Rude Chapbooks 08.26.11 | EXTRA: DC ’n’ Ewes

Next week, quoth the company’s co-publishers in a July statement, “DC Comics explodes with 52 new #1 issues! The entire line of comic books is being renumbered”—and in celebrating that explosion, our crusty columnist feels not in the slightest bit sheepish…

 
Not merely game-changing but life-changing, DC’s decision, this summer and fall, to restore the hymens of all the houris in its print seraglio rivals any fabulation of Shahrazad’s (and, with apologies to the shade of Sir Richard F. Burton, certainly feels as if it’s been enchanting the usual suspects among the so-called comics press for at least a thousand nights and a night).
 
What follows constitutes the top five—hey, some of us are still sweltering in recessionary heat, so top-ten addicts seeking the “full Letterman” here should seek elsewhere, capische?—“Rude Chapbooks” reasons for regarding this as the greatest thing to happen to comics since the invention of the staple.
 
1. The company’s linewide relaunch—which it’s disavowed as a relaunch per se and which, in midstream, it seemingly rebranded from “DCnU” to “the New 52”—will ineluctably benefit the industry in toto. At a minimum, it should relieve beleaguered retailers nationwide of the burden of determining how to spend their precious shekels. After the August 31 shipment of Justice League #1, such retailers should breeze through overorders for ravening fanboys during September, whose full first, second, and fourth weeks will each involve 13 titles and whose third will involve a mere dozen. Then, during the full first week of October, DC Direct, through unalloyed magnanimity, will offer a “ready-for-framing,” “quantities-may-be-allocated” portfolio of the relaunches’ covers priced at $129.99, and on Pearl Harbor Day, the publisher will bomb the market with DC Comics: The New 52, a gotta-have 1,216-page $150 hardcover compiling all the relaunches. In budgeting for this flood of wonder, of course, many comics shops will perforce scant orders for other, non-DC titles or ignore those titles altogether—but that’s funnybook Darwinism, y’know?
 
2. Many titles included in this initiative should prompt readers old and new to exclaim, “Jeepers, DC, what took ya so long?” The heuristic genius on display here ranks as breathtaking. Batwing, for example, will star “the Batman of Africa,” because, of course, a continent constantly ravaged by famine, disease, and (outright or “asymmetric”) warfare all but demands its own Dark Knight, whose exploits, presumably, will download dependably each month to hungry-for-content smartphones and other digital devices in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Similarly, fans worldwide have, in all likelihood, been clamoring for Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., apparently an offshoot of the 2004–6 Seven Soldiers of Victory project, one of Grant Morrison’s most-brilliantist-ever brainstorms (no, really—just ask Morrison). Red Hood and the Outlaws, meanwhile? Well, the zeitgeist has long cried for a comic book starring Henry Paul, Monte Yoho, and their Southern rockin’ posse, now hasn’t it? Finally, Men of War, starring “a team of ex-military men turned contractors,” should rocket onto the must-read list of everyone employed by Xe Services (formerly Blackwater).
 
3. The creative teams assigned to most of these debuts should instantly eradicate from readers’ minds all recollection of past DC stalwarts like Alan Moore (uppity pothead!) and Neil Gaiman (go get ’im, Representative Dean!). “Y’know,” the DC powers that be evidently mused, “J.H. Williams III and Francis Manapul so excel as artists, why not give ’em writing duties somewhere, too? After all, a chimp could script a comic book.” (Batwoman? Check. The Flash? Ditto.) A corresponding rationale evidently applied to nonpareil ex–X-scribes Scott Lobdell (three titles) and Fabian Nicieza (a Legion of Super-Heroes series), who, on their worst day, made Stan Lee and Roy Thomas and Chris Claremont look like pikers. With every single thing he’s written for DC, in the meantime, Judd Winick (two titles) has expunged the empty amateurism of The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. Finally, artistically, on Hawk and Dove—and who among us hasn’t been jonesing for an H&D revival, by golly?—fanboys everywhere should welcome the return of the man, the myth, the legend, Rob Liefeld.
 
4. Having Geoff Johns, DC’s chief creative officer, script three monthlies solo guarantees that fans will enjoy 36 solid superheroic adventures in the coming year. Beyond his corporate responsibilities, Johns, by himself, without a co-writer, sans fill-ins, will scribe the relaunches of Aquaman, Green Lantern, and Justice League, and in so doing, he should supercharge that trio of titles with the same peerless power and punctuality that graced the last two relaunches he oversaw (involving G.L. and the Barry Allen Flash). Particularly exciting in that respect will be his partnering on the third title with penciller (and company co-publisher) Jim Lee, who’s lately transformed into a clockwork comics colossus on assignments like All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. Justice League #1 (which showcases those brave-and-bold battlers’ origin for the 743rd time, because one can never hear “Chopsticks,” in all its symphonic glory, performed enough) bows next Wednesday, and by the end of August 2012, it should captivate fanboys everywhere to reflect on 12 issues from the Johns-Lee creative team on DC’s superteam supreme.
 
5. “Not only will this initiative be compelling for existing readers,” burbled Lee and co-publisher Dan DiDio in company collateral last month, “it will give new readers a precise entry point into our universe.” Righteous! Oh, yes. At least one existing reader can scarcely wait to see how the aforesaid Morrison, the writer helming the relaunch of Action Comics, manages (undoubtedly with characteristic modesty) both to strip-mine and to sanitize Philip Wylie (“We will carry him yonder to Uctotol and bury him…”). Said existing reader also delights at the fact that Lee and DiDio care less about distinct stories distinctively told than about their “universe”—because comics “universes” promote endless “events” and crossovertures and other thrilling things. Otherwise, a year or two hence, regarding putative new readers, one can only pray that Lee and DiDio’s cardboard-clad thinking-outside-the-box rationale leads to a helpful relaunch of the relaunch (unless, of course, DC’s then being sued by Milk and Cheese mad mastermind Evan Dorkin, who long ago floated this whole having-one’s-cake-and-eating-it-too, perpetual-debut scam, albeit with far cheerier honesty). | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
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