited in the same office any more or…what?

I’d probably read a Fabian Nicieza Robin; I think he’s every bit as decent a writer as Dixon, but I’m getting a really bad feeling about this storyline and the new direction of the Bat-books….

Written by Robert Kanigher
Art and cover by Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
Collecting WONDER WOMAN #118-137, in which Wonder Woman and Wonder Girl face the Human Iceberg, the Island Eater, the Robotic Wonder Woman and more!

This will include at least six Wonder Tot stories. So, in other words, it’s what you might call a “must-buy.”

“And they appear to be having seizures!”

I have a feeling I'm really going to like James Robinson's Superman run.

What are you so happy about Robin? A C is pretty bad. And you’ve got to show that shit to Batman. You know what he was doing when he was your age? While you were busy doing poorly in math class, he was traveling the world honing his mind and body under the tutelage of a dozen masters of strange arts to reach the peak of human perfection in his quest to avenge his parents and wage a successful war on crime.

Written by Matt Manning
Art by Christopher Jones & Terry Beatty
Cover by Andie Tong
What happens when Batman and Robin chase villains around Gotham all night? Dick Grayson falls asleep in class! Between his angry teacher and the monstrous Killer Moth Robin’s in for one long day.

Oh, well I guess that explains why the Robins are C-students…


Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved Azzarello / Burmejo's series. Called Lex Luthor : Man of Steel, it succeeded brilliantly in showing the conflict from Lex's point of view.

It didn't quite provide sympathy, but it showed how arguably valid suspicion and fear of a super-powered alien would be.

Baal said...

Robin HAS to do poorly in school! Otherwise people might start suspecting a kid who looks like Robin and is as smart as Robin. This way they just think 'he made me think of Robin until he opened his dumb ass mouth'...

Anonymous said...

That Krypto cover reminds me of the lost story from Superman in 2006. Anyone remember this solicit?:
"Superman 659
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Rick Leonardi & Jesus Merino
Cover by Carlos Pacheco & Merino
Ever since the death of Superboy during the Infinite Crisis, fans have wondered what became of Krypto, and what those events meant for him. Now, writer Kurt Busiek is joined by sensational guest penciler Rick Leonardi (SUPERMAN RETURNS: LEX LUTHOR, BATGIRL, NIGHTWING) to tell a surprisingly touching tale of the Dog of Steel's most tragic days, laying the groundwork for Krypto's surprising future."
Will we ever get to see that story? As far as I know, no one ever blabbed on why that original story was pulled from printing on at least TWO separate occasions with no explanations from DC.

Patrick C said...

@jocutus - My guess is the story had Superboy as a main part of Krypto's story - which of course is a no-no.

And Dick Grayson would probably get a C in math. Tim would be annoyed if he got an A-.

And give Benes some credit! It's not just anyone that can draw 14 characters and just 2 foot!

Adam said...

How about 23 characters and 2 feet?

Adam said...

Oh whoops, i never used the link

Anonymous said...

The Lex Luthor: Man Of Steel miniseries was pretty damn good. The artwork was beautiful, and the character study of Luthor was very well thought out and plausible.

(And I think that the little Robin who gets a C in Tiny Titans is probably Jason Todd. That kid looked like the sort who would be pleased to be barely scraping by.)

Jacob T. Levy said...

I can't believe that DC didn't have *anybody* who could look at that election mini and say, "guys, this a) is a bad idea and b) will suck, so let's not do it, ok?"

Anonymous said...

Personally, I wouldn't call Lex Luthor: Man of Steel excellent. It's good. There's some spotty bits in it, particularly in the middle when Batman comes into the story for a sequence that makes no damn sense no matter how you cut it.

But it's mostly very good.

JLI v.3 and DEMON are the two must-haves of the month from DC.

SallyP said...

While Booster Gold and Blue Beetle look to be excellent as usual, I'm staying far far away from DC:Decisions. Looks hokey to me.

Final Crises sounds a bit depressing, but I'm sure that it will all work out in the end. The Flash cover is SO pretty, and I am SO happy that another Trade for the old JLI is coming out! I'd buy it just for the Kevin Maguire artwork!

I like Dwayne McDuffie on JLA, but I DO wish that we could get another artist than Ed Benes. The last couple were by Ethan Van Sciver and I think, Pacheco, and they were enormously better.

I must admit that I'm drooling in anticipation of James Robinson writing another book. Great cover too.

googum said...

I've seen that Ambush Bug cover twice, and both times I've blurted out "Lucky bastard!" at the top of my lungs.

"...his relationships fracturing and his place as both sidekick and son, boyfriend and best friend thrown into turmoil..." Man, the wording on that Robin solicit seems a little...questionable.

Tucker Stone said...

The Lex Luthor mini by Azzarello? Pretty fantastic, especially the portions between Lex and Bruce Wayne. The Superman relationship is pretty much the same as ever, but the art and the scripting are both real strong.

It's a cheap one too. I can't imagine it would be in print for long, so you'd better decide soon.

Evie said...

I totally agree with your enthusiasm-in-a-vacuum-but-probably-crap assessment of Decisions. But as for the real candidates/fake candidates thing, I realize that if they used real candidates and people like Hal Jordan or Batman or whatever endorsed McCain, I'd have to stop reading comic books forever.