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DC Is Relaunching Vertigo, Doubling Down On Millennials

Dan

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It’s been 25 years since DC Comics launched perhaps the most successful imprint in comics history: Vertigo. Since its foundation in 1993, some of the biggest graphic novels ever have come out under the Big V. Its initial run of titles made a splash on the shelves of comic stores and would cement their authors as comics royalty: Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughn, Brian Azzarello. Old properties (The Sandman) and old legends (Alan Moore) found new life at Vertigo. These new comics were no longer the whiff! bam! pow! of the past, but they also largely avoided the hyper-violence and darkness of the 90s. They handled adult themes like alienation, religion, feminism, and, yes, violence. But they handled these themes with more nuance and variety than ever before.  For the first time in the medium’s history, comics were becoming literature.

But all of the original titles have ended, with Hellblazer being the last of the old guard, closing in 2013. After a few years on the down low, DC is planning a massive relaunch of the classic brand for a new generation.  With it comes a clear emphasis on the political power of comics. They aim not for the Gen-Xers who made Preacher, iZombie, and Fables bestsellers, but for millennials. Titles will deal with the topics its readers care about: immigration, white supremacy, sex work.

Just like in 1993, the creators taking part in the relaunch are a vibrant mix of rising stars and new faces in the comics world. Eric M. Esquivel (Roberto Roberto) will bring us a tale of demons run amok in a border town while Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour) will spin a tale of brainwashed witches reclaiming their power. Bryan Hill (Postal, Batman) will put a biracial cop in harm’s way as he investigates a white supremacist group. Frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Rob Sheridan, is sending a smuggler on an impossible quest, and Mark Russel (God Is Disappointed In You) pits Jesus against “Superman”.

The group of writers and artists are a nice mix of diverse voices, with two women serving as writers their own titles, both of which will no doubt invite controversy. The first, Goddess Mode, takes place in a cyberpunk VR hellscape where tech support involves a huge neon sword. Its author will be video game developer Zoe Quinn, perhaps most famous for being the internet’s biggest scapegoat and the original source of the “Gamergate” controversy. The second comic, Safe Sex, will be a dystopian book focusing on sex workers who dare to love in a world where all sex is under government control. Its author is sex-work advocate and LGBTQ+ journalist Tina Horn, who will no doubt bring an expert opinion to a topic that comics really, REALLY has never handled very well.

The new books start in September of this year, with Border Town,  and the rest will follow month by month right through into the new year. They will join the pre-existing raft of Vertigo titles, as well as Neil Gaiman’s brand new Sandman Universe line.


Image courtesy of DC Comics and Vertigo

Dan

Author, Editor, Podcaster, Media Junkie. Currently working towards an MFA and trying to get a sci-fi novel published. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Wichita and Indianapolis.

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Saga: True Colours

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It’s a fine line that which divides nature and a zone of comfort; so fine it’s sometimes too easy to confuse one with the other, or think them to be interchangeable terms. But the differences are there, however subtle. For one, a zone of comfort is often a treacherous foe against personal growth. It may even render you numb before coming adversities and leave you unprepared to resist them. Am I being obnoxiously specific yet? Well I can take it up a notch. A zone of comfort can also blind you, delude you into mistaking someone’s nature. Make you see a foe as a friend when the tide is calm.

But when the tide grows restless, leaving that zone of comfort is quite the rude awakening. Hope you like those, lovelies.

Issue #52
“Not when we were so close…”

The “Jetsam Holiday” arc has been a lovely time so far, comparatively speaking. For every dark development unfolding within or without Hazel’s immediate (and extended) family, there has been lots of sunshine and fucking. And of course, there has been plenty of wholesome entertainment for the whole family to enjoy also. If the image of Hazel waging sea war against Petrichor and Ghüs while atop Sir Robot’s shoulders isn’t heartwarming, her wishing Sir Robot didn’t have to leave absolutely is. And furthermore, Sir Robot even reciprocates it.

