Sunday, July 10, 2011

DCU Reading List (before and after the relaunch)

Now that the details of the DC 'non-reboot' (as they want to phrase it) have had a little time to sink in, I want to have a look at how the relaunch will be affecting my reading list.
To start, I will list the DC titles I have been reading regularly within the past year. A few of these titles were actually cancelled in recent months (even before the news of the relaunch was released), but they are titles I followed with much enjoyment, and given the characters involved are also part of the relaunch in some form, I feel they merit recognition in my list[1]. In addition, there are two titles that were actually mini-series. They only ran for a year, but they were bi-weekly titles so each one had twenty four issues published (which is the equivalent of two years worth of a monthly series) and thus I feel like these also merit inclusion[2].

Current DC Reading List
Batgirl - This is a title I only started picking up recently (with issue 14) and have really been enjoying. When the current series finishes up August, it will be with the 24th issue (meaning I will have read a total of 11 issues of this incarnation of the title).
Batman The Dark Knight - This series has been beset with so many delays that I'm frankly sick of it. I've only read the first TWO issues to this point even though the first issue came out in December 2010. Beyond ridiculous.
Batwoman - I read the intial story arc in Detective Comics by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III and would be reading the regular Batwoman series if it had not been delayed. I am counting it as part of my current reading list because it would be on it if DC had not decided to push it back (in other words, I don't want it to count just as a new book in the relaunched DCU because it was announced prior to that and was supposed to have debutted before it as well).
Birds of Prey - I've been reading this title since back when Chuck Dixon was writing it. Black Canary is one of my favorite characters (definitely in my top 10 and quite possibly in my top 5). I stopped reading the title briefly after Gail Simone left it the first time, but I jumped back on board when they relaunched it recently with Gail back at the helm.
Brightest Day[2] - This is one of the series that followed up Blackest Night. It was a mini-series that ran bi-weekly for a year (thus 24 issues were published) and followed a number of characters, among them Dove and the resurrected Hawk.
Gotham City Sirens - I used to regularly read the Catwoman series (in trade form) prior to its cancellation. This was somewhat of a replacement for that title and I have been reading it since it started two years ago.
Green Lantern - A staple in my reading list and probably one of DC's most consistently good over the past several years.
Justice League Generation Lost[2] - This is another series that followed up Blackest Night. It also ran bi-weekly for a year (24 issues) and featured Justice League members who were part of the Giffen/DeMatteis run (along with Captain Atom who was part of Justice League Europe during the aforementioned run).
Madame Xanadu[1] - This is a series that fell under the Vertigo banner at the time, but given a number of characters from the Vertigo books are being pulled back into the DCU and the fact that Madame Xanadu is appearing in not one but two of the new series in the DC relaunch, this one now counts for comparative purposes.
Supergirl - This is another title I only started picking up recently (with issue 60) and have also been enjoying. When the current series finishes up in August, it will be with the 67th issue (meaning I will have read a total of 7 issues of this incarnaton of the title).
Teen Titans - This is a series I started picking up with issue 88 (when JT Krul and Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood came aboard as the new creative team). This series will be finishing its run with its 100th issue in August (so I will have read 13 issues of that incarnation of the series).
Wildcats - I have been reading the various incarnations of Wildcats for years and years. I think my favorite of them all was Joe Casey's Wildcats Version 3.0, which I believe was the last series before Grant Morrison and Jim Lee were supposed to relaunch it. That never quite got off the ground (I think the first issue was published and then it was delayed to such a point that Wildstorm decided to launch it again with a new creative team). The series has been really awful the last couple of years (with the whole World's End direction), but I'm such a big fan of Grifter and Zealot and the rest that I continued to partake of it even though I really disliked it (yes, I know how stupid that is).
Wonder Woman - DC has made so many mis-steps with this series that it is really frustrating. The most recent new-direction that started under Straczynski (though he jumped ship rather quickly) has been forgettable. This is one title I am glad DC is relaunching because it is just a mess right now.
Zatanna - Zatanna is a character I haven't really thought all that much about one way or the other over the years, but given the creative team that launched the series (Paul Dini and Stephane Roux), I had to check it out. It has been a very entertaining series and I've enjoyed it quite a bit (and that is even with the recent departure of Dini and Roux).

