The March solicitations for DC Comics have been released. Check it out. Here are my thoughts about what we’ve been shown this month.
1. Reintroductions. Several titles for the month of March focus on the reintroduction and reinterpretation of old characters from the pre-New 52 era. Some of the seem to be All New All Different and other look to be about the same. Still, they say they’re brand new, so maybe we’re still missing something.
The H.I.V.E. has traditionally been an enemy of the Teen Titans, however it appears to be focusing on Metropolis and therefore will come to blows with Superman. The H.I.V.E. has been subject to several changes to its core concept over the many years. It was originally a group of unnamed villains brought together to fight the Teen Titans, then it became a much bigger organization, until finally being taken over by the Queen Bee and becoming her actual ‘hive’. Time will tell how the group will be portrayed here. It could be something completely new.
Zealot will be joining Stormwatch in issue #18 and she appears to be creating problems for the group’s dynamic duo of Apollo and Midnighter. Zealot is a Kherubim, an alien race that has been at war with the Daemonites for thousands of years. If the conflict between these two races is still canon I think it’s likely that DC is building up to the introduction of the Wildcats. Grifter is now without a title and now that Spartan and possibly something to do with Mr. Majestic are being introduced in February, I think once Zealot plays her part in Stormwatch she could be showing up elsewhere.
Teen Titans #18 mentions the ‘new’ Dr. Light is coming for Solstice. How new will he/she be? Light was a long time enemy of the Teen Titans before he became a much more dangerous enemy. Will Dr. Light be as sadistic as the last one was, or will it all be new? The Ravagers #10 claims that someone who might be Terra’s brother is going to show up. That can only mean Geo-Force is coming to the DCU. It will be interesting to see how he will be portrayed. Will Markovia come into play?
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #18 claims that the all new Multiplex will be showing up. He seems to look exactly the same as the old Multiplex, though, and he seems to have the same powers. DC Universe Presents #18 focuses on Starfire, but the cover shows that she will be fighting the Okaarans, a race of warriors who inhabit the planet that the Orange Lantern Corps call home. The Shade will be showing up in the backup feature of All-Star Western #18. The immortal character has yet to show up in actual New 52 canon, as the 12 part The Shade series by James Robinson was more in line with the old continuity. An important aspect of the character is his connection to Jack Knight and Starman. Is that still in continuity?
Finally, Threshold #3 introduces a character called Captain K’Rot. Who the hell is that? It took me awhile to realize they were trying to be clever, because that’s actually Captain Carrot! They have apparently turned him into a grizzly space captain, which is an odd way to interpret a previously cartoon superhero bunny. While it is inventive, it kind of makes me wonder if by doing for DC what he did for Marvel, Keith Giffen is essentially just recreating the Guardian of the Galaxy. This new Captain K’Rot is clearly analogous to Rocket Raccoon and Jediah Caul is looking like Star-Lord. It’s too early to tell definitively, but if issue #4 has a guy that looks like a tree than I think it becomes pretty clear.
2. Never Ending Batman. It looks like Batman Incorporated is continuing after issue #8. I had previously wondered what the future held for this title, but it looks like both Morrison and Batman Incorporated are continuing. Maybe the title will go on to #12 and we’ll see what happens from there.
I wonder where this whole thing is going, because it seems like it doesn’t play much of a role anywhere else. The time between the first volume of the book and the second has really damaged some of the focus of the book. It went from being THE Batman book to simply being A Batman book. I would like to see this title to go on indefinitely because there is a lot of potential with Batman adventuring around the world and the seemingly endless ability to introduce new characters around the world. But it needs to have a place in the DCU and especially the Bat-titles.
Morrison usually does his own thing, and as we’ve seen with Countdown to Final Crisis and Final Crisis it can be difficult to crossover with his work. I imagine that once Morrison finishes his run and tells the story he wants to tell DC will have a decision to make: continue the title, or end it. If a new writer comes on to continue what has been started I think that could lead to more connection with the rest of the New 52. If the concept comes to an end, then I think they lose a lot of Batman moneymaking ability.
Right now Batman Incorporated’s place in the world, in the present and the future, is a mystery. I think this question will only be answered in a post-Morrison world, but lets not worry about that right now, lets enjoy Batman traveling the world!
3. Batman is Everywhere. I like Batman, but this is a lot of goddamn Batman, especially in one month. Batman already has a bunch of bat-titles he regularly appears in every single month. I count five different titles: Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Incorporated, Batman and Robin, and Batman: The Dark Knight. That’s a lot without any guest starring. Each seems to have their own reason for existing, their own focus. Batman is the big event flagship title, Detective Comics is the gritty street-level Batman book, Batman Incorporated is Batman’s (ongoing?) international adventures, Batman and Robin tells the story of Bruce’s and Damian’s relationship as father and son.
