Saturday, August 15, 2020

DC's November previews reviewed

Behind the scenes, things seem more than a little chaotic at DC Comics these days (the word "bloodbath" has been used in reference to the recent wave of layoffs), and, if you look at what they plan to ship in November, well, it's not exactly the deepest, widest, most diverse or most robust slate of comics.

No entire line or publishing initiative seems to have disappeared over night. There are still plenty of "Black Label" books for mature readers (mostly starring Harley Quinn and/or The Joker, or old Vertigo properties), and there are a pair of original graphic novels for young readers (House of El, We Found a Monster). There are a handful of collections, of a couple of recent books, a couple of millennial hits (some of which probably shouldn’t be getting republished, but we'll get to that later), and one comic from 1973.

But there are a lot of cancellations, and a general narrowing of the canonical, "DC Universe" books, which probably doesn't bode well for that increasingly niche part of DC Comics as a publisher.

This month’s cancellations are Hawkman, John Constantine: Hellblazer, Suicide Squad, Teen Titans and Young Justice.

Considering all the books that were revealed to be cancelled in previous rounds of solicitations, that means the only team books DC will have left will be Justice League, Justice League Dark and Legion of Superheroes.

The only solo characters with their own ongoing series will be Aquaman, Batman (regular and Beyond), Catwoman, The Flash, Jason Todd/The Red Hood, Nightwing, Superman and Wonder Woman. Those eight white folks are just barely enough people to form a Justice League, and even then, it would be an awfully Bat-heavy Justice League.

Of course, DC could just be getting ready for some kind of new relaunch or publishing initiative, particularly given that Dark Knights: Death Metal all but has to include some sort of continuity rejiggering. In fact, given the number of books that have had their final issues solicited in the last few months, DC definitely seemed to be winding down many of their books, as if in anticipation for something new (Perhaps, at one point, the five-generation thing that Dan DiDio was teasing, when he was still at DC).

But given what we’ve heard has been happening to the editorial staff, it doesn’t exactly look like the publisher is ready to roll anything too ambitious out at the moment (This Hollywood Reporter interview with Jim Lee seems the best place to look for clues at the moment; I read it, and I personally found some of his answers kind of chilling in their non-specificity).

Speaking of Death Metal, it will ship its fifth issue in November, and it and the ongoing Justice League tie-in arc will be supplemented by four more one-shots. That's so much Death Metal, you guys.

Let's see what's worth noting among DC's November solicitations. There are few enough that this shouldn't take too long, which is just as well. I'm having such a hard time figuring out how to do this type of post, which I've been doing for like 14 years now, in Blogger's new interface I may have to stop doing them altogether (I gave up and am using the "legacy" interface at the moment. I guess that's still an option for a few more weeks now).

This is Kaare Andrews' variant cover for Batman: The Adventure Conntinues #5. I want to call attention to The Joker's eyes. I thought that, when they redesigned the character for the cartoon and gave him new, scarier eyes, I always thought that either his eyes were meant to be reversed of everyone elses', so that the "whites" of his eyes were black and his irises were white, or that his eyes were just completely black, and the white dots were light reflecting off of them.

Here, though, Andrews' drawing seems to suggest that the black part of The Joker's eyes is actually on his skin, and not part of his eyes at all.

That is weird.

Um, that's all.

written by WARREN ELLIS
art and cover by BRYAN HITCH
variant cover by KEVIN NOWLAN
ON SALE 11/10/20
$3.99 US | 32 PAGES | 12 OF 12 | FC | DC
In this final issue, Scorn makes his final move to destroy justice in Gotham City! Injured and alone against an army of chaos, Batman has one chance to save the city: his ability to think like the victim. But the victim is always dead. The Batman can only win by using the approach of his own death.

Oof. DC is still publishing Warren Ellis comics...? Have they...have they really not heard any news about Warren Ellis lately? Like, at all? Because he really doesn't seem like the sort of person who a responsible company would want to associate with your children's character and licensing juggernaut Batman, you know? The more I hear about Ellis, in fact, the more he seems like the sort of person that, if he were a citizen of Gotham City, Batman would throw metal versions of his logo, tie up and drop off on the doorstep of Arkham Asylum...

But wait, there's more! Not only did DC not cancel this new Ellis-written maxi-series starring Batman (how could they? How could they deprive DC Comics readers of a...ninth comic with "Batman" in the title this November?), they're also publishing collections of The Authority and Transmetropolitan, which, if I understand publishing correctly, means they will be sending more royalties Ellis' way.

art by CHAD HARDIN and others
ON SALE 11/24/20
$5.99 US | 48 PAGES | FC | DC
The DC Multiverse is a collection of alternate-reality worlds where anything is possible. Each world tells the tale of a possible split in reality, or shows how lives vary depending on a single, solitary decision. But now that the Multiverse has been destroyed, the Batman Who Laughs has used his god like power to create a new Dark Multiverse…a collection of 52 evil worlds, each more terrifying than the last. This one-shot offers the curious—and the brave—a glimpse into the nightmare realities that the Batman Who Laughs has created in tales by creators who know what it means to have a truly twisted sense of misfit humor. An Arkham Asylum even more terrifying than what we know? A world of evil Super Pets? All that and more in these new tales of the Multiverse Who Laughs!

