Hey, comicistas! Thanks for checking in to this week’s 4CB. It’s great to be back on a regular basis again, talking comics and chewin’ bubblegum. And I’m all out of bubblegum. My pull list this week consisted of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 from DC Comics, Scooby Apocalypse #1 from DC Comics, Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 from Marvel, The X-Files #2 by IDW, Daredevil #7 from Marvel, and Star Wars #19 from Marvel.
The X-Files, if you aren’t reading it, is set during the recent six-episode event. Joe Harris does the writing on that, with X-Files creator Chris Carter as Executive Producer and Overseer. Issue 2 kicked off a new story arc involving a missing boy, and the grisly deaths of a group of undocumented immigrants. This issue was strong on creeps and tension, and everything that made The X-Files fun, albeit an older Mulder and Scully. Daredevil #7, written by Charles Soule, was quite possibly the weirdest issue of DD I’ve ever read, and Jason Aaron’s Star Wars just continues to be consistently good every single month.
Now, let’s get down to business.
Geoff Johns Says Goodbye to Writing for the DC Universe by Fixing What’s Broken
The goal of DC’s New 52 rebranding was to update old characters for new readers. A noble idea, I agree. Comics change. They can’t be stagnant. New, younger readers come in and they’re often confused by the overwhelming amounts of history a particular comic book universe might share. But in the execution, things went crazy. Mistakes were made, older fans were alienated, and DC’s sales began to suffer. The goal with DC Universe: Rebirth was to give the DCU some much needed polish, and to bring back some of those elements that made fans love the DCU in the first place.
And it’s successful because of what Geoff Johns does for his comics. He brings the passion, emotion, and big character moments.
As many readers speculated, Wally West is the voice for the DCU’s rebirth. Not the controversial new Wally West, but pre-Flashpoint Wally. The Wally who was the Flash for an entire generation of fans, on Johns’ amazing run on The Flash in the early 2000’s. The same Wally West that embodies everything that was lost with the New 52. Hope, optimism, legacy. And his return is a sure sign that things are going to get better. It becomes clear rather quickly that Wally is, in many ways throughout the issue, the mouthpiece by which Johns can address the readers. It has been said that Johns was an unwilling participant in the New 52 reboot, at the very least not its biggest fan. Wally’s entire script seems to be Johns acknowledging what went wrong, and casting a very critical eye at the New 52 universe.
It’s important to note that Rebirth isn’t an apology. It isn’t a reset that erases the last five years and restores the DC machine to a pre-Flashpoint setting. The New 52 characters are there, it’s that universe. Johns is clear that the current status quo isn’t something to be erased with the wave of a hand. To the contrary, Johns even manages to explain how the two Wally Wests are able to be in the same universe. No, Rebirth serves to acknowledge what’s gone wrong, and make it clear that better days are ahead. From the return of Ray Palmer’s Atom, to the new status quo of the Justice Society, older fans are sure to crack grins just like I did.
And it helps that Johns has assembled some of the best artists at DC to help him. Ethan van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, and Gary Frank join Johns on his quest to tell this grand story. The book is told in vignettes, with each artist doing his own thing on each chapter, yet bringing a cinematic feel to the entire thing as a cohesive whole.
It’s also important to take a moment to note the issue’s big reveal. That Watchmen‘s Dr. Manhattan is responsible for the creation of the New 52 by playing god. It’s easy to dismiss this as shock value, or DC and Johns tarnishing such a hallowed part of comicdom just to make more money. And it’s likely to do that. But in this, let me be clear, context is everything. And for one thing, it offers a concrete explanation as to how the DCU changed, and why the New 52 and the pre-Flashpoint universes can coexist.
And it’s a heck of a way for Geoff Johns to start his hiatus from writing for the DC Universe as he becomes the Defender of the Faith for the DC universe in Warner Bros. movies.
So. Final thought. There was a lot that was bad with the New 52. It was dark, gritty … a hopeless place. And as one of those aforementioned older DC fans, I packed my bags and left. Rebirth turned the lights back on, and while I don’t expect Gotham to be a place of sprinkles and rainbows, the clouds have moved away from other parts of the DCU that, as a fan, I adored. Month by month, year by year. The comics that follow, I think will be great. There’s still the matter of dealing with Doc Manhattan, and regaining all that was lost, and the epic battle certainly to come. It’s good to be home.
A New Do for Scooby-Doo
So, DC and Hanna-Barbera have teamed up to retool some of their properties. The first of those, Future Quest, wasn’t a retool so much as the creation of a shared universe. And I loved it. Scooby Apocalypse is the second book in the DC/Hanna-Barbera team-up. I was so skeptical of this, I scoffed on more than one occasion, and I’m pretty sure the astronauts on the ISS could hear my eyes rolling from space. I am a huge Scooby-Doo fan. Scooby was my gateway drug into the horror genre that I dig so much today.
But Future Quest was so good, and I’m a fan of the writing team on the book, so I closed my eyes, grabbed it off the shelf, and gave my comic shop guy my $3.99 American.
“You sure?” He asked warily. I nodded. Future Quest was awesome. The guys who made “BWAH-HA-HA” a household phrase back in the 90s were working on it. It had to be good. Right?
Writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, whobrought comedy to superhero comics back in the 90s with Justice League International, and more recently Justice League 3001, have completely reinvented Mystery, Inc. for a whole new group of fans. In this interpretation, the team hasn’t met yet as the story begins in an obviously not-too-distant future. Fred and Daphne are co-hosts of a paranormal investigation show that’s so bad, it’s on at 4 a.m. on The Knitting Channel. When we first meet them, they’re trying to boost their ratings by meeting up with someone who has told them the planet is in danger. Enter Velma, their contact, who is a scientist at a think tank that is indeed working on something that is about to lay waste to the planet. Shaggy works at the think tank as a dog trainer, which brings us to Scooby-Doo, who is a genetically engineered “smart dog” and deemed a failure due to his lack of aggression. Shaggy takes Scooby into his protection rather than the scientists have him scrapped.
I’ll admit, this isn’t Giffen and DeMatteis’ best work. The comedy isn’t as there as it should be, although there are moments, and Velma has exposition that lasts pages, and while she’s always been the talker, and maybe that was their point, I was wanting to skip ahead and get to the rest of the story. I was happiest with Shaggy’s transformation. The cover would almost lead you to believe he’s a stereotypical stoner. Not at all. He’s a bit naive, but his tender-hearted motives become clear, he’s certainly no fool, and you can’t help but like and root for the guy. It’s also interesting that Fred and Daphne have almost changed roles. Daphne is gung-ho, while Fred tends to just follow along, more apt to knock a guy down accidentally with his camera rather than defend someone’s honor. In fact, both women are given strong personalities, probably the strongest in the group, and that was kind of fun to see. Scooby is the heart of the book, of course. You feel bad for him, his being cast aside as a failure, and his relationship with Shaggy is just touching.
All in all, I like what Giffen has done with character development. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am pleased. And while the comedy isn’t always there, DeMatteis’ dialogue elicits a chuckle now and again, but since this first issue was about meetings and the apocalypse (Oh, yes. There is an apocalypse), I can only predict things will get stronger with the second issue. And having Howard Porter as your artist, after his work on The Flash and JLA, helps too.
Look, I was a fan of this book, and I think it will get better as it goes. It was fun, and end in the end, isn’t that what comics are supposed to be? You can pretty much look at the cover and make your own decision right away as to whether or not this book is for you. But I’ll definitely be back for the second issue.
Star-Spangled Avenger. Sentinel of Liberty. Supervillain.
Stepping out of the Assault on Pleasant Hill storyline, Steve Rogers is restored to full youth and vigor, new shield, new fighting togs, and new villains to fight. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Jesus Saiz try to provide Cap’s reintroduction with some terrorist-fighting action that ends up stiff and hard to read even before that big reveal. Things start out well enough. We’re treated to some flashbacks of Steve’s childhood, his mother and drunken father having a violent dispute, before one Eliza Sinclair appears to rescue Steve and his mother, ultimately introducing them to the glory of Hydra. Spencer’s story kind of falls apart after that, with Saiz seemingly more out to show readers Cap’s new shield than Cap himself. Then, Cap takes on a ridiculously-written Baron Zemo. A fight ensues, and it was so good seeing Jack Flag and Free Spirit in the mix. I was really thinking Spencer had something special going on here.
Then came that ill-conceived ending.
I came into this book hoping for the best, despite what I know about Nick Spencer. Spencer, who has strong political opinions and no fear injecting them into the story, or using his characters as mouthpieces for his rhetoric, makes a certain group of people with certain political opinions to don’t line up with his, out to be fascists and hate-mongers by having them cheer the Red Skull as he seems to support everything that group supports. This is the same reason that his other book, Sam Wilson: Captain America was so disappointing to me. When it was first announced that Sam Wilson would take over as Cap, I was excited. Snagged that first issue in a minute. Only to read that Sam Wilson thinks that anyone who doesn’t support Nick Spencer’s political opinions are white supremacists? If you have opinions about how the country should be run, or you take offense with an entire group of people, go to your creator-owned book, Mr. Spencer, and unload. Yes, politics have always had a place in comics. The era of Green Lantern/Green Arrow was memorable. It was liberal vs. conservative, but the important thing to note is that two sides were represented. Both sides had their say and at the end you were free to take your own stance as to the argument. I wouldn’t want to read a book that constantly mocked and slandered and bashed on President Obama and his side of the argument. It’s boring and patronizing. Nick Spencer seems to be to Captain America as Zack Snyder is to Superman.
Then, as to the art, Jesus Saiz did not turn in good artwork, here. His attempts to portray an aged Sharon Carter was distracting, and had me wondering if she was part hamster.
As far as the reveal goes, there’s a chance that it may be a cosmic cube event. In order to restore Steve to full youth and vigor, the cosmic cube had to work its juju. That certainly remains a possibility, despite Spencer and Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort’s insistence that this is not a hoax, gimmick, alternate reality Steve, etc. As a reader, I just don’t know.
My problem with this sudden declaration of allegiance to Hydra is that having Captain America, who was created by two Jewish cartoonists, secretly be part of an organization rooted in Nazism is outrageous, audacious, and disgusting. It’s a big middle finger salute to those guys, whose character was created to fight the Nazis and their evil in a way they couldn’t themselves. It would have been easier to just have Cap proclaim allegiance to Hydra, then let the fans figure out what was going on. But to use flashbacks to muck around with history, to say that Steve has been a Nazi, or at least a Nazi sympathizer, since the outset? Was the death of Abraham Erskine as Steve was getting injected with vita-rays and the super-soldier serum just a clever ruse?
Cap’s actions in the past, and certainly the timeline, won’t be able to support this new history. Even in passing, this is something that should never have happened, and certainly wasn’t thought through. If it turns out that I, and other fans are misplaced in our anger and we’re all made fools of, I’ll happily eat my crow. It’s good with barbecue sauce. But now, as it stands? I can’t get behind it. But it does make for good discussion.
And that is 4CB for this week! As always thanks for dropping by! See ya next week!