10 Things to be Learned from DC Comics’ February Solicitations

DC Comics released their solicitations for February 2013 and now we know what the DC Universe will be like in three months time. It’s given us clues as to what will be happening soon as well as down the road. There’s plenty of guesswork, but it’s all we can really do.

1. Justice League Expansion? The solicits for Justice League #17 mentions the possibility of the Justice League finally expanding its roster. While it might not be right away, it still could be happening in the very near future. Maybe we’ll finally see the likes of Firestorm, Atom, Deadman, Element Girl, Mera and Lady Luck(?) We were told would join the Justice League eventually.

The odd part about this is the inclusion of Hawkman and Green Arrow in this picture. The two will soon be appearing in Justice League of America and this picture was released before that title was even in a twinkle in Geoff Johns eye. It’s pretty obvious that the title was not something they had on their schedule at that point, since Justice League International was supposed to be the ‘other’ Justice League team. Then again, Deadman is there and he’s been in Justice League Dark since the beginning, so maybe I should be giving them more credit.

2. Green Arrow goes bankrupt. Again. As of Green Arrow #17 Jeff Lemire’s and Andrea Sorrentino’s run on Green Arrow begins. The first thing they seem to be doing is stripping Oliver Queen of his money, his company, and probably most of his gagets in order to bring him back down to a more street level vigilante type. I think that’s exactly what they needed to do, uncomplicate Green Arrow, but the method they use is something that writers keep going back to again and again.

This is Green Arrow Volume 6. There have been five different major reboots/relaunch/restart, whatever you want to call it, in the Green Arrow universe. Not including that time Green Arrow hung around with Green Lanterns and fought racism. In the late 1960s, Green Arrow was redesigned as a much more grounded, less silly, character. He lost his company for the first time at this point. Oliver Queen died in Volume 2 and Connor Hawke took his place. Then volume 3 brought Queen back to life, gave him a family and made him among the wealthy again. Green Arrow and Black Canary got married and starred in the pages of Green Arrow/Black Canary (volume 4), and then they split up or something and Ollie went to go live in a forest in volume 5. He left behind his fortune once again, leading to another character to move in and attempt a hostile takeover of his company.

Now, in the New 52, Oliver Queen is a young tech-savvy entrepreneur. He has a large fortune and uses it to fight crime.Starting with Green Arrow #17, he’s losing that money again. He doesn’t seem to be so liberally focused as he has been in the past, so at least there’s something different here. Anything is probably better than his very blande and lame adventures before this. Perhaps playing him seriously will help him resonate better with fans. Create a strong baseline and bring in familiar concepts later on if they lend to the story.

3. Katana and the Outsiders. The solicits for Katana#1 talk about her restoring the Outsiders to their former glory. What does that mean exactly? Not only do they actually exist in the New 52, which they may or may not have, but they’ve seen action and apparently they’ve been disgraced. Is this connected to their appearance in Batman Incorporated Vol. 1, from before the relaunch? It’s very hard to get a feeling of what in Batman Incorporated is still considered to be canon. Tim Drake is still Red Robin, but his costume is different. Stephanie Brown doesn’t exist anymore. While Batman Inc. is alluded to in some Bat-titles, it doesn’t seem to be a main focus anymore in the DCU.

Katana was part of that team of Outsiders and it was clear that she has been active for some time when she made her first appearance after the relaunch in the pages of Birds of Prey.  Metamorpho was there too, and he is briefly mentioned in Justice League International as a potential member of the team before being rejected. Looker was a member of the Outsiders and she recently reappeared in National Comics: Looker, but who knows if that will ever be mentioned again. Black Lightning, an original member of the team was noton the team in Batman Incorporated, but he has recently appeared in DC Universe Presents. The other two members of that team, Freight Train and Halo, have been MIA since the reboot.

