Thoughts on the DC Comics Relaunch…

Action Comics #1 (2011)

Action Comics #1 (2011)

You know, in an ideal world (imagine *that* universe!) I’d probably sample each of the new issue #1’s which DC is launching in September (well, maybe not I, Sparkly Vampire, or whatever it’s called), but, alas, that’s not really feasible. Sad faces all around, for sure, but that said I’ve been following the announcements of the new titles and (beyond any pointless is-it-a-good-or-bad-idea debate) I now have a fairly solid idea of what I’ll be reading, what I’m curious about, and what I might pick up at least once if the mood takes me…

WILL BE READING:

Action Comics #1, written by Grant Morrison (woo!) with art by Rags Morales. The best writer in the industry taking on the greatest character in the world?! Okay, I may have overstated the latter a little, but Superman is the perfect fit for Morrison’s notion that comics should be big crazy explosions of fun in which anything can happen. This, we’re told, is going to be a cold reboot to the early days of Superman (I have a suspicion that, while he’ll be able to leap tall buildings, he might not even be able to fly yet). Action Comics has always been the ‘cornerstone of the whole DC Universe,’ but outside of the DC press pack, Morrison himself has some interesting things to say about the title… He sees it as a chance to ‘recreate’ Superman for the 21st century and ‘do something that’s a little bit new,’ to ‘change some of the basics’ and reintroduce familiar characters in some unfamiliar ways (somewhere, J Michael Straczynski sheds a single tear). Hard to imagine Morrison doing a better job of this then he did in All-Star Superman though (we can’t be friends unless you’ve read that, by the way), but then again look at the author’s track record… Grant Morrison, I trust you more than some of my friends ;-p

What’s more, Morrison says that he and Morales are trying to create a ‘new language’ for comics storytelling, things that ‘only comics’ (so not even movies?) can do. I have no idea what that might be, but I *cannot* wait to find out.

Justice League #1, written by Geoff Johns with art by Jim Lee. Another lynchpin of the relaunch, I think. The *idea* of the Justice League is fantastic, but too often it’s been a disappointment in practice. What I’m most excited about on this title so is the return from Z-list nobodies to a roster which hasn’t been seen properly since Morrison’s JLA run in the 90s, the big seven DC heroes: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and, erm, Cyborg? To echo the disbelief of a thousand fanboys: ‘Cyborg? Fucking Cyborg?’ Very token, Geoff. Just saying. A more diverse DC universe post-relaunch, eh? By adding a black character no one really likes (or, barring Flashpoint, has even heard of in forever) to an otherwise completely Caucasian cast? Why not John Stewart, I wonder? It’s not like he’s reaching his full potential on the Green Lantern titles of late.

But, yeah, Johns promises to begin with a new origin for the group (a ‘secret origin’, if his past inability to think up new titles is anything to go by), and no doubt we’re in for the resurrection of lots of Silver Age stuff he read when he was a kid. Lee, for his part, promises to deliver his art on schedule this time.

Mister Terrific #1, written by Eric Wallace with art by Roger Robinson. I’ve always liked Mr. Terrific, the world’s ‘third smartest man and most eligible bachelor’. Kind of like a more responsible version of Tony Stark. Or me ;-p Seriously though, the character’s matter-of-factness and complete lack of awareness of his subtle egomania, backed up by genuine ability, is a win. I remember a first conversation, from way back when, between Terrific and DC’s *other* African-American hero at the time, Black Lightening. Terrific: ‘You really call yourself *Black* Lightening?’ Lightening: ‘You really call yourself *Mr. Terrific*?’ Another great comics bromance that never was!

Anyway, Terrific’s been reimagined now. His famous FAIR PLAY jacket has been replaced with a FAIR PLAY tattoo, which one imagines is a subtle way of telling us that he’ll be facing off against the evils of Sepp Blatter and FIFA. On the other hand, the series description talks about him taking on ‘science gone mad,’ so maybe the book will be more like Fringe? Which really can’t be a bad thing.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 written by Jeff Lemire with art by Alberto Ponticelli. The Frankenstein miniseries was the best component of Grant Morrison’s incredibly awesome Seven Soldiers of Victory, and now – only six years later; ‘was something left undone?’ indeed! – the character finally gets his own monthly title. Branching off from Seven Soldiers, Frankenstein remains a part of the Super Human Advanced Defence Executive, a task force of strange creatures charged with protecting the world from threats even more horrifying than themselves. Fingers crossed Lemire’s writing will have the emotional depth and the same wide canvass as Morrison’s book (which, over four issues, visited the American Mid-West, Mars, Tibet, and the far future!). Mind you, it’s hard to go wrong when your hero is the most famous self-hating monster in literary history, though now with blazing guns and an internet connection in his head. If this isn’t an amazing book that then I’m going to be very sad.

