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By The Numbers: January 2015

By The Numbers: January 2015

Welcome readers for the first article in a new series at Graphics Policy!  Like in any industry, comic books and their companies listen most to one thing and that’s your money!  What does your money tell them?  What does it tell us as fans?  What series do people say they adore but can’t seem to catch a break and what books to people hate that sell out?  What are the trends?  What looks good?  What looks rough?

All these questions and more will be answered here, every month in ‘By The Numbers’ by comic writers, editors and fans, Glenn Matchett and Ray Goldfield.

Glenn Matchett is a comic writer and editor.  He’s worked in the industry for 5 years but grew up reading comics.  He loves the format deeply and spends way too much time concerned that his favorite books will be cancelled.  He intends to use these articles to help as therapy for his OCD.  He also releases comics now and then and has a weekly column right here at Graphics Policy where he talks about whatever takes his fancy.

Ray Goldfield is a fan of comic books for going on 25 years, starting with the Death of Superman. He is a writer and editor for GrayHaven Comics, in addition to his day job. He started out as a DC Zombie, but has broadened his tastes to Marvel and indie books in recent years. He follows the comic sales charts obsessively, primarily to cheer on Magneto’s steady hold each month.

All sales figures retrieved from ICv2.com

What Went Well

Glenn:  Well obviously the big debut and the big story this month is Marvel new Star Wars title which sold just over an astounding 985 thousand copies.  I don’t recall a Marvel book selling that well since the Obama, Amazing issue and I don’t think it did those kind of numbers right away.

This property is obviously back at Marvel who had in initially in the 70’s after being a solid backbone of Dark Horse for 20 years or so.  I don’t think the Dark Horse versions of the Star Wars comics ever broke 6 figures.  Why do you think that is here?

Ray:  I agree, this is just incredible. I think the Obama issue sold something in the 350K range, and that was a cultural event. This is probably the highest sales for any comic since the 90s. The big question, of course, is how it holds up from here, but the early rumors is that #2 sold over 200K. That would put it in a position to regularly be the top selling comic on the stands.

I think the big x-factor here is probably the sense of a new beginning. This is no longer expanded universe stuff, catering to an audience of die-hards following the complex continuity of the books and comics. This is the start of a new era, where the story of the original characters will continue in the movies. I think it felt much more important to the larger Star Wars fandom at large. I think the comic benefitted from that a lot, as well as the huge creative team and glut of variant covers, of course. It’s pretty much a perfect storm for massive success.

Another big success story for Marvel is Thor. This seems to be a rare case of a new status quo actually delivering a lasting sales change. The combination of buzz for the new female Thor and the continued excellence of the Aaron run has turned this into the second-highest selling Marvel Universe series, only behind Amazing Spider-man.

It’s a smaller-scale success, of course, but I feel like the debut of Jonathan Hickman’s The Dying and the Dead is noteworthy as well. Launching with 32K for a creator-owned book is pretty impressive in the superhero-dominated top 100.

I feel like the news is a bit more mixed for this month’s other four big Marvel debuts, though.

Glenn:  Yeah, it seems the big media push they gave the new Thor paid off.  This is likely why they have also decided to do a whole team of female Avenger’s.

It doesn’t seem like it’s paid off as well on the new Captain America but we’ll get there.

It seems like Hickman has now become a name that sells on its own.  I mean he’s been one of Marvel’s big names the last few years now, he actually made the Fantastic Four sell better than it has for like…years.  I’m not surprised his creator owned stuff would do well, he’s on the same level as Snyder who seemingly will get a big debut with Wytches.

Batman, Amazing and Walking Dead seem to be the reliable sellers for their respective companies.  It seems that concerns that Superior sales wouldn’t carry over to a Peter Parker led book but it seems those fears at least have been quelled but I’m sure Spider-Verse has helped there.

I think it should be noted that currently, Walking Dead is the cheapest book in the top ten and two of those books in the top ten were 4.99, which to me, could be a scary sign of things to come.

A new launch this month was Ant Man which debuted at number 7 with just over 70 thousand copies sold.  I’m not expected this to last up there, to be honest.   Even with the movie coming out.

Ray:  All-New Captain America did fall pretty hard right off the bat. I don’t think Remender’s style is really clicking with what the public expects a Cap comic to be, but this did make up for some of the slipping sales of the previous run. I think the timing of this run, with Sam Wilson debuting as Cap and then promptly being inverted to be evil, took a lot of the wind out of its sales.

Ant-Man debuted impressively for what it was, for sure. I think the critical acclaim might help it to keep some of its momentum, at least a bit longer than some books. It’s interesting that it debuted roughly in the same level as Uncanny Avengers, another big launch this month. I expect both of them to drop a good deal next month, just based on the pattern for Marvel relaunches lately.

One of Marvel’s most significant debuts this month was the weekly series “Wolverines“. This is their first foray into weeklies, as well as the first weekly comic priced at $3.99 besides the unconventional “Wednesday Comics“. It debuts in the top ten – and then promptly slips hard the same month, with #2 landing at #25 and out of the top 30 by #4. By the end of its first month – all ordered at the same time – it’s selling well below Batman: Eternal, which is almost a year in. If I was Marvel, I’d be pretty worried about what this looks like once orders get adjusted for the following months.

