Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On the Shelf: Two old friends return, and more are coming attractions

Will Eisner's seminal hero, The Spirit, has gotten the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from fans, and, to some extent, Hollywood, in recent years. Frank Miller's ill-advised feature film adaptation a few years ago was an abomination from the go, rightfully panned. DC tried twice to make a Spirit book work, with an appearance in the First Wave miniseries, standing alongside Doc Savage & Batman, in between. The message from readers was, succinctly, time had passed the Spirit by.

Matt Wagner and Dynamite Entertainment would like to think this is not the case. For that reason, The Spirit has joined Dynamite's ever-growing lineup of licensed titles. Wagner is only writing the book, as I doubt he could adapt his style to emulate that of Eisner, in contrast to Darwyn Cooke, who wrote DC's 1st adaptation, and could've just as easily drawn the series, too. The Eisneresque artwork captures the aura of the series, which has but one major change. Ebony White, no longer the stereotyped African-American sidekick, is now grown up and a practicing private eye himself.  His mission? To find his missing mentor, presumed to be dead once and for all.

I may be in the minority with this series, but I'm willing to give it a chance. Rating: A.

The same, however, cannot be said for DC's relaunch of Martian Manhunter. I disagree with the idea that J'onn J'onzz, a character who's been around nearly 60 years, was sent here with malicious intent in mind, per the new origin given the character. This is filed under the premise of "everything you know is wrong", but the truth is, this reboot is wrong on so many levels. If you thought what they're doing with Superman was wack, this is even worse.

Rating: D. As in, Dead on arrival.

Come January, DC will be saying hello again to some old friends. 8 miniseries have been ordered, and while the artistic teams have not been announced yet (that won't be for another 3-4 months), the writers have, most of them sage veterans.

For starters, Len Wein will be reunited with one of his seminal creations, Swamp Thing. Wein, who contributed to the Before Watchmen collection of miniseries a couple of years ago, will also pen the return of the Metal Men. We'll have to see who gets to draw these books before considering an investment. Meanwhile, Amy Chu, who is winning raves for her work on the digital-first revival of Sensation Comics, which is again a secondary title for Wonder Woman, is being tasked to script a Poison Ivy miniseries that promises to be completely opposite of either of Harley Quinn's books. In other words, serious stuff. Aaron Lopresti is tapped to write, and probably could also draw, Metamorpho.

Firestorm will be in the hands of co-creator Gerry Conway, who's gotten back into comics recently after spending most of the last three decades writing for television (i.e. Father Dowling Mysteries, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit). Maybe Greg Berlanti should give him a call to help with Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. Just saying. Two 80's heroines will also be reunited with their original writers. Raven will be written by Marv Wolfman, who, like Conway, had done some TV work in recent years, but in cartoons (i.e. Dragon Tales), while Mike W. Barr tries to undo the damage done to Katana after her last series died a quick death due to a backlash over writer Ann Nocenti's diminishing skills in the eyes of fans.

The icing on the cake is Keith Giffen's grown-up take on Sheldon Mayer's Sugar & Spike. Yes, I said, grown-up. The toddlers you grew up with from 1956-71 are now adults, working as private eyes. Dare we even think they've fallen in love? Bear in mind, peeps, that these two were the original Rugrats back in the day. As noted, artistic teams will be announced when the solicitations for January books come out before Thanksgiving, if not sooner.

Edit: 7/8/15: It's been reported that artist Howard Porter, who collaborated with Giffen on the recent Justice League 3000, will draw Sugar & Spike. The remaining artistic teams will likely be revealed before November if they're willing to share now.

Which ones would I be interested in? Curiosity suggests Sugar & Spike, Poison Ivy, Metal Men, and either Firestorm or Metamorpho. We'll see come winter.

Marvel is trumpeting its "All-New, All-Different" line debuting in October, but the constant rebooting to #1 for the sake of first-issue collectors needs to be retired. Period. Didn't they learn anything from DC's "New 52"? Apparently not, and they don't care.

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