Friday, February 27, 2015

On the Shelf: Archie darkens its Circle, and other odd things

Long before Archie came on the scene, his namesake company was known as MLJ Comics, and, like just about everyone else in the Golden Age, they were doing superhero comics. However, when Archie Andrews arrived on the scene, he quickly became the company's number one star, and, of course, the rest was history.

Characters like The Shield and Steel Sterling would be brought back from time to time, each time to increasing indifference from a marketplace that now saw them as 3rd rate, or lower. Archie Comics even went so far as to license the characters, albeit rebooted for a new generation, to DC in 1991, but the ultimate result was the same, despite some nice stories and artwork.

In recent times, after reacquiring the likes of The Black Hood and others, Archie has tested the waters anew. The success of their mature-readers takes on Archie and Sabrina to this point has prompted the publisher to rechristen their Red Circle line as Dark Circle, hoping against hope that the dark, gritty look of the 90's still resonates with today's readers.

Black Hood is the first to roll out under the Dark Circle umbrella. The artwork recalls a former Hood artist, Gray Morrow, and one panel of his was lifted for the first issue, to illustrate the fact that the former Hood, Kip Burland, is dead, and a disfigured Philadelphia cop has become the new Hood. The coarse language is new for Archie, in an attempt to inject some realism into the storyline. Too many f-bombs, however, dilute that goal. My brother thought the art was a swipe of Alex Maleev, but the roots go further than that. We'll see how this plays out in the long term.

Rating: B.

When we reviewed "Guardians of the Galaxy" last August, I mentioned that Marvel's original Guardians, introduced in 1968, had been left out, save for Yondu, rebooted as a bounty hunter. Realizing that there was bound to be a backlash from older readers, Marvel decided to reboot the original version of their galactic super-team, hence Guardians 3000, which launched in November. On a whim, I bought the first four issues, but found the artwork to be a bit too busy for my tastes. With Marvel rebooting everything this summer, thanks to a reboot of Secret Wars, it'll be interesting to see how far this goes. I wanted to like this, as I like the story to a certain extent, but the art just doesn't move me.

Rating: C.

DC's current Catwoman series has generated controversy since the relaunch in 2011. Current scripter Genevieve Valentine, a newcomer to DC, has pushed the envelope even further with the announcement on her blog, and making the rounds of the press since issue 39 dropped on Wednesday, that Selina Kyle, insofar as Valentine is concerned, swings both ways. In other words, she's a bisexual.


The first hints of this, I think, might've been during Frank Miller's Batman: Year One arc back in 1987. Miller's vision had Selina, with a very short haircut, as a dominatrix. A male patron, not shown, whined, "Why do you hate us?", to her. To me, that wasn't the Catwoman I grew up reading and watching. As a writer, Miller has fallen off the rails often in recent times, but one must wonder if Valentine was inspired by that story. And they now say it's canonical? I for one am interested in how the majority of readers feel about this twist.

After crossovers with fellow Hanna-Barbera icons The Flintstones & The Jetsons in the last two issues, Scooby-Doo will welcome Jonny Quest to DC in issue 10 of Scooby-Doo Team-Up, out in May. This was inevitable after Dr. Benton Quest made an appearance on Mystery Incorporated during season 2. Now, all we need is Dynomutt and a few other H-B heroes to make the scene. The first six issues have been collected in a trade paperback, out now, by the way. Hit & miss, that's all I'll say.


magicdog said...

I am so PO'd about this bisexual revelation for Catwoman! I'm sick and tired of all this "gender preference lifting" that's been going on in long established and beloved comics characters. There's a reason most comics publishers will NOT be getting any cash from me!

Selina as far as I remember, was never "butch" and certainly didn't hate men per se - she hated people who hurt animals.

hobbyfan said...

Yea, we can blame Frank Miller. Selina was perfectly cast as an animal rights activist in the Batman cartoons of the 90's, and that's the way her comics persona should be, IMPO, with her being a female Robin Hood covered by her public persona as an activist.