Perhaps this will be a brand new team with brand new members and a brand new story. The Outsiders, traditionally associated with Batman, could have nothing to do with the Dark Knight at all. I imagine Katana was a part of this team at some point, so will she be a member of the JLA, the Outsiders and the Birds of Prey, while starring in her own ongoing at the same time? I realize they want to give her a push because of her appearance in Beware the Batman, but this feels like over-saturation. It could always turn out that this Outsiders team has nothing to do with the pervious premise. That would be disappointing.

4. Never Ending Batman. The wording for Batman Incorporated #8 makes it sound like the end of the series. It even goes so far as to state “everything Grant Morrison has been planning since the start of BATMAN, INCORPORATED leads to this stunning issue!” which sounds a lot like it’s Morrison’s last issue on the series. He had initially declared that Batman Incorporated had a year one and a year two, but then his original series was cut short at #8 with the relaunch. I had originally assumed that Batman Incorporated Vol. 2 would simply be what Morrison had yet to tell in his year one storyline, but maybe he changed the format. Perhaps volume one and volume two make up his run and now his story is complete. It definitely sounds like the end of the series, but there’s no FINAL ISSUE next to the title. If this is just Morrison’s final issue than what happens after he leaves? Who takes over as writer, where do you go from here and how do you integrate the concept into the New 52?

I understand wanting to keep the original concept as isolated as possible, but continuing the title into the New 52 sounds rather difficult. This is an idea that took Batman years to develop, but now he’d have thought about it within 5 years of existing. I think Batman Incorporated can definitely still exist, especially with the likes of Batwing referencing it, but the new creative team will have to be careful. DC obviously thinks that canceling a title launched by Grant Morrison is just crazy talk, even when it just seems to be treading water at the moment (Batman and Robin). With only 51 comics being published in February, nothing needs to be cancelled to make room for the incoming Constantine title in March, so that means Batman Incorporated might be here to stay. This could be fun.

5. After the Joker. One more thing with Batman, before moving on to other things. It seems that Batman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin, Red Robin, Catwoman and Red Hood all made it out of Death of the Family alive. Maybe not in one piece, but alive. That leaves Commissioner Gordon and Alfred. Would DC actually kill one of these characters? I highly doubt it. Both are pretty big pieces of the Batman equation. You could go on without them, but you would be losing much more than you would gain.

That being said, an event, with this much attention paid to it, has to have some kind of lasting effect. The title of the story, Death of the Family, refers to A Death in the Family, when the Joker killed Jason Todd. Someone has to die. Even if it’s the Joker (for now). I don’t want people to die, but sometimes a story calls for it. There’s a difference between setting a character up to die gracefully and just killing someone for the shock value. I trust Scott Snyder, so we’ll see what happens.

Solicitations for Teen Titans #17 says “something is very wrong with Red Robin! What did The Joker do?”  The solicits for Nightwing #17 state that “Dick Grayson’s life lies in ruins in the wake of the events surrounding ‘Death of the Family,’” and “Is his career as Nightwing over? Where will he go now?” Clearly something happens that will effect both Tim and Dick, but at the same time everyone else seems to be alright. I imagine that the death of Alfred would effect everyone in the Bat family. It’s a possibility that Joker went after their friends and family. Maybe he killed Tim’s father, or someone from Nightwing’s book. Batman and Robin #17 doesn’t seem to deal with the fallout of the event, so we have no idea how Damian is feeling.

In Batgirl #17, “Barbara Gordon must deal with the fallout from ‘Death of the Family’ in this issue that will forever change her status quo in The New 52!” That sounds like something big is about to happen. Barbara is still clearly Batgirl, so she made it through the event unharmed, but what about her father? Losing Jim Gordon would definitely change the status quo of Batgirl and possibly even Nightwing, if Barbara’s and Dick’s history is still intact. Something is going to happen and it’s going to hurt.

