Saturday, December 26, 2020

DC's March previews reviewed

DC enters yet another new era in March, this one branded "Infinite Frontier," echoing both the number of Earth's in the original DC Multiverse (before it's first official rejiggering in 1986's Crisis On Infinite Earths) and the title of Darwyn Cooke's 1960s-set The New Frontier exploration of DC's Siler Age. 

What exactly will that entail, aside from branding...? Um, well, if you're up-to-date with DC's monthly comics, you probably know far better than me. I'm a good six months behind on everything, and likely always will be, unless I get a job at a comics shop or something where I can read the dang things for free as they come out.

Aside from that though, it looks like DC was using their "Future State" event as something of a try-out for many creators, as over and over again in the solicitations we'll see that the folks who wrote particular characters or titles as part of the two-month "Future State" event then moved on to write those characters or titles in the DCU proper. Case in point? Mariko Tamaki, who wrote the Bruce Wayne-starring Dark Detective series, is officially the new Detective Comics writer, which is a pretty big fucking deal (even though it really shouldn't be). 

Oh, and The Joker is getting a new ongoing series, which is pretty unexpected. It generated a Frank Quitely image for me to put at the top of this post though, so there's that. As for what else seems noteworthy, well, read on...

The big news with the creators of the Bat-books is on Detective Comics in March, while Batman #106 finds writer James Tynion IV still there, alongside his "Joker War" artist Jorge Jimenez (For a pretty clear illustration of the different challenges facing female writers breaking into top-tier, mainstream, direct market super-comics, one could easily compare and contrast the paths to writing Batman comics taken by Tynion and Mariko Tamaki, the former basically hand-picked by an already-successful Batman writer to be his co-creator on several projects, whereas the latter had to first gain a great deal of success and fame in other corners of the comics market before being considered a potential superhero writer, and then work her way up.)

As for this comic, I'm pretty intrigued by the glimpse of The Scarecrow we get here and on the variant cover showing Gotham City's expanded cast, and am eager to see more of Jimenez's design for the character, as you probably know The Scarecrow is visually my favorite Batman character and I love seeing how variously different artists draw him. 

I'm also fairly curious about how Tynion will handle the character. He started off his Batman run writing The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman, and he had previously written Ra's al Ghul during his Detective run and in Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so Scarecrow is one of the few major Batman villains we haven't seen Tynion's version of yet. 

Here's the Jimenez-drawn portrait of many of the players in Gotham. What I find most interesting is that Cassandra Cain is wearing her Batgirl costume again (thank God), and is hopefully going by "Batgirl" or "Black Bat" again, rather than "Orphan"

It's also worth noting that Gotham went from being lousy with Robins—Damian, Tim, Duke and the kids from We Are Robin—to being apparently Robin-less here. Of course, now that I'm pretty much trade-only, I am always going to be about six months behind the goings on of the superhero universes so, um, I guess this blog is getting less and less useful to read, huh...?

I kinda like the look of Damian's black and gray Robin-esque costume there. Makes me wonder if maybe Tim should be the only Robin-Robin, and Damian take on some identity with a costume blending that look and a traditional Robin costume and go by Dark Robin or Black Robin...

Batman: Black and White #4 will include stories from Nick Bradshaw, Becky Cloonan (who drew the above cover), The Dodsons, Daniel Warren Johnson, Riley Rossmo and others, featuring Poison Ivy, Two-Face, a new villain and a murder mystery at a circus, but the important thing to note is that this is the issue that contains the Karl Kerschl story in which Maps Mizoguchi from his Gotham Academy is the new Robin.  

Good news? Gene Luen Yang, whose Superman Smashes The Klan was one of the best Superman stories I've ever read and one of the better superhero comics I read this year, is the new writer on Superman/Batman.  

Less good news? Yang will be working with pencil artist Ivan Reis and inker Danny Miki, rather than Gurihiru, who drew Superman Smashes The Klan

Don't get me wrong, Reis is an excellent superhero artist, but he also very much works within DC's house style, and Yang's best superhero comics have been ones that aren't drawn in DC's house style. I can't tell you how much I wish this was being drawn by Gurihiru, or an artist better-suited to a more stately, classic, timeless style, particularly given the fact that this issue at least seems to be focusing on Golden Age versions of the characters (Steve Rude and Doc Shaner jump most immediately to mind). 

In theory, a Batman anthology series featuring different creative teams telling stories featuring various Gotham City-based heroes and Batman allies sounds pretty cool, and hey, I even like the title for Batman: Urban Legends #1. And at $7.99 for 64 pages, it's a big, sturdy, solid dose of Batman comics.

