Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marvel's March previews reviewed

The theme for Marvel's variants in March is something called "WOMEN OF MARVEL," but I'm not sure if that means WOMEN WHO CREATE THE COVERS OF MARVEL or WOMEN WHO ARE MARVEL CHARACTERS. The few examples I saw in the solicits for the month feature a female Marvel character by a female artist, so that doesn't really answer my question for me.

It seems to be a relatively unusual month for the publisher in that there isn't a big crossover/event series going on, at least not at a big, line-wide, status quo-altering level. There are a few little crossovers between books, but the biggest of March's seems to be one called "Black Vortex," which is written by Brian Michael Bendis and Sam Humphries and will include All-New X-Men, Guardians of The Galaxy, Guardians Team-Up, Legendary Star-Lord and Nova, and it seems to be one of those particularly annoying sorts of crossovers, in which each chapter takes place in a different book. That makes reading one of the involved titles monthly, as it or they are published, annoying, as you have to read the others as well, or just sort of muddle through, and also makes reading in trade collection difficult, as Marvel will likely collect the book like "The Trial of Jean Grey" or "Battle of The Atom," as a big, fat standalone collection of its own, and, the trade collection of, say, Guardians will appear to have holes in it.

Also, you'll notice one of those books is not quite like the other—The teenage original X-Men who have time-traveled to the present from the past sure do seem to spend a lot of time in outer space, don't they? Original Cyclops, for example, has his own monthly, set entirely in outer space.

Anyway, let's take a look at some of the noteworthy book Marvel would like us‚ and by "us" I mean "you" because there's no way I'm paying $3.99 or more for a Marvel comic book, in the month of March.


ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER #12
FELIPE SMITH (w)
FELIPE SMITH (A/C)
FATAL FINISH LINE!
• What is the shocking fate of ROBBIE’S brother, GABE?
• Will Robbie finally be pushed over the edge by the evil of ELI MORROW?
• And…THE MOST UNEXPECTED GHOST RIDER EVER!!!!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Hmm...it's too bad that Marvel doesn't do that "FINAL ISSUE" thing that DC does in their solicits, as I'm never entirely sure if they're canceling a book or not just by the solicits. This one seems to suggest that they are, given the "FATAL FINISH LINE!" line and the the rather finale sounding nature of a few of those bullet points.

If so, it's too bad. I really liked the first volume of this series and was looking forward to more. Of course, one of the things I liked most about that first volume was the artwork, and this is at least the third artist to draw it in it's 12-issue existence. Good thing they've all been good artists, but still, All-New Ghost Rider may have had a particular general aesthetic, but was never defined by the work and style of a signle artist.

Oh, and I hope "THE MOST UNEXPECTED GHOST RIDER EVER!!!!" isn't just Gabe in a flaming wheelchair, because I've totally been imagining that since the moment the character was first introduced.



ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1
JEFF LEMIRE (W) • RAMON PEREZ (A/C)
...
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY AFUA RICHARDSON
VARIANT COVER BY JEFF LEMIRE
...
THE AVENGING ARCHERS ARE BACK!
• Hawkeye returns in an all-new series featuring superstar writer Jeff Lemire in his Marvel debut and Eisner Award-winning artist Ramon Perez, as they bring you a fresh new look into the life of everyone’s favorite Avenger. With Kate Bishop, his trusted ward and protégé back at his side (not titles she would use), Team Hawkeye is thrown into an all new adventure spanning two generations of avenging archers. Past and present lives collide as Kate and Clint face a threat that will challenge everything they know about what it means to be Hawkeye.
• But no one puts Hawkeye in a corner.
• Hawkeye and Hawkeye take aim March 2015!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Huh. The Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye kinda lost me when it abandoned a schedule, and this is a very interesting creative team, although not interesting enough to spend $4 a month on (Also, despite the continued presence of both Hawkeyes, I can't imagine this will be much of anything like the previous Hawkeye series, aside from, you know, being about archers who like to wear purple and go by the name Hawkeye, of course).

Lemire is making his Marve debut after years of writing for DC. Lemire's a competent scripter of superhero comics, but I'm having trouble of thinking of any superhero comics I've read that didn't fall somewhere between pretty bad and rather mediocre (I think Frankenstein may have been his best, and it was just okay).

His best comics have always been the ones he writes and draws and he's not drawing this one—variant cover feature Kate Bishop aside.

Also of interest is the presences of Ramon Perez, the artist of the excellent Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, on a monthly (one that will likely prove to be a mid-list at best monthly, and probably not worth his talents). The book should look good for as long as Perez plans to stick around, but it will look good in a completely different way than Aja and company's Hawkeye.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16.1
GERRY CONWAY (W) • CARLO BARBERI (A)
Cover by ARTHUR ADAMS
...
SPIRAL begins here!
• The underworld is in a constant flux and has been since the Kingpin got taken out at SHADOWLAND. That war is heating up and Spidey’s going to do something about it.
• But he’s not the only one-- Police Captain Yuri Watanabe is trying to curtail the madness both in her day job as a police office and as the vigilante THE WRAITH!
• Do she and Spidey play by the same rules?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


I briefly got very excited upon seeing this, as I thought Adams might be drawing the interiors as well, but he's just drawing the cover.

Now, if you look at that cover, you'll notice Tombstone, Mister Negative, Hammerhead, Black Cat and the Circus of Crime. But you will not notice the current kingpin of crime as established in the final issue of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, much of which dealt with the matter of who would ultimately control crime in New York.

That's too bad, as I wouldn't mind seeing more of...that character, and the character who legitimized his control, in other comics, even if they're not written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Steve Lieber.


BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD #1 (of 5)
DENNIS HOPELESS (W) • TIGH WALKER (A)
Cover by PASQUAL FERRY
...
THE WORLD FAMOUS, THRILL-PACKED DISNEY ATTRACTION ROARS TO LIFE AS AN ALL-NEW MARVEL EPIC BURSTING WITH ACTION, ROMANCE, MYSTERY, AND ADVENTURE!
• Millions of fans have climbed aboard the “wildest ride in the wilderness”—and now Marvel hurtles you through the mists of time to reveal the never-before-told saga of how the dangerous gold mine of Big Thunder Mountain became the haunted legend it is today!
• Malevolent mine owner Barnabas T. Bullion is determined to shelter his teen daughter Abigail from the dangers of the Wild West, but this brave young hero has other ideas…which include robbing her own father’s mine as a masked bandit!
• Earthquakes! Floods! Dynamite-chewing goats! Can the denizens of Rainbow Ridge survive the clash between mankind’s greed and nature’s fury? And what is the protective power that dwells deep within the mysterious mountain? Surprises await you in the latest Disney Kingdoms saga by the acclaimed duo of Dennis Hopeless (Spider-Woman) and Tigh Walker (Avengers Undercover)!
32 PGS./All Ages …$3.99
Elements based on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad © Disney

You know what this means, right? We're one step closer to Marvel publishing a Country Bears Jamboree comic book series.


Here's a typically great Mike del Mundo cover, this one for Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldeir #6, with interior art by someone who is not Mike del Mundo.


CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #6
AL EWING (W) • LUKE ROSS (A)
COVER BY Sanford Greene
• Existential horror from beyond as CORTEX Incorporated drops the mask – and shows its true face!
• For one of the Mighty Avengers, the nightmare is starting all over again...
• Is this story even in continuity? Are YOU even in continuity? LOOK IN THE MIRROR – WHAT IF YOU’RE NOT?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Hey, that's a really great cover.


DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE - HOUSE OF CARDS #1 (of 5)
ROBIN FURTH & PETER DAVID (W) • PIOTR KOWALSKI (A)
Cover by JULIAN TOTINO TEDESCO
...
STEPHEN KING’S DARK FANTASY EPIC RETURNS—AS EDDIE DEAN COMES FACE TO FACE WITH THE GUNSLINGER!
• Eddie Dean, the troubled young man gifted with the ability to open doors to other worlds, has smuggled narcotics from Nassau to New York City, but now has to escape a packed airplane guarded by armed Custom Agents!
• How will Eddie avoid prison and yet also fulfill his contract with the dangerous mobster Balazar?
• The answer lies in Mid-World, and with a dying gunslinger named Roland!
• The second chilling chapter begins by writers Peter David (Spider-Man 2099) & Robin Furth (The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance), and artist Piotr Kowalski (Marvel Knights: Hulk)!
32 PGS./Parental Guidance …$3.99


Hey, they're still making these Dark Tower comics...? Remember when Marvel first announced these? They were supposed to be a very big deal. Then they just kinda slipped off the radar. In fact, the only reason I noticed this one among the solicits was that the series had at least one sub-title too many.


HOWARD THE DUCK #1
CHIP ZDARSKY (w) • JOE QUINONES (A/C)
VARIANT cover by CHIP ZDARSKY
VARIANT cover by PAUL POPE
...
• HOT off the pages of the … the post-credits scene at the … the end of a … popular movie … HOWARD THE DUCK is back! Join him as he takes on the weird cases that only a talking duck can crack as the Marvel Universe’s resident private investigator!
• Let Sex Criminals’ CHIP ZDARSKY (a writer known mostly as an artist) and JOE QUINONES (an artist known mostly as a lover) guide you through his new world as he takes on THE BLACK CAT and MYSTERIOUS FORCES FROM OUTER SPACE!
• WAUGH!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


I have pretty mixed feelings about this book, obviously, although I do like that Zdarksy-drawn cover, and I adore the work of Joe Quinones. I'm also kind of curious as to what Paul Pope's variant cover might look like, as I can't imagine a Pope-drawn Howard the Duck, really.

I don't understand why Howard is wearing pants, though. As I understood it, Marvel started putting Howard in pants after Disney made noises about suing them over the character, arguing that they own all images of cartoon and/or comic book ducks who are not wearing pants (I think that's what it boiled down to; I am not a lawyer). But since Disney now owns Marvel, can't Howard go pants-less once more?


MOON KNIGHT #13
CULLEN BUNN (w)
RON ACKINS (A)
COVER BY DECLAN SHALVEY & JORDIE BELLAIRE
NEW CREATIVE TEAM!
• CULLEN BUNN (DEADPOOL KILLOGY) and RON ACKINS (UNCANNY X-MEN SPECIAL) join JORDIE BELLAIRE on MOON KNIGHT!
• After the shocking events of MOON KNIGHT #12, Marc Spector is left picking up the pieces of what’s left of his life. Don’t miss this new exciting chapter of MOON KNIGHT!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Hey look, Moon Knight, which just relaunched about a year ago under the creative team of Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey, is getting another new creative team, it's third so far. A trade paperback collecting the six-issue run from the previous team of Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood, which Marvel is calling "Season Two" of the series, is included in this month's solicitations as well.

Apparently the plan going forward then is to change teams every six-issues or so, making the book not completely unlike Astonishing X-Men, which, after Joss Whedon and John Cassaday concluded their run, became a sort of anthology series, with different arcs by different high-profile creators for a bit.

No offense to Mr. Cullen Bunn and Ron Ackins, the latter of who I've never actually heard of that I recall, but these teams seem to be getting less and less commanding in terms of stature and market draw, so I wonder how many more "seasons" this "show" has left...


PRINCESS LEIA #1-2 (of 5)
MARK WAID (w) • TERRY DODSON (a/C)
ISSUE #1 - Teaser Variant COVER by JOHN CASSADAY
CONNECTING VARIANT COVER C BY J. SCOTT CAMPBELL
VARIANT COVER BY ALEX ROSS
SKETCH VARIANT COVER BY ALEX ROSS
VARIANT COVER BY MARK BROOKS
YOUNG VARIANT BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
ACTION FIGURE VARIANT COVER BY JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER
VARIANT COVER BY BILL SIENKIEWICZ
MOVIE VARIANT COVER
BLANK VARIANT COVER ALSO AVAILABLE
ISSUE #2 - VARIANT COVER BY TBA
• When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire as a Rebel spy, she never betrayed her convictions, even in the face of the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, she grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire—the destruction of the Death Star. But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains...what is a princess without a world?
• Writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and artist Terry Dodson (Avengers & X-Men: Axis, Uncanny X-Men) bring us a story of Leia’s quest to help her people and find her place in the galaxy.
32 PGS. (EACH)/Rated T …$3.99 (EACH)


That's it...soak it all in. Count 'em if you like. Eleven. There are 11 variant covers for the first issue of a five-issue Princess Leia miniseries.


ROCKET RACCOON #9
SKOTTIE YOUNG (W) • JACOB PARKER (A)
COVER BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY JANET LEE
MONSTER MASH!
• In the not-so-distant future, what happens when you water Groot a little too much?
• GROOTZILLA has arrived, and he ain’t happy!
• He’s faster than a speeding Rocket, more powerful than Drax the Destroyer, and able to eat tall buildings in a single gulp!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99


Well, well, well, guess which Guardians of the Galaxy-related, space-based book isn't invited to the big, multi-book "Black Vortex" crossover story...


SPIDER-WOMAN #5
DENNIS HOPELESS (w) • JAVIER RODRIGUEZ (a/C)
VARIANT COVER BY KRIS ANKA
DESIGN VARIANT COVER BY KRIS ANKA
...
• With SPIDER-VERSE in the rear-view, Jessica strikes out to make a new life for herself.
• But she’s not going to do it alone, as she’s joined by new SPIDER-WOMAN supporting cast-mate and classic Marvel character BEN URICH!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


There was no cover image included with the solicitation for this book that ran on Comic Book Resources, but given the fact that there's a "design variant," I'm assuming this is the issue in which Spider-Woman gets her new costume.

I never thought her original costume was all that great—not unlike Spider-Man's, there's nothing really spidery about it, and the armpit web-wings always struck me as weird—but, also like Spider-Man's, the primary colors and all-around strangeness of the look eventually wins one over.

While looking at Spider-Woman's original and new costume earlier in the week, I did notice that the original costume looked infinitely better as originally drawn, and doesn't fare very well in more modern times, when she seemed to be wearing red and yellow body paint, and artists typically drew her so you could see her muscles, belly button, veins and labia threw her costume (But never her nipples! Superheroes don't have nipples!). Additionally, red and yellow tend to look...wrong in a lot of 21st century Marvel comics, particularly of the espionage-style comics Spider-Woman tended to be featured so prominently in during the last decade and a half or so.

Not that bad, really.

Aaa! Bad! Bad!