6. From Rise to Wrath. The solicitations for the February Green Lantern titles all come with the Wrath of the First Lantern label on it. Right now the Rise of the Third Army is taking place, but Geoff Johns had previously stated that the current event was really just a prelude to the next big event. Is the Wrath of the First Lantern that event? Green Lantern #17 and Green Lantern Corps #17 seem to portray him as both enemy and ally. In Green Lantern, the First Lantern attacks both Green Lantern and Black Hand. The solicitation clearly states that “the threat that first led to the formation of the Guardians of the Universe returns—and he’s set his sights on the biggest and brightest of the Corps!” How can that be the First Lantern? Unless they originally gave him all the powers of the Green Lantern Power Battery before realizing they couldn’t just give all this power to one guy. That might be it right there. But then the solicits for Green Lantern Corps ask “which side will the First Lantern take?” This title takes place after he already attack both Green Lantern and Black Hand. He’s clearly not for the Green Lantern, but maybe he’s less for the Guardians too. The cover also shows someone (most likely the First Lantern) attack Guy Gardner.

Perhaps he just wants to destroy everyone for the fun of it. Not much is known about the First Lantern, who was the first Green Lantern ever and was hidden below Oa long ago to keep his great power from being unleashed. He clearly doesn’t like the Guardians because of that and he’s been hostile towards them already, but why would he attack the Green Lanterns? Surely the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but maybe that’s the case, only with different people. Maybe the Green Lanterns have to team up with the Guardians to prevent the First Lantern from killing everyone.

From this idea alone the event seems pretty weak. The First Lantern still has no motivations or personality yet, so it’s hard to make him a convincing threat, especially when the Guardians and the Third Army seemed more than qualified. Right now the introduction of the First Lantern seems like a tacked on idea to a story already brimming with ideas.

7. Wildstorm Unleashed. February seems to be a big month for the Wildstorm characters. New concepts are introduced into the universe and changes are occurring everywhere. Even after the cancellations of Voodoo and Grifter, it seems the Wildstorm invasion is staying strong. This month there are three titles to keep an eye on if you’re looking for more.

Team 7 #5 is introducing both Spartan and something called the Majestic Program. Spartan is a cyborg superhero best known for being an unkillable cyborg and the leader of the Wildcats. It seems that Team 7 discovers America’s program to create their own version of the cyborg Justice League member, Cyborg. Whatever the Majestic Program is it doesn’t sound good. Majestic is most likely referring to Mr. Majestic, the obvious Superman parody from the Wildstorm universe. The Kherubim warrior possesses all the powers of Superman, but also has a massive ego that motivates him to protect those who are inferior to him. Maybe the government has captured the alien and is keeping him in a lab for testing. The interesting thing is that after the big push that was given to the Daemonites, the introduction of a Kherubim will unleash a war between the two. The two races are mortal enemies and if Mr. Majestic and Spartan are being introduced, a teamup with Grifter and Voodoo, can’t be far behind. They’ve already fought the Daemonites in their own titles. Does this mean that the Wildcats, a team originally conceived to stop the Daemonite invasion of Earth, is on its way?

All-Star Western, a title full of very real and grounded concepts, is introducing the Stormwatch of the 19th century in a backup feature. Not only are they saying that Stormwatch has existed for centuries, but they also have a Century Baby with them. Seeing as how technologically advanced the current team is, I have a hard time believing this Stormwatch won’t be as well. Maybe they’ll be steampunk Stormwatch. Leading this iteration of the team is someone called Jenny Freedom, the probable Century Baby of the 19th century. Century Babies are those that are born at exactly the turn of the century and are gifted with special powers. Once the century ends they die and a new Century Baby is born. If Jenny Freedom is from the 19th century, Jenny Sparks is from the 20th and Jenny Quantum, seen in Stormwatch, is from the 21st. It’s too bad that Jenny Sparks is already dead in the modern day DCU because she played a big part in the Wildstorm universe and the transition from Stormwatch to the Authority.