Batman: The Dark Knight seems to be the only one without a real purpose. It was obvious it was meant to give David Finch his own playground, but now he’s gone. Finch originally claimed it was a book to showcase Batman’s cases involving supernatural stories, but that book lasted one story arc before being relaunch in the New 52. I would guess the book acts as a sort of showcase for Batman’s villains. The relaunched title had a few Batman rogue-centric stories and then had a Scarecrow storyline and now a Mad Hatter storyline. Batman will sell no matter what, especially if Ethan Van Sciver is the ongoing artist, but I think the book needs a better reason to live. Bring it more in line with continuity, focus on team-ups, something like that.
Besides his regular titles, Batman will also be showing up in Justice League #18, Talon #6, Batwoman #18, and Catwoman #18. That’s a lot of Batman, and he’ll probably appear briefly somewhere in Justice League of America #2, Batwing #18 and/or Nightwing #18. Does it sell? Hell yeah! Is nine titles a little overkill? Maybe.
4. Shakeups. There are several creator changes going on in the month of March. A few longtime creators are leaving their titles and a few other temporary changes are happening too. All in one month!
Though it was known in advance, Gail Simone being taken off of Batgirl becomes a reality in March. Ray Fawkes, who may or may not be a real person, is writing Batgirl #18. Fawkes is known for pretty much nothing in the mainstream comic book world, so this is clearly a fill-in role for the time being until the new ongoing writer can move in. This makes it quite obvious that Simone’s leaving was a surprising and unplanned event. Also leaving their longtime project are Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette, with their final issue of Swamp Thing being released in March. Issue #18 seems to be bringing the saga to a close, and while the title will continue, it looks like this era of Swamp Thing is over and a new one will begin when the next creative team comes aboard. Now that Snyder has left Swamp Thing it kind of makes me wonder why he needed to take such a long break from American Vampire. I think leaving one of your titles is a great way to free up time, so maybe he’s busy with a lot more things than we actually know about. I hope so.
Other titles have new creators on them as well. The Ravagers #10 is being written by Michael Alan Nelson, who has previously written several series for Boom! Studios, such as Fall of Cthulhu and 28 Days Later. At this time it’s unknown if he will be writing the title in the future or even what is going on with regular writer, Howard Mackie. A change in direction might do this title some good. Tom DeFalco is replacing Frank Tieri on The Savage Hawkman, at least for one issue. It seems that every title DeFalco has touched since coming to DC has faltered, so I don’t know if it’s such a wise move for an already troubled title. One of the more noticeable creative fill-ins is the absence of Greg Capullo on Batman. While he’ll only be missing one month, we do get one nice issue of Andy Kubert on art.
Only six issues into Phantom Stranger and already Dan DiDio needs a co-writer. I imagine that running a publisher and writing a book can get in the way of each other. If DiDio can’t devote 100% of his time to writing then he should relinquish the book, he shouldn’t get special treatment, considering he’d fire someone if they couldn’t keep up. Luckily J.M. DeMatteis is coming aboard to hopefully keep Phantom Stranger on course. Justice League Dark is also getting a co-writer with issue #18. I hope this means that Lemire is busy with many other projects so the addition of Ray Fawkes is necessary.
While we already knew about this for awhile, Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel’s run on Action Comics kicks off with issue #18 and it looks very promising. Lex Luther returns and Superman looks like Superman again. It might be a nice change of pace after the rather mixed quality of Grant Morrison’s run on the title. Jim Zub also begins his run on Birds of Prey with issue #18. The writer of Image Comics’ Skullkickers was not the first writer I’d expect, but then again it could be a big surprise. He seems to already be building his own mythology by introducing new villains, new members and using Mr. Freeze as well!
5. Guest Stars Galore. There are several titles that will be featuring other characters from other New 52 titles in them. Obviously, crossovers are common in comic books, but some of these crossovers are a little bit more random than you would expect. Of course you have Batman in Catwoman and Batwoman, but you also have the Suicide Squad in Teen Titans #18 and something concerning Dial H in The Flash #18. Which marks the first title Dial H has interacted with and comes after Karen Berger has left the company. I suppose that could only be expected.
There also seems to be an effort to connect Deathstroke with the Young Justice brand of titles. Caitlin Fairchild will be appearing in Team 7 #6, Deathstroke will be appearing in The Ravagers #10, and both the Teen Titans and Ravagers will be in Deathstroke #18. I can’t tell if this is actually supposed to be a crossover event, because it’s odd for all of this to be taking place in one month if it’s not. Otherwise it sounds like overkill.
