Posts Tagged ‘DC Comics’

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Man of Steel has come and gone. And while reaction has been mixed it was apparently successful enough for WB to fast track a sequel and jump start those Justice league rumors again. I won’t review the film here but suffice to say I really enjoyed it. It cuts close to the core of the Superman mythos while still managing to be something new and exciting. It also delivers the best action sequences in a superhero film yet. It’s very exciting but has just enough heart underneath to give it some real weight.
But whether you loved or hated the film, chances are you have some strong feelings about Superman. So, in no particular order, here are three stories that can scratch your krypton itch.
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Superman: Birthright
This Mark Waid written and Francis Yu penciled story, like Man of Steel, is a retelling of Kal-El’s origin story. This 12 issue story opens with Clark traveling the world as a freelance journalist. I love this angle, particularly as its executed here, with Clark spending some time in Africa and writing about tribal disputes, injustice and identity. There is some fantastic dialogue to be had here, particularly about masks and having a place to call home. I also like how all of that builds into Clark’s decision to become Superman. There is far more focus on his humanity than on his alien birth.
Also of interest is Clark’s relationship with his parents. Waid and Yu deliver what I think may be some of the best interactions between Clark and his adoptive parents ever committed to the printed page. It really nails it. Martha is a super supportive mom, always pushing her son to be the best he can be. She becomes a bit obsessed with finding out where Clark comes from, getting involved in UFO searches and constantly watching the skies. Jonathan is his typically inspiring self himself for much of the story but also has some of that overprotective, even jealous  vibe that Kevin Costner portrayed so well in Man of Steel. The other relationships throughout the whole arc are just as nuanced. I love Waid’s take on Lex, full of sadness, pride and a zealous obsession with all things extraterrestrial.  And every single panel involving Lois, Perry, Jimmy and the rest of the Daily Planet staff feels classic, appropriately cheesy and fun. The secret identity issue is addressed here too ( glasses, slouching, acting!) in a way that makes sense. I could write about this story all day but we still have to discuss four more stories!

Short version: Birthright delivers an excellent origin tale that was clearly the inspiration for large portions o the movie. I sincerely hope the next on screen Luthor mirrors this one.

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All-Star Superman
Everyone’s favorite Superman story( for good reason!) was created as an out of continuity tale by superstars Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, possibly the best team in comics today. Unlike Birthright, this story mostly features a very experienced and very powerful Superman. One that solves monumental problems quickly and takes just as much time to stop and encourage everyone he meets. Morrison has a unique voice in comics and really brings Superman to life in a way that is inspiring and immensely entertaining. Phantom Zones, Doomsday, crazy Jimmy Olsen stories, the 5th dimension, Bizarro world and super dates are all here. Morrison throws so many great ideas into each issue of this series that one read through just isn’t enough. And it’s all beautifully illustrated by Frank Quitely in a style that is immediately recognizable and iconic. The basic plot is that Lex Luthor has managed to give Superman a form of super-cancer and the man of steel has to come to grips with his imminent death and put his affairs in order. All while saving the world, or in some cases just one lonely person from various crazy threats. It’s a colorful book that flirts constantly with the fine line between Sci-Fi and superhero storytelling.

Short Version: This is probably the definitive take on the Last Son of Krypton. When I think of Superman, this is what I want to see. Inspiring in its content and execution. It’s damn close to being the perfect comic book.

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Superman: Last Son
Last Son makes it into this list for several reasons: it delivers a great version of Man of Steel villain General Zod and its penned by fan favorite Geoff Johns and the director of Superman 2, Richard Donner. It’s also illustrated by the fantastic Adam Kubert.
Last Son is notable because it features a married Lois and Clark, something we don’t get to see anymore thanks to the New 52 (although I like the Wonder Woman/Superman couple too). Lots of old stories feature comic’s greatest couple but none of them really push the story forward like Last Son. That’s because they become adoptive parents of a mysterious Kryptonian child that falls the sky. Both Lois and Clark react to this forced parenthood differently and it delivers some great drama. I really like Lois as she is written here, Johns pushes the character forward by letting her feel fear, not at falling out of buildings or getting shot at but of growing up. It’s as if Lois is finally forced to grow up and this romance with an all powerful alien just got very real. But of course she matures as the issue progresses and comes to terms with this new responsibility, which makes the ending all the better.  Adam Kubert draws some great fight scenes between Superman and various other Kryptonians. It also features Bizarro and that’s always fun to see. Richard Donner’s presence can really be felt in this story. Krypton, Zod and the Phantom Zone feel very reminiscent of Superman 2  while still allowing for updates to the mythos and a fresh take on Zod and the Phantom Zone, a little of which seems to have influenced Man of Steel’s depiction of everyone’s favorite militant Krypton. This is as close we will get to a decent continuation of the old movies and it delivers everything you want in a Superman story.