In practice, though, the spotlighted characters are, um, not ones I am very interested in: Jason Todd/The Red Hood, Harley Quinn, three members of the original Batman and The Outsiders (Black Lightning, Metamorpho and Katana*) and, for some reason, Grifter, the former WildC.A.T. that has apparently been made part of the Batman cast of characters in some comics I have yet to read/cannot even imagine. 

The creators are mostly the usual suspects, with a few surprises, like Laura Braga and Chip Zdarsky, although given his weird statements and actions on the Cameron Stewart affair earlier this year, I'm not sure how I feel about buying Zdarsky comics anymore...

So probably the biggest news regarding DC Comics in March, as has already been mentioned multiple times, is that the new writer of Detective Comics is going to be Mariko Tamaki, who is a real, live, honest-to-God female woman lady.

Now, if you've just consulted your calendar to make sure that it is indeed 2020 and not 1983, and are wondering why on Earth a woman writing a comic book can still be considered "news", well, I respect  your skepticism. It sure as hell shouldn't be! Except for the fact that no woman has ever written Detective Comics or Batman during the 80+  years those titles have been in existence

Sure, women have written the Batman character before in various Batman-adjacent comics, and there have been decent-sized runs of varying degrees of quality by female writers on Batman family titles like Nightwing (Devin K. Grayson), Catwoman (Jo Duffy, Grayson, Genevieve Valentine, Joelle Jones), Birds of Prey (Gail Simone, Christy Marx, Julie and Shawna Benson), Batgirl (Simone, Marguerite Bennett, Hope Larson, Mairghread Scott and Cecil Castellucci,) and Batwoman (Bennett), but as for the Batman himself...? The closest we've gotten is Grayson's 2000-2002 run on Batman: Gotham Knights, which was then the tertiary Batman title, and which she herself launched. 

Hell, no woman has drawn Batman or Detective until 20-fucking-12, when Becky Cloonan drew part of Batman #12 (Since then, Joelle Jones drew a couple of arcs of Batman), although ladies-drawing-Batman is another glass ceiling/Gotham warehouse skylight that has yet to be entirely shattered. It's particularly galling every time I pick up an issue of one of the books and find extremely mediocre (and occasionally piss-poor) art from a popular but not-very-good male artist. 

Anyway, Tamaki on Detective! Huzzah! I hope it is a good, solid run, one that lasts at least as long as James Tynion's middling run on the book (48 issues from 2016 and 2018), and that it doesn't end up just being a story arc or three like Jones' "run" as Batman artist. 

Now, if they really wanted to blow our minds, they could have paired Tamaki with a female artist, too. (I've long though Fiona Staples or Nicola Scott would be the most obvious female artists for the Bat-books, as both are at this point about as popular as most comics artists gets, and work in a style that most DC readers are familiar with and seem to enjoy. Personally, one of my dream artists on a Batman book, male or female, has long been Elsa Charretier, who has a real Toth-like quality to her work which would be perfect for a dashing, detective adventure take on the character). 

Instead, she'll be working with Dan Mora, who is very, very good. 

As for Detective Comics #1034, it apparently features growing anti-vigilante sentiment in Gotham City, backed by a new mayor, and while there are a lot of unfamiliar characters appearing in the broken shards of glass on that cover, The Huntress and The Penguin are both clearly recognizable. 

Harley Quinn gets yet another relaunch with  a new #1, the occasion of this one apparently being a new creative team: Writer Stephanie Phillips, whose work I am completely unfamiliar with, and artist Riley Rossmo, one of my favorite artists currently working for DC. I obviously can't speak to what Phillips will bring to the character, who I'm not really a particular fan of, but Rossmo's art has an awful lot of manic energy, and he seems a great fit for the character. Additionally, I really love his Batman, which has the some of the tiniest bat-ears I've ever seen him drawn with. 

Oh, and hey, check out the variant cover by Yoshitaka Amano:
That's some nice drawing right there, and it's not the only Amano cover for DC this month. 

Even after reading the official PR on Infinite Horizon #0, I'm not entirely sure what this $5.99, 64-page one-shot is or does, aside from setting up a half-dozen new series (The Joker, Teen Titans Academy) or runs on series (Justice League, Wonder Woman) and doing...something to the DC continuity, as there are characters from different Earths (Note the presence of President Superman) and generations that were previous excised from the DCU (Alan Scott and kids) and Future State characters all standing together for a group photo. 

Having waited on Dark Nights: Death Metal and skipped Geoff Johns' Watchmen vs. The Justice League book, I'm not sure of the current state of the DC Multiverse and continuity, so I would hope this will provide some clues, but it sounds more like a sampler comic. Maybe it's actually Dan Jurgens' comics that are detailing the specifics of DC's always too-fluid setting these days...?

