Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DC's March previews reviewed

Well, March of 2015 is going to be a very interesting month for DC Comics, based on the solicitations they released this week. They've come up some pretty interesting but pretty much all at least slightly flawed themed variant covers. And they're canceling, like, a million titles, while meanwhile many other titles seem to be winding down/concluding in the same way that so many of DC's summer of 2011 titles seemed to be in their solicits.

These solicits include one for the April 1 release of Convergence #0, which will kickoff a two-month holding-pattern event while the brick-and-mortar DC Entertainment HQ switches coasts, and, from what I understand, is another story about the goddam Multiverse and DC's continuity. Here's the solicit for that:

Advance solicit • On sale APRIL 1 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US RATED T
Where do worlds go when they die?
The Earthquakes felt round the Multiverse, Superman’s lost days after “Doomed,” the World’s End – all these points will converge as the history of the DCU is spun from a new perspective, the perspective of a mad god and his arrogant child. The biggest story in DC history ties into literally every DC story ever told – and it all begins here.
Kingdom Come, Red Son, Wild West Justice League, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew – all the worlds you remember can still be found on Telos. Everything matters. Every story matters.
Don’t miss the start of DC’s April/May 2015 event with this special issue!

The gag this time around seems to be that Brainiac is collecting cities from different "universes" within the DC Multiverse and preserving them; based on the advanced solicits for those miniseries, it seems like the inhabitants of some bottled cities/worlds/continuities are invading other bottles.

Will this signal the long-awaited de-boot, or re-reboot of the New 52 reboot...? I...don't think so. At some point DC's gonna have to stop saying "New 52," since that's an unsustainably high number of monthlies for them to publish, and it's over three years old at this point, and I imagine there will come a time when another rejiggering occurs, which will keep the stuff from The New 52 that worked best and jettison what didn't, but I don't think we're quite there yet.

That said, it looks like we'll be close, come March.

As Comic Book Resources notes, 13 monthly series will be shipping their final issues in March (Many due to low sales, a few, like three-fifths of the Green Lantern line, likely to be relaunched...perhaps replaced by a Green Lantern weekly) and the three weekly series (two of which deal with time travel, the Multiverse and continuity navel-gazing) will reach their conclusions.

Additionally, the Batman story arc of the moment is entitled "Endgame" and, in the pages of Justice League, Geoff Johns is launching a storyline he's been building up to since the launch of the New 52, one involving the Anti-Monitor of Crisis On Infinite Earths fame.

What's in the air?

I don't know. Let's not speculate. Instead, let's look at all those movie variant covers, and then the solicits for the comics DC plans to ship in March. Sound like a plan?

So remember a million Internet years ago, when Cliff Chiang drew that sweet Purple Rain homage, featuring Batgirl and Batman...? Well, DC does, and they've apparently decided to have Chiang redraw the Bats for a variant cover and do an entire month of variant covers in which artists homage various movie posters.

That's...not a bad idea, as you'll see from the results below (If you haven't already, and, this being the Internet, you probably have already). As is generally the case with DC's variant covers, there's something kind of sad about the program. It's not just that I think variants are an ill that has created a weakness in the market, or that they can almost sell people on a comic book (as retailer Mike Sterling recently noted), but because it seems unfortunate to waste so much creative energy and talent on variant covers instead of having some of these greatly talented creators creating actual comics and, as is often the case, most of these suggest stories that are infinitely more interesting and fun than the comics that will actually be under the covers.

Okay yes, it does look a little like Aquaman is totally punching Willy in the gut in this Richard Horie image. But, to be fair, it also looks like that little kid is punching the whale on the movie poster/DVD box art, too. I've never seen Free Willy, I've just always assumed it was about a super-strong little boy who fights orcas.

Chiang redraws this image, making Batman, Batgirl and Batgirl's motorcycle "match" their current incarnations, rather than those of the "campy" 1966 TV show. Which is weird because it's not like these covers are in-continuity and also because the versions from the TV show are so much more Prince than the current versions.

