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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 9/2/9

No one buys DC Comics. Two months of solicitations. Reviews of Secret Six, Wonder Woman, Locke and Key, and Books of Magic.

No one buys DC Comics. Two months of solicitations. Reviews of Secret Six, Wonder Woman, Locke and Key, and Books of Magic.

News

DC Comics October Solicitations

Azrael – A late Bat-relaunch, nominally delayed for story reasons. You’re also expected to buy two $5 annuals before the first issue, all three comics written by Fabian Nicieza. Ramon Bachs is apparently going to pull double duty on this and Red Robin, with Jim Calafiore and Tom Mandrake drawing the annuals. 144 pages, minus ads, for $13. Not how you usually start a new series. We’ll see how that goes. A 1-in-25 variant cover will boost first issue sales, but that also means a bigger dropoff from one to two, as cover collectors don’t read.

Batman: The Unseen – A five issue miniseries notable for its creative team. Doug Moench and Kelley Jones. I’ll take that over Kevin Smith and [artist] anyday.

R.E.B.E.L.S. – Still not cancelled, and now it gets a $5 annual.

Justice League International – The trades continue with Vol. 3 collecting up to issue 30. No news on more hardcovers.

Planetary ends. Seriously. The final issue, #27, ships in October.

Air Vol. 2 collects five issues for $13. This is notable because one of those issues retailed for $1 and that price is reflected here. First trades for Vertigo books are always cheap, so it might not matter that their first issues are $1 now, but it’s a good sign that you aren’t likely to spend more by tradewaiting.

DC Comics November Solicitations

Blackest Night tie-ins begin. For some reason, I believed they were going to limit it to miniseries a la Final Crisis. Of course, that story had no effect on the DCU, while this one will at least be important to the GL part of the Universe, so fair enough. Six of the eight tie-ins, along with that months issue of the main series, are involved in a promotion not mentioned in the solications, where from November through January, a new Corps ring will be given away to those whose shops ordered enough of the tie-ins. Two of the participating books are among DC’s worst sellers, and only two can be considered strong, Blackest Night being one. It’ll definitely help sales for one month, but it’s unlikely to do anything beyond that, and shopkeeps are either going to be cautious, preventing their customers from getting all seven rings to join the black one DC gave away earlier, or go all in and wind up with many unsold comics.

Vigilante is finally cancelled with issue 12, after falling below 10k in direct market sales with issue 8. The Blackest Night tie-in has to be R.E.B.E.L.S.‘ last chance, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will fail to save DC’s new worst-selling mainstream superhero comic. It might triple sales or better, but Vigilante showed the magnitude of a sales boost doesn’t make it any less temporary. And that was part of a story you had to read, presumably. Two parts of a five-parter. This Blackest Night business is most likely your typical crossover tie-in, completely superfluous, and I think most of the people buying it for the label realize that and won’t bother reading it. If they do, it still has to hook them on the non-BN stuff, which will be the focus every month but this one.

Ex Machina Vol. 8 collects issues #35-39 and the Halloween Special, better known as the Masquerade Special, or Special #3, or the only Special I don’t have. No issue forty and no fourth Special, which I do have. Apparently, I won’t be able to pick this up in trades. I can get it in trade, singular, as in the last trade, but I’ll have to buy single issues before that, and I can’t be sure how many until Vol. 9 is solicited. And I miss out on the Masquerade Special again because I stopped waiting for the trades at a bad time.

Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love – A six-issue mini by… Chris Roberson? To my knowledge, this is the first Fables-related story with no direct involvement from Bill Willingham. I’m skeptical that anyone else can do Cinderella Superspy justice. This isn’t like your average spinoff, though; Roberson’s not some random guy DC assigned to the book. Like Matthew Sturges, he’s worked with Willingham before, and clearly those projects have proceeded to Willingham’s satisfaction. Worth looking into, but I’m not leaping at the chance to buy it like I would be with Willingham in the driver’s seat.

Reviews

Employee’s Pick

Books of Magic 42

[DC] Books of Magic Vol. 2 #39-44
Writers: John Ney Rieber, Peter Gross (issue 41)
Artists: Peter Gross (issues 39-41, 43-44), Jill Thompson (issue 42)

Road trip. No rigid storyarc for these six issues, though character arcs move steadily along. The first story has Tim, Molly, and Zatanna meet up in a casino in Minnesota, where they encounter Tannarak and Tala, nominally supervillains. No conflict here, though, just the sad story of a man who acheived eternal life without eternal youth

Issue 40 might be my least favorite of the series. Our trio of… protagonists? They can’t be called heroes after their inaction here. They happen upon the town of New Sparta, which was taken over by one of those militant cultist nutjobs in 1983 and now exists in a relatively primitive state. Tim & Co. don’t discover this, because they don’t investigate. They encounter children living alone in the woods, abandoned as babies, deemed unpure by the Great Leader. It’s weird, but whatever, right? Not their problem if some savage kids are running about. No reason to be concerned or suspect that they might like to live normal lives with families and stuff. The trio leave and the story ends.

It’s not a bad story, per se, but it would work better with no familiar characters, or if they happened upon nothing out of the ordinary. To see that and do nothing, to scarcely consider the possibility of doing something, is reprehensible. Zatanna could probably sort it out herself, or Tim if he could get his mojo working, or they could call in the military. Something, anything. Heroes are supposed to try, to care.

close your eyes

Issue 41 is wonky out of context. There’s an oldfashioned noir detective in the body of a gargoyle, and everything about that is great, but the bits with the human cast are off. Two issues earlier, Rieber made a point of having Tim overhear Molly tell someone else about her curse. It wasn’t clearly stated that he heard her, but the art strongly implied as much, and it’s an old tactic that Rieber used earlier in the series. This same bit of exposition is repeated directly to Tim in issue 41, and somehow the news surprises him. You’ll get no argument from me that Tim isn’t oblivious, but the only reason to have him eavesdrop before was to make him feel like a cad for having to find out that way. If he hears that and outright ignores it, he crosses the line from doofus to grade A jerk.

