Saturday, December 14, 2013

DC's March previews reviewed

March will be a time of endings in DC's New 52 line, with their seven-issue, seven-month Forever Evil series finally reaching conclusion (unless it gets delayed; Finch is drawing it, so that's an ever-present possibility), and several titles that have been chugging along since the relaunch are finally be cancelled (Animal Man, Batman: The Dark Knight), as is a newer one (Talon) and a kids comic (Batman: Li'l Gotham).

March will have only 44 "New 52" ongoing series, which means the 2011 launched line is now neither new nor 52, although if you count the in-continuity miniseries, like all those Forever Evil books, and the random one-shot like Suicide Squad: Amanda Waller, the line will feature 49 books in March. Either way, I would expect some new launches announced for April (with a dark, gritty Plastic Man book, mostly likely by Ethan Van Sciver, seeming most likely to me at this point), or else the line will shrink more dramatically still, when all the Forever Evil books and the canceled titles disappear from the line.

For the complete list of what DC intends to publish in March, click here. For more of my yapping about it, don't go anywhere.

Written by JEFF LEMIRE
On sale MARCH 19 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
A special finale to Jeff Lemire’s run on the series by the creative team that launched Animal Man in The New 52! What is left of Buddy in the wake of “Evolve or Die”?

See, now look how nice that looks! That's why I've been saying should been drawing all the DCU books he's writing all along (Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, Green Arrow...Man, I hate the photo-reference heavy). art on Green Arrow so much I can barely stand to look at it, and therefore have had a hell of a time trying to read isolated issues of it here and there).

Anyway, this is the final issue of the Lemire-written, different artists-drawn New 52 Animal Man book. Twenty-nine issues is actually a pretty respectable number; Grant Morriosn's run on the original volume of the title was just 26-issues, but then, it was popular enough to sustain the book for another five-years and 63 issues...and, if you look at it one way, to sustain Lemire's 20 issues as well, given how much Lemire's take seems derivative of Morrison's, although often in the wrong ways.

I didn't read much of it, but I didn't like what I did read, and am hardly unhappy to see it go, but one especially unfortunate aspect of these New 52 books being canceled is that when they don't work and go on to be canceled, it seems a damn shame that they were so radically rebooted in the first place. Hawkman, Hawk and Dove, Firestorm, Static...these books all changed their characters pretty dramatically, and then just fizzled away anyway, leaving us with changed characters that are just as unable to sustain monthlies as they would have been without the changes, onlyy now they don't even have the benefit of continuity as a selling point (I believe StormWatch is on its way out too, having done a great deal to un-make and re-make the once popular characters of The Authority).

Same goes for Animal Man. The reboot didn't "work" in terms of making him a popular enough character to sustain a monthly indefinitely (or longer than 29 months), and now we've got an Animal Man with a lamer costume, goofier powers (his body morphing into animal-like shapes when using some of their abilities), a more explicitly Swamp Thing-like place in the DCU and now completely divorced from better, more popular and more evergreen trades featuring the character (The Morrison stuff, 52). Lemire's New 52 Animal Man didn't wipe out the Morrison trades or Animal Man's sections of 52, of course, but, if sales figures over the last decade or so have shown us anything, it's that today's direct market readers like to be told which comics are important, which one's matter, and they then proceed to buy those.

The old Animal Man stuff is still there and is still good, but it doesn't matter, it's not important, it doesn't "count" like the New 52 stuff does, and, not only was it seemingly not as good, it's also not around anymore.

Written by JEFF PARKER
On sale MARCH 26 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
It’s all-out action as Aquaman feels the wrath of Atlas as he makes his first appearance in The New 52! And the environmental havoc seen in the pages of SWAMP THING may put Arthur on a collision course with a certain Avatar of the Green!

Nooo! Jeff Parker! Keep Aquaman far clear of Swamp Thing! Don't you know that's what doomed Animal Man?! (Atlas looks cool, though).

