For a movie that actually yells, “RISE,” Dark Knight Rises… doesn’t.

WARNING! WHAT FOLLOWS IS A REVIEW OF DARK KNIGHT RISES. IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SUCH THINGS, MOVE ALONG.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Like many people of my faith (those brothers and sisters of the bag and board who view Free Comic Book Day as a holy day of obligation), I spent last night/ this morning celebrating the release of the final chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman cycle. The experience was underwhelming. Painfully underwhelming. For me this movie suffers from the unforgivable sin of mediocrity. This final installment of Nolan’s cycle does not live up to the promise of the other two. Yes it works thematically, but it isn’t nearly as well crafted. In spite of the movie being much more robust in the action department, I was actually bored. I was never bored during Batman Begins, and I hate origin movies with a purple passion.

So the movie is 2hrs and 45mins long, and the story is a bit of a mess. Nolan tries to give everyone a denoument. I mean everyone: Bruce Wayne/ Batman, Jim Gordon, Alfred, Lucius Fox, Selina Kyle, Marion Cotillard’s character, Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, and a couple of other characters introduced and wrapped up in this movie. Suffice it to say with so many characters (9+) receiving story arcs, there’s not a lot of Batman happening. Breaking it down, you end up with about two hours of an average hostage situation movie with 45 mins of Batman happening around it. Which brings me back to the old saw, I go to see a Batman movie because I want to see BATMAN. But I digress… If you’ve seen any of the Die Hard movies, Air Force One, or a movie where bad guys take plucky hostages, you’ll have no problems recognizing/predicting all of the story beats. Those 45 bat-minutes? If you read Batman comics in the 1990’s, you’ll have no problem recognizing/predicting the story beats.

Actually, source material is a major problem here. With The Dark Knight, Nolan, Nolan, and Goyer took a smattering of story and character beats from over 60 years of stories involving the Joker. That wealth of material allowed Nolan and company to create a story that was at once familiar and interestingly novel. Bane does not have 60 years of material to pull from. Basically he’s got one good Batman story, and as a movie maker you either tell it or you don’t.

Let’s talk about Bane. Tom Hardy’s Bane is the physically and mentally imposing frightful figure that he was during Knightfall. Hardy makes Bane a credible threat for any character that approaches him… until you hear him speak for more than a sentence’s worth of dialogue. The mask is the least of the worries here. Hardy’s vocal choice for the character is one part Sean Connery and two parts Yukon Cornelius all blended through an electronic Solo cup. It’s silly. I chuckled to myself during the movie when I realized that’s who Bane’s voice reminded me of.

I was also not expecting to think, “Well, that was dumb,” while watching a movie co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Dumb things happen or are said simply to progress the story. More than once something happened on screen, and I had to ask myself why whole committees of people considered that something to be good story-telling. In addition to dumb choices progressing the story, there are a couple of moments when Nolan and company try to be fanboy-clever rather than smart-clever. This is Nolan’s last word in the Bat-franchise, why is he now pandering to the fanboys? Worst of all, there are moments when we as an audience see something happen and then a character on screen tells us what just happened. Michael Bay does that sort of thing not Christopher Nolan.

Story arcs A – J, Bane’s voice, and the dumb little things all worked in concert to take me out of the movie watching experience. I could only rarely stop thinking about or feeling things that seem at odds with what the director wanted me to think or feel. After all of that, there are some strong points to the movie also.

Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne sets the new bar. This was probably true from the first movie, but we see more of him in this movie so it stands out more. He’s charming, disarmingly funny, and contemplative, but he’s also capable of garnering pathos. It’s enjoyable watching Bale play this character because he looks like he’s having fun.

Anne Hathaway was also outstanding as Selina Kyle. I never believed the alleged chemistry between Bruce Wayne and either of the Rachel Daweses. Based on what happened on screen it was inconceivable that Bruce would give up being Batman for Katie Holmes or Maggie Gyllenhaal. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway creates an interesting and imminently watchable chemistry with each character she interacts with, including both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle should have been the romantic conflict/interest from movie one. The realization that we suffered through Holmes and Gyllenhaal instead of  Anne Hathaway slinking and kicking ass across the screen in the previous movies makes those excellent movies weaker in retrospect.

At the end of the day, if all you want to see is a summer explodey movie with people getting hit, this one’s not bad, it’s probably better than many. If you’re looking for the capstone to the first two smart and engaging movies, or even a good Batman movie, Dark Knight Rises isn’t it.

Advertisements

Before Watchmen, The End of My Relationship With DC Comics

Wednesday morning DC Comics announced the long-awaited (and long-reported by Rich Johnston) news that they would be “building” on Watchmen by releasing a series of “Before Watchmen” mini-series. Featuring each of the major characters in the original series plus a Minutemen series, the new series will build on the mythology of the Watchmen universe and finally turn those characters into a fully-formed brand to be marketed and exploited.

