To say that DC had a good August would be understating things by quite a bit. The fact that they utterly trounced Marvel in overall marketshare for dollars and comics sold is impressive in itself. What’s really shocking is that the company managed this feat by shipping a third less books than its main competitor. No, there hasn’t been a whole lot of creative diversity or risk-taking in the “Rebirth” titles, but that doesn’t matter when you can ship two issues of “Batman” in a month. That might sound like sarcasm, but I want to make clear that it isn’t. DC needs a solid base with their superhero titles if they’re going to fund diversity elsewhere. I’m looking in the direction of their new Young Animal imprint and whatever’s going to become of Vertigo in the future. Also, overall comics sales for the month of August topped 10 million -- the first time that’s happened since the bubble era of the 90’s. A rising tide lifts all ships. Now let’s see if they can maintain this sustained growth through the end of the year.
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1&2 (of 6): The first major event series of the “Rebirth” era kicks off from a plot point that makes enough sense: What happens when the Justice League finds out about the Suicide Squad? I’d imagine that the heroes aren’t going to be all that happy to find out that the villains they’ve been turning in to be incarcerated are being put on a kind of “work release” program sponsored by the U.S. government. But, as these things go, I’m willing to bet that some huge threat will emerge that’s going to force the two teams to work together or the greatest good. Or there will be some kind of mind-swap craziness that will result in the two teams swapping bodies with each other. Is America ready for Batman in Harley Quinn’s body? This comes to us from Joshua Williamson, current writer of “The Flash,” who didn’t impress me at all with his creator-owned title “Nailbiter.” It at least has a solid artist in Jason Fabok, but I’m filing this series away in the “wait and see” corner of my mind.
DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1: I’m mentioning this because it contains a phrase I never thought I’d read regarding a DC comic: “Wonder Woman interrupting John Constantine’s hellblazing pagan party.” Part of me is morbidly curious and a little excited about this idea, and another part is just going, “NO! NO! NO! NO!” over and over again. There are numerous creators involved with this, so I’m not sure if it’s Paul Dini, Steve Orlando, James Asmus, Tim Seeley, or one of the other writers attached to this special who is responsible for the story in question. Now, if you told me that Brian Azzarello (who has written both Wonder Woman and John Constantine) was serving this up, I’d honestly be a lot more amenable to it.
Batman vol. 1: I Am Gotham: Tom King takes over from Scott Snyder, and it looks like DC is double-dipping by reprinting “Batman: Rebirth” here as well as in the final volume of the Snyder/Capullo run. While King has gained a lot of acclaim over the past year for his work on “The Sheriff of Baghdad,” “The Omega Men,” along with “The Vision” over at Marvel, he hasn’t really wowed me just yet. He’s a solid craftsman, and the stories he’s created are interesting enough. It’s just that they’re predictably downbeat as you can set yourself up to expect the worst for the characters in his stories and it’ll likely happen. “Batman” will be the first A-list character he’s tackled, and you can only have so much bad stuff happen to them before they have to be built up again. “I Am Gotham” has Bats butting heads with a new hero who takes his name from the city. Gotham, the hero, wants to save Gotham from its longtime protector. Which means that he’s either deeply misguided or a villain trying to setup the title character. Its within one of these familiar setups that King is going to have to find enough invention with which to impress me.
Superman vol. 1: Son of Superman: I wasn’t expecting to pick up a “Superman” title post-”Rebirth,” but the good word about Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run has convinced me to do just that. Mind you, we’re dealing with a fairly complicated setup here: This isn’t the “New 52” Superman, but the pre-”Flashpoint” one who is not only still married to Lois Lane, but a father as well. Now he’s back in the saddle again while he and his wife are faced with the difficult choice of whether or not to have their son hide their powers and live a normal life, or embrace his superheroic heritage. I’m betting on the latter, in case you were wondering. Even if that’s a foregone conclusion, the word is that Tomasi and Gleason have delivered a take on Superman that’s as straightforwardly heroic as you could hope for, and I’m all for that. Along with seeing the always-great Doug Mahnke tackle a couple issues in this collection as well.
Checkmate by Greg Rucka vol. 1: A super-powered espionage series from Rucka that explores the seamy underbelly of the DCU? Sign me up! I was really excited for this series when it was announced, and the first couple of volumes delivered on that promise. Then Rucka had the bright idea to do a storyline about the downfall of the most interesting character in the series: Amanda Waller. I don’t want to say that it’s telling that the series ended after the next arc (which was collected in an unrelated volume all about the villain Kobra)... but it totally is. Best to pick up this volume only and enjoy the series in its prime.
Astro City #41: This might seem like an unlikely number for an anniversary celebration, but it’s actually the one-hundredth issue of “Astro City” published across its many runs. Congrats to Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross on this milestone after all this time. Meanwhile, I’ll take this as a reminder to start getting caught up on this title and order vol. 3 from Amazon the next chance I get. I have no excuse, particularly since the first two volumes were as good as the series’ reputation had led me to believe.
Hellblazer vol. 15: Highwater: Reprinting the finale of Azzarello’s run, along with its arguable high point as well. The title story has John Constantine tracking down the wife of the man who killed himself and sent the magician to prison in the process, only to find that she’s taken up with a group of white supremacists. Said supremacists are also being funded by the mysterious S.W. Manor, who shares a sordid history with Constantine. The best thing about this story isn’t the supernatural vengeance that Constantine helps to wreak. Though that is pretty great since it involves a golem (being a figure of Jewish myth and all). No, what makes this story great is how Azzarello shows that while these supremacists are still pretty awful people as a result of their beliefs, they’re still human as well. Good parents in particular, which makes it both heartbreaking and satisfying to see the writer stick the knife in and twist it into their lives at the end.