Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Second Verse, Same as the First

Posted by Don MacPherson on January 12th, 2012

We all knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when — until now. DC Comics has announced its second wave of ongoing titles in its New 52 line of super-hero comics (or other genre books set in the same continuity). And it’s sticking to that “New 52″ label and set number of continuing series. May’s debut of six new titles corresponds to April’s cancellation of six books.

Most of the comics on the chopping block come as little surprise. Cancelled are some of the lowest-selling New 52 books are coming to an end — Men of War, Blackhawks, Static Shock, Mister Terrific, O.M.A.C. and Hawk and Dove — but I found one inclusion in the nixed list and one omission to be curious. Hawk and Dove, according to December sales estimates from Diamond Comic Distributors, was the seventh-worst seller in the lineup. The sixth: Captain Atom, which was spared cancellation. What this means isn’t clear. One could speculate DC Editorial has faith in the book, or perhaps the title character might be a linchpin in some future storyline or crossover. His powers certainly lend themselves to something cosmic in scope. I’m also sorry to see O.M.A.C. go, but it’s heartening to see co-publisher Dan Didio (co-writer on O.M.A.C.) isn’t getting any more leeway than other creators when it comes to sales-performance benchmarks.

These comics all sold in the 15,000-18,000 range December. That could mean DC has set a benchmark for sales for its new lineup, or it could just mean it has its second wave waiting in the wings and something had to make way for potentially higher sellers. Without a doubt, the second wave’s first issues will perform well for DC, but certainly nowhere near the levels the industry saw with the first wave of 52 books in September.

In the time leading up to the initial New 52 launch, I admit, I was excited about the potential for a creative rebirth at DC (which has only proven to be the case in extremely limited measures). When I read of the second wave lineup this afternoon, my interest was piqued again. As I did with the original New 52 lineup, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the new foals in DC’s stables…

Reviving Batman Incorporated for a second run was a no-brainer for DC, as the title was a top seller for the publisher before the New 52 relaunch. It never really made a lot of sense the first wave featured only one title penned by Grant Morrison, who’s probably DC’s most bankable creator. That he and artist Chris Burnham will continue what they did in the first volume of the series and the recent Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes! one-shot will make people who enjoy well-crafted comics happy, as well as DC’s bean counters.

Earth 2 also comes as no surprise, as word had leaked some time ago writer James Robinson and artist Nicola Scott were working on it. Some might view DC’s move to revive its Earth-2 concept (which it actually did several years ago) as a step back, but as a child of the 1970s and ’80s who loved DC’s Golden Age heroes, I’m excited about the book. Of course, it’s something of a step back for Robinson as well, as he’s already done plenty with DC’s Golden Age and legacy characters in Starman and other titles, but I’m looking forward to it. Furthermore, it’s about time DC put Scott to work on a higher-profile book. I expect this will prove to be another top performer for DC.

The next title in DC’s second wave has the potential to be a strong seller for the publisher as well, mainly thanks to the artists it’s lined up to contribute. Offering a new spin on the Superman/Batman teamup premise, DC’s latest World’s Finest title will feature the Huntress and Power Girl, but more importantly, it’ll feature the art of George Perez and Kevin Maguire, two popular artists who owe some of their success to the popularity of the voluptuous female forms that often adorn their creative efforts. Perez and Maguire take turns illustrating story arcs (which should address any deadline issues arising from their meticulously detailed styles). The title is being written by Paul Levitz, which is fitting, since he co-created the Huntress in All-Star Comics in the 1970s and wrote several of Power Girl’s early appearances in the same title.

The next three titles in DC’s second wave of New 52 comics bear some resemblance to the six it just cancelled, in that they feature lesser-known characters and properties. I’m pleased to see it’s giving some of its more unconventional and non-super-hero concepts a try once again. Among them is Dial H, the publisher’s latest spin on the “Dial H for Hero” concept featuring a super-hero with an endless array of identities and powers. DC last tried this out as the premise for an ongoing title almost a decade ago. I’m not familiar with the work of novelist China Miéville and artist Mateus Santoluoco, who’ve been tapped to craft this series, but I like the H-Dial concept enough to give it a gander. The first-issue cover image by Brian Bolland would seem to indicate it’ll be a surreal, dark bit of storytelling, but I fear it may be as short-lived as the titles it’s replacing.

Given its cancellation of Men of War, it’s surprising one of the replacement titles will be G.I. Combat. Even more surprising is the fact the main feature, by writer J.T. Krul and artist Ariel Olivetti, will be a revival of “The War That Time Forgot,” featuring soldiers fighting dinosaurs and monsters on an uncharted island. It’s an odd choice because DC just published The War That Time Forgot in 2008-09. Also back as one of two backup features is The Haunted Tank, which saw life as a Vertigo title in 2009. I’m interested in Olivetti’s work and that of some of the creators on the backup features, so I’ll give the first issue a look, at least, but it looks like in terms of marketability, it has a lot in common with Men of War.

