Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Long Weekend!

I'm out of here for the long weekend. I hope my readers in the USA and in Canada both enjoy your respective long weekends as well.

I'll be back early next week with some more thoughts on the world of comic books.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Justice League Revealed

So, glass maker 'Toom Tumblers released an image used on an upcoming glass to their Facebook page. The image was of the Justice League.

Over on DC Women Kicking Ass, they identify most of the characters, with one exception. The mystery woman on the right, second from the bottom. They do speculate on who it could be.

I posted before that I didn't think it made sense to have Firestorm and Captain Atom on the same team, and I am glad they didn't do that. I can't tell which Atom that is from the picture (2nd down on the left). And Deadman? He's already on the cover of Justice League Dark as well. And seems a better fit there.

So, it looks like the 15-member JLA is going to be Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern (Hal), Cyborg and Aquaman as the "Big 7." Joining them will be Deadman, Atom, Element Woman (from Flashpoint... kind of a female Metamorpho), Firestorm, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Someone, and Mera. Interesting that Geoff Johns is writing Aquaman, and two characters from that mythos make it into the League.

This is also a good look at Jim Lee's version of some of these costumes. I like his take on Superman's boots better than George Perez'. And I see he hasn't completely done away with the "underwear on the outside" look... now they just are all the same color as the pants. And Lee really does have a thing for the downward angled belt, doesn't he. Even characters not actually having real belts like Flash and Green Lantern have the "pointing to my groin" look.

I also have to say that I think he over-did the beak on Hawkman a little.

And my own 2 cents on the mystery woman? Power Girl. From an interview on ComicVine:

CV: Will we be seeing Power Girl in the future?
Bob: Yeah, she'll be around.
CV: But not in her own title?
Bob: No, she won't have her own #1 title, but Karen Starr will appear in one of the 52 titles.

I think it is odd that he uses her real name and not her code name when he refers to her directly - it may be that the character is changed somehow. If that is her, they have definitely changed her outfit. But that would make sense - no more JSA, no more "Cousin of the original Superman who doesn't exist anymore." Really, what I like about the character is her personality and attitude, with her power level as an added bonus. If she retains those things, even if the powers and origin are modified, I can live with it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The One Challenge Super-Heroes Cannot Overcome? Marriage.

Inspired by Captain Elias over on Superpowers That Be, I was thinking about marriage in superhero books.

What is it about married super-heroes that some find so challenging? Not that there are not characters who are married. There are some that have had long marriages, such as Reed and Sue Richards, Flash (Jay Garrick), Flash (Wally West) and Animal Man. But it looks like Superman will not be once DC's Relaunch happens in September. Spider-Man's marriage has been cosmically erased due to the events of "One More Day." Not to mention that as they worked their way through the morass of Hawkman's continuity, one of the things that didn't survive was his marriage. Elongated Man's wife was killed, and Atom's wife turned into Eclipso. Flash (Barry Allen)'s wife was killed. Some of this veers into "Women in Refrigerators" territory, and it is easier for me to come up with examples where the marriage went away than where it became the new status quo.

Why do creators not want these Superman and Spider-Man - in many ways the flagship characters for each of the companies - married? I have a few theories. First off, back to a recurring theme I have hit on several times here: the inter-media status quo.

In his movies, Superman isn't married. The same is true in Spider-Man's movies, most of his cartoons, etc. So, as a reader moves from one medium to another, from a practical, "we've hooked 'em, now we've got to land 'em" perspective, I can see wanting the character on the page to be as close as possible to the character on the screen. This does present challenges, of course. Amazing Spider-Man is a three times a month book. Superman is in a number of titles every month. There is bound to be a lot more development at that pace than at one movie every 2 or 3 years, and now they are looking to reboot the franchise. To keep the comics looking like the movies, then there can be no real character advancement, and those romantic relationships these characters have will have to be in a constant state of romantic comedy-like misunderstandings and making up to have a good reason to never move the relationship forward.

This also gives the characters an easy sub-plot. Many writers are comfortable writing conflict in a non-married relationship. But they don't want to do the same within a marriage. I'm not sure if this is a cultural taboo, or what, but most marriages that do exist in comics are generally shown as being supportive and harmonious all the time. I am a happily married man. Very happily. But that doesn't mean that my wife and I never have any kind of conflict in our relationship. The dynamic changes, but there are as many interesting stories to be told about married couples as dating ones. At least I think so.

Of course, there is a third aspect to my theory. In many ways, super heroes are wish fulfillment for their fans. Maybe on some level, writers think that the fans want the freedom of not being tied down? I don't know. That may be true for some. For others, part of being a good person is making real connections with other people. Marriage is, perhaps the ultimate expression of that. I feel like super heroes should be role models. Finding the perfect person in your life, and committing to spend the rest of your life with them? Working through problems with them, supporting each other through good times and bad, in sickness and in health? Well, that is a role worth modelling.

Which is not to say that all characters should be married. Just that I wish that characters who are married off are not seen as having closed off creative options. Instead, maybe, that they have opened up some new ones.

There are some things I will really miss post-reboot at DC. The JSA, Babs in her wheelchair, and Superman's marriage.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Green Ronin Ready for Pre-Orders of DC Adventures Heroes & Villains, Vol. I

For those of you who are role playing gamers as well as comic fans, You've probably checked out Green Ronin's DC Adventures. The system is basically the same as Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition, which is a solid system.

The original book came with X characters in it. On the hero side, there was: Aquaman, Batman (Bruce), Black Canary, Captain Marvel, Flash (Barry), Green Arrow (Ollie), Green Lantern (Hal), Martian Manhunter, Nightwing, Plastic Man, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Zatanna. And the villains were represented by Black Adam, Black Manta, Braniac, Catwoman, Cheetah, Circe, Darkseid, Gorilla Grodd, Joker, Lex Luthor, Prometheus, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, and Vandal Savage. Additionally, there was a quick start PDF that had stats for Superboy and Knockout. Overall, I thought the stats were good, but not perfect.

Green Ronin has the license to create two books of characters from the DC Universe. The books are named, cleverly enough Heroes & Villains Volume 1 and Volume 2. There have been challenges in getting these out. I think everyone expected them out a little sooner than they have been, but they are now taking pre-orders. They have also put a PDF preview up on their site, showing this book will cover from Abra Kadabra to Kobra & the Kobra Cult. I'm quite pleased to see that they have included multiple version of characters where applicable (including Golden Age versions of these heroes) for instance, all three versions of Batgirl are present in the book, as well as entries for the Blue and Indigo Lantern Corps. There is also a good cross section of villains, and team entries.

The price point is a little high - $49.95 for the print version (from Green Ronin - Amazon is selling it for much less). It's $27.00 for the PDF. Personally, I will pony up the money - I like to support any efforts to create RPGs based on existing comic book universes. There are a lot of characters here that will give players a good look at how to create some interesting abilities, and will also help GMs with letting players interact with the DC Universe.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wonder Woman Digital Comics Deal Today and Tomorrow

For two days only, those interested in seeing how DC handles its digital comics on the cheap can check out some Wonder Woman stories for just $.99 each today and tomorrow.