I spoke about this on our Twitter account a couple months ago when Bleeding Cool started running leaked concept art by creators we now know are attached to the project, but since 140 characters bursts doesn’t allow for much depth of thought, it seems like the opportune time to elaborate.

It’s long been the conventional wisdom that for Marvel and DC, comics don’t pay the bills, it is the licensing of characters that brings in the real money.  And especially recently, with line-wide relaunches, monster trucks, and twitter accounts hyping mass media appearances more than comics, it feels like more than just the conventional wisdom.  Comic books may be dying out, but through licensing the characters can live on in perpetuity.  Therefore, with every financial reason to do it and no creative impetus behind it**, Before Watchmen isn’t an artistic endeavor, it’s a blank check for DC to enhance the brand and keep the licensing money coming.

Let’s be honest, most of the major comic book characters you know and love are 40-60 years old now.  Other than
Watchmen, which is one of the best selling graphic novels ever, how many comic book characters can you name  were created in the last 25 years and are household names?  Spawn, probably.  Deadpool, maybe. The list is pretty thin.  The Watchmen characters are well-known, popular, and just sitting in the DC vaults unused.  Perhaps it’s inevitable that Watchmen gets dragged hurming and scheming into the 21st century, but without the unanimous blessing of their creators I can’t put my support behind it.

Kudos to DC for getting Dave Gibbons’ approval on the new works, but that’s only half the solution.  In order to get me on-board for this (and I want to be, truly I do) Alan Moore has to sign off on it as well.  Can you imagine Steve Dillon spinning off Preacher without Garth Ennis, Eduardo Risso continuing 100 Bullets without Brian Azzarello (one of the Before Watchmen creators!), or Darick Robertson doing more Transmetropolitan without Warren Ellis*?

Of course not.  Those books were made by creative TEAMS, and the artist and writer are both critical to their success.  Before Watchmen is an event by committee, not an artistic vision at work.  But the main reason those spinoffs wouldn’t work?  All of the books I mentioned are creator-owned titles.  Watchmen had the misfortune of coming out too soon***.  Had it been published in 1996 instead of 1986 it would have been released as a creator-owned series through the Vertigo imprint!  Had Vertigo existed back then Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would have owned the series and its characters, never squabbled about DC keeping it in print in perpetuity (therefore preventing the rights from reverting back to Moore and Gibbons) and they probably would have done the prequels they considered TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!

The Internet, predictably, exploded.  And there have been some good rebuttals to the outrage.  J. Michael Straczynski, who will be working on the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan books, told Comic Book Resources:
“A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say “No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.” Nor should he have.”

That’s an excellent point.  Here’s the thing: Siegel and Shuster never intended to be the only ones ever telling Superman stories, or that it would never continue past a certain point.  Hell, Superman was originally a newspaper strip, a serial if ever there was one.  Their only beef was that they didn’t get adequate payment for all DC exploited Superman. The same goes for Kirby.  Truth be told, the same goes for Alan Moore when he worked on Batman, Vigilante, and Green Lantern.  Moore doesn’t WANT the money, he wants DC to leave it alone (well, that and let him get the rights back).

JMS goes on later to say:
“Again: on an emotional level, I get it. But by the same token, Alan has spent most of the last decade writing some very, very good stories about characters created by other writers, including Alice (from Wonderland), Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jekyll and Hyde and Professor Moriarty. I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, “I can write characters created by Jules Verne, HG Wells, Robert  Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters.””

Again, there is a bit of a difference here.  Presumably Moore has no problem with others using his work 70 years after his death, when it would enter the public domain.  He’s a smart man, and understands public domain (which kept Lost Girls from being published in the UK for a while, until the Peter Pan rights expired) and the concept of transformative works.  Now I do feel from time to time like Moore is a crotchety, hypersensitive guy who won’t rest until he can find fault in everything, like someone’s grandmother, but in these instances I feel he’s got a solid basis for his feelings.


With the New 52 relaunch, the over-reliance on events (and making them bigger and more inflammatory each time), and now this, DC is making it quite clear that they are more concerned with getting our money and the perpetuation of brands rather than integrity.  And not necessarily the artistic kind, just good ethics.  And I just can’t support that any more.  With Watchmen 2 happening, I am officially done with DC Comics and all it’s associated creators.  At the moment
that includes:

  • Seriously, I would LOVE to read this. But I can't.

    Brian Azzarello

  • Lee Bermejo
  • Amanda Conner
  • Darwyn Cooke
  • Adam Hughes
  • J.G. Jones
  • Andy Kubert
  • Joe Kubert
  • Jae Lee
  • J. Michael Straczynski
  • Len Wein

Not that I was buying any JMS titles anyway, but we’ve been always told that we vote with our wallet.  Well, my three dollars (let’s face it, they weren’t getting $4 from me anyway) isn’t going to support this system or those who enable it.

