The DC Relaunch Spectacular: Group One- Justice League Titles
A true glutton for punishment, Flashpoint Marathonman Chris Kiser has decided to investigate the likelihood of survival for DC’s 52 relaunch titles with super friends Morgan Davis and Danny Djeljosevic, i.e. the two psychopaths who have for some reason been allowed to co-manage Comics Bulletin. Peruse at your own peril.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jim Lee
Chris Kiser: If this book were coming out two or three years ago, I’d be curled up in the fetal position whimpering at the prospects of reading it. Since that time, however, Johns has done quite a lot to prove that his stuff is no longer an automatic winning bet. Lee remains one of the industry’s top artists when it comes to mainstream superheroes, but someone’s got to stop giving him the green light to redesign classic costumes, if that’s what you want to call his newfound love of Star Trek collars. Still, if you’re interested at all in seeing what the DCnU has in store, I don’t know how you can get away with not pre-ordering this one.
Danny Djeljosevic: It’s been an unending cycle for the Justice League since the ’80s: run out of steam by reducing your book to an undesirable roster, relaunch with an exciting creative team, run out of steam, relaunch again. It’s good that DC realized that composing a JLA of in-universe stand-ins for their big guns was an idiotic idea, because now we have a book with the big guns in it drawn by the big guns of the DCU. This thing is going to sell like hotcakes, but will it be good? I hope so, the last time a Justice League book was can’t-miss was during Grant Morrison’s run, and I was in middle school then.
Morgan: To me, this book symbolizes everything that’s wrong with DC’s relaunch plans. Here they’ve taken one of their most iconic properties and handed it to two creators who arguably are the text book example of what keeps new readers away from superhero books. You have Johns, who has been responsible for almost all of the major crossover events happening at DC for the past several years and then you have Jim Lee, the guy who is responsible for a big chunk of the speculator era that nearly destroyed comics. This pairing just shows how out of touch DC is with what new readers want.
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Chris: I suspect that Brian Azzarello is an actual human being and not a crime noir writing robot, but you have to wonder how someone with his apparent programming gets put on a mythology-based title like Wonder Woman. Greg Rucka’s success with the heroine is the most obvious counterexample, but I’ll be surprised if Azzarello finds a way to shed his love of tough guy dialogue in favor of finding an appropriate voice for Princess Diana. I’ll be getting it, but only because I long for the day when one of these Wonder Woman revamps actually sticks.
Danny: Wonder Woman will be worth it on art alone. Does Brian Azzarello have a rule where he doesn’t work with mediocre artists? Every writer in comics should have that. Azz on this book is a curious choice, but I’m really curious to see what he comes up with as he writes the most problematic major character in the DCU. Judging from the solicits, it looks like the Olympians are going to be the bad guys, which is how it should be — those guys love to mess with humans.
Morgan: I don’t know that the classic notion of Wonder Woman can be saved at this point so all I’m really hoping from Azzarello and Chiang is that they destroy that archetype and give us something new. The idea of Wonder Woman as some kind of Amazonian assassin would be especially awesome but I doubt DC would allow Azzarello to alter the archetype that much. Still, one can hope, right?
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis and Joe Prado
Danny: I’m all about a new Aquaman book, because I think he’s a deceptive badass and I’m more than a little sick of jokes about how lame he is. I love that Johns is taking the reigns on the Aquaman relaunch because the die-hards will follow him to this and have to declare themselves Aquaman fans. Take that, dicks.
Chris: It was only a matter of time before Johns took it upon himself to revive the Aquaman franchise, so the only surprise here is that it’s not taking place in a series called Aquaman: Rebirth. Truth be told, the “Rebirth” treatment was essentially applied to the character in Brightest Day, and it involved the exact same creative team as the one doing this ongoing. It was good then, so it ought to be good now. There’s no reason that Aquaman can’t be just as successful as Thor, which is a lesser concept, really.
Morgan: Like Wonder Woman, Aquaman is one of those characters who has long been a problem for DC when he shouldn’t be. The dude controls more territory than there is land on Earth, his powers have far more potential than he’s given credit for and the real life mystery of our oceans should allow for at least as many heady adventures as your typical space comic. This is a book where Johns should really be able to let his capacity with Big Ideas shine, just like he did on his original run on Flash. My suggestion is for Johns to turn Aquaman into a guy dealing with the kind of unknown deep sea terrors the rest of the DCU can only imagine. Seriously, picture it- Aquaman versus motherfucking Cthulhu.
Writer/Artists: Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato
Morgan: Speaking of The Flash…
Chris: I’ve fallen in love with Manapul and Buccellato’s art on The Flash, but I get a sinking feeling any time DC takes a successful artist on a book and decides that he or she should write it as well. Has this ever worked out from a critical standpoint? I’m hoping that this turns out to be an exception to the rule, ‘cause I really like looking at those pretty pictures. When it comes down to it, though, I’d much rather read a well written and poorly drawn book than a poorly written, well drawn one.