Glenn:  Well to me, since Brubaker left and really since Bucky stopped being Captain America, the book has struggled.  When you had Death Of Cap, obviously that was a big thing but then the book sold continuously well.  It just seems to be one of those nuts that overall are hard to crack, like Fantastic Four or Superman.  By all intents and purposes, those books SHOULD sell but for some reason or another they’re (at best) middle of the road.

Yeah no doubt.  I kind of made the joke that by killing Wolverine, Marvel have only made him stronger.  Overall they’re still coming out because instead of one Wolverine book that sells like 50-70 k or whatever, you have 4 so overall they’re ahead.

Squirrel Girl seems to have had a solid launch too for a D list (being generous) character.  Maybe because of her exposure on Bendis Avenger’s run but I think that’ll be short lived too.

One of the big surprises is having the Star Trek/Planet Of The Apes mini do so well.  I can’t remember what the Doctor Who crossover sold but I think this is a pretty solid debut.

Ray:  Squirrel Girl is a big question mark. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one is closer to the mark in terms of demand than some of the other debuts, and so it starts lower but might hold better. I assume Marvel is trying for the same audience that is buying Ms. Marvel, and it’s not a bad idea. Of course, next month will tell the tale.

I’m pretty sure that is a very impressive debut for a licensed comic. One factor that might have helped it is that it’s one of the seven books that were sold on New Year’s Eve. Those tend to be ordered heavily because casual readers might take a chance on them during an unusually small week.

Steady books/books in the middle

Ray:  The first thing I notice is that comedy is still doing well. Harley Quinn, of course, is probably the most surprising big hit out of DC in years, and is still hanging around just below the top ten. Not a surprise this creative team is getting a new book and a spin-off in June. And Rocket Raccoon is hanging around in the upper 30s, about 40 spots before the other Guardians spin-offs. I expect to see more of this type of book from the companies.

Wonder Woman had a brief peak when the Finches landed on the title, but now it’s selling at about the same level as the end of the Azzarello run with far weaker response. DC has to be a bit worried about that one.

I’m surprised SHIELD fell this far with its second issue, from a top ten debut. I’m less surprised by the drops for Angela and Spider-man & the X-men, as those two seemed like they were dropped with relatively little fanfare. It’s a bit surreal to see an Angela comic in the top 50 again, heh.

Glenn:  I actually thought that they might be looking at the people buying Harley Quinn, the success of that book may be the oddest thing to happen in years.

Wonder Woman will be definitely one to watch, I think.  I mean the Azzarello run wasn’t a best seller but it was extremely stable.  Putting Finch on will definitely keep those sales but like you said, the critical response has been less than generous.  If Finch can stay on schedule, it may be fine but its likely to face a creative overall after Convergence I’d say.

SHIELD is kind of something with a specific hook.  It’s a kind of fringe book that don’t tend to stay stable long at the big two.  It kind of makes you wonder that if the same premise and writer had been done at Image how it would have performed in the current market.

I think a lot of the success of ‘Wolverine and the X-Men’ has to attributed to Jason Aaron, now he’s gone and they’re trying to shoe horn Spider-Man in, I think this is the kind of response the current comic market will give you.  I’m as big a Spidey fan as anyone but I’m not picking up this book, it seems to be a bit of a hail Mary to me.

A lot of indie/creator owned books seem to stabilize very quickly.  They might not do as big number as say Amazing or Batman but the audience seems more dedicated.  No one can overlook the success of Star Wars this month but as you said, its set to lose like 700 thousand sales in one issue.  It seems like most Image or Dark Horse or whoever books obviously launch a lot lower but suffer less of a drop.

Green Lantern and Green Arrow have both seen better days at DC but both are stable sellers.  Of course, we’ve found out recently that Green Arrow is set for another creative change which I believe is the 5th since the new 52 launch 3 years ago.

Ray:  I think it’s actually six creative changes. All but one of them (the acclaimed Lemire/Sorrentino run) have only lasted one arc. And that’s not counting Judd Winick’s one-off. This title has been in creative flux since moment one. With Green Lantern, I think this is sort of course correction after they lost their A-list creator in Johns. The line will be paring back to only three books come June, which seems like a smart move.

Looking at the other weeklies for DC, it’s a world between Eternal and these books. Futures End is sort of a mid-level performer, but World’s End is really sinking fast. It probably doesn’t help that the title lost its chief architect right before the weekly began, with Tom Taylor leaving the line.

I must say, I’m sad to see three of my favorite Bat-books, Gotham Academy, Gotham By Midnight, and the short-lived Arkham Manor sinking out of the top 100 so quickly. These are clever, unique books, but they don’t seem to be reaping the benefit that Bat-titles seem to get.

This is where we start to see a lot of lower-tier books from Marvel and DC that just aren’t finding their footing, unfortunately. And I think the fact that Hulk’s main title is selling scarcely 1K more than Magneto’s solo book is testament to the diminishing returns we’re seeing with Marvel’s frequent relaunches. I’m interested to see if Secret Wars and the likely relaunch that follows will turn this around, or if we’ll continue to see the huge starts and huge drops. Marvel has developed a strategy of using tons of variant covers and mainstream press to launch huge, but it doesn’t seem to be carrying over past the first month or two.