I do like the bat-winged ankh sticker on her bike, though. Like Prince's sigil, it's unpronounceable, but we all know what it refers to.

Brian Stelfreeze does an a nice job of making this cover look like a Matrix poster, but, um, there's not really anything to it. It leave me cold.

Why does it say "Bruce Wayne," and "Batman" and a Batman-specific "From Cowl to Scowl" when it has The Joker on the cover?

Also, remember when there was actually a Joker/Mask comic book miniseries? No? It prominently featured Harley Quinn, so I wonder if it's going for a lot on ebay right this minute...?

Anyway, this is the only one of these that, oddly enough, is an homage to a movie that was an adaptation of a comic book. It's the circle of...something.

This just seems to borrow the Harry Potter font, and basic lay-out. So, like The Matrix homage, there's not really anything to this one.

I do like to imagine Damian Wayne going undercover at a secret wizard school and beating the living hell out of its students and teachers, though.

Here's one that just seems to pair the characters with a random movie. Was Tango and Cash a Warner Bros movie...? Has Warner Bros ever made any buddy cop movies at all? Because any of those might have been appropriate.

I probably would have went mask-less to better resemble the poster and better reflect the contents of the comic, but still, that's a pretty nice one.

The special effects ruin this one, which would have been a pretty straightforward and clever homage, otherwise.

This Tony Harris cover is the first one I didn't get; it's an homage to the 2001: A Space Odyssey poster.

Not sure how I feel about this one, although points for using a martial arts movie instead of a more obvious spy/espionage/thriller move for inspiration.

Another one I didn't recognize the inspiration for...Forbidden Planet, apparently.

This Dave Johnson cover is probably my favorite of 'em. Nicely done all-around, and the character/film pairing is a logical one.

Becaue Martian Manhunter is from Mars! I get it.


That Supergirl really freaks me the fuck out.

Joe Quinones is one of those artists I'd rather see making comics for DC than just making covers for other people's comics for DC, but damn, does he ever nail Michael Keaton's expression and transpose it to Deadman perfectly...!

This is the image that makes it all worthwhile. That is a thing of beauty, the most perfect DC variant cover ever conceived. I think the chest logos are a bit much—what are they, body paint? Tatoos?—and they're all drawn well enough and have the necessary signifiers that we should be able to recognize the characters without their logos obscuring their waxed and oiled chests (Wait, is Hal even wearing his ring? Maybe Emanuela Lupacchino shoudla slapped a green domino mask on him).

So as much as I love, like, everything else about the image, I kinda wish it was just slightly altered.

I get the "Super" and the flying, but I don't know; I don't think an alien who looks like a white guy can properly appropriate blaxpolitation imagery without it feeling...weird.

Eh, it's been done:

Woah, woah, woah.

Okay, first of all: What's Toto doing there? Toto is not even wearing a red cape. I can understand Krypto being too big for the basket, but you can stick a puppy Krypto in there. Or Streaky. Streaky even makes more sense. And if you have to use the same breed and species as Toto, then you can at least give him a little red cape and make him a superdog, even if he's not The Superdog.

And who are those goofballs standing in for The Cowardly Lion, The Screcrow and The Tin Man...? Is there a reason we're not using Lion-Headed Superman, Jimmy Oslen and Steel...? And even if you were going to use supporting characters from this dumb series, to make sure your Wizard of Oz homage variant cover is in continuity, why would you cast New 52 Cyborg Superman as The Scarecrow instead of the Tin Man?

Oh man, this cover fills me with rage.

Another fantastic Quinones image. The text and the "casting" of Superman as Ted really bothers me for some reason though; it's just...off. I mean, Superman can spell, you know? "Death of Superman" Superman may have hair a little like Keanu Reeves, and thus match the character's visual in that one respect, but he doesn't match the tagline.

Now, if they plugged Bizarro into that image instead of Superman, it would be perfect. Oh, and guess which imperfect clone of Superman's happens to be appearing in this particular issue of Action Comics...?