Finally, in the pages of Stormwatch #17, big changes are coming to the team. It appears that a team member is going to die and Stormwatch’s headquarters is going to blow up. If we go by the over of the book, it looks like Apollo, Midnighter and Engineer are all safe, even though they’re hurtling into space. That leaves current team members Jenny Quantum and Jack Hawksmoor in danger, and maybe also includes ex-team member The Eminence of Blades and his hostage the Projectionist. As for their headquarters being blown up, it sounds like a nice change of pace. Maybe this will bring them closer to becoming the Authority! Maybe they’ll come into possession of the Carrier!

8. Are the 90s Over Yet? Teen Titans #17 introduces a new art team to the title. After dealing with Brett Booth’s ugly art for 17 issues, DC seems like they’re giving up on the 90s look and bringing in someone that will liven up the title. Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira, the art team previously on Nightwing, are moving over to Teen Titans to make it look awesome. A change that both Teen Titan fans and people who like good art will embrace.

It’s not that Brett Booth’s work is particularly bad, it just looks extremely dated. It was fine when he was on Justice League of America before the reboot, but the Teen Titans should feel as young as possible. Brett Booth is a student of Jim Lee and the Image Comics style of art. That’s 20 years old now, there’s nothing fresh about that. DC Comics seem to be obsessed with bringing in creators from the 90s who haven’t had regular work in years. Scott Lobdell wrote a lot of X-Men in the 90s and now he’s the writer of Superman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Teen Titans and formerly Superboy. That’s a lot of titles, especially for someone who needs to be in touch with what young people like. They could have went with a younger writer. Howard Mackie, another
Marvel writer, took on The Ravagers, and that title has been all over the place and has consistently sold poorly. Tom DeFalco, ex-Marvel editor, is now on Superboy. Ann Nocenti wrote Daredevil back in the 80s and now she suddenly has all this work on Catwoman and previously on Green Arrow. Worst of all, DC even hired comic book industry pariah, Rob Liefield to launch their Hawk and Dove book. Not surprisingly it only lasted 8 issues. Surprisingly they actually put him on more titles after that. He wrote Grifter and The Savage Hawkman and drew Deathstroke. He also provided covers for all his books as if warning people to stay away. In the end it was HE that left the publisher because of creative differences.

The New 52 should be filled with creative teams from this generation. Yes, there are plenty of creators that can withstand the passage of time, but those are few and far between. Along with the like of Dan Jurgens, Paul Levitz, and Dan Didio (for whatever reason), it seems like DC is more interested in hooking up their homies than actually putting the best people on their book. That means more out of work ex-Marvel writers. With the launch of the New 52, DC promised more creativity and freedom, but all we’ve really seen is editorial mandates and filler. Look at the best selling comics. Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are on them. Those are the creators of today, not retreads from another generation gone by. The Teen Titans, especially, should have a young up and coming creator on the book. Someone who can give teenagers TODAY what they’re interested in. That’s what sparked the boom of the 1990s. It was the perfect storm of young creators looking to make a name for themselves during a time when everything that was old was being ignored. Scott Lobdell and Rob Liefield weren’t the reason. Publishers did new things in the 90s, so if DC wants to emulate that movement, they should do the same. Stop with the retreads already and hire someone new and interesting.

9. The End of the Road. It looks like the Young Justice comic book tie-in to the tv show is coming to an end with issue #25. You’re probably not reading that, so I’m sure you’re saying ‘who cares?’ Whether you care or not, the decision to cancel the title seems likely to have a much more far reaching effect. This almost certainly means the end for the Young Justice tv show. DC had previously cancelled the Batman: The Brave and the Bold comic once the show was cancelled and it looks like they’re doing the same thing again.