Old foes may turn dear friends in time – just like my dad used to say… not really, but let’s pretend he did.

In the meantime, Marko and Upsher have a thoughtful conversation while frying fishies. Beyond the perennial dynamic of the journey, one of Saga‘s thematic signatures is the encounter between worldviews. Sometimes this occurs through future Hazel’s introspection, and sometimes through calm moments like this. By learning of how Upsher and Doff learned about the fugitives and their daughter, Marko finally realises something we’d long known by now. There is no action that goes without consequence in this galaxy. Whether it’s some nameless mook who becomes a villain’s motive for revenge, or a grunt left behind who’s see too much.

Their conversation migrates then to the topic of accountability when it comes to one of the most traditional roles in war: killing. Having been a soldier, Marko has obviously taken on a very active role. But Upsher isn’t entirely clean either, despite never taking a life himself. Being a journalist, his business is all about information, but its reception always risks a response, which sometimes involves violence. This is, Marko argues, the reason he will be sticking to writing fiction. Nevertheless, Upsher’s response is a banquet for thought, and I’ll quote:

“Putting new ideas into another person’s head is an agggressive act, and aggressive acts have consequences. Face it, you can be a writer or a pacifist, but you can’t be both.” The written word, to communicate or to inspire, is necessarily a political act. We’ll take this morsel with us home to mull it over, as something else comes up, demanding all heads and hands. Alana enters the scene with the news: Squire is missing. The young Robot has followed through with his plan to leave.

Cut to Ianthe, wandering the wilderness of Jetsam, and adding a touch of danger to Squire’s stunt. Her concern over The Will, now free, angry and deadly, reaches a high point upon seeing a note pinned against a tree with a knife. Menacing even when written in cursive. The note proper says they’re even; him having killed her fiancé, and she having skinned his dog. I’d hardly call it even myself – Ianthe is still in debt, but I digress. We’d be delusional to think this warning would dissuade Ianthe – too proud a villain to heed common sense.

Meanwhile, the grownups at the beach camp find Squire’s farewell note, charmingly written in crayon. His message and how he addresses himself as Princeling make his intentions clear. Sir Robot’s son intends to return to the Robot Kingdom; maybe his ways of chivalry had an unexpected, unintended side effect on the kid. Overtaken by shame, Sir Robot insists on handling this himself, then declaring this to be his fault. He then reveals the ugly incident of hurting Squire last issue, earning Alana’s anger and Hazel’s disbelief. Before Alana can unleash a (well-deserved) fist upon Sir Robot’s face, Marko walks in full-clad in armour, bearing… mushrooms.

Ah, but these mushrooms are special mushrooms. They don’t grace soups with supreme delight or allow you to summon Frank Zappa in Bloodborne (which I’ve been playing a lot of lately). These mushrooms function as flares bright enough to see in daylight or when penetrating deep in the forest. Hazel demands to come with, but her mum won’t allow it for good reason. Upsher offers to stay with Hazel, as he’s also confident his partner Doff has already found Squire.

If only he knew…

The pinky oath between Alana and Hazel marks the beginning of the search.

The scene then changes to Squire/Princeling’s point of view. He has definitely taken a shine to Hazel’s Ponk Konk, who now accompanies him as a friend to “talk with”. And it’s just as well: Squire is terrified. He roams what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which is a creepy setting in any galaxy. According to a conversation he overheard between the grownups, the magical ingredients for the “body swap” are transported through pipes that run through these unsettling parts. Therefore, his course to take appears obvious, quite unlike the strange creatures following his movements, concealed in the overgrowth.

The worm-like creatures lunge forward, ensnaring Squire to be devoured by a nightmarish mouth spreading wide across the grass. Amidst the horror of the moment, he drops Ponk Konk, possibly into the maws of this hideous creature. Someone makes the save in the nick of time with a few well-aimed shots, however. Thankful, Squire hugs his unlikely saviour: Ianthe. Could it be he has managed to survive one beast only to end up in the maws of another?

