Posted by Don MacPherson on June 11th, 2011
For a long time, comics readers in North America fell into two main categories: those that discovered and favored DC Comics titles as kids, and those that latched onto Marvel Comics characters. The first three comics I ever got as a kid and read were an issue of Charlton’s Six Million Dollar Man, Amazing Spider-Man #183 (featuring Rocket Racer and the Big Wheel) and Batman Family #19. It was the latter to which I was drawn the most because it featured more colorful characters and more stories. That was the summer of 1978, and right away, I was a DC kid. It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that I ventured into the world of Marvel.
So, skipping ahead 30 years or so, the DC kid inside me is rather intrigued about DC’s ambitious relaunched initiative, set to begin in September with 52 new first issues. Now that all 52 new titles and creative teams have been announced, I felt like offering my two cents’ worth about the new DC Universe line as a whole, in the order in which they were announced, and by clusters.
Justice League was the first of the relaunches to be announced, and since it’ll be released Aug. 31 along with Flashpoint #5, it’ll also be the first to be released. Given that the creative team is Geoff Johns and Jim Lee (with his longtime inker Scott Williams), it was a smart move. Lee’s popularity has never waned since the early 1990s, and Johns’ popularity is at its peak right now. I’ll be picking it up, but as many others have speculated, I’m concerned about the staying power of the creative team. In other words, it remains to be seen how many issues Lee can deliver in a row and on time. Given that Justice League is clearly intended as the flagship of the entire relaunched line, it’s vital that this high-profile creative team maintains its momentum. As the flagship title, Justice League will also serve as a symbol of the entire line, and any weakness seen in its handling could taint the entire initiative.
Based on online discussions and commentary I’ve read, Wonder Woman might just be the most anticipated of the entire line creatively, and that’s thanks to the participation of artist Cliff Chiang. It’s certainly the book to which I’m most looking forward. This is the high profile that should solidify his already strong reputation in the industry and bring his lovely style to the attention of a wider audience. Brian Azzarello is an unusual choice as the writer for this new vision of the iconic heroine, but I’ve enjoyed most of his work in the past. At the very least, he’ll no doubt deliver an intelligent interpretation of the character and novel conflicts.
Geoff Johns has had the Midas touch when it comes to Green Lantern and the Flash, and now he’s turning his attention to Aquaman. Given that he’s joined by the popular Blackest Night and Brightest Day art team of Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, I have no doubt this will be another hit for DC. I’ll definitely be checking it out. However, DC’s goal shouldn’t be to move a lot of copies of the first story arc. Aquaman has a spotty history in terms of ongoing titles. As a starring character, he’s faltered often in the past. If this incarnation is to have any staying power, Johns will need to stick with the title for quite some time (unlike the one year he put in on Booster Gold, for example).
The Flash is another character that’s suffered from a start-and-stop approach to his titles in recent years. The past two iterations of the ongoing Flash title haven’t lasted much more than a year, and despite the fact that a Flash-oriented event, Flashpoint, written by Geoff Johns leads up to this relaunched, Johns isn’t continuing with the character anymore. That’s why the choice for the creative team on this latest stab at a Flash series is so important. The key is that this new book is co-written and illustrated by Francis Manapul. While I don’t know what I expect from the artist as a writer, his popularity on the previous Flash series was undeniable, and his participation in this new one makes use of that momentum. I enjoy Manapul’s soft, airy style, so I’m looking forward to it.
One of the recurring motifs that emerged as DC announced these new titles and creative teams was that it was giving artists a chance to write stories (see comments about The Flash directly above). With The Fury of Firestorm, artist Ethan van Sciver sets down his pencils, pens and brushes and sits at a keyboard to serve as this new book’s co-writer. I honestly have no thoughts about it or any speculation to offer as to how he’ll perform in this capacity. I do know I’ll be picking up the book because the other writer on the book is Gail Simone, who always brings a lot of energy and joy to whatever project she takes on. Furthermore, artist Yildiray Cinar boasts a traditional, old-school super-hero style that should prove to be a lot of fun as well. I’m hopeful about this book, though I wonder if, given how the advance promotional art seems to indicate a major shift in the character’s status quo, that the creators will abandon the ticking-time-bomb concept set up at the end of Brightest Day. I suspect that plot concept may be abandoned, as the solicitation information indicates the characters have been retooled and rebooted (as Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are described as both being high school students now).
