Apr 25, 2019
DC’s Convergence re-relaunch: The bottom 5
Putting together this list was a lot harder than putting together the positive one, which I suppose is to DC’s credit. When the rundown of the new post-Convergence titles was first released, there were a few questionable looking books on there: Prez, Bizarro, Bat-Mite, those sorts of things. I was already kind of formulating this thing the moment I became aware of them.
But then DC impressed me with their foresight; those are all mini-series. Every one of them. Not secret short runs that the publisher is pretending are ongoing series in order to hedge their bets (I’m looking at you, Marvel and Iron Patriot). At worst, they’re nice little self-contained stories that exist to put out feelers to see if there might be interest in more. One of these minis, Section Eight (which was going to top this list before I found out what it was) gives the sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be a backdoor way of reintroducing Hitman (whose book they were most tied to in the old universe) to this universe, which given how much I loved that book, I am all in favor of.
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But suddenly, this list got a lot harder to put together. I had to be a little bit more analytical about this whole thing. I kind of liked that. It’s good to stretch the muscles every once in a while. It also made me feel better about DC’s new direction—for a company that famously has an online counter that measures how long it’s been since they did something stupid, that gets reset regularly, they put out an interesting list full of lots of titles I hope to see good things from.
They can’t all be winners though, so here are the five books I think DC is going to struggle with. Quite a few of them I actually want to see succeed, but even I’ll admit they have an uphill battle ahead of them.
5: Justice League of America
You think I’ve gone mad, haven’t you? On paper, this looks like the most prestige title of the new launches, and has a lot of stuff I usually like going for it, not the least of which is having Bryan Hitch, the peerless artist behind such books as all the volumes of The Ultimates worth reading, both drawing and writing the thing. But that’s where my worries come in.
Not so much with Hitch writing the book; that I’m interested in. Rather, it’s the little bits and pieces I’ve heard about the process itself, mostly that Bryan has apparently been working on this for approximately two years. That sent up red flags for me right away. This relaunch, among other things, is supposed to be about making the New 52 a more cohesive-feeling universe. Just how connected to everything can this book be if the creator has been allowed a two-year head start?
I also worry about how long Hitch will be sticking around. One of the things that ruined the whole New 52 thing in the first place was the constant reshuffling of creators. A classic example of this was Ales Kot, a writer I’ve gushed about previously, being installed as the new writer of Suicide Squad with issue #20, setting up subplots and new team members for his run, before leaving four issues later, with little explanation and only a Tumblr post saying goodbye.
The previous Justice League run was thankfully removed from all this. Yes, there was a revolving door of artists involved, but sadly, that’s just to be expected in modern mainstream comics. More importantly, Geoff Johns was the only writer to touch that book for its entire run, and if nothing else, it felt like the consistent vision of one person. This, to me, feels like twelve issues, tops.
It comes in at number five on the list because, if nothing else, I’m expecting it to be good comics. I’m just going into it cautiously, for all the reasons already stated.
4: Harley Quinn/Power Girl
Another book I’m putting low because, personally, it ticks a lot of boxes. Harley Quinn is great, her previous solo book was pretty well-received, and I’m a bit of a tart for buddy comics. From Power Man/Iron Fist to Captain America and the Falcon to my beloved, dearly missed Cable & Deadpool, the superhero duo (which is different from the hero/sidekick dynamic, but that’s a different conversation) is a genre that needs better representation these days. So I really want to like this one. But… more red flags.
The first is that it comes packed with not one, not two, but three writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, who were behind the wheel for Harley’s last run, along with Justin Gray. I always get suspicious when the number of writers on anything goes above two. It looks less like something people are invested in creatively and more like something made by committee. This is a very personal bias, and I’ll own up to that. But it’s there, and if I didn’t put it down as a reason this book concerns me, I wouldn’t be honest.
The other reason? This thing just looks fucking weird. I’m not put off by weird. Hell, if you were to look at Luke Cage and Danny Rand individually, you’d never think they’d have chemistry together, but it obviously existed. This pairing, on the other hand, just looks like somebody turned on a wrestling game, picked “tag team mode” and then hit “random”. Power Girl was already in a duo comic (World’s Finest with Huntress), and that book was good. I don’t get why you’d put a stop to something that was already working to take a chance on something else.
