Originally this was going to be about Geoff Johns’ ascent in the Warner Bros/DC Films hierarchy. The short version was that I generally saw this as a good thing, particularly if it allows for Johns to put his foot down if he didn’t like something that filmmakers were doing with Superman. He has done some really good stories featuring the character, after all.
Then spoilers regarding “Rebirth” #1 broke and one of them in particular is a lot more interesting to write about. The big reveal (which is all over the internet at this point so there’s no use worrying about spoilers) is that “Watchmen” is being brought into the continuity of the DC Universe. Specifically, Dr. Manhattan is revealed as the being responsible for the creation of the “New 52” and his presence will serve as an antagonistic force for the heroes of the DCU to push back against over the next couple of years. The other Watchmen aren’t mentioned, though speculation is that Johns has been seeding them into continuity under our noses with his runs on “Superman” and “Justice League.”
As a surprise reveal, this is top-class. I never thought that DC would actually do something like this in regards to one of their most respected works. Part of “Watchmen’s” appeal is that it’s a stand-alone work where you don’t have to worry about any of the superhero continuity that it’s now being made a part of. So I can’t deny that there’s a transgressive thrill to seeing them take this final step. In retrospect, it seems surprising that they didn’t do this sooner since it’s clear that they have no intention at all of ever returning these characters to Alan Moore.
Which brings us to the fact that “ethically bankrupt” is one of the nicer things I’ve read as a description for what DC is doing here. Apparently the massive trolling exercise of Alan Moore with “Before Watchmen” wasn’t enough and now Johns is effectively making the curmudgeon the force for grim and grittiness in this new story while he himself tries to bring light and optimism back to the DCU. Johns is a talented writer who has shown that he knows how to incorporate meta concepts quite well into his stories. I’m sure what he’s writing here may even be good.
It still doesn’t change the fact that DC’s treatment of one of the greatest writers in comics has been frankly abominable over these past few decades. Moore deserves better from the company and this is just one more kick in the nuts. Which is how I see it -- Moore probably couldn’t care less about “Watchmen” at this point. I passed on reading any of the “Before Watchmen” comics for this reason, and I’m going to do my best to avoid picking up any future stories that feature these characters in a prominent role. There are a lot of good intentions and ideas behind this “Rebirth” initiative at DC. However, the new comic from Johns shows that they are being built on the worst of business practices.
Now, here are some thoughts on comics that don't involve "Watchmen" (at least not yet anyway):
All-Star Batman #1: No, we’re never going to see the end of Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s “so bad it’s awesome” story. Instead we’re getting Scott Snyder taking a Bat-victory lap after his run on “Batman” with a series that digs into Batman’s rogues gallery and is illustrated a host of the industry’s best artists. First up is a Two-Face story with John Romita Jr. While that alone is enough to get me interested, I’ve also heard that this is going to be a road trip story that will take Batman way out of Gotham. Bring it on!
Suicide Squad Rebirth and #1: In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a movie based on these guys coming out the month these issues are scheduled to hit stands. So DC has paired up-and-coming writer Rob Williams, fresh off his acclaimed run on “Martian Manhunter,” with artists Phillip Tan and *drumroll* Jim Lee. Not sure if I’ll be picking this up, even though I’ve heard good things about Williams since he was writing for Marvel. I’ll have to give his Vertigo series “Unfollow” a shot to see what he’s really capable of. That said, putting Lee on this title shows that DC is serious about making this run of the “Squad” a big deal.
However, neither of these issues may wind up being the best story featuring the team this month. A decade after he made his return with “From the Ashes,” John Ostrander returns to the “Squad” with the extra-sized “War Crimes” one shot. The team is tasked with rescuing a retired American politician from testifying in a European trial where he’s likely to reveal some ugly truths about his home country. It sounds like the perfect morally ambiguous political setup for an Ostrander-written “Suicide Squad” story.
Batman #’s 4-5: Where we get two issues of art from David Finch in a single month. That may be what these solicitations say, but I find the odds of that actually happening only slightly less than Bruce Wayne entering the current election as a third party candidate. Expect some “Ch-ch-changes” before these issues hit stands.
Justice League #’s 2-3 and Justice League of America #12 and Annual #1: Remember what I said about this happening last month? Now I can say I TOTALLY CALLED IT!
Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard-Traveling Heroz #1 (of 6): You know, I didn’t think the previous “All-Star Section Eight” minseries did all that well for DC. Goes to show what I know as we’re getting a follow-up that shows us a fractured team and a road trip if the title is anything to go by. The solicitation text also strongly hints that John Constantine will be showing up to kick the story off. Which will be interesting since, after writing one of the better “Hellblazer” runs, Garth Ennis has been pretty dismissive of the character in recent years. Given that Constantine is now a citizen of the DCU, maybe he’s just showing up here so that Ennis can troll him about that. It’s also worth noting that the series is trading one trusted Ennis collaborator for another on art: John McCrea for Russ Braun. No worries there as Braun’s years with Ennis on the latter half of “The Boys” showed that both creators can do great work together.
The DC Universe by Neil Gaiman Deluxe HC: “Across the Universe,” the corresponding volume of miscellaneous DCU work from Alan Moore, is recommended for any fan of the writer or the characters he’s writing. This, well, Gaiman’s superhero work has never felt as seamless or effortless as Moore’s. He’s done some good stuff, like Marvel’s “1602,” but there has also been just as much that hasn’t worked, like his “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader” story featured here. Unless you’re a rabid Gaiman completist, make like Two-Face and flip a coin on this one.
The Flash by Mark Waid Book One: It’s worth noting that we got the collection of “Flash” stories from Grant Morrison and Mark Millar that ran in the middle of Waid’s legendary run on this title before this volume. Hailed by many as the run that helped make DC fun again and define the company’s publishing efforts in the late 90’s, we should’ve had this collected years ago. Unfortunately Waid left DC under a black cloud after his last return to the character and hasn’t been back since. The fact that we’re getting this at all is likely down to someone at DC going, “Well, we’re pretty much through reprinting all of the other definitive runs on our characters from major writers, so…” Or maybe this just slipped past Dan Didio’s attention in these solicitations and will be quietly cancelled before August rolls around. If this does make it out, it’ll going right into my library.