Details on which comics are available are in the DC blog post here. Strangely, clicking on the image promoting the sale just takes you to... that image. But there is a link in the blog post that takes you to the page where you can buy the books or you can just click here.

If you are not familiar with the work George Perez did with the character, I highly recommend looking in to Wonder Woman volume 2. That has been my favorite take on the character to date. Deeply steeped in Greek mythology, a butt kicking warrior princess, and a truly good and caring person, all in equal measure. This interpretation of the character is the one that I automatically go to when I think Wonder Woman.

Also note, there are a few comics in the list that are free! All Star Comics #8, her very first appearance, as well as Sensation Comics #1, where her origin story continued from All Star Comics #8. Also, DC has put together a Wonder Woman 101 book that brings people up to date on the character, and that is also free.

But I'll be checking out some of the books here that I have not read myself, just to get a feel for DC's digital comics delivery system. A preview of what to look forward to with their day-and-date delivery in September.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Death of Ultimate Spider-Man

It's happened: the death of Spider-Man. Sure, this isn't Marvel's mainstream Spider-Man we are talking about, but it is Peter Parker, and it is a version of the character who has been consistently published for over 10 years. Marvel is killing Ultimate Spider-Man.

And to be honest, I think this is a long time coming.

Don't get me wrong. I love this take on the character. But I think this is what the Ultimate Universe should be about. Being willing to take chances. Being willing to kill a character if it means better stories. Spider-Man kicked off the whole Ultimate Universe, and now they are going to be experimenting with what happens when he dies.
Spider-Man is perhaps an even more influential figure in the Ultimate Universe than he is in the mainstream Marvel Universe. He has crossed over with just about everyone, and his power level feels a little more impressive to me in that universe. Maybe that is just me, but I always love seeing Spidey being thought of as in the upper tier of heroes. In this world, where there are fewer cosmic-powered types running around, Spider-Man really is a very impressive hero. He deals with the same challenges that the mainstream Spider-Man always has, but there were also changes. Like the movies, he generates his webs organically. Also like the movies, he shares his secret with Mary-Jane Watson early on in his career. Many of his rogues have made appearances as Ultimate versions of themselves, and some of the classic stories have been touched on or re-told with a more modern twist. All of this has been a great ride. But now, that ride is coming to an end.

I am happy to see the original creative team back together for this. Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley worked on 111 issues of Ultimate Spider-Man together, the longest run ever on a Marvel comic by two people. They passed Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's work together on Fantastic Four. Bagley's art suits this character so well. I'm thrilled that Bagley came back to help write the end of the version of Peter Parker that he helped to define for so long.

As much as I love this character, I hope they leave him dead, and I hope that the lack of a Spider-Man has far reaching consequences for the Ultimate Universe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making Sure Digital is Done Right

DC is going to be releasing digital comics day-and-date with the print versions as of the release of the New DCU in September. Marvel has a plan where for $5 per month, you get unlimited access to all Marvel’s digital comics – around 8,000 at the time of this writing.
Are they doing enough? Are they doing it right?

What I would want out of a digital comic plan is access to a database that helps me make the best use of these comics. Use image and text recognition to make these as searchable as possible. And keep a list of characters that appear in each book. If I am suddenly interested in Sabretooth, let me search all your comics for him. Let me select if he is present in the comic, if he has a fight in the comic, or if he is just mentioned.

Allow me to search for all times that two characters fight each other – whether it is Batman vs. Deathstroke or Spider-Man vs. Venom. Allow me to get a list of all the characters you can show me Captain America interacting with in your group of digital comics.

If you are not going to be doing a lump sum subscription like Marvel is, then consider packages whereby I can buy, for a reduced rate, access to all appearances by a specific character or team. Want to drum up interest for a new upcoming series? Offer discounted access to the character’s back issues, origin and most important appearances. And story arc discounts as well - give me a reduced rate on all issues of "Kraven's Last Hunt" or "Brotherhood of the Fist."

At least as importantly, allow people to follow creative teams. Fans develop favorite writers and artists who they enjoy no matter what book they are working on.
Also, allow easier sharing of these books. In order to help bring in new readers, allow those who have a subscription a limited number of free “shares” of books, and a sliding scale beyond that, getting more expensive the more they are shared, particularly of the same series.

There are also promotional possibilities. Include a free download of a comic with a cereal box, or in the DVD/Blu Ray case for Disney or Warner Brothers movies. Give people a taste for free, and see if you can get them interested. I think there are a lot of possibilities.

Moving to digital is important, and is a great thing for these publishers to do, but they really need to take advantage of all the tools that are available in the digital world. In order to truly make digital comics come in to their own, it isn’t just a matter of transitioning the existing experience onto another platform, but instead, it is important that digital is viewed as a whole new medium, and the powers that be at Marvel and DC think in some detail about how to make their product as strong as it can be in this medium.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pants? Pants Are a Big Deal?

Okay, so there was a rumor going around that in the new DCU, there was an edict that female characters were not to be exposing leg. That they were expected to be wearing pants. And I was surprised by the uproar this caused. Yes, it would mean changing some classic costumes. Many super heroine and villains tend towards cheesecake. Especially in the hands of some artists.

That's the work of Ed Benes. I think he is a realy good artist, and he clearly does love the female form. In fact, he does work on commission, including pin-ups. That picture is, in some peoples' opinions, what is wrong with comics today. New fans are not coming in because they see things like that and think that comics are all about fanservice, and that they are for pubescent teens or dirty old men to get their rocks off.

That's not all that comics are about, of course, although it would be disingenuous to claim that fanservice of various sorts is not present in comics. But honestly, I don't think pants are going to help. Even in the picture above, look at Hawkgirl. Pants... check. As highly sexualized as any of the other characters in the picture? Pretty much, yep. The only character who doesn't come off that way is maybe Vixen. And it isn't hard to find images where she is being handled that way, despite the pants.

If DC believes that decreasing the level of fanservice directed at people who like the look at the female form will truly help sales, I'm in. I have no problem with Wonder Woman now wearing pants, as long as they match the rest of the costume, and suit the character. Honestly, I'd rather see Diana in the kind of skirt that a Hoplite wore, as it seems to fit her origin and character better. But I have no particular attachment to Supergirl or Mary Marvel wearing skirts. I'd be happy to see those characters in tights, or even baggier pants if the costumes were designed well.

As it turns out, there was no such edict from DC editorial. This can be pretty clearly seen on the cover of the new Suicide Squad title. Harley Quinn is not what I would call modestly dressed on that cover. And even if she were wearing pants, that top is not helping. But here is the thing. I don't think women mind sexy, for the most part. Growing up reading comics, I wanted to be able to see myself in the role of Batman, or Spider-Man, or whoever. I imagine female fans feel the same way. And I don't think they the escapist alter-egos of women are typically bland, any more than I would want to look like a schlubby, overweight version of Batman if could be as impressive as he is.

