Friday, January 21, 2011

DC Comics in April 2011 - Too many crossovers!

Looking at DC Comics' April 2011 solicitations, I'm seeing an awful lot of crossovers: the three Green Lantern books are interlocked in the awful-sounding "War of the Green Lanterns"; Superboy, the Superman/Batman annual and Action Comics are part of the "Reign of Doomsday" event; Red Robin, Gotham City Sirens and Batman together form an unnamed three-part crossover; and Flash is setting up this summer's big event "Flashpoint," which sounds like it's going to affect DC's entire line of books.

War of the Green Lanterns

Green Lantern #65
This one is easy enough to ignore for me, since I'm not following any of the Green Lantern titles. It's unclear to me whether this story line concludes in April or if it's going to continue in May. But I did notice that they're apparently planning to release the books out of reading order. The solicitation for Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #9, which comes out April 20, says it deals with the consequences of Green Lantern Corps #59, which comes out the following week on April 27.

Great job, DC editors! I can't think of a worse way to promote your upcoming big blockbuster movie than with a confusing crossover event that you can't even be bothered to release in the proper reading order.

If I was a Green Lantern editor, I would want to keep these books accessible for new readers who might be excited about the upcoming movie and who'd want to check out the comic. But right now there is no easy jumping on point into the franchise for new readers.

Reign of Doomsday

Superman/Batman Annual #5
The "Reign of Doomsday" crossover has just started and already there are signs that it'll be a prime example of how damaging a editorially mandated events can be for ongoing series that get sucked into them. The Steel one-shot that came out earlier this month wasn't very good, but it's hard to blame writer Steve Lyons for it. Not only had he pitched a completely different story featuring a different villain (Metallo), but he had actually finished the script, which was already in the process of being drawn by penciller Sean Chen, when DC editorial decided to trash it all and repurpose the issue to launch the crossover event. Metallo was discarded as the villain, and Ed Benes replaced Sean Chen as the penciller.

The result was a 22-page fight scene, with virtually no context, ending with a very unsatisfying cliffhanger as Doomsday drags Steel's limp body away into space. That the one-shot was weak on story is a massive understatement. Lyons said in an interview with Newsarama: "As for why Doomsday is coming after Steel now... well, actually, even I don't know the full answer to that!" What can you expect when the writer admits that he doesn't even know his characters' motivations?

In February and March, the crossover continues in issues of Outsiders and Justice League of America, neither of which I currently follow. Considering how uninspired the first part of the story was, I wasn't planning on picking those up, but in April "Act 1" of the story continues in the Superman/Batman annual and then concludes in Superboy #6. Since I'm currently following (and enjoying!) Jeff Lemire's Superboy, now I have to decide whether all this additional material is worth buying in order to get the full story.

Surprisingly, the solicitation for Action Comics #900 doesn't mention "Reign of Doomsday," although a post on DC's blog yesterday claims that it continues the story line. Why they wouldn't include this crucial information in the solicitations is beyond me! What it does say is that "this story will lay the ground for an insanely epic story coming out this summer in the pages of Action." So presumably, this insanely epic story will be "Act 2" of "Reign of Doomsday"?

Part of the reason these crossovers are so frustrating is that readers are only given little tidbits of information at a time, all of which is constantly subject to change, so it's very difficult for us to make informed decisions about what books to order. I'm lucky enough to have access to a comic book store that orders multiple copies of everything DC and Marvel publish, so even if I don't put something on my pull list, it's pretty much guaranteed that I'll be able to pick up a copy once it hits the stands. But those who only have access to smaller comics stores don't have that luxury.

As for how this crossover will affect my buying habits, I've decided to just keep getting the books I usually get (Action and Superboy) and hope for the best. I don't really mind that this story is set to continue in the pages of Action Comics after the Lex Luthor arc concludes. If Paul Cornell stays onboard, I'll continue reading it. (But that's another thing DC has been very tight-lipped about. Who's going to be writing Action from May onward?) I'm a little bit more upset about Superboy being sucked into it, because as a newer book, I think it would have been good to let it establish itself at its own pace. But whatever. At worse, it'll be one shitty issue, then hopefully it gets back on track with #7.

Red Robin/Gotham City Sirens/Batman

Gotham City Sirens #22
I was worried when I first saw that Marcus To wasn't listed as the artist for Red Robin #22, but he has since confirmed (via Twitter) that his editors wanted to give him some breathing room and that he will be back on the book with #23. That's good news, as he's pretty much the only only reason I haven't dropped the book after a series of recent weak scripts from Fabian Nicieza.

It's great that they're giving Marcus To some time to rest in between story arc. He's been doing consistently fantastic work on the book for over a year now, without any delays, which is a remarkable achievement when you compare it to almost every other book that DC publishes. It sounds like a well-deserved break. But why couldn't they just do a stand-alone issue in between instead of tying it with two other Bat books? Wouldn't that have been a better way to attract new readers? Promote the issue as a good jumping-on point, a no-strings-attached, commitment-free issue with a done-in-one story introducing you to the character. Maybe a team-up with another popular character to attract more fans. Instead, picking up this issue forces you to pick up two other books. Sounds like a terrible way to get new readers.

I guess the point of this crossover is that people already following either one of these three series are going to feel compelled to buy the other two issues in order to get the full story. So DC's making three times as much money as they normally would. That's the theory, but is that actually what people do? Not me. I'm going to skip this book instead. I'd rather have a hole in my collection than be forced to buy extra books I don't want.

It's a pity, though, because the cover by Guillem March is beautiful.


The Flash #12
This last one is a bit different from the other events discussed above, since it's not going to start until this summer. April brings us the end of the prologue and so far the story will have been entirely contained in the pages of a single book, The Flash. And since I  happen to be buying this book already, this will be a good way for me to evaluate whether or not I want to jump onboard for the mega event that will follow.

So far, I'm intrigued by the premise. It's really too early for me to have an opinion at this point, although I'm a little bit worried by the suggestion that "everything Barry Allen knows and cares about is lost" in April's issue #12. Since it looks like the event is going to be about alternate timelines, I'm assuming part of Barry Allen's motivations will be to go back and fix the timeline to save his wife. Which is something Geoff Johns has been hinting at since early in the series. I'm only worried because I'm bracing myself for another grueling "death of a loved one" scene, which seems to have become DC's trademark. But we'll see how that goes.


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