Glenn:  This to me presents two very big problems in this market at the moment.  Firstly, people say they want something a little different/off-beat but when they deliver, it doesn’t seem that the market indicates the demand.

The second problem is like you mentioned, diminishing returns.  Back in the day, a relaunch was a big, big deal but 30’s-50’s, especially in terms of Marvel are rare.  It just seems to be relaunch, boom, sink, relaunch and so on and so on.

The Danger Zone

Glenn: This may sound a bit random but I noticed Halo on the charts, near the bottom.  I remember when this property was a big deal at Marvel, it seems to have fallen in a major way.

Then again, outside of the monster hit that it was Star Wars, it seems a very bad time for properties in the industry.  A lot of them are scarping around the low end of 5 figures.  Most of them are even being outsold by creator owned.  It doesn’t seem that properties like Star Trek, Doctor Who, Tomb Raider and more have a place in today’s market.

It also looks to me that Constantine is now down to the level ‘Hellblazer’ was at during its Vertigo days.  It’s due for a rebranding following Convergence though.

I would think that Bucky would be performing better given the fact that this title is essentially a follow on from ‘Original Sin’ and he was in a movie a lot of people went to see.

Ray: I also forgot Marvel was even putting out Halo comics, to be honest. And outside of Star Wars, as you said, it seems very hard for licensed comics to get any traction. Besides that and the Star Trek/Apes crossover, the next one down is My Little Pony all the way at 119, and that’s clearly an unconventional mix of fanbases driving it. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the TMNT/Ghostbusters crossover are hanging around the mid-130s. It seems like there’s a lot of problems getting a significant portion of the original fan base to check out the comic.

Constantine fell to earth rather quickly. I’m not surprised they’re relaunching it – it was the lowest-selling un-cancelled DC book for a while, before the Earth 2 tie-in briefly boosted its sales. While the relaunch should help, I wonder if the character is just a bit too unconventional to sell to a wide superhero audience.

With Bucky’s book, I think this is just a mismatch of property and comic. Original Sin was rather poorly received, and it has an odd concept with Bucky in space fighting aliens. I think if they launched a spy comic starring the Winter Soldier that resembled the movie more, they might have done better.

Two comics that jump out at me are Klarion at 225 and Star-Spangled War Stories at 245. For main-line DC comics only a few issues in, that’s shocking. It’s interesting that DC’s experiments in unconventional, non-superhero comics like these are landing with such a thud, but they seem to be doubling down on this type of book with the June relaunch. What is their plan to make things like Prez, Doomed, Bizarro, and Omega Men succeed, when they’ve had such trouble recently?

Glenn:  I think they’re going to be looking to replicate the success they’ve had with Harley but to me, that might be lightning in a bottle.

Again, at least they’re trying new things, which is fans say they want but sales prove different.

It’ll be an interesting summer at both companies, for sure.

Coming up next month

Ray: Looking ahead to next month, it’s sort of the calm before the storm. Next month’s chart will have a few interesting points, though. We’ve got the launch of Grant Morrison’s first Image ongoing, The Nameless. Marvel is bringing us the next Star Wars launch in Darth Vader, plus the internet phenomenon of Spider-Gwen makes its ongoing debut. Those will probably be dueling for #1. There’s also the launch of Silk, a more controversial character that Marvel has a lot of faith in. It’ll be interesting to see how those books shake up the charts.

Glenn: It should be the debut of Wytches on the sales chart, I believe.  I think this one might be one of the big winners from the company.  You’re right though, the majority of books will be treading water sales wise until we get our annual huge shake up.  Most of the ones to watch next month will be the indie books.  I’m personally hoping that Nailbiter can gain a stronger following over time.  Once upon a time, Walking Dead was down that part of the charts too.

Enjoyed what you read?  Let us know and follow us on Twitter @glenn_matchett & @raygoldfield

 

 

 

 

A New Artist for Justice League. A New Team for Superman/Wonder Woman.

Jason Fabok will be joining writer Geoff Johns as the regular ongoing artist for Justice League starting in November with issue #36. The issue arrives November 19th.

fabok justice leagueIn other creative team news Peter Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke will take over as the new creative team on Superman/Wonder Woman starting in November with issue #13. That issue hits shelves on November 12th.

superman wonder woman

 

 

Review: Superman #32

superman #32 coverAfter much build up, writer Geoff Johns, and artist John Romita Jr., with inker Klaus Janson take over the duties on Superman, starting with Superman #32. This is Romita Jr.’s first work for DC Comics, and he’s kicking off this new chapter in his career with the Man of Steel.

In this new adventure, Superman is flying solo. That is, until he meets the intriguing new character Ulysses, the Man of Tomorrow. Ulysses shares many of Kal-El’s experiences, including being rocketed as an infant from a world with no future. But what will his emergence mean to Superman and the world?

But, the changes aren’t limited to Superman, because what would he be without his alter-ego Clark Kent. Kent has been off being a blogger, but Perry White offers him a chance to return to The Daily Planet.

There’s also a mysterious character targeting Metropolis with strange mechanical creations… and that person has some connection to Clark’s past.

There’s a lot here in this first issue, giving a fresh start to Superman, from a fresh creative team. I’ve been generally unimpressed with the handling of Superman in DC’s New 52. The character lost something in the revamp, but there’s a tone to this first issue that comes close to figuring out what’s missing.