Short Version: This is classic Superman and it delivers some excellent character drama while introducing a few new things to the mythos. This was an in continuity tale at the time so it feels like its connected to a bigger DC universe but manages to avoid the drawbacks that come with that.

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BONUS: Superman Unchained #1

This newly launched New 52 series features the best Superman we’ve seen since DC rebooted it’s publishing line two years ago while still feeling new and exciting. The series is penned by one of my favorite writers in the industry at the moment, Scott Snyder (currently making Batman one of the best comics on the stands). Snyder doesn’t hold back at all in the debut issue, bringing his background as a history professor to bear and exploring some new ideas for Superman. Clark’s narrative voice is better here than I’ve seen in a long time as it feels folksy and heroic at the same time. A tough balance to find. Snyder’s great script is brought to life by the excellent Jim Lee, now a legend of his own thanks to decades of fantastic work. Lee draws what is probably the best representation of Superman in the modern age and it’s great to see him back on the character. His sense of scope is epic too and the massive fold out pages in the book will blow you away yet he handles smaller moments as well, as we get to see Clark and Jimmy Olsen share a moment and we see Lois being herself in a fashion that is very entertaining. Like everything else in the New 52, this story is different from the others listed here. It’s a new continuity for everyone in the DCU and that means that some old stories never happened and some things just are not the same. Clark doesn’t work for the Daily Planet, he and Lois are not together and Superman’s life and attitude are different here. But none of that holds the story back from being an eye catching, well written take on the man of steel. Check it out now and get on the ground floor of Superman’s newest adventure.

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So it seems DC Comics have run off another writer. Andy Diggle announced through Twitter that was leaving Action Comics…before his run has even started. The writer will have exactly one issue credited to him before stepping off the title for ‘professional reasons’. Through the conversations that have followed on Twitter and various comics sites, that those reasons are editorial meddling, maybe on a massive scale. 

It does seem like things are a little wild and unruly over there at the moment. There have been quite a few change-ups, firings, mix ups, mistakes, apologies and scandals at DC over the last couple of months. Rob Liefeld left in a fuss, Gail Simone was ‘fired’ and rehired, Joshua Hale Fialvok quit Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns before he began (allegedly over an editorially planned killing of John Stewart!) and Karen Berger left Vertigo quite unexpectedly too. That’s not to mention the whole Orson Scott Card fiasco.  These are things that do not inspire confidence in a company and considering these are the guys in charge of several HUGE cultural icons, it’s a bit worrisome to see how creators are being treated and to watch them drop like flies left and right. Nobody was too concerned when Rob Liefeld left but fan outcry got Gail Simone her job back. But that seems to be a one time deal. Creative differences  are fine reason to leave a job that involves creativity but when it happens this often, there’s got to be something wrong. I don’t know what that is or how DC should go about fixing it, but it’s something that, to me, clearly needs to addressed. I have been a die-hard DC Comics fan ever since the first time I heard of it really and to think that my favorite thing is treating people so badly that they walk away from their dream job makes comics buying difficult. I don’t want to worry that my $2.99 comic may be crushing dreams and destroying lives. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. I just want to read my comics.

What do you guys think about all the drama at DC? Still reading or are we gathering our protest signs yet? Let me know in the comments.

All-New X-Men, All-New Bendis? Property of Marvel Comics

Join us for Comic Critique Podcast Episode 2

Reviews, previews, and general Comic talk ensue as we dive in to the first month of Marvel Now!, Batman’s Death of the Family, and just take a critical look at some of our favorite books.

