Wednesday, November 04, 2020

DC's January previews reviewed

Well it looks like DC has finally decided to pull the trigger on that "5G"/fifth-generation related initiative that had been teased for what feels like forever no, the one that would include a theoretical new generation of superheroes, with Luke Fox as a new Batman in comics written by John Ridley and Wonder Woman as a particularly long-lived superheroine who kicked off the age of heroes.

How long were rumors of that floating about? Well, Dan DiDio was still working for DC. 

Of course, while the clues that can be gleaned from the titles and solicitations that will be part of January and February's "Future State" seem to indicate that it is being built out of the remnants of the 5G-thingee (Seriously, that was the name they were gonna go with? Not even "Fifth World"...?), it has obviously been pared down to a very temporary event, taking over the bulk of DC's line for a month or two. In this respect, it seems somewhat evocative of such past events as 1998's DC One Million, wherein most of the ongoing series interrupted their usual goings-on to release one-millionth issues of each series as they might have theoretically appeared in the 853rd century setting of the main miniseries, or even an annual event, like 1991's Armageddon 2001 or 1996's Legends of the Dead Earth, both of which featured temporary looks at possible futures that will never actually come to pass, as you can only screw with the DC Universe so much before it reverts to a more familiar and popular shape (as the New 52 experiment proved). 

While the event seems to very much be one of the your-mileage-may-vary types, what I found particularly encouraging about it is that, unlike the New 52 initiative, some real effort seems to have been put into finding new and different creators to tackle various characters and books. So not only will we see a bunch of brand-new characters with familiar-sounding codenames, and a bunch of new costumes and roles for extant, favorite characters, but we'll also get to see fresh voices chronicling their adventures. At least for now. 

For a rundown of the format of the various Future State books, I'd point you to DC's official PR here. It's probably worth noting that if you're a regular DC Comics reader and you're not excited about this event, you're probably not going to enjoy the publisher's first months of 2021, as the event is pretty literally taking over their offerings. I counted 25 different Future State-branded books, compared to just 14 non-Future State comic book-comics.

As for the too-small League pictured aboveseriously guys, everyone knows that you need at least seven heroes to be a leaguethey are Green Lantern Jo Mullein (from the pages of Far Sector), Superman Jonathan Kent, Aquawoman Andy Curry, Wonder Woman Yara Flor, "a new Flash from the Multiverse" and "[REDACTED] as Batman." Not sure why they are acting like the news that Luke Fox was going to be the new Batman, and the first Black Batman, hasn't been rumored for as long as rumors of DC's 5G plans have been circulating.

Future State: Justice League is going to be written by Joshua Williamson with art by Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques, with a Justice League Dark back-up by Ram V and Marcio Takara. That "Dark" team sounds fairly identical to the current one, but I haven't read an issue of Justice League Dark in forever, so I'm not sure if all those characters are around in the present or not. Like, the last Ragman I saw was a brand-new one from the 2017 miniseries, a character that I just assumed would be immediately ignored and forgotten, like the New 52 versions of The Ray and The Human Bomb

Batman: Black and White #2 will feature a Sophie Campbell Batman and Catwoman story. I hope it's super well-received, as I would love to see a Campbell-created standalone Batman/TMNT crossover, in which she gets to do whatever she wants with the Turtles and the Bat-characters, rather than adhering to the continuity established in James Tynion IV and company's three previous crossovers with the current IDW TMNT.

Sadly there aren't many trade collections in this round of solicitations, and I already own the single issues of Batman: Gotham Knights: Contested, which collects Gotham Knights  #14-24 and #29 from 2001-2002These issues are mostly by writer Devin K. Grayson and pencil artist Roger Robinson, and will feature heroes Nightwing, Oracle, Spoiler, Azrael, Superman and, most out-of-left-field, Aquaman  (in a favorite issue of mine, in which Batman basically tries to invent an excuse to hang out with a fellow Justice Leaguer, and gets called out on it). and villains Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, Double Dare, Ra's al Ghul and The Penguin. 

