Friday, November 16, 2012

Rant Reflections: DC Comics February 2013 Solicitations

Like a lot of comic readers, I have the habit of reading through the solicits each month for the material that will be published a few months hence. This is a potentially ongoing feature I'm trying out; basically, it's a stream-of-consciousness commentary on what I see as I scroll down the page. Since it's stream-of-consciousness, any typos you spot are by design. Yeah, that's the ticket.
There's a lot to digest in DC's February 2013 solicitations, so let's dive right in!

Before Watchmen
These controversial series keep chugging along, with four of them-- Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, Comedian, and Ozymandias-- ending their runs this month. A one-shot starring the ill-fated Dollar bill has been added, and it's illustrated by Steve Rude, to boot! It'll look pretty, if nothing else.

Justice League group
The Throne of Atlantis crossover wraps in Justice League and Aquaman; notably, no mention is made of the Shazam! backup, so Grodd only knows when we'll actually get to see the conclusion of that story. The new Justice League of America series launches with 52 variant covers, one for each state, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Honestly, I rolled my eyes when this was announced; I don't really care about variant covers for the most part, and the number of variants Marvel has had for some of their recent series are, frankly, disgusting. However, DC is making all 52 covers easily ordered in any quantity retailers wish, without having to meet some sales threshold, as is the norm. With that in mind, I think it's a cool and fun idea. I'll probably pick up a copy of the Mississippi variant in spite of my dislike of David Finch's artwork. For the uber-obsessive collector, a pack of all 52 variants plus the standard cover is available for the low, low price of $149.99.
Green Arrow gets its fourth creative team since the relaunch, with Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire and I, Vampire artist Andrea Sorrentino coming aboard. Green Arrow is one of those characters I usually like, but I only follow his series when it's really good, and so far, the current series has not been nearly up to snuff. The DC relaunch last September did a lot of good, but it also did a good bit of damage to certain characters; Green Arrow is one of the characters who has been screwed over the most. He's been almost unrecognizable since the reboot, and the book has been bland at its best(not that it was great before the advent of the New 52!). There will hopefully be some new readers checking the series out because of the Arrow TV show, and if anyone can pull the book out of its nosedive and make it worth reading again, this team can.
The new ongoing series Katana and Vibe(Vibe!!) kick off. It's always nice to see another book with a female lead, and the New 52 version of Katana has been pretty interesting so far. Ann Nocenti has not wowed me with her DC work so far; her stint on Green Arrow did nothing but make me quickly drop the book again, and her Catwoman #0 was a bit of a mess. Still, I've read a few of her Daredevil issues, so I know she is a capable writer, so I'm cautiously optimistic about this. Vibe will likely have a bit of a rough road, as the character has long been the butt of many jokes in the DCU. Vibe is a break-dancing Hispanic character introduced during the Justice League Detroit era, itself a much-derided period in JL history. Still, co-writer Geoff Johns has proven himself very adept at redeeming previously discarded and mocked characters, and with Pete Woods providing the art, it'll at least look good.
The Flash wraps up its Gorilla Warfare storyline, which should be lots of fun, even though I'd be perfectly happy if the Flash fought superpowered gorillas in every issue. It seems that Orion will be part of the regular cast of Wonder Woman for a while, and that's okay with me! This has been one of the best books available since its launch, and it looks like it's only going to get better.
The Savage Hawkman is a book I dropped very quickly, and then stayed far, far away from as Rob Liefeld took over and did what Rob Liefeld does. With a new team installed, I'll check it out, but it'll have to endear itself to me very quickly to avoid getting axed once again. I read the first two Dan Jurgens issues of The Fury of Firestorm, and they were solid, if unremarkable, superhero comics. whether or not I'll still be reading in February, I don't know.
Arsenal gets a spotlight issue in DC Universe Presents. I almost give a fuck.
Earth 2 and Worlds' Finest are a pleasant one-two punch I look forward to the first week of every month, and that's no different here. Dr. Fate debuts? Awesome! Taking up plot threads from Mr. Terrific's disappearance? Fantastic!

Superman group
Grant Morrison's final issue of Action Comics ships this month, and that makes me sad. I'm sure it'll be awesome, but when he was first announced as the writer of this book, I was hoping we'd get a multi-year mega-epic like he gave us with Batman. Alas, it was not to be.
The rest of the books are mired in the H'El on Earth crossover, in which I have approximately zero interest.