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The cover to the latest issue of Justice League Beyond.
Property of DC Comics

By Alex Headley
DC’s digital first series bring the DC Animated Universe to comics on a monthly basis.  The three books, Batman Beyond, Superman Beyond and Justice League Beyond are available digitally for $.99 an issue. That’s a great price for any comic, especially so when it brings back a little of Bruce Timm’s Justice League series. I loved that cartoon series almost as much as Batman: The Animated Series (which is responsible for my love of comics). Although I didn’t watch it much when it was on the air, Batman Beyond was pretty good and some of its better ideas are on display here. I haven’t been following all three series but Justice League Beyond brings back a lot of that animated DC style. One of the arcs even flashes back in time to the romance between John Stewart Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, managing to finish up some dangling plots from the series. The book’s first major arc includes big time action with threats like Darkseid and a giant world destroying. The new cast is interesting and includes Big Barda, Superman, Micron (a new Atom), Aquagirl (Aquaman’s daughter), Batman, a new Green Lantern and Warhawk (a thanagarian warrior). Amanda Waller and Bruce Wayne make appearances as well. The emphasis on the cosmic side of things is great. DC doesn’t focus on its sci-fi enough, not since the Rann/Thanagar War miniseries have we got this much of a glimpse into the cosmic side of the DCU. I’m very much looking forward to learning more of the cast’s origins.
Dustin Ngyuen and Derek Fridolfs take on writing and art duties for the book and do a great job of giving it an animated feel that is appropriate for the series.
The series is more than worth the ticket price. Check out the first 15 issues on Comixology if you are looking for some fun stories. You can also pick up physical copies at your local comic shop. I believe there is even a print bundle of all three series for $6.99.

Comic Critique is back! I hope you missed us. Here are my reviews from last week. Let us know what you think. Enjoy!
By Alex Headley

Indestructible Hulk #1
Property of Marvel Comics.

Indestructible Hulk 1
Hulk’s Marvel Now! debut lives up to the hype. Mark Waid and Leinil Yu really knock it out of the park with issue 1, delivering a new status quo with a fresh take on the Hulk/Banner dynamic. It feels
like a natural development for the character and gives Hulk a context for membership in the Avengers and for any future team-ups. Banner and Hulk feel like they live in the Marvel U more than ever. Everything feels very connected and intertwined. At the same time, Waid keeps it approachable, this issue could almost take place in the Marvel Movie Universe. Coulson and Maria Hill are there and SHIELD has the everepresent quality established in the films. The Bruce Banner on display here reminds me of Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal in the Avengers as well. Reserved, caring, and wildly intelligent with just a bit of an edge. An anger ready to spill over at any moment. Yu’s use of the ticking clock is a great way to illustrate the tension and fear that Banner’s presence brings into a room. It’s very cinematic. The issue is primarily setup and exposition but Waid’s dialogue makes it work and Yu does a great job selling the tension and emotions on display. It’s probably his best work at Marvel. When the action does pick up, it doesn’t disappoint. Hulk does indeed get to smash and we get a fun look at an underused villain that helps drive another theme. The classic science gone bad tale is a classic in Marvel. It’s what started the Hulk and now it seems that’s exactly what the Hulk and Bruce will find themselves combating with the help of SHIELD.

Justice League 14
The current Justice League story arc is intriguing. Establishing villains and a dynamic to the team is a good direction for the title. And the emergence of classic villains like Cheetah is good. The character is more interesting than ever here, her ties to magic making her very dangerous in a DCU that is increasingly defined by mystical forces (a point driven home by the backup feature starring Black Adam ). Overall, this was a great issue. I particularly like how the team catches the Cheetah( Aquaman!). Where things fall a little flat is the art. Tony Daniel does great when the fists and fur are flying but his style is less interesting in the quiet moments. Clark and Diana’s relationship is developing organically and I genuinely enjoyed the back and forth dialogue between the two but Daniel just doesn’t sell it for me. His panel composition, the colors, the framing is all great but the emotion just isn’t there. But that doesn’t ruin a good story and I’m happy to follow the Justice League into their first big event “Throne of Atlantis” next month.