If you don't quite recognize all of those Super-Pets on the cover, don't worry. They appear to be a Dark Multiverse answer to the secret Super-Pets line-up that Peter Tomasi and Paul Pelletier created for 2018's Super Sons Annual #1. Oddly, I don't see Tomasi listed among the writers, so perhaps someone else is writing of that world...

written by FRANK TIERI, BECKY CLOONAN, and others
art by DALE EAGLESHAM and others
cover by KYLE HOTZ
1:25 card stock variant cover by RAFAEL GRAMPÁ
ON SALE 11/10/20
$5.99 US | 48 PAGES | FC | DC
Pull up a chair, ya bastiches—it’s time for Uncle Lobo’s Infinite Hour! It’s your chance to let the Main Man Lobo-tomize you with familiar yet freaky stories of the DC Universe, exactly as he remembers them: with blood and guts and exxxtreme gratuitous violence! Tell yer comics guy to put you down for alllll the copies!

I appreciate the use of the word "extreme" right there in the title—is this the first DC Comic to have the word extreme in the title since Extreme Justice?—but I wonder if maybe four or five x's would be better than three. "XXX" has a particular connotation that I'm pretty sure DC doesn't want for this book—It's not even Black Label!—or, at least, it did with a readers of a certain age, from the days when pornography wasn't something you could find on the phone you carried with you in your pocket.

I like the Hotz cover. He draws a good Lobo, and I really like the way he draws smoke. Do note the artist drawing the variant cover; I'm pretty interested in what Rafael Grampa's Lobo might look like.

written and illustrated by VARIOUS
ON SALE 12/15/20
$49.99 US | 520 PAGES | FC | DC
ISBN: 978-1-77950-087-8
The ’80‘s were a truly rad time for comic books. DC was killing it with groundbreaking titles like Man of Steel, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen. This collection, curated by writer and former DC publisher Paul Levitz, celebrates the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths era of the early 1980s with memorable adventures including Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s poignant “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?,” both Batman and Superman teaming with their Golden Age equivalents in separate stories, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor versus gremlins, and more. Collects Action Comics #583, Detective Comics #500, The Flash #296-298, Jonah Hex #54-55, Superman #423, House of Mystery #286, #290, #294-295, #300, #308, #321, Warlord #42, Wonder Woman #311-312, The Brave and the Bold #200, Weird War Tales #93, Time Warp #2 and #3, G.I. Combat #288, Blackhawk #258, DC Comics Presents Annual #1, Super Friends #36, and Sgt. Rock #345, #347, #368, and #387. Also includes new essays on this amazing era from such comics luminaries as Jack C. Harris, Elliot S! Maggin, J.M. DeMatteis, Andy Kubert, and more, and features the complete text of Alan Moore’s legendary, never-before-published Twilight proposal!

This looks pretty interesting, although $50 is such a high price that it kind of negates the idea of buying it out of curiosity (Justic skimming the contents, I think I've read almost none of these, aside from the Moore/Swan Superman story, of course. Hopefully plenty of libraries will order copies.

Oh, and do note the last thing mentioned in the solicitation: "Alan Moore's legendary, never-before-published Twilight proposal!" Think of how much mileage DC has gotten out of the handful of comics Alan Moore had done for them. Now, imagine a world in which they went out of their way to be nice to Alan Moore, and kept him happy and working with them for years to follow. How many more Watchmen, Killing Jokes, Swamp Things might they have produced over the years...? Not pissing off creators isn't just a nice thing to do, it also makes good business sense!

You know, I'm actually kind of surprised that DC hasn't produced some version of Moore's Twilight pitch yet. Like, that seems to have been an easier, more obvious way to exploit Moore's name and fame then doing Watchmen prequels and sequels.

Also, it's really weird to read the phrase "Alan Moore's legendary, never-before-published Twilight proposal!" in 2020, as I couldn't do so without spending a split-second thinking it referred to Moore's proposal for a comic set in the world of Stephanie Meyer's vampire/werewolf love triangle YA epic...

That's a great Liam Sharp cover on The Green Lantern: Season Two #9. I like the way it looks like a classic cover, to the extent that at first glance you would almost think it were a reprint of a Carmine Infantino image, until you look just a little closer at the faces and can see that it is indeed the work of Sharp, just working in a different style.

I certainly how Season Two is as good as the first "season" was.

written by CLAUDIA GRAY
art and cover by ERIC ZAWADZKI
ON SALE 1/5/21
$16.99 US | 208 PAGES | 6" x 9" | FC
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9112-9
A brand-new vision of one of comics most famous tragedies—the first of a trilogy of young adult graphic novels by New York Times bestselling writer Claudia Gray and illustrator Eric Zawadzki!
Explore Krypton like never before: through the eyes of two teenagers on opposite sides of the same extinction-level event. Zahn is one of Krypton’s elites: wealthy, privileged, a future leader. Sera is one of Krypton’s soldiers: strong, dedicated, fearless. Their rule-bound society has ordained that their paths should never cross. But groundquakes are shaking the planet’s surface. Rebellious uprisings are shaking the populace. Krypton’s top scientists, Jor-El and Lara, conduct a secret experiment that is meant to reform their planet from the cellular level up.
Zahn and Sera must join forces to investigate the hidden dangers truly threatening Krypton. In the process, they form a bond that will endure past the end of the world...

