I’ve been working on a post about the state of DC Comics for a while now, and it was an informal rant more than anything. Then news broke that Dan DiDio was no longer employed at DC Comics.
There’s been a variety of reactions. Industry professionals have almost nothing but kind words to say about the man. Fan response has generally been more positive to the news, given his known unpopularity amongst DC fans. There are reasons for both groups to say what they say and things that need to be taken into account when reading those things, from professional courtesy to misaimed fan outrage.
I’m not here to talk about that. Instead, I want to look at some of the notable things that happened under Dan DiDio’s tenure at DC as executive editor and co-publisher, the good and bad. Then you can judge for yourself if his tenure was one worth celebrating or lamenting, or a mix of both. While it’s always hard to determine who had a hand in what at the Big Two, in the positions he occupied, he was a key figure in shaping the DCU and approving what happened.
Note that I’m not including most things that happened under DC Rebirth, which screamed that it was Geoff Johns’ baby more than DiDio’s, and which was almost immediately shifted away from once Johns left his position as Chief Creative Officer at DC.
News has broke broke a while ago (yeah, I’ve been procrastinating finishing this post for a while) that Brian Michael Bendis — acclaimed for his runs on Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil and Alias, not so acclaimed for his work on Avengers, X-Men and Iron Man — will be writing exclusively for DC Comics, after years of writing for Marvel. This is a big surprise, to say the least, and is something I have… mixed opinions on. But before I list the projects I both think Bendis will be good for and those I think he may get anyway, I’m just going to preface this post with a warning when it comes to Bendis’ writing.
Bendis is a writer who always starts strong, but his lack of long-term planning always rears its head. You have things like the mystery of Ronin’s identity: obviously meant to be Daredevil, Ronin was revealed to be Maya Lopez in the end, because she was just using a muscle suit! And just ignore that she’s deaf and could never have read Iron Man or Spider-Man’s lips! Or how Moon Knight didn’t end up affecting Age of Ultron at all despite that being most of its point! Or how the Skrull reveals in Secret Invasion were extremely (for the most part) disappointing! Because of his general lack of follow through, whatever Bendis ends up cannot be judged immediately. Because it will be a good comic at first. They always are. So before we shout that he’s the second coming, let’s give it a year or two. Let’s wait to see if his likely amazing premise is actually delivered on.
In 2016, DC’s Rebirth relaunch promised a return to the spirit of the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe while keeping the New 52 universe. Rebirth has proven to be an unmitigated success, both critically and financially, and has clearly reinvigorated the company. But while it promised to keep the New 52 canon, this didn’t turn out to be the case, with series like Wonder Woman and Superman almost entirely doing away with New 52 canon. Although the New 52 branding itself was removed with the DC YOU initiative, DC Rebirth can be considered a much truer shunting of the ideas and themes of the New 52 era. Gone is the unnecessary darkening of characters, government paranoia and notion of continuity and history being obstacles and not tools so prevalent at DC for so long.
While there were some good elements here and there, the overall New 52 reboot fell flat on its face. And with DC Rebirth now a year old, incorporating many elements of Pre-Flashpoint elements that fans have been missing, I think it’s a good time to look back on the New 52. As it’s said, “I come here to bury Caesar, not honour him.” This will be a broad look at the problems with the New 52, and why it never quite worked for (the majority) of readers. So join me as I take a look back on the New 52, one year after its official death. Continue reading “The Death of the New 52, One Year Later — A Look Back”→
It’s been a while since I gave my thoughts on the initial ResurrXion line-up. Well, the ones that were announced right away, at least. I completely missed Black Bolt and Old Man Logan continuing, and it just got to the point that they became old news. If you want my opinions on that real quick, I’ll give them real quick at the end of this post.
I’m not here to focus on those series. For you see, today I get to do what I love most: act like a bitch and be super smug! And why? Well, Charles Soule is returning to the X-Men as the writer of a new Astonishing X-Men series! Yes, the same Charles Soule who wrote the mostly good (for its last issue) Death of Wolverine before jumping ship to the Inhumans and penning the awful Death of X and even-more-awful Inhumans vs. X-Men! And my smugness can be summed up with:
Oh, did you and the Inhumans not work out? I’m so sorry to hear that, Charlie! And no, I wasn’t laughing behind your back! I was full on rooting for you guys! Or, if you want a more direct connection:
I’m drawing all the attention to it, Soule! All! Of! The! Attention! If there’s one thing this blog isn’t, it’s classy!