The new costume looks...well, it's okay. It doesn't knock my socks off, and looks a little derivative of Batgirl's new look, and costume updates that Mockingbird and Ms./Captain Marvel Carol Danvers have received in the recent past. It's not as distinct a look, but it is a more practical and realistic look, and one that Hollywood costume designers will have an easier time adapting into live-action films or TV shows.

I do find it remarkable that Ms. Marvel has gone this long—37 years or so?—without a costume update. That is crazy in the world of superhero comics. Ancient, stalwart characters like Captain America, Namor, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have their costumes change more frequently than that, despite the fact that we tend to think of them as change-less in an abstract sense (Granted, with Superman and Batman especially, the changes are usually just tweaks or temporary ones—an yellow oval that comes than goes, etc).

I think that's probably attributable to the fact that while Spider-Woman's been around a long time now, she hasn't been a high-profile enough of a character that she's been in the public eye in a starring capacity long enough for anyone to really notice/care what she was wearing.

By the way, I think this is officially the longest I've spent thinking about Spider-Woman in my whole life.


STAR WARS LEGENDS EPIC COLLECTION: THE EMPIRE VOL. 1 TPB
Written by JOHN OSTRANDER, RANDY STRADLEY, HADEN BLACKMAN & ALEXANDER FREED
Penciled by LUKE ROSS, DOUGLAS WHEATLEY, JIM HALL, CHRIS SCALF, MARCO CASTIELLO, ANDREA CHELLA & RICK LEONARDI
Cover by LUKE ROSS
Let the dark times begin! Marvel welcomes Star Wars to the Epic Collection program, with this first volume of a series focused on the years following STAR WARS: EPISODE III — REVENGE OF THE SITH! After the Clone Wars’ end, the Republic has fallen and Palpatine exerts his ruthless grip on his new Galactic Empire. Now, the few Jedi that remain must decide whether to hold true to their faith, or abandon it completely in the face of a brutal purge — one carried out by the new Dark Lord of the Sith: Darth Vader! Collecting STAR WARS: REPUBLIC #78-80, STAR WARS: PURGE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — SECONDS TO DIE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — THE HIDDEN BLADE #1, STAR WARS: PURGE — THE TYRANT’S FIST #1-2, STAR WARS: DARTH VADER AND THE LOST COMMAND #1-5 and STAR WARS: DARK TIMES #1-5.
440 PGS./Rated T …$34.99
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9398-2
Star Wars © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All rights reserved. Used under authorization. Text and illustrations for Star Wars are © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.


Hmmm...well, it looks like Marvel will be collecting and re-publishing Dark Horse Comics-produced material after all. That's a really good thing, as there are a lot of very good comics produced by Dark Horse featuring the Star Wars characters and universe (I haven't quite gotten to the point where I'm reviewing very many of them, but I've been reading them like crazy of late).

I assume it's also good for the creators involved, who presumably reap some royalties from these new editions as well. Just looking at that list of creators, I see some I like a whole lot, including John Ostrander, Douglas Wheatley, and Rick Leonardi.

I don't know if this is the ideal, or even one of the better ways to collect Star Wars comics, but, at this point, Dark Horse's Star Wars line has grown so large and so unwieldy, I've basically just picked points at random and started reading, generally just gravitating toward a character or concept I like or a creator or creative team I like.

I do really like Dark Horse's Omnibus collection format, which curates related series together for a reader. That's how I read Dark Times, which I liked a whole lot, and Ostrander and Jan Duursema's Quinlan Vos comics (Star Wars Omnibus: Quinlan Vos: Jedi in Darkness). I've also read the original Marvel Comics in Dark Horse Omnibus collection, and Shadows of The Empire and Early Victories in that format. Crimson Saga and The Thrawn Trilogy also come in big, multi-series collections, although those were just nice, big, huge collections of those series of miniseries and not, in fact, omnibi (Anyway, here's a pretty good list on Comics Alliance; personally, I tend to look for stuff with Ostrander and Duursema's names attached, and/or Darth Vader and Empire shit going on in it).

I'm really very confused as to what's going on with Star Wars "Expanded Universe" continuity now. I know the next round of films will ignore everything not in the first six films, as they pretty much have to, but I'm less sure about Marvel's comics—are they going to ignore the "EU" canon as well? The fact that they're publishing collections like this makes me think they're not, but I don't know. It's not like it would be unusual for Marvel to publish a brand-name franchise with multiple canons, you know?

I'm glad they're collecting Dark Horse's comics. I have no idea how to go about doing so myself, so I'm glad that's not my job to figure out. I'd probably still recommend to anyone at all curious about Star Wars comics to check out their libraries and/or start snapping up Dark Horse trades in shops and book stores now while they're still there though, as Marvel is not exactly known for their robust, logical backlist of books and trades.


THOR #6
JASON AARON (W) • RUSSELL DAUTERMAN (A/C)
INHUMANS 50TH ANNIVERSARY VARIANT COVER BY LADRÖNN
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY STEPHANIE HANS
WHO IS THOR?
• That’s the question on everyone’s lips. Most especially Prince Odinson of Asgard. This issue, he starts to narrow down the list of suspects.
• Meanwhile, tensions continue to flare between the All-Mother and All-Father, Malekith forges his most dangerous pact yet, and Thor prepares to face her greatest challenge!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


A friend of mine picked up this series based in part around the hype of who the new, lady Thor was, and she was disappointed that the first issue didn't say who the new Thor was. I flipped through her issue, looking to see who the new Thor was too, and was also disappointed. I imagine disappointment and frustration would have been common emotions in anyone who plunked down $4 just to read 20 pages that told them only what they already fucking knew for months—there's a new person with the powers of Thor, and that person is a lady.

So here's the solicit for March's sixth issue, and it says that Thor "starts to narrow down the list of suspects." Starts! So you'd be out $24 and be a 120-pages into this fucking comic before they even start to narrow down the list of suspects...?

Yeesh. This could be one of the best comics on the stands, and it would probably still be enraging simply for the disconnect between marketing and execution. The hook is, "Hey, check out this new Lady Thor!" and the story is "Who is this Lady Thor? We can't tell you for, like seven months...maybe a year."


THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #3
RYAN NORTH (W) • ERICA HENDERSON (A/C)
VARIANT COVER BY JILL THOMPSON
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY TBA
• Time is running out, and the only way for Squirrel Girl to stop Galactus is to get to the moon... you know, somehow??
• See the unveiling of Squirrel Girl’s new Flying Squirrel Suit... that she maaaaybe borrowed from Iron Man.
• Also, the final face-off with Galactus! ON THE MOON.


I laughed when I saw that this issue would have a "WOMEN OF MARVEL" variant cover by an artist to be announced, as I imagined Marvel editors scrambling around to find a female artist to draw a cover for them and thinking, "Oh man, we already assigned covers to the, like, six artists who work for us! Now what?" If the "WOMEN OF MARVEL" variants are variants drawn by artists who are women, and not just covers featuring images of Marvel characters who are women.

Then I went back and looked at the cover and laughed again, because that little squirrel has a little space helmet on, and that' s adorable


UNCANNY X-MEN #33
BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (w) • CHRIS BACHALO (a/C)
Cover by KRIS ANKA
WOMEN OF MARVEL VARIANT COVER BY STACEY LEE
• While things continue to heat up for the Summers family, Kitty Pryde and Illyana Rasputin take on an assignment neither of them either thought they would tackle—is this uncharted territory for these two veteran X-Women?!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


So I have no idea what's going on in this issue, or how all those Marvel monsters might tie in to whatever Bendis is up to with the X-Men now, but that sure looks awesome.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Meanwhile...