But, the story isn’t really the focus here, it’s the fact John Romita Jr. is providing the art. I’ll be honest, while I like Romita’s art at times, I’m not blown away by it as so many are. I find the character’s faces often lack distinction, in that they’re mostly the same, and you can see that here with the scientists towards the beginning, or Clark standing next to Perry White. Other than their hair, these two sets of characters are just too similar. Romita has a distinctive style, it just doesn’t appeal to my taste.

If you’re a fan though, Romita’s use of motion fits Superman quite well, and there’s some solid action scenes throughout. For Romita fans, you’ll find a lot to like here and a lot of that is due to Janson’s inking. Johns’ story is interesting. It has a lot of build up, and there’s a lot of potential, especially with the clear compare/contrast between Superman and Ulysses. The key will be how this pays off in the end.

Overall, there’s been much hype leading up to this debut. The issue is good, not great, filled with a lot of potential, and a step in the right direction for Superman in the New 52.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: John Romita Jr.
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

The Week in Comic Reviews

It’s been a while since I’ve done some quick comic reviews, but I do read a hell of a lot each week, and I don’t have time to do long reviews for each. So, I decided to bring back my quick reviews to give everything I read their due, and let you know what I think. These won’t be in depth, but you’ll get an idea of what I think of each.

The 7th Sword #2

In the aftermath of a vicious attack, Zenzion’s new leader, Kathleen Galway, seeks out battle-weary Daniel Cray to help defend her people and her home. But will the reluctant warrior pick up his Malathane blade one final time?

The series is two issues in and have been pretty interesting. This is a western/samurai tale set on an alien world. Each issues has been good, but I think the greater story together is what to measure this one by. Still, good for those who enjoy either genre.

Story: John Raffo Art: Nelson Blake II
Story: 6 Art: 5 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Read

7thsword02_cvrA copy

Artifacts #37

When someone uses math to access an ancient and evil power, it’s up to Tilly Grimes to find the answer to stopping them. But even with Tom Judge and the Rapture on her side, this may be too big a problem for the Numeromancer to solve.

While I generally thought the story was ok (though resolved rather quickly), my biggest issue with this story arc has been the art, which is WAY too dark at times to figure out what’s going on. Artifacts has seen better days in story and art.

Story: Dan Wichline Art: ROM
Story: 6 Art: 5 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

Artifacts37_Cover

Axe Cop: The American Choppers #1

President of the World Axe Cop reunites with Super Axe, an old friend from college, and the two of them decide to start a superteam of axe-wielding heroes to defend America, called the American Choppers. They are joined by Captain Axe, Axe Girl, Axe Woman, Axe Dog, and other axe-wielding heroes. The only problem is that there are no bad guys left, but that all changes when mysterious giant creatures attack the city!

I’m very new to the whole Axe Cop thing. I watched the ADHD cartoon series, which lead me to this. My “first issue” and it’s enough for me to come back for more of the Axe family. For folks who are reading this after seeing the cartoon, does Axe Cop now sound like Ron Swanson?

Story: Malachai Nicolle Art: Ethan Nicolle
Story: 7.5 Art: 8 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Buy

axe cop american choppers 1 cover

B.P.R.D. #119

As Manhattan erupts with Lovecraftian demons, a young psychic must lead the remaining B.P.R.D. crew through the monster-packed streets of New York back to headquarters for safety, as Liz Sherman goes supernova.

This arc comes to a close, and it’s a solid ending. There’s a lot here that gets wrapped up, and that’ll lead to what comes next. I think all those threads that are left hanging are partially why I have this as a read. There’s some plot points I wish were a bit more completed. B.P.R.D. fans should be happy though.

Story: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi Art: James Harren
Story: 7.75 Art: 8.25 Overall: 7.75 Recommendation: Read

bprd 119 cover

Brain Boy: The Men from G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #1

Agent Price’s new mission pits him against a doomsday cult leader with a political agenda that poses a direct threat to the president. But a mysterious hive mind has more menacing plans for Brain Boy. He’ll have no choice but to go head to head—brain to brain—with the mysterious Men from G.E.S.T.A.L.T.!

To say Brain Boy is fun is an understatement. There’s a mix of pulp, there’s a mix of modern action. This second volume starts off with a bang and I’m sure this second volume will be as exciting as the first. I mean, the first part of the issue is really exciting, and what a twist.

Story: Fred Van Lente Art: Freddie Williams II
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

brain boy gestalt 1 cover

East of West #12

A last ditch effort is undertaken to avoid a war between the nations by the most unlikely person on the planet. The remains of the Chosen reassemble.

I’m not sure what I like more, the story or the art. So much happens in this issue, and those actions will reverberate for a long time. An amazing series if you haven’t had a chance to check it out. It’s not too late… though it might be for the nations.

Story: Jonathan Hickman Art: Nick Dragotta
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.75 Recommendation: Buy

EastofWest12_Cover

Flash Gordon #2

As Flash’s heroic reputation grows across the cosmos, his fantastic talents are tested by the Beast Men Of The Outer Lands Of Arboria!

The classic character is back and Parker is doing it with some retro pulp fun with an updated story. If you’re a fan of the character, do yourself a favor and check out the series.