Okay, I’m done now. I just wanted to be a bitch. In all seriousness, here are my thoughts on Charles Soule’s upcoming Astonishing X-Men series.
Astonishing X-Men Written by Charles Soule Art by TBA
The Astonishing X-Men title is so associated with Joss Whedon that people forget that there were indeed other writers, up to and including Warren Ellis! Charles Soules’ series doesn’t seem to have anything in common with the well-known Whedon run — which partly tried to incorporate the X-Men more into the Marvel universe and have them act as more traditional superheroes (something that it gave up on pretty quickly) — other than just being a good jumping-on point for new fans, something Soules touts, which isn’t exactly unique to Astonishing. The aforementioned idea of the X-Men being more present in the Marvel Universe is being handled elsewhere, so it seems Astonishing X-Men is just called that because it’s something that’s not Uncanny X-Men or just X-Men, which is strange, as Marvel is going to be renumbering all their ongoings with “legacy numbers” later this year.
Anyway, regarding the comic itself, very little is known. In fact, this series’ reveal was actually gradual, weirdly enough. Its roster was revealed bits at a time, then finally its name and writer. I’m not sure why it was built up, but I can’t deny that it’s probably going to be one of the better X-books coming out of ResurrXion. But that’s if I really separate Charles Soule from his recent X-work. Because… oy. But he says the story told will build on itself, and it will have focus in that sense. That’s a good idea, given the sporadic nature of some X-runs, though it has me worried he’ll use his horribly written version of Emma Frost (Charles Soule is to Emma Frost what Jason Aaron was to Cyclops).
But before I get into that, let’s talk about the cast. It’s mostly good! Old Man Logan seems to be succumbing to the old Wolverine curse of being on a lot of different series and teams. I count three so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he were put on an Avengers team again. But his character is interesting, and it will be interesting to see him lead a team (if he is the leader, which the cover seems to indicate he is). Archangel is always good for some angst and dark stories, along with a plain cool look. Psylocke is a cool character with an interesting history and relationship with Archangel. While I’ve found her kind of boring outside of Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force, she has potential and she throws a wrench into the cast. And that’s because of the presence of Fantomex, a character I’ve always seen as a more self-aware Gambit. He’s a thief who steals to distract from his constant urge to kill. He’s fun, though works best when playing off Psylocke and Archangel and other super serious characters. Oh, and speaking of Gambit, he’s here too. I’ve never been his biggest fan, but he’s fun and can lighten the mood when not angsting about whatever contrived Thieves Guild story he’s taking part in. Rogue is here too, and that makes this series give off a real soap-opera vibe, given the Psylocke/Archangel/Fantomex thing and now Rogue and Gambit. It seems like Rogue has been handled surprisingly well by Gerry Duggan over in Uncanny Avengers, and I always like to see her around. She’s a versatile character who works best when she’s a tough-but-caring Southern Belle using her own experiences to help others. Oh, and Mystique is here, in case we didn’t have enough drama. I like Mystique in the right role, and assuming she’s the token evil member of the team, I can see her having an interesting dynamic with Archangel, encouraging his darker tendencies. Also, I’d like to see how her relationships with Rogue and Logan develop, given her rocky relationship with the former and… complicated relationship with the original Logan . And then there’s Forge who exists and I don’t care about him.
