Saturday, October 24, 2015

DC's January previews reviewed

DC released their solicitations for the books they plan to publish in January of next year just this past Monday, and I am just not getting to posting about them, because I am lazy. So while I apologize for the lateness of this post that many of you were no doubt awaiting with bated breath all week, I did have some really great conversations on the phone and took some really amazing naps, so it was totally worth keeping you waiting on my end.

In general, this seems like a pretty normal month for the publisher. No real big, huge new books, nor any cancellations: In fact, the words "FINAL ISSUE" don't show up in any solicitations this month.

The theme for the variant covers is "adult coloring book," which sounds like something completely different than what it actually is (just covers with no color, basically). They mostly look like the sort of things a person in an institution with a set of markers would enjoy working on, as many of them have insane levels of detail (That's Derec Donovan's variant for Cyborg above). I'm curious about the paper stock, and if it's such that it's really meant to be colored upon or not. Personally, I think children's coloring book images would have been funnier and more fun, but, as always, no one at DC Comics asks me of my opinion on any of their publishing moves before they embark upon them.

For DC's full-ish solicitations, I would recommend you check out Comics Alliance, as they are a website that pays me money and also runs the solicits, but I actually looked at them here, as I prefer that format, with the comics and collections all in one post, and the cover images next to the relevant solicitation text. Of course, CBR's ads have been frustrating and freezing my ancient computer quite a bit lately. So maybe don't go anywhere to look at the full solicitations? Just stay here, and look at the one ones I want to point out to you? How's that sound?

Written and illustrated by various
On sale FEBRUARY 3 • 288 pg, FC, $19.99 US
The Scarecrow, one of the Dark Knight’s greatest foes, stars in this new best-of collection that includes tales from DETECTIVE COMICS #73, 389, 486 and 540, BATMAN #189, 296, 373, 523 and 524, DETECTIVE COMICS #23.3, BATMAN ANNUAL #19, JOKER’S ASYLUM: SCARECROW #1 and WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #3!

This appears to be the next in a series of "greatest hit" style books, collecting "best of" stories from various Batman villains. As is so often the case with these sorts of collections, they're not actually the greatest or best stories, they're the greatest or best stories that are short enough to fit in an anthology collection format like this, which often discounts many stories (I've noticed some of the publisher's "A Celebration of 75 Years" collections getting around this by sometimes publishing part of a story, however; the Captain Marvel Shazam collection, for example, includes one chapter's wroth of the recent Geoff Johns/Gary Frank reinvention of the character for the New 52, even though the entire story is long enough to fill a collection of its own.

I wouldn't normally go into anywhere near this level of detail, but, since The Scarecrow is one of my favorite characters, what the hell...

So let's look at what they've put in here...

1.) The 1943 appearance of The Scarecrow by Don Cameron, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos...

2.) A 1969 match-up by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella...

3.) A 1979 Robin vs. Scarecrow story by Jack C. Harris, Kurt Schaffenberger and Jack Abel...

4.) A 1984 Doug Moench/Gene Colan Batman vs. Scarecrow (and some alligators!)

5.) A 1967 Batman and Robin vs. The Scarecrow story by Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella (Check out Carmine Infantino's evocative cover, with the Scarecrow's face showing like a skull through his mask)...

6.) David Vern and Sal Amendola's 1978 story with what is probably the scariest Scarecrow cover to to date...

7.) A 1984 encounter featuring the Jason Todd version of Robin, by Dough Moench (him again!), pencil artist Gene Colan (and him again too!) and inker extraordinaire Alfredo Alcala...

7.) A 1995 two-parter from on of my favorite runs from one of my favorite creative teams on a Batman title. Moench, Kelley Jones and John Beatty...

8.) The kinda sorta Forever Evil tie-in from September of 2013, from which the collection will apparently take its cover, by Peter Tomasi and Szymon Kudranski. That was actually a tie-in to the mini-series Forever Evil: Arkham War, which was itself a tie-in to Forever Evil. Maybe the worst comic included, it basically just involves Crane wandering around talking to other Batman villains in the most goofily-conceived, poorly drawn comic you can imagine (I reviewed it in this post, if you'd like to read me talking about it in great detail).