Wait, I don't get it. Sinestro's not a cowboy or a robot, let alone a robot cowboy. I kind of wish he was, though. I'd totally read a comic book about one of those robots from Westworld getting a Sinestro Corps ring.

Yikes. Those costumes just plain always look bad. Conceptually, this doesn't work at all. They just switched out the word "vampire" for "superhero," and those terms aren't exactly analogous, you know?

Has Warner Brothers never produced a teen comedy or drama of any kind before? Or did Marvel's Loners miniseries use up all those homage ideas...?

Of course, Chiang already has a Teen Titans Breakfast Club homage image, but maybe that wasn't a Warner Bros movie...?

Woah, wait a minute, you know what was a Warner Bros movie? Only one of the greatest films of all time:
Raven as Debra, Kid Flash as Mark, Speedy as Lucas, Supergirl or Troia or Wonder Girl as Corey (we just need a girl in a skirt, basically), Robin as A.J., Starfire as Gina and Krypto listening to music on earphones in the foreground.


Or do these have to be the New 52 versions of the characters? Because then forget it; it's impossible to make the New 52 Teen Titans look good.

Wait a minute, don't you dine in Themyscira every night, Wonder Woman?

This is a pretty obvious connection to make—Oh wait, this movie is also based on a comic book, like The Mask poster homaged above—but Wonder Woman seems to have way too many clothes on in that image to make a convincing Gerard Butler in 300. You can't even see her bare, glistening abs! This is a rare instance where Wonder Woman's costume just isn't skimpy enough; maybe the mid-nineties "Diana" costume—the black bra and biker shorts look, sans the jacket—would work on this cover better? At least it would allow her to show off a six-pack...

Written by DAN JURGENS
On sale MARCH 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
This is it: the final showdown between Aquaman and the Others and the members of Mayhem! KGBeast and Cheshire stand ready to destroy Earth in their maniacal efforts to take down Aquaman’s team, but the king of Atlantis is without mercy. Blood will be spilled!

What? A secondary Aquaman comic, starring Aquaman and a team of just-introduced, rather unpopular characters who are so generic and indistinct that their team name is actually "The Others," making the title of this book only one degree removed from Aquaman and Some Other People Too has been canceled after just eleven issues? Who could have possibly predicted such a shocking turn of events?

Oh right, everyone who heard that DC was launching an Aquaman and The Others comic book by someone other than the team's creators, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

That's a pretty nice cover for Arkham Manor #6, courtesy of very good artist Shawn Crystal.

I guess this is the last issue of this series too, which is only surprising in that it's only been published for six months...DC oughta be able to squeeze at least two trades of Aquaman and The Others, whereas they'll only get one out of this.

Given the surely temporary status quo that the series was premised on—Bruce Wayne has his family's fortune seized due to legal difficulties and Arkham Asylum is destroyed in Batman Eternal, leading to the unlikely conversion of Wayne Manor into Gotham's new insane super-villain storage famility—the book was launched with an expiration date.

That said, I suspect DC thought they had a bit longer, and that the book either sold terribly, Bat-book plans changed behind the scenes, or one of the creators became suddenly unavailable.

Art and cover by GREG CAPULLO and DANNY MIKI
On sale MARCH 25 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $5.99 US
The finale of “Endgame” is here! Batman risks everything against The Joker! Who will laugh last?

Fantastic cover, there. I'm a little surprised to see Snyder returning to The Joker so soon, particularly since the size and scope of his "Death of The Family" story arc in the pages of Batman seemed to suggest a sort of definitive take on the character and the Batman/Joker relationship. Additionally, what suggestions of the "Endgame" plot that have slipped through in the solicitations so far call to mind the 2001 Joker's Last Laugh series and that 1987 Superman vs. Joker issue from John Byrne's Superman run.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really excited about finding out how The Joker gets his face back.

I kinda hated the first volume, almost as much as I was confused by its very existence, so I'm not looking forward to this at all.