Justice League Dark #1, written By Peter Milligan with art By Mikel Janin. Sure it’s got a silly name (what’s next, Justice League: Nuts and Berries?) but it’s also got Deadman, Zatanna (a great character, often used badly) and John Constantine fighting sundry supernatural threats. Sounds like fun, right? Peter Milligan is writing it, and – at least in theory – he ought to know what he’s doing having earned his bread-and-butter writing Constantine for Hellblazer. Newsarama spoke to him about this and he says the ‘Dark’ of the title ‘doesn’t always or necessarily mean supernatural black magic dark. It can mean emotionally dark. A messed up confused kind of dark. The basic, screwed-up human condition transplanted onto a superhero/supernatural comic’. While I’ve been enjoying the screwed-up human condition for while now, I can always stand to read more about it. This seems as good a book as any to supply my requisite dose of spooky. At least until the advent of Justice League Chocolate Orange.

Green Lantern #1, written by Geoff Johns with art By Doug Mahnke. Like I’m not going to pick up a Green Lantern book 🙂 Geoff Johns promises that ‘change is coming. But set aside your fear. It’ll be worth the wait.’ Which sounds like Geoff Johns’s pitch for pretty much *everything* he’s ever written. Regardless, the storylines and continuity he’s built up over the last few years on this title seem set to be preserved after the relaunch, and I’m pretty invested in them despite their increasing silliness of late (indeed, the best depiction of the Green Lanterns recently was arguably not in any of Johns’s work at all, but in Morrison’s Final Crisis). Maybe after the relaunch it’ll spend less time on the incestuous infighting of the United Colours of Benetton, or whatever that War of Light was. Also, Geoff, a suggestion from the cheap seats: Not every storyline needs to be called ‘The Something-Something *WAR*!’

Green Lantern Corps #1, written by Peter J. Tomasi with art By Fernando Pasarin. You know something? I’ve always preferred GLC to the main Green Lantern title. Why? Four words: Crazy Outer Space Adventures. In the main, Hal Jordan polices Earth; the characters of Green Lantern Corps police the *universe*. And, blow for blow, I think it’s been the more entertaining book of the pair. Hal’s stories can be a *little* po-faced on occasion, meanwhile GLC give us bucket loads of intergalactic silliness, like that two-issue arc about Guy Gardner’s vacation (actually, I’m not kidding, that was pretty good). That said, the storylines of GLC are tied quite heavily into those of its parent title, and while that certainly paid off with the ‘Sinestro Corp War’, I don’t think it worked as well with ‘Blackest Night’. If the relaunch does anything with this title I hope it takes on board Kilowog’s comments at the end of the latter storyline: ‘I need to get back to just being a simple space cop’.

Stormwatch #1, written by Paul Cornell with art by Miguel Sepulveda. When DC promised that they’d eventually be integrating their Wildstorm publishing line with DC proper, I don’t think anyone imagined the openly gay Batman and Superman analogues Midnighter and Apollo in the same universe as Batman and Superman themselves? I mean, we should have; but we didn’t. The inevitable team-up (no, that’s not a euphemism) is going to rock. Also on the roster? Of all the characters in the multiverse? The Martian Manhunter (who looks very chuffed with himself on the cover art). Again, reaction to everything in this book seems to require a double-take. Martian Manhunter? As part of Stormwatch?! This. Could be. Awesome.

Though, if it is awesome, the real reason why will be Paul Cornell, who wrote last year’s Lex Luther run on Action Comics along with some of the best Doctor Who episodes since it was revived (‘Father’s Day’, ‘Human Nature’/’The Family of Blood’). Without explaining himself, he promises that Stormwatch have a very specific mission. He also says it won’t lose any of its edge, which is good because a book about Midnighter and Apollo picking out curtains would be a little bit boring. My only question? Is the history of The Authority still in continuity or not? I suspect I know the answer…

TITLES I’M CURIOUS ABOUT:

Superman: Man of Tomorrow #1, Written by George Perez with art by Jesus Merino. The Man of Steel’s other title, now with Supes wearing his underwear on the *inside* (we’ll see how long that lasts). While Morrison’s Adventure Comicspromises the big picture Superman stuff, it seems like this is more focused on the character in Metropolis, on his ‘friends, loved ones and his job at The Daily Planet’. Guess this is going to be the one with the Lois Lane stuff so. At first I was a little put out when I heard their relationship was going to be rewound to the point when they first met (wiping out, what? Fifteen years of stories where they’ve been married?). As it’s settled in though, I’ve started to think that it might be fun to see this relationship told fresh from the outset (only, you know, not in the Über-shit fashion of Smallville; if you’re going to do it, Mr. Perez, please do it properly). Less enthusiastic about the rumoured prospect of a Superman/Lois/Wonder Woman love triangle, but then I’m old fashioned like that. Maybe fan reaction will nix it in the bud.