I reviewed Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb's Midas Flesh Vol. 1 for Las Vegas Weekly.

I reviewed Anouk Ricard's Anna & Froga: Thrills, Spills and Gooseberries for Good Comics For Kids.

And I reviewed Lumberjanes #9, which earns its good-jumping-on-point badge, for Robot 6.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Comic Shop Comics: December 17

Batman Eternal #37 (DC Comics) Tim Seeley scripts and Andrea Mutti draws this issue, which checks in with a variety of characters and a few plotlines we haven't seen in a while. These include 1.) Catwoman's new role as Gotham City Kingpin of Crime, which here makes her seem quite a bit like a new version of The Penguin (including her own themed casino), 2.) Luke "Batwing" Fox, whose armor has apparently picked up some kind of ghost infection on account of his investigation of Akrham Asylum, 3.) Killer Croc, who lost his people and home after the asylum collapse, 4.) Jason Bard, who came awfully close to killing Batman in the previous issue and failed and, finally, the "name" Arkham inmates who escaped: Bane, Mister Freeze, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, Clayface and Joker's Daughter (This last bit confused me, as we saw Freeze and I thought also Clayface get captured by Batman and the GCPD, and Bane taken down by Alfred).


Lumberjanes #9 (Boom) With the first arc complete, this issue offers a one-issue vacay for regular artist Brooke Allen. Filling in for her are seven artists for a sort of campfire Canterbury Tales anthology issue, or, as the credits page puts it, "A Flippin' Sweet Susan B. Anth-Ology!" Ha, feminism jokes! I'll discuss this ish in greater detail elsewhere, just be advised this exists and its awesome. Look for the Chynna Clugston Flores cover, and join me in lamenting that we don't get to see Chynna Clugston Flore art more often.


The New 52: Futures End (DC) Sadly, nothing at all like this cover occurs within this particular issue. Well, Fifty Sue does briefly don a Deathstroke helmet and refer to herself by the new codename of "Sequel," but her helmet lacks holes for pigtails. Also, no orange and black tutu and utility belt.

What does happen? Eh, Stormwatch vs. SHADE, the new Firestorm vs. the new Dr. Polaris, Batman Beyond and Plastique talk on a rooftop and boring business involving King Faraday, Sgt. Rock, Lana Lang and Grifter. Aaron Lopresti and Stephen Thompson pencil different parts of it, while Art Thibert and Thompson both ink. I like certain parts more than other parts, visually, and I'm assuming those were the Lopresti/Thibert parts, but I'm not 100% certain.


The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures #1 (DC) This is the issue in which artist Cameron Stewart, colored by Nathan Fairbairn, joins writer Grant Morrison to tell a story set on Earth-5, the new, numerical designation for what used to be known as Earth-S, the Earth in the original DC Multiverse upon which Captain Marvel lived, after DC acquired the character from Fawcett.

So it's Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart doing a Captain Marvel comic or, in other words, it's apparently a comic book created just to make me happy.

And it did. It's as close to perfect a Captain Marvel comic as I could imagine. Wait, scratch that, I couldn't have imagined this particular Captain Marvel comic book, which is a large part of why it was so delightful. While it had many of my favorite elements of Captain Marvel and his incredibly rich cast and milieu, they were all presented in interesting and fresh ways.

It's Captain Marvel and The Marvel Family (the extended Marvel Family), versus Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana (who uses his full name and everything), Sivana's children (Magnificus included) and The Monster Society of Evil, with the life of The Wizard Shazam, and the entire world, no the entire universe, no the entire Multiverse at stake! Sivana's plan, naturally, includes him naming shit after himself and, interestingly, refreshingly, Morrison downplays the "Shazam" (As The Wizard Shazam is the only character called "Shazam," and he even thinks up a title that doesn't include "Shazam" in it) and eschews using Black Adam, who has become the most ubiquitous character from the Fawcett family of characters, oddly enough (He appears in this week's Futures End for example; Captain Marvel, now called Shazam, does not).

There are additionally a few other nice digs at DC's continuous fucking up of these characters, some of which Morrison has contributed to, directly or indirectly. Sivana's plot comes so close to working because he's allied himself with his counterparts on various parallel worlds, one of which is a scary blood-soaked parody of a "dark" version of the character:
(The Infinite Sivanas are one of the more rewarding gags in the book, as we see Baby Sivana, Luchadore Sivana, Punk Rock Sivana, etc).

And then there's the newly empowered Georgina Sivana, part of The Sivana Family and highly reminiscent of the "dark" phase Mary Marvel went in and out of and back into during Countdown and Final Crisis, confronting Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr.
Dig the shape of Georgina Sivana's sigil, too; it look a bit like Marvel-ous lightning, and a bit like a stylized S.

Morrison and Captain Marvel are really a perfect match of creator and concept, given the former's affection for, and perhaps even obsession with, the intersection of magic and words and superheroes. Like Mr. Mxyzptlk and Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt (who Morrison included in his old JLA arc "Crisis Times Five!"), Captain Marvel is the character Grant Morrison would have created if Grant Morrison were a Golden Age superhero writer. Since he wasn't, he's a character Morrison has been repeatedly drawn to, and generally finds great success with, even though this story is probably the longest one devoted to the character Morrison ever penned.

What I liked most about this book, both in the writing and in the design and rendering, is that Stewart and Morrison, free to do whatever the hell they wanted with these characters, didn't see a need to scrap them and rebuild them, as is so often the case with creators tackling them (See Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's recent Shazam trade paperback for a good example of that). The only changes they make are basically tweaks; giving the Sivana kids street clothes instead of labcoats, giving Billy a live-streaming radio show on the Internet, kaiju-sizing members of Cap's rogues gallery to give them a cameo, and, in maybe the nicest touch, giving Uncle Marvel and the Lieutenant Marvels (who go unnamed, thankfully, since Fat Marvel, Tall Marvel and Hill Marvel don't really, um, work as superhero codenames in 2014) jetpacks and laser guns to give them the approximation of superpowers...and, since they're empowering Uncle Dudley in such a fashion, why not give Tawky Tawny a Lieutenant Marvel Uniform and jet pack and ray gun too?
I'm not sure how long Morrison would be able to keep a Captain Marvel series like this going—with these one-shots, I often find myself wondering if they're so good because Morrison used every single good idea he had for a character or concept in that one script, cutting out all of his lesser ideas—but, in a more perfect world, DC would be publishing a Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart Captain Marvel comic just like this, and this is the Captain Marvel we'd see in Justice League, rather than the hood-wearing, glowing chest-having Shazam.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #5 (DC) Pay no attention to the man behind the title character's shoulder; he doesn't appear in any way, shape or form in the interiors. The name of a company owned by his archenemy appears on a box in several panels of this story, but that's as close as we get to a Superman connection within the actual book. This appears to be just another case of DC slapping any old random image of Wonder Woman on an issue of Sensation; hell, this might be a rejected Superman/Wonder Woman cover.

The story, which fills all 30 pages of this issue, is by Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardman; the former writing, and the latter writing and drawing, with Jordan Boyd handling the muted colors. They're muted for a reason: This story takes place on Apocolips.