Wonder Woman and Batwoman prepare to take on Medusa in Batwoman 14.
Property of DC Comics.

Batwoman 14
Batwoman continues to be one of the best books in the New 52. The current arc sees Kate Kane teaming up with Wonder Woman to take on a mythical army. Everything about this issue is great. The art is as beautiful as ever and the characters really shine here. I love the interplay between the two heroines. Watching them react to each other is a delight.
Wonder Woman’s respect for Batwoman helps elevate a previously isolated character. Likewise, Batwoman’s awe and admiration for Diana is believable and funny. That bit of fun is welcome in a book that is dripping with menace and darkness. A meditation on the pains of immortality and the difficult choices faced by the pair. J. H Willaims and Haden Blackman share writing and artistic credit and both continue to impress. This is a gorgeous book with intelligent layouts that take full advantage of the medium. These guys understand that comics allow for some unique visual effects and use that to move the story forward and provide depth to the proceedings. This series has been great from number 1 and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Nightwing 14
Lots of exposition, bad pacing, poor dialogue and a lame introduction to a classic villain do not make a good comic. Nightwing 14 hits all those points and more, failing to entertain. The return of Lady Shiva should have been interesting but this encounter lacked any tension or drama. This issue really seemed to be going through the motions. Part of the problem is the rush to tie into Death of the Family- events have a way of ruining in progress stories- but surely this could have been done better. The Shiva story could have been pushed back to accommodate instead of squeezing everything in like this. Still, some of the subplots are interesting and I’m interested to see what the Joker has planned for Dick. Hopefully the quality will pick up for Nightwing because he is definitely one of my favorite characters in comics and one of DC’s higher profile books.

Wonder Woman 14
Brian Azarello has me excited about what’s coming. The tease p the New Gods in this issue is great and really gives the ongoing story new weight. But the meat of the book is Wonder Woman’s interaction with her sister Siracca. Azzarello’s Wonder Woman is at once kind and powerful. Her attitudes feel very classic and I am loving the new cast introduced throughout the series so far. This book is a major success story for a character that has failed to find an audience for decades. The emphasis on mythology and the addition of a static supporting cast and world finally gives Diana her own little family on par with Superman or Batman. My only issue with 14 is the sharing of art duties. Cliff Chiang has been incredible on this series and the back up artist, fails to impress. It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t hold up to Chiang’s pages and it breaks the mood a bit. Art swapping aside, Wonder Woman continues to excite. I’m ready for the return of the New Gods and the continuing conflict between Zeus’s many children.

Recommended Reading will be a regular feature on comicritique where we will look back at a previously published series or graphic novel and try to convince you it’s worth a look. These are titles that we’ve read in the past and loved. Try them out and let us know what you think.

By Alex Headley

The opening splash page for All-Star Superman.
Property of DC Comics.

Grant Morrison is a polarizing figure in comics. I admit, sometimes his stories can be a little too far out (Final Crisis) and more confusing than they should be (New X-Men) but when his style comes together, it really works. His run on JLA is my favorite iteration of the team despite the lack of Hal Jordan (I’m not a fan of Kyle Rayner) and the inclusion of electric blue Superman. His run on Batman has been a wild ride, especially Batman and Robin and Batman Inc. But it’s his take on Superman that is his greatest contribution to mainstream comics. Morrison’s Kal-El is a powerful, virtuous, iconic character that lives up the legend. All-Star Superman showcases this better than anything. Without being confined to continuity or worrying about keeping the series running, Morrison manages to tell the definitive Superman tale. Supporting characters help make heroes what they are and Morrison hits all the nails on the head: the charm and fun of Jimmy Olsen, the determination and curiosity of Lois Lane, the greed and narcissism of Lex Luthor and the compassion and intelligence of Superman. It’s that intelligence that really sells the character for me. Supes is a smart guy interested in far more than just punching atomic robots and catching falling ladies. Morrison’s Superman tends a galactic garden, cares for monstrous creatures and solves conflicts with wit before resorting to violence. He even stops his superheroing to care for a young woman in need of some encouragement.

