Well folks, the hammer finally dropped. It looks as if DC comics has finally decided to unleash the prequels for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal classic Watchmen under the uninspired banner-title of “Before Watchmen.” We’ve been hearing rumors about this for quite some time and while initially it seemed like a bad joke, last year BleedingCool started running supposed concept art for the project that started getting yanked down at the request of DC, adding legitimacy to the ruView postmor and fanning the fires of speculation. The speculation has finally ended and the truth has come out.
Neither Alan Moore nor Dave Gibbons will be involved creatively in the project, with several mini-series being handled by a cadre of talent that ranges from exciting to unsettling. Alan Moore could probably care less about the development, as his feelings on the matter are pretty well established even if he did speak them in a magical language that only Alan Moore himself understands. Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons however gave a comment to DC’s The Source which broke the news today saying:
“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire[.]”
So what can we look forward to in this little prequel installment? Here’s the rundown of all the titles:
RORSCHACH, a 4-issue miniseries by writer Brian Azzarello with art by Lee Bermejo
MINUTEMEN, a 6-issue miniseries with writing and art handled by Darwyn Cooke
COMEDIAN, a 6-issue miniseries by writer Brian Azzarello with art by J.G. Jones
DR. MANHATTAN, a 4-issue miniseries by writer J. Michael Straczynski with art by Adam Hughes
NITE OWL, a 4- issue miniseries by writer J. Michael Straczynski with art by Joe and Andy Kubert
OZYMANDIAS, a 6 -issue miniseries by writer Len Wein with art by Jae Lee
SILK SPECTRE, a 4-issue miniseries by writer Darwyn Cook with art by Amanda Conner
So how do I feel about all this?
Let’s be honest. Watchmen is an amazing book. It’s a classic and its importance to the world of graphic literature cannot be understated. It represents a shift in the way comics were written and understood and that does not change just because we’re getting more books with those characters by other creators down the line. The characters were hobbled from the Charleston universe and twisted into their own place by Alan Moore in the eighties. So while there is a standalone universe to Watchmen it isn’t necessarily an original invention. Getting angry that someone else wants to play in that sandbox when the entire medium is predicated on people further developing the ideas of others (at least in the mainstream superhero industry) just doesn’t work.
Let’s look at the lineup for the talent on this project for a bit. Brian Azzarello, Darwyn Cooke, and Amanda Conner are all folks who pretty much guarantee that I’ll pick up their work sight unseen because their track record is pretty stellar. I can tell you that I am indeed interested in Rorschach, Minutemen, Comedian and Silk Spectre based off of their involvement alone. I think they’re all talented writers and artists who could do something really interesting with these particular characters. Now, the x-factor here is Stracynski. He can be a phenomenal writer when he’s on top of his game. I loved his run on Thor and while he may have made some decisions I didn’t agree with over the course of his career many of those can be attributed to editorial meddling and I won’t delve into that quagmire here. Given the characters that he’s handling, I think Dr. Manhattan is certainly something he could mine some good material out of. Especially if he hits the same notes he was while writing Thor. Nite Owl is a little trickier. If I’d had my way I would have had someone like Greg Rucka on that particular title. But I’m not in charge and at this point all I can do is speculate about how all of this is going to turn out.
As I’ve said, my main issue here isn’t with the fact that we’re getting prequels. It’s not inheritly a bad thing. What I am afraid of is that the stories they are going to tell won’t match up with what has been brewing in the fan culture’s subconscious for several decades and that the whole project will flounder as a result. I can’t help but draw parallels to the Star Wars prequels which saw a great deal of hype only to be cut down by fanboys who didn’t like the direction the franchise took. But at least in that instance the fans could point the finger at George Lucas and say he ruined his own creation. This time around we have the added buffer zone of it being separated from the original creators. If people don’t like it they will try to say that it’s not “canon” or that it “doesn’t matter.” Which is, in a way, a double edged sword. It lacks the legitimacy of having the original creators involved and that is either a great thing or a horrible thing depending on which way you look at it. I mean, Frank Miller himself handled the followup for The Dark Knight Returns and that was absolute garbage. I know we put Alan Moore on a pedestal sometimes but I think in this instance the talent involved is enough to warrant the community keeping an open mind.