Wait, I forget...who wrote The Books of Magic miniseries?

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
On sale MARCH 19 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Retailers: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the order form for details.
Batman is ready to settle the score with Ra’s al Ghul, who stole Robin’s body out of the grave! As the Dark Knight travels to the island where Damian was born, he’s set on a collision course with Aquaman!

Well, I can honestly say I didn't see that one coming, as a follow-up to Batman and Two-Face, the title that used to be Batman and Robin (Volume 2) but, since Robin's death, has been changing its title regularly, depending on the Bat-Family guest-star (less frequently of late, as the Two-Face team-up was a multi-part arc).

At this point, they really should just change this to Batman: The Brave and The Bold, right? Or maybe Batman Team-Up...?

If they were going to cancel any Bat-book, by the way, I would have assumed it would be this, as it has officially outlived its original mandate (The Grant Morrison-written book about the then-new Dynamic Duo of Batman II Dick Grayson and Robin V Damian Wayne), and its secondary mandate (Batman Bruce Wayne trying to raise his son Damian while fighting crime alongside him), and now just seems to be casting aimlessly about.

Additionally, the title "Batman and Robin" seems to be a much less flexible title than "Batman: The Dark Knight, as the former really needs to be about Batman and Robin, and there isn't currently a Robin aside from Tim "Red Robin" Drake, whereas a book called "Batman: The Dark Knight" really just needs to have Batman in it.



Art and cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
On sale MARCH 26 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
The savagery of Man-Bat reaches a horrifying peak this final issue of the series!

The title originally launched (pre-New 52) as a title devoted to showcasing artist David Finch's writing in addition to his art, it continually suffered from blown deadlines and missed shipping dates until Finch took on first a co-writer, then he moved to just drawing, and then sometimes not even drawing, and, about two story arcs into The New 52, second volume of the title, he left it altogether. This, then, is another Batman book that long, long, long ago outlived its premise.

From what I've seen since Finch's departure (he left to become the new, regular artist on Justice League of America, then left that title after three issues to draw Forever Evil), it seems like Dark Knight has become something of a villain showcase, with Batman fighting a different classic Bat-foe in eamanch story-arc. With so many other Batman titles using the same limited pool of Batman villains, though, that's probably not the best idea for a Batman title, not when there are like three other Batman books and spin-off featuring so many sidekicks and associates.

Cover by ED BENES
On sale APRIL 23 • 160 pg, FC, $14.99 US
When He-Man and friends go in search of Skeletor on Earth, they find themselves at odds with the heroes of the DC Universe! Can these heroes stop Skeletor and his mysterious new master? Collects the six-issue miniseries plus DC COMICS PRESENTS #47.

I see they're including the original Superman/He-Man team-up from an early '80s issue of the old Superman team-up title along with the current, not-very-good miniseries about the Masters of the Universe characters visiting the DC Universe. So at least one halfway decent comic in there—hey-oh!

The art credits are way off, as they listed only Soy for art on the title series (Swan and DeCarlo did the DC Comics Presents issue) I see. They credit only Dexter Soy, although issue #3, the last issue to ship, also featured work from what looked like emergency fill-in, we-need-to-make-deadline art from Derlis Santacruz and Andres Ponce. Sofar! Who knows how many artist will be called in before the end of the series...?

Written by JOHN LAYMAN
On sale MARCH 5 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
The stunning conclusion of “Gothtopia”! Batman discovers the terrifying secret behind this brave new world.

That's a nice cover and all, but is the villainous mastermind behind the whole "Gothtopia" storyline really just The Scarecrow, as this cover seems to imply?

Don't get me wrong, he's my favorite Batman villain, but good God I think we've seen w-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y too much of him lately, between the first two story arcs of Dark Knight and his role in Forever Evil and its lead-ins (JLoA) and spin-offs (Arkham War, some of the Villains Month one-shots, etc) and so on.