9.) The 1995 "Year One" origin story by Moench, Bret Blevin and Mike Manley (one in which Jonathan Crane uses a sort of Crane-style kung fu–get it?–based on Ichabod Crane's dance moves)...

10.) The Joe Harris/Juan Doe one-shot that was part of 2008's Joker's Asylum suite of books...

11.) And, finally, The Scarecrow's first appearance,  the story "The Riddle of the Human Scarecrow" in 1941's World's Finest Comics, by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos. Crane is not pictured on the cover, obviously...although I think he may be pitchhing.

Notably, all of these appearances are from the "real" DC Universe, whatever that may have consisted of at the time of the individual stories' publication, and there are no alternate versions of The Scarecrow. That is, there arent' any from the various Batman Adventures books based on any Batman cartoons (generally a good source for done-in-one stories highlighting individual villains), nor anything Arkham video-game related, although that version of The Scarecrow is markedly different in design than the more standard models, and has reached a pretty wide audience.

They are also all from Batman comics. The Scarecrow is a big enough villain to have wandered away from his "home" adversary, taking on other Batman antagonists in in their own books, like The Joker and Catwoman, and he's also appeared in generally rather one-note roles in books from Anima to Hawkman to Scooby-Doo Team-Up.

The most notable absence is probably 1993's Batman: Legends of The Dark Knight Halloween Special, one of the earliest collaborations by the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale that introduced their peculiar version of The Scarecrow to Batman's "Year One" setting; their Scarecrow would play a small role in the team's epic-length The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, both of which grew out of this original seed (It has been collected, along with the creators' later LOTD Halloween specials, in Batman: Haunted Knight.

That is a story I'm honestly surprised isn't in here, along with at least a chapter from the 1990 Alan Grant/Norm Breyogle Batman #456-457 story arc, in which Tim Drake proved himself ready to be the third Robin after rescuing Batman from The Scarecrow, and, of course, 1986's Detective Comics #571 by Mike Barr and Alan Davis.  That classic Barr/Davis story does appear in DC's previous Scarecrow anthology, 2005's Batman: Scarecrow Tales (published to coincide with/capitalize on the character's appearance in Batman Begins). Comparing the contents of each, I suppose it's a good thing that they barely overlap after their Golden Age inclusions, meaning this particular reprint volume doesn't simply reprint much of what was previously reprinted.

Written by CHUCK DIXON
Art by GREG LAND, DREW GERACI and others
On sale FEBRUARY 24 • 200 pg, FC, $19.99 US
In this thrilling collection from BIRDS OF PREY #1-8 and the RAVENS one-shot, Oracle and Black Canary investigate a vicious slave trader, run into deadly female mercenaries, take on the Kobra crime organization, fight a prehistoric monster, try to bring a war criminal to trial, and cross paths with Dick Grayson!

Having only read a handful of these comics when they were originally published (that was before I ever had a "real" job, and thus my comics-buying budget was pretty limited), I'm really looking forward to these big, fat collections of the original Birds of Prey comics, particularly now that these particular versions of the characters, the ones I know and like (the new Batgirl and Black Canary comics have been pretty okay, though, particularly the former, after its new writing team and artist Babs Tarr took over).

Please don't let the words "Art by Greg Land" scare you away as they likely would attached to when attached to a post-2000 Marvel comic; this was back before Greg Land discovered that sickly, photorealistic, image-appropriation and remixing style, and actually drew comics as pieces of sequential art devoted to telling a story.

On sale JANUARY 13 • 114 pg, FC • FREE!
The DC ENTERTAINMENT GRAPHIC NOVEL ESSENTIALS AND CHRONOLOGY is back! Newly updated for 2016, this FREE catalogue features a new cover by superstar artist Ivan Reis! And you won’t want to miss the revised version of the DC 25 Essential Graphic Novels, reading guides and more!
Retailers: Quantities may be limited. There is no freight credit for this item.

I sincerely hope I never run across one of these, as I'm pretty sure I'll be compelled to argue with it, and at over 100-pages, that would likely lead to millions of words of blogging.

I do like the Ivan Reise and Joe Prado cover on this version of the catalogue.