Elsewhere, Sir Robot spots a strange jellyfish-like ship while searching for his son. The Will gets the drop on the former Prince, skewering his arm-cannon with his spear. Sir Robot doesn’t quite recognise his attacker, but The Will him well enough; not as the disgraced noble, but as the killer of his former love, Spider woman extraordinaire, The Stalk. A vengeful intent is clearly approaching. And though Sir Robot frets over being interrupted from his search and disarmed, he keeps his cool to talk with the reinstated Freelancer.

The Will is back on the job to catch the fugitives, but not before killing Sir Robot. Knowing that an ordinary, desperate plea won’t do the job, Sir Robot presents another possibility as a bargaining chip to secure his and his son’s safety: to surrender Hazel to The Will.

Seems old foes turn into friends dear when the tide is calm… otherwise, they’re only placated foes, only for so long. Treacherous asshole.

 

Saga Issue #52 Credits

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Artist: Fiona Staples

All images are courtesy of Image Comics

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Batgirl is Getting a New Direction And a New Look

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Can I say that I, for one, am glad that we’re finally getting a new author for Batgirl? Because I am. Now this is no disrespect to Hope Larson; she is a competent writer who has told some really good stories over the last two years, but for me she just wasn’t a good fit for one of my favorite DC superheroes. Now I’ll probably get backlash from the community of fans who like to criticize the whole DC darkness thing for this but you know what? Yes, it should be dark and gritty, that’s always been associated with the “bat” name. Should it try to be a little more light hearted? Sure, but it’s a balance. My issue with Hope Larson’s run was that it was way too “tweeny” considering the kind of comics we’ve seen in the past with Barbara, Cass, and Stephanie.

Now, I also get that heroes need to evolve in order to meet their targeted audience. Hope Larson in retrospect did something that I very much like. Like the political nature of Green Arrow, Hope managed to construct her stories centered around the criticisms of overuse of technology, freedom of the internet, and the use of personal data. These are topics that remains very relevant this year and will be for some time to come. The fact that she was able to use this to tell stories that no matter what I say, were still entertaining, is a testament to the fact that she was a very good writer.

However, it is still time for a change. Despite the great motivations behind her stories, they were still cringe-y sometimes. Seeing Barbara juggle her nightlife with her student life is a common theme among younger heroes, and her friends in the LGBTQ community offered real understanding for audiences, but it still felt like a teen drama.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love her supporting cast, especially Alyssa who was created by Gail Simone in her well loved Batgirl New 52 run. The author was very outspoken for gender identity and the over sexualization of females in comic books. To see Hope Larson treat characters created by Simone with love and care was really something. By now I probably sound like I loved Hope’s run on Batgirl. As I said before, it wasn’t a bad run and I enjoyed reading it for the most part but I need something a bit more than that.

Starting with issue 24, we’ll be getting a plethora of new authors for the next few issues. Like with Green Arrow, finding a new permanent author takes time but with the Benson sisters spearheading that comic, Mairghread Scott will be taking over exclusively come August and issue 26. Now, I haven’t read anything by her save the most recent Green Arrow title, which I liked hell of a lot more than the previous two. So, I’ll be seeing her writing without bias and without former convictions. I’m really excited to see where she leads Barbara in her new adventures, but hopefully she focuses more on Batgirl and Barbara rather than love interests and overly cringe worthy situations. I get Barbara is awkward but that was just painful.

According to previews, we will see the return of Barbara to Gotham and of another character, or rather villain, created by Gail Simone called Grotesque. In this version, he plays a murderous art thief who moves to create his own vile art gallery with the pieces of his victims. He ends up getting the jump on Babs and setting the device in her spine off, effectively taking away her ability to walk again.

It looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more continuity from the Gail Simone days and either the nostalgia will hit long time fans or Scott will be taking us in a whole new direction. So many questions, the main one being: could this be the end for Barbara as Batgirl? As much as I love Babs, I am part of the group who feels she needs to pass on the cowl to someone new. But that’s a topic for another day.