Story: Jeff Parker Art: Evan Shaner
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Flash02Cov-Laming

Forever Evil #7

It’s evil versus evil in the shocking “take-no-prisoners” conclusion to Forever Evil! What will be the fate of Lex Luthor and his Injustice League? Who will live – and who will die? And why is The Hooded Man the most feared being from the Syndicate’s world? Do not miss this startling finale that will leave the DC universe reeling and reveal the secrets to the future!

The DC event wraps up. But something seemed a bit off. While there’s some cool moments, everything wraps up quickly, and the titanic battle I was expecting doesn’t happen. The ending is good, just not as great as it could have been… and we’re not going to go into the delay.

Story: David Finch Art: Richard Friend, David Finch
Story: 7.25 Art: 8 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Read

Forever_Evil_Vol_1_7_Variant_A

Invincible #111

A new beginning for Invincible as things take a turn down a dark path. Everything changes as Invincible is betrayed by one of his own. You won’t want to miss this explosive issue #1… 1… 1! It packs the punch of THREE relaunched number one issues!

Wow what a brutal issue. I know I’m late to the series, but holy crap is this issue good. It’s a brutal starting point that shakes up the Invincible universe.

Story: Robert Kirkman Art: Ryan Ottley
Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Invincible111_CoverA

Justice League #30

It all changes here with the first chapter of “Injustice League”! The next era of the Justice League begins as heroes quit, villains join and a Justice League roster you’ve never seen before emerges, led by the world’s greatest hero — Lex Luthor?! As the dust settles and the bodies are buried, the violent consequences of Forever Evil must be dealt with — while a mysterious new force sets its target on the League. But is this force friend or enemy? And why does he want Luthor dead? (If you ask Batman, it’s a long list.)

If you want to know where the DC universe goes post Forever Evil this is a good comic to start with. Villains are heroes. Heroes are villains. It’s very interesting, and a great issue to kick off where DC goes next.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Joe Prado, Ivan Reis
Story: 8.25 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

comics-justice-league-30

Justice League of America #14

In the wake of Forever Evil, the Justice League of America’s mission has come to an end – so where do they go from here? No one’s survival is assured!

As a follow up to the major event, there’s nothing wrong with the series, it’s a good bridge to what comes next. The issue is the fact we already have two issues of Justice League United out, so we know what has happened for the most part.

Story: Matt Kindt Art: Eber Ferreira, Eddy Barrows
Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

JLA14Cvr-450-CMYK-1206f

Magnus the Robot Fighter #3

How do you kill a robot fighter? Send a human. LEEJA CLANE: HUMAN HUNTER! Her guns are huge! Her car is fast! Her theme music is awesome! How’s Magnus possibly going to survive against an opponent with no robot parts?

The return of the classic character has been fun so far, but I’m waiting to figure out exactly what’s going on with this world and Magnus. It feels a bit like the Matrix, but with Robots, which is kind of cool.

Story: Fred Van Lente Art: Cory Smith
Story: 7.25 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

Magnus03-Cov-Hardman

Original Sin #2

WHO HOLDS THE EYE? WHO KNOWS ITS SECRETS? The cosmic manhunt for the Watcher’s killer continues. More bodies are discovered. The killer’s trail leads to the far corners of the universe and beyond. And just when Nick Fury and the Avengers think they’ve cornered their murderer… EVERYTHING EXPLODES, unleashing the Marvel Universe’s greatest secrets.

So far this new Marvel event has been interesting, and in the second issue we get one reveal. Overall, the series has been good, though it’s a bit choppy jumping around so much between the various investigative teams.The individual issue is good, I think the overall story will be much better.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Julian Totino Tedesco
Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: Recommendation: Buy

original sin #2 cover

Saga #19

Saga returns! New planet, new adversaries, and a very new direction, all from the same old Hugo Award-winning team.

So, so, so, so, so, so good.

Story: Brian K. Vaughan Art: Fiona Staples
Story: 10 Art: 9 Overall: 9.75 Recommendation: Buy

Saga19_Cover

Solar: Man of the Atom #2

In the stunning wake of Issue One’s shocking climax…where is SOLAR? What will massive doses of unstable radiation do to his family? And even if they survive, what horrors are lurking in the stars?

The first issue was good, this second issue has really caught my attention. Where this series goes from here, I’m game and want to see.

Story: Frank Barbiere Art: Joe Bennett
Story: Art: Overall: Recommendation: Buy

Solar02-Cov-Doe

Transformers: Windblade #2

Cybertron UNDER FIRE! Someone is out to kill Windblade—but discovering who means turning to some less-than-savory ’Bots. Can Windblade trust her informants enough to stake her life on them? And who will she turn to when the events of Dark Cybertron come back to haunt them all?

A breath of fresh air for the Transformers comics. The look and style of the story are both very different from what’s come before. The style has a manga/anime feel about it, and the story is more of a detective story. Both are very cool, and that, along with such an interesting new character have created an awesome new Transformers series.

Story: Mairghread Scott Art: Sarah Stone
Story: 8.25 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy

TF_Windblade02_cvrSUB copy

Undertow #4

Anshargal and Ukinnu Alal dine with a cannibal god, but it’s more than Kingu can stomach. Zikia’s rescue team is closing in, and so are the deadliest killers ever indoctrinated by Atlantis. The secret origin of the Atlantean missing link as the exploration action roars on!