This batch will include the introduction of Sasha Bordeaux, the professional bodyguard assigned to protecting Bruce Wayne (which Greg Rucka would do some pretty dramatically weird things with later), a Joker's Last Laugh tie-in featuring a Jokerized version of the brand-new villain Kafka. If you're wondering why issues #25-#28 aren't included, those are chapters of the crossover events "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" and "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive", and have thus been collected elsewhere. 

I liked this series quite a bit as it was being published, and I'd definitely recommend the trade collection. 

I was rather surprised to see a solicitation for Batman: The Adventure Continues #8, as I was fairly certain it was a miniseries, and eight issues is certainly longer than usual for a miniseries. This issue is by the same creative team as the earlier issues of the series, though, writers Paul Dini and Alan Burnett and artist Ty Templeton. That's not Templeton's cover, of course, by Mirka Andolfo, who has had plenty of experience drawing different versions of these characters during her time on DC's Bombshells series. 

Current Aqualad Jackson Hyde will be the Aquaman of the near-future, training the teenage Andy Curry in the Aquaman miniseries by Brandon Thomas and Daniel Sampere. Based on Andy's place as Aquawoman in the Justice League book, I guess this is set sometime before that book. 

Future State: Batman/Superman #1 is noteworthy for being written by the great Gene Luen Yang, the writer responsible for one of the best Superman comics I've read (Superman Smashes The Klan) as well as one of the best comics I've read so far this year (Dragon Hoops). His in-continuity Superman comics haven't been all that good, however, as he was writing Superman during a post-Flashpoint period where the character had given up his secret identity and been de-powered, but maybe the Future State milieu will give Yang enough freedom to do something interesting with the World's Finest...? He'll be working with artist Ben Oliver, and it's probably worth noting that this Superman and Batman are the old ones, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne, ss this is set during "the early days" of Future State, before Jonathan Kent and [REDACTED] assumed the mantles.  

Don't worry about original Batman Bruce Wayne, though. His sleeves might not have made it into the Future State, but he seems to be okay, starring as he does in Future State: Dark Detective, by Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora. Each issue of the series will have a back-up, one featuring Jason Todd and the other feature former WildStorm character and WildCAT Grifter, for some damn reason. 

Guys, I'm really worried that's supposed to be a big, buff, grim and gritty version of G'Nort on this cover for Future State: Green Lantern, and I am very much not okay with a big, buff, grim and gritty version of G'Nort, even in temporary near-future setting.

On the other hand, I like Salaak's space horse on this cover. I'm big into space horses, really. 

The Green Lantern title looks like it will be another anthology, and this one's got a pair of back-ups entitled "The Book of Guy," which safe money says will feature Guy Gardner, and "The Taking of Sector 123", which will star Jessica Cruz fighting off Sienstro Corps yellow Lanterns and, one imagines, take its inspiration from The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

In the future, Harley Quinn even younger than she is now? At least, based on this cover for Future State: Harley Quinn. The solicitation doesn't mention that there's a new Harley, so shruggy emoji, I guess. 

Team Marguerite returns for Future State: Kara Zor-El, Superwoman, starring "Superman's hot-tempered cousin." Written by Marguerie Bennett and drawn by Marguerite Sauvage, this should be one worth checking out, and it's been a long, long time since I've thought that of a Supergirl-related book. 

I haven't read any of Brian Michael Bendis' Legion of Super-Heroes revival yet, but I like the way Riley Rossmo, who joins him for this, draws things, so this should, at the very least, be very interesting to look at. 

The solicitation for Future State: The Next Batman by John Ridley and Nick Derington (one of the best Batman artists drawing for DC at the moment, as Batman Universe proves ) continues to play it mysterious, mentioning only "a new Dark Knight" with "a connection to former Batman weaponeer Lucius Fox." The identity of said mysterious new Dark Knight is, dollars to doughnuts, that of Luke Fox, who was rumored to be the star of a new Batman series written by John Ridley for some time now.

Nighwing Dick Grayson, Robin Tim Drake, Jason Todd and on-again, off-again Batgirls Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown are all mentioned in other solicitations, so Damian Wayne and Duke Thomas are the only unaccounted for sidekicks who would be potential inheritors of the mantle. I'm assuming one of them is dead, killed in various incidents mentioned in the world-building ("A-Day," "The Final Battle of  Titans Island"), while the other  might be appearing under a different name, like Red X in the pages of Future State: Teen Titans, but I guess we'll see. 