It's a pretty great done-in-one issue, apparently set sometime pre-Flashpoint, as Wonder Woman has her previous costume on, and Darkseid and his followers all also look like their more recognizable, pre-New 52 selves.

In fact, in dialogue, plot and tone as well as visuals, this felt very much like the first time I've read a story about the "real" Wonder Woman (and the "real" Darkseid and Apokolips in a while).

Queen Hippolyta has sent two Amazonian spies to Apokolips, and they never returned, so she sends her daughter Diana to find and, hopefully, rescue them. She achieves her mission (sort of), but not before taking on Parademons and the Female Furies, getting tossed in a firepit, meeting the unfortunate subjects of Darkseid, and saving him and his entire world from destruction...while simultaneously sowing the seeds of rebellion against him.

There is a lot to like in this issue, from the fantastic Boom Tube entrance (something I don't think I've ever seen, despite all the Boom Tubes I've seen) to Wonder WOman using her magical lasso to actually get people to tell her the truth rather than just strangling them with it to a fantastic three-page action sequence that scans a little like a movie car chase, only one car is a flying lady carrying a couple of Amazon warriors, and the pursuing cars are Steppenwolf and some dudes on giant dogs (That scene kicks off with the line "Oh great...Now they've got giant dogs.").
I've always liked Hardman's style and it was a great pleasure to see him drawing iconic characters like Wonder Woman and the villains of Apokolips; I particularly liked his take on Mad Harriet and the way he's able to make Kirby's original Darkseid design look so goddam scary and menacing simply by rendering it that way, rather than feeling the need to tweak it or redesign the character, who endures because he was created so well.

Also, I love the way he draws omega beams.
Hardman's figure work in this really made me think he would have been an ideal artist to follow Cliff Chiang on the Wonder Woman monthly, if DC wanted to stick with that basic look for the book, as there's a lot in his linework and figure work that has the same basic, classic, bold design and storytellng chops as Chiang, but Hardman's work has a lot more lines, giving it a darker, grittier feel (and note I'm talking about the way the art looks, not the way the story unfolds or the character acts; this is Wonder Woman in full-on superhero mode, saving lives and fighting only after trying not to).

I really can't recommend this issue highly enough to fans of Wonder Woman. While we've seen some pretty great stories in the previous issues, this one is great while being a perfectly straightforward superhero action adventure story; it's not so much a radical new take on the character or a wild depiction of a versin of her, it's just a really well-done comic book starring teh Wonder Woman you knew and loved from all the good Wonder Woman comics you've read.

Speaking of Darkseid and Wonder Woman, I haven't read Batman and Robin yet, which is currently telling a story about Batman invading Apokolips to retrieve the body of Damian (I read it in trade), but I did flip through it, and I loved Patrick Gleason's take on Darkseid, giving his craggy, rock-like skin so much detail that he had a complexion that looked like it was somewhere between a circuit board and a labyrinth.

And the biggest Wonder Woman-related news of the week comes not in Sensation, but in the pretty awful Wonder Woman #37...specifically a shocking last-page reveal that suggests that the thorniest aspect of all of Wonder Woman history (and one of the DC Universe's continuity as a whole) is going to be raised and explored by a writer who has confessed ignorance of Wonder Woman history.

I may post about Wonder Woman #37 next week or so, but, in the meantime, this was my initial reaction, as shared with Twitter: "So, how best to discuss the last page of this week's Wonder Woman, and to do so without spoiling it? How about a metaphor: DC is a person in a cartoon who just threw a stick of dynamite out the front doore and breathed a deep sigh of relief; the Finchs are a cartoon dog that runs back in holding the sill lit dynamite in its mouth, thinking they're playing fetch."

Um, that probably spoils it anyway, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DC's March previews reviewed

Well, March of 2015 is going to be a very interesting month for DC Comics, based on the solicitations they released this week. They've come up some pretty interesting but pretty much all at least slightly flawed themed variant covers. And they're canceling, like, a million titles, while meanwhile many other titles seem to be winding down/concluding in the same way that so many of DC's summer of 2011 titles seemed to be in their solicits.

These solicits include one for the April 1 release of Convergence #0, which will kickoff a two-month holding-pattern event while the brick-and-mortar DC Entertainment HQ switches coasts, and, from what I understand, is another story about the goddam Multiverse and DC's continuity. Here's the solicit for that:

CONVERGENCE #0
...
Advance solicit • On sale APRIL 1 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US RATED T
...
Where do worlds go when they die?
The Earthquakes felt round the Multiverse, Superman’s lost days after “Doomed,” the World’s End – all these points will converge as the history of the DCU is spun from a new perspective, the perspective of a mad god and his arrogant child. The biggest story in DC history ties into literally every DC story ever told – and it all begins here.
Kingdom Come, Red Son, Wild West Justice League, Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew – all the worlds you remember can still be found on Telos. Everything matters. Every story matters.
Don’t miss the start of DC’s April/May 2015 event with this special issue!


The gag this time around seems to be that Brainiac is collecting cities from different "universes" within the DC Multiverse and preserving them; based on the advanced solicits for those miniseries, it seems like the inhabitants of some bottled cities/worlds/continuities are invading other bottles.

Will this signal the long-awaited de-boot, or re-reboot of the New 52 reboot...? I...don't think so. At some point DC's gonna have to stop saying "New 52," since that's an unsustainably high number of monthlies for them to publish, and it's over three years old at this point, and I imagine there will come a time when another rejiggering occurs, which will keep the stuff from The New 52 that worked best and jettison what didn't, but I don't think we're quite there yet.

That said, it looks like we'll be close, come March.

As Comic Book Resources notes, 13 monthly series will be shipping their final issues in March (Many due to low sales, a few, like three-fifths of the Green Lantern line, likely to be relaunched...perhaps replaced by a Green Lantern weekly) and the three weekly series (two of which deal with time travel, the Multiverse and continuity navel-gazing) will reach their conclusions.

Additionally, the Batman story arc of the moment is entitled "Endgame" and, in the pages of Justice League, Geoff Johns is launching a storyline he's been building up to since the launch of the New 52, one involving the Anti-Monitor of Crisis On Infinite Earths fame.

What's in the air?

I don't know. Let's not speculate. Instead, let's look at all those movie variant covers, and then the solicits for the comics DC plans to ship in March. Sound like a plan?

So remember a million Internet years ago, when Cliff Chiang drew that sweet Purple Rain homage, featuring Batgirl and Batman...? Well, DC does, and they've apparently decided to have Chiang redraw the Bats for a variant cover and do an entire month of variant covers in which artists homage various movie posters.

That's...not a bad idea, as you'll see from the results below (If you haven't already, and, this being the Internet, you probably have already). As is generally the case with DC's variant covers, there's something kind of sad about the program. It's not just that I think variants are an ill that has created a weakness in the market, or that they can almost sell people on a comic book (as retailer Mike Sterling recently noted), but because it seems unfortunate to waste so much creative energy and talent on variant covers instead of having some of these greatly talented creators creating actual comics and, as is often the case, most of these suggest stories that are infinitely more interesting and fun than the comics that will actually be under the covers.