Okay, so we have 14 titles in all from what we are considering the regular DCU (since many Vertigo characters and the Wildstorm characters are being folded in now) that I have been reading on a regular basis.

Now let's have a look at my proposed reading list for the new DCU. I am actually going to break it out into two separate lists. The first list is titles that I have high expectations for and believe I will be sticking with for the long haul (assuming they all sell well enough to survive). The second list is titles that I will be checking out, but don't really have good expectations for and figure that I likely will not be reading them some six or twelve months after the relaunch. Obviously I could be surprised by one or two of them and they might actually be enjoyable enough to keep reading, but I have serious doubts that will happen.
So let's have a go at it.

Expected DC Reading List
Batman - I have been hearing a lot of good things about Scott Snyder's current work on Detective Comics. I have very much enjoyed his work on the Vertigo title American Vampire. As he is moving over to the main Batman title with the relaunch, this seems like a good time to check it out.
Batwoman - I already mentioned above that I've been planning to get this series since it was first announced. Hopefully with the delay they put on the title, JH Williams III and Amy Reader have had ample time to get well ahead on this series.
Green Lantern - Already noted that this has consistently been one of DC's better books that I have been enjoyed for many years.
Grifter - I mentioned above that I am a big fan of Grifter so I am definitely onboard with this new series (though I have to admit that I have some minor reservations about what has been solicited on it --- I'm not sure how close to the Grifter character I really like this incarnation is going to be).
Justice League - I read Justice League for a good while previously, but when DC pulled all the A-List characters off the team several years back and didn't let Dwayne McDuffie tell the stories that he wanted, I decided I wasn't happy with the direction of the title so I stopped reading it. I'm looking forward to this relaunch, though I do have concerns about Jim Lee's ability to maintain the monthly schedule with the art.
Justice League International - The band is back together and I'm along for the ride. Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, and Batman (I do find it a little odd Batman is participating in both the main JL team and this one), are joined by Vixen, Rocket Red, Guy Gardner and August General in Iron. Also helped by the fact Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan are handling the art chores.
Justice League Dark - I have to admit that I initially was on the fence about this title. But after reading comments by the series writer Peter Milligan, I decided it sounded like it would be a quality book. And since it features Madame Xanadu and Zatanna as part of the cast (and those two were carrying titles in my current DC reading list), it only made sense that I should be reading it.
Legion Lost - I like the Legion of Super-Heroes. But you will notice it is not on my current DC reading list. It used to be. I've ready various incarnations of the title over the years and I was reading the Waid and Kitson relaunch. After they left the title, I was about to quit it myself, but then DC hired Jim Shooter to write it so I stuck around. I actually wasn't all that excited by his first couple of issue because he had a different take on some of the characters, but the stories he was telling were intriguing enough to keep me around. But then Dan Didio decied to fire him and left us with an abomination of a series ending (you still owe me $3.00 for that final issue Didio - it wasn't what was solicited and was an absolute piece of garbage). I checked out the first five issues of Paul Levitz's relaunch of the book that immediately followed and did not like it, so that was the end of my Legion reading at the time. Levitz is still writing the Legion of Super-Heroes title that is part of DC's September relaunch, but it is pretty much the same thing he has already been doing, so I'm not coming back for that.
Legion Lost is a different beast altogether. It features seven Legion members who come back to the present day DCU on a mission and are then unable to return to their own time. One of the seven members is Timber Wolf, who happens to be my favorite Legion member. And this title isn't written by Paul Levitz. Add that all together, and this is a Legion series I am interested in.
Supergirl - Already mentioned that I recently started picking up Supergirl so I will be in for this relaunch. It sounds like the character is going to have a different attitude that the current incarnation, so there does exist a chance I might not like this version and end up dropping the book. I'm keeping a positive outlook though, which is why this title is on this list and not the second one.
Voodoo - Another title featuring a character from the Wildcats. There has been no mention of the Wildcats as part of the relaunch (though I have to imagine DC has plans to do something with them at some point in the future), so this title and Grifter are the only opportunity I have to read about the Wildcat characters that I like. I have no idea if this character has any current ties to Grifter or whether there are plans for them to join up in near future. Guess I will just have to read to find out what happens.
Wonder Woman - This one is on my current reading list and I'm very excited to see what Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have in store for the character.

