This week was another harsh week for many DC fans. In the last seven days DC has released the solicitations for what is now being called the DCnU – September’s relaunch of the new status quo for the DC Universe. Some characters are getting radical new make overs while others are getting brand new origins. Old concepts are being reimagined and legacies are being recreated. While some of the new ideas are, indeed, fresh and exciting, for most comic book purists, the DCnU has been treated with apprehension and anxiety. Comic fans do not like their favorite characters being screwed with. Last week I wrote with optimism that we should wait and see what happens, and to have faith in the creative team at DC. I have not changed my mind and I still think that there is far more to this then we are seeing. DC has not revealed all its cards yet, and there is more earth shattering news to come. Tonight Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are to take the stage at The Complex Film Festival in Los Angeles for even more revelations which are rumored to rock the universe even more.
However, while I still want to maintain optimism, I found it hard to do it this week. On a personal level, none of my favorite DC titles are coming back. Not a single one. I barely recognize some of the characters I grew up with, I don’t recognize books that I normally would buy, and I feel alienated in a Universe I love. So, does that mean I’ll be packing it in with DC and giving my hard earned money to DC’s Marvelous competitor? Well…not just yet. I’m going to give the DCnU a chance and, amongst the many disappointments, many of the new books will be making my pull list. In fact, I’ll be purchasing more DC books then I currently do now! Some out of habit, some out of character devotion and, in a few cases, because the books actually do sound pretty darn good.
So today I want to spit the bitter taste out of our mouth and look at some of the DC books that is keeping me optimistic!
CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS
PCA’S TOP 10 DCnU PICKS
Note: This list is presented in no particular order.
1. Aquaman – He’s comic’s lamest superhero, but being upgraded by one of comic’s greatest teams – Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. Over the last decade Geoff John’s has made a career out of taking characters that have been used, abused and confused and bringing them back to their basic roots and turning them into fan favorites once again. He has breathed new life into The Justice Society of America, Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman and Superman and now Johns’ will put his magical mark on the King of the Seven Seas. Geoff Johns has a respect for legacy and a talent for truly getting into the minds of his characters in which he is able to give them a soul. One of DC’s longest running characters; Aquaman has been retooled and revamped dozens of times over the decades in an attempt to make him “cooler” or more relevant. However, when Geoff Johns brought him back in the pages of Brightest Day, he made Aquaman one of the more interesting characters of the book while still keeping him true to the same orange shirted guy we grew up with. Johns also made Aquaman’s wife Mera one of DC’s newest fan favorites and a deadlier and more interesting character with secrets of her own. Although little has been revealed about what’s next for Aquaman, the fact that we can actually recognize him as the character that we know and love from Ivan Reis stunning cover is comforting. It’ll be interesting to see what Johns does with Aquaman. Furthermore, Aquaman is Jeffery Holmes approved, and if you know what that means, you know it means a lot.
2. DC Universe Presents – Although little has been said about this title yet, DC Universe Presents could be one of the most important books in the DCnU. What has upset many people, including myself, is the fact that many of our favorite characters will not be returning, and that we don’t know where they fit into the new status quo of the DCU. DC Universe Presents will prove to be a spotlight book for many of the heroes and teams that didn’t get their own titles. Of course, DC has to find a fine balance between interesting stories and fan favorites to make this book work. Just as other anthology books from the past, the issues will sell depending on what character you put on the cover. However, this could be the place where we see The Marvel Family, The Justice Society, Jonah Hex, The Huntress, Zatanna, The Secret Six, The Doom Patrol, Plastic Man, The Spoiler, The Metal Men and all the other great characters that are missing from the current DC line-up. Perhaps we’ll even see the return of Swing with Scooter. It could happen! Couldn’t it? But I won’t be a liar if I didn’t say that the fact that Deadman is on the cover of the first issue helped sell this book for me. Currently reading the original Deadman stories by Neal Adams I’ve got a bit of a hard on for anything concerning this character right now. If you’re as upset over your favorite characters being in limbo as I am, DC Universe Presents could be the book that brings them back into the spotlight and eventually into their own books once again. This is the book that bitter fans will want to support.