Most support I’ve seen so far has come in the form of how DC is a company whose goal is to make money, so they can do what they want with characters they own.  Or that the new titles sound great.  And those statements are ALL true.  These are DC’s characters, and maybe it IS stupid of them to have these characters and not capitalize on them.  I think an Azzarello/Bermejo Rorschach series would be AMAZING.  But I can’t support it, not without the approval of both Moore and Gibbons.

And may God have mercy on our souls if we ever see a Dr. Manhattan monster truck.

*Cully Hamner did some Red prequels without Ellis, but since we never heard complaints from him, we have to assume they were sanctioned.
** So far, what we’ve heard is Dan DiDio approaching creators to work on the project, which means it’s coming down from an editorial/managerial level.  And while I imagine the creative process behind these books is an honest one, it’s not the same as, say, Geoff Johns coming up with Green Lantern: Rebirth.
***Ditto Sandman, but DC has been very careful not to alienate DC by using his characters without his okay.  Their relationship with Neil Gaiman may very well be the result of lessons learned working with Alan Moore.

Over the course of our lives, Matt’s heard me talk a lot of craziness, make a load of overreaching declarations, and talked me down off many a ledge.  So these were his thoughts when we discussed the news.

So then…

Where does this idea come from that Alan Moore is the only one to touch Watchmen?

Who’s out there clamoring for more? It’s a fairly complete story with few or no holes. If nothing else, didn’t we learn our lesson as fans with The Dark Knight Strikes Again?

Before Watchmen
, so what? When rumblings of this started way back, I had no interest in seeing prequels or sequels. That view has not changed. I don’t get the idea that people are so attached to the unlikeable, shallow, impotent, and petty caricatures that Alan Moore used to tell his story. Anything I ever wondered about them is given to me in the pages of the original 12 issues. So if I want a good Rorschach prequel story, I’ll read The Question, and the same goes for Moore’s other “creations” and their Charlton counterparts. I can’t make myself care about it because it isn’t affecting how I feel about the original story. Just because DC’s doing it doesn’t mean I have to read it.

It’s funny that Watchmen is the third rail of comics. Why does this story get people so up in arms?

In terms of the outcry and insistence that it have Moore’s blessing, I find myself agreeing with… God help me… JMS. It’s DC’s property. Again, whatever is done now by whomever will not change the original story, its significance, or my own feelings about the story.

Maybe the stories will be good. Maybe they’ll be forgotten not unlike DC’s Kingdom. At the end of the day, the only problem I have is that I always find blatant pandering insulting.  It bothers me that DC feels that it can dangle new Watchmen stories and we’ll automatically open our wallets and fork over four or five dollars a pop.


All great points.  JMS continued his excellent point-making this morning, after drawing comparisons to his work Babylon 5.  Namely, the company owns the property and it would suck, but they have the right to do what they wish with the characters.  And I agree, they certainly do have the right, I just wish they wouldn’t exercise it. 

The rights for Watchmen were always supposed to revert to Moore and Gibbons once the book went out of print, which it never has.  The was never supposed to be an issue, a book had never stayed continuously in print before.  Watchmen is a victim of its own success.  So I’d say that’s why Moore is the chosen one in this case. 

While several creators have tried getting the rights to their creations back, namely Kirby, Siegel, and Shuster, but as recently as Marv Wolfman, but Steve Gerber was notoriously against other creators working on characters he created, notably Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown.

This Week’s Comics

It’s strange to take a look at the week’s releases and see almost all of DC’s output is #1 issues.  I’ve had a bit of a change of heart on the DC relaunch.  If you recall the DC preview Matt and I did last week, while I wasn’t thrilled about the event or the necessity, there were a few books I didn’t feel I could help but pick up.  Well, that’s all changed.

 

Dick move there, Eobard...

It kicked off with Chris Sims and Caleb Goellner’s review, which was about what I expected.  Matt’s Game Tape pretty much backed that up.  But then I checked out the preview pages.

You may recall that Matt and I have both been pretty horrified by the sheer dickishness in Flash Rebirth when Professor Zoom went back in time to kill Barry’s mother (and push Barry down a flight of stairs for some reason).  Like a dick.  It was the worst attempt at “story” since Brad Meltzer decided it would be a good idea to have Dr. Light rape Sue Dibny.  Then the whole Flashpoint/DCU Reboot is predicated on THAT?  Thanks but no thanks, DC.

Say what you will about Brian Bendis’ master plan for the Marvel U, but at least it’s not based on the worst travesty of story in the last 5 years.  So as Flashpoint ends…So does my time with the DCU.  Maybe I’ll pick up an issue here or there when I find them in the discount bins, but as far as seeking them out?  Nope.  I’m out.  Thanks DC, it’s been a fun 22 years.

As for this week’s comics, here’s what’s new and noteworthy that I’m not completely fed up with.