So we have 11 titles I'm expecting to like and continue reading in the DC relaunch. That is a net loss of 3 series (there were 14 titles in my current reading list). Not a good sign. And of these 11 series, there is only 1 title that is completely outside of the family of books I was already reading. That title is Legion Lost. I did not have any Legion of Super-Hero titles on my current reading list. Everything else was represented in some manner. I had a Batman title. Had Batwoman. Had Green Lantern. Had a Justice League title (even though it was a mini-series of sorts). Had Supergirl. Had Wildcats. Had Wonder Woman. So in effect, DC is selling me fewer titles and hasn't really put me into any new areas.

But we'll have a look at the second list. This is where DC may be able to make some in-roads and either get back up to the same count (14 titles) or perhaps even higher. Remember, this is a list of titles I am going to try out but do not expect will have long term appeal to me for various reasons.

Potential DC Reading List
Batman The Dark Knight - Yes I'm already reading it (well, at least the two issues that have seen publication so far), but given all the delays the series has already experienced, I have serious doubts David Finch is going to be able to maintain anything resembling a respectable publishing schedule. If it falls off schedule the same way again, then I'm kicking it to the curb.
Captain Atom - I read and very much enjoyed the Captain Atom series back in the late 80s/early 90s. I also enjoyed the Justice League Europe series, of which he was a big part. The reason this title is on this particular list is just that I'm not sure DC can catch lightning in a bottle twice. Or at least not catch the lightning in a bottle that is going to have a strong enough appeal for me personally. I just don't think this series is going to give me that same sort of feeling I had back when I was reading that previous Captain Atom series.
Catwoman - You would think, given I read the previous Catwoman series and have Gotham City Sirens on my current reading list that I would very much be looking foreward to this series. Unfortunately, given comments I have read from series writer Judd Winick, I don't think this particular incarnation of the character is going to have the same appeal. Here are some of Winick's comments regarding the character in an interview he did with CBR: She's someone who is very aware of her sexuality, and we're letting her stay aware of it! [Laughs] On top of that is the fact that's she's not actually a superhero, nor is she a bad guy. She's a thief. She steals things. As we said in some of the copy floating around, she's addicted to danger. She's addicted to spontaneity. When she steals, she steals for the thrill of it. She doesn't steal so she can sock the money away and one day wind up on some tropical island retired. She blows through the money pretty quickly; she can't help herself, that's who she is.
That just doesn't sound like the Selina I've grown to like over the years. In fact, though there have been a lot of mentions that the Batman books are mostly staying the same through the relaunch, I'm curious if Selina still knows who Batman is under the cowl. Given these changes to her character as described by Winick, I'm not entirely certain that part of their history is being maintained. I'm just not getting a good feeling about this title, so my expectation is I'm not going to be sticking with it long.
Deathstroke - Deathstroke is another one of those titles I read back in the 90s and enjoyed quite a bit. That was the Wolfman scripted and Irwin illustrated Deathstroke series. I'm not really sure what to expect from this new incarnation, but I rather doubt it is going to strike the same sort of chord the original series did.
Demon Knights - I actually have little interest at all in the character of the Demon. In fact, the only reason I am checking this title out is because it also features Madame Xanadu. Since this series actually occurs in the Dark Ages (as opposed to the current day DCU), that adds a little more enticement. But if there is too much Demon and not enough Madame Xanadu in this series, I won't be hanging around.
Hawk and Dove - I really want to read a Hawk and Dove series and it has been way too long since DC has had a monthly series for this twosome. This series would be on the other list if it were not for one not-so-small detail. Rob Liefeld is drawing it. He drew the original limited series, and I admit that back in the late 80s/early 90s I was one of those comics fans who really liked his work. That isn't the case anymore though. I find his work mostly laughable now (what can I say, my tastes have changed -- for the better I think). Add to that, Liefeld has a poor track record in recent years in regards to his ability to meet any sort of regular schedule. If another artist was attached to this series, it would absolutely be in the other list. I'm checking it out just because there is the outside chance that Liefeld will fall back to his 'unable-to-meet-deadlines' ways and will quickly be replaced as artist on the series. Kind of sad that I'm hoping for that (I have nothing personal against Liefeld, I just don't want him drawing the comics that I want to read).
Savage Hawkman - I am a longtime Hawkman fan and have been reading Hawkman in various incarnations over a couple of decades. My favorite version was the Tim Truman Hawkworld incarnation. I somewhat liked the most recent series and really grew to like the new Hawkgirl - Kendra Saunders. Unfortunately DC killed her off during the Blackest Night/Brightest Day story and it doesn't appear she will be a part of this new Hawkman series. DC has botched so many different Hawkman series in the past that it is tough to expect them to do any different with this one. As I don't expect it will be anywhere near as good as the Hawkworld incarnation and without Kendra Saunders, I just don't think I'm going to like it.
I, Vampire - There are a couple of things working against this title. First, I am already reading a vampire series (American Vampire) and thoroughly enjoying it. So I don't really need another vampire title. And if this one doesn't at least match the quality of American Vampire, there is no reason to stick with it. The second reason is that I'm not sure how the art on this series is going to look. If the artist who did the cover for the first issue (Jenny Frison) was doing the interior art, then I would have a lot of reasons to stick with this series. Unfortunately, she is not the series artist.