I think these crossovers are aimed to save several dying titles from falling too far below the point of no return. Dial H sold just over 17,000 in November, so the goal is to get those 48,000+ from The Flash, to head over to Dial H. The Suicide Squad/Teen Titans crossover is probably to help boost Teen Titans back up after falling to under 40,000 sold in November. Suicide Squad placed in the top 30 in November so that title is doing very well. The crossover between Team 7, Teen Titans, The Ravagers and Deathstroke is a good example of struggling titles banding together in hopes of getting more readers to cross-pollinate. Besides Teen Titans, all of those titles have fallen below the 20,000 mark and were outside of the top 100 comics in November. These comics need help, but I’m not sure if a stunt like this can help save them all. Hopefully the story is enough to warrant more readers.
6. We’ve Seen This Before. Green Lantern is repeating itself. I have been a big fan of Green Lantern ever since I read Rebirth a few years back. The franchise was revitalized and there was so much potential, but now I feel like the franchise has hit its peak and is slowly falling backwards, if not in sales then at least in story content. Now that the Third Army has run its course we know that the next big event is the “Wrath of the First Lantern” and it seemed exciting, but the solicits for the Green Lantern family titles just seem like the same old approach wearing a new costume.
Green Lantern #18 shows Hal Jordan and Sinestro fighting what look to be Black Lanterns. The First Lantern must be creating some kind of army, which we’ve seen before in “Sinestro Corps War”, “Blackest Night” and “Rise of the Third Army”. Anti-Green Lanterns are becoming par for the course in Geoff Johns’ run.
The First Lantern’s attack strategy seems to be psychological attacks, for whatever reason. He’s already ‘ripped apart’ Guy Gardner’s life in Green Lantern Corps #18 and is setting his sites on John Stewart. The cover shows different parts of John’s life so the First Lantern seems to be attacking with memories or something like that. He ‘devastates’ Kyle Rayner in Green Lantern: New Guardians and now he’s looking to ‘shatter the lives’ of the other corps. Red Lanterns #18 makes it sound like his plan is to make each ring-wielder doubt their ability to harness their power. This psychological warfare angle has been done to death by Geoff Johns during his run and it’s starting to seem a little stale.
I’ll still be interested to see how everything goes, but at this point I don’t know where Johns is going with this storyline and what will be going on after it. He seems to have taken the story of the Guardians being evil and stretched it out for years instead of hitting us with a powerful story and then moving on. I don’t see when his run is ever going to end, but I wonder if the titles could survive without him. Hopefully the actual story is better crafted than these solicits make them out to be.
7. Something Happens. The solicitations for some of the Bat-titles make it pretty obvious that something serious happens during the “Death of the Family” story arc. It’s clear that Nightwing, Red Robin, Batman, Batgirl, Catwoman and most likely Robin make it out of the event alive, but people like Alfred and Commissioner Gordon could still be in danger.
Batman #18 talks about an ‘unspeakable tragedy’ it the solicitations, one bad enough to cause Batman to struggle with his humanity. Perhaps he’s becoming more violent and monstrous, since the cover depicts him ruthlessly beating up a criminal. There’s also something wrong with Red Robin. In Teen Titans #18 his ‘condition’ is getting worse after the crossover. Something happens and it seems like Tim Drake might be going crazy. Maybe they’ll bring in what happened to him in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, where his mind is destroyed by the Joker and he is brainwashed. That would be too crazy, but what else could they mean by a ‘condition’ that almost certainly sounds to be mental in nature? Nightwing #18 states that Dick Grayson ‘lost so much’ during the event, but who or what could this be referring to? Did the Joker kill someone he was close to or destroy something very close to him, like the Circus? Nightwing will also have a chance for vengeance, so if this is reference to the Joker then it looks like he’ll be around post-Death of the Family.
I kind of feel like there is enough evidence here to say that either Joker destroys the Bat-characters’ individual lives, or destroys something that they’re all connected to. Perhaps the Joker destroys Haly’s Circus and kills Tim Drake’s parents or something. Though that doesn’t seem to be his plan as it is just killing them directly. Considering Batgirl has none of this talk of tragedy in them, I think it’s safe to say James Gordon makes it out alive, but Alfred Pennyworth might not. If Alfred were to die it would explain Bruce, Tim and Dick all feeling substantial loss and would be a huge blow to the Bat Family. I really hope he doesn’t die, but it could definitely happen. Things would definitely be different in the Bat-titles if Alfred Pennyworth were to die.
8. Cool Collections. There are some collections that just need to be talked about. It seems that the two most interesting books involve Batman, naturally, but I don’t mean that those are the best books, I just mean that the collection themselves might mean a lot for the future.