It really seems like there are just too many books featuring Batman, and not nearly enough Bat-villains to go around. I mean, it's cool that Scott Snyder came up with the Court of Owls, and Layman created an Emperor Penguin to rival the traditional Penguin, but someone really needs to start cranking out new villains like Grant Morrison or Alan Grant did. Is DC not offering sweet deals on characters created their freelancers like they did with Bane a few decades back? Gotham needs villains!

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
On sale MARCH 5 • 32 pg, FC, 6 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T
The final battle for Gotham City starts now! The Scarecrow has unleashed a mutated army of Arkham’s worst killers, and only Bane can stop them! It all leads into FOREVER EVIL #7!

Oh God, Bane's still going to be dressing like short-sleeved Batman for three more issues?!

Please note that while you may look at Jason Fabok's cover and think, "What? He doesn't look so bad there," that is merely the cover. Scot Eaton draws the interiors, and in this past week's issue #3, in which Bane forges his Batman costume in a metal-working shop, Bane is drawn about 14 feet tall and eight-feet wide at the shoulder, with a tiny head, and the centerpiece of his Batman costume is a gigantic metal Bat-symbol about the size and weight of an anvil that he wears on his metal vest, and, at the climax of the issue, pulls off to beat Killer Croc into submission with.

Please also note that the cover shows Bane, the leader of one army in the Arkham War, with his hand around the throat of The Scarecrow, the leader of the opposing army. In the second issue, Bane had Scarecrow literally under his heel, and just sorta drifted away, with Scarecrow escaping off-panel. So that cover really doesn't look all that dramatic, seeing as how it recreates a similar scene from four issues previous that the creators were so uninterested in they didn't even bother to depict it.

Written by JOE R. LANSDALE
On sale APRIL 9 • 392 pg, FC, $24.99 US • MATURE READERS
In these twisted tales from JONAH HEX: TWO-GUN MOJO #1-5, JONAH HEX: SHADOWS WEST #1-3 and JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #1-5, Hex battles a doctor determined to transform him into a zombie, joins up with a Wild West show and learns the dark secret behind the existence of a demonic baby, and discovers an ancient race of man-eating worms from beneath the earth.

This looks promising. I'm almost positive you can find all of those individual comics in $1 bins at cons without too-too much difficulty, but for those uninterested in the thrill of the hunt/ and/or through back-issue bins, this is a nice way to get all the Vertigo Hex comics, which, if I recall correctly, featured various variations on the theme of Jonah Hex as a cowboy character that often ends up fighting...what's that word Abhay uses...? Boogens!

In his review of Pretty Deadly, Abhay Khosla wrote that "westerns where boogens show up to fight the cowboys— that is the very, very worst thing that a thing can be." Well, this is essentially Jonah Hex: Boogens Fighter, so it may not be for him, but I remember liking what I saw of these. And if there's a better artist to draw Hex comics than Timothy Truman, well, I bet there aren't that many better artists to draw Hex comics than Timothy Truman.

"I am vengeance, I am the night, I am the only metal that's liquid at room temperature!"

Written by GAIL SIMONE
On sale MARCH 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+
Guest-starring Batgirl! The Movement goes head to head with Batgirl over someone who’s using Coral City as a sanctuary! Then, the team heads to West Virginia to stop Michael the Blessed from killing his brother: The Movement’s own Burden!

Impressive. I assumed it would be canceled by issue #8, so it's doing better than I thought. As in, it's still around, having outlived The Green Team, which launched at the same time as it, and featured characters that appeared at least, like, once, so, chances are there was at least one or two really big Green Team fans out there, whereas The Movement seemed to be all original characters. And it's name makes me think of going to the bathroom, but that may be simply because one of my grandfathers never used the "potty" or "poop" when we were little kids, but the word "B.M." for "bowel movement," and, as we got older and occasions would arise where bowel movements need to be spoken of—which happens a lot when you get into your mid-eighties, it turns out—he would just say "movement" instead of "B.M.", because now we are adults and can hear the truth behind the M. in "B.M."