So we have a Wonder Woman. Adrianne Palicki (which is a last name sure to invite nerd-drooling innuendo for the foreseeable future) has been reportedly cast as the Amazonian princess in David Kelley’s adaptation of Wonder Woman set to air on NBC. Palicki stands at 5’11” and has the build necessary to pull off the character believably though she’s going to have to spend some time with a dye pack to get her hair to the jet-black sheen we’re used to seeing with Wonder Woman. All that truly is in question right now is how well she will be able to portray the character. I do not have any real idea of how well she can play the part as I honestly haven’t seen her in anything live-action, my only experience with her in any form is from her voice work in bits on Robot Chicken and Titan Maximum. Apparently she was in an episode of Smallville once upon a time but nothing about that show really left much of an impression on me other than how badly I want to make out with Allison Mack, because let’s face it, that woman is amazing.
So now we have our Wonder Woman, and the vocal Wondy fans will likely spend the next few months complaining about it as I’ve learned that Wonder Woman fans are 90% psychotic. Their obsession with the minutia of her character is unparalleled and this is equally insane due to the fact that Wonder Woman has to be the least consistent character in the DC universe, paling only in comparison to Donna Troy who herself is part of the Wonder Woman continuity clusterfuck. I’m not saying I don’t like the character, as I’ve got a pretty much a full run of her issues from the moment George Perez took over following the first Crisis through Rucka’s run up through Simone’s and even currently through this current JMS debacle but I’ll be damned if I ever met a Wonder Woman fan who didn’t make me raise my eyebrows and inch for the door just ever so slightly.
According to the official DCU newsblog, JMS will be taking his leave from the Superman and Wonder Woman monthly titles citing a need to prioritize the release of the next Earth One graphic novel as well as his recent healthy issues as the reasons for his early departure. Those concerned about whether or not the current storylines will be left dangling will be happy to hear that oncoming Superman writer Chris Roberson (of iZombie and Cinderella fame) as well as new Wonder Woman scribe Phil Hester will both be working off of Stracynski’s plot outlines. Those of you hoping that the storylines would be abandoned are out of luck. I would argue that the premeses behind the current direction of both books were sound and interesting, simply not being taken in the right direction due to Stracynski’s understanding of the characters being deeply flawed.
I’m sure some overzealous fanboys will be quick to theorize that this has something to do with the critical reaction to the series but the truth is JMS got mainstream exposure for the title, so whether or not the faithful drank his kool-aid was not a concern of the people publishing the books. He isn’t being forced off because of his failures, if anything it seems like they want to replicate the amazing success of Earth One as soon as possible considering the buzz on the first installment seems to be mostly positive.
The thing to take away from this is that both new writers for Superman and Wonder Woman are ASTOUNDING talents who I personally cannot wait to see tackle the characters. Especially Phil Hester. I have a sketch of Green Arrow he drew for me hanging framed in my office. He’s awesome. You should share my enthusiasm. I have enough to go around.
By now you’ve probably read every single last report on Superman : Earth One that the media machine can spit at you. It’s been getting major press since before it’s launch last week from all over the place including CNN, USA Today, and other reputable news sources that I don’t pay attention to. The focus has mainly been on the depiction of Clark Kent as a young hipster with a hoodie. It’s such a dramatic change in direction, isn’t it?
The truth of the matter is that a lot of people are going to be torn on this book. Some are hating on it because of the liberties it takes with the mythos. Others for the fact that this Clark doesn’t seem much like the Clark we’ve come to know in the past seventy years of his publishing history. The thing is, it has no bearing on the regular title. It’s a standalone universe. The way I see it, the people complaining about it are the same people who lost their marbles over the changes that Bendis made when writing Ultimate Spider-Man way back when that first started up. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have any bearing on that. This is an expiriment in updating the origin of Superman for a modern audience using what the writer believes are modern sensibilities. I won’t comment on whether or not he has a grasp on what modern audiences want, because the nationwide sellouts of the book indicate that he has a fairly decent idea, regardless of the quality of the book he produced. I don’t think a wide majority of Superman fans picked up the book, as they’ve been fairly vocal about how horrible his run on the regular in-continuity title has been thus far. It seems to me that the majority of the people picking up this title are the uninitiated, who will have no qualms with the changes because they will only have the slightest inclination that anything has changed. Remember that for a chunk of the population, Smallville is the default incarnation of the Superman character. Smallville.