Property of DC Comics.

It’s the busy as a bee attitude that Superman takes on that leads to some great moments. I won’t spoil the whole story for you but the basic idea is that Superman only has so much time left and must complete 12 challenges before overexposure to the Earth’s yellow sun kills him. The story takes on the aspect of a Greek tragedy and that use of mythological imagery works. There is an element of science fiction at work here too, and that melding of science and myth is a recipe for good comics.   Morrison is a big believer in the idea that superheroes are a modern pantheon and his treatment of Superman has always had that element to it. Superman is a constant, driving force of nature and a paragon of virtue. It is what Superman does with his power that defines him, not his power in and of itself. I really can’t say enough about the series, it is without a doubt my favorite Superman story. It made me love the character again after years of being jaded about his relevancy. Morrison makes Superman relevant by staying true to the character of Superman. He doesn’t try to make him edgy or cool. Superman is a little cheesy, a little too good. But maybe we need a character like that. If superheroes can’t be superheroes in superhero comics then what’s the point? Dark and gritty has a place in comics, it really works for Daredevil for instance, but Superman is the bright spot of optimism and I hope it stays that way. The New 52 Action Comics has done an excellent job keeping this tradition running. I just hope Andy Diggle and Tony Daniel and continue to capture the essence of the character when they take over the title at issue 18. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a small dose of All-Star’s brilliance every month while Morrison has been on the flagship Superman title.

The New 52 Action Comics explores Superman before he becomes the world’s top superhero.
Property of DC Comics

I almost forgot to mention the art. I’m a fan of Frank Quitely’s work. It gives the book a very classic feel. His costumes are particularly fun. And the underworld full of bizarros has some great sight gags. The action scenes are well laid out and give Superman a real sense of weight and power. Likewise, his Lex Luthor always looks to be up to something (because he totally is) and  his Jimmy Olsen looks like the happiest guy in the world. His Lois Lane isn’t the best though, she just doesn’t look as iconic as the characters surrounding her.

The direct to DVD animated movie adaptation is pretty good to, even if some of my favorite scenes were left out. DC animation has a proven track record, check out their take on All-Star and any of their other animated features if you get a chance. Wonder Woman is especially good.

By Alex Headley

The New 52 Justice League. Illustrated by Jim Lee.

In September 2011, DC changed everything by relaunching, and to some extent rebooting, their entire line of comics. And it seems to have worked, at least in the short term. DC has had a great year in sales, beating Marvel for market share for several months and increasing digital comics sales by nearly 200% according to recent reports.  And overall sales continue to be strong. In my opinion the quality books have far outweighed the poor ones and in the end all I want from comics is good story starring characters I care about. I feel like the New 52 does that well where it matters. Of course there have been some duds.

14 books have been cancelled since the New 52 launched in September 2011.

“Men of War,” “Mister Terrific,” “O.M.A.C.,” “Hawk and Dove,” “Blackhawks” and “Static Shock” were all cancelled in January and replaced by “Earth 2”, “Worlds’s Finest”, “Batman Inc.”, “The Ravagers”, “G.I. Combat” and “Dial H”. In June, “Resurrection Man”, “Justice League International”, “Voodoo” and “Captain Atom” were canceled and replaced with “Talon”, “Sword of Sorcery”, “The Phantom Stranger”, and “Team Seven”. In January, “Frankenstein, agent of S.H.A.D.E”, “Blue Beetle”, “G.I. Combat”, “Grifter” and “Legion Lost” will be ending to make way for “Constantine” (following the cancellation of John Constantine’s long running series “Hellblazer”), “Threshold”, “Justice League of America”, “Vibe” and “Katana”.

I think most of the books that have been cancelled were probably doomed to fail from the beginning but it’s encouraging to see DC experimenting. It’s less encouraging to see just how ready and willing DC is to cut a book not featuring any major characters.

Hellblazer #299 cover.
Property of Vertigo Comics.