  • ATOMIC ROBO GHOST OF STATION X #1 (OF 6) – New Atomic Robo!  Break out the banners, there’s at least one thing right in the comic book world!
  • GODZILLA GANGSTERS & GOLIATHS #4 (OF 5)
  • HEROES FOR HIRE #11
  • HULK #40
  • PUNISHER #3
  • THUNDERBOLTS #163
  • WOLVERINE #15


And…The rest is Marvel books that don’t merit much mention.  At least not today.  That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

A Brief Look at the New DCU

Well, that was it.  Last week was the end of the DCU as we’ve known it for the last 25 years and the All-New, All-Different DC Universe kicks off next week.  After such extended diatribes about DCNu, it’s probably only fair that we take a look at the 52 new titles DC will be launching.  (I took this list from http://drhiphop85.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/breaking-news-dcnu-presents-all-52-new-titles-the-relaunch-is-here/, who probably got it from Previews, but is the first site I found to have all the information in one place.)  Some of the info has already changed, such as the Green Lantern titles, but we’ll look at it as announced.  There will be SPOILERS ahead.

ACTION COMICS #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Rags Morales
Cover by Rags Morales

A new era of DC Comics begins as the longest-running monthly comic of
all time releases its first issue #1 since 1938.

This September, New York Times bestselling writer Grant Morrison
(ALL-STAR SUPERMAN) joins with sensational artist Rags Morales to
bring you tales of The Man of Tomorrow unlike any you’ve ever read
before in ACTION COMICS #1. This momentous first issue will set in
motion the history of the DC Universe as Superman defends a world that
doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.

The first Action Comics #1 is now the most sought-after comic book of
all time. This September, one of comics’ most imaginative storytellers
will make history again in Grant Morrison and Rags Morales’ ACTION
COMICS #1.

I’m glad Action comes first alphabetically because of all the new titles, this is the biggest one for me.  As tempted as I am to write off the whole DCU now, I’ll never be able to pass up a Grant Morrison uperman title.  Add in art by Rags Morales, who made me a fan for life after his work on Hourman so long ago, and this is a sure-fire hit.

This is one of two reasons I haven’t written off DC books entirely. Grant Morrison on a Superman book is a win for me.

The solicitations make note of how long it’s been since the last Action #1, and we’ll see that on several other listings.  It’s ironic that this whole relaunch is the only thing that makes this fact notable.  Word has since come out that Action is going to take place 5 years in the past.  While “Grant Morrison’s Smallville” will almost certainly be worth reading, no way does this five-year separation last long.

You’re almost certainly right about the five-year separation. I’m worried that Morrison is on the title long enough to tell the origin from 5 years ago; then we’re going to get a bait and switch.

ALL-STAR WESTERN #1
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Grey
Art by Moritat

If you liked Jonah Hex, this will just be expanding upon that mythology by incorporating more DC Western stars.  Since it’s only tangential to the primary DCU, this changes from Hex’s last title will most likely be minor.

I’m pleasantly surprised that they’re keeping this book essentially intact. DC’s willingness to change up creative teams, such as taking Secret Six from Gail Simone, is disconcerting. That the title is the only thing changing is actually a relief.

ANIMAL MAN #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman & Dan Green

Were there really enough people screaming for an Animal Man book? Or is this a by product of needing 52 titles?

I imagine it’s DC wanting to find work for Lemire, and this is a character they pitched him that they thought he could do something with.

AQUAMAN #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis

We rip on Geoff Johns a lot here, but he really is a good writer.  I’m anxious to see what he does here, I just hope it doesn’t lead to an over-complication of the whole Aquaman Family.

This is one of those times when I have to disagree with you. Johns isn’t a good writer; he’s a good idea man. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When Johns takes on too many responsibilities, the quality suffers. I want this book to be good; I’d love for Aquaman to see a Green Lantern style renaissance, but Johns is the guy that brought back Barry Allen and inexplicably went back in time to shove young Allen down a set of stairs. Johns’s best writing is at least three years behind him unless he were to drop everything for Aquaman.

Good points. 

BATGIRL #1
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes

This one is going to be contentious for a lot of readers.  As much as I think Oracle was a strong character in her own right, no Batgirl since her has done a thing for me. Writing off Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown is alright with me.

BATMAN #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo

In the first BATMAN #1 since 1940, New York Times bestselling writer
Scott Snyder teams up with superstar artist Greg Capullo in his DC
Comics debut! In the series, Bruce Wayne once again becomes the only
character taking on the Batman name.

I confess to being curious about this one, and Greg Capullo hasn’t done work for the Big Two in decades.  But again, let’s stop bragging about how long it’s been since the last #1.  It’s weird.

It’s like they’re subliminally saying… “Here’s a collectible! It’ll be worth something someday.” How much is Superman #1 (vol. 2)? Oh… right, not much.

BATMAN & ROBIN #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason

Did we ever get Tomasi’s vol. 1 arc that was supposed to happen between Morrison and Cornell?

I believe so.  I think it was right before Winick’s Red Hood arc.

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1
Written by David Finch
Art by David Finch & Jay Fabok

Shouldn’t we be giving out 1/52 of the entire line to titles we’ll actually see?

