With an astonishing 51 first issues to comb through in search of quality this September, the company’s gambit to throw open the doors of the DC Universe to new readers may well blow up in their faces as people find themselves so overwhelmed by choice that they opt out all together.
Well fear not, here’re the ten titles you really should keep your eye on, listed in no particular order.
Geoff Johns has a pretty rough ride from the critics – despite some superbly handled work on mythologically-driven series like JSA and Flash, he seems to have a talent for attracting joyless clean-up operations. When they’re good they’re Green Lantern: Rebirth, and when they’re bad they’re very, very Infinite Crisis. Sans the need to drive a character from confused Point A to editorially designated, marketing driven Point B, and left alone to tell good, solid superhero stories that tap into that classic sense of heroism and triumph, Johns could turn Aquaman into one of the core powers in the DC pantheon.
Not exactly a hot property at the moment, what with the proposed TV series having been subject to pre-emptive ridicule for its tacky costumes and daft script, and then dropkicked into the cold, dark forest of rejection, this could change under the team up of Batman/100 Bullets writer Brian Azzarello and Green Arrow/Black Canary’s kinetic Cliff Chiang manning the ink well – expect nothing more than non-stop thrills as the last time the two worked together was on the irreverent back-up strip Dr 13.
There’s been a lot of chatter and speculation about how Apollo and the Midnighter – the gay Superman/Batman analogues from the Wildstorm universe – could possible fit into the DC Universe proper, as they do alongside Martian Manhunter in the new series of Stormwatch. The answer is; however they like. The DCU has been reset, and yesterday’s rules don’t always apply – with both characters significantly redesigned, expect a similar shift in their roles and personalities. Paul Cornell’s hefty pedigree from Doctor Who, Action Comics and Captain Britain And MI:13 would suggest genuine, drama-heavy tales that take in broad brushstrokes of a world changing around them. This is a really exciting one.
7. Animal Man
Since Grant Morrison wrote the character into an Escher-ian nightmare of a corner with his Fourth Wall breaking run on the character’s Vertigo title in the Nineties, poor old Buddy Baker has struggled to find a place in the DCU. Atypical for a superhero in that he’s a family man, and a fairly well balanced one, Jeff Lemire is the perfect candidate to combine small town people stories – as he did so brilliantly on Superboy, a title we’re sad to see disappear in the DC rapture, and his indie delight Essex County – and ecological hand-wringing – see the post-apocalyptic animal people of current Vertigo favourite Sweet Tooth.
6. Batman Inc
Grant Morrison’s contract tossed a handful of sand into the eyes of the DC executives, allowing his brilliant, pulpy adventure in Batman Inc to continue largely unscathed – concluding his six year run on Batman with 12 more issues. The August finale to, er, season one, promises to “change the Batman status quo yet again” which given come September there’ll be no status quo, isn’t exactly the proud boast it should be.
It’s difficult not to feel profoundly sorry for Dick Grayson. A rarity among superheroes, we got to see him grow up as a Robin, join other teen heroes in the Sixties and Seventies, go it alone as Nightwing in the Eighties, get his own regular series in the Nineties and then finally, as we all hoped he would do, become Batman. Now he’s back in his Nightwing garb (looking alarmingly like Chris O’Donnell in the utterly irredeemable Batman & Robin), but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s back to being the awkward adolescent of the Bat-family, forever being measured against his successors and forever trying to define himself as a man apart. Kyle Higgins doesn’t have a huge back catalogue, but he did introduce the Algerian ‘Batman of Paris’, Nightrunner, which upset idiots on the internet and we’re always a fan of that.
Seeing as this isn’t so much a revolutionary relaunch as an eagerly anticipated, yet endlessly delayed follow up to the beautiful Batwoman: Elegy, more of the same is definitely on the cards. And that would be frankly incredible. Although the sumptuously surreal art of JH Williams III is returning, Greg Rucka isn’t – instead we’re entrusting one of comics most progressive and interesting characters to Star Wars tie-in scribbler Haden Blackman and artist-turned-writer Amy Reeder. Bit of a risk, but one worth taking.
Without getting too into the politics behind any possible redesign or reimagining of Superman, DC are clearly out to show just how much of their flagship’s identity is a result of their 70-odd years of evolution, and nothing whatsoever to do with his traditional outfit or his ability to leap buildings in a single bound (because that aspect of him is being claimed by the families of his creators). Grant Morrison understands alien and he understand mighty – look to his relaunch of the JLA and his run on The Authority and New X-Men – he tells a good story – behold the supremely dense and delightful Seven Soldiers Of Victory and most recently, Batman & Robin and Batman Inc – and most importantly, he understands Superman implicitly – as evidence on the heartachingly lovely All-Star Superman. With a lot of the old certainties and restrictions superseded by the need to really make Superman theirs, Grant Morrison could be about to do something really unexpected and spectacular.
We’re really going to miss the irrepressible dirtbags of Gail Simone’s incredible Secret Six, but with grizzled marksman Deadshot and psychotic idiot King Shark popping up in the all new Suicide Squad (Deadshot enjoyed a character defining run in the team in the Eighties) under the pensmanship of Adam Glass (Luke Cage Noir, Deadpool Pulp) – expect a morally ambiguous thriller of backstabbing Bourne-like proportions. That cover art, incidently, makes an offensive mockery of the new DC edict about ‘functional’ costumes on their female characters – Harley Quinn having gone from all in one pyjamas to trailer trash stripper.
A dead cert – Gail Simone wrote Barbara Gordon up a storm with Birds Of Prey, and as a long time critic of the abuses done to women in comics in order to drive a male dominated plot forward – and the crippling of Barbara at the hands of the Joker in Alan Moore’s Killing Joke in particular – it’s fitting that she should take on the title. All Simone needs now is to stuff Major Force into a refrigerator and she can die happy. Expect a brilliantly sassy and irreverent romp.