The excellent series continues into the second half of its miniseries. There so much going on including a discussion of god, country, and so much more. It’s been a fascinating read for four issues, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Story: Steve Orlando Art: Artyom Trakhanov
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Undertow04_Cover

V-Wars #2

With the Vampire Wars burning hotter and bloodier with each new day, Reporter Yuki Nitobe is abducted and brought into the vampire underground. When Yuki is shown the world of these new species of vampires, she realizes no one has been telling the truth! Does she risk everything by exposing both sides or file the report that she knows gives her the biggest ratings?

This series, which is also a book, and soon to be television series, is an interesting mix of politics and action. Here, the vampires are a minority persecuted by normal humans. Are they as innocent as they claim? Is there some greater conspiracy? The second issue continues to look at that bigger picture, but it’s a bit disconnected from the first issue.

Story: Jonathan Maberry Art: Alan Robinson
Story: 7 Art: 7 Overall: 7 Recommendation: ReadVWars02-cvrA copy

 

Velvet #5

The first arc draws to a shattering conclusion. This series has been absolutely been amazing from start to finish. The art, the story, the amazing female lead, all of it has been fantastic, and makes up one of the best series on the market.

Story: Ed Brubaker Art: Steve Epting
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

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Review: Aquaman #25

AQM_Cv25_mn3re92of7_With Aquaman #25, writer Geoff Johns abdicates his trident pen after 2 years running the life of the ruler of the seas and Atlantis. With the first issue, Johns breathed new life into a character who had become a pop-culture punchline. And with him, he brought not just Aquaman, but Mera to the forefront of DC Comics, reintroducing the character and reinvigorating him and his cast of aquatic friends.

Since the launch, Johns has embraced the character’s straddling of two worlds and embraced him as a key member of DC’s universe. During his time, the mythology has been expanded and that’s evident with his swan song concluding event. In “Death of a King,” Aquaman/Arthur Curry is putted against the Dead King Atlan – the first King of Old Atlantis and the mad ruler that cast his kingdom into the depths of the ocean long ago. The Trench are back, and the waters churn with the waves of anger they bring with them. And as we’ve come to expect from Johns, villains become allies, friends become enemies, and the scope of Aquaman’s undersea world grows bigger than ever!

With these twenty-five issues, it was clear Johns had a love for the characters he was writing, and as evident with this issue, he long ago planted seeds of things that are just beginning to come to fruition. While the issue is a lot of battling and not a ton of dialogue, it’s still a packed issue that not only wraps up the current storyline, but gives us a lot to look forward to, including the next big Justice League event.

The story itself is pretty good, though a bit thin at points. There is a lot of action that looks fantastic. By itself, the story is only ok, but as an ending for what Johns has built up, it’s a satisfying conclusion. The biggest downside to the issue is inconsistent art. Not bad, but there’s just some noticeable issues.

With newly cast upon light of his family’s bloody history and the massive task of uniting Land, Sea and the hinted about Seven Kingdoms, Johns not only re-launched Aquaman, but has set him up for many adventures to come.

Up next issue is the new writer, the talented Jeff Parker with current artist Paul Pelletier. They’ve got solid ground to continue from, thanks to Johns.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: Paul Pelletier and Sean Parsons
Story: 7.75 Art: 7 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Diversity in Comics? Rethinking Green Lantern #0

This is an adapted version of an article published on Reading with Pictures.

GL_Cv0_dsIn September 2011 DC Comics attempted to create their first major Arab Muslim American superhero, a new rendition of the Green Lantern, a staple character in the DC lineup dating to 1940. This new superhero, Simon Baz, made his appearance in Green Lantern #0, written by Geoff Johns with art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy, and added a spark of diversity to the publisher’s largely white cast.

Unfortunately, they did so with a deeply troubling origin story in which Simon Baz stole a van that, unbeknownst to him, had a bomb in it. He was quickly arrested, taken to Guantanamo Bay and tortured. He was saved by the Green Lantern ring, which chose him as the world’s next protector. The ring allowed him to escape, whereafter he was pursued as a dangerous terrorist by the Justice League. All of this was published under the guise of authentically narrating the experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans.

Newspapers as respected as The New York Times reported on the Arab Muslim addition to the DC comic book universe, and interviews with writer Geoff Johns revealed his Lebanese ancestry — this, it was made to seem, gave him the credibility to write about Arab and Muslim American experiences.

Indeed, while it is critical that the experiences of racial prejudice, harassment, suspicion, and violence perpetrated almost daily against Arab and Muslim Americans be represented, there remains the damming potential for such representations to be the only way in which media consumers come to know Arab and Muslim characters. By default, these representations become the lens through which they come to view not only fictional people, but real lives.

The problem is one of character design: how the characters are created to be. This is a problem for all media, though it is particularly crucial for comics, since the industry is currently undergoing a push from fans and new creators to be more representative.

What this often means, as Green Lantern #0 shows, is checking off identities on a list of non-white/non-male categories, with the aim to please by name and number. Companies like Marvel Comics can now say, “Yep, we’ve got an Afro-Puerto Rican Spider-Man” and DC can say, “Yep, we’ve got an Arab Muslim.” But DC’s 2011 attempt at diversification also shows that diversity is limited, often to aggrandized stereotypical stories that, say, frame Arabs and Muslims as terrorists (even if by accident). So how about a little background on this issue.