What I think is important is to make sure that women's presence in comics is more that just fanservice. That the characters are strong, capable of looking after themselves, and have depth to them. If all that is true, then I think people will enjoy reading about the character whether she is wearing pants or fishnets. However, if a character is present only for fanservice purposes, then it hurts the overall integrity of the comic. It's important to me that this industry carries on, and if having less cheesecake is part of the way to do that, so be it. But let's also address the idea of creating characters that girls and women will want to be, or at least admire and look up to. Then dress them appropriately for that character. I love the fact that Zatanna's costume calls to mind a stage magician or magician's assistant. I think it suits the character. I'm sad to see it looks like that costume is gone in Justice League Dark. That said, if the white top Zatanna wears buttons all the way up to her neck and there is no cleavage, I am fine with that - it is still appropriate to the character. And that, to me, is really where these decisions should be coming from.

Worth mentioning, by the way, that Ed Benes does a lot more than just cheesecake. I don't want to be seen as picking on him. The man does great work on all sorts of characters. Here are a couple of examples of his work that I really like.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Lantern Review

My take on the Green Lantern movie, and the things it made me think of.

I’ll start off by saying a few things: Firstly, despite my passion for comics, I am not someone who expects slavish devotion on the part of movies to the source material. As long as I feel they have the spirit of a character right, I am generally okay with re-interpretations needed for the big screen, particularly if they are adapting an ongoing character with years of continuity. Secondly, I am a fan of Ryan Reynolds, going all the way back to Two Guys and a Girl (I didn't watch it at all when there was a pizza place involved). I find him charismatic and entertaining. Thirdly, it had been a pretty long week at work, and I was ready to sit back and be entertained.

I will say that the movie accomplished the last for me. As I write this, the movie has a 23% rating from critics on, and a 72% "liked it" rating from viewers.

Additionally, Leonard Malkin finished his review by saying, "But despite those caveats..." (The caveats here being that the movie tries to do too much, with too many characters and too many subplots) "...the film offers a dazzling array of visual effects, a likable hero, a beautiful leading lady, a colorful villain, and a good backstory. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously. Green Lantern entertained me, and I can’t dismiss that because of its imperfections."

Roger Ebert, the critic I respect most gave the movie 2.5 stars, and says, "The bottom line: This is a comic-book movie. Fans of the Green Lantern (in his intergalactic story mode and not his earthbound TV series) will no doubt enjoy its visualizations and its references to details of the back story that escaped me. There's a whole lot going on. We don't really expect subtle acting or nuanced dialogue. We appreciate an effective villain. We demand one chaste kiss between hero and heroine, but no funny stuff. We enjoy spectacular visuals like the Green elders, who are immortal and apparently spend eternity balancing on top of towering pillars. 'Green Lantern' delivers all of those things, and for what it's worth, I liked it more than 'Thor.'" I'm not sure I liked it more than Thor, myself, but certainly think the two were much closer than the praise heaped on Thor vs. the disdain for Green Lantern would indicate.

Malkin's criticism is on the money, in my opinion. At 1:45 in length, this movie tried to cover too much back story, introduce too many characters, and too much sub-plot. A couple of visits to Oa with the Guardians and some of the Green Lanterns there being introduced. Hector Hammond back on earth, and the big bad, an interesting take on Parallax. Not to mention the introduction of Dr. Amanda Waller. She has a small role in the film, but Angela Basset has such great screen presence that she still feels important. I can't help but wonder if this is the DC equivalent of having Nick Fury show up after the credits in Iron Man. All of this on top of Hector Hammond, a relationship sub plot between Hal and Carol Ferris... it really does feel like a little too much.

I'll be honest. I think the story would have been simpler if they had just told the comic book fall of Sinestro as the main plot. Hal gets the ring, gets trained by the other Lanterns, including Sinestro, and after overcoming some kind of threat, goes to see Sinestro. He finds Sinestro is using his ring to rule his people, and we get a battle between the two. Cleaner, I think, and fewer characters needed.

Even so, I found the effects in this movie to be awesome, the acting to vary from solid to excellent, and the story to be good. It might be a little confusing for those who do not know the Green Lantern mythos, although my wife liked it, and doesn't know that much about it other than the whole "space cops" idea.

All in all, for fans of the genre, this will be a fun movie. And even though there is a set-up for something of a sequel in the credits, I don't know that DC has managed to really hit it out of the park here. I'm not sure why it is that Marvel has had so much more success on the big screen than DC (outside of Batman, of course) but I don't think that Green Lantern is going to change this.

Green Lantern opened on over 6,000 screens, whereas Thor opened on 3,955, and X-Men First Class opened on 6,900. Thor had an easier time holding on to those screens when it opened a month and a half ago, and it opened on a lot of IMAX and 3D screens, which proved to be a very successful strategy for the movie. Predictions are that Green Lantern will open to about $60 Million, which will put it ahead of X-men: First Class, but below Thor. So far, it looks like Thor is going to be the #1 hero this summer, unless Captain America can show him how it is done.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Diversity in The New DCU

DC has repeatedly mentioned that one of the hallmarks of the new DCU is more diversity. Comics have gotten a little better at this over the years, but do still have a ways to go, and I am glad DC is moving in that direction.

In talking about diversity in comics, I'll start off with what diversity is not - diversity is not tokenism. DC should not have a checklist - "Do we have an Asian, a black, a Latino, a homosexual, etc..." That isn't what diversity is about. Part of the issue with tokenism is that characters often become stereotypes of the "niche" they fill in these cases. True diversity will come from creators working to make the books look more like the real world around them, as far as makeup goes.

But there are also challenges in this. Since this isn't truly a reboot, but rather a relaunch, drastic changes such as these cannot really be made to A-list characters. Superman cannot suddenly be black, or gay, or what have you. That gets away from being the iconic version of the character that everyone knows.

I am glad to see many of the existing characters who help with this back: Apollo and the Midnighter, a gay couple who have a lot of character beyond their sexuality. Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes, Hispanic teenager turned superhero. Jason Rusch, black teenager and part of the composite superhero called Firestorm. Cyborg, now a member of the Justice League. Mister Terrific, the third-smartest man in the world getting his own series. Batwing, a black hero based out of somewhere in Africa as well. I'll be honest, I am not sure of Voodoo's ethic background, but she frequently looks to be drawn a little duskier than the average white heroine. Static, a black teenager who is still around from the defunct Milestone comics. And of course, Batwoman is back, a lesbian character who has always been written well, and not used for salaciousness.