I’m not putting this on the list because Midnighter is gay. I hate the fact that I even had to write that, but this is the internet, where if anybody has to assume anything about you, it will always be negative, so let’s just put that out there in plain text. If anything, that fact is one of the reasons I hope for good things for this title: a gay lead, being written by an openly gay man (Steve Orlando), with said lead also being a compelling blend of ferocious intelligence and often psychotic violence. There’s a lot to love here.
So why is it on this list? One reason: The DC/Wildstorm merger. For whatever reason, it’s not taking. The integration of Vertigo headliners like Swamp Thing and Animal Man was handled with more grace than the company has managed with Wildstorm so far.
To be fair to DC, they haven’t brought out the big guns for it. They gave Grifter a go, but that character is such a relic of the ‘90s that his outfit should have been a Spice Girls t-shirt, and Stormwatch wasn’t Stormwatch, not really; it was a compromised animal seemingly being handled by people who were afraid of what made it what it was. They’ve not pulled the trigger on WildCATS yet, nor Gen13, which baffles me given how the use of Gen13’s Caitlin Fairchild in the early issues of the Superboy relaunch was, in my opinion, the best example of what I’m talking about here. I’m hoping hard that this comic reverses the trend, but I can only work with what’s in front of me, and what’s in front of me doesn’t bode well for poor Midnighter.
2: Red Hood/Arsenal
Yes, it’s another buddy book, and yes, I’ve already said I like them and blah blah blah. I don’t want to talk about that again. I want to talk about Scott Lobdell.
If you were one of the younger crowd who came to DC through the hype of the New 52, you’ve probably heard a lot of negative things about Scott Lobdell, and just assumed that’s all there is to him. I can’t say I blame you. I myself enjoyed his work on Superboy, and I think taking him off that title was a disaster, but I’m kind of in the minority there. His Teen Titans was just sort of there, and Red Hood and the Outlaws was a disaster on almost every level.
He’s always been very inconsistent. Back in 2004, he was attached to an Alpha Flight relaunch over at Marvel. Oh my fucking Christ, was that book terrible. It took beloved, if admittedly minor characters, and played them for laughs, which would have been fine if it was actually funny, which it wasn’t. Not a page of it. So in the end, it was the comic book equivalent of an echo chamber, appealing to nobody, and being read by no one.
But when he’s on, you get Generation X, also for Marvel. If you’ve never read Generation X, read Generation X. Only the Scott Lobdell issues, though. During the mid-‘90s, one of Marvel’s most creatively moribund periods, he and artist Chris Bachalo took a group of young mutants, most of which were new, some of which came to him established as a bit of a joke (hello, Jubilee), and created such a singularly wonderful comic that nobody else wants to touch it. I mean, yes, other writers tried to pick up the reigns when Lobdell and Bachalo left: Larry Hama, Jay Faerber… I mean, they gave it to Brian Wood working from an outline put together by Warren fucking Ellis, and… no. It was Lobdell’s vision, and it walked out the front door with him. It was cancelled with issue #75, and Marvel hasn’t tried to relaunch it since. Let that sink in.
What does this have to do with Red Hood/Arsenal? Nothing, really. I just want that Scott Lobdell back.
This book reeks of damage control. His handling of Starfire infuriated people, so they removed her and gave the leftovers back to him so he can have fun with his little boys’ club. He walked away from one comic when he was producing his best work, and now you can’t tear him away from one where he’s producing what some people consider his worst.
Wow, that was cathartic. If only I was ending this list there. And also, if only I was done with Scott Lobdell.
I didn’t read Lobdell’s run on Superman. I don’t know what he did with Doomsday, or what Doomsday even is anymore. All I know is this somehow spins out of that, and… what is this? What am I looking at?
Teenage Doomsday. Teenage Doomsday.
…I can’t write. I can’t be articulate while looking at this thing. All I will say is, this book has to be good. Generation X good. That’s the only way this thing has any sort of hope.
Teenage Doomsday. Fuck’s sake.