Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rebirth of... cool?

Much of the lineup for the latest of the seemingly annual soft relaunches of the DCU was announced at Wondercon today.  Unfortunately, for some of the things DC got right there's a whole lot they got wrong.

Let's start with the good:

Talent: Joe Orlando (Supergirl) , Tom King (Batman and Batman Rebirth), Scott Snyder (All-Star Batman), Gene Yang (New Superman), Tim Seeley (Nightwing), Peter J Tomasi and Patrick Gleason (Superman) are all sticking around.
New Talent: Hope Larson (Batgirl), Julie and Shawna Benson with Clare Roe (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey)
Returning Talent: Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott (Wonder Woman), Marcus To (Nightwing), Rafael Albuquerque (Batgirl), Phil Jimenez and artist Emanuela Lupacchino (Superwoman) and Christopher FUCKING PRIEST!!! (Deathstroke)

These are all exciting names of important and talented creators (though can you guess which one I`m most excited about).

Returning Characters with Returning Creators: Blue Beetle (Ted and Jaime as written by Keith Giffen, ok, I`m in)
Wonder Women by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.  As it should be. From the early 90's through to the start of the New 52 there was exactly one essential run of Wonder Woman stories, and they were written by Rucka.  The Azzarello/Chiang run that launched the New 52 would be the next.  With Rucka back and Scott on board, I guess this means that Black Magic is on hiatus then?

Returning Numbering: Action Comics and Detective Comics will go back to its original numbering.  I like this. But at the same time I know it's because both are barrelling towards huge monumental numbers and they will get some big press when they do .  I think Action, returning at #957 and especially at a twice monthly rate will hit 1000 next year and Detective, returning at #934 the year after.

$2.99 price point: $3.99 has been a bitter pill and with the Canadian dollar sucking the average comic is now $5.  $2.99 makes their books genuinely more attractive.

And now the bad

Twice Monthly comics: either they weren't paying attention to Eric Stephenson's ComicsPRO speech, or they're actively giving him the finger.  With at least 16 titles reportedly going twice monthly, DC's looking to cannibalize the audience.  It's probably their means to justify the $2.99 price point... instead of making $4 once a month they're making $6 off the same person by going twice a month. To quote Stephenson about why this is bad:

And if you are a publisher trying to shore up your numbers by releasing more than one issue of a single title a month: Stop.

It makes it next to impossible for retailers to accurately track sales, it puts undue pressure on even your most loyal fans, and it deprives writers and artists of the ability to do their best work. In fact, it all but robs artists of the ability to establish the kind of multi-issue runs that define long and illustrious careers.
I want to see a Wonder Woman run by Rucka and Scott...not by Rucka, Scott and Liam Sharp.  Sharp is a fine illustrator, but there's no cohesiveness to having alternating artists on the same story.  It's a concession I'll hesitantly make for a weekly book, but just think about how messed up those trades are going to be.

The old DCU is still alive: Don't get me wrong, I think that the New 52 was a bomb... a huge misstep by the company.  It yielded huge short-term gains, and equally huge long-term losses.  But you know what, stick to your guns DC.  Fix what's wrong and move forward.  Don't flounder and start looking back again.  Convergence was a ruddy mess.  In theory it could have provided closure or a portal back to a beloved time/run, but it mucked that up.  And by bringing Superman and the Titans of old forward into the new DC Universe, you're undoing the entire conceit of making the New 52 a simpler place for new readers.  You already have a Superman.  If you want him to work like he used to, then guide the story that way.  Having multiple Supermen or Titans in the same world is problematic at best.

Narrow Focus: So how much of Rebirth is focusing on new characters?  Super Sons, Superwoman, New Superman
A few. 
How many new characters are not Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman related? 
None.  Even the new "Outlaws" in Red Hood and the Outlaws are Bizarro and Artemis.
"New Superman"?
Yep, another Superman.  So there's old DCU Superman, New DCU Superman, and now what looks like a Superman from China.  Not that there can't be a Chinese Superman, but having multiple Supermen, multiple, Super women, multiple Superboys on the same planet is massively diluting the brand.  Of course, Superwoman and New Superman could be set on an alternate Earth.  I could see Superwoman being a stab at Spider-Gwen-type knockoff (but with Jimenez and Luppacino on board it could be worthwhile).
I imagine a lot of this increased Super-focus is based off of wishful thinking and hopeful goodwill around Batman V Superman: DoJ but they obviously weren't paying attention to Warner Brothers completely throwing the Superman brand under the bus.