Recently the cancellation of “Hellblazer” has caused a bit of an uproar, at least in the industry. But it makes sense for DC to prioritize it’s main line, even if that means pulling things from Vertigo. Hopefully this makes room for new original properties at Vertigo. Many are worried about the health of the imprint and accusations are even being tossed around that DC plans to get rid of it altogether. I don’t think that is the case. Not with Neil Gaiman returning to comics with a new Sandman series next year and several new titles coming from prominent creators such as Scott Snyder. The success of creator owned books at Image Comics certainly seems to affected sales at Vertigo, but I’m going to be optimistic and say that this boom at Image can only mean good things for the industry as a whole. Creator-owned properties are a big deal and I think Robert Kirkman’s wildly successful Walking Dead supports that. Mark Millar has had some success as well, with several of his books being made into movies, most notably “Kick-Ass” and the upcoming “Kick-Ass 2”. That’s what I hope happens anyway, there a plenty of much smarter and connected people talking about the issue right now.

Here’s what the New 52 will look like in 2013.

  1. Action Comics
  2. Superman
  3. Superboy
  4. Supergirl
  5. Detective Comics
  6. Batman
  7. Batman: The Dark Knight
  8. Batman & Robin
  9. Batman Inc.
  10. Nightwing
  11. Batgirl
  12. Batwoman
  13. Birds of Prey
  14. Catwoman
  15. Red Hood and the Outlaws
  16. Teen Titans
  17. Ravagers
  18. Aquaman
  19. The Flash
  20. Wonder Woman
  21. Justice League
  22. Justice League Dark
  23. Justice League of America
  24. Vibe
  25. Katana
  26. Demon Knights
  27. Animal Man
  28. Swamp Thing
  29. Threshold
  30. Constantine
  31. Earth 2
  32. Worlds’ Finest
  33. Green Lantern
  34. Green Lantern Corp
  35. New Guardians
  36. Red Lanterns
  37. Legion of Super Heroes
  38. Talon
  39. Sword of Sorcery
  40. Stormwatch
  41. The Savage Hawkman
  42. Deathstroke
  43. Dial H
  44. The Phantom Stranger
  45. Suicide Squad
  46. Green Arrow
  47. The Fury of Firestorm
  48. DC Universe Presents
  49. All-Star Western
  50. Team 7
  51. I, Vampire

So what will book 52 be? Unless it’s the upcoming Scott Snyder & Jim Lee as of yet unnamed Superman title, we just don’t know.

Looking at that list, it really seems DC is hell-bent on keeping a warfare book on the stands, and is really failing to do so. They have basically cancelled G.I. Combat twice at this point. Despite being a little more closely tied to the DCU superheroics, I don’t think Team 7 will stick around long.  Also, holy crap, there are a dozen books related to Batman or his extended family. Series with a magical protagonist seem to be a high priority as well. Justice League Dark’s success probably only serves to increase that, especially in regards to Constantine. Keeping a sci-fi book on the stands seems to be a priority, even with the loss of Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, Threshold promises to fill a big gap. Not to mention the Green Lantern books keep the cosmic stuff coming. Keeping three Justice League books is important for the upcoming Trinity War which seems to be setting up a Civil War style hero vs hero story. Female characters are doing well. There are 9 books starring a female lead; Katana, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Worlds’ Finest, Sword of Sorcery, Batwoman, Catwoman and Supergirl. The number has steadily been tracking up from the beginning and that is a promising trend. Now if we can just get some more female talent in the industry…

Cyborg as he appears on the cover to Justice League #1.

While we are talking about characters there are some curious absences so far, and no I’m not talking about Wally West, Donna Troy or Stephanie Brown (although I would like to see all three come back), most notably the absence of a Cyborg title. Victor Stone was rocketed into the spotlight in Flashpoint and then the New 52 but still doesn’t have his own series. It’s baffling really. Everyone else in the Justice League has one or more books with their name on it. I guess this is just proof that Cyborg really is the new Martian Manhunter (who will finally be getting more attention thanks to the new JLA). As for potential books and miniseries in DC’s future, I’d like to think that if Batman and Superman can carry multiple titles that Wonder Woman can do the same. Brian Azzarello has made Diana one of the biggest success stories in the New 52 and I would be thrilled to explore more of that world. The New Gods will be making their return to the DCU soon and I would be more than happy to pick up a book focused on that cast. Big Barda, Mr. Miracle and Orion could make a fun team. The Outsiders is a concept we haven’t seen in the New 52 that would probably be a popular comeback. Doom Patrol could also make a return. Both teams would give DC the chance to add a lot of characters and showcase a lot personalities we don’t see much of currently. The Atom is a character i would love to see in the New 52. We’ve seen Ray Palmer in the pages of Frankenstein and the promo for Trinity War seemed to suggest a shrinking character in red and blue will make an appearance soon though we don’t know who is in the costume or what Justice League he will be a part of.

As for what could be cancelled in the next wave; I really don’t see Deathstroke or Hawkman sticking around much longer. Liefield’s very public, very nasty exit from both books left DC scrambling for a replacement. I’m not reading either book anyway, but reaction has not been great. Firestorm hasn’t been selling well either, not since the beginning really. The concept is just a little too cheesy for me. So, what books do you think are in danger of cancellation? What do you want to see in that last spot for the fourth wave? What do you hope is coming in the inevitable fifth wave? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Recommended Reading will be a regular feature on comicritique where we will look back at a previously published series or graphic novel and try to convince you it’s worth a look. These are titles that we’ve read in the past and loved. Try them out and let us know what you think.

By Alex Headley

The cover for Secret Six #29.
Secret Six belongs to DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Gail Simone’s Secret Six could be the biggest loss of the DCU continuity shakeup that is the New 52. I generally think the New 52 was a smart move on DC’s part-people forget that for every Deathstroke, Teen Titans or Starfire sex scandal there is the excellent Wonder Woman reboot or the new depths of storytelling via Demon Knights and All-Star Western-but Secret Six’s replacement book, Suicide Squad, was a disappointment to say the least. Secret Six tells the tale of a group of super-villains that sell their services to the highest bidder ala Heroes for Hire, but you know, with murder and stuff. The team originally consists of Bane, Catman (no, really he is awesome), Scandal Savage (daughter of Vandal Savage), Ragdoll (a hilarious murdering contortionist clown eunuch), Deadshot and Jeanette (similar powerset to the Silver Banshee but with a much better story and character arc). Other characters come and go, including Scandal’s girlfriend, the Apokaliptan redhead Knockout, King Shark (he’s a shark!), and Black Alice.  The series spun out of Villains United, an Infinite Crisis tie-in series and received a great deal of critical praise.

For all the violence, sex and generally badness in the title it’s kind of astonishing that the series was published at all, much less 36 issues. Not that it was purely a dirty book for the sake of dirtiness, Secret Six took despicable villains and made the reader really root for them. If you read the whole series, the final issue is truly heartbraking. You find yourself rooting for Catman to beat Superman, it’s crazy. Everyone on the team gets a pretty full story arc to themselves.

You can see these character rise and fall as heroes, villains and, most importantly, as people. Everyone has their dark past or traumatic event to overcome (except for Deadshot, he just loves shooting things). Some make it, others don’t. Some of them give up and are resigned to their fate, others make every attempt to be better people and succeed. It’s hard enough for a mainstream superhero comic to consistently tell good stories, but it’s even more impressive when a writer can pull it off with a cast of characters that even the most diehard fan can’t recognize.

A villain defeated by Hostess snacks manages to be almost as cool as Batman.

Simone makes this guy a more emotionally relevant character than most heroes with decades of history. The series is easily the most nuanced portrayal of Bane since his first appearance.

I can’t decide if I really wish the series had continued in the New 52, sometimes it’s better when a story actually ends and the reboot allowed that to happen. I’m glad Simone took the group out in style, dragging, kicking, shooting and bashing. That said, I really wish we get more stories with that kooky family of killers that are occasionally, accidentally, noble heroes in their own right. Go read it! The entire series is available on ComiXology (on sale for $0.99 until Wednesday October 31 as part of the DC Supervillains sale). Most of it is collected in trade paperback form as well or single issues. You can find both at Kingdom Comics in Vestavia.