Okay yes, it does look a little like Aquaman is totally punching Willy in the gut in this Richard Horie image. But, to be fair, it also looks like that little kid is punching the whale on the movie poster/DVD box art, too. I've never seen Free Willy, I've just always assumed it was about a super-strong little boy who fights orcas.

Chiang redraws this image, making Batman, Batgirl and Batgirl's motorcycle "match" their current incarnations, rather than those of the "campy" 1966 TV show. Which is weird because it's not like these covers are in-continuity and also because the versions from the TV show are so much more Prince than the current versions.

I do like the bat-winged ankh sticker on her bike, though. Like Prince's sigil, it's unpronounceable, but we all know what it refers to.

Brian Stelfreeze does an a nice job of making this cover look like a Matrix poster, but, um, there's not really anything to it. It leave me cold.

Why does it say "Bruce Wayne," and "Batman" and a Batman-specific "From Cowl to Scowl" when it has The Joker on the cover?

Also, remember when there was actually a Joker/Mask comic book miniseries? No? It prominently featured Harley Quinn, so I wonder if it's going for a lot on ebay right this minute...?

Anyway, this is the only one of these that, oddly enough, is an homage to a movie that was an adaptation of a comic book. It's the circle of...something.

This just seems to borrow the Harry Potter font, and basic lay-out. So, like The Matrix homage, there's not really anything to this one.

I do like to imagine Damian Wayne going undercover at a secret wizard school and beating the living hell out of its students and teachers, though.

Here's one that just seems to pair the characters with a random movie. Was Tango and Cash a Warner Bros movie...? Has Warner Bros ever made any buddy cop movies at all? Because any of those might have been appropriate.

I probably would have went mask-less to better resemble the poster and better reflect the contents of the comic, but still, that's a pretty nice one.

The special effects ruin this one, which would have been a pretty straightforward and clever homage, otherwise.

This Tony Harris cover is the first one I didn't get; it's an homage to the 2001: A Space Odyssey poster.

Not sure how I feel about this one, although points for using a martial arts movie instead of a more obvious spy/espionage/thriller move for inspiration.

Another one I didn't recognize the inspiration for...Forbidden Planet, apparently.

This Dave Johnson cover is probably my favorite of 'em. Nicely done all-around, and the character/film pairing is a logical one.

Becaue Martian Manhunter is from Mars! I get it.

...

That Supergirl really freaks me the fuck out.

Joe Quinones is one of those artists I'd rather see making comics for DC than just making covers for other people's comics for DC, but damn, does he ever nail Michael Keaton's expression and transpose it to Deadman perfectly...!


This is the image that makes it all worthwhile. That is a thing of beauty, the most perfect DC variant cover ever conceived. I think the chest logos are a bit much—what are they, body paint? Tatoos?—and they're all drawn well enough and have the necessary signifiers that we should be able to recognize the characters without their logos obscuring their waxed and oiled chests (Wait, is Hal even wearing his ring? Maybe Emanuela Lupacchino shoudla slapped a green domino mask on him).

So as much as I love, like, everything else about the image, I kinda wish it was just slightly altered.

I get the "Super" and the flying, but I don't know; I don't think an alien who looks like a white guy can properly appropriate blaxpolitation imagery without it feeling...weird.

Eh, it's been done:


Woah, woah, woah.

Okay, first of all: What's Toto doing there? Toto is not even wearing a red cape. I can understand Krypto being too big for the basket, but you can stick a puppy Krypto in there. Or Streaky. Streaky even makes more sense. And if you have to use the same breed and species as Toto, then you can at least give him a little red cape and make him a superdog, even if he's not The Superdog.

And who are those goofballs standing in for The Cowardly Lion, The Screcrow and The Tin Man...? Is there a reason we're not using Lion-Headed Superman, Jimmy Oslen and Steel...? And even if you were going to use supporting characters from this dumb series, to make sure your Wizard of Oz homage variant cover is in continuity, why would you cast New 52 Cyborg Superman as The Scarecrow instead of the Tin Man?

Oh man, this cover fills me with rage.

Another fantastic Quinones image. The text and the "casting" of Superman as Ted really bothers me for some reason though; it's just...off. I mean, Superman can spell, you know? "Death of Superman" Superman may have hair a little like Keanu Reeves, and thus match the character's visual in that one respect, but he doesn't match the tagline.

Now, if they plugged Bizarro into that image instead of Superman, it would be perfect. Oh, and guess which imperfect clone of Superman's happens to be appearing in this particular issue of Action Comics...?

Wait, I don't get it. Sinestro's not a cowboy or a robot, let alone a robot cowboy. I kind of wish he was, though. I'd totally read a comic book about one of those robots from Westworld getting a Sinestro Corps ring.

Yikes. Those costumes just plain always look bad. Conceptually, this doesn't work at all. They just switched out the word "vampire" for "superhero," and those terms aren't exactly analogous, you know?

Has Warner Brothers never produced a teen comedy or drama of any kind before? Or did Marvel's Loners miniseries use up all those homage ideas...?

Of course, Chiang already has a Teen Titans Breakfast Club homage image, but maybe that wasn't a Warner Bros movie...?

Woah, wait a minute, you know what was a Warner Bros movie? Only one of the greatest films of all time:
Raven as Debra, Kid Flash as Mark, Speedy as Lucas, Supergirl or Troia or Wonder Girl as Corey (we just need a girl in a skirt, basically), Robin as A.J., Starfire as Gina and Krypto listening to music on earphones in the foreground.

...

Or do these have to be the New 52 versions of the characters? Because then forget it; it's impossible to make the New 52 Teen Titans look good.

Wait a minute, don't you dine in Themyscira every night, Wonder Woman?

This is a pretty obvious connection to make—Oh wait, this movie is also based on a comic book, like The Mask poster homaged above—but Wonder Woman seems to have way too many clothes on in that image to make a convincing Gerard Butler in 300. You can't even see her bare, glistening abs! This is a rare instance where Wonder Woman's costume just isn't skimpy enough; maybe the mid-nineties "Diana" costume—the black bra and biker shorts look, sans the jacket—would work on this cover better? At least it would allow her to show off a six-pack...


AQUAMAN AND THE OTHERS #11
Written by DAN JURGENS
Art by LAN MEDINA and ALLEN MARTINEZ
Cover by DAN JURGENS and JOE PRADO
On sale MARCH 4 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
This is it: the final showdown between Aquaman and the Others and the members of Mayhem! KGBeast and Cheshire stand ready to destroy Earth in their maniacal efforts to take down Aquaman’s team, but the king of Atlantis is without mercy. Blood will be spilled!


What? A secondary Aquaman comic, starring Aquaman and a team of just-introduced, rather unpopular characters who are so generic and indistinct that their team name is actually "The Others," making the title of this book only one degree removed from Aquaman and Some Other People Too has been canceled after just eleven issues? Who could have possibly predicted such a shocking turn of events?

Oh right, everyone who heard that DC was launching an Aquaman and The Others comic book by someone other than the team's creators, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

That's a pretty nice cover for Arkham Manor #6, courtesy of very good artist Shawn Crystal.

I guess this is the last issue of this series too, which is only surprising in that it's only been published for six months...DC oughta be able to squeeze at least two trades of Aquaman and The Others, whereas they'll only get one out of this.

Given the surely temporary status quo that the series was premised on—Bruce Wayne has his family's fortune seized due to legal difficulties and Arkham Asylum is destroyed in Batman Eternal, leading to the unlikely conversion of Wayne Manor into Gotham's new insane super-villain storage famility—the book was launched with an expiration date.