Supergirl #1, written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, with art by Mahmud Asrar. Supergirl wouldn’t ever be at the top of my must-read list, but this is written by the two guys who wrote what I consider the only good arc ofSuperman/Batman, ‘The Search for Kryptonite’ (check that out in the trade, it’s a fantastic story). Of course, they also worked on Smallville, but no one’s perfect. Another mark in the cons column? Supergirl has fallen victim to DC’s new No-Short-Skirts policy, which – if you’ll allow me an adolescent moment of objectification – is a questionable editorial decision when large sections of your audience is male. Maybe I’m being unfair in that, I don’t know… I am interested in the response to this title though. Supergirl seems to have been reimagined as having a less ‘affection for the people of Earth’. Jars a bit with my preferred depiction of the character from (as with most things) Final Crisis, where she exuded a kind of unfocused artistic temperament (a bit of art, a bit of music, hadn’t quite settled on anything). Is taking the character in a colder direction the right move? I guess we’ll find out.

Batwoman #1, written and drawn by J.H. Williams III. I’m not the biggest Batman fan in the world, I know some of you will hold that against me, but with something like *ten* Bat family titles coming as part of the relaunch, I’ll certainly be sampling around to see what grabs me. From the solicits though, Batwoman #1 stands out. I liked Kate Kane’s character a lot in 52 (though, like many others, she was wasted in JLA: Cry for Justice), and in general I feel like she more distinctive than many of the other Bat characters (especially given Barbara Gordon’s return from Character-of-her Own to plain ole’ Gotham variety Batgirl). I also hear they’re giving Kane a sidekick on this title. That’s good; everyone needs a sidekick. Plus to be at her best, she really needs someone to bounce off of (the dynamic between her and Renee Montoya in 52 was terrific). Add to that the art Williams brings to the table? Yeah, I want to see how this one turns out.

Batwing #1, written by Judd Winick with art by Ben Oliver. Speaking of Bat titles, is this the first new character fromBatman, Inc to get his own series? I think so. Though whoever in the DC office described him as ‘the Batman of Africa’ apparently learned geography at Sarah Pailn Elementary, but we’ll leave that one side (I sincerely doubt he’s supposed to cover the *entire* continent). Still, a high-tech, Batman style crimefighter in an African milieu? Certainly there’s enough story potential there to last for hundreds of issues, but I hope Winick doesn’t just transpose generic superhero stories onto the setting. The great promise of this is one which can only be fulfilled if it stays true to its heritage, so to speak: an African hero solving African problems, and hopefully without devolving into generic military dictatorship tomfoolery. Lets save that for…

Men of War #1, written by Ivan Brandon with art by Tom Derenick. Now this might be interesting… The grandson of the original Sgt. Rock assumes command of Easy Company, a team of crack ex-military types ‘financed by a covert military contractor’. It promises ‘contemporary military storytelling and fighting under modern conditions,’ which, if done with appropriate seriousness and attention to detail, could be a blistering read. The war in Iraq or Afghanistan in *comic book form*? If it could do for soldiers as characters what, say, Tom Clancy does for warplanes as machines, then I’ll definitely check it out.

Justice League International #1, written by Dan Jurgens with art by Aaron Lopresti. So, a Green Lantern, a Russian, and a Chinaman walk into a bar…No, I’m kidding. Well, I’m half-kidding. This is a tea book, sure, but essentially a Booster Gold title with Batman, Fire, Ice, August-General-in-Iron, Guy Gardner, and Rocket Red along for the ride. This book could be (should be) funny. Not, like slapstick, but certainly it should have a sense of gallows humour to it all (come on, it’s got Booster *and* Guy Gardner!). There are mostly interesting characters, mind, and there’s an awful lot of potential for them to get on each other’s nerves! What is August-General-in-Iron going to make of Booster? Almost doesn’t bear thinking about! My only quibble is Batman. Does he need to be here, I wonder? Seems like he’ll be the one to put the kibosh on the ‘Ba-ha-ha’ JLI was known for back in the day (really, why is he such a misery guts? Oh, right, I remember now…). I suppose he could be the straight man to Booster and Guy, but we’ll see…