That said, I will probably read it, because I'm interested enough in Geoff Johns as a writer that I'll continue to pay attention to his novel-length pitch for a Batman TV series. So, that puts Batman: Earth One one-up on Superman: Earth One, which I can't even summon enough interest in to crack the covers.

Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Damian’s powers have been a source of concern to Batman – and it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up to the big leagues!

Just wanted to note how much I love the Gleason/Gray art team, and how happy I am to see they'll be drawing the Justice League soon. I sure wouldn't mind if they ever moved over to Justice League, and, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm a little curious what a Tomasi-written run on Justice League might read like.

I'm honestly having a little trouble imagining a post-Johns Justice League at this point, and I can't imagine who DC could get to follow Johns, should he ever give the book up. Maybe Snyder...?

BATMAN ’66 #21
Written by JEFF PARKER
On sale MARCH 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E • DIGITAL FIRST
There’s a new villain in town and even Batman’s rogues gallery trembles at his name: Lord Death Man! Soon, the Dynamic Duo are jetting off to Japan to track him down. The classic villain from the 1960s Batman comics and manga gets the BATMAN ’66 treatment. Don’t miss this landmark moment in Bat-history!

I like when Mike Allred draws Batgirl.

Also, I'm pretty fascinated by how far Lord Death Man has come based on that single appearance in the Chip Kidd curated Bat-Manga!: The History of Batman in Japan book: Batman, Inc, part of an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, the just-released Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga collection representing the original manga without Kidd acting as go-between and now an introduction into the world of Batman '66.

Okay, let's get organized people. Let's have all the Superman villains on the left of Ardian Syaf's cover for Batman/Superman Annual #2, and all the Batman villains on the right.

Bane? Brainiac? What are you two doing? You're on the wrong sides! I thought you two were supposed to be smart! One of you even named himself after the smartness organ!

On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
Where will Batwoman’s adventure with her “anti-team,” The Unknowns take them? And what’s next for Kate Kane?

What's this? The once fairly-popular book that the only reason any one ever bought was the spectacular work and unusual style of its dedicated artist was canceled due to depressingly low sales after that artist (and his co-writer) left the book following a disagreement with the publisher over whether or not DC superheroes should be allowed to get married or not has been cancelled? Who could have possibly predicted this turn of events?!

Oh right, everyone.

To writer Marc Andreyko's credit, he (and the Batman connection, and probably some stubborn insistence on not canceling it too soon after J.H. Williams' departure) kept the book alive for a lot longer than many likely expected, even surviving a pruning of the Batman line that saw the cancellation of Batman: The Dark Knight and Batwing.

As for the argument between the editors and publishers on one side and the creators on the other side over whether or not Batwoman should be allowed to marry (and, by implication, if the creators on certain titles are really interchangeable as far as readers are concerned or not) I guess Williams and Haden Blackman retroactively won that argument. And all it cost was...their jobs on the book. And the book itself.

Hopefully the editors involved learn the right lesson from this: If J.H. Williams is willing to work on your tertiary Batman spin-off title, for God's sake, keep the man happy.

Cover by MIKE ZECK
On sale APRIL 15 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US
In this epic tale, Deadshot learns he has a daughter! When he discovers she’s living in a neighborhood plagued by violence, he decides to clean up the area by any means necessary! But can even a former Suicide Squad member give his daughter a life of peace and security? Collects DEADSHOT #1-5 and BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #214.

I liked that Deadshot costume.

Written by DAN DIDIO
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
All secrets are revealed as Big Bear uncovers the origin of The Infinity Man. In the days prior to “The Pact,” Highfather makes a fateful choice that forever changes the path of the New Gods and in its wake gives birth to The Infinity Man!

What's this? The new series featuring obscure Kirby creations from the 1970s written by the very least popular writer DC could have possibly hired (and who isn't a very good comic book writer to boot), one half of the team whose previous collaboration was among the first of the New 52 titles to get cancelled, has been cancelled?

Who could have possibly foreseen this turn of events?!