I'm also hoping to see some of the DCU's more popular team books have the presence of LGBT characters, and characters of color, and perhaps some who are both. DC has a fair number of existing characters to choose from. Kurt Busiek introduced Skyrocket in 2002, and she featured prominently in his Power Company series, which I thought was a good read, but then I have always like Busiek's writing. If you haven't read his Astro City, do yourself a favor and pick up some of the trades. Skyrocket is an interesting character - military background as a Navy Aviator, but having challenges in that field due to being a black woman. She is smart, but doesn't have the kind of money she needs to keep her gear running. She ended up with the Power Company, let by Josiah Power, the mind and money behind the concept of the Power Company, which is like a corporate version of Marvel's Heroes for Hire. Power is a gay black lawyer who doesn't like to use his powers, but is supposedly among the most powerful metas alive when he does. Skyrocket's Argo Harness allows her to absorb, redirect and store for later use all kinds of energies. She has made several appearances in the DCU since Power Company ended. She'd make a great addition to the Justice League, or even to Justice League International, if they could handle another American.

The other option, of course, is to create new characters who fill these roles. New characters tend to fail in comics, so this has to be handled carefully. Even with the best of intentions, it can be hard to do this well, without it feeling gimmicky. As an example, Steve Englehart, who has written some amazing things in his career, including some pretty iconic takes on Batman and the Joker, wrote a book called the New Guardians for DC for 12 issues. This book featured Extra├▒o, a flamboyantly gay Peruvian man although the standards of the time prevented anyone from actually saying he was gay. Gloss, a Chinese woman who could draw power from the Dragon Lines of the Earth. Jet, a black woman from England who few and fired blasts of energy, as well as having magnetic powers. Betty Clawman, an aboriginal Australian who became a disembodied cosmic force. Ram, a Japanese man who could communicate with electronic devices over great distances, and was durable. Add in the Floronic Man and Harbinger, and you have yourself a team. Unfortunately, they came off much more as cliches or stereotypes. Of course, maybe in 1988, having even cliches out there was a step forward for comics (and to be fair, Jet was maybe not as much of a cliche as the others). But not today. Today, new superheroes created need to be deeper than that.

But the fact remains - as creators work on new characters, they should be challenging themselves to think about why a certain character must be white, or straight, or male. Can there be a female villainous mastermind who doesn't use her sex appeal as part of her shtick? How about a Native American hero whose powers are not necessarily tied to his heritage directly? Which is also not to say that there should be a moratorium on the creation of new white male characters - just that we may have reached a time where that should no longer be the default state.

By the way... unrelated, but worth knowing. In issue #2 of The New Guardians, in a story called "Jungle Snow," The New Guardians faced one of the most unusual villains I have ever seen. He was called Snow-Flame, and his greatest line in the story was "I am Snow-Flame! Every cell of my being burns with white-hot ecstasy. Cocaine is my God-- and I am the human instrument of its will!" And this series also had a vampire called Hemo-Goblin who bit several of the characters and possibly infected them with AIDS. Clearly, Englehart was taking on social issues as well as a comic in the late 80's published by one of the big 2 would let him. Unfortunately, it may have been an idea whose time had not yet come.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Solicits for September's New DCU

The September solicits are out, in some cases giving more insight into DC's 52 new titles.

One of the most interesting is Justice League International. The mystery woman in the bottom left corner that I could not name previously? She's gone. And not mentioned in the solicit. New character or surprise guest? Either way, DC doesn't want to talk about it.

They have also released the covers of the previously missing Green Lantern titles.

Looking at some of the titles, there is a mish-mash of ratings here, too. Several of the titles got T+ ratings. Not surprisingly, the entire Justice League group of comics got T for Teen ratings. Red Lanterns got a T+ rating, no doubt due to their "battling against injustice in the most bloody ways imaginable!"

Among the Batman titles, only Catwoman got the T+ rating.

Looking at the titles from "The Dark" group of books, we see, not surprisingly, a few more T+ ratings. Swamp Thing, Animal Man, I, Vampire, Resurrection Man, and Voodoo all got that rating.

None of the Teen books got T+ ratings. They are all Teen rated, appropriately. There is a little information here about Hawk & Dove that wasn't previously available. It looks like they are setting up some inter-partner discord, and a long-term baddie here. Still excited to read this book.

"The Edge" group of books also have a pretty even distribution of T and T+ ratings. Stormwatch is T+, as are Deathstroke, Suicide Squad, Men of War, and All-Star Western. It will be interesting to contrast the T-rated Blackhawk and the T+ Men of War, both covering modern warfare, but clearly from different perspectives.

All of the Superman books are rated T, not surprisingly. The solicit for Supergirl makes it sound... well... unappealing to me. "Meet Supergirl. She’s got the unpredictable behavior of a teenager, the same powers as Superman – and none of his affection for the people of Earth. So don’t piss her off!" Why do I want to read about a god-like character who doesn't care about the people of earth? And how is she a hero?

Still, like all the others, I will give Supergirl a chance. Hopefully, I find her more compelling than it sounds.

JSA - Resting... but not gone?

As I touched on in my previous post, no mention was made of the JSA. Well, someone has mentioned them. DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio said on his Facebook page, "AS for JSA, we have decided to rest this concept while we devote our attention on the launch of the three new Justice League series. As for other characters and series not part of the initial 52, there are plenty of stories to be told, and we're just getting started. best, DD"

So, no ongoing JSA series as part of the re-launch, or immediately following it seems. However, hope springs eternal. In response to people saying they would miss them on the very same page, DiDio says: "who said we weren't going to see the characters?"

I'd love to see them show up in DC Universe Presents or perhaps as supporting characters. I don't need to see them still in tights fighting crime (though I wouldn't mind...), but it would be nice not to have their contribution ignored. They were the first super-team, and a respectful nod would be nice to see.

I grew up loving this team. I remember reading an old comic at my grandfather's house with these characters who I didn't know. And loving it. Not to mention their classic cross-overs with the Justice League. It somehow made them special. I'll take a moment of silence for the team, but am going to try to remain positive on how this re-launch moves forward.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Look at the DC Relaunch

Okay, so I am a comic fan. That means I complain. I'm going to start off with that.

There are some things missing from DC's relaunch in my opinion. No Justice Society of America. No mention in any of those books of Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Ted Grant, any of the "oldies but goodies" that I love so much. I really hope that even if it is just as hard-assed "get off my lawn" retired types, some of these characters are still alive. But it seems unlikely. As the blurb for Action Comics says, "Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero." If Supes is the first, then no JSA could have existed. That may also get rid of many of the legacy heroes around the DCU. No more Power Girl? A shame after her recent series. But without the background of Superman of Earth-2, isn't she just a slightly older take on Supergirl? Also, on the magic side: No mention of the Spectre or of Doctor Fate in the darker side of the DCU. More characters with JSA ties... gone. At least Mr. Terrific is around, though he no longer will have taken inspiration from Terry Sloane - the first Mister Terrific, I assume.