Danny: Absolute wild card. Under Johns and Manapul, The Flash was an awesome old-school superhero book that didn’t feel like a throwback, and I didn’t care that it was Barry Allen even though he’s boring. I have no idea how Manapul and Brian Buccellato are as writers, but Manapul’s drawing the thing, too, so it’ll continue to look fabulous.
Morgan: Nine times out of ten, artists should not be writing their own books. Writers and artists are like a natural balance for each other’s indulgences at the best of times, so when you remove that you get shit like Neal Adams’ Batman: Odyssey. I don’t think anything Manapul and Buccellato do will be that hilariously terrible, but the point is that we have checks and balances for a reason. Maybe Flash will turn into a silent comic, where his hyperspeed keeps Flash from talking like a normal human being. Like Black Bolt, but with time travel and superspeed.
Writers: Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Morgan: Admittedly I’ve never been big on Firestorm because I have an extremely low tolerance for the use of the magi
cal dissociative identity disorder as plot device. Granted, Firestorm is a decidedly different take on that boring trope, but it’s still a take on that boring trope no matter how you look at it. Gail Simone has been on fire lately, though, and with her being the only female writer involved in this relaunch I feel like I should support this book no matter what. Yay Firestorm?
Chris: Brightest Day wrapped up with a spectacularly innovative new status quo for Firestorm, so I’m a little concerned that the character’s new book looks like it falls into the reboot-not-relaunch category. Thankfully, all indications suggest that Simone and Van Sciver have opted to carry on with the best recent additions to the Nuclear Man’s mythology. The solicitation text says that Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond will have to put aside their personal differences in order to work together as Firestorm, which sounds like a pretty nice series-driving theme to me.
Danny: Gail Simone is a super-lady and an awesome writer (we’ll see how Ethan Van Sciver fares), but everyone’s going to shit on this book because it’s not by Brian Clevinger. It looks like both Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch are Firestorms, and the the way their wrists touch on the cover of this book reminds me of Quantum and Woody. If DC hired Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright to work on this book instead, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Maybe they’ll be part of the Valiant Comics resurgence. I would much rather talk about Quantum and Woody than some Firestorm comic any day. Why are we even doing this guide?
Writer: Tony Daniel
Artist: Philip Tan
Chris: I’ll always remember Tony Daniel fondly for being the guy who drew “Batman R.I.P.,” but I haven’t checked out his work ever since seeing what happened when DC promoted him to writer/artist on Battle for the Cowl. Supposedly his stuff on Batman got better, but I don’t know. It doesn’t help that he’s paired on Hawkman with Philip Tan, whose work as a visual storyteller has not been impressive.
Danny: Two artists who I wasn’t very keen on when they drew Grant Morrison Batman comics: TOGETHER! I gotta say, though — Tan’s painterly cover for the first issue is pretty boss. I expect the interiors to be his standard dose of sinew.
Morgan: Oh, look, another character DC has struggled to find an audience for in the past few eons. Is Hawkman an archaeologist with the avian equivalent of a furry fetish? Is he an alien birdman the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Wing Commander? Is he just some angry dude with wings? Who the fucks knows or cares. Howard Chaykin isn’t bringing his twin fists of awesome ugliness to this book, so color me nonplussed.
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Dan Jurgens
Chris: J.T. Krul’s current Green Arrow run has not been received well critically, but apparently it was something of a sales success (it was DC’s 10th best selling regular series in May). I guess that’s why Krul is being allowed to remain post-reboot, in the vein of the writers on the Batman and Green Lantern books. Scuttlebutt is that Krul was being held back by having to cross over with Brightest Day and that he has big plans for Ollie down the road, so we’ll see. I think I might let one of you fellas review this one before I put down any money on it.
Danny: I don’t read J.T. Krul comics because I fear my funny bone might break. Will Oliver Queen be addicted to crack?
Morgan: NO DANNY! He will be addicted to heroin. Except he will have a metal cyborg arm that he will have to inject it into and it will actually be the source of his now formidable arrow shooting powers. SPOILER: Cyborg gave him that arm after they had some mythical adventures in a little series that doesn’t exist called Green Robot/Green Arrow, which cemented their bromance for all-time.
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan
Chris: I’m almost 30, and even I’m too young to have nostalgia for that Giffen and DeMatteis JLI series. So yeah, I’m calling into question the selection of this book as a means by which to hook new readers. I don’t see Jurgens as a guy who’s going to try for a “Bwa-ha-ha” vibe, but that seems to be what DC is trying to reference every time it dusts off the old Batman-Booster Gold-Guy Gardner group. If you’re wondering why many have opined that the “new” DC already seems a little stale, look no further.
Danny: Dan Jurgens has inherited the JLI characters once before: after Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire left the book in the early ’90s. That run was solid for the average superhero comic (even though the whole Bloodwynd subplot was the definition of whack), but not a classic by any means. Which, to me, is the whole Dan Jurgens experience: solid if unspectacular superhero comics. Otherwise, a new Justice League International makes me feel the same way I felt about Justice League: Generation Lost: it was the creators as much as the characters that made me care about the original JLI comics in the first place, so I can’t muster up any enthusiasm for this.