Speaking of getting a new author, we also have a revamp of Batgirl’s look, which is also a huge plus for me. If you’ve read Batman: White Knight you’ll no doubt recognize this costume from it. Sean Murphy, the genius behind that story, must have allowed the costume to be used as main canon. I’m happy for this because I really, really like the new look. I was never a huge fan of the purple zip up jacket-like outfit she was sporting in “Burnside,” but that just comes down to aesthetics.

The new look is sleek and more “batty” adding more to her own persona. Batgirl and Nightwing were among the first to leave Bruce behind and create their own identity and damn if this is not screaming that she’s the best “bat” out there.


All Images Courtesy of DC Comics

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No Justice Feels Too Familiar, but Offers a New Future For DC

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A whole summer full of events, at least that’s what DC promised us when releasing their DC Nation #0 prior to and on free comic book day. While everyone was excited to see their first look into what Brian Michael Bendis would be bringing to DC with his coming run with The Man of Steel and what the Joker was planning to sabotage the coming wedding of Batman and Catwoman, I with so many others were concerned with the apparent massive crossover No Justice. To say this title wasn’t over hyped would clearly be an understatement. Yet, who couldn’t be excited about so many members of the DC universe all thrown together? Yeah, that thing you’re not hearing is because this isn’t something new.

I’m totally not being bitter because this sounds all too familiar among comics readers, because at the end of the day it was a really fun comic to read. It was more so that I was expecting something a little more new and fresh considering how much the publishers threw the whole “the DC universe will never be the same” in your face. Like I get it; stuff is going to go down and it will have lasting ramifications. For the most part they did keep to the promise, by the end of the comic and without even looking towards the solicitations for the upcoming titles you could tell things were going to change.

Now one of the things that kind of worried me getting into this story was that I would have to read Scott Snyder’s Metal. I’ve no doubt that it was a good comic, the reviews say as much. I just really didn’t have a desire to pick it up. So seeing that this event was directly connected to the story of No Justice was also kind of a turn off. To my pleasant surprise however, this connection was very minute and very easily something you can work out without reading it. Which is again also a plus for the title. That’s something we’ll talk more about later.

Now getting into it, in reality this comic was used to usher in a new focal point for DC comics as the energy created by the Rebirth event finally began to fade after for going two years strong. What made this comic significant to the continued existence of the universe of comics is that the publishers are realizing that you do need to occasionally change up the formula and offer something new to keep readers interested. While the many dedicated readers will always stick with their favorite series’, you do want them to try out your new and exciting things so why not dangle all their favorite heroes in a super universe ending storyline. Yep that’s exactly what they did, but I’m sort of okay with it.

The Teams

Now the prelude didn’t offer much in a way of explaining the real plot rather just really showcasing the four teams that would be associated with the title. Now these teams were comprised of both heroes and villains and split by the peak of points of the extreme in the emotional spectrum. Less like the various Lantern Corp and more so like the unexplained inspirations of the human condition. The first team, Entropy included Batman, Lobo, Deathstroke, Lex Luthor, and Beast Boy. Team Mystery, Superman, Starfire, Martian Manhunter, Starro, and Sinestro. Team Wonder, Wonder Woman, Raven, Doctor Fate, Etrigan, and Zatanna. Finally, Team Wisdom, Cyborg, Robin, Atom, Flash, and Harley Quinn.

Other than giving us some fighting among these heroes and and villains against some of Braniacs robots we really don’t get a whole lot of story in this. Yet at the end we get Green Arrow and Supergirl revealing that wherever these teams are fighting, it’s not on Earth and now a planet that’s severely lacking in it’s greatest heroes is being invaded by the mighty Omega Titans! Psh Ollie can take them on his own!

Once the main series starts we get a lot more clarification as to what’s going on. Again I haven’t read Dark Nights Metal but this is the only scene where you really have a connection between the two stories. Now after the events of that comic, the Justice League apparently broke the Source Wall that was holding back the dark Multiverse and from these cracks came the Omega Titans. They are world eating creatures that consume planets when they tip their emotional spectrum too close to one.