Then he leaps over the line in issue 42, before the big reveal that his butterfly (or moth, apparently) tattoo has been making him push people away. That and his natural fear of abandonment. Too bad Molly left last issue. The worst thing that ever happened to Tim is finally undone, and Rieber has one more story to tell with the real Tim Hunter.

New-Type Books

Wonder Woman 34

[DC] Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #34
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Aaron Lopresti

This is the first of a two-part break from the main story. Eager as I am to resolve the many dangling plotlines from Rise of the Olympian, I find I can’t complain about the lack of advancement here. Diana teams up with Dinah, aka Black Canary, to bust one of those underground fighting rings you keep seeing. It’s an excuse to wear kooky costumes and have fun for a change. I approve.

Secret Six 12

[DC] Secret Six Vol. 4 #12
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciler: Nicola Scott

God, this book is beautiful. Part three of Depths, the series’ second major story arc. The Six have split, as is their wont, and as they fight over whether to save Artemis, her little sister shows up. That normally wouldn’t be cause for concern, but Artemis’ little sister is Wonder Woman, and she’s had a bad week.

We have here your typical Gail Simone crossover. No overt advertisement, and precious little in the issue itself that isn’t directly related to the story. Readers of Wonder Woman have no more reason to pick this up than any other WW guest appearance, aside from it being extremely well written and drawn, nor are they given reason to suspect they have. Diana’s run-in with the Six isn’t mentioned in her book, in or out of the story, and all we learn about Wonder Woman here is that she doesn’t like Jeannette calling her an Amazon. There’s a reason for that, but writing two titles at once doesn’t make Simone want to cross their stories over, only use the same characters.

Now, I’m the last person to ask to be forced to buy other comics to understand the one I’m reading. All you really need to know is that Wonder Woman’s mad as Hell, and that certainly comes across. Still, I can’t help thinking both titles could benefit from a footnote or an editor’s mention in that sad old dinosaur, the letters column, that if you like one book, you might like the other. Fans of Simone’s writing and fantastic art are likely to enjoy both, but if you weren’t curious about Wondy before, there’s little here to pique your interest. She’s not quite out of character, but if you didn’t know better, you’d think She-Hulk had dropped by. Or The Hulk, for that matter. She’s all fists and threats, and that’s one side of Diana, the warrior, the avenger, but that’s not all she is.

I like Wonder Woman, but I have to say, I’ve never liked Jeannette more than when she stands up to Diana, taunts her, resists her out of spite. Whatever history she has with the Amazons, I look forward to learning it. It has to be good to inspire that kind of contempt. Also, she looks better with her hair down.

unprovoked

Scandal disappoints me, profoundly. In two panels, she potentially destroys a relationship that’s been built up over the course of the series. I have to wonder if I’m reading too much into that scene. If Simone thought it through, and I read it as intended, then my opinion of Scandal plummets. Unless she’s lying. She says Catman will find them, but he told her to get off the island. He’s not tracking them. She acts afraid, but she’s immortal. The only one of their group in real danger, as anyone can tell, is Bane. So, either Scandal’s being very stupid, Simone made a mistake, I’m missing something, or… it’s a test. Bane will never be free of Venom so long as he’s willing to use it to protect Scandal, who doesn’t need saving, or himself, or anyone else. It can’t be a last resort. I hope that’s what this is, Scandal testing Bane, instead of her caring so little for him that she’d toss him off the wagon at the first chance.

Trade

[IDW] Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez

I don’t like horror. When I venture into the genre, I usually regret it. This is an exception. Not because it isn’t frightening and disturbing – it is, and despite that… No, because of that, I want to read more. If more horror were like this, I’d understand why people like it. Hill creates characters you can care about and places them in terrible situations, a simple formula that makes for great stories when properly executed. More simply, it’s not about the situations, it’s about the characters. Without them, there’s no story. Why would you care whether a bunch of cardboard standees live or die? Hill doesn’t go for cheap shocks or extreme grossouts, nor does he avoid gore.

In a way, this is my favorite type of story. You have believable characters and a plot that would probably stand up fine in a completely mundane setting, injected with fantasy elements because, damn it, they’re cool. Basically, there’s a family, and some psychos want to kill them. Also, magic. Fantasy elements notwithstanding, there’s a very real sense that this could happen to you. Two killers with a gun and a hatchet show up at your door, what can you do? Afterwards, the survivors have to deal with living through that, with experiencing something that most people can only have nightmares about. And, this being a horror story, it isn’t over.

The craft and pacing in this is especially remarkable given it’s Hill’s first foray into comics, having started out writing novels. Often you’ll see a writer from a different medium struggle with this format, leaning towards decompression and overreliance on text. Hill lets Rodriguez share the workload, expressing things visually when a picture is all you need, and while this is only the first volume, there’s a full standalone tale right here. No need to buy the next volume for closure. It’s there if you liked this one enough to keep going, if you’re curious about the nonessential background details or want to start the cycle up again. As it should be.

Truncation

Books of Magic – Hard to read, but hard to criticize.
Wonder Woman – A welcome break, and the closest we get these days to a new issue of Birds of Prey.
Secret Six – Best Jeannette issue yet.
Locke and Key – I didn’t expect to enjoy this, but it surprised me by being both technically good and engaging.

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1 thought on “The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 9/2/9

  1. No one reads Marvel because Marvel fans are illiterate.

    DC. The beginning, the original, and the only company.

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