The good, the OK and the strange…
DC and Marvel have been busy, busy, busy recently with new publishing initiatives that beg attention. The latest came Thursday with DC’s announcement of its new Black Label imprint, a sort of neo-Elseworlds concept featuring A-List creators writing A-List characters in out-of-continuity stories.
This follows DC’s recent unveiling of two new lines — DC Ink and DC Zoom — that focus on the younger readers who once upon a time were comics’ core audience; Marvel’s Fresh Start, the House of Ideas’ latest Bold New Direction; and, the New Age of DC Heroes, which is designed to introduce a bunch of new characters and integrate them into the DC Universe.
Some of this will work. Some of this won’t. And it’s way too early to make any firm judgments, of course. That said, there’s a lot to speculate about. So here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on Marvel and DC’s Big New Moves.
1. Props to DC for trying a lot of different things on a lot of different levels. The publisher appears to have a firm and necessary grasp on the idea that readers are not one-size-fits-all, that people come to comics looking for different things. Continuity junkies can still get their fix but the menu is opening up to other readers too.
2. Full disclosure: I lean toward DC inherently. This has nothing to do with staffing or personalities or anything like that. It’s just that I was a DC kid and those characters appeal to me on a more natural, visceral level. While I’m knowledgeable about Marvel, I don’t hide the fact that it’s my second language, so I have a tendency to be more circumspect about their moves than DC’s.
3. Which is part of why I’m really apprehensive about Marvel’s Fresh Start. The publisher made such a big deal about Marvel Legacy, restoring old-school numbering and adding superficial trappings like retro corner boxes and the return of Marvel Value Stamps. The paint’s not even dry and now that’s getting tossed out for yet another branding effort and a raft of #1 issues.
Now, these may all end up being great comics by great creative teams but in a way that’s not really enough, because it does make things confusing for readers, particularly people like me who really want to try to commit to new titles but feel like things will only change again in a few months. Plus, I have to say it’s starting to feel like Marvel went to Legacy as an excuse to throw a bunch of concocted anniversary issues at us.
4. Putting that aside, I’m curious to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new Captain America — debuting July 4, no less. He had some intriguing things to say about that here.
5. Naturally, DC Black Label interests me. The last 30-plus years of comics have produced many classics by creators unencumbered by the weight of canon, so the odds of a new masterpiece emerging are fairly high. Of course, a part of me would love to see a number of these folks continue to work on regular DCU titles, but I understand the nature of this.
6. I’ll try the previously announced Superman: Year One by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. because how can I not? Still, I’d much rather read Miller’s Last Superman Story instead of yet another reimagining of the Man of Steel’s origin — especially when you consider that Brian Michael Bendis will have wrapped up his DCU version just before Miller and Romita’s Black Label series launches this summer.
7. I’ll also check out Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: Last Knight on Earth, because they turned in some great Batman work during their tenure on the flagship title. The story — featuring Batman in a dystopian wasteland with the Joker’s live, disembodied head — sounds, ahem, batshit crazy. On the other hand, I’ve had my fill of Last Batman Stories.
8. I am absolutely not the target audience for DC Ink and DC Zoom but I’m really glad they’ll exist. Any chance to get more boys and girls reading comics — reading in general — is a great thing. I felt similarly when DC Super Hero Girls launched a couple years ago. Just glancing at the list of Ink and Zoom titles, though, Superman Smashes the Klan is far and away the one book that should get a broad, all-ages, top-to-bottom readership. Written by genius-grant recipient Gene Luen Yang, the title ties in to the classic ’40s radio serial in which the Man of Steel took on the KKK. It’s remarkable how timely that is — 70 years later.
9. A quick aside about New Age of DC Heroes: Overall, not my cuppa. Just a matter of personal taste. However, I’m into the The Terrifics — aka the Fantastic Faux — by Jeff Lemire and Ivan Reis (and soon Doc Shaner). I’ll also pick up Snyder and Andy Kubert’s New Challengers in the spring.
10. Back to Marvel: Dan Slott’s really finishing strong on Amazing Spider-Man, pressing a lot of those classic buttons. And I think Nick Spencer got an incredibly unfair rap for his Captain America-as-Hydra-agent concept. I’m curious to see how the changeover goes.
11. There are many Marvel characters I’ve never read on a regular basis. The Hulk is one of them. His whole schtick never appealed to me. But The Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett is a book I want to check out. “It’s a comic about a monster who can’t die,” Ewing told CBR. “It’s about a man who believes he can use the darkest elements of his personality to do good in the world, and where that belief leads him. It’s about mortality, atonement and denial. It’s about all the parts of ourselves we don’t like to look at. It’s a horror comic. And if we’ve done even half the job I think we have, it’ll be one of the most talked-about comics of 2018.”
And jeez would you look at Alex Ross’ cover homaging Marie Severin? Incredible.
12. Returning to DC, it’s good to see that Wonder Woman is getting props under Black Label, with two projects — one by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Jimenez and one written by Greg Rucka. Very, very smart. That’s something you probably would not have seen even two years ago.
13. Black Label’s The Other History of the DC Universe, written by John Ridley, was also previously announced and I think it’s the book that has the best chance not only to draw attention — particularly from mainstream media — but to become that classic I mentioned above.