Speaking of artists who write, Tony S. Daniel will be penning The Savage Hawkman. Daniel’s written before (Batman), but not for another artist, I believe. Given that fact and my disinterest in what he’s written before, I’m doubtful I’ll be following this new interpretation of Hawkman. I didn’t much care for artist Philip Tan’s work on Green Lantern a couple of years ago, so that’s another strike against it.
I’m not buying the current run of Green Arrow penned by writer J.T. Krul, so it’s highly unlikely I’ll be signing up for another new title by the same name, featuring the same character and written by the same man. Mind you, the recent GA did OK for DC, but it had the benefit of Brightest Day branding. This won’t be true anymore. Pairing Krul with veteran artist Dan Jurgens (who’s illustrated GA comics in the past) isn’t a bad idea, but it’s not enough to draw me in. It remains to be seen if others will feel the same way.
Given the success DC had with its biweekly Justice League: Generation Lost series, bringing that lineup back for a new Justice League International was a logical move. Written by Dan Jurgens and illustrated by Aaron Lopresti, it promises to be a solid, traditional super-hero team title. I’ll give it a look for sure
Mister Terrific was the first really big surprise that DC gave us as it began releasing details of its new lineup. Clearly, giving this Justice Society member his own solo title is in keeping with DC’s effort to spotlight a more diverse array of characters. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of writer Eric Wallace’s work, and it’s been a long time since I sampled artist Roger Robinson’s rather standard super-hero artwork, so the creators aren’t really a draw here. Fortunately, the character is, as is the fact that it’s an unusual choice. I did find one aspect of the promotional material for this new title to be a bit puzzling. DC has proclaimed this character as “one of its most eligible bachelors,” but the character’s origin and motivation are linked to the death of his wife. He’s been portrayed as a stoic and forlorn figure in the past, so I wonder if this is another reboot with a more upbeat slant.
Ever since its Armageddon 2001 event in 1991, DC Comics really hasn’t known what to do with Captain Atom, so I was surprised to see the character selected as the star of one of the new 52 titles. The property has never really been a big draw, and while DC has tasked a couple of its go-to guys (writer J.T. Krul and artist Freddie Williams II) with the creative chores, they’re not really big draws either. I’m going to pass on it, and I have to say it’s a longshot.
DC has an almost endless supply of interesting characters, so DC Universe Presents, an ongoing series featuring different characters by different creative teams for each story arc, seems like a good idea. Furthermore, featuring Deadman in the inaugural storyline is a smart move, given the character’s prominence in the popular Brightest Day series. Turning to writer Paul Jenkins and solid-performer-but-hardly-a-star-artist Bernard Chang seems like it could be a misstep. Still, I like their work and I like the character, so I’m on board. It’s a shame, though, that cover artist Ryan Sook isn’t illustrating the interiors, as his dark style is a nice fit for Deadman. I look forward to learning what other characters will be featured in this series, though DC would be wise to put some A-list talent to work here to ensure the series’ viability. I’m also curious about the title of this series. Does calling this DC Universe Presents serve as a signal that DC might be abandoning its DC Comics Presents line of affordable reprints? I certainly hope not.
Green Lantern by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy. Green Lantern Corps by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna. Green Lantern: The New Guardians by Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham and Batt. And the previously-announced-but-yet-to-begin Red Lanterns by Peter Milligan, Ed Benes and Rob Hunter.
Not much has changed when it comes to DC’s Green Lantern family of titles, and why would it? Green Lantern by Johns and Mahnke has been one of the publisher’s top performers for a while now, and it makes sense that it wouldn’t want to mess much with what’s working. I’m reading all of the GL titles right now, so I plan on continuing to do so in the fall.
DC’s other strongest brand at the moment is its Batman line of books, and in some respects, it’s maintaining some of the same titles and talent, but not nearly to the same degree as the GL family of books.
Scott Snyder, the writer on the current Detective Comics run, takes the helm of the relaunched Batman titles in September, and given the strong buzz about his current Batman stories, it’s a smart move. Now, many have commented that it’s odd that DC is trying to give its comics a fresh start using the same array of talent, but with this new title, it has brought in a name talent who’s not known for DC work. Former Spawn and Haunt artist Greg Capullo comes to DC. While his work doesn’t appeal to me, I see the logic behind this move. Capullo’s participation here could attract a fanbase that Capullo developed during his time on those Image/McFarlane Productions titles. I’m still on the fence about this one, but Snyder’s rep will probably be enough for me to check out the first issue.