BATWING #1
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Ben Oliver

This one reeks of tokenism to me.  Maybe it’ll work, but Judd Winick’s work in the DCU has never been to my taste, Red Hood work aside.

BATWOMAN #1
Written by J.H. Williams III & Haden Blackman
Art by Amy Reeder

I imagine this is the exact same book they’ve been soliciting for over a year, with no changes.  It’ll most likely be solid, and definitely look amazing.

BIRDS OF PREY #1
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Jesus Saiz

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. This is a refrain I keep thinking again and again while looking at this list. Next…

BLACKHAWKS #1
Written by Mike Costa
Art by Ken Lashley
Cover by Ken Lashley

Blackhawk is an elite group of mercenaries made up of brave men from
around the world equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and
vehicles. Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us. A set
of contemporary tales that battle the world’s gravest threats,
BLACKHAWKS #1 will be written by Mike Costa and illustrated by Ken
Lashley.

This is just G.I. Joe, right?  I mean…Right?

Yeah… That’s not necessarily a bad thing though.

Unless you like Blackhawk.

BLUE BEETLE #1
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Ig Guara

I like this in principle, but why is this going to work when the book was cancelled for low sales almost two and a half years ago?

CAPTAIN ATOM #1
Written by JT Krul
Art by Freddie Williams II

I don’t think I can bring myself to read anything more by the guy who wrote Rise of Arsenal.  Sorry.

See my comments re: Animal Man.

CATWOMAN #1
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Guillem March

Even Judd Winick can’t characterize this as more than sex and violence.  Sorry, pass.

DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #1
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Bernard Chang

A new anthology series written by Paul Jenkins?  He’s becoming more hit-or-miss for me, but I like the concept.

My interest in this title is going to waver depending on the character(s) highlighted each issue. Odds are I’ll be pulling this one from quarter boxes in about 20 years in the same way I’ve been pulling DC Comics Presents.

Or Marvel Comics Presents.

DEATHSTROKE #1
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Joe Bennett & Art Thibert

I’ve had to look up half of these writers to see who they are. Why is DC handing a major relaunch to it’s rookie class? Many of these guys only have one shots and back up stories to their names. This is a weird strategy all around. Are Johns and Lee crazy or crazy like foxes? We’ll see… we’ll see.

DEMON KNIGHTS #1
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Diogenes Neves & Oclair Albert

Despite never liking The Demon (reading his dialogue ALWAYS feels like work) Paul Cornell’s name here is a huge draw.  However, I don’t give this book more than a year.  It’s Etrigan.

Despite being Cornell, I’m going to wait for the trade on this one.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1
Written by Tony S. Daniel
Art by Tony S. Daniel

Expect a mediocre bat-title.  Shouldn’t these books be launching with higher-profile creators?  Daniel’s art is great, but his writing is still finding it’s legs.

A major title with mass name recognition in the hands of a mediocre writer… Ummmmm…we’ll see?

THE FLASH #1
Written by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
—-
I’m surprised Geoff Johns hasn’t taken this one over.  I wonder how many speedsters there will be post-Flashpoint, especially with no JSA?

I’ll wait a few issues before I think about giving this one a try.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF SHADE #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Alberto Ponticelli

I’ve heard some great things about Jeff Lemire’s indy work, and Frankenstein was one of Grant Morrison’s best Seven Soldiers titles. I think this one may be one to watch.

I’m liking Lemire’s work on the Flashpoint Frankenstein book. I’ll give this one the once over.

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1
Written by Ethan Van Sciver & Gail Simone
Art by Yildiray Cinar

I was fairly nonplussed about this one, but a Newsarama interview with Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver have made it sound worth checking out.

It will be a testimony to the creative if they can make me care about Firestorm.

GREEN ARROW #1
Written by JT Krul
Art by Dan Jurgens

GREEN LANTERN #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke & Christiam Almy

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin & Scott Hanna

GREEN LANTERN: THE NEW GUARDIANS #1
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Tyler Kirkham & Batt

Okay.  The Green Lantern titles.  This is where things will get especially muddy, since Geoff Johns has spent the last 5 years resetting GL continuity to where he wants it. And without Blackest Night, where did all these Corps come from?  I think I’m done with anything ring-based for the foreseeable future.

Yup.

GRIFTER #1
Written by Nathan Edmondson
Art by Cafu & BIT

What? by whom? Oh… uh….so what?

HAWK & DOVE #1
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Rob Liefeld

<sigh>  I’ll be getting this one, although I’m curious how the Rob will get both this and The Infinite out.  That’s not even taking into consideration the long-lost  Image United.

I, VAMPIRE #1
Written by Josh Fialkov
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Cover by Andrea Sorrentino

Vampires threaten to bring ruin to the DC Universe in I, VAMPIRE #1 by
rising star Josh Fialkov and artist Andrea Sorrentino. Tortured by his
centuries-old love for the Queen of the Damnned, Andrew Bennett must
save humanity from the violent uprising of his fellow vampires, even
if it means exterminating his own kind.