Where is the Justice League?

Of course the plot doesn’t remain so simplistic as I make it sound. The series proper begins with a massive attack on Earth initiated by Braniac and his army of robots. The targets are all heroes and metahumans together and they are soon overwhelmed. While this is Braniac we are talking about, his motives aren’t completely good but not bad either. He lets the teams he’s created know about the Omega Titans and their next target, Colu. He goes on that Colu has displayed too much Wisdom and that these energies fuel seeds that will emerge into trees should the energy for one be greater than the rest. The reason he gathered all these heroes and villains was to split them and create a balance between energies so that the titans would have nothing to feed on. Of course this comes with a cost, if the teams are not able to save Colu, then a seed that Braniac left on Earth will grow and attract the titans next, sealing the fate of Colu and Earth.

Now Braniac is one of the most intelligent beings in the Universe, surely with him on their side this should be easy? Nope, thanks to the one woman who ruins everything, Amanda Waller. While Earth was being attacked she got permission to use her special anti Braniac contingency plan in the wake of the disappearance of the Justice League. She forces a bunch of psychics into Braniacs mind in order to shut him down, effectively killing him. Not only does she kill him but she does so right before he was to reveal how to energize the trees on Colu. Yep nice job, Waller.

Back on Earth we do follow up with Ollie and his hunt for Amanda who discovers the seed that Braniac was talking about in the arctic. The journey to this point is told elsewhere but due to Waller’s hacking of Braniacs mind, the seed on Earth was activated. With no Braniac to run to, it seems she doomed Earth herself.

Back on Colu the teams are not doing so well, not even when they find Braniac’s “son”. However none of this is able to help them save Colu, which is eventually consumed. Even Starro’s gallant sacrifice and brutal end are not enough to save Colu.. However they do manage to get all of Braniac’s collected worlds off planet, which will not doubt have some serious consequences later. By the end of the ordeal, Braniac 2.0 is revealed to have been working as a saboteur the entire time but Ollie gets word out to the Green Lantern Corp just in time. The various worlds are released into the void left in Colu’s wake, this is the making of something much larger in the future. For many of these worlds will be strangers to the universe, there’s so many thing that can be done with this that I hope the writers take full advantage.

 

 

The series ends with a seed charged by all four energies being shot at the Entropy titan and the other three beginning to feed on him, sating their hunger for hopefully a very long time. The crack in the source wall, the releasing of thousands of worlds from Braniac’s collection, a powerful item given to Oliver by Martian Man-hunter that could stop the Justice League if they get too powerful…these are all things that will change the Universe as we know it. So clearly the writers were not boasting when they hyped up this series, things will never be the same.

Green Arrow Victorious

Now what I really loved about this series was that there was really only one tie in, a Green Arrow one at that! Yeah yeah I’m a Green Arrow fanboy get over it. The Green Arrow Annual #2 written by the Benson sisters was a re telling of the events that lead up to Ollie being the only hero on Earth not in stasis after Braniac’s attack. The story was mostly him fighting long time baddie Brick and defended people from the skull ships. Yet, we get some awesome things afterwards like a team up with Batgirl. His attempt to save Dinah and the JLA is met with an awesome fight against robots tailored to the powers of the various JLA metahumans and we’re show just how strong a non powered hero can be.

After this fight the issue catches up to Ollie hunting down Waller in the arctic and ends with J’onzz giving Ollie the secret box. This responsibilty is clearly unwanted by Oliver but he doesn’t have much of a choice regarding it. It’s teased that this story and situation will be continued in Green Arrow 43 when the Benson sisters finally take over authorship of the series. I can’t wait…until August. As for the series as a whole, as I said it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in comics. Yet, it’s full of exciting fights and great team ups. The real star however is the implications left behind after the story ended. For those we will have to wait and see what DC has in store for us.

 

 

 

All images Courtesy of DC Comics

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