Actually, looking back at the solicitations for the first issue of this series, I predicted it would last maybe eight issues. I was wrong; it lasted nine issues. Ten, if you count September's Futures End one-shot special issue.

Written by GARDNER FOX, GEOFF JOHNS and others
Art by various
On sale MAY 20 • 400 pg, FC, $39.99 US
In 1940, ALL STAR COMICS #3 introduced the Justice Society of America. Featuring Hour-Man, Doctor Fate, The Spectre, The Sandman, The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman, the JSA soon became a mainstay in super hero comics! This anthology stories by legendary talents including Gardner Fox, John Broome, Robert Kanigher and Geoff Johns.

Not a whole heck of a lot to go on when it comes to guessing the contents, but I've found these volumes pretty fascinating, not just because of the nice, big slab of comics featuring particular characters they offer—although if you know a Lois Lane or Batman fan, they make great gifts—but also because of the window they provide into the publisher's collective brain, and how they happen to see their characters.

I think this one should prove particularly interesting because, unlike all the other characters covered so far, the JSA wasn't around for the entirety of those 75 years, appearing in continuous fashion the way Superman, Lois Lane, Batman, The Joker, Robin and The Flash/es have been. Rather, they had their Golden Age adventures, they went away for a while, they'd resurface for a some crossovers, then go away for a while, short revival, rest period, and so on.

The cover image is from JSA: All-Stars #1, and is practically readymade for this addition, depicting both the characters as they originally appeared and as they appeared during the James Robinson, David Goyer and Geoff Johns revival that lasted well over 90 issues.

Damn, I miss that title...

Written by ANN NOCENTI
On sale MARCH 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
Klarion has wrecked his relationships with everyone at the Moody Museum and seems ready to live a life dedicated to evil! Is our hero a hero no more?

Okay, this one actually DID catch me by surprise. I thought eight was the magic number a title had to hit before DC would cancel it, but, given the production schedule and lead time for modern comics, they must have decided to cancel this book almost as soon as they launched it; it's weird too, because just last week DC was promoting it via a two-page advertorial feature in their whole line of books.

But yeah, who thought a book starring Klarion The Witch-Boy was long for this world? A supporting character from Jack Kirby's The Demon (And, by the way, Jack Kirby's The Demon hasn't had a New 52 solo title yet) who Grant Morrison and Frazier Irving reinvented during Morrison's Seven Soldiers storyline/event, the character has only been popular (or, to put it more accurately, "popular") based on the creators attached and the other characters he was interacting with. This book? It was doomed on arrival.

I suppose the predominant way of looking at DC's sometimes insane-seeming New 52 launches is to assume they're just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Me, I think it has more to do with ticking every available box in their massive IP archives, and looking at every "ongoing" as a miniseries that may or may not become a maxiseries. Klarion, for example, lasted long enough for about one decent-sized story arc, which is enough to fill up a trade paperback.

And now they can move on to The Red Bee or Young All-Stars or Ms. Tree (Actually, don't do a New 52 Red Bee, DC; you'll onlly break my heart).

Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
“How would you feel, McG, if the future you came here to prevent doesn’t exist?” A reluctant hero rises as we realize the world still needs saving.

McG? McG?! The Charlie's Angels director is going to be in Futures End? Whaaat?

On sale MARCH 25 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
The secret history of The New 52 comes to a close with a bang! Don’t miss the origins of Black Canary, by Christy Marx and Dave Bullock; Red Lantern Guy Gardner, by Landry Q. Walker and Scott Hepburn; and John Constantine, by Ray Fawkes and Richard Isanove!

That's it. There is no more secret history of The New 52. You now know everything you need to know about The New 52, I guess.

I haven't read this after the first few disappointing issues. Did they explain the end of Flashpoint yet, and how it was that Pandora rejiggered the Multiverse, and why she did so? Because I'd kinda like to know that before they re-rejigger and re-reboot again. Or have I mentioned that already?