And DC arrives at the Twilight party, which sounds dirty but isn’t.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jim Lee & Scott Williams

I think this is going to be the premiere book of the DCNu, with such high-profile creators on it.  Even I’ll get sucked into it, I’m sure, as I’m a sucker for the JLA.  This will probably also be where we see the most character interaction and get the most clues about how this whole new DCU is going to work.

Nope. Just… nope. I’ll wait until the origin story is finished; then I’ll see what it’s all about.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mikel Janin
Cover by Ryan Sook

John Constantine, Deadman, Shade the Changing Man and Madame Xanadu
are Justice League Dark, a band of supernatural heroes united to stop
the dark things the rest of the DCU does not see in JUSTICE LEAGUE
DARK #1, by Peter Milligan and artist Mikel Janin.

I’m more likely to pick this one up than the main title.

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Aaron Lopresti
Cover by Aaron Lopresti

A team of internationally-drafted superheroes fight each other and
their bureaucratic supervisors as much as they do global crime in
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1 from writer Dan Jurgens and artist
Aaron Lopresti. The cover to issue #1 is by Aaron Lopresti.

In another example of short-sightedness, it feels like DC has spent the last 5 years eliminating the Giffen/DeMatteis era JL only to start listening to fan outrage and support of that era.

How far into the book do we see a roster change to characters that Jurgens really wants to work with? I can’t bring myself to care about this book remembering the lackluster JL stories Jurgens wrote in the 90’s… Dr. Destiny story not withstanding.

Good point.  Also worth noting: Jurgens gets associated with the JLI era a lot, but truly he didn’t get involved until long after the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run was over.

LEGION LOST #1
Written by Fabian Nicieza
Art by Pete Woods

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Francis Portela

MISTER TERRIFIC #1
Written by Eric Wallace
Art by Roger Robinson

I’m a sucker for the new Mister Terrific.  This one I’ll be keeping an eye out for to see how it does…

NIGHTWING #1
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Eddy Barrows

OMAC #1
Written by Dan Didio & Keith Giffen
Art by Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Kenneth Rocafort
Cover by Kenneth Rocafort

Batman’s former sidekick had put his past as The Red Hood behind him,
when the reclusive Jason Todd finds himself unwillingly elected as the
leader of an all-new team of outlaw vigilantes.

As The Red Hood once again, Jason Todd will lead this new team of
antiheroes, including Green Arrow’s rejected sidekick Arsenal and
Starfire, a former prisoner of intergalactic war.

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS will be written by Scott Lobdell and
illustrated by rising superstar artist Kenneth Rocafort.
—-
Junk!After 20 years, DC finally gets their X-Force!

RED LANTERNS #1
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Ed Benes & Rob Hunter

RESURRECTION MAN #1
Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Fernando Dagnino

Welcome back, R-Man!  This is the highlight of the relaunch news, for me.  Seriously, the 90’s series was a highlight of it’s era along other titles like Starman, Chronos, and Chase.

Ditto. This and Action Comics are the only two titles I’m guaranteed to buy when they come out. I’m so excited that they’ve got DnA back for writing, but why not give Butch Guice some love?

THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1
Written by Tony S. Daniel
Art by Philip Tan
Cover by Philip Tan

Batman writer Tony Daniel will team up with artist Philip Tan (GREEN
LANTERN: AGENT ORANGE, THE OUTSIDERS) for THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1.
Carter Hall’s skill at deciphering lost languages has led him to a job
with an archeologist who specializes in alien ruins – but will the
doctor’s latest discovery spread an alien plague through New York
City? No matter the personal cost, Carter Hall must don his cowl and
wings and become the new, savage Hawkman to survive. The cover to
issue #1 is by Philip Tan.

Can we all please just agree that, like Dr. Strange, no matter how much we may like Hawkman he just can’t support his own title?

SGT. ROCK AND THE MEN OF WAR #1
Written by Ivan Brandon
Art by Tom Derenick
Cover by Tom Derenick

The grandson of the original Sgt. Rock assumes the command of Easy
Company, a team of crack ex-military men financed by a covert military
contractor, as they brave the battle-scarred landscape carved by the
DC Universe’s super-villains. SGT. ROCK AND THE MEN OF WAR #1 is
contemporary military story fighting under modern conditions, and will
be written by Ivan Brandon and illustrated by Tom Derenick.

STATIC SHOCK #1
Written by John Rozum & Scott McDaniel
Art by Scott McDaniel & Jonathan Glapion

STORMWATCH #1
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Miguel Sepulveda
Cover by Miguel Sepulveda

Stormwatch is a dangerous super human strike force whose existence is
kept secret from the world. Jack Hawksmoor and the rest of the crew
look to recruit two of the deadliest super humans on the planet:
Midnighter and Apollo. And if they say no? Perhaps the Martian
Manhunter can change their minds. Featuring a surprising new roster,
STORMWATCH #1 will be written by the critically-acclaimed Paul Cornell
(Superman: The Black Ring, “Dr. Who”) and illustrated by Miguel
Sepulveda.