No mention whatsoever of the Marvel Family. They have been a fundamental part of DC so long that I have a hard time believing they won't be around in some capacity. But maybe they won't. Maybe with Superman and Apollo around, and the magic side of the DCU taking a turn to the dark they felt there was no place for the Big Red Cheese. This is even more of a shame because of the stature that Black Adam had attained in the DCU. It seemed writers were having a hard time differentiating Captain Marvel from Superman, and attempts to tie him more firmly into the magical world were not as successful commercially as they might have hoped. But people loved Black Adam.

As mentioned previously, I have seen nothing on Wally West (Flash/Kid Flash), Donna Troy (Wonder Girl/Troia), Raven, Garfield Logan (Changeling/Beast Boy) or Garth of Atlantis (Aqualad/Tempest). I'm hoping that the relative prominence of Nightwing, Arsenal and Raven means they are still around, and look forward to finding out.

Nonetheless, though these characters will be missed by some, if they are indeed missing, I think this is a great opportunity for DC, and I am looking forward to my small role in it as a reader, and reviewing the books for this site.

It has come out this week that this will not affect Vertigo. This isn't a surprise, as some of those characters are creator-owned, but in announcing that Flashpoing tie-ins Booster Gold #45 and Batman - Knight of Vengeance #1 have sold out, DC mentioned that "Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso team up again for SPACEMAN, coming to Vertigo this fall."

That brings me to the new day-and-date release of the digital books. I'll be honest. I am not entirely sure what to make of this. There will doubtlessly be a benefit for people who don't have a decent local comic shop. I don't know this will have a huge impact on shop sales. I think a lot people like to own and actually flip through the books. Back in Toronto, it was a ritual - I'd go to the shop, pick up my comics, and chat with like-minded souls. I'd flip through some books I wasn't already buying, and see if I might want to. Look at the latest action figures. I'd get recommendations on new titles from the owners or their employees, or from other customers. That has always been one of the best ways to hear about new titles and if they were any good. It was an experience I really enjoyed. And I got a discount for being a good customer. I even used to get a bottle of wine from the guys who owned the shop at Christmas time. I wouldn't trade that in for the convenience of digital. That said, the trip to the shop here is longer than it was there. It feels less personal, and with fifteen long boxes in the house these days, I now have storage space issues.

I can definitely see buying some books, and getting ones that I just want to read a couple of times digitally.

But there are other people out there. People who don't know where their local comic shop is. Who wouldn't go there if they did. But who will watch X-men: First Class, or the Green Lantern movie. Who might read news stories about things happening in the DC Universe, or in Marvel. And would be tempted to check out what all of this is about. But the story the news says is coming out "today" isn't available. And won't be for months. Do we expect a non-fan to remember for months that they want to check out a comic? And forget about waiting for the trade paperback. Marvel gets those out reasonably quickly. DC on the other hand... well... let's just say that by the time the paperback comes out, it's no longer relevant if you are at all up to date on what is happening in the DC Universe. I'd love to see DC take care of that as well.

So, overall, my opinion is this: DC's announcement of day-and-date release is not the death knell of the local comic shop. The element of community that many collectors like just isn't quite the same online as it is in person. That will continue to be true for some time. Digital is a distribution channel that might help bring or keep more people in the hobby, and that is always a good thing. The things that make the local comic shop so appealing to a number of people in the hobby will not go away. And for those for whom digital comics are a more appealing/practical choice, they will be there.

The Last Wave of the New DCU

In this last roundup, I will cover the last 6 titles just announced. The first two are not associated with a particular grouping, and the last 4 are the Superman family. Yes, in the New DCU, the Green Lantern family of comics has as many titles as the Superman family. Has DC's "Big 2" moved to a "Big 3?"

Blue Beetle: Jaime Reyes is a normal teenager. That is, if you don't pay attention to the scarab created by aliens who conquered or destroyed whole planets as a way of life. Using the powers of this scarab, Jaime becomes the Blue Beetle. The latest incarnation of hero with that name, Jaime is also my second favorite. I still miss Ted Kord, but at least he went out defiant. Tony Bedard is writing this book. I like his work, and am looking forward to reading this book. Ig Guara is handling art duties, and if Guara does his usual excellent job, this will be a gorgeous book. I made the call earlier that this character may show up in Justice League. I'm not sure if they would have a teenager who should be in high school in that illustrious organization, but regardless, I expect Blue Beetle to be an important part of the DCU moving forward. He's powerful, has a legacy, and contributes to the diversity of DC's offerings. I really hope this new book raises this character to the upper-tier of DC's heroes.

Suicide Squad: I've always liked the idea of the Suicide Squad. B-list and C-list and maybe even D-list villains showing up to run missions for the government who may well not make it out alive. Sure, the core team is unlikely to die. But you never know if a new character brought in is going to be a new part of the core team, or if they might even replace a one of the core members. This one features Harley Quinn, Deadshot and King Shark. Adam Glass is writing and Marco Rudy is doing the art on this book. Glass seems to have an interest in writing villains (He is writing the Legion of Doom story for Flashpoint). That will serve him well on this book. Rudy has a very stylized way of drawing. It promises to give this book an appropriately dark feel. My only minor nitpick so far is not liking the look of the redesign on Deadshot. Even so, if the character is as good as he frequently is, I can overlook it. I'm looking forward to seeing who makes it through this revolving door.

And now, on to Superman.

Action Comics: The longest-running monthly comic of all time will be releasing a #1. It's been almost 75 years since this has happened. I'm almost expecting a shaft of light and a choir of angels when I pick up this book. Grant Morrison is writing, and he did a great job on All-Star Superman. The amazing Rags Morales is the artist bringing Morrison's take to life visually. This looks like it will be a very different take on Superman, as the blurb says "Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero." I like the fact that Morrison is taking this in a different direction, particularly compared to All-Star where Superman was so well thought of that no one would ever doubt the Man of Steel. That said, as I have mentioned previously, I have found Morrison to be hit or miss. Hopefully, this one is a hit.

Superboy: Scott Lobdell is writing this book, which appears to be a story of redemption, much like the story of Red Hood, which he is also writing. The official release says "They thought he was just a failed experiment, grown from a combination of Kryptonian and human DNA. But when the scope of his stunning powers was revealed, he became a deadly weapon." The cover looks like he might also be part robot. This looks like a different take on the Connor Kent Superboy, and I look forward to seeing this comic with art by R.B. Silva and Rob Lean. Some of my concerns about the new Action Comics apply here as well. Of all the corners of the DCU to bring dark, brooding stories to, I don't feel as though Superman's corner is the right place for it.