To say that life has not been easy for Arab and Muslim Americans after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in September 2001 would be farce. As literary critic and self-identified Arab American Stephen Salaita pointed out in his fantastic study of Arab American literature, Arab American Literary Fictions, the concept of Arab or Muslim Americans as a unified, racially distinct segment of the population emerged in response to fears of foreign Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, and the need to control potential threats at home.

Even before 9/11, Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism — that brand of racial ideology that fetishizes the Arab world, the East as a whole, and its cultural products as an exotic, mysterious, and must-have Other (i.e. “not us”) — had long structured America’s view of Arab and Muslim immigrants to the U.S. In the 1950s-1970s they were regarded as a model minority alongside Indians and Eastern Asians. Regardless, they were not considered a distinct group with identifiable and discernible characteristics.

In other words, unlike Blacks and Latina/os, Arabs and Muslims didn’t bother white middle-class suburbia. You know, those gl0so-called “average Americans.” Arab and Muslim Americans were not disruptive enough to white society to need designating as a specific racial group.  This is in part because before 9/11 “The Arab” and “The Muslim” were doofy Ottoman costumery, children’s parodies (Aladdin), and occasional bad guys (Indiana Jones).

In the wake of 9/11, violence against Arabs and Muslims, whether American or not, increased exponentially and was governmentally sanctioned via the stripping of Constitutional rights for the purpose of national security. Arabs and Muslims were widely depicted in film and on television as the enemy. Scholarship on the issue of Arab and Muslim representation has finally reached a headway, a result of the growth of Arab American Studies as a discipline emerging out of the long-established field of American Studies, and is best exemplified in Evelyn Alsultany’s Arabs and Muslims in the Media (NYU, 2012).

The violence, in many cases, is often spurred by the inability to read beyond media representations and to think critically about the plurality of Arab and Muslim lived experiences. Sikhs, non-Muslim Arabs, non-Arab Muslims, Muslim Arabs, and sometimes Jews are conflated with the identity of the singular, Otherized muslimarab-arabmuslim, a seemingly insoluble identity that is, according to government policy and popular belief, potentially engaged in fundamentalist Islamic activity or at least aware of such activity.

Not all Arabs are Muslim, not all Muslims are Arab. The United States hosts some 3.5 million Arab Americans, whose group identity is based largely in shared cultural and linguistic traditions which hail largely from the twenty-two members states of the Arab League.

Some are Christian, Jewish, atheist, Baha’i, etc. Muslims, on the other hand, number roughly 2.6 million, only 26% of which are of Arab descent. Many are from South(east) Asia, are black Muslims, white, or Hispanic, according to the 2006 American Community Survey, and in 2009 and 2011 they made up the largest percentage of immigrants to the U.S.

So where does this information, a context which we can use to critically read Green Lantern #0, leave us? Ultimately, it reminds us as readers who have market influence in comics more so than in almost any other format of Nerd media, that we need to demand more than stereotypes. I have not read Ultimate Spider-Man, but I have heard many fans attest to the sincerity with which Bendis writes Miles Morales. Gail Simone, likewise, writes female characters with an eye to their long history of being sexualized, fetishized, and abused by creators and fans.

We have to demand more than a story that, by all means, breaks boundaries but which simultaneously places other barriers to diversification. When “terrorist” and “Arab” or “hijab” and “Muslim (woman)” are binaries used to define an entire population of radically diverse lived experiences, we have to be willing to call bullshit. We have to be willing to exert the same kind of buying and petitioning power as when we got Orson Scott Card kicked off Adventures of Superman.

If anything good came out of Green Lantern #0, it’s the possibility to learn from a company’s mistakes and do “diversity” better. We’ll see how Marvel does with Ms. Marvel, and hope a lesson was learned.

DC Comics Releases a First Look at Forever Evil #4

This Christmas Eve, see the Dark Knight like you’ve never seen him before.

In Forever Evil #4, Batman must deal with the guilt of Nightwing’s identity being revealed. And even if Dick Grayson returns from the Crime Syndicate alive, will his life be forever ruined now that his deepest secret is out?

Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman come face-to-face with Lex Luthor and his growing army in the halls of Wayne Enterprises. But what are these two teams doing there? And how does Bruce Wayne have a yellow ring?! Are Batman and Luthor fighting for the same thing or against one another?

Writer Geoff Johns recently said about the issue and series:

If the Crime Syndicate attacks — how would the villains react if they actually won? If the villains won, and they won in this way, would everyone go along with it? I don’t think they would, because everyone wants something different. At first glance, Lex wants to be as beloved and respected as Superman, though there is a far greater secret in his life that pushes him to strive for success in everything he does, which we’ll learn more about as the series progresses. Lex Luthor is the main character of the whole thing, and that becomes more and more clear as we move forward. In particular with issue #4. So, like Lex, we’re exploring these villains and contrasting them against one another and asking — what would it take to put them in the role of good guy?