3. Justice League Dark – Possibly one of the most important factors of Brightest Day was securing DC’s classic characters that have been wandering in the Vertigo Universe back into the fold. Bringing in some of Vertigo’s mainstays, such as John Constantine, Madam Xanadu and Shade the Changing Man back to the same universe as our more familiar characters is only a job that one man can correctly do – Peter Milligan. Currently writing the adventures of John Constantine in Hellblazer, which will continue to run under the Vertigo banner, Milligan knows his subjects better then most and is sure to keep them just as cutting edge and as relevant as they were in the Vertigo Universe. Creating a team out of these characters is truly inspirational, and in his interview with Newsarama, Milligan dropped another two names into the mix – June Moon and Zatanna! Knowing that Zatanna has a home in the DCnU is enough to make me read this one. Oh – and dare I say more Deadman? I just love me more Deadman! The possibilities of characters that may pass through these pages are endless. It might be a matter of time before we see Black Alice, Traci 13, Blue Devil, Brother Power the Geek, Ragman and, just perhaps, The Endless from Neil Gaimen’s classic Sandman. Can you imagine Death as a part of a team book? I think that’d be pretty cool!
4. Animal Man – Jeff Lemire, the creator behind such offbeat cult books such as Essex County and Sugartooth, takes a crack at one of Vertigo’s classic characters, Animal Man. Praised as one of Vertigo’s greatest books ever, in his Newsarama interview Lemire praised Animal Man’s former writers Grant Morrison and James Delano, stating that he is a fan of the original series. Yet, what might prove to make Animal Man one of DC’s better books is the fact that Lemire is focusing on the family aspect of the character. What makes Animal Man unique in the DC Universe is that he is an established family man with a wife and kids who know his secrets, and who live a peaceful life in suburbia. In his Newsarama interview Lemire states: “…He’s a father and a husband first, and a superhero second. To me, that’s an original and unique viewpoint for a superhero book to have. That’s what attracted me. That’s what I want to write, is that family interaction. It’s about Buddy, but it’s really about the whole family.” Dealing with his daughter’s manifestation of similar animal control powers in the first story arch, Animal Man should prove to be a very character driven book, focusing on the relationships within the family unit. Animal Man may prove to be a escape from the action packed slug fests that some of the books from the DCnU are shaping up to be.
5. Batwing – One of the biggest surprises of the DCnU, Batwing comes out of left field but appeals to the hard core retro-fan that lives within me. The most obscure of all the characters getting a book in the DCnU, Batwing was oringinally a character imagined by a underprivileged kid from the ghetto during a camp out with Bruce Wayne all the way back in Batman #250 (1973). Appearing on only a single page, Batwing was described as “one down to Earth hip dude!” Sort of a Richard Roundtree in a cowl, Batwing is a curious forgotten concept which is now getting it’s own mainstream book! One of the DCnU’s mandates is a more diverse universe, and instead of just giving Black Lightening yet another crack at a comic title, Batwing is a far more inspired inclusion to the quota DC is trying to achieve. Spinning out of Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc., Batwing is the Batman of Africa and the first black character to wear the Batman cowl….in continuity anyways. Unfortunately Batwing is being written by one of my least favorite DC writers, Judd Winnik, who has no ability to write characters with any sort of emotional depth, but has a certain knack for writing good action stories. Batwing should prove to be an non stop action packed book without any previous continuity holding Winnick back from writing the story he wants. You can’t wreck a character that has no characteristics to tamper with. Mainly, this book makes my pull list because it is DC’s strangest announcement, and possibly the best of the “WTF” moments of last week.