The book isn’t that bad. It really is just Ultimate Superman. The only problem being that in the format which it has been published, you’re not really getting a whole lot of story for the price. I feel like the book ran maybe four issues worth of content but they charged me for six. That having been said, I think a premium has been placed on the book for the high profile creative team. JMS has had his name in the news alot lately due to his work on Wonder Woman as well as the regular Superman title and Shane Davis is a damned fine penciller, so DC is probably just trying to get their money’s worth. The price certainly didn’t seem to affect the buying public as they snatched it up in droves. But it is worth noting that the story is a brisk one. Thankfully the book stands on its own in such a way that you don’t need to buy a second volume to complete the story. I would have felt a bit miffed if I’d paid the price I did and didn’t even get a full story out of it.
As for the story, it’s familiar to those who have read anything remotely related to Superman before ( it felt a little bit too much like Birthright in some places for me), it also diverges from the regular path a little bit simply by virtue of being set in modern times. Clark Kent pursuing an active career in print journalism seems a bit anachronistic and so they play with it a little bit and Clark’s entry into the field isn’t the same as it was in his previous incarnations. None of that really matters, the key players are there and the dynamic still works. Although the Jimmy/Clark dynamic might be interesting to watch this time around considering that Jimmy seems to be less the bumbling loser that he is often portrayed as.
I will give the team props for not utilizing the old guard of Superman villains for this go-around. If there’s one thing a lot of people agree on its that the old villains are getting stale. There are numerous petitions to keep Lex Luthor out of the next Superman movie because people are tired of the same old shtick. Here we get a villain who helps reinforced the thematic elements of Superman’s arrival. The fear of the foreign is on full display and I think that will be the underlying thematic element of this particular version of Superman. It’s certainly a timely and relevant metaphor. The only question is whether or not Stracynski can keep it subtle enough not to be overbearing.
On the whole, it’s an interesting effort. Not as fun as the early Ultimate universe was, but definitely a popular expiriment nonetheless.
Overall Score : 7/10 Stars
This week I had more than a few papers due in more than a few classes so the reviews weren’t the first thing on my mind. I’m trying to better myself through education and whatnot. Anyhow, I did read quite a few books and some of them surprised me so I figured it’d be a waste not to get something posted.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #645 2.99
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENTS BLACK CAT #4 (OF 4) 3.99
BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #5 (OF 6) 3.99
BOOSTER GOLD #37 2.99
DAKEN DARK WOLVERINE #2 2.99
GREEN LANTERN #58 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
HACK SLASH ANNUAL 2010 MURDER MESSIAH #1 CVR A (MR) 5.99
INCREDIBLE HULKS #614 3.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #31 2.99
JONAH HEX #60 2.99
KNIGHT & SQUIRE #1 (OF 6) 2.99
NEW AVENGERS #5 3.99
SECRET SIX #26 2.99
SHADOWLAND #4 (OF 5) SL 3.99
SHADOWLAND BLOOD ON STREETS #3 (OF 4) SL 3.99
SICKNESS IN THE FAMILY HC (MR) 19.99
SUPERIOR #1 (OF 6) (MR) 2.99
SUPERMAN #703 2.99
THOR #616 3.99
THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #5 2.99
TUROK # 1 3.50
X-MEN #4 3.99
Now let’s do this thing.
Tim Seeley has me hooked on Hack/Slash. It’s a great book that is easily accessible if you’re willing to deal with the content and manages the kind of self-referential tone that a lot of books try to reach but can’t because they don’t know how to handle it. With this Annual, we get the bridge between the old Devil’s Due series and the new relaunch coming around at Image. It’s got a definite middle ground feeling to it, where I’m sure new readers could catch what was going on while long-time fans like myself are happy to see plot threads start to re-align after a four month mini-series that felt a little too much like wheel-spinning.