Anyway, whenever I see this title, I think about bowel movements, my grandfather, and my grandfather's bowel movements. But again, that's probably just me.

I like the background of Stephane Roux's cover.

Oh my God, Guy's only a harpoon hand away from going full Nineties Aquaman! Sally P, what do you think of Guy's new bohemian look...?

And Superman, why are you so upset? You're lucky she's just heat-visioning her old costume. As a Red Lantern, she has much grosser options for destroying things she could be employing instead.

Art and cover by DARIO BRIZUELA
On sale MARCH 5 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
A magical imp is causing havoc in Gotham City, and the Dynamic Duo is looking for help from Scooby and the gang! But when Scooby gets his own “greatest fan” from the Fifth Dimension, can even Batman, Robin, and Mystery Inc. outwit two unpredictable imps to deal with the spooky, magical hijinks of…Scooby-Mite?!

Scooby-Mite?! Fuck yeah, Scooby-Doo Team-Up! Er, it's Rated E, so I mean, um, @#$% yeah!

By the way, did you read my interview with Fisch about this title? Because you can, you know. I don't mind.



That's a lot of projectile blood vomit, even by Red Lantern standards.

Hey, kids! Boobs!

Is that young, skinny Amanda Waller who forgot to wear a blouse under her jacket? I sometimes have trouble identifying Amanda Waller now that she doesn't look anything at all like Amanda Waller.

Er, why do these devils all have Firestorm hair...?

I do like Zauriel, and by like I mean "love," but I'm not crazy about his New 52 redesign, nor of the appearances of his I've read in Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger (which, to be fair, were only two in number).

Written by TIM SEELEY
On sale MARCH 26 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
Calvin Rose and Anya must defeat Lord Death Man, but there’s another master of death in the mix, the key to LDM’s plans: Dr. Darrk! Will Calvin Rose finally be resurrected, or will the Talon succumb to eternal Death?

Another (sort of) Batman book down? Must be clearing the line for some new books. I know they've got the weekly series coming out soon, and I suppose if that's four issues a month, it will replace Dark Knight and Talon on the schedule in terms of having a (likely higher-selling) Bat-book on the shelves the weeks these no longer ship.

But given the low numbers of New "52" books, maybe they're gearing up for new additions? A Red Robin and Batman Inc/Club of Heroes book (with a new title to divorce it a bit from the Inc premise) seem to be the most likely to me, but I can hardly predict what DC will do next with any accuracy.

I really rather liked the first collection of this short-lived series (reviewed at the bottom of this column, if you're interested), but unfortunately DC replaced its original artist Guillem March (one of my favorites) with Miguel Sepulveda and Szymon Kudranski (two of my least favorites), and any and all interest I had in the book evaporated.

Consistent creative teams, DC—that is what sells. The more consistent, the better. Please see Exhibit A, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's 26-issue (so far!) run on Batman.

Wonder Woman! Give Loki his hat back! That hat does not belong in your universe at all, let alone on your head!


Oh wait, never mind. I just noticed the nose-guard.


Nicholas Ahlhelm said...

FYI, Animal Man isn't being cancelled for low sales but because Lemire was leaving it.

DC wisely decided to let the book die without him there.

Aki Alaraatikka said...

Supergirl spews a super big amount of blood `cause she`s super. The way I see it.

Loki is in public domain, to be fair.

Greg said...

Yep, that's Scarecrow behind Gothtopia. Sorry!

SallyP said...

Oh my DEAR! I'm torn between hating the beard and secretly liking all that hair. Guy hasn't looked like that since Beau Smith was writing him, and he was stuck in space with a beard and long hair when he was Warrior!

But yes, that's a heck of a lot of blood that Supergirl is spewing.

They are cancelling Li'l Gotham? Arrrggghhhhhhhhh!