6. Batgirl – Possibly the most controversial of the DCnU revelations, this book has fans divided over if fan favorite Barbara Gordon, who has been the wheelchair bound Oracle for more then two decades, should have use of her legs again and take up the mantel of Batgirl once more. One of DC’s most beloved characters, Barbara Gordon has proved popular with the purists that want her back in the cowl, and the fans that felt that she gave disabled people a character of their own. Personally, I was a Batgirl fan that got used to Barbara Gordon as Oracle, and I have mixed emotions of my own for this book. While I am excited to see Barbara Gordon leaping around in her classic Bat costume once again, I grew very fond of Stephanie Brown and the current Batgirl book and am sorry to see that book end, which makes me hope that The Spoiler will find her own place in the DCnU. Meanwhile, I’m not sure how I feel about an Oracleless Birds of Prey. However, what gives me faith that the two sides of the Batgirl vs. Oracle debate will be able to come together is the fact that Batgirl will be written by Gail Simone. As the long time scribe of Birds of Prey, Gail Simone gave Oracle the strength and defining voice that made her into the fan favorite that she is today and writes the best female characters in the entire comic book industry. Furthermore, Gail Simone is known for her firey passion for her characters, and in a tense and blunt interview with Newsarama’s Jill Pantozzi, who lead the battle cry against Babs getting the use of her legs again, Gail Simone said “Barbara’s been in my heart since I was a kid. She’s been such a part of my life. She was the main reason I created the Women in Refrigerators page. She was the reason I came to DC. And she’s been looking over my shoulder for nearly every story I’ve written at DC in one way or another.” With this sort of passion for the character, Gail Simone is not going to screw Barbara Gordon up. Furthermore, Wendy Harris, aka Proxy, has been being mentored by Barbara as the “new” Oracle for a while now and has proven to be an interesting character, and not an Oracle ”clone,” assuring that the DCnU isn’t without an Oracle. Wendy may not be the character that fans want, but she is a suitable replacement that has had a compelling journey. Although it may be one of the most controversial books, Batgirl could very well be the best of the new relaunches. This book will probably be the standout book of September.
7. Red Hood and The Outlaws – While the title is a bit awkward (unless it is a nod to Batman and the Outsiders), veteran X-Men writer Scott Lobdell brings together sidekicks gone “rouge” Jason Todd (formerly Robin, currently Red Hood) and Roy Harper (formerly Speedy, currently Arsenal) with Teen Titan mainstay Starfire in what is being called “a redemption story.” The Robin that you love to hate, Jason Todd was the Boy Wonder that was voted by readers to get blown up all the way back in 1988. However, in one of DC’s more uninspired revivals, Jason Todd came back from the dead in 2003 with a mad hate-on for both Bruce Wayne and The Joker. In the years that have followed Jason Todd has tread a fine line between being a hero and a villain. The same fine line has been tread by Roy Harper ever since the death of his daughter Lian in James Robinson’s powerful JLA: Cry for Justice in 2009/2010 and the follow-up mini-series The Rise of Arsenal. One of DC’s most compelling characters, Roy Harper was last seen as part of a team of mercenaries that was lead by DC villain Deathstroke the Terminator. The pairing of Jason Todd and Roy Harper is brilliant. Both were sidekicks to very similar heroes, both have had long term problems with their mentors, and both have demons from their past and present that make them cross a certain line. However, the odd man out of the trio is intergalactic alien hottie Starfire. It will be interesting to see how she works into this team book. Hopefully we’ll se a few more young anti-heroes show up in this book (perhaps Black Alice?) Red Hood and The Outlaws could be a nice replacement for fans that are mourning the loss of The Secret Six and are looking for more anti-hero fun.
