This is somewhat old news, but Shelly Bond, chief editor of Vertigo and a 23-year veteran of DC, was recently let go from the company. That might be putting things a bit too diplomatically. One of the things that is said to have led to her dismissal is the failure of the mass launch of Vertigo titles in the last quarter of 2015 to make any kind of impression sales-wise. A few critical and cult favorites have emerged, but none of them sold anywhere near what they would need to show that the imprint still had it after all these years. The writing for Vertigo would appear to be on the wall at this point.
So what’s the next step for “mature readers” titles at DC? The answer to that question would appear to be Gerard Way. The musician/comic book writer will be overseeing a new imprint of such titles under the name of Young Animal. While it’s assumed he’ll have input over all the titles -- including the Gotham-set “Mother Panic” and the in-continuity revamp of “Shade” from the “Changing Man” to the“Changing Girl” -- he’ll be co-writing the new “Doom Patrol” series and “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” which sounds bizarre in an intriguing way. (Mike Oeming will also be providing the art, so if anyone was expecting more issues of “Powers” in the future…) Thanks to Way’s work on “The Umbrella Academy,” I can at least be optimistic for the titles that he’s directly involved in. Whether or not he has the magic touch to make them all succeed… Well, let’s not be too hasty here. Having just one be a creative and sales breakout would be enough to be an improvement over what has (recently) come before.
Justice League: Rebirth # & Justice League #1: Worth noting because while Bryan Hitch will be writing and illustrating the “Rebirth” issue, it looks like Tony Daniel (and others, of course) will be handling the art chores for the ongoing series. It looks like Hitch’s current “Justice League of America” series impressed enough people at DC for him to keep writing the team, and also made them finally realize that he’s never going to be able to keep to a monthly schedule. That being said, are there any takers on whether or not the writer/artist will be able to finish the current series and draw the “Rebirth” issue before July? My magic 8-ball says, “It’s not in the cards.”
Batgirl #1: Written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque. Even if he’s just doing the first arc, Albuquerque’s presence makes it extremely unlikely that we’ll see the “Third Cycle” of “American Vampire” sometime this year. Keep your fingers crossed for 2017, I guess. In the meantime, DC at least has some stopgap plans for maintaining interest in this series…
The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1: Okay, so if “Rebirth” is all about getting back to the basics of what worked for DC’s characters, does this mean that the only shared universe John Constantine will be a part of will involve only characters who have appeared in other Vertigo series? If that’s the case, then I’ll actually start buying comics about his adventures again! It’s also worth noting that the writer for this series, Simon Oliver, was originally scheduled to take over “Hellblazer” after Andy Diggle departed. A dispute about royalties put paid to those plans and we got Peter Milligan instead. I liked Milligan’s run, but now Oliver possibly has the chance to show us what we missed out on from a proper follow-up after all these years.
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon HC: A few weeks back, “Wonder Woman: Earth One” finally arrived and showed us Grant Morrison’s modernization of the character’s origin. In September, DC will release this graphic novel from creator Jill Thompson reimagining the character’s early years. Hmmmmmmmm… Something tells me that DC’s right and left hands are not properly coordinating with each other here. The “Earth One” take on the character was alright, but not on par with Morrison’s best work. Can a female creator one-up the work of a man who read a lot of feminist theory before writing his? It would be equal parts great and hilarious if Thompson turned out the better graphic novel here. Granted, she doesn’t have a very high bar to clear here but there’s nothing on paper preventing this from turning out to be legitimately great.
Batman vol. 9: Bloom: I have to wait until SEPTEMBER to find out how Commissioner Gordon’s turn in the Bat-suit wraps up and how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again!? I’d complain more about this, but trade-waiting is really a first-world problem if there ever was one.
The Omega Men: The End is Here: This maxi-series has almost wrapped up in the present day without generating the sales to match its critical acclaim. It was almost cancelled at one point, until “great demand” caused DC to give it a reprieve and let it continue to its planned end. I’m willing to bet that this DEMAND came in the form of DC DEMANDING that Tom King take over writing duties on “Batman” and commit to an exclusive contract with the company. King likely DEMANDED right back that “The Omega Men” get its full twelve issues. In the end, both parties acquiesced to the others demands and everything was made right in the world. Looking forward to seeing what kind of story all of this DEMAND resulted in and thankful that it’s all being collected in one volume.
American Vampire Anthology #2: That “American Vampire” stopgap I mentioned earlier? That would be this. After all, it worked well enough during the last hiatus Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque took from the series. Even better is seeing Kieron Gillen as one of the contributing writers to this issue. He’s one of the very few writers in the industry who has yet to produce a story that I haven’t been entertained by (though “Vader Down” does come kinda close). So to see him contribute a story to this anthology is reason to get excited about it. Now I’m left to wonder what DC will be producing alongside this to make up the next volume in the series…
New Romancer: This six-issue (Wait, wasn’t it supposed to originally be 12?) miniseries from Peter Milligan and artist Brett Parson is collected. In it, a coder for a dating app winds up bringing one of history’s greatest lovers, Lord Byron, back to virtual life. This is strange even for someone like Milligan even if the art from Parson suggests that this could be fun. If the writer’s recent work were more consistent, I’d consider picking this up when it comes out. More likely is that I’ll wait until I come across it in a half-off bin somewhere.
Hellblazer vol. 14: Good Intentions: If you’re wondering how the original run of “Hellblazer” made it to issue #300, Brian Azzarello is a big part of that. The series had been suffering from standard attrition for years and had recently suffered a bout of negative publicity after its current writer, Warren Ellis, walked off the title after DC refused to publish the issue he wrote involving school shootings. I can only imagine the scrambling that must have taken place as the staff at Vertigo tried to find a replacement for him and wound up with the first American writer in the title’s history. “100 Bullets” hadn’t even finished its first year, so putting Azzarello was something of a gamble for the company.
Some people may disagree, but I think it’s one that worked out brilliantly for the series. Other writers have written better “Hellblazer” stories, but Azzarello wrote the most consistent and compelling run in the title’s history. He took John Constantine out of England and set him on a journey across America’s dark underbelly, starting with his time in prison for a murder he (actually) didn’t commit. Not only was the critical reception great, sales increased throughout Azzarello’s run -- a commercial high point that the series drifted down from until the end of its run. Great stuff, though not for the faint of heart. This volume is recommended for any fan of the character.