That said, I suspect DC thought they had a bit longer, and that the book either sold terribly, Bat-book plans changed behind the scenes, or one of the creators became suddenly unavailable.


BATMAN #40
Written by SCOTT SNYDER
Art and cover by GREG CAPULLO and DANNY MIKI
...
On sale MARCH 25 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $5.99 US
...
The finale of “Endgame” is here! Batman risks everything against The Joker! Who will laugh last?


Fantastic cover, there. I'm a little surprised to see Snyder returning to The Joker so soon, particularly since the size and scope of his "Death of The Family" story arc in the pages of Batman seemed to suggest a sort of definitive take on the character and the Batman/Joker relationship. Additionally, what suggestions of the "Endgame" plot that have slipped through in the solicitations so far call to mind the 2001 Joker's Last Laugh series and that 1987 Superman vs. Joker issue from John Byrne's Superman run.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really excited about finding out how The Joker gets his face back.


I kinda hated the first volume, almost as much as I was confused by its very existence, so I'm not looking forward to this at all.

That said, I will probably read it, because I'm interested enough in Geoff Johns as a writer that I'll continue to pay attention to his novel-length pitch for a Batman TV series. So, that puts Batman: Earth One one-up on Superman: Earth One, which I can't even summon enough interest in to crack the covers.


BATMAN AND ROBIN #40
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
...
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
...
Damian’s powers have been a source of concern to Batman – and it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up to the big leagues!


Just wanted to note how much I love the Gleason/Gray art team, and how happy I am to see they'll be drawing the Justice League soon. I sure wouldn't mind if they ever moved over to Justice League, and, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm a little curious what a Tomasi-written run on Justice League might read like.

I'm honestly having a little trouble imagining a post-Johns Justice League at this point, and I can't imagine who DC could get to follow Johns, should he ever give the book up. Maybe Snyder...?


BATMAN ’66 #21
Written by JEFF PARKER
Art by SANDY JARRELL
Cover by MICHAEL ALLRED
On sale MARCH 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E • DIGITAL FIRST
There’s a new villain in town and even Batman’s rogues gallery trembles at his name: Lord Death Man! Soon, the Dynamic Duo are jetting off to Japan to track him down. The classic villain from the 1960s Batman comics and manga gets the BATMAN ’66 treatment. Don’t miss this landmark moment in Bat-history!


I like when Mike Allred draws Batgirl.

Also, I'm pretty fascinated by how far Lord Death Man has come based on that single appearance in the Chip Kidd curated Bat-Manga!: The History of Batman in Japan book: Batman, Inc, part of an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold, the just-released Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga collection representing the original manga without Kidd acting as go-between and now an introduction into the world of Batman '66.


Okay, let's get organized people. Let's have all the Superman villains on the left of Ardian Syaf's cover for Batman/Superman Annual #2, and all the Batman villains on the right.

Bane? Brainiac? What are you two doing? You're on the wrong sides! I thought you two were supposed to be smart! One of you even named himself after the smartness organ!


BATWOMAN #40
Written by MARC ANDREYKO
Art by GEORGES JEANTY
Cover by RAFAEL ALBUQUERQUE
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
Where will Batwoman’s adventure with her “anti-team,” The Unknowns take them? And what’s next for Kate Kane?


What's this? The once fairly-popular book that the only reason any one ever bought was the spectacular work and unusual style of its dedicated artist was canceled due to depressingly low sales after that artist (and his co-writer) left the book following a disagreement with the publisher over whether or not DC superheroes should be allowed to get married or not has been cancelled? Who could have possibly predicted this turn of events?!

Oh right, everyone.

To writer Marc Andreyko's credit, he (and the Batman connection, and probably some stubborn insistence on not canceling it too soon after J.H. Williams' departure) kept the book alive for a lot longer than many likely expected, even surviving a pruning of the Batman line that saw the cancellation of Batman: The Dark Knight and Batwing.

As for the argument between the editors and publishers on one side and the creators on the other side over whether or not Batwoman should be allowed to marry (and, by implication, if the creators on certain titles are really interchangeable as far as readers are concerned or not) I guess Williams and Haden Blackman retroactively won that argument. And all it cost was...their jobs on the book. And the book itself.

Hopefully the editors involved learn the right lesson from this: If J.H. Williams is willing to work on your tertiary Batman spin-off title, for God's sake, keep the man happy.

DEADSHOT: BULLETPROOF TP
Written by CHRISTOS N. GAGE
Art by STEVEN CUMMINGS, JIMMY PALMIOTTI and PHIL WINSLADE
Cover by MIKE ZECK
On sale APRIL 15 • 144 pg, FC, $14.99 US
In this epic tale, Deadshot learns he has a daughter! When he discovers she’s living in a neighborhood plagued by violence, he decides to clean up the area by any means necessary! But can even a former Suicide Squad member give his daughter a life of peace and security? Collects DEADSHOT #1-5 and BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #214.


I liked that Deadshot costume.

INFINITY MAN AND THE FOREVER PEOPLE #9
Written by DAN DIDIO
Art and cover by KEITH GIFFEN and SCOTT KOBLISH
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
All secrets are revealed as Big Bear uncovers the origin of The Infinity Man. In the days prior to “The Pact,” Highfather makes a fateful choice that forever changes the path of the New Gods and in its wake gives birth to The Infinity Man!


What's this? The new series featuring obscure Kirby creations from the 1970s written by the very least popular writer DC could have possibly hired (and who isn't a very good comic book writer to boot), one half of the team whose previous collaboration was among the first of the New 52 titles to get cancelled, has been cancelled?

Who could have possibly foreseen this turn of events?!

Actually, looking back at the solicitations for the first issue of this series, I predicted it would last maybe eight issues. I was wrong; it lasted nine issues. Ten, if you count September's Futures End one-shot special issue.


JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS HC
Written by GARDNER FOX, GEOFF JOHNS and others
Art by various
Cover by JOHN CASSADAY
On sale MAY 20 • 400 pg, FC, $39.99 US
In 1940, ALL STAR COMICS #3 introduced the Justice Society of America. Featuring Hour-Man, Doctor Fate, The Spectre, The Sandman, The Atom, The Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman, the JSA soon became a mainstay in super hero comics! This anthology stories by legendary talents including Gardner Fox, John Broome, Robert Kanigher and Geoff Johns.


Not a whole heck of a lot to go on when it comes to guessing the contents, but I've found these volumes pretty fascinating, not just because of the nice, big slab of comics featuring particular characters they offer—although if you know a Lois Lane or Batman fan, they make great gifts—but also because of the window they provide into the publisher's collective brain, and how they happen to see their characters.

I think this one should prove particularly interesting because, unlike all the other characters covered so far, the JSA wasn't around for the entirety of those 75 years, appearing in continuous fashion the way Superman, Lois Lane, Batman, The Joker, Robin and The Flash/es have been. Rather, they had their Golden Age adventures, they went away for a while, they'd resurface for a some crossovers, then go away for a while, short revival, rest period, and so on.

The cover image is from JSA: All-Stars #1, and is practically readymade for this addition, depicting both the characters as they originally appeared and as they appeared during the James Robinson, David Goyer and Geoff Johns revival that lasted well over 90 issues.