Now, the elephant in the room — Charles Soule… Charles Soule was once a writer I really liked. I enjoyed his Thunderbolts run, and he managed to make the dumb concept that Daniel Way started work. I’ve heard nothing but good things about his Swamp Thing run, which I’m told far surpassed Scott Snyder’s and seemed to create an interesting mythology. His Red Lanterns run was really the only part of that series worth reading, and while I never finished, I really want to. He definitely seemed to understand the characters, especially Guy Gardner, while also keeping true to the idea of the group. I found Inhuman to be a pretty good read with some interesting characters (who became less interesting over time) and concepts. His She-Hulk run has been thoroughly praised, and I’m assuming utilised his law skills well. His Daredevil run has some cool ideas and what I read of it (I omnibus-wait Daredevil (I am not kidding) seemed like he was doing a good job bringing darkness back into Daredevil’s world after Mark Waid’s run. Thought it was rough when I read it, I’ve heard it’s really picked up. Then came his X-Men work…
While I largely enjoyed Death of Wolverine and thought it had a fitting ending, the miniseries itself felt like it had quite a bit of padding while also not quite adequately summing up Logan’s life. But what followed… I have heard nobody speak of Wolverines, Marvel’s attempt at a weekly ongoing to compete with DC’s two Batman Eternal series. I couldn’t read more than two issues of Death of X, where Soule decided to nonsensically kill off Jamie Madrox — who was the closest thing to a lead character in Peter David’s amazing X-Factor run (the second one he did) — and Cyclops, in such a low-key way that I’m sure it was meant to be profound that Cyke went out like he did, but it comes off as disrespectful given the characters rich’s history, importance to the franchise, and large fanbase. Oh, and the ending was awful and filled with plot holes. Then he wrote Inhumans vs. X-Men, which, while concluding the awful Terrigen poisoning plot (which I will be writing something on due to its awfulness), it had an amazing amount of plot holes, only some of which were carried over from Death of X — there were inconsistencies within the series itself! Oh, and Uncanny Inhumans was kind of boring and didn’t seem to get the appeal of the Inhumans. So yeah, Soule started out as an up-and-comer I really liked, but 2016 was not a good year for him, and I basically replaced him with Tom King.
A year ago I’d have been excited for this series, but Soule has really fallen in my eyes. While I had to let out the pettiness early in this post, I really hope this series is his comeback. Because it has a good cast, good planning and a writer who I know can do better than he has recently. I am cautiously optimistic about Astonishing X-Men. Continue reading “ResurrXion, Part 6 — Look Who Came Crawling Back!”→
Marvel comics have long since been more expensive than DC’s, even before DC dropped most of their comics down to $2.99 (USD) per issue with their Rebirth relaunch. But Marvel’s issues also came with a free digital copy of the issue for their online service, which is also linked to Comixology, so buyers could sort of justify the higher price point. Well, no longer!
In a controversial move, Marvel announced that physical comics (excluding their all-ages stuff) will now come with two other digital comics, intended to “offer fans free entry points for current on sale collected edition”, rather than a free digital copy of the comic purchased. To me, this is just not good for most readers.
For one, the digital comic you’re given is just out of your hands. It’s up to Marvel to decide what you get, and it may even be something you already own. Hell, the first comic lined up is Civil War II #0, a comic I’m pretty sure 90% of Marvel readers have, since that was before everyone realised how crappy that event was. I’ve read that some people even sell the digital code they get with their physical copies, because it can offset the higher price point by a bit, but that options mostly gone now, since I can see lots of over saturation of the same issue.
There’s also the problem of whatever comic you’re being given is supposed to advertise whatever Marvel wants to advertise (the digital comic doesn’t seem to vary between comics within a given week). So whereas giving readers of X-Men: Prime a digital issue of Inhumans vs. X-Men would make sense, instead they’re given the first issue of whatever trade Marvel wants to push (who wants to bet there will be a decent amount of MCU-focused comics?).
There’s also this simple thing: Marvel already pushed free samples before. It was a while ago, I’ll give you, but not that long ago. Remember Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 2014? That comic was incredibly thick, not only because it was the launch pad for the entire Spider-Man line, but also because it had the entirety of Inhuman #1 included as a free sampler. But you still got the free digital issue of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #1.
And finally, there’s the fact that whatever free digital comic you get is replacing the other comic you would’ve gotten. I know people who like to buy physical comics and support local comic shops, but find it simply impractical to read physical comics for a variety of reasons, but the free digital copy allowed them to still support their LCSs. And that Marvel is saying this new system is good for retailers is hilarious, because I know people who work at comic shops, and they’ve had nothing good to say about this. In fact, if anything this feels like an aggressive move against comics retailers.
This is just not a good move in my eyes, and the only people who benefit are new readers (and even then not that much, since the free issue is from a recent trade) and Marvel themselves. It pushes for more digital sales from people who were willing to buy physical, while taking those sales from retailers. I can’t say I support this move at all.
I don’t think it’s out of line to say that Geoff Johns is one of DC’s biggest name creators. He, along with David S. Goyer, brought the Justice Society of America to a new generation of readers. He had a run on The Flash that many consider second only to the beloved Mark Waid run. He reinvigorated and redefined the Green Lantern franchise. He updated Aquaman for modern audiences (though Peter David sort-of did that before him). But he also has blatant preference for the Silver Age. Infinite Crisis was, although an enjoyable story, a way for him to restore quite a few Silver Age things to canon. He made Legion of Super-Heroes lore confusing with the “Retroboot” Legion (basically the original Legion but with a time-skip). He sort-of ruined the Flash franchise with The Flash: Rebirth (it’s only slightly recovered with the return of Wally West). Then killed off beloved new characters with Blackest Night, an event that seemed to exist partly to kill off modern characters. Then he screwed up the entire DC Universe with Flashpoint… though that was editorially mandated, and he then proceeded to sort-of fix with DC Universe: Rebirth #1. So Johns has a shaky history, despite being DC’s “big gun”.
But he vanished for a while. After finishing his Justice League run (about half of which I haven’t read), Johns moved on. He was focusing more on TV shows and movies. It seemed like he came back just to fix what he was forced to break, and that would be the last we’d hear from him… or not.
Yes, Geoff Johns is returning to comics, and while I’m cautiously optimistic about this, given the mixed results of his writing, I can’t say I’m not at least somewhat looking forward to Johns’ return. For all his faults (Silver Age boner, excessive violence, unsubtle leaning on the fourth wall), Johns loves superhero comics, big scope stories and using continuity in (mostly) respectful ways. He’s the kind of writer the DC Rebirth initiative is perfect for. And while I’m sure his comics work will in some way involve the Watchmen plotline from the Rebirth line, I have little doubt he will also be taking on another project. And here are what I hope or predict they will be. Continue reading “My Future Comic Projects for Geoff Johns (Rantings)”→
Okay, so I didn’t completely think this format through, so now Cable’s all by his lonesome. But hey, that’s probably for the best. He can not be tainted by another series… though I had to stretch for a title for this post.
Well that all went to waste! For the record, I was going to call this post “ResurrXion, Part 5 — Cable’s Gonna Be a Star, Man (Rantings)”. Anyway, I’m glad All-New Wolverine is continuing (and hopefully this also means Jeff Lemire’s Old Man Logan also gets to continue), but more on that after Cable.
Written by James Robinson
Art by Carlos Pacheco
Now that is a creative team! Ahem. Anyway, Cableis a character I don’t think Marvel knows what to do with. His last really successful stories were when he played the straight man to Deadpool in the beloved Cable & Deadpool series. There have been numerous attempts to reinvigorate the character over the years — acting as a surrogate father to Hope Summers in Cable (volume 2), giving him his own X-Force team in Cable and X-Force, trying to recreate the magic of Cable & Deadpool, and even making him an Avenger over in Uncanny Avengers — but the character just doesn’t have a really defined role. He’s a nineties creation through and through, with a somewhat complicated backstory. But he’s also fairly popular, and his friendship with Deadpool really benefits him. James Robinson seems to want to give him a more defined role, and one that suits the time-hopping mass of muscle.
Cable is going to feature the eponymous time-travelling mutant anti-hero running through time and combating enemy time-travellers out to abuse the timeline. It’s been done before, my favourite version being in DC’s Booster Gold ongoing that spun out of 52, but Cable’s anti-hero ways will bring a nice touch to things. The antagonist will be a new villain (though I’m calling it: he’s an unused old character with a new name) called Conquest, a name straight out of the nineties. Settings Robinson has mentioned include 15th century Japan, World War I, the Stone Age and Victorian England. I’m not sure Cable’s the right character to give us a historical piece, but it’s definitely more subdued than what I initially expected. However, I fully expect some references to other Marvel works, because this is Robinson.
And speaking of James Robinson, he’s a great writer. His Starman is something I still need to get into, but I’ve read the first issue and dug it. It updates old concepts for modern times, and does so while honouring the past. Robinson is like Grant Morrison in that sense, but holds the past in reverence but doesn’t feel the need for weird changes and incomprehensibility. He can tell great, cinematic stories with great world-building like with Earth 2 (before editors screwed him over… then screwed Tom Taylor over). His skill with continuity and fondness of the Golden Age I think will be a big benefit for Cable, as the series will likely involve playing with Marvel continuity and some war stories.