Although I suppose we could quibble about the particular characters' reading choices, and the fact that they didn't knock up and sit atop the lady villains the way they did the male villains, but simply tied them up in the background. Come on, World's Finest; treating men and women equally also means you have to punch the female villains as hard as the male villains, and throw them in the same pile (Beside, Harley can take harder hits than, say, The Joker or Luthor or Penguin). Or, if you're worried about the possible optics, you could always just not include them in the image at all, rather than segregating them out like that.

Still not canceled! I guess! That's a particularly strong cover image in a series that has been full of strong covers...and images in general, really.

On sale JANUARY 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
An all-new era of GOTHAM ACADEMY begins here with the four-issue “Gotham Academy Yearbook” story! It’s yearbook time at Gotham Academy, and Olive, Maps and the gang share some lost adventures from the past year. Some of the best writers and artists from comics and beyond join forces with the creative team behind Gotham City’s top boarding school for this very special new chapter.

There are plenty of interesting guests on the creative team for this issue, in both the writing and the drawing camps. I was particularly interested to see Hope Larson's name, as it seems like it's been quite a while since I've seen any new work from Larson anywhere. Of course, that could simply mean I haven't seen any, not that she hasn't been producing any...

Written by TOM TAYLOR
Art and cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:25 Variant cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
On sale JANUARY 13 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US
Picking up where GREEN LANTERN: LOST ARMY left off! As the universe around them reaches entropy, the Green Lantern Corps must find a way home! Along the way, they’ll face dying gods, worlds torn asunder and a desperate group of survivors whose only hope is these cosmic heroes.

Green Lantern: The Lost Army was one of the several DC comics cancelled recently, although the publisher retroactively dubbed it a mini-series, and here they are launching a new (mini-?)series. I guess they're going to try and go the series of mini-series route with the secondary Green Lantern book, which is sort of insane, considering that the Green Lantern franchise was so popular that it boasted between four and five monthly ongoings not so long ago. Now it's down to just three: The ongoing Green Lantern, starring Hal Jordan, but in a new direction that has divorced him from the Corps and his role as GL; Sinestro, about Hal's archenemy and the leader of "the yellow lanterns," The Sinestro Corps; and now an apparent series of miniseries starring the rest of the Corps (Kyle Rayner's in Omega Men, if you lost track of him; no idea where Simon Baz has been...

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by JASON FABOK
Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by SCOTT KOLINS
On sale JANUARY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The epic “Darkseid War” continues as the League is forced to unite with their evil counterparts, the Crime Syndicate, to defeat the nigh-omnipotent Anti-Monitor! Plus, what is the terrible secret behind Superwoman’s newborn child?

Still going! Given the fact that Johns introduced the half-Amazon, half-god daughter of Darkseid, Grail, in the pages of this book recently, I wonder if "the terrible secret behind Superwoman's newborn child" isn't that it was sired by The Anti-Monitor....somehow. I thought when matter and anti-monitor came into contact they both exploded, which would seemingly make sexual congress rather problematic....

Written by RENAE DE LIZ
On sale JANUARY 13 • 40 pg, FC, 1 of 9 $3.99 US • RATED T DIGITAL FIRST
A new WONDER WOMAN 9-issue miniseries begins here with a story written and pencilled by Renae De Liz (The Last Unicorn)! In the beginning there was only chaos. But Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, saw a better future—and eventually, her daughter would be destined to bring that new world to life! Before her ultimate fate unfolds, though, Diana of Themyscira must learn the important lessons of an Amazonian childhood!

That's not a creator I would have had on my radar for a project like this, but this sounds pretty cool. It should offer a nice alternative to the "real" Wonder Woman book (The Finchs' Wonder Woman), a decent replacement to the canceled Sensation Comics Featuring Woman, and I've long maintained that some of the best potential for future Wonder Woman stories would be Wonder Girl stories, as in Wonder Woman's adventures when she was a girl. Plenty of talented creators have looked to that period for inspiration in stories of varying degrees of quality of recent years, with maybe the most fun being the Noelle Steventson-illustrated short from Sensation and the most epic being Ben Caldwell's feature in Wednesday Comics.

