February 10, 2015

DC Comics: The New 24

In June DC Comics is undergoing a widely expected semi-relaunch of their superhero line. Everyone will likely remember DC's line-wide reboot of September 2011, the "New 52", and while there have been fairly regular launches of new monthly titles since then June represents the biggest change since then. The New 52 moniker is being dropped, and 24 new monthly books are premiering in one month. These will join 25 books that are continuing - some with new creative teams and some with the same writers and artists.

These new titles are following from the successful broadening of the Batman comic book range in recent months. Headlined by a re-imagining of Batgirl, a raft of books have tried out new directions and styles including Harry Potter-inspired boarding school hijinks in Gotham Academy, a crime saga in Catwoman, espionage in Grayson, and horror in Gotham After Midnight. This "Batgirling" of the DC Universe looks set to produce some really interesting books, and - it must be said - a few with "immediate cancellation" written all over them.

So with 24 new books at once, this is probably going to be a fairly long post. Let's take a deep breath and dive right in.

Bat-Mite
Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Corin Howell.
I believe this one is a humorous miniseries. I've never understood the appeal of Bat-Mite, an inter-dimensional  imp akin to Superman's enemy Mr Mxyzptlk. He was introduced in 1959, and has made sporadic appearances ever since - even turning up in the Brave and the Bold TV cartoon. I'm also weirded out by the appearance of Dan Jurgens as writer - he doesn't strike me as the humorous type. I think I'll quite happily give this one a miss.

Batman Beyond
Written by Dan Jurgens. Art by Bernard Chang.
And here's Dan Jurgens again, presumably spinning the next phase of Batman Beyond after the Futures End weekly series wraps up. There's a lot of affection among Batman fans for Terry McGinnis, but his success in a TV cartoon has never managed to translate to comic book sales. I think this book would need a really stunning combination of story and art to break through, and while Chang is a solid artist I don't think Jurgens is going to provide anything particularly groundbreaking or original.


Black Canary
Written by Brendan Fletcher. Art by Annie Wu.
Okay this one seems much more interesting. Brendan Fletcher has done a great job co-piloting the new Batgirl, and with Black Canary already appearing in that book it seems like this is going to be a spin-off. She just joined a rock band in her spare time, and from the sample art DC has released that definitely appears to be a core aspect of her new book. Rock singer by day, voice-powered superhero by night? I'm sold. Annie Wu's distinctive visuals on art duty seal the deal.

Bizarro
Written by Heath Corson. Art by Gustavo Duarte.
Another light-hearted miniseries. The Bizarro featured here will reportedly not be the New 52 version created by Lex Luthor during Forever Evil, but will instead be the original parallel universe edition. One humorous mini-series seemed like an understandable idea, but two at the same time? I'm honestly not sure either is likely to take off with readers; it may just wind up splitting whatever market there is for a jokey DC superhero parody.

Constantine: The Hellblazer
Written by Ming Doyle. Art by Riley Rossmo.
One of the more depressing elements of the New 52 was the way in which DC took Hellblazer, their longest-running and most distinctive Vertigo title, and relaunched it (and its star, John Constantine) into a DC Universe superhero book. The character didn't work when rubbing up against the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman, readers abandoned the book in droves, and despite a high-profile television series continued to lose sales. Hence this relaunch: artist Ming Doyle as writer, which is a bit of a surprise, and the outstanding Riley Rossmo doing the art. I was a huge fan of Rossmo's work on Image's Bedlam, and he's a brilliant match for a darker, more edgy take on Constantine's misadventures. Hopefully things will work better the second time around. I suspect this move may also tie into NBC's plans to potentially relaunch their Constantine TV series over on SyFy with the title Hellblazer.

Cyborg
Written by David L. Walker. Art by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado.
The only member of the New 52 Justice League finally gets a solo book. DC have been putting in a concerted effort to raise Cyborg's profile over the last three years, although it feels a bit like Marvel's push for the Inhumans - the market isn't that interested, but corporate interests demand that an audience be found. Warner Bros have a Cyborg movie planned as part of its ambitious slate of DC movies, so I suspect giving him a solo title is part of the developments on that front. Reis and Prado are a great art team, so it will look great. I'm not familiar with writer David L. Walker's work.

Dark Universe
Written by James Tynion IV. Art by Ming Doyle.
This isn't really a new title so much as a rejigged and renamed Justice League Dark. It also shares a title with Guillermo Del Toro's mooted movie that would have featured DC's supernatural and magical heroes, including Constantine, Zatanna and the Swamp Thing. Whether or not this is another bit of corporate synergy, I have no idea. Tynion is a solid writer who's been developing nicely in the last year, while Ming Doyle is a great artist. This could be a really good take on the JLD team.