Supergirl: Michael Green and Mike Johnson who wrote for Smallville (which I really wish was streaming on Netflix, by the way) as well as for Superman/Batman are going to be chronicling the story of the Kryptonian teenager with art by Mahmud A. Asrar. Green wrote not only for Smallville, but also worked on the Green Lantern movie, and Heroes. He clearly understands the genre. Asrar's art is clean, and doesn't feel too dark. This book looks like it could be a lot of fun, and should capture the light side of the Superman family. Supergirl has been a very uneven series over the years, but hopefully this creative team can bring the book to another upswing. I'll be along for the ride to see how it works out.

Superman: George Perez is writing this, and Jesus Merino is handling the art. Perez is generally more thought of as an artist, (and one of my all-time favorites at that) but I am looking forward to seeing his take on the Man of Tomorrow as a writer. Jesus Merino has done good work on Superman in the past, and I enjoyed his work on Justice Society of america as well. Looking at this cover, it does indeed look like Superman has done away with the "undies on the outside" look. The belt and boots look a little more high-tech. And the cover looks like there may be a good reason why the population doesn't trust Supes as mentioned above in "Action." This blurb refers to "Superman’s startling new status quo." This is where I have concerns. Like I have said about the new Star Trek movie - it was a good movie, and I get why a lot of people liked it... but it wasn't my Kirk. Kirk shouldn't lose every fight he is in. That too was a re-launch, but I felt it, in the case of at least that one character, took me too far from what I loved about the original - the very reason that it was around long enough to re-launch. I have my concerns here as well. Throughout a lot of this overview, I have referred to getting back to the most iconic or best-known versions of the characters. I hope DC hasn't decided to not do that for the one character who is among the most iconic fictional characters of all time.

Time will tell how these relaunches go. I am looking forward to reading them, and to making the choices of the ones that I want to continue following.

Next: my thoughts about the relaunches as a whole, and about the day-and-date digital release and its potential impact.

X-Men: First Class

A break from my musings on the New DCU. I went out last night and caught X-Men: First Class last night. Overall, I found it a really fun movie. As I have probably mentioned before, I never go to a comic book movie expecting to see the comic book faithfully reproduced. It happens sometimes, and I don't mind it when it does, but I also understand that sometimes a less episodic medium requires different approaches. And, of course, there is no budgetary concerns in a comic book. The most amazing effects can be done with no problems whatsoever, as long as your artist can draw it.

So, I have no issues with the fact that this comic takes various ideas from different X-men story lines and mashes them together to form its own story. The movie is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Hellfire Club is prominently feature, including Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw, January Jones as the White Queen, Emma Frost and supported by Azazel, a demonic-looking teleporter (Azazel is only really shown to be a teleporter and swordsman in this movie, not touching on all the other powers he has in the comics) and Riptide, a character who has been changed from the comics into being able to generate whirlwinds rather than being able to spin at incredible speeds and generate bone-like weapons.

The "First Class" was made up of Banshee, Havoc, Angel (but not Warren Worthington), Mystique, Beast and Darwin. On top of this were a young Magneto and Professor X, though older than the characters who make up the class.

The acting overall was quite good. The story flowed well, and the effects were top-notch. This was a great prequel to the X-men movies. I definitely recommend seeing to anyone who enjoys a good super-hero movie, but go in knowing that there are differences. Banshee is not Irish, and neither is Moira MacTaggert. Emma Frost here in her first appearance already has the ability to turn her body to diamond, something that didn't appear until much later in the comics. Riptide was never part of the Hellfire club, nor was Azazel.

If you are a purist, and those kinds of changes are frustrating for you, then you may want to skip it. If You don't know the history of these characters in intimate detail or are able to enjoy a movie that is an alternate look at these kinds of things, this is a fun movie definitely worth seeing. There are all kinds of nice touches. The effect used for the teleporter Azazel is the same as used for Nightcrawler. In the comics, Azazel is Nightcrawler's father. The origin of Magneto's helmet is covered. There are jokes about Xavier's hair. Overall, they really had fun with this movie, and it shows.

DC Comics Going to the Edge

The next round of titles that DC released brought the total number to 46. 6 left after this post.

All-Star Western: So, I have never really been a huge fan of Westerns. Not in movies, not on television, (except you, Brisco!) and not in comics. That said, I do like - and sometimes love - Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's writing. Moritat's art is great, and I think will suit the setting, too. And as mentioned before, I do like the fact that DC is branching out a bit from the straight-up super hero book. It's also a cool take to set at least this first story arc in Gotham (maybe not so west) as Amadeus Arkham tries to get Jonah Hex to work with the Gotham Police Department. Maybe this series will even touch on the creation of Arkham Asylum and how it ended up cursed. Gray and Palmiotti did such a great job on the most recent Power Girl series, I practically feel like I owe it to them to pick this one up. I also do like books with back-up stories. That way you can get introduced to new characters, or maybe find a new favorite, and this one will feature back-ups about DC's other western heroes.

Blackhawks: "A set of contemporary tales that battle the world’s gravest threats." If these guys were working for the government and not mercenaries, it would almost feel like an updated take on G.I. Joe. And that is not a slam. I loved the original Marvel G.I. Joe comic series. I typically don't think of myself as a war comic fan, but G.I. Joe had drama, heroism, and was just enough over-the-top to get my escapism quote in. I've also always kind of liked the Blackhawks from DC's WWII titles - the opposed things like "The War Wheel." Over-the-top enough as well. Writer Mike Costa is currently working on IDW Publishing's G.I. Joe: Cobra. I think he has the sensibility I am looking for. I'm not really familiar with Ken Lashley's art, but I did find a Hasbro G.I. Joe poster online, and it looks like he is well-suited for this kind of book. I imagine I'll be collecting this one for a while.

Deathstroke: Kyle Higgins will be writing, and Joe Bennet and Art Thibert will be handling the art on this book. In the official description, it says "Deathstroke will reclaim his fearsome legacy by any means necessary." I'm not sure how he lost it. But I think that this will be great, as long as he is kept at the right level (or at least my opinion of what the right level is...). Deathstroke should be able to take Batman in a straight up fight. With preparation, he should be a team buster. But he should not, like in Identity Crisis, be able to take out the JLA on, basically, raw physical ability. Deathstroke has been a cool part of the DCU since he was created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez to take on the Teen Titans. Hell, he is so cool that even the knockoff Deadpool has gone on to great things. This series could certainly be a good one, but I have concerns that Deathstroke works better as a supporting character. I'm hoping Higgins can change my mind. Oh,and if you were wondering where Batman's fins got to - looks like Slade picked 'em up.

Grifter: A title from the Wildstorm universe, Grifter is making it over to the New DCU. The high-action ex-black ops hero is set against the law when he goes around killing creatures in human form that only he can see. Grifter was one of my most-liked characters from the Wildstorm universe, and I am pleased to see him get his own title here in the mainstream DCU. Nathan Edmondson is writing his adventures, with art by CAFU and Bit. CAFU and Bit have done good work on T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. I've not read any of Edmondson's work. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to reading this book, and seeing how Grifter fits in to the New DCU. I hope that the initial storyline, while potentially intresting, isn't the ongoing theme. With all the super powers running around the DC Universe, for aliens or monsters to be able to hide from everyone but Cole would stretch my suspension of disbelief.