Demon Knights #1, written By Paul Cornell with art by Diogenes Neves. Despite my fondness for certain medievalists, I wouldn’t really be one who reads a lot of medieval stories. That said, it’s Paul Frickin’ Cornell again! (I believe that’s his name as it appears on his long form birth cert.) Honestly though, Cornell is enough for me to want to find out more about this book, in which Etrigan the Demon fights evil in the Middle Ages with a motherfracking *enormous* sword. He’s fighting for Camelot, no less. Because the Kennedy’s haven’t had enough trouble controlling their enormous swords.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1, written by Paul Levitz with art by Francis Portela. I feel like the Legion books have been a mess for a long time and this might be a way of bringing them back to something worth reading. What’s more, this might add some decent outer space shenanigans to the DC Universe, which – let’s face it – is really what I’m all about. Not sure if I’m equally interested in the fish-out-water Legion Lost #1, written by Fabian Nicieza with art by Pete Woods, which transplants some of the 31st century characters to the present. ‘When the future tech they brought with them fails, they find themselves trapped in a nightmarish world and an ultimate struggle to survive’. Hmmmm… So, you’re basically saying these heroes can’t really fend for themselves without their gadgetry? Interesting choice that…

Anyway, honourable mentions in this category? Blue Beetle #1, written by Tony Bedard with art by Ig Guara. Animal Man #1, written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman. Green Arrow #1 written JT Krul with art by Dan Jurgens.Batman and Robin #1 written by Peter Tomasi with art by Pat Gleason (Tomasi and Gleason worked well on Green Lantern Corp).

MIGHT READ AT LEAST ONCE:

The Fury of Firestorm #1, written by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone, with art by Yildiray Cinar. Firestorm is a cool character and a cool concept (oh, banter!) so that’s one reason for me to find out what they’re going to do with this material. Another is what Gail Simone has been tweeting. Of course there’s a lot of hyperbole flying around about the relaunch, but I’m intrigued by Simone’s comments about Firestorm: ‘Honest to God, this is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever worked on in any capacity […] Forget anything you ever thought about Firestorm being a B-list character. You will not believe this thing’. Okay, Gail, if I come across a copy I’ll check it out. I hope you’re telling me the truth…

Blackhawks #1, written by Mike Costa with art by Ken Lashley. ‘Kill the bad guys before they kill us’; advice for life, that. Costa’s book is pitched as high-tech ‘mercenary fun’, which seems to be a another way of saying heavily armed fighter pilot types will be blowing the bejasus out of things with jingoistic aplomb. Which isn’t really a mark against it, is it? Could be great fun! So why is this under ‘Might Read Once’ and not ‘Curious About’? Because, based on the cover art, I worry it could end up as more like GI Joe than Generation Kill

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1, written by Tony Bedard with art by Tyler Kirkham. Remember how I said if there was a GL book then I’d be reading it? Well, I’m a liar (but then, you knew that!). I’m on the fence about this one. Kyle Rayner leading a team made up of one member from each of the Lantern emotional colour spectrum? Green, Yellow, Red, Blue, Indigo, Violet, Orange, and possibly even a Black lantern? Hmmmm… I’m not dubious, but I’m prepared to be. Yes, I’ll be happy is this is awesome, but some of that Emotional Spectrum stuff can get a little Captain Planet, so I’m waiting to see.

Also, don’t ask me yet about the Red Lanterns book from Peter Milligan and Ed Benes… I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt (look at me, growing as a person!) but it sounds as though it *might* be pushing the boundaries of necessity…

Finally, there’s O.M.A.C. #1, written by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen, with art by Keith Giffen.  A cool premise from the great Jack Kirby; the One Man Army Corp. reimagined from a funky, mohawked, 1970s instrument of global policing into… What? A ‘powerful killing machine’? A pony-tailed blue Hulk? Could be The Fugitive meets, I dunno, one seventh ofThe Seven Samurai. Or perhaps I’m being too generous? :-p It could at least be enjoyable, especially if it honours the Kirby level of crazy it blossoms from, and Keith Griffen is usually dependable so I may take a look.

Advertisements

One Response to Thoughts on the DC Comics Relaunch…

  1. Pingback: Responding to DC’s New 52 Survey « illusory promise

%d bloggers like this: