Pipeline: On the Eve of the New 52

Tue, August 30th, 2011 at 12:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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September is mere days away as I write this and DC Comics' New 52 publishing initiative begins tomorrow. After months of talking about it, the rubber is about to hit the road. We've seen more promotional art since this plan was announced to an unsuspecting populace back in June. We've heard from creators, many of whom try carefully to walk a fine line in describing what their books are or aren't. Sometimes, it's not always obvious that they've got it figured out just yet. Or maybe that's because we don't know all the details and their cryptic half-descriptions make it look like the wheels might fall off the wagon at any moment.

In the end, the comics are what counts. We'll be seeing, over the course of the next five release weeks, just what it is Dan Didio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns have cooked up. Will it be as radical as some hope/fear? Will it stick? Will it, in the end, result in good comic books?

We'll be falling down that rabbit hole today in mere hours. For now, let's look again at the 52 announced books with fresh eyes. My first impressions were posted in June, but has anything changed?. I haven't read too many DC comics in recent years, honestly, so this jumping-on point is perfect for me. And today, I want to look at which ones interest me the most.

Just a word of warning: This isn't meant to be an authoritative or canonical list for everyone. This is all filtered through what I find interesting or "important." If you worked up your list next to mine, there'd be a Venn diagram to compare the two with lots of open area to either side of the intersection. That's OK.

That said, let's look at the comics for September:

The easy choice is "Justice League." It's without a doubt the keystone book of the new line-up, the one with DC's most bankable artist and most bankable writer, plus the one given the honor of kicking everything off. Even if it is set in the past, it's the one I think most people will pick up who are even thinking of jumping into this event. You might want to skip it, though, save up your money and buy the inevitable "Absolute Justice League" in early 2013. But who wants to wait that long?

I'm trying to be open-minded about "Batgirl." I have a deep affection for Chuck Dixon's "Birds of Prey," learning to like Barbara Gordon through it. Taking her out of the wheelchair is an obviously controversial move and one I think Dixon has been quoted as saying he'd never do. So whether it's because I'm trying to keep an open mind while being curious, or because I feel like rubbernecking an absolute car wreck, I don't know. I just want to see it.

The preview pages that came out this week don't give me much hope, though. The art is generic, lacks backgrounds and is filled with lots of bright and bold colors that make my eyes bleed. The backgrounds are practically tie-dyed! That might be for a specific story reason, but it's off-putting as a preview.

Greg Capullo would threaten to steal the show over on "Batman" if it weren't for Scott Snyder writing the thing. Snyder's recent run on "Detective Comics" was very well received and made him a writer worth keeping an eye on. As it turns out, most of what he's written in comics to date has been highly praised, some of it even by me. ("American Vampire" and "Severed" included). So, yes, we can assume a good story and all, but the return of Capullo to the Big Two after languishing for so long in the Spawn world is a big deal. His dynamic art, I think, will serve superhero comics and action/adventure comics better than the horror comics world "Spawn" sits in. Or, perhaps it's just a personal preference of mine. We'll see soon enough.

"Batwing." This is a bit of a surprise for me on this list. I've read very little of what Winick has written over the years, but I remember being impressed by his start on "The Outsiders," and think some people bash him online more for the sport of it than for the sake of art. He's earned the benefit of the doubt from me. Artist Ben Oliver is a recent find. He did one of those Flashpoint tie-in books. While I had issues with some of the phototracing going on, I like his style overall. It's not nearly as stiff and nowhere near as awkward as many of today's lightbox-inspired artists can be. He mixes in his own style and that I like.

Cliff Chiang is drawing "Wonder Woman," but it also has a "horror" vibe, according to writer Brian Azzarello. I love Chiang's art, but I'm not so much into horror books. As long as it doesn't go into full-blown Cthulhu Land, I'd give it a chance.

"Stormwatch." I'm an old school WildStorm fanboy. While this might wind up being a random mish-mash of assorted concepts from the one time popular publishing imprint, I'm going to give it a chance. I hope that placing it in the DC Universe helps tame some of its latter-day excesses just a bit.

I want to be interested in "The Flash," but I think the painful way the franchise has been handled in recent years has sapped my will. For now, I'll be happy knowing "my" Flash was the one Mark Waid wrote and that Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins carried the baton for.

"Justice League International" isn't high on the list of must-reads for September, but I think it might sneak up on a lot of people. Dan Jurgens is writing it and Aaron Lopresti is handling the art, which means the story will, at the least, be capable and the art will be easy on the eyes. It's obviously not going to be Giffen/DeMatteis Bwah Ha Ha II material, but I wouldn't want it to be. I want this to stand on its own and I think these two comics veterans stand a chance at creating something worth reading.

"Resurrection Man" has a great high concept, though I do have to admit that I've never read the original series, even with its beautiful Butch Guice artwork. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are still writing it, so maybe this is my chance to make up for lost time. It's one of those books I'd read just to mix things up a bit.

"Voodoo" gets credit for Ron Marz's recent winning streak. "Shinku" is a lot of fun over at Image and his one shot there with Bart Sears on "Deadlands" was an overlooked gem. Plus, again, I have fond memories of those early WildStorm days.

That doesn't hold all the way to "Grifter" #1, though. I'm not familiar with either the writer or artist on the book, so I have a tough time getting excited about it. Maybe with some positive reviews and a plentiful helping of attractive preview pages, I could be convinced. I'm keeping an open mind. Until then, though, I'm content to stay on the sidelines.

"Hawk and Dove." Rob Liefeld is drawing a new monthly book and -- nah, that's all I need to say. Sold!

"All-Star Western" brings the "Jonah Hex" writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey a little closer to the DCU. This is the western anthology title featuring Hex in its first issue, with a story set to tie into the Batman family of titles in some way. And isn't that what publishers like to do when sales slide on a book? Bring in the more popular parts of the publishing program and hope that boosts sales. Moritat draws the first story here. If you can't have Jordi Bernet drawing everything, Moritat is a pretty good second.

Finally, "Action Comics" and "Superman: The Man of Tomorrow" have the faint hint of spectacle to them that I find interesting. This is purely a hype-level type of interest on my part. I'm not necessarily a Grant Morrison fan and George Perez isn't doing full pencils on his book with the first issue, so it's a bit of a compromise there.

Comparing this list to the original, I only see some slight shifts. My WildStorm nostalgia is kicking in a bit harder, though not without some hesitations. My interest and curiosity in the spectacle of the whole thing is getting the better of me. I'm sure DC's sales department doesn't mind that one bit.

The other big difference about now versus then is that more books are being hinted around and some, like JSA (see below) are being formally announced. What was once a hesitation to buy into everything now looks like a smart buying pattern to leave some empty room in the budget for new books that might be added in the months ahead.

The best news of it all is that if there is a surprise winner in the group that sells out everywhere, you can instantly download it digitally to read. It's not a perfect solution, but it's an acceptable one.

FANEXPO NEWS BITS

  • Marvel announced at FanExpo this weekend that they're publishing two more four-issue miniseries based on CrossGen properties, "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and "Route 666." The pessimist in me worries that Marvel is producing these CrossGen-inspired miniseries to freshen up the properties just to be shopped in Hollywood to make Disney more money, with no intent on ever doing more with the comics. We still have no word on a second mini for "Ruse" or "Sigil," do we? We're getting trades, so maybe they're waiting for those numbers to come in before giving the go-ahead for more, but so far the commitment has been very slight to this line. I'd feel better about it if any one of these miniseries had a sequel announced or, heaven forbid, an on-going series spinning directly out.

    Right now, CrossGen looks like nothing more for Marvel than a licensed Disney property that they're servicing the trademark on. Oh, the irony.

  • DC announced, meanwhile, that the JSA would be coming back and bringing Earth 2 with it. Not from a nit-picking fan's perspective, but from an industry observer's perspective: Doesn't that needlessly complicate things? Didn't they already have an event decades ago to get rid of the problem of multiple earths? Or is this just my problem, because I've never read DC Comics when you had to know the difference between two earths to keep track of the characters? Seriously, pre-Crisis DC comics confuse me.
AND IN CONCLUSION

Did Chris Claremont and Alan Davis seriously pitch a new Excalibur series to Marvel? Hearing rumors like that makes me want to change careers to become an editor at Marvel just so I can pull the trigger on a book like that and give them everything they need. It's time to bring Nightcrawler back, if only for this book. And drag Kitty back to England for it, too. Bring them all back!

I'm on Google+, still trying to figure out what to make of it. I usually promise to post comics thoughts on there during the week and often forget. I am compulsive about sharing those every little thoughts on Twitter, though. See below for that link.

I have a photography blog, AugieShoots.com, where I'm posting pictures from recent concerts I've shot. I'm a little backed up and working on that as we speak. VariousandSundry.com hasn't been updated in a little while, but that's where I go to vent on all the other topics in my life.

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TAGS:  pipeline, dc comics, new 52

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