One of the books that stood out to me was Batman Noir: Eduardo Risso. What is this and where did this come from? Eduardo Risso is the artist of 100 Bullets and Batman: Broken City, but he hasn’t done anything to do with Batman since Flashpoint. The book collects all his past work on Batman, including Flashpoint: Batman – Knight of Vengeance and Wednesday Comics‘ Batman story. It’s curious as to what the need of this book is, since all of these comics have been collected elsewhere. The standout feature for this collection, however, is the fact that it’s in black and white. At this point I can’t tell if this will be an ongoing series of Batman books, reprinted in black and white and featuring some of Batman’s top artists. It also might act as a Showcase book for more modern titles. I could see them publishing other installments featuring Tony Daniel, or Dustin Nguyen. I think the quality of paper it’s printed on will determine if it’s a collector’s item or a mass market Showcase edition.
It’s interesting to see that the Batman Beyond Unlimited title will be reprinted as a full trade paperback. While I don’t read digital comics, I was still interested in reading this digital-first comic, but I was never sure if they would collect it into print. They started publishing several of their digital series’ issues together, but now they’ve put out a full trade. Superman Beyond: Man of Tomorrow collects parts of the Batman Beyond Unlimited title so I can finally get my hands on it. I can’t wait to see that the rest of Batman Beyond Unlimited, Batman: Arkham Unhinged, Legends of the Dark Knight, and the other digital comics released, not only in book form, but as full-on trades.
9. Big Books. Is it just me, or were there some gigantic trades being solicited for the month of March? Mainstream collected editions usually hold around six issues of material in them, and might move up to around eight for special occasions. Anything over that is kind of abnormal and that’s when you start to see things like omnibuses and even compendiums. DC doesn’t offer either types of books, unfortunately, but this month they are offering some hefty sized graphic novels collecting up their back issues.
The newest installment of DC’s new Hellblazer collection, Hellblazer Vol. 5: Dangerous Habits, collects issues 34-46. That’s a 13 issue trade paperback and that is pretty big for DC Comics. The original Dangerous Habits trade only collected issues 41-46, so it’s a big upgrade this time around. The Authority is being collected into a large hardcover 12 issue book and if The Authority Vol. 1 proves to be an ongoing series of collections, then look for more giant books in the future.
DC also seems to be getting the collections of their recently cancelled titles out of the way. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Vol. 2: Secrets of the Dead collects issues 8-16, 0 and Men of War #8. That’s a total of eleven issues in one book and especially odd because the issues could have easily been split between a third volume. Blue Beetle seems to be in the same boat. Blue Beetle Vol. 2: Blue Diamond collects issues 7-16, 0 and Green Lantern: New Guardians #9. Another title that could have easily been expanded into another collection. Especially considering that the first volume for both series only contain seven and six issues, respectively. It seems that DC just wants to get their books out of the way so they can concentrate on other things.
The oddest thing about all this has to be the price point for the books. The 352 page Hellblazer book and 240 page Blue Beetle book are both $19.99. However, the 224 page Frankenstein book is only $16.99, which seems like a big price drop for such a small amount of page discrepancy. I’m sure it makes sense to them, but to the average consumer it will probably look a little odd.
10. Cover Art Clues. While not specifically mentioned in the solicitation copy, some of the covers seem to have their own clues as to what is in store for their books. It might be nothing, but it could be something and there are several that need to be pointed out.
According to Team 7 #6, Deathstroke is going after his old teammates in the present day and it looks like Grifter is getting a sword stuck in his gut. While I doubt Grifter will actually die, it could lead to some serious consequences. Swamp Thing is appearing in Justice League Dark #18…I think. There’s no mention of him and it’s the end of the arc, so it would be a weirdly timed crossover. With the end of Snyder’s and Paquette’s run on Swamp Thing, it could open up more opportunity for crossovers. The weirdest part of it though, is that he looks kind of red. Is this a coloring error, or is Swamp Thing going over to the Red now that Rotworld has ended?
I, Vampire #18 states A MAJOR CHARACTER DIES and it’s looking a lot like Mary. Could this all be misdirection, or is it really exactly as it looks? Also, in a book about vampires, is death really the end? Sword of Sorcery #6 shows John Constantine holding what might be the Black Diamond of Eclipso. With the huge push the diamond has been given in recent months and Amethyst’s concept expansion to incorporate other types of gemstones, is the Black Diamond related to Amethyst? Worlds’ Finest #10 talks about Power Girl and Huntress looking into the disappearance of Mister Terrific. It has previously been established that he traveled to Earth 2, but according to the cover, Huntress is fighting (?) his T-Spheres. Could the shocking discovery at Holt Industries be someone using his technology?