The same can’t be said for the new Detective Comics, written and illustrated by Tony S. Daniel. I wasn’t reading his pre-relaunch Batman run, and I see no reason to change my mind now.
While writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason have offered some solid comics collaborations before, it’s the core premise behind Batman & Robin that will get me to pick up the first couple of issues. Bruce Wayne fights crime with his cantankerous son Damian as the Dyanmic Duo — that’s worth reading. The dynamic between Damian and Dick Grayson was a lot of fun, so this shift promises new possibilities.
I gave writer/artist David Finch a couple of issues to win me over with his Batman: The Dark Knight earlier this year, and I wasn’t hooked. I see no reason to give him another shot just because the title is starting over with a new first issue already.
The Birds of Prey relaunch is another one of the rare instances in which DC’s got some new talent coming to work for it. Writer Duane (The Immortal Iron Fist) Swierczynski takes over the property from longtime writer Gail Simone, and as much as I love Simone’s work, I think bringing a fresh perspective to the group might be a good move. I’d grown a bit tired of Birds in recent years, and I dropped the most recent incarnation of the book after only a couple of issues (after being disappointed with the Ed Benes artwork). Jesus Saiz’s work is much stronger, so I’ll definitely be nesting with the Birds for at least a couple of issues with the relaunch.
The image of Catwoman lying on her back with several inches of cleavage showing didn’t work on me in the past, and it’s not working now. It’s a shame, as artist Guillem March has been developing quite a following. I’d like to check out his work, but not a bad-girl comic. Writer Judd Winick is another one of those creators that DC’s come to rely upon, but it’s been a long time since his work had the sort of strong, grounded, character-driven focus that initially drew me to his work years ago.
I thought Oracle was a great character that made Birds of Prey a solid performer for DC for several years, so I was dismayed to see that Barbara Gordon was becoming Batgirl again. The title seems to diminish her senior status in the Batman Family as well. However, this title is written by Gail Simone, and that’s enough to get me on board. The art team of Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes is an up-and-coming one at DC, and I’ve enjoyed its rather solid work in the past.
So if I’m picking up Batgirl, will I be buying Batwoman as well? With J.H. Williams III on board as artist and co-writer, of course I am. This is just another new title that was delayed for a few months due to this relaunch initiative, so I’m expecting the same sort of strong storytelling we saw during the title character’s stint in Detective Comics and in Batwoman #0.
I hadn’t planned on buying the relaunched Nightwing title. I’m not familiar with writer Kyle Higgins’ work, I’m usually only lukewarm about artist Eddy Barrows’ work and I don’t care for the costume redesign at all. However, the solicitation for the first issue has piqued my interest. It says, “Haley’s Circus, the big top where (the hero) once performed with his family, returns to Gotham – bringing with it a history of murder, mystery and superhuman evil.” That’s enough to put it in my “maybe” pile.
One-time X-men scribe Scott Lobdell brings his Kewl, 1990s sensibilities to Red Hood and the Outlaws, and while he hadn’t disappeared from the landscape of comics in recent years, this (and the other DC titles debuting in September that he’s writing) marks something of a comeback for him. Mind you, I have no interest in a group of anti-heroes, Lobdell’s writing or artist Kenneth Rocafort’s work, so I’ll pass. I’m actually quite confused as to why DC green-lit this series. I don’t believe there’s an audience out there right now looking for this kind of material.
Batwing, on the other hand, strikes me as an interesting experiment and something worth taking a risk on. A comic about an African super-hero promises to cast a wider cultural net for the DC Universe readership, and I like that idea. However, the participation of writer Judd Winick and still developing artist Ben Oliver doesn’t exactly excite me. I expect rather than standard super-hero fare from them, not something new. I’ll likely pass on this one unless advance buzz or previews indicate I can expect more from this book.
What’s most perplexing about the relaunches of the Batman line is the complete absence of writer Grant Morrison’s participation, given that he reinvigorated the line a few years ago to the point that several Batman books are top sellers for DC. Now, I suppose Morrison isn’t complete absent, as his influence is apparent in a couple of the books (namely, Batman & Robin and Batwing), and DC has announced Morrison’s Batman Incorporated will return in 2012. Nevertheless, the lack of his direct participation in the September relaunches of the Batman books seems like a significant misstep.
Well, that’s half of DC’s soon-to-be-reshuffled deck. Click here to read my thoughts on DC’s Dark, Edge, Young Justice and Superman Family groups of books.
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