8. Supergirl – Traditionally Supergirl was never a favorite character of mine. She seemed too perfect, too good and, well, too “blond.” She was like Barbie in a Superman cape. However, when Geoff Johns and the late Michael Turner revived the classic version of the DC mainstay in 2004 they managed to, for the first time, make her interesting. An impulsive girl with a “shades of grey” look at right and wrong, Supergirl not only screwed up a lot, she had to pay the consequences for her mistakes as she learnt to be a hero and live up to her cousin Superman’s legacy. In the new Supergirl book, written by Micheal Green and Micheal Johnson, a similar approach will be taken with Kara, but as the solicitation says, Supergirl now does not posses the same affection for the people of Earth that her cousin does. We are in for a different and possibly more alien kind of Supergirl who isn’t just learning to be a hero, but may have to learn things such as compassion and love. Superman might have a lot of trouble on his hands here. Possibly the least radical of the new Super Family costumes, Supergirl’s new suit looks like it came from the pages of her run in Adventure Comics in the early 1970’s when fans would send in costume designs for the Girl of Steel who had a variety of different outfits to wear. Sort of cool in a nostalgic kind of way. Supergirl seems to be following a similar formula that made the previous title so great, but with a darker twist. We’ll have to wait and see how this one plays out but I’m optomistic.
9. Mister Terrific – Perhaps being “The World’s Third Smartest Man” isn’t much of a super power, but Michael Holt, aka Mister Terrific, has proven to become a fan favorite in The Justice Society of America. Possibly one of the most suprising of the mainstay heroes to receive a title of their own, Mister Terrific remains to be the only character from the strangely absent and much beloved JSA which is suprisinly absent in the DCnU. Little has been revealed about this title, being done by Eric Robinson and Roger Robinson, but just the fact that this book got the green light from DC is enough to intrege me to buy it. However, with dejected JSA fans clamouring for the return of DC”s original super team, I suspect that it’ll be within the pages of Mister Terrific that we’ll get a clue to what has happened to our fan favorites. However, Michael Holt is an intense man that has never had his chance in the spotlight. Now it is time to see if the World’s Third Smartest Man can hold down his own book. Who knows? Perhaps DCnU wont bring back the world’s first and second smartest men! By the way. Does anybody know who the first two smartest men are anyways? I’m willing to bet one of them is Swing with Scooter! Just sayin…
10. Justice League International – A cult favorite of fans worldwide, DC set the stage for a new Justice League International book in the year long bi-weekly maxi series Justice League: Generation Lost. However, what may prove to make the new JLI book one of the strongest reads is that it is being spearheaded by Dan Jurgens who created team main-stay Booster Gold. One of DC’s most unique characters, Booster Gold is the hero that nobody takes seriously, but just could be one of the bravest, most honourable and improtant characters in the DCU. Furthermore, Dan Jurgen’s run on Booster Gold a few years back was amongst the best of the series, before it was reduced down to the dull “Bwa-ha-ha” tone by former JLI scribe Keith Griffen. Dan Jurgens is a man who loves the character and can write him with respect, and in his Newsarama interview has state that Booster Gold will be the central character in the book, and that he will be toning down the “Bwa-ha-ha” that we all expect. Furthermore, all of the traditional JLI favorites are here including Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, Guy Gardner and Batman with the inspired additions of JLA regular Vixen and The Great Ten’s August General in Armor! And just who is the mysterious dark haired woman in black? Jurgens has revealed that it isn’t Donna Troy. Could it be Vixen’s JLDetroit teammate Gypsy? Time will tell. However, what is most comforting about Justice League International is that it comes right out of the existing DC Universe that we are scared is gone forever, giving us hope that the DcnU isn’t as much of a radical new world that we all fear. The JLI is something we recognize, and a way to stay positive for what is coming in September.
For those who are interested, what will also be making up the rest of my pull list in Septebmer will be JLA, Birds of Prey, Firestorm, Suicide Squad, Hawkman, Teen Titans and Green Arrow. I may check out Demon Knights, Wonder Woman, Hawk and Dove, Swamp Thing, Nightwing and Superman. However, as we’ve seen time and time again in the past, reboots that alienate fans have a tendancy to fall apart and returned around to the original concepts within time. Have faith fans. I am sure it’s going to be a bumpy ride and things may seem extreme now, but DC has too much running on it’s familuar franchises. I’m sure we’ll find a happy medium…eventually.