I seriously cannot wait for the upcoming relaunch. I hope that people will take a chance on the book and hop on when the new #1 issue comes out because Hack/Slash is one of those books that understands that comic books can be fun. It’s not a full on comedy book, and it’s not always serious. Which makes me happy because a lot of books nowadays cannot balance tone at all. It’s an art and Seeley should give lectures.
Also, whoever had the idea to have Six Sixx wear a Fastway shirt in the opening part of the book is my hero, because I freaking unabashedly love that band.
Matt Fraction is writing the definitive run of Iron Man for the modern age. The world he is creating for Tony Stark here is one that builds not only off of Marvel’s rich history but off of the technological and political history of our own world. Fraction is saying something about technology and society that others have tried to in the book before but never found the right tone to make the story click. Here we’re getting an Iron Man that works on multiple levels. Stark’s unending quest for personal worth through altruism and progressive thought that has become the defining characteristic that pushes the narrative forward and it feels genuine. Tony Stark has truly become a multi-layered character in the last decade and Fraction is doing a good job of building Tony as a character while at the same time giving us the kind of story that we expect to read in an Iron Man comic.
I’m just not British enough to like this book. I love me some Doctor Who and I thought Blackadder was hilarious, but even still, Cornell’s first issue of this mini-series went over my head like nobody’s business. I think that it could possibly be a great series for those who understand what happened. But that’s not me. I’m admitting this up front so that you know I can’t accurately criticise the book. It’s just the truth. I’m sorry.
The art was pretty though. So there’s always that. *sheepish grin*
I’ve been a massive detractor when it comes to Mark Millar. I really haven’t enjoyed anything he’s written since Ultimates 2 or thereabouts. He’s obviously capable of writing some amazing stuff, as I loved Red Son and his work on The Authority but his recent output hasn’t been in any way intriguing to me. Kickass was a solid concept made better when translated to film, Old Man Logan was inconsequential and Nemesis just doesn’t work for me.
With Superior, Millar finds his once impeccable knack for dialog and pathos that was so prevalent in his Red Son days. The story works with established superhero tropes but doesn’t seek to subvert them the way that Kickass or Nemesis do. Instead he shows that an interesting story can be told out of tried and true ideas and still feel fresh if you have a story worth telling. I didn’t think Millar had it in him to create sympathetic characters, or characters that didn’t feel paper thin for that matter. His recent work certainly wouldn’t indicate that as being the case. However he downright surprised me here.
I think this could be the strongest work he’s turned in for quite some time, though I doubt it will be his most popular because so far it’s a solid book but lacks the hyped up sensationalism that makes Millar’s books fanboy-bait. I hope people will look past the fact that there’s no forced incest or pre-pubescent female murderers and pick the book up knowing that it’s a glowing testament to the superhero genre.
It’s hard for me to say this, as a Superman fan, but the current run of the title is just about the worst Superman stuff I’ve ever read. No middle ground to this anymore, it’s just steadily headed toward absolute horrendousness since the second JMS took over the title. And like 90% of bad Superman stories it comes from the writer just not getting what makes Superman work. Superman is not a thug who holds a stalker hundreds of feet in the air and threatens to drop him if the man doesn’t change his ways. That’s kind of what Batman does, but not Superman. Superman would talk to the guy and the mere experience of meeting Superman would cause him to re-evaluate his life and that person would go on to do great things.
Superman also doesn’t lecture Batman about saving ordinary folk. I’m sorry. I know Superman is on some sort of self-reflection kick, but he cannot reshape his entire worldview in three issues to the point where he can lecture Dick Grayson about staying grounded to reality.
I get that some people don’t like the fact that Superman isn’t edgy. But JMS doesn’t need to try to “fix” all of Superman’s percieved problems. He needs to take what works with the character and go from there, not write a character that barely resembles him in any way shape or form. For the love of God, let this little expirement wrap up soon so we can get back to the title just being mediocre instead of nearly unreadable garbage.