After spending so much time with Underworld Unleashed, I've obviously been thinking about Alan Scott a lot lately, so I'm most excited to see him there on the cover; given that his children Jade and Obsidian are there too, I am assuming—or at least hoping—that DC has restored its Golden Age, and that the concept of generations of heroes existing throughout history has been restored, rather than the half-assed way they've been doing things. We'll see. 

While I was never a fan of the original Infinity, Inc, which was just before my time and my interest in DC Comics, I do think Obsidian has become a potentially important character in terms of offering representation in DC Comics. He came out as gay decades ago, and is one of the publisher's most high-profile gay characters. Additionally, he is an original character with original (or original-ish) powers and his own codename, so he brings diversity to the DCU in a more organic way than, say, introducing a new gay Green Lantern would, or making the Alan Scott of an alternate universe gay (or retroactively  making Alan Scott of this universe gay). 

He's therefore the easiest way to get a gay character on the Justice League, I think; technically Midnighter and Apollo are probably DC's two highest-profile gay characters, but they are essentially just parodies of Batman and Superman that gained lives of their own, and don't feel original in the way that Obsidian does. 

Anyway, on whichever of the infinite Earths that Caleb was the writer of Justice League as opposed to a library clerk and comics blogger, Obsidian is totally on the Justice League. 

The Joker #1 sure isn't a comic I expected to see solicited for 2021, after a few years in which we've probably seen too much Joker versus not enough Joker. It's being written by James Tynion IV, who just did a big Joker storyline in Batman (following another big Joker storyline in Batman) and drawn Guillem March, who drew much of the first of those Joker-related arcs ("Their Dark Designs").

I think March is one of the most interesting artists who works for DC these days, and he's probably my favorite non-Kelley Jones Batman artist alive, so I'm glad to see he's on the title. I know he's drawn various Batman-related books before (Gotham City Sirens, Talon, Batman Eternal, some Batman here and there), but I really wish he'd get the chance for a nice, long run on one of the two main Batman books, one in which he gets to define the character for a bit. That said, I'm happy to hear that we'll be getting a nice, monthly dose of March art again, and I'll definitely check this out in trade. 

Villain-starring series are notoriously hard to pull off, and I don't think they've gotten any easier since the days of the last Joker ongoing monthly, which was published back when villains were supposed to always lose and heroes always win.

Looking at DC's track record with giving villains their own books, it's actually kinda hard to keep bad guys bad, and in many of their villain-fronted series over the years—the various volumes of Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Secret Six and even some iterations of Suicide Squad, the tendency is for the villains to gradually become heroes. That probably won't work here, of course, so it will be interesting to see how long Tynion can keep the series going, and how long he can keep it good for.

Like several other books solicited for March, Joker #1 is going to be $4.99 and run for 40 pages, as it will have a back-up feature, this one starring Punchline, the publisher's  Harley Quinn 2.0, written by a Sam Johns and drawn by Mirka Andolfo.

With March and Andolfo on the same book, this is, at the very least, guaranteed to look pretty dang gorgeous.

Justice League #59 introduces the new, ongoing creative team for the World's Greatest Heroes, and it is writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Marquez. Bendis probably isn't much of a surprise, as Snyder just got done with a run on the book, and Bendis is the publisher's other direct market superstar. So if they were going for star-power with the next writer, Bendis was really the only choice (Personally, I would like to see Kurt Busiek or Christopher Priest, who have both had short, fill-in runs before, but maybe we'll get one of them after Bendis' run).

As expected as this is, I can't say I'm super-stoked. Having read so much of Bendis' Avengers run and a fair chunk of his X-Men at Marvel, I don't think team books are necessarily his forte, and his Avengers books had the unfortunate tendency to not be about the Avengers so much as about whatever the heck Bendis felt like writing about in a particular month. 

Looking at the variant cover, which includes not only the Justice League, but also the Titans, the Suicide Squad, Billy Batson/Shazam and Wally West, I'm afraid this might end up being whatever-Bendis-wants-to-do-in-the-DCU more than a Justice League book. I guess we'll see...? 

There is apparently a new line-up, revealed on the first cover. It looks like Martian Manhunter, The Flash, Green Lantern John Stewart and Wonder Woman are all out. They are being replaced by a coupla old white people who have been Justice Leaguers off-and-on forever (Green Arrow and Black Canary), Black Adam (so, kinda like JSA then...?), Wonder Woman's mom (so kinda like JLA, when Hippolyta temporarily replaced Diana?) and Bendis' own contribution to the DCU, Naomi, who I'm not necessarily too excited about, given how poor Naomi was. 