I’m a pretty huge Stormwatch fan, at least the Ellis run they’re trying to recreate here.  But I think DC is making a mistake by putting J’onn here rather than in the JLA, where he’s been the one constant across every. single.  incarnation.

At the point that you have 3 JLA’s, a Stormwatch, a Suicide Squad, Teen Titans, and a Blackhawk team combatting “the world’s gravest threats,” why not combine them all into a book called Justice League Unlimited? What better way to honor Dwayne McDuffie and apologize for screwing him over with his shot at the JLoA book?

SUICIDE SQUAD #1
Written by Adam Glass
Art by Marco Rudy

Harley Quinn! Deadshot! King Shark! They’re a team of death-row super
villains recruited by the government to take on missions so dangerous
– they’re sheer suicide! Who will be the first to crack under the
pressure? Find out in SUICIDE SQUAD #1, written by Adam Glass
(FLASHPOINT: LEGION OF DOOM) with art by Marco Rudy (THE SHIELD).

Okay, this sounds pretty intriguing.

I’d agree if I hadn’t read the first two issues of Flashpoint: Legion of Doom. It’s been the most boring prison break ever.

SUPERBOY #1
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by R.B. Silva & Rob Lean

SUPERGIRL #1
Written by Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Art by Mahmud Asrar

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF TOMORROW #1
Written by George Perez
Art by Jesus Merino

I’ve just realized that there’s no book simply called “Superman”.  If DC’s bragging about how they’re relaunching new #1 issues of titles for the first time in 70 years, they should be ashamed that for the first time in 70 years some of them are gone.  This may be the only book with a creator who also participated in the post-Crisis relaunch.

SWAMP THING #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Yannick Paquette

TEEN TITANS #1
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund
Cover by Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund

Tim Drake is forced to step out from behind his keyboard when an
international organization seeks to capture or kill super-powered
teenagers. As Red Robin, he must team up with the mysterious and
belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and a hyperactive
speedster calling himself Kid Flash in TEEN TITANS #1, by Scott
Lobdell and artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.

This reeks of mid-90’s Image comics, to me.  Hey look, Superboy has a tattoo!  Isn’t that edgy?  I bet Red Robin has talons or claws of some type.

VOODOO #1
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Sami Basri

No offense meant to Ron Marz, but even Alan Moore couldn’t make Voodoo interesting.  Couldn’t we have gotten Joe Casey back on Wildcats?

WONDER WOMAN #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang

A few miscellaneous thoughts:

We haven’t quite worked out what this means (for good or ill), but twelve titles feature Batman
characters or take place in Gotham City.  That’s almost 1/4 of the whole line.

GL-related books are still even with the Superman related titles, 6 each (if you count Superboy in Teen Titans). Ain’t that some #$%@.

Out of the 52 new titles, only 6 look like must-buys to me, with about 9 that look like they have potential or I may check in on.  That’s 28%, which isn’t bad, but I doubt I’ll pick them all up.

Two are must-buys. I’ll give four others a chance. Looks like my pendulum has swung back toward Marvel.

I’ve looked through this list of new books many, many times and I can’t help but wonder how long DC will be able to maintain these 52 titles? Some I see lasting 1 – 3 years while a few won’t make it to April.

Agreed.  And now that Robinson is relaunching JSA, Batman Inc will be relaunched soon, and more titles will come in and out, the “52” part of this seems like a gimmick.  In the interest of fairness, we’ll let Dan Didio have the last word.

DCnU: Threat or Menace?

In the past several weeks DC has been ruling comic book news with the  revelation that following Flashpoint all of their titles will be  cancelled, replaced with 52 new ongoing series all starting with new  #1’s.  Matt and I have been pretty quiet on this so far, but I think I can sum up my  feelings pretty easily:

No sir, I don’t think I like it.

It’s not just the fear of a new retcon.  I started reading comics  shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths, so the post-Crisis  universe has been “my” DCU, but I’ve gone more or less willingly  through other revamps like Zero Hour and the Infinite and Final  Crises.  It’s not  just being an old stick-in-the-mud, attached to “my” universe and  unwilling to give up any variation from that (although certainly that  is a part of it), it’s that I don’t see the necessity.

For so long we’ve been trying to convince the world that “Bang! Pow!  Comics aren’t just for kids anymore!”  Well it’s worked, and now  nobody believes comics aren’t for dudes in their thirties.  Guys who  have lived with the continuity for decades and are happy with it.  We’re having to BEG kids to come read comics and bribe them with Free Comic Book Days.