My only experience with Turok comes from wasting several hours playing the N64 game back in the late nineties. That’s about it. I never read any of the classic comics or anything of that nature. I picked up the new series wondering what it was like and it felt fairly generic and tepid, so far as I could tell. It feels about the same as the other relaunched-through-Dark Horse properties like Magnus or Doctor Solar. There’s obviously some effort put into making a modern feel to a classic character but the story progression feels choppy and though I’ve never read Turok before in my life, a lot of this felt like a rehash of something I’d read before.
The series has potential to grow, obviously, as the character wouldn’t have warranted a relaunch if there wasn’t something worth exploring with the property. I just hope that the flow of the book gets a little smoother because it certainly felt rough around the edges throughout the course of the first issue.
The End. I’m gonna go have a sandwich and watch all the crap I’ve DVR’d this week but haven’t had a chance to watch.
I pretty much raped Superman 701 when it came out. I mean, if my words were an erection, Superman 701 would have been an unwilling arsehole. Though that may not be the best analogy, (heh…anal-ogy) because Superman 701 still exists while I feel a little bit of my soul died while reading it. So, who was really the victim in that scenario is clearly up for debate. That having been said, I’m a stupid comic book fan and despite how much I hated the last issue, I had to soldier on with the title because I’ve been collecting it for so long that I honestly don’t know how to not buy Superman every damned month. I stuck it out through the New Krypton stuff so god only knows why I would give up now. It’s not like Superman has ever been that great. All the really good superman stories happen elsewhere (All Star Superman, Superman : Secret Identity, Kingdom Come, etc.) but I have a fairly large collection of the title and don’t want to have a gap when I look back at my collection. I suppose I could back-issue hunt at conventions or something, but don’t tell me how to engage my nerditry.
So, I’m still reading Superman, big whoop, who cares? Nobody, but I have a blog and I’m going to use it. Mostly to broadcast my opinions because everyone ignores them when I’m in the store. YOU CAN’T IGNORE THE INTERNET! Wow, I’m rambling. Chalk that up to caffeine defecency as I’ve given up sodas in an attempt to live a somewhat healthier lifestyle that doesn’t include five cokes at every meal and subsiding mostly on Mexican food and pizza. So, after having some grapes and a cereal bar for lunch, my energy level is at a slight fluctuation point. What does that have to do with Superman? Nothing. That’s why it’s called rambling.
The crux of this article, as one can tell from the title is “Does It Get Better?” Meaning, simply, does JMS’s second issue of Superman come off stronger than his debut? Well, to be honest that first issue was so bad it’d be hard not to improve. I’m sorry, that’s just how I feel. I don’t think there’s been a worse issue of Superman written in a long time. Way to set the bar, bro. Anyhow, the second issue is here and I thought i’d examine it from it’s place in the larger scheme of things. More to the point, I want to examine whether Stracynski even has a point with this story.
The issue is a definite step up, but then again I’ve already quantified that. In this issue Superman heads to Detroit where he finds a group of illegal aliens (in the sense that they’re from another planet and not that they hopped the border from an adjoining nation) who he tries to lecture about coming here illegally, which they even point out is a bit hypocritical. He then meets an old fella who used to work at one of the car factories but now works as a security guard watching over their abandoned husks. It’s a somewhat hamfisted statement about the way the US economy is functioning, and what’s frustrating about this issue aside from Superman’s wonky moral compass (which seems to be a persistant issue in this arc, as Superman’s worldview doesn’t seem to match up with what it has been in the past and I doubt that his recent trials and tribulations would have affected him this heavily) is the manner in which he resolves the issues of the Detroit economy all by himself.
The concept of Superman playing god simply does not work for me. Superman has made multiple speeches about what he can and can’t do because he doesn’t want to play god, because he’s not one. But in this issue, JMS seems to use Superman as a force that can solve all of the woes of the world if he puts his resources together. So why then is there every any strife in the DCU? Superman could solve everything by JMS’ reasoning. I get the point that he is trying to make, but I think that he’s missing the point of what Superman is and the limits that the character has that prevent him from becoming irrelevant.
So yes, the book got better. This one didn’t inspire outright anger inside me, simply an unshakeable feeling of disappointment that someone who claims to love the character so much is writing him in a way that contradicts everything I myself love about the character. Such is life.