Of course, having a new character serve as a POV character on a book like this isn't a bad strategy, but Naomi just doesn't seem like Justice League material to me; like, her lack of codename and vague powers seem emblematic of a formlessness that doesn't fit in particularly well in a book that's so often been devoted to the most iconic superheroes. 

I guess it's good she's there, though, as otherwise there'd be no black folks on a Justice League line-up in 2021, which seems bonkers to me. For that reason alone, it seems unfortunate that we have Canary and Green Arrow on the team again and Hippolyta-replacing-her-daughter again and Black Adam-on-a-team-of-do-googers again instead of (deep breath) Amazing Man, Black Lighting, Bloodwynd**, Bronze Tiger, Bumblebee, Coldcast, Cyborg, Freedom Beast, Icon and/or Rocket, Impala or Kid Impala (a good time for a speedster, if The Flash is gone!), Skyrocket, Steel or Vixen siging on.

Writer Tom Taylor and artist Bruno Redondo take over the adventures of the first former Robin with Nightwing #78. I've enjoyed the handful of Batman-related comics I've seen from Taylor, and he seems like a good fit for the character. That should certainly make a lot of people pretty happy, as both Nightwing and Taylor have a lot of very enthusiastic fans. 

I'm also glad to see Taylor get the opportunity to do something in-continuity/canonical, after his years slaving away on those weird Injustice comics and the shockingly popular (to me) DCeased comics. 

I'm a big fan of Phil Hester's artwork, so I'm pretty happy to see that he is part of the new team on Superman #29, alongside writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson. I'm pretty hopelessly behind on Bendis' Superman run, but now that it's ending/over, I guess that's a pretty ideal time to catch up on it. 

Superman: Red and Blue #1 sounds a lot like Batman: Black and White...but different! Like, with different colors, I guess...?  The first issues creators include writers John Ridley and Marguerite Bennett and artists Clayton Henry and Steve Lieber, but the one I am most excited to see is Jill Thompson, an incredible artist who seems like she should have better things to do than DC super-comics, but I'm always interested to see her takes on them.

There are, of course, several different covers for this issue but dang, that Amano one...!

I hope this sells so well DC keeps doing color-based anthologies forever, and after they get Green Lantern: Black, White Green and Flash: Scarlet and Yellow out of their system, they can get to the really good stuff, like Uncle Same: Red, White and Blue or The Red Bee: Red and Bee.

Well, when I saw the concept for the Future State version of Teen Titans, my thought was that it wouldn't be a bad take on the team in continuity, a sort of X-Men-ification of previous runs, like Devin Grayson's...and lo, it has come to pass! Teen Titans Academy #1 has writer Tim Sheridan and artist Rafa Sandoval have Red X, Billy Batson (huh, what about his five siblings?) and other students being taught by "original New Teen Titans" like Nightwing, Starfire and Cyborg, who, um, weren't any such thing in the New 52 continuity, so yeah, I guess we're back to a pre-Flashpoint or otherwise rejiggered DC history...? 

*Actually, I'm quite interested in Black Lightning an Metamorpho, but more so as solo characters, as opposed to as part of Batman's own personal splinter Justice League.

**Aw come on, he's not that bad! He's definitely grown on me over the years. I'd just lose the jewelry and have him spell his name with an "i" instead of a "y" and I think he'd be fine. 


David Spar said...

Louise Simonson wrote a Detective Comics Annual in the 90's (an Armageddon 2001 tie-in) but other than that I don't think there were any female writers on the book until #1027 this year. Which is kinda nuts!

Caleb said...

She did! And I actually read it. That was one of the Armageddon 2001 annuals, and thus among the first Batman comics I had ever read. I remember nothing about it other than the cover at this point, though...

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Might just be me, but DARK KNIGHTS: METAL (then DARK METAL) were incomprehensible. I'd pick up a few at random, since I buy so few books now (with titles like PAPER GIRLS having ended)and it was as if DC was just milking it, just to keep finding a use for The Batman Who Laughs.

Re: TALES OF THE DARK MULTIVERSE, which overlapped a bit, and Snyder more or less created it, I suppose some readers would enjoy them, though I would have enjoyed a DM of ARMAGEDDON 2001 where Captain Atom WAS the bad guy and not Hawk. Instead, we get recent events like Blackest Night and Infinite Crisis. And, honestly? The METAL MEN mini-series helped me understand it more than anything. A threat came from evil Metal Men that actually did appear in the 1960s comic. So it makes it seem like all these Dark Multiverse tie-ins are just a lot of bad What If...?s. (MM was fun, I have a soft spot for them AND DC's attempt at doing 12 issue maxi-series again, like they did in the 80s.)