Dumb stories: Okay, I trust Steve Orlando is a good storyteller, but Cyborg Superman is Supergirl's father.  Oy.  Pass.

So much for not letting the movies dictate the comics: A while back Dan DiDio was making it a thing about how DC was going to lead the storytelling and not react to the movies and multimedia, and shape their publishing output as a Marvel does.  Well, "Rebirth" takes a crap all over that idea.  Just look at Suicide Squad, with Jim Lee on rotating art duties, and a lineup that mirrors...oh, the cinematic version.  Yeah.

Tunnel Vision: There's nothing different here.  There are some intriguing titles and creators, but overall it's Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Justice League and associates and little outside that.  Reading down the list of announced titles a couple dozen times and it feels so homogeneous.  Where is the daring... where are the Squirrel Girls or Karnaks... the outthere takes on old things.  Where are the risks.  This is like when Marvel did everything Avengers back in 2011.  It was all Avengers all the time, and it was dull.  This is dull.


Bottom Line:

Some of these things do interest me.  The old fanboy is really, really keen to see Blue Beetle.  That Keith Giffen is writing a BB title that features (somehow) both Jaime Reyes (who I love) AND Ted Kord (who I also love) hits all the right notes.

I'm just giddy with the fact that Christopher Priest is back writing comics.  He is an incredible talent who has had a famously shit time getting his dues in the industry.  Deathstroke isn't my preferred character to see him write (nor a character I've given two poops about since the mid-90's) but knowing Priest he's going to deliver something different and meaningful for Slade, provide DC editorial get out of his way.

Do you get the sense that I'm excited for Rucka and Scott on Wonder Woman?  I really, really am.

These are probably the only three books I'm going to read from Rebirth.  I may poke around Superwoman and Birds of Prey.  I think Batman is in good hands but I'm giving him a rest.  The wife will be picking up Nightwing and is happy Tim Seeley is carrying over from Grayson (plus Marcus To on rotating art duty is a good match for the character). 


pulpcitizen said...

DC lost me as a regular reader of multiple books during the New 52 era. The nihilism that had prevailed from circa 2005 and the mess of what they had done with a half-hearted reboot just compounded my misgivings.

Even the return of someone like Priest to writing a DC book is not enough to make me go back monthly.

I have since tried a few books through collected edition, but then found the hype to not match the quality: Snyder's acclaimed run started off promisingly, but it became clear to me that he neither new how to conclude his stories well, nor write a compelling Bruce Wayne/Batman that isn't a pretty big d!#%. Each arc seemed to offer diminishing returns from Snyder.

The problem through it all is that the current leadership and editorial staff seem pretty poor custodians of their greatest assets: their characters. And that ultimately is where DC lost me a monthly reader (barring Astro City from Vertigo).

Graig Kent said...

I don't blame anyone for completely abandoning DC. They certainly haven't showed any inclination of supporting or meaningfully engaging their fanbase (see also DC Cinematic Universe). I wish I could quit them, but for some dumb reason I still so desperately want to see them succeed, if only to not see all my decades of rabid fandom leading up to 2012 feel like it was for naught.

I do find there are little treasures in the midst of their publishing lineup (Midnighter, Grayson and Prez, most recently) but I have no investment in the DCU as a whole.

I've enjoyed Snyder's run on Batman, but it's reminds me of Nolan's Batman movies. They sort of stand off to the side as their own thing, rather than feeling like a larger part of a universe even a part of a character's ongoing story. He's put Batman through so much over, like, five story arcs, it's wound up feeling more definitive, like Dark Knight Rises, than something episodic like The Dark Knight.

For the most part my comics reading these days (unlike in my younger years) is following creators rather than characters, so if Christopher Priest is back writing comics, I'm going to be there to support him... even if it is Deathstroke.