It disturbs and depresses me to think that we've lived with the story of the destruction of Krypton for so many decades now, and no matter what media it is presented in, the basic is always framed in such a way that the reader or viewer is meant to sympathize with the heroic Jor-El, realizing that his scientific calculations about the impending doom of his planet are right and that if only the fools who scoff at him would pay attention, they could have avoided a catastrophe.

And yet when it comes to the climate crisis here on Earth, almost no one takes it as seriously as we should. We have more than one Jor-El here, but, as a society, as a species, we seem to be taking the side of the Kryptonians who laughed off Jor-El.

written by JOHN RIDLEY
$6.99 US | 48 PAGES | 1 OF 5 | FC
8.5" x 10.875" | BIMONTHLY | NO ADS
Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, Let It Fall) examines the mythology of the DC Universe in this compelling new miniseries that reframes iconic moments of DC history and charts a previously unexplored sociopolitical thread as seen through the prism of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups.
This unique new series presents its story as prose by Ridley married with beautifully realized illustrations by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Andrea Cucchi. Issue #1 follows the story of Jefferson Pierce, the man who will one day become Black Lightning, as he makes his way from being a young track star to a teacher and, ultimately, to his role as a hero. Future issues focus on characters such as Karen and Mal Duncan, Tatsu Yamashiro, and Renee Montoya.

Extensively researched and masterfully executed, The Other History of the DC Universe promises to be an experience unlike any other. You may think you know the history of the DC Universe…but the truth is far more complex. The Other History of the DC Universe isn’t about saving the world—it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.

Oh, this again. The use of the word "other" in the title would seem to imply that there is a history of the DC Universe, and not, like, a dozen competing ones, including fluid shrug emoji versions that are regularly over-writing one another, which has been the status quo for much of the last ten years or so. Like, look at Black Lightning's costume on the cover there, and think about how many completely new and different origin stories the poor guy has had since his last ongoing series ended in 1996. I want to say three, since 2009?

I hope that's just the sort of lame title to the book, though, and not necessarily reflective of the premise, because, if so, it would seem to require a stable DC Universe history in which the more minor, more diverse voices of the likes of Jefferson Pierce and Mal Duncan could provide an alternative to, and that hasn't been the case in a long, long time.

If that is the premise though, then this would have been a great project circa 2005 or so!

ONE-SHOT | ON SALE 11/10/20
$4.99 US | 48 PAGES | FC | DC
Spinning out of the pages of “The Joker War” comes the first solo book starring the blockbuster new character Punchline. As she faces the consequences for her role in “The Joker War,” the story of how Alexis Kaye became Punchline will take Leslie Thompkins, Harper Row, and Cullen Row on a harrowing journey that reveals a fringe teenager’s radicalization to the ideology of a madman. It’s a terrifying tale so big it demanded an oversize special issue!

I like Mirka Andolfo's art a whole lot.

I'm glad to see Harper and Cullen Row mentioned here, as I'm never quite sure if we're supposed to remember those characters exist or not. And if they still do, and Harper is going to continue to not be a vigilante, she should really give up her claim to the code name "Bluebird." That's a pretty quality name for a Batman sidekick, and other Batman sidekicks with lame code names could be using it. Like, Tim Drake could be wearing a blue and black variation of his old Robin costume and be going by Bluebird rather than wearing that weird brown and gold costume and calling himself "Drake" in the pages of Young Justice (for however long there will be pages of Young Justice, of course...).


Nicholas Ahlhelm said...

From my understanding, Hitch was within pages of being done with The Batman's Grave, Ellis had already been paid for the work, so DC decided to move forward with the last few issues.

They did cut him out of a Death Metal issue though, even though that story was paid for.

I have also heard that DC has morality clauses in their contracts, so they may be able to continue to publish his work without royalties.

Jose Gregorio Bencomo Gomez said...

Mister. Let's be serious here. As the commenter above said, the issues already were done, DC can't exactly allow itself to bleed money nowadays, Hitch and the cover artist (not to mention the colorist, letterer, and every other person involved in the making of the comment) don't deserve to have THEIR work shelved forever just because of something beyond their control that Ellis did, and frankly, anyway, this is the final issue! After this, you won't have to gripe on this subject anymore! So you can just keep on harping on all the other reasons why you're so disenchanted with comics and posting here instead, even though for the standards of someone living in the Third World like me you're living in enviable comics and general livehood possibilities overall and should be t least kind of grateful with what you have.

Honestly, sometimes I think you people and your First World Problems are going to drive me insane.

Aussiesmurf said...

Regarding 'DC Through the 80s'...

I note that this contains Detective Comics #500 which, in turn, contains my single favourite ever Batman story - 'To Kill a Legend'.

I won't say anything more for 'spoiler' fear, but the final page makes me tear up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.