Batman group
Speaking of Grant Morrison, his Batman Inc. only a few more issues to go. The cover art teases Batman and Robin against the Heretic, which will no doubt be a blast. We need to put our scientists to work cloning Morrison and Chris Burnham so we can keep getting such a goddamn awesome Batman book forever.
The currently-running and thoroughly awesome epic Death of the Family concludes in Batman. That cover fucking rules your face.
Talon is a pretty interesting book so far. The Gotham Ripper sounds vaguely familiar, so I'm wondering where I read the name before.
The Dark Knight continues its exploration of the Mad Hatter. I've been enjoying this series since Gregg Hurwitz took over as writer, but Ethan Van Sciver taking over the art is only going to improve it. I hope these two stay on the book for a while.
Check out this solicit for Batman and Robin: "Batman and Robin gear up to protect Gotham City in the week leading up to the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding!" Sounds fun to me! This is consistently one of the best superhero books out there, and yet it's the only Batman book I never hear anyone talking about. More people need to be reading it.
Detective Comics has been rockin' ever since John Layman and Jason Fabok took over. Looking forward to this storyline.
The current Batgirl series is a book I want to like more than I do. From the get-go, it's never been good enough that I actually look forward to it each month, but it's not bad or anything. I just never seem to enjoy it as much as I feel I should, and the recent addition of Ed Benes as the artist ain't helping. For all of that, I'm still looking forward to the book's involvement in Death of the Family, and the return of James Gordon Jr.
Batwoman fucking rules. It hit a bit of a rough patch during its second story arc, with the artist turnover and all, but it quickly reasserted itself as a goddamn amazing series. The current arc featuring Wonder Woman has been fantastic so far, and I'm looking forward to this issue's conclusion.
Like I said, the jury is still out on Ann Nocenti's run on Catwoman. We'll see.
Birds of Prey and Batwing are both middle-of-the-pack books that I usually enjoy, but don't love. I am looking forward to seeing what Fabien Nicieza has planned when he takes over Batwing, though.
Nightwing looks interesting this month, as Death of the Family seems as if it's going to be particularly rough on Dick.
Red Hood and the Outlaws has been pretty terrible from day one, but I suspect I'll have to check this issue out, since it promises Bruce confronting Jason in the aftermath of Death of the Family. That's something I wanna see.

The Green Lantern group is launching into another crossover, Wrath of the First Lantern, as soon as the current one ends, giving readers no breathing room whatsoever. Geoff Johns's work hasn't been as strong on GL the last couple of years, but I am still enjoying it; however, the books' near-constant state of MEGA CROSSOVER EVENT can get rather tiring.

The Dark group
Phantom Stranger has been a decent book so far, improving with each issue, so I am looking forward to this issue. Jae Lee's cover is fucking awesome.
Sword of Sorcery hasn't won me over yet, so I may no longer be reading when this issue ships. We'll see.
Rotworld wraps up in Animal Man and Swamp Thing. I really enjoy these two books every month, but the pacing on this storyline seems rather slow so far. Hopefully, business will have picked up considerably by the time these issues ship.
Dial H is another book I like, but don't love. I am looking forward to Alberto Ponticelli taking over the art, but this book needs to start engaging me more. Not sure if I'll still be getting it in February.
I'm still smarting from my beloved Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE getting cancelled, but at least Frank himself wlll be showing up in Justice League Dark. This book is a favorite month in and month out, and I really hope the creative team stays in place for a good long while.
The core concept of I, Vampire has been turned on its head recently, and it's been a lot of fun. Looking forward to seeing that play out.
I've enjoyed Robert Venditti's work on Valiant's X-O Manowar, although I do find it a little too "decompressed." That said, I am optimistic about him taking over Demon Knights, and I'm glad DC didn't cancel it, too.

The Edge group continues apace, with Team 7 writer Justin Jordan taking over Deathstroke as well, which means it's okay for me to give the latter title a try again. The first eight issues of Deathstroke were pretty fun, but it immediately became unreadable when Rob Liefeld (yeah, him again) took over.
Threshold is defnitely interesting, boasting stories featuring fan-favorite Larfleeze and Blue Beetle, as well as such obscure characters as the Space Cabbie! For all I know, the one-off story featuring the Cabbie in Starman over a decade ago is the last time that character was even mentioned in the pages of a comic. I honestly don't expect this title to survive for very long in today's marketplace, but I sure am glad that DC keeps taking chances on books like this.
All-Star Western looks amazing, as always, while Suicide Squad and Stormwatch are always unspectacular, but solid, reads.
With the cancellation of Blue Beetle, I read absolutely nothing from the Young Justice group of books. that entire category seems to be sliding down the tubes; one wonders what DC has planned to rejuvenate it.