Morgan: BLOODWYND: NEVER FORGET
Writer: Eric Wallace
Artist: Roger Robinson
Danny: The sad part about this relaunch is that books like this will be the first to end up on the chopping block. Which is the same, because this title sounds like Mister Terrific is being set up as the DCU’s Reed Richards, complete with his own Future Foundation. Has anyone made fun of his “FAIR” and “PLAY” armband tattoos yet? I’m surprised they’re not lined with barbed wires. Hey, Mister Terrific: which one is the Fair Play tribe?
Chris:: “The world’s third-smartest man – and one of its most eligible bachelors – uses his brains and fists against science gone mad.” If there’s a sleeper hit to be had among this first batch of books, I’m calling Mister Terrific. I’d rather it had been Steel who got his own solo sci-fi series, but I understand why you wouldn’t want to further crowd the Superman line.
Morgan: I’m really hoping each issue of this ends with a science lesson, like Bill Nye. That way parents would feel good buying it for their kids who would think it was lame until they realized how fucking awesome science can be. Seriously kids, don’t you watch Breaking Bad?
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Morgan: Once again, a character DC doesn’t know what the hell they should do with. Poor Captain Atom has been through everything from being initially robbed of his position as big baddie Monarch during a different DC relaunch, to awkwardly getting that position back after travelling through the Bleed of the Wildstorm universe to having some equally confusing, mildly brain damaged plotlines inflicted on him during “Brightest Day.” And now he has the ultimate terrible act inflicted on him: getting relaunched by “Mr. Mediocre” himself, J.T. Krul.
Chris: Why would I express optimism for Mister Terrific yet harbor reservations for this similarly sci-fi heavy series? Call it a hunch, one based mostly on the fact that Captain Atom has been a DC character for 25 years but has yet to star in a memorable, long-running series. In a somewhat ironic turn of events, it looks like Captain Atom’s personal arc is going to mirror that of Dr. Manhattan, the Watchmen character he originally inspired.
Danny: I don’t read J.T. Krul comics because I fear my funny bone might break. Is Nathaniel Adam going to be addicted to nuclear crack?
Morgan: Shit, Danny’s broken again. Someone smack him in the head before he goes on an infinite loop.
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Bernard Chang
Chris: I’ll give two thumbs up for the concept of a DCU anthology series, and here’s hoping that it’s utilized to raise the profile of underserved characters and a few unknown creators. No Batman here, please. I also like the first arc selection of Paul Jenkins, who has been an excellent writer at Marvel for the bulk of his career. After really enjoying his serial in Wednesday Comics as well as his storyline in Brightest Day, I guess I’m a Deadman fan now. That sounds weird to say.
Morgan: Jenkins is one of those guys who unfortunately often gets overlooked so I am pretty excited for the first part of this anthology. I would like to see DC showcase some young, undiscovered talent though, or maybe explore some less iconic corners of the DCU, but this being DC, I’m not holding my breath.
Danny: My rule with rotating books like this is “buy them when I care about the creative team.” Jenkins and Chang on Deadman is promising, but out of 52 new books that’s not gonna sell me on this one. I’ll probably pick this up when there’s a more enticing creative team.
Writer: Dan DiDio, Keith Giffen
Artists: Keith Giffen, Scott Koblish
Morgan: I actually have no idea why this book exists. Was anyone pining for this version of O.M.A.C.? Did anyone demand Dan DiDio write a book? I certainly didn’t and I am eager to watch this book die the quick, humiliating death it deserves.
Chris: You mean to say that we’re getting a complete DC Universe reboot but that we’re still not rid of Brother Eye and the O.M.A.C.’s? I liked Infinite Crisis, but this is a lingering plot point from that series that has been beaten to death. No sign of Captain Marvel or The Atom, but DC is making sure that we all get a nice, steaming plate of O.M.A.C.
Danny: The last time I read something that Keith Giffen drew, it was that batshit insane Legion of Superheroes annual with giant laser-shooting eyeballs and green women in it, and I loved every panel. I have thus far avoided anything Dan DiDio has written, but Giffen’s drunken Jack Kirby swagger is really, really tempting.
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Ig Guara, Ruy Jose
Chris: From a market analysis perspective, Blue Beetle is exactly the type of character that deserved his own series in the relaunch. Not only is he an ethnic minority, but he’s a familiar face to the next generation of fans that DC has been breeding via Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold. When I included Bryan Q. Miller and Roger Langridge in my top ten creators DC should have hired, this is the type of fun, youth-targeted book I had in mind. Instead, we’re getting Tony Bedard.
Danny: Tony Bedard fits in that Dan Jurgens mode of not-awful-just-unspectacular comics creator. Jaime Reyes seems like a nice boy, and it’s lovely to see him with his own title again, but this is not the creative team that makes me want to read Blue Beetle’s adventures.
Morgan: This really should have been the book where DC wowed us with a bold, exciting choice for a creative team. By which I mean Los Bros. Hernandez should have given us the Love & Rockets interpretation of Blue Beetle we’ve all been demanding. And by all, I mean me.
That’s it for this week folks! Tune in next week to see our take on the Batman titles.