Damn, I miss that title...


KLARION #6
Written by ANN NOCENTI
Art by TREVOR McCARTHY
Cover by SZYMON KUDRANSKI
On sale MARCH 11 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
Klarion has wrecked his relationships with everyone at the Moody Museum and seems ready to live a life dedicated to evil! Is our hero a hero no more?


Okay, this one actually DID catch me by surprise. I thought eight was the magic number a title had to hit before DC would cancel it, but, given the production schedule and lead time for modern comics, they must have decided to cancel this book almost as soon as they launched it; it's weird too, because just last week DC was promoting it via a two-page advertorial feature in their whole line of books.

But yeah, who thought a book starring Klarion The Witch-Boy was long for this world? A supporting character from Jack Kirby's The Demon (And, by the way, Jack Kirby's The Demon hasn't had a New 52 solo title yet) who Grant Morrison and Frazier Irving reinvented during Morrison's Seven Soldiers storyline/event, the character has only been popular (or, to put it more accurately, "popular") based on the creators attached and the other characters he was interacting with. This book? It was doomed on arrival.

I suppose the predominant way of looking at DC's sometimes insane-seeming New 52 launches is to assume they're just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Me, I think it has more to do with ticking every available box in their massive IP archives, and looking at every "ongoing" as a miniseries that may or may not become a maxiseries. Klarion, for example, lasted long enough for about one decent-sized story arc, which is enough to fill up a trade paperback.

And now they can move on to The Red Bee or Young All-Stars or Ms. Tree (Actually, don't do a New 52 Red Bee, DC; you'll onlly break my heart).


THE NEW 52: FUTURES END #46
Written by BRIAN AZZARELLO, JEFF LEMIRE, DAN JURGENS and KEITH GIFFEN
Art by SCOT EATON and SCOTT HANNA
Cover by RYAN SOOK
On sale MARCH 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
“How would you feel, McG, if the future you came here to prevent doesn’t exist?” A reluctant hero rises as we realize the world still needs saving.


McG? McG?! The Charlie's Angels director is going to be in Futures End? Whaaat?


SECRET ORIGINS #11
Written by RAY FAWKES, CHRISTY MARX and LANDRY Q. WALKER
Art by RICHARD ISANOVE, SCOTT HEPBURN and DAVE BULLOCK
Cover by BRYAN HITCH
On sale MARCH 25 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE
The secret history of The New 52 comes to a close with a bang! Don’t miss the origins of Black Canary, by Christy Marx and Dave Bullock; Red Lantern Guy Gardner, by Landry Q. Walker and Scott Hepburn; and John Constantine, by Ray Fawkes and Richard Isanove!


That's it. There is no more secret history of The New 52. You now know everything you need to know about The New 52, I guess.

I haven't read this after the first few disappointing issues. Did they explain the end of Flashpoint yet, and how it was that Pandora rejiggered the Multiverse, and why she did so? Because I'd kinda like to know that before they re-rejigger and re-reboot again. Or have I mentioned that already?


Pretty nice Dale Eaglesham cover on this month's issue of Secret Six. But then, the cover for the first issue of Secret Six was pretty great too, and the contents of that issue were...not.


SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #8
Written by JAMES TYNION IV and HEATHER NUHFER
Art by NOELLE STEVENSON and RYAN BENJAMIN
Cover by JAE LEE
On sale MARCH 18 • 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST
Teenaged Diana comes to Man’s World and discovers a “Wonder World” where she makes new friends. That part’s great, but her Amazon bodyguards are busy tracking her down and scaring everyone she meets! Then, in “Sabotage Is in the Stars,” Wonder Woman aids India’s space program, making it safe for them to launch their new SpaceCrops platform. But when Diana discovers that LexCorp caused the problem, she takes matters into her own hands!


Martian Manhunter! It seems like I haven't seen you in forever! At least not since Brightest Day. What's up, man?

Oh, and what's this? Art by Noelle Stevenson? That is the best news ever. I can't imagine better news than that. Wellll, maybe Kate Beaton writing and drawing her prickly, cigarette-smoking version of Wonder Woman for the length of an issue, but that's it.


STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES FEATURING G.I. ZOMBIE #8
Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art and cover by SCOTT HAMPTON
On sale MARCH 25 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+ • FINAL ISSUE
The end is nigh! The mission is blown sky-high as G.I. Zombie learns that he is a big part of the plan and races to save the world from a zombie apocalypse!


No shit Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie is cancelled; DC was practically daring people to read that thing.

I read the first issue, and it was fine; typical superhero/espionage/crime-fighting stuff, with the twist that one of the characters is a hot chick, and the other is a zombie...albeit a "smart" zombie who can pass as human and only devours the flesh of people who deserve it.

But the title was dumb (it was not an anthology; so the only reason they didn't just call it G.I. Zombie was to...secure a trademark, maybe? To handicap the book?), the covers and interiors didn't match and were working in opposite directions (If you were pulled in by Darwyn Cooke's cartoony covers, you'd be repulsed by Scott Hampton's lush, realistic linework; and vice versa) and it was a whole lot of nothing special.


STRANGE SPORTS STORIES #1
Written by various
Art by various
Cover by PAUL POPE
...
On sale MARCH 18 • 40 pg, 1 of 4, FC, $4.99 US • MATURE READERS
....
Comics’ top talents, including some making their Vertigo debut, take on the classic DC Comics anthology title for four issues of strange, scary, sexy and sensational sports stories. Featuring stories and art by Brian Azzarello, CM Punk, Paul Pope, Gilbert Hernandez, Lauren Beukes, Ben McCool, Ivan Brandon, Monica Gallagher, Lee Loughridge, Nick Dragotta, Christopher Mitten, Darick Robertson, Mark Finn, John Lucas, Gabe Soria, Ronald Wimberly, Michael DiMotta, Tim Fish, Rael Lyra and many more!


When I first saw that title, I was pretty excited, thinking DC was launching the most daring New 52 series yet...until I realized this was another one of those Vertigo anthology books where they repurpose the title of an old DC comic to allow interesting creators to riff on the theme in short story format. This one differs from previous efforts in that it is a miniseries consisting of four shorter issues, rather than one, big, fat issue.

Of the names I'm familiar with, I like the work of four of them a whole lot.


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!


SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #17
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art DOUG MAHNKE and JAIME MENDOZA
Cover by ED BENES
...
On sale MARCH 11 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T
Combo pack edition: $4.99 US
...
It’s a bloody showdown as Circe and Magog attack the power couple! And the outcome will bring about a major change in Kal and Diana’s relationship.


Say, does the cut of Wonder Woman's shorts look particularly diff—Oh, cover by Ed Benes. That explains it.


WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #1
Written by MEREDITH FINCH
Art and cover by DAVID FINCH and BATT
Backup story art by GORAN SUDZUKA
Advance solicit • On sale APRIL 1 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US RATED T
A story so big we couldn’t contain it in the monthly title! Wonder Woman faces off with the foe destined to become her ultimate nemesis in a battle that will determine the fate of Paradise Island! And in a backup tale that will alter the course of the Amazon Queen, an old face returns, and we mean VERY old! You couldn’t ask for more from Wonder Woman’s very first annual!


Oh couldn't I?

(Also, "Wonder Woman's very first annual"...? The fuck...?)