Doctor Fate
Written by Paul Levitz. Art by Sonny Liew.
Sonny Liew is a great artist. Paul Levitz is sometimes a great artist. Other times, like Dan Jurgens, he seems content to just phone his work in. While the character dates back to the 1940s the first solo Doctor Fate comic book was a 1987 miniseries, and that led to a 42-issue monthly that ran until 1992. DC attempted to relaunch the character in 1994 in Fate, and that ran another 23 issues. Then there was Book of Fate in 1997, Doctor Fate in 2002, and Countdown to Mystery in 2007. Basically Doctor Fate is one of those constantly returning DC characters that's never popular enough to sustain his own book, but memorable enough that writers and editors keep trying. It's probably worth a look, but I'm not optimistic. (EDITED to remove the inadvertent suggestion that Dr Fate was only created in 1987 - thanks, Lee.)

Doomed
Written by Scott Lobdell. Art by Javier Fernandez.
Scott Lodbell is just a poor writer. As a result I have zero interest in this odd Superman spin-off that reincarnates the villain Doomsday as a teenager. This just sounds like a horrible idea, and I can't see it lasting more than six or seven issues.

Earth 2: Society
Written by Daniel H. Wilson. Art by Jorge Jimenez.
Like Dark Universe, this is basically a re-numbered continuation of a pre-existing book - in this case Earth 2. Author Daniel H. Wilson, whose novel Robopocalypse has been in development hell for about a decade now, is the writer. That might bring in some fans who otherwise wouldn't have bought a DC book. It's a weird title though. Either keep Earth 2 or rename it properly to Justice Society of America. This middle ground is just weird and unappealing.

Green Lantern: Lost Army
Written by Cullen Bunn. Art by Jesus Saiz and Javi Pina.
DC are replacing three Green Lantern spin-off books with one. I think that's a good idea, but I'm not enamoured with the title, which reeks of an event spin-off where it's difficult for new readers to jump onboard. Cullen Bunn hasn't wowed me as a writer, but he's solid and has potential. Jesus Saiz is an equally solid artist. To be honest there's too little information about what this book entails to make a proper assessment. Which characters will it feature? What will they be doing? By creative team and title alone it's not grabbing my attention.

Harley Quinn/Power Girl
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner and Justin Gray. Art by Stephane Roux.
Harley Quinn is to DC Comics what Deadpool is to Marvel: a comedic character that grabs a lot of readers' attention and becomes a breakout hit, headlines an unexpectedly high-selling ongoing book and then gets ruthlessly over-used and over-exposed by a publisher eager to milk the market dry for every dollar it's worth. The creative team is fine - Palmiotti and Gray have been writing solid, entertaining books for years, while Conner is a superb talent in her own right - but I question the need for a team-up book between Harley Quinn and Power Girl. I think this is just a miniseries, but it still feels like a cash grab to me.

Justice League 3001
Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. Art by Howard Porter.
Another renumbering job, adding one year to the already struggling Justice League 3000. I do like this book a lot, and it's nice to see DC give it a second chance when it was hovering on the edge of cancellation. It's arguably Howard Porter's best work ever as an artist, and Giffen and DeMatteis are using the opportunity to bring back what looks like most of the classic Justice League International lineup. I'm not convinced this renumbering is going to save the book in the long run, but I think it will add another six issues or so - and that's no bad thing.

Justice League of America
Story and art by Bryan Hitch.
This is very likely DC's highest profile relaunch of the month, with fan favourite Bryan Hitch presumably applying the same cinematic scale and stunning artwork that he gave to Marvel's The Ultimates. The big issue here is pace: Hitch is a meticulously slow artist, so a lot of people are already anticipating this is either a short run (six issues, maybe) or is going to suffer crippling delays. I did read a rumour that Hitch has already been working on this book for two years in between Marvel projects, but I think that's just wishful thinking. Still, it has so much potentially visually - time will tell what Hitch is like as a writer.

Martian Manhunter
Written by Rob Williams. Art by Ben Oliver and Paulo Siquera.
This is a very similar thing to Doctor Fate: a long-running DC character whose clearly popular with readers to an extent, but doesn't actually seem popular enough to justify their own monthly ongoing. I'm not entirely sure it's justified this time: the Martian Manhunter of the New 52 has been a pretty creepy and unlikeable character, so unless there's a big chance in how he's portrayed (which is of course very possible) I don't see him working this time either. Writer Rob Williams has done a bunch of Marvel stuff, and before that quite a lot for 2000 AD - hiring 2000 AD veterans has worked pretty well for DC in the past...