Laura Braga draws the second issue of the series. 

Both issues of The Next Batman feature two ack-up stories: "The Outsiders", which mentions only Katana; "Arkham Knights," which features the DCU Arkham Knight, Astrid Arkham, and random-sounding group of inmates; "Gotham City Sirens", which mentions Catwoman, Poison Ivy and "a new Siren" (Harley Quinn, the third Siren in the Gotham City Sirens series, will of course have her own series); and "Batgirls", featuring Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, which is a very good idea, and I think what a lot of people wanted from a Batgirl series after a certain pointthat is, Oracle Barbara Gordon leading Stephanie and Cassandra as a Team Batgirl (actually, I think there was probably a better version of Birds of Prey to be written at some point, wherein Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress, Stephanie and Cassandra would have been the line-up, with schoolteacher Huntress helping  Babs teach Cass how to read, write and function as a normal human being, Canary helping Stephanie learn to fight, and the two girls helping each other. Alas...).

In the near future, and older, wiser Nightwing will suddenly start worrying about getting hurt and start wearing knee-pads and a chin-guard. Kinda like how I decided it was time to quit skating when my 30th birthday approached. 

Supermen look weird without capes, don't they? This younger, slimmer Superman is Jonathan Kent, son of Superman Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Where is Conner Kent, the Superboy from the pages of Young Justice? Like some of his fellow teammates, he's MIA in the solicits. 

The Future State: Superman of Metropolis book is another of the anthology books,  featuring extant legacy versions of Mister Miracle (Shilo Norman) and The Guardian (Jake Jordan). 

Oh, actually Jonathan Kent does get a cape eventually, as seen in both the above cover and the variant for Future State: Superman/Wonder Woman. Whew!

Say, do you think they used "Steal" instead of "Steel" on the cover on purpose...? Like, did Jonathan steal his dad's codename and role, or is that just a very embarrassing typo...? 

The solicitation copy for writer Tim Sheridan and artist Rafa Sandoval's Future State: Teen Titans sounds vaguely X-Men-like, although there have been periods in recent-ish Teen Titans history in which the older, adult Titans sought to mentor younger, still-teen Teen Titans (Devin Grayson's too-short run being the first that leapt to my mind, although Geoff Johns did something similar not too long afterwards).

"When the original New Teen Titans formed a school to mentor and train young heroes," it reads, before noting that Nightwing, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and, notably, Cyborg return to the scene of "their greatest failure." That group of characters, particularly the inclusion of New 52 Justice League founding member Cyborg among them, certainly seems to indicate a post-Death Metal reversion to pre-New 52 continuity. So too does Nightwing's costume on the cover, which echoes one of his earlier Nightwing costumes from the pages of New Titans

The solicit also mentions "the mysterious Red X," noting that he is a former student and that this is the comics debut of a character "previously seen only in the hit animated TV Series Teen Titans Go!" (which he wasn't; he was previously seen in the hit animated TV series Teen Titans). Based on the characters on the cover, who include Crush and Red Arrow, the best bet for this Red X's identitywould be Damian, as Red X was an identity adopted by Robin in that Teen Titans cartoon, although perhaps the Desthstroke mask is a clue, and this Red X is actually Rose or Jericho. Damian is one of the characters who appears to be MIA (Tim Drake apparently having reclaimed the Robin name, as he appears alongside Stephanie Brown in Future State: Robin Eternal). 

Look, I know Jim Lee is popular and all, but of all the images DC could have possibly chosen for the cover of their Green Arrow: 80 Years of The Emerald Archer The Deluxe Edition collection, they really chose to go with Lee's cover for 2012's Justice League #8, which addressed the question of whether or not Green Arrow would join the new Justice League (no, he would not). 

That's an incredibly short-lived look for the character, even if it does echo that of the television versions of Arrow and Smallville and, in fact, the New 52 version of Oliver Queen grew his more iconic beard and mustache back fairly quickly. It's such a strange image to choose too, given that the character is one who is particularly strongly associated with artists Neal Adams and Mike Grell, both of whom are no slouches when it comes to moving books (Jack Kirby also had a noteworthy run on the character, although that was before Green Arrow's later, more popular and durable redesign). 