So here we have 8 titles that could potentially crack my regular reading list, but are likely not to hit the right note with me. If three of them can somehow make a good enough case for themselves, then the net effect is that I will be reading the same number of DCU titles as I was prior to the relaunch. Somehow I don't think that is what DC really had in mind. I think DC wanted readers to be picking up more of their titles, not fewer.

Let's look, at what we've lost here.
Batgirl is gone (a title I just recently started reading). I happen to like Barbara Gordon (she is one of the reasons I read Birds of Prey), but I'm just not really excited about the prospect of her being back in the uniform again. I know I've only recently come to the title, but I happen to like the current Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) and I'd like to keep reading her adventures.
Birds of Prey is gone (yes - you read that right, Birds of Prey did not make either list). Black Canary is one of my favorite characters. But from what I'm seeing in this relaunch, this isn't a title I want to read. Yes, I do want to read Black Canary stories. Not this way though. Huntress is gone. Zinda (Lady Blackhawk) is gone. Barbara Gordon (Oracle) is gone. That is the Birds of Prey team I want to read about. Not Poison Ivy (why would Dinah be working with her?? --- or is this one of those changes that affects the Batman books wherein Poison Ivy's history isn't quite the same and maybe she wasn't the level of villain we've seen previously) and Katana and some other unnamed character. And here is something I really don't understand --- if Barbara Gordon's history is still mostly the same (she was Oracle, DC has already made that clear), then if she is now able to walk again and return to being Batgirl, why in the hell wouldn't she be working with her best friend (Dinah) and the rest of the Birds of Prey squad?? Those guys are like her family. So why wouldn't she be sharing adventures with them????? And then there is this comment from Duane Swierczynski, the new series writer: This time, everyone is after the Birds of Prey — the bad guys, the cops, the mob, the CIA, the Yakuza... and even some good guys, as well. Really? This is where you're going with the title, DC? No thanks. I'm out.
Teen Titans is gone. Again, this is another series (like Batgirl) that I had only recently begun reading (I did read Teen Titans many years ago, but it has been a while since I was a regular reader). The main impetus for my having started reading the series again was Nicola Scott taking over the pencilling chores and also because I wanted to read more of Ravager's story. I learned more about her through some of the Blackest Night tie-ins and wanted to follow her story. I don't really care about Superboy at all and don't have much interest in Wonder Girl or any of the Robins (I do like Nightwing and he is part of the reason I read Teen Titans many years ago). So with this new incarnation of the Teen Titans not featuring Ravager and the prominent players being Superboy, Red Robin, and a new incarnation of Wonder Girl, there is nothing here for me.

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