Midnighter
Written by Steve Orlando. Art by ACO.
I never read The Authority, so I'm not really that familiar with Midnighter beyond understanding he is basically "ultra-violent gay Batman". I did like ACO's artwork in Batman Eternal recently, so this book should look okay. I'm not sold on a solo Midnighter book though. Existing fans of the character will obviously feel differently: are there 30,000 of them though?

Mystic U
Written by Alisa Kwitney. Art by Mauricet.
Not a lot is known about this book - even the title is unconfirmed. I did read a rumour that it's going to star former Books of Magic star (and Harry Potter precursor) Tim Hunter, which I can certainly imagine happening. Certainly Kwitney has form with Vertigo books, having both written for the imprint and edited for it as well.

Omega Men
Written by Tom King. Art by Barnaby Bagenda.
The Omega Men are a set of early 1980s Green Lantern characters that have been recently re-envisaged as part of the New 52 utilising some Wildstorm Universe characters and (I think) the similarly re-imagined Lobo. A comic about intergalactic alien mercenaries is certainly something I can get behind if the scripts are good and the art is solid. Assuming Tom King is the same Tom King who wrote and storyboarded for Ren & Stimpy, Futurama and Bravest Warriors this could be a really fun book - even if the premise sounds a bit complicated and confusing.

Prez
Written by Mark Russell. Art by Ben Caldwell.
DC are really rummaging around in their archives for this line relaunch. Prez is a short-lived 1970s comic book about a change in the US Constitution that allows teenagers to vote and stand for office, and of course a teenager who subsequently becomes President of the USA. It's a fabulously silly comic - the original Prez had a Native American bodyguard - and DC's illustration opposite seems to suggest that the new Prez is a teenage girl with a killer robot. This one I shall definitely be checking out.

Red Hood/Arsenal
Written by Scott Lobdell. Art by Denis Medri.
Well... I dislike Scott Lobdell's writing, and I intensely disliked his Red Hood and the Outlaws monthly that's been going since September 2011, and this is basically a retitled second volume of that book with Starfire taken away to her own series. So I'm going to place a bet that I will not enjoy this new comic if I can ever be bothered to try it out.

Robin: Son of Batman
Story and art by Patrick Gleason.
Another case where DC is giving an artist the writing gig as well. It seems a cliche that, deep down, every comic book artist wants to write as well. Certainly it's what drove the original Image Comics team, and on the whole those immensely talented artists wrote some ridiculously awful comic books. Some artists can write, just like some of the best artists can also draw. It doesn't mean every artist should be given his or her own book to write. I love Patrick Gleason's artwork, and I'm a huge fan of Damian Wayne, so my jumping onboard this book is a given. I just really hope Gleason's writing doesn't disappoint after all the outstanding work Peter J. Tomasi has been doing on Batman and Robin.

Section Eight
Written by Garth Ennis. Art by John McCrea
A Hitman spin-off miniseries arrives about 15 years too late for the market to care. I mean, don't get me wrong: Garth Ennis is still a funny writer, and it's cute to see his Hitman co-creator John McCrea back to illustrate things, but is there a need for this? Do the readers still care? I'm not sold on this one. There's always a risk in coming back to something great years after the fact for one more lap around the sportsground.


Starfire
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. Art by Emanuela Lupacchino.
The New 52 took the popular Teen Titan Starfire and transformed her into a vacuous and promiscuous sex addict that upset her existing fans and shut DC off from the huge number of girls who watched and liked the character on the hit cartoon Teen Titans Go. Here she's been freed from Red Hood and the Outlaws and given a slightly less revealing costume and a much better writing team in Palmiotti and Conner. This has a lot of potential to be a great book.

We Are Robin
Written by Lee Bermejo. Art by Rob Haynes and Khary Randolph.
The final "New 24" book is one of the ones in which I'm most interested. Basically this is the Robins: all of the Robins, in a big Gotham City team book. Damian Wayne, Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and possibly even some others. That's a great concept, and I'm interested to see how artist Lee Bermejo makes the transition to writing instead (yep, another artist trying out writing).

So out of the 24 books, which are the ones most worth checking out? Opinions are going to differ, based on what you're into. For my own part I plan to check out the first issues of We Are Robin, Robin: Son of Batman, Prez, Omega Men, Justice League of America, Justice League 3001, Constantine: The Hellblazer, and Black Canary.

2 comments:

  1. All these books, and only 'We Are Robin' interests me..... and I'm including the only character I ever tried to pitch a story to DC with way back when.....

    Incidentally, Doctor Fate stretches way back to the 1940s, not 1987: he's a Gardner Fox creation for the original run of the JSA.

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    1. Had a brain fart. The 1987 run was his first solo book though, wasn't it? (Which was honestly what I was intending to write.)

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