You won't find 2012's Justice League #8 collected herein, but you will find the character's 1941 introduction in More Fun Comics by creators Mort Weisinger and George Papp; a pair of late 1950s stories from Adventure Comics; the "My ward is a Junkie!" issues from 1971's Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-ups by Denny O'Neil and Adams; the first issue of Grell's 1987 series Green Lantern: The Longbow Hunters; Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo and company's 1995 Green Arrow #100 and #101, featuring Oliver Queen's death (don't worry; he eventually gets better); 1997's JLA #8-#9, in which new Green Arrow Connor Hawke must use his late father's trick arrows to try and rescue the League from The Key; a trio of issues from the Kevin Smith/Phil Hester/Ande Parks relaunched 2001 Green Arrow series (#1, #17 and #75, written by Smith, Brad Meltzer and Judd Winick, respectively); 2008's Green Arrow/Black Canary #4, in which Winick and Cliff Chiang maybe kill of Conner or something? I forget, as I quite paying attention at that point; a short from 2014's Secret Origins #4 detailing Oliver Queen's post-Flashpoint/New 52 origin story; 2016's Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 by Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt ; and Arrow Season 2.5 #1, a tie-in to the TV series. 

It's not a terrible list by any means, and certainly points one towards good Green Arrow comics to seek out in trade (the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stuff, Grell's Longbow Hunters and anything else from his run, Smith and company's "Quiver" and his surprisingly good run, Meltzer's surprisingly good "Archer's Quest"). I didn't care for much of anything from Winick's run onward, but I guess the idea of these isn't just to present the best stories so much as to give one a sense of what the character's eight decades worth of comics were like.

Still, I think I would have included a Kirby-drawn comic featuring pre-beard GL, and probably a Justice League story from the characters long tenure on during the Satellite Era, when Justice League of America was his home comic. 

This also makes me curious about how much of Dixon's run on Green Arrow, starting with Ollie and then transitioning into Connor, is even available in trade. I've read relatively little of it, but I always liked Conner and, in particular, the comics comparing and contrasting him with Green Lantern  Kyle Rayner, Robin Tim Drake and Flash Wally West. DC seemed to have been making a big push to get a lot of their '90s content into trade paperback collection, and then to have too-suddenly abandoned it...

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn and The Birds of Prey series gets collected as Harley Quinn and The Birds of Prey: The Hunt For Harley. I didn't care much for the pair's take on Harley in her own book, but I was nevertheless pretty curious about this weird-looking book, which seems to take the comic book version of the characters who were all randomly chosen to plop into a Harley Quinn movie entitled Birds of Prey, and to smoosh them into a new narrative that I think is meant to be set in the comics continuity, rather than the movie continuity...? 

That is, there's so much distance between, say, comic book Cassandra Cain and movie Cassandra Cain, that I was curious how this comic handled her, for example. I was waiting for this trade, though, which means I was waiting until January.

Am I going to be disappointed...? 

(So, how did this go, do you think? The format is different than it has been in all previous installments, as the new version of blogger makes cutting and pasting a nightmare. I managed to get almost everything I wanted to cover into here by avoiding cutting and pasting in general though, I only had to excise the bit about The Immortal Wonder Woman due to some weird format stuff. Just asking, as I was considering abandoning doing these altogether, given how irritating they are to do now, but enough of you indicated you enjoyed them on Twitter that I figured I should keep it up. Anyway, any input is appreciated!). 


Marc said...

Well for what it's worth, add me to the list of those who enjoy your take on the new titles, and until I got to the final paragraph had no idea that the format was any different - so I'm saying keep it up (and now on to the Marvel previews).

J. Bencomo said...

That Harley/Birds of Prey book... well, the art's fun and colorful, there are some good bits and moments from the Birds, and there's a great, excellent Alfred scene, so there's that.

On the other hand, it's one of those books where everyone, villains and heroes alike, take extra strong Stupid Pills so the Joker and especially Harley can look good. There's a moment where the Arkham villains trust Joker with something very important where I was this close to shouting "Why would you do that, he's the Joker?!" to the book. Still, I'd really like to see your own opinion on the series...