Carlos Pacheco is an artist I like whenever I see his work, but I rarely see it. His work on Uncanny X-Men (volume 2) was great, and he can actually draw different faces and figures, which look nice but not exceedingly nice as to be fanservice (though he draws a great Emma Frost). Pacheco excels at expression, while being able to be subtle unlike other artists who excel at expression. I’m not sure how he’s going to fit into Cable’s probably darker stories, but at least the art will look nice.
Cable has an okay premise, but the creative team is why I’m looking forward to it. Time travel suits Robinson, and Pacheco is an excellent artist. While I’m not sure about the choice of character, I have faith in this team.
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Leonard Kirk
So All-New Wolverine does get to continue! Though I’m not sure why it’s not being renumbered, what with Marvel’s love on new series, I’m glad it is and that Tom Taylor is staying as writer. I’m reading All-New Wolverine in trade, and although the first volume is uneven and kind of generic, the second, though not subtle, makes me feel like Taylor gets the character and has given her a fitting role as a big sister figure and hero. Once Taylor stopped following the Wolverine Plot Blueprint, he was able to tell good stories, though they are still flawed (I plan on reviewing the second trade soon).
If the lack of a renumbering didn’t give it away, All-New Wolverine isn’t relaunching as part of ResurrXion, but starting a new arc called “Immune”. The arc supposedly follows on from the previous story arc, “Enemy of the State II” (by the way, I’m pretty sure there was already an arc called that, if not in Wolverine, then in Black Panther), which I haven’t read yet. But “Immune” will have a virus outbreak leading to the government cordoning off a city, and Laura going in. An alien child speaks Laura’s name with her dying breath — though I’m pretty sure the kid is gonna say ‘Wolverine’ as opposed to Laura or X-23 — and that messes with her life, because the virus isalien and apparently originates from Laura. The child thing makes me think that Gabby, Laura’s sidekick (kinda), is going to die or go evil in “Enemy of the State II”, if she hasn’t already and we’ll have to see Laura deal with trust issues and the like. At the same time, Laura is isolated during this story and there’s nothing to fight, and that will be explored. I’m okay with the latter, since it’s good that a character so surrounded by fighting can getg a conflict where she can’t fight her way out. But the statement about Laura being isolated has me concerned that she might revert to her emo, mid-late 2000s self, who I find insufferable. But the story has potential to explore the character, which is what All-New Wolverine has done so well, albeit by using fairly average plots.
The team is okay. Tom Taylor gets Laura Kinney, and although he’s forced to retcon some things in for the sake of his All-New Wolverine stories, they mostly work. While I find him as subtle as a brick — he doesn’t seem to trust the reader to make connections between various scenes themselves, even those within the same issue — he’s good with his Laura characterisation most of the time. His plots need work, but on a character-driven solo series like this, it’s fine. While I dislike some of Taylor’s work (the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in), he’s a relatively new writer and All-New Wolverine reads better as it goes, so he’s clearly learning. Plus, it’s nice that he can tell his own stories, after his Earth 2 run was so heavily editor-controlled. Leonard Kirk is an okay artist, who uses slightly exaggerated faces to convey emotion, but is flexible. From the sci-fi drama of Fantastic Four to the more dark stories of Squadron Supreme, he’s shown that he’s versatile. I don’t particularly like or hate his artwork, but he’s a solid choice. Laura’s new costume is obviously supposed to invoke her time with X-Force, and… I don’t know. The brighter Wolverine costume worked for her, as someone who’s more typically superhero than Logan. And it further worries me that Laura is going to slip into the dark anti-hero thing again and start killing, which, as a character who wanted to not be a killer, is moving her character backwards (though I guess you could justify it with her not wanting her time as an experiment affecting her at all, but it’d still read badly to me personally).
There’s not much to say here. I’m glad All-New Wolverine is continuing and sounds like it will keep exploring Laura Kinney’s character in interesting ways, though I’m worried she might regress. I’m not sure how many people will jump on, but I hope it continues because this series actually gives Laura roles that suit her.
Oh, and random aside: Marvel, please tag Cable and All-New Wolverine as part of ResurrXion on your site. And maybe have a consistent image size for the covers so I don’t have to resize them.