Men of War: The grandson of DC's most famous WWII soldier, Sgt. Rock will be leading Easy Company, a crack team under the auspice of a military contractor in this book by Ivan Brandon. Artist Tom Derenick's work is really engaging and dramatic. I expect this one to feature a lot of activity outside the US, since the description of the book refers to them braving "the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DC Universe’s super-villains." Unless the whold of the New DCU is going to be really dark, I would assume that the status quo of super-battles not leaving "battle-scarred landscapes" behind in the middle of Gotham and Metropolis will hold. Brandon did announce on his site that he will be writing a new Sgt. Rock book, so it is clear that despite the name, the leader of the team will be the focus of this modern military story. This genre is not one of my favorites, but if I am right about most of it taking place internationally, then I will enjoy seeing the far-flung corners of the world in the New DCU.

OMAC: There seems to be an agenda at the very top of the DC house to try and make OMAC work. I get that. Jack "King" Kirby designed the original character. The man was brilliant, and his creations deserve respect. Given that I have seen no mention of the New Gods in the New DCU, they may well still be gone after the events of Final Crisis. So it is nice that Co-Publisher Dan DiDio is writing this series with co-writers and artists Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish. Brother Eye will be present in this book to. Please, gentlemen, please. Do not have it refer to itself in the first person all the time as "Eye." I'll definitely pick up the first couple of these, but I haven't sen a good treatment of OMAC in some time. I don't know, for some reason the character just doesn't work for me. The creative team has an uphill battle in keeping this particular reader on board.

Stormwatch: Wow... this title is the very picture of integration of Wildstorm universe into DCU. Martian Manhunter is on this team. It is great to see that he will still be around. Jack Hawksmoor has always been a cool idea for a character, with his ties to cities, and it will be interesting to see Paul Cornell's take on Midnighter and Apollo. Having one of comics' most high-profile gay couples still around will definitely help with DC's work on stressing diversity. Artist Miguel Sepulvedas did great work on the Thanos Imperative. I am looking very much forward to reading this comic. I stopped reading the Authority because it was too mean-spirited for me. I'm not into characters raping each other, with or without jackhammers, particularly being treated as casually as it was in that book. If this book keeps the main characters good, but makes them dark, and willing to do what others are not, I will enjoy it. If it goes down that path where the main characters are just as reprehensible as the villains, but at least these guys are on our side, I'll be reading for a pretty short time.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Powers and Puberty

DC has announced several teenage superhero titles to be a part of their re-launch in September. This announcement brings the total number of titles they have announced up to 39. Only lucky 13 to go.

Hawk and Dove: Okay... Sigh... here goes. I love these characters. Have done for a long time. My appreciation goes all the way back to, well Teen Titans Spotlight featuring Hawk, I guess, thought I kind of liked them before. Then I saw the limited series written by Barbara and Karl Kesel. Loved it. And here, we have the artist from that series, Rob Liefeld back on these characters. I'm not going to lie. I liked his art on Hawk and Dove back then. Sterling Gates is writing the book, and I am not too familiar with his work. He has gotten some very positive reviews, and seems like a good guy in interviews I have read, and no one can disparage his comic book geek credentials. The characters, the embodiment of War and Peace, Chaos and Order, have really cool concepts, and I be that Gates will be able to do a lot with them, and I look forward to his take. But back to Liefeld. I know that a lot of people on the internet hate Liefeld. Some hate his work... some seem to hate him personally. He also took a couple of shots at Stan Lee on Twitter back in January. So, I get why there is vitriol towards the man. That said, he co-created Cable and frickin' Deadpool. He is one of the co-founders of Image Comics. He has left a legacy in the comic world that is hard to dispute.(However, his impressive legacy is a small fraction of Stan The Man's and I have to pretend that those shots at Stan didn't happen or my brain kind of fractures. Maybe he feels that Stan has gotten more of the credit than he deserves, and Jack Kirby deserves a larger share. That is a fair opinion, but to suggest that Stan is utterly without talent is ridiculous, bordering on idiotic.) All of that said, I'm still looking forward to this book. I don't expect a comic artist to be photorealistic (though I don't mind if they are), all I want from them is the ability to clearly communicate what is happening in the story. Liefeld does that, in a very action-oriented style. Hopefully, that style ends up suiting the pacing of Gates' writing, and we can all go home happy.

Legion Lost: I hgave been a fan of several of the various versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes we have been treated to since the 70's, when I started reading comics. I dig this idea - seven members of the Legion are stuck in the 21st century trying to save their future from annihilation. Fabian Nicieza is writing this tale of Dawnstar, Wildfire, Tellus, Gates, Timber Wolf, Chameleon Girl and... someone (I think it might be Invisible Kid, though I am not sure) stuck in their past. I loved Nicieza's work on New Warriors for Marvel many years ago. He has done other, very impressive work more recently, but if he can capture half of the fun, emotion and kick-ass-ness in this series he did about teenage heroes that he did in that one, I'm on board for as long as he is. Legion Lost will feature the art of Pete Woods, who will make this series look great. Woods has been working on Action Comics of late, showing the confidence that DC has in his art. This book will always be at the very top of my read pile. Unless, maybe, they announce a JSA title by Roy Thomas with George Perez drawing. Then I'll put one of those at the top, and one at the bottom to make sure my read is always bookended by sublime comic experiences.

Legion of Super-Heroes: Normally, I'd say that I would feel sorry for whoever is writing the other half of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the ones still in the 31st century, as they will have their work compared to Nicieza's. In this case, I'm not worried. Paul Levitz has been a long-time favorite of Legion fans, and I am sure he will continue to bring the goods. Francis Portella will be providing the art on this book, and I am very much looking forward to his interpretations of the characters, and to seeing Levitz and him introducing new recruits to help fill the hole left by the seven characters lost in time in Legion Lost. Reading books set so far in the future is always fun, because there is less of a sense of status quo, giving the creators a great amount of latitude. This series will be a fun read.

Static Shock: Static is the most successful character to come out of the Milestone Comics imprint from the mid-90's. Milestone was an effort by a group of creators to have minorities better-represented in mainstream comics. Much like the Wildstorm universe more recently, the Milestone universe existed seperately from the DCU, although there was a "Worlds Collide" cross-over event, and the Milestone universe has since been merged in to the DCU proper. Static was also the star of the Static Shock animated series that ran for 4 seasons starting in 2000. Recently, he has been a member of the Teen Titans. John Rozum will be writing with Scott McDaniel who will also be handling art duties with John Glapion. This title fits in well with DC's desire to be more diverse. Rozum was one of the original creators of the Milestone universe. Static is a popular, established character who brings some diversity to DC's core lineup. And although I know some people who dislike McDaniels' are as too stylized, for the right book, I love it. His work helped to define Nightwing for me when that series launched, and I loot forward to seeing that art again every month as I read Static Shock.