Young Justice fans have been up in arms recently about the disappearance of the show from Cartoon Network. In fact the much heralded DC Nation programming block disappeared altogether. The block was a push by DC to bring more DC properties to television including Green Lantern: The Animated Series and two new shows that haven’t even aired yet, Beware the Batman and Teen Titans Go!, along with the DC Nation shorts. After premiering the block for the new season, Cartoon Network pulled all DC-related content from their channel without anyone’s prior knowledge. They announced that programming would return to normal in January, but what other implications can be made here?

Young Justice is a show that is completely independent from the regular DC Universe, not only because it’s a TV show, but also because it has been noted to take place on Earth 16 in the multiverse. But now with the New 52 setting in and Grant Morrison’s Multiversity project becoming more of a reality (maybe.) it might be time for DC Comics to cut the show before it starts to confuse our puny minds. The season is obviously finished and just needs to air, so nothing can be changing in the show right now to warrant pulling it off the air. Cartoon Network might just be waiting for their two new shows to premier before bringing everything back together for one giant sales push. No matter what, the canceling of Young Justice can’t be very good for Emmy Award winning show. They won a damn Emmy, how can they not continue to pump out this show?

10. In the Mines. DC Comics looks to be continuing to empty their vaults. They’ve been mining their old and even obscure properties and making them available for a new audience. Some of these comics are so far from moneymakers that it seems odd for them to try these now.

In December’s solicitations they finally finished the collection of Hard Times, an obscur comic about a teenager who is sent to prison. They also collected Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency and Vertigo’s House of Secrets title in its entirety. Why now? In January’s solicitations they advertised the finale of Green Arrow’s adventures in the Star City Forest just before the reboot. They’re starting a new collection of Bart Allen’s adventures as Impulse and continuing to collect Animal Man after so many years. Obviously some of these collections are in preparations for big pushes, considering Animal Man is popular again, Green Arrow is starring in Arrow and the House of Secrets recently showed up in Justice League Dark. But Bart Allen’s time as Impulse is no longer in continuity and Global Frequency and Hard Times have nothing to do with anything at the moment.

Now in February’s solicits it seems like there are some more odd choices for collecting. While a Jack Kirby Omnibus is always welcome, DC seems to be continuing the long, and figured finished, Crisis on Multiple Earths collection series. Now on volume 6, the series collects the old ‘Crises’ from when the Justice League of Earth 1 would meet up with the Justice Society of Earth 2 to fix a problem that threatened both worlds. Does this mean that the Justice League will be crossing over with Earth 2 sometime soon?

There’s yet another reprint of the DC Universe by Alan Moore, but this time it contains some of his Wildstorm stories from Voodoo and Deathblow. DC continues their New Teen Titans Omnibus collection with volume 3. While this is a very welcome addition, these stories, characters and the team itself are all changed and mostly not in continuity anymore. The collection of Day of Judgement, an event comic that has been severally missing from DC reprints, obviously makes it in because, as a story centered around the Spectre, it fits well with his resent appearance in the pages of Phantom Stranger. The book that wins the most obscure award is the collection of Pat Mills’ and Kevin O’Neill’s Marshall Law, a comic I had not even heard of before. Or maybe I had and then just forgot about it. What is the purpose of reprinting this?

While I welcome an series getting reprinted, I also realize that there is only a certain amount of collections that can be released in a month. Especially with the New 52 books taking up most of that space. I’d prefer DC to release more relevant books before scraping the bottom of the barrel with this. How about a release of Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow? or, since Dial H has been popular, finishing the collection of H-E-R-O started years ago. What about a complete collection of Timothy Hunter, from Books of Magic to Age of Magic and Names of Magic, since he’s showing up in Justice League Dark. I’d like a comprehensive Wildstorm collection too. Collect Wildcats, Stormwatch and Authority into jumbo sized books. If you’re pushing those characters so much, why not offer some back reading, especially if you don’t care what is and isn’t in continuity now. I also hope they continue the collections of Suicide Squad and Firestorm they started a few months back. There are things that need reading. Give them to me.

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