Finally, DC is rounding out its new 52 second wave with a title that expands its Teen Titans family of comics. Superboy and Teen Titans are already linked by plot, characters and creative talent. Now The Ravagers spins off from those books. Written by Howard Mackie and illustrated by Ian Churchill, the promotional copy from DC describes it as such: “This series finds four superpowered teens on the run and fighting against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.” Sounds exactly like the most recent incarnation of Teen Titans to me. Since I didn’t enjoy what I found in Teen Titans #1 a few months ago, I don’t expect there will be much for me in this new series.

DC has lost some of its New 52 momentum from the fall, and six new titles won’t make the same splash as a linewide relaunch. But I also think it’s not too late for a second push for the New 52 brand. DC could make an even bigger splash with some creative shakeups for some of the already-established New 52 titles. Some higher-profile talent on some of the mid- or lower-level books could add to the renewed push. It also strikes me as a shame some of the previously announced creative changes weren’t postponed until the time leading up to the second wave promotional effort. For example, it’s too bad Ann Nocenti’s debut as the new writer on Green Arrow wasn’t delayed until the ninth issue (coinciding with the first issues of the second wave). At least in the industry, DC could’ve made a splash about the respected writer of a classic Daredevil run and co-creator of Longshot helming an ongoing DC title.

My hope is DC has plans to bolster the new push. Its promotional machine functioned quite well the first time around to the (short-term) benefit of all with an interest in the comics marketplace. Here’s hoping it can pull it off again.

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8 Responses to “Second Verse, Same as the First”

  1. TooDiesel Says:

    Really really wish they included a Fourth World title in the new wave of 52 titles.

    Glad to see Churchill back at DC, but more Teen Titans-ish work isn’t what I was hoping for. I’m still buying anything he does though.

    Absolutely crushed that OMAC’s gone. At least we get 8 issues of lovely Giffen art :)

    And hooray for Dial H for Hero. Soooo glad DC doesn’t shy away from their awesome C-titles like OMAC, H for Hero, I Vampyre and Frankenstein. I buy as much of these books as any of the JLA mainstream stuff (Batman, WW, Action, GL, JL etc..).

  2. Simon DelMonte Says:

    The news that DC is hiring Mieville is exciting, because this is the sort of new talent I wanted to see last fall. Nothing against the Marvel men Harras is bringing in, but if DC is going to compete, it has to go new places with new voices.

    Also, given that DC pulled the rug out from under Mieville on Swamp Thing, it’s good to see they managed to smooth things over. Far too many big names have left DC for them to not try harder to keep talent happy.

  3. acespot Says:

    Of course, now they’ve got Liefeld moving on to THREE (!!!) new books, Deathstroke, Hawkman, and Grifter, so my bet is that those books are next for the chopping block. Along with Voodoo.

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    The most logical time to expect the third wave (and there will be a third wave) will be in September. Further cancellations of first-wave titles in the New 52 line seem likely with their 12th issues (due in August). I think it’ll be a limited number, as was the case with the eighth-issue cancellations/second wave.

  5. ThatNickGuy Says:

    It’s interesting how DC has basically turned even cancellations into big news. In a way, it sort of feels like pro-wrestling, where every year (usually around April or May), WWE tends to do some spring cleaning of their roster. About half a dozen names are released, most unsurprising, but sometimes a few surprises are let go. Same applies here.

    It’s also interesting that DC is trying to stick with 52 monthly books (not including mini-series or one-shots like The Ray or Leviathan Strikes, respectively). I still firmly believe there are too many Bat-books, especially now with Batman Inc. returning. Still, if they continue with this (spring cleaning the low-sellling titles after 6 or so issues to make room for new titles), I think it’ll keep things fresh. Cancelling a number of titles all at once also means that it’s bigger news rather than hearing about a title here or there.

    That said, I’m saddened by O.M.A.C.‘s cancelling. At the same time, I understand. If it’s not selling, then it’s not profitable. It’s just business.

    I’m surprised that Red Hood & the Outlaws managed to miss the cut, though.

  6. Don MacPherson Says:

    Nick wrote:
    It’s interesting how DC has basically turned even cancellations into big news.

    DC has been handling the PR for the New 52 incredibly well. I wish the work on the comics was as well done (though it is in a few instances).

  7. ThatNickGuy Says:

    Honestly, I’ve honestly steered clear of most of the “big name” titles like the Bat-titles or Justice League. The cream of the crop for me has been the “other” stuff, such as O.M.A.C., Animal Man and Resurrection Man.

  8. Four Months In, DC Makes Some Major Adjustments » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Don MacPherson has some good commentary on the coming lineup as well as pointing out that the cancelled books were the worst-selling of the line with one exception: Captain Atom, which was saved for some unknown reason. Another weird change that’s coming — Rob Liefeld will be working on THREE books: writing and drawing Deathstroke while plotting Grifter and The Savage Hawkman. I’m just glad I don’t care about any of those titles. [...]