Here’s the deal. I’ve been busy with a TON of stuff today. Like, just about everything that I need to do in a given month I had to get done today and then some. So you’ll have to apologize when I eschew the typical format of these reviews and go about this a little differently this week. This week’s reviews will be comprised of just two books, Batman and Superman # 701. Basically, the biggest two books to hit this week. I mean, Birds of Prey # 3 was awesome, and a bunch of people who went apeshit over certain events in the second issue had eat some serious crow. I finally picked up a copy of The Sixth Gun which I recommend to anybody who likes Jonah Hex but wants a little bit of mysticism thrown in without being outright terrible like the film. Also Generation Lost made me fall in freaking love with the Rocket Reds.
Let’s start with Superman # 701.
Dear god, this whole issue seems like 32 pages of JMS trying to justify the premise of his arc to us by hammering us over the head with apathetic retreads of tired philosophy and even more tired retreads of scenes that Grant Morrison already did to perfection a few years back with All-Star Superman. Seriously, that suicide jumper scene was basically everything Morrison did but stretched out for a few pages with no sense of gravitas. It’s so mind-numbingly blunt that it looses any and all effect.
I think my biggest problem with JMS’s retread of Hard Travelin’ Heroes starring Superman is that JMS doesn’t seem to write Superman in the classic sense. The Superman I know is not the spiteful, sarcastic, embittered abuser of power that we get in this issue. This feels like Stracynski trying to finish out what he had wanted to do with Thor but couldn’t because he got tossed to the curb by Marvel editorial. I think that a lot of the bitterness that he feels over how that panned out is being transferred onto his Superman. Superman here doesn’t feel like he needs to answer to anybody. Not reporters, not the man on the street, nobody. He is sick and tired of everyone’s impatience and expectations. The problem is, he’s made Superman borderline unlikeable in this instance.
I’ve seen just as much love for this issue as I have hate, so obviously he’s struck a chord with people. But I’ve noticed that a lot of the praise is coming from people who are new to reading Superman on a regular basis. A lot of first timer’s interested by the premise got drawn in, and having no attachment to everything that makes Superman…well, Superman, they find this sort of bland retread to be new and fresh and exciting.
It’s lazy and it doesn’t really work for anyone who has any real understanding of Superman as a character. Some would argue that JMS is attempting to write away the flaws of Superman, but by turning him into a cynical jerkwad doesn’t do anything but create more flaws. It alienates the previously faithful readers and the new readership is not likely to stick around in the long run.
It’s not the worst issue of Superman ever written, it’s just an egregious slap in the face to fans of the character. It collapses under the weight of it’s own self importance and in the end will just be another footnote in the long history of the book that people look back on and sort of chuckle at.
Still better than Electric Blue Supes.
On the flipside, we have Batman 701, which goes back to the moments immediately following Batman R.I.P. and leading up to Batman’s collision course with Darkseid in Final Crisis. This issue is the first time in a while we’ve seen Bruce Wayne in the suit for the main story. I think Morrison was wise to hold off on this issue until now, simply because it gives the audience a broader understanding of his entire overall story and allows for the reader to follow the action with greater ease than if it had come immediately following R.I.P.
The artwork is just amazing, a step-up from Daniel, whose work seemed to be rushed while he had to perform the writing duties as well. There is more definition, more style on display here. It matches the mood of the story perfectly, and I think that goes a long way towards crafting an excellent issue.
The basic premise is centered around Hurt’s declaration that following the events of R.I.P., if Bruce were to wear the cowl again it would be the last time. A prophetic curse that weighs heavy on Bruce. It’s interesting that he takes this to heart the way he does, seeing how he comes down on criminals as being overly cowardly and superstitious and I don’t think that is an accident. Morrison doesn’t do coincidence.
His reaction to the death of a New God shows us exactly how Morrison feels about Batman as a character and it works well within everything that’s come to be associated with Bruce as far as his determination and his psyche. It’s the exact opposite of Stracynski’s Superman in that regard. Nobody will accuse this Batman of not being in character. He is the driven detective, the dark knight and he acts as such.
I’m looking forward to the rest of this arc.