For a moment let’s accept the premise that nobody cares about the  established continuity and there are potential readers just waiting for the prime jumping-on point.  DC is launching their new universe* with 52  brand new titles!  No one (other than a few of those aforementioned  30-somethings) has been waiting all this time to get into comics just to start picking up 52 new books.  So we’re negating  the very premise right off the bat.  And with trade paperback programs  it’s never been easier to get caught up to speed on a title, so is DC  building a straw man argument to justify ripping apart the foundations  of the DCU?  Add in to that some of these titles, while sounding  interesting, can’t possibly last more than 13 issues.  Justice League  Dark?  Demon Knights?  Deadman?  Not a chance.

DC (and Geoff Johns in particular) has ALREADY spent the last 5 years  trying to retcon the DCU into the place they remember from their  childhoods.  To wit: Supergirl and Superboy, Krypto, Batman catching  his parents’ killer, the returns of Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, and the  end of secret identities**.  Mark Waid had a totally valid reason for  opening that door,  but it didn’t take much for Geoff Johns to stick his foot in there and  build a universe around it.  In fact, Johns’ hard-on for the  Superfriends and 80’s eras of the Justice League (the hands-down worst  era in modern times for storytelling and good ideas) is returning the  DCU to a one of the WORST periods in DC history and stifling progress, even as it returns the DCU to one of HIS favorite times.  Hey, that’s just me, though.  I have different affections than Johns.  But it just proves that there’s no perfect, ideal, one size fits all DCU.

Practically, screwing with the timeline can only work for so long.  If you’ll  recall, after the Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunch Superman and Wonder Woman were new arrivals,  although Batman, Flash, etc still had an established history.  Then there was the confusion with the Justice League (Was it a new group?  Old?  Who was the founding female member?) and the lines got so indecipherable that  the only way to solve the problem was to drift further and further back to original continuity.  And yet DC doesn’t  appear to have learned that lesson AT ALL, as all three of those examples  will be new to the DCU again***.  Batman, Flash, and GL are all still established****, the JLA will be a new team (and the first in DC continuity…who knows what that will mean for the JSA and the Golden Agers), Superman gets one current title and one set five years in the past.  I’m lost already!  No way does this not become a mess 2 years in.

It’s not that I don’t see benefits.  First and foremost, DC is trying something new.  That’s got to be lauded.  Then there are lines like the Super- and Bat-books that have gotten so bloated it’s hard to tell what one title offers versus another.*****  We’re also seeing the return of titles like Resurrection Man, Stormwatch, and Legion Lost (if you’re into such things), which is pretty exciting.  There’s real opportunity here.

But more than anything, it feels like DC has painted themselves into a corner after years of short-sighted storytelling.  It’s gotten so messy they can’t “One Year Later” changes into place, they’re having to magically “Brand New Day” it back into cohesiveness.  It’s as if this were the only possible solution to get back to the status quo after Batman, Inc and Superman’s marriage, and obviously Marvel owns the rights to Mephisto.

One of the things that made Marvel significant in the 60’s was  creating one coherent universe where any of their characters could and  did interact with another, and that was the default mode for  developing superhero universes for the last 50 years.  But maybe what  we’re seeing here is the end of continuity and a move to storytelling where each story stands on it’s  own.

All this said, let’s look back on my comments from a couple weeks back.  I  suspect that this isn’t an attempt to retcon a new CONTINUITY, it’s an  attempt to build a new CANON.  With all of DC’s titles starting from  issue 1, they have the rare opportunity to scrap what doesn’t work,  keep what does, and then declare from this point on, they are staying  true to the key concepts of each character without having to fight with the continuity of every story.  It’s the core of the
character that’s key and they want to keep drawing in new readers  without burdening them down with 60 years of stories or hundreds of  issues that may or may not matter.

No sir, I don’t think I like it.

Grudgingly, I admit this is a valid approach. And they are DC’s  characters, not mine.  But continuity is part of what we love, even if  it can be a burden to creators, new readers, and even us readers.  Yes, I want  everything to fit, but it’s not a deal-breaker.  When the line I’ve followed faithfully is gone, when those characters aren’t the same, it  doesn’t mean that those stories no longer exist or aren’t valid, but it  does mean the characters we’ve spent so much time with AREN’T THE SAME  CHARACTERS.

The other day I asked if continuity was just trivia, keeping us from  great stories.  Well, the answer is no.  Those details are characterization, and they’re exactly why we’ve followed these characters for months or  years or (in my case) decades.

Stay tuned next week for Part Three, in which we look at the news and  rumors for the DCNu line and make rampant speculations and  ill-informed inferences like everyone else on the Internet.

*Not New Universe.  That was different.
** The idea that everyone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman (and refers to  him as Bruce in the field as if they’re all best friends!) infuriates me more than anything in comics over the past 20 years.
*** I may be the only one who remembers this, but especially shocking  after the first Crisis was the change they put Brainiac through.  They  just made him a Coluan with mental powers.  That didn’t last long…
****Good luck explaining Blackest Night and the New Guardians without the Justice League and all of the established heroes.

 

***** Almost as bad as Marvel’s Avengers books.