Teen Titans: Last, but definitely not least is DC's flagship "teens with powers" book, Teen Titans. DC has tapped Scott Lobdell to handle the writing on this book, with Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund on art. Lobdell has written some amazing books for Marvel and in the Wildstorm universe in his time in the comic industry. It will be great to see him writing for the mainstream DC Universe. This is the second book he is writing that will be featuring a former Robin - he is also handling the writing duties on Red Hood and the Outlaws. The makeup of this team is interesting - Tim Drake as Red Robin, Kid Flash (announced to be Bart "Impulse" Allen rather than Wally West), Wonder Girl who is a "mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief," what looks like Superboy, and a couple of characters I do not recognize, though one almost looks like a female version of Obsidian. It looks like there are going to be some changes to this book.

Overall, I am looking forward to reading about these characters. There are 13 more titles to come, but I feel like there has been precious little love for the "middle generation" of DC's heroes. Yes, Nightwing is getting his own ongoing, and Roy "Speedy/Aresenal/Red Arrow" Harper will be in "Red Hood and the Outlaws," but what about Donna Troy and Wally West? Maybe Garth/Aqualad? Hopefully at least the first two of those are addressed soon.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Dark side of the DCU

DC has announced several titles that will feature their dark side. As with previous posts, links are to creators' pages where they are available, or to their Twitter accounts. Particularly if a creator's name appears linked more than once in the entry, the second link is likely to be to a Twitter account.

Animal Man: Animal Man for a while was one of DC's most interesting books under Grant Morrison's guiding hand. He was a part of 52, out of his element travelling through space with Starfire and a blind Adam Strange, dying and coming back to life an issue later, leading to a role in Blackest Night and Brightest Day. He has often been on the fringe of most of DC's super heroic world. When last we saw him, he was concentrating on being a husband and father, but this series, written by Jeff Lemire and with art by Travel Foreman and Dan Green, takes a look at what happens to that family life when his daughter Maxine develops dangerous powers of her own. This is the first of two books that Lemire is writing that has Morrison's stamp on it, see Frankenstein below. Great to see a Canadian touch on DC's New DCU!

Demon Knights: "Gone, gone, o form of man! Rise the Demon, Etrigan!" Sorry, had to get that out of my system. Paul Cornell will be writing this series, set in the Middle Ages, featuring the Demon leading a team trying to defend civilization and "preserve the last vestiges of Camelot against the tide of history." I do love that DC is publishing more than your standard big city American super hero fare with this launch. And it will certainly have a strong British flavor with Cornell writing it. I'd give it a chance just based on his having written the "Family of Blood" episode of Doctor Who featuring the tenth Doctor. The art of Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert is just further incentive. That cover is gorgeous. No indication if anyone we might have heard of is going to be on this team, but I'll give it a shot anyway. Hopefully the Demon is Etrigan, and he is still speaking in rhyme back then. (In current continuity, he is part of caste called rhymers, and always has, but this is a New DCU after all.)

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE: Jeff Lemire is writing this book along with Animal Man above. Frankenstein was a breakout character from Morrison's Seven Soldiers metaseries. In this series, he is working for a government organization called the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive. Alberto Ponticelli is handling art duties. This sounds like it could be interesting stuff. Shades of Mr. Bones, only a lot more vioient. Ponticelli has done some work for Vertigo, so he certainly does know how to handle the darker side of comics. This one could be interesting, but I don't feel drawn in enough to give it very long to get there.

I, Vampire: Writer Josh Fialkov and artist Andrea Sorrentino bring us this story of a vampire who has to defend the DCU against his kind, even if it means going his love, the Queen of the Damned. I've not read anything by Fialkov, but he has gotten good reviews from good people for several of his previous series. Andrea Sorrentino's work is gorgeous. This one has definite potential, and I am looking forward to it. I do enjoy vampire stories, and have always rather enjoyed horror-themed comics. It makes sense to try something like this in the wake of the success of the Walking Dead. It will be interesting to see how this one works out. I am not sure if this idea will lend itself well to an ongoing, but then they haven't been specific if this is destined to be an ongoing or just a limited series.

Justice League Dark: Okay, some people are going to hate this one. This comic is going to put John Constantine, Deadman, Shade the Changing Man and Madame Xanadu together, to "stop the dark things the rest of the DCU does not see." It seems likely to me that if this crosses over with the standard JLA at all, it will be a big disappointment to fans of this corner of the DCU. That said, I like Constantine and Xanadu, and I have always been kind of fascinated by Shade the Changing Man. Peter Milligan, no stranger to Shade, will be writing this and Mikel Janin will be the artist. I like Janin's work, and Milligan has written some good titles. I was almost going to refer to this book as the "trenchcoat brigade" but realized they have managed to find several mystic characters who don't wear them, at least the cover by Ryan Sook looks like Constantine will be wearing one.

Resurrection Man: DC is going to bring this character back from the dead. Yeah, I know... I couldn't help it. The creative team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning who created Mitch Shelley and wrote his original adventures return to this character with a great concept. Every time he dies, he comes back with different powers. Abnett and Lanning will be joined by artist Fernando Dagnino, whose art I really enjoy. This one feels like it might well be migrating close to the top of my read pile. Cool character written by his talented original creators, with great art? What's not to love. And I'll never forget the time that Resurrection Man appeared with Hitman, and Tommy kept killing him until he got the powers he wanted. That flashback alone makes me want to love this book.

Swamp Thing: Apparently, this is the 40th anniversary of the creation of the character, and he is coming off of his big role in Brightest Day. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette will be working on this title. DC's nature elemental, looking to divorce himself from his history in that role. DC is launching titles to explore some directions that mainstream comics have not been going in lately, and the new Swamp Thing series is to be a horror title. Snyder has shown an ability with horror, having previously written American Vampire. This title will likely be DC's flagship dark title, and looks like it will be a gorgeous book. I am really interested in seeing how these books exemplifying new directions for DC go, and will be watching this one very closely.

Voodoo: This title features Ron Marz writing with Sami Basri doing the art. I've loved some of Marz' work, particularly on Silver Surfer way back when. Basri's artwork is great. Voodoo is a character who existed in the Wildstorm Universe, and is now in the mainstream DCU. This brings up interesting possibilities regarding some of the other Wildstorm characters, like seeing the Authority or Planetary in the mainstream DCU. I'm really looking forward to seeing if they keep Voodoo's origin, which was strongly tied in to much of the Wildstorm universe's mythology, or if they introduce a new angle that makes her a little more stand-alone. Either way, this is a great indicator that we could see Majestic, Grifter and more in the DC Universe, and it could be great.

Next: Looking at the teenagers in the DCU. Tim Drake is back! And one title that may supplant even Gail Simone's Batgirl as the top book on my to-read list.