Written by AMY CHU
Art and cover by CLAY MANN
On sale JANUARY 20 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T
Life. Death. Poison Ivy has power over both. But can she keep her friends and hold down a regular job at the same time? As Dr. Pamela Isley, she joins the prestigious plant sciences department at Gotham Botanical Gardens, but things quickly get complicated when a fellow scientist is murdered and it looks like the work of Ivy. Don’t miss the start of this new 6-issue miniseries!

Just wanted to note that this exists. It sounds like it may at least be in the same ballpark as the successful Harley Quinn series, which Ivy has frequently appeared in, in terms of its tone. On the other hand, it also sounds like an origin story. Either way, it's interesting that DC is publishing this; Ivy's the only major Gotham villainess without her own title at the moment, and she's never had one before, although she did share a book with Harley and Catwoman in the short-lived Gotham City Sirens comic.

I suppose this could be testing the waters for a potential Poison Ivy ongoing down the line...or just an effort to get a an evergreen collection featuring a fan favorite character into circulation.

Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by SCOTT McDANIEL
On sale JANUARY 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Red Hood and Arsenal and—Joker’s Daughter?! As the boys deal with their newfound success as a rent-a-hero company, a new crop of catastrophe puts Jason and Roy to the test! But with a new hire like Joker’s Daughter, who needs enemies?

Wait, Red Hood and Arsenal have a "rent-a-hero" company? Does that make them, what's the term, Heroes For Hire...?

Well whatever the case, there's no way of knowing exactly how indicative of the actual story the cover is, but it sure looks like The Joker's Daughter is ready to kill Jason Todd. Is there a phone number I can call, or an address I can email, in order to encourage DC to let her do it? Or, at the very least, destroy his costume design once and fore all...?

That is not how snorkels work, Scooby.

Written by CULLEN BUNN
Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by DEREC DONOVAN
On sale JANUARY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
The Pale Bishop has declared a holy war on all emotion—and his minions are about to invade Earth! Only the power of fear stands against them. In an attempt to bolster his defensive line, Sinestro has dispatched yellow rings across our world, adding many heroes and villains to the ranks of the Sinestro Corps!

I know that when DC announced the cancellation of GLC: The Lost Army (or that it was actually just a miniseries, whatever), a lot of folks wondered why they were scrapping the secondary GL title, the one co-starring Green Lanterns John Stewart and Guy Gardner and a small ensemble cast, rather than the tertiary title in the shrinking franchise.

Now that I see this cover and solicitation, I can't help but wonder if this upcoming storyline is what stayed Sinestro's execution. That many co-stars, and the at least temporary relocation to Earth, ought to boost sales quite nicely for the duration of the arc.

Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by DAVE TAYLOR
On sale JANUARY 13 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
Is Dick Grayson here to stay? Starfire has tackled some big threats during her stay in Key West—from hurricanes to intergalactic bounty hunters, from insane murderers to gargantuan monsters from the deep and everything in between. But our hero’s biggest challenge may be choosing between an ex and a new love interest.

Wait, did Dick Grayson and Koriand'r even date in the New 52? I wasn't even aware of the fact that they had ever met, let alone dated. When did that happen, exactly...?

Written by DAN JURGENS
Art and cover by LEE WEEKS
Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by AARON LOPRESTI
On sale JANUARY 20 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The mysteries surrounding Lois and Clark are just starting to unfold! In this issue find out what happened to the man who would have been the Cyborg Superman! Learn what else is hidden in this Superman’s Fortress! And discover why Lois gave Clark his new, black uniform!

Good question; why did Lois give Clark a Superman uniform? I wondered that while reading the first issue of the series, a spin-off from Convergence. The premise is that the pre-New 52 Lois and Clark escaped from their imprisonment on the planet Telos, traveled back to the events of Crisis On Infinite Earths with pre-Crisis Supergirl and pre-Crisis Flash Barry Allen and Zero Hour-era Parallax, and somehow prevented the Crisis, thus re-re-re-re-re-setting DC's Multiversal continuity, but not, apparently, undoing the various re-sets that lead to the existence of the present DC Universe (The New 52-iverse). Clark grew a beard and he and Lois changed their names and began living quietly on Earth-0 (i.e. The DC Universe/New 52-iverse), keeping their real identities a secret from everyone, even their five-year-old son.