There’s a lot of fun to be had between Lex and Bizarro. There’s fun to be had between Batman and Catwoman, and when those characters collide. Some of the Syndicate members, as twisted as they are, they’ve been fun to write. Power Ring — trying to conceive a character that was everything that Green Lantern usually wasn’t, and amplifying that. There’s a mythology with his ring that we’re going to dive into that explores a very different look at what a Green Lantern could be — if it’s somebody that’s based on a weak will, and a weak sense of self. We see that with Power Ring and how he’s behaving, and we’ll see more of that as we reveal more about him, and the source of the ring.

Below is a sneak peek of David Finch’s interior art for Forever Evil #4, which shows Batman revealing the Bat Cave to Catwoman for the first time, as well as Ethan Van Sciver’s variant cover for the issue, which depicts Batman using the powers of his yellow ring against the Crime Syndicate’s Power Ring.

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DC All Access Has Geoff Johns Talking DC’s 5 New Television Shows

Geoff Johns discusses the five (yes, five!) new DC TV shows currently in development in today’s new episode of DC All Access. In the episode DC also looks at the intriguing new Batman Eternal illustration, get some tips on villain-proofing your home from Vine sensation BatDad, and talk Batwoman with Marc Andreyko, Fairest in all the Land with Bill Willingham and the Lighter Side of Dave Berg with MAD’s Sam Viviano.

Preview: DC Comics Releases First Look at Forever Evil #2

This week, the comic book world was set ablaze with the launch of Forever Evil. As highly anticipated as they are treacherous, the events of this miniseries promise to reshape the scope and characters of the DC Universe forever.

Fans who have already picked up issue #1 know that the status quo of a world where the Justice League are presumed dead is totally unlike anything we’ve seen in The New 52 so far. Following the shocking events of the first issue, what will the Crime Syndicate’s ruthless plans to take over Earth cause them to do next?

Writer Geoff Johns explained:

One of the things that’s at the root of it is that they’re our world’s greatest heroes, but turned inside out. We wanted to present them and explore them in ways that would completely contrast like, say, Green Lantern and Power Ring. What are the differences and what are the similarities? The Crime Syndicate is a great way to explore our heroes through a different lens and say, ‘This is how our world could have been. Throughout the series, in both Forever Evil and the Justice League books as well, we’ll get to see how the Syndicate formed and why they’re here and what they want. And in contrast to the question of how Ultraman and Superman are different – how are they similar? So it’s not just a matter of good and evil. It’s much more complicated than that. And you’re going to see why the laws of nature and the laws of humanity and laws of life are different in this other world that has led to this dark, twisted Justice League.

As for how artist David Finch approached redesigning the Crime Syndicate for The New 52?

Honestly, what appealed to me with this project, and what appealed to me with Justice League of America, was working with Geoff Johns. That was what I wanted out of it, first and foremost. Being able to draw a whole book full of villains and something as dark as this that goes to the places it does was a huge bonus, obviously. And drawing the Crime Syndicate was a really nice treat. I’m a big fan of Frank Quitely’s version that he did a number of years ago [in the graphic novel JLA: Earth 2].

I think some of the original costumes from years ago are pretty cool, so I wanted to take some elements from both of those, and talking to Geoff especially about who the characters were. No writer I’ve ever worked with has been more succinct about getting down to what the character’s aspect is, and I think that really affected the look of the characters for me.

Check out some of Finch’s interior art for Forever Evil #2. What is the next step in the Crime Syndicate’s plan for global domination? What have they done with Nightwing? And do the Teen Titans stand a chance against this group of super-villains who have seemingly eradicated their predecessors? Find out on October 2nd.

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Review: Forever Evil #1

FEVIL_Cv1_dsThe first universe-wide event of The New 52 begins as Forever Evil launches! We’re teased that the Justice League is dead! And the villains shall inherit the Earth!

Building for quite some time, DC’s first universe-wide event starts with a building simmer as the action and stakes are raised. Told from some interesting viewpoints, the story flows directly from Trinity War as the Crime Syndicate move to conquer Earth. While doing so, they gather the DC universe’s worst villains to form an all new Secret Society.

The comic starts from the perspective of Lex Luthor, arguably DC’s greatest villain, as a more evil batch of characters moves in on his territory. And that to me so far is the most interesting thing about the fist issue and potentially this event.

For all the fantastic villains that DC has, they feel a little like the classic villain with some sort of scheme that gets foiled by the good guy. I never quite feel like the bad guy is going to off a hero, or someone close to them, it’s a bit Pollyanna-ish. But, to me, Forever Evil is chucking all of that out the window.

After gathering their army, the Crime Syndicate makes it clear that this isn’t your classic DC villain story. After quickly offing a voice of dissension, they go to town on a classic and loved character. They not only threaten him, but threaten his friends, family and anyone he knows. This is a shift to the more “gritty” villains we might expect from other publishers. It’s an interesting move and partially what I think this event is about, the old “safe” villains versus today’s “gritty” villains.

I fully expect some villains to rise up and take on the Crime Syndicate, saying their new way messes up the old dynamic, we get hints of that in the last panel. But, for seven issues, who knows what to expect, especially after this first one.

Is the comic perfect? Nope, there’s absolutely some flaws, but after quite a while of my being pretty down on events, DC seems to be giving us one that is a little bit of old, a little bit of new, and a lot of fun.

Story: Geoff Johns Art: David Finch, Richard Friend
Story: 8 Art: 7.75 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

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