Pretty nice Dale Eaglesham cover on this month's issue of Secret Six. But then, the cover for the first issue of Secret Six was pretty great too, and the contents of that issue were...not.

Cover by JAE LEE
On sale MARCH 18 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST
Teenaged Diana comes to Man’s World and discovers a “Wonder World” where she makes new friends. That part’s great, but her Amazon bodyguards are busy tracking her down and scaring everyone she meets! Then, in “Sabotage Is in the Stars,” Wonder Woman aids India’s space program, making it safe for them to launch their new SpaceCrops platform. But when Diana discovers that LexCorp caused the problem, she takes matters into her own hands!

Martian Manhunter! It seems like I haven't seen you in forever! At least not since Brightest Day. What's up, man?

Oh, and what's this? Art by Noelle Stevenson? That is the best news ever. I can't imagine better news than that. Wellll, maybe Kate Beaton writing and drawing her prickly, cigarette-smoking version of Wonder Woman for the length of an issue, but that's it.

Art and cover by SCOTT HAMPTON
On sale MARCH 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
The end is nigh! The mission is blown sky-high as G.I. Zombie learns that he is a big part of the plan and races to save the world from a zombie apocalypse!

No shit Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie is cancelled; DC was practically daring people to read that thing.

I read the first issue, and it was fine; typical superhero/espionage/crime-fighting stuff, with the twist that one of the characters is a hot chick, and the other is a zombie...albeit a "smart" zombie who can pass as human and only devours the flesh of people who deserve it.

But the title was dumb (it was not an anthology; so the only reason they didn't just call it G.I. Zombie was to...secure a trademark, maybe? To handicap the book?), the covers and interiors didn't match and were working in opposite directions (If you were pulled in by Darwyn Cooke's cartoony covers, you'd be repulsed by Scott Hampton's lush, realistic linework; and vice versa) and it was a whole lot of nothing special.

Written by various
Art by various
Cover by PAUL POPE
On sale MARCH 18 • 40 pg, 1 of 4, FC, $4.99 US • MATURE READERS
Comics’ top talents, including some making their Vertigo debut, take on the classic DC Comics anthology title for four issues of strange, scary, sexy and sensational sports stories. Featuring stories and art by Brian Azzarello, CM Punk, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Lauren Beukes, Ben McCool, Ivan Brandon, Monica Gallagher, Lee Loughridge, Nick Dragotta, Christopher Mitten, Darick Robertson, Mark Finn, John Lucas, Gabe Soria, Ronald Wimberly, Michael DiMotta, Tim Fish, Rael Lyra and many more!

When I first saw that title, I was pretty excited, thinking DC was launching the most daring New 52 series yet...until I realized this was another one of those Vertigo anthology books where they repurpose the title of an old DC comic to allow interesting creators to riff on the theme in short story format. This one differs from previous efforts in that it is a miniseries consisting of four shorter issues, rather than one, big, fat issue.

Of the names I'm familiar with, I like the work of four of them a whole lot.


Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Cover by ED BENES
On sale MARCH 11 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
It’s a bloody showdown as Circe and Magog attack the power couple! And the outcome will bring about a major change in Kal and Diana’s relationship.

Say, does the cut of Wonder Woman's shorts look particularly diff—Oh, cover by Ed Benes. That explains it.

Art and cover by DAVID FINCH and BATT
Backup story art by GORAN SUDZUKA
Advance solicit • On sale APRIL 1 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US RATED T
A story so big we couldn’t contain it in the monthly title! Wonder Woman faces off with the foe destined to become her ultimate nemesis in a battle that will determine the fate of Paradise Island! And in a backup tale that will alter the course of the Amazon Queen, an old face returns, and we mean VERY old! You couldn’t ask for more from Wonder Woman’s very first annual!

Oh couldn't I?

(Also, "Wonder Woman's very first annual"...? The fuck...?)


Anonymous said...

Your "Empire Records" reference makes you my favorite comics blogger ever...

SallyP said...

Things do seem to be on the verge of imploding.