Clark occasionally puts on a black Superman costume, S-shield log and all, and flies around the world, trying to prevent enemies he knew of on his world from ever coming to be on this world.

It doesn't sound very Superman-ly to live in secret and screw with the universe in such a manner, nor does the fact that this Superman pretty much stood by and let the heroes of the New 52 save the world again and again without ever feeling the need to lift a finger himself (Also not very Superman-ly).

It seemed to be another case of DC giving fans what they want–the "real" Superman back, Superman and Lois Lane together again–but in a way they couldn't possibly want it (See every single Convergence tie-in, for dozens of more examples of this phenomenon).

Anyway, one of the many things that stuck out to me as very weird is that Superman would suit up in a costume that announces to whoever might see him that he's totally Superman, instead of something else. That is, he's wearing a costume or uniform here, when what he would logically need or want would be a disguise.

Written by LEN WEIN
Art and cover by KELLEY JONES
1:25 Variant cover by YANICK PAQUETTE
On sale JANUARY 6 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $2.99 US • RATED T
Swamp Thing returns in an all-new series written by his co-creator, legendary writer Len Wein! Swamp Thing has received an ominous warning, and now he finds himself under attack from the forces of dark magic. These are more than just your average monsters—and there’s something much worse looming on the horizon for Alec Holland!

I have to assume this is something of a Convergence spin-off too, as Wein and Jones were the creative team on the two-part Convergence: Swamp Thing mini-series.

While reading a few issues of Scott Snyder's New 52 run on Swamp Thing, I realized that I had probably read all of the Swamp Thing stories I ever needed to read in my life time already.

But I don't think I'll ever read enough Kelley Jones comics, so I'm pretty excited about this miniseries.

Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by TIMOTHY GREEN II
On sale JANUARY 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
While the Teen Titans try to deal with the aftermath of the Robin War, they search for a new direction. Can Red Robin hold the team together?

Hopefully not! Hopefully they will disband forever, and all burn their costumes and get new ones.

Written by LEE BERMEJO
Adult Coloring Book Variant cover by FREDDIE E. WILLIAMS II
On sale JANUARY 27 • 48 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
The Robin War is over. From the rubble a new force rises, one that is attacking Duke and his Robins one by one. This new movement laughs at hope and justice. They believe in anger. They believe in fear. They believe in chaos. They are…JOKERS.

Is introducing a gang of Joker-themed villains really the most interesting thing to do in this comic? I can't believe it is. Also, the Joker-gang idea seems like it's been fairly done-to-death already in episodes of Batman Beyond, and the comic based on it, and the tie-ins to "Death of the Family" and...

This was the first and only of the books that has an "Adult Coloring Book Variant" that I saw where I thought that "Adult" might mean something other than what it does on the others...


SallyP said...

The Birds of Prey trade looks good, I've been trying to find some of those issues for a while. This was when Greg Land could still actually draw, so the art is actually quite nice.

Some of the other books look decent as well.

Unknown said...

I've looked through the previous two year's "Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology." I'd say they're about 60%-70% undisputed classics, and 40-30% recent stuff DC wants to promote.

There's stuff like "Watchmen," "Batman Year One," "TDKR," and so on. But there's also the first trade paperbacks of major character's New 52 series, and those awful "Superman Earth One" graphic novels.

CBrown said...

Re: Nightwing and Starfire . . . I was just recently reading the first Grayson collection, and it had one of those short Secret Origins stories. There's a page that shows them making out. The same page says he teamed up with other proteges like Arsenal, who I guess is the only other original Titan extant in the New 52. So I guess all of the Silver Age and New Teen Titans stories are now basically just Dick Grayson teaming up with Roy Harper and hooking up with Starfire.

Leblanc_phil said...

It's unreal how that Lee Bermejo cover for We are Robin looks like a complete rip-off of David Nakayama's cover for All-New Ultimates #5. Nakayama cover is actually clever in how it includes the different's character's ability and context into it. Here's a link to the cover

Kitty Pride phasing in the eye, The cape of Cloak creating depth of colour, The firing squad as the mouth targeting Crossbones in the middle. Bermejo's cover is made extremely weak and derivative by comparison.