The non-New 52 books have plenty to offer as well. I've enjoyed Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's gradual Freedom Fighters revival in the form of miniseries tackling each character, so I'll be checking out Human Bomb. JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull just looks cool as hell, and since I love the first two of those series so much, this on is a no-brainer. Joe Kubert Presents is a series I've looked forward to since it was announced earlier this year, but now the series also serves as a tribute/memorial for Kubert himself. I can think of no better tribute to the man than having some great comics published with his name on the cover.
The print collections of DC's digital first series are pretty nice packages too, offering a lot of bang for the buck. I get the ones I like digitally as they're released; I wonder exactly how it breaks down regarding the sales of the digital versions versus the later print compilations.

There are a slew of New 52 collections solicited; the one of most interest to me is All-Star Western Volume 2, and here I have to remind myself that i am still lacking volume 1. Beyond the New 52 stuff, there are some great collections coming, and I can only hope finances allow for me to get the ones I want. The must-haves are The Starman Omnibus Volume 3 in paperback format and Crisis On Multiple Earths Volume 6. Starman is probably my favorite superhero series of all time, and even though I have the complete run in single issues, I really want some nice collections I can easily pull off the shelf when I feel like re-reading some or all of it. I only managed to get the first two hardcover volumes, and a couple of those volumes are now out of print, so I'm left waiting for the paperback editions for the remaining four volumes. As for Crisis, the old Earth 1/Earth 2 JLA/JSA teamups are always fun to read, and unless I've figured it wrong, I think this volume will contain the last of them. Again, this also reminds me that I still don't have the previous volume. Money is just too damn tight for all the books I wanna buy.
The Jack Kirby Omnibus Volume 2 looks pretty awesome, as it reprints a good bit of Kirby Klassics that don't get a lot of love. It's the classic works that slip through the cracks that often really appeal to me, so I really wanna get my hands on this one, too.
Other notable collections: A new edition of Batman: Gotham By Gaslight which contains the titular Elseworlds story and its sequel, Master of the Future. These are both great fun, and this collection is about the same price as they cost originally, so it's a great deal, to boot. The victorian-era Batman featured in these stories has long been a favorite of mine, so it's nice to see them kept in print.
There's a new edition of DC Universe by Alan Moore, which now throws some of his work for the now-defunct Wildstorm imprint into the mix. Not a bad deal at $24.99.
We also have a collection of Day of Judgment, one of DC's events from the late '90s. It was pretty decent, but not great, although it did have the twist of making former Green Lantern Hal Jordan the Spectre for a few years. (That last until the powers-that-be at DC decided they wanted their Silver Age back.) The only reason I can think of for this being reprinted is that it was an early work by Geoff Johns. It's not a bad read; you could do worse for $15.
There are several Superman collections coming, some of them no doubt tie-ins to the upcoming Man of Steel movie. The Superman vs. Zod trade looks pretty cool, and I might check it out myself, but I urge you to avoid the execrable Reign of Doomsday at all costs. I love the Showcase Presents books, and the Superman Family volumes contain some great examples of true Silver Age comic insanity. Volume 4 is sure to continue in that tradition.
There's also the final trade of the Batman: Brave and the Bold comic, which was always great fun.
The Young Justice tie-in comic is cancelled, so that makes me wonder about the animated show's future, with it still on hiatus and all...
Of course, the biggest news with the Vertigo books is that Hellblazer is cancelled with its 300th issue so that DC can replace it with a Constantine book set in the DCU. It's a smart move from a purely business perspective, anhd Hellblazer has had a great run, so I can really begrudge them that. I will miss it, though. No matter how good the DCU Constantine book is, it just won't be the same. With American Vampire on hiatus, this leaves Vertigo with only a few ongoing series, so you really have to wonder what's going to happen here. The imprint really seems to be dwindling, and it's almost painful to see. This is the publishing imprint that brought us all-time classic such as Sandman, Morrison's Doom Patrol, WE3, Animal Man, Seaguy, and The Invisibles, Preacher, Transmetropolitan(yeah, it started out as part of another imprint, but the bulk of it was published as a Vertigo book), and many others. It's just sad to see it slowly withering like this.

Anyway, this has gotten much longer than I intended. If anyone has managed to hang on to the end, congratulations! You win juicy, gold-plated bragging rights.