The Watchtower 1.7.04: Crystal Ball

Happy Sunday afternoon, friends; I’m currently recovering from a respectable fourth place finish in the 2004 Beer-Olympics Winter Games (if you really want to know, ask…and if you’re under 15 years old, ask your parents, not me), watching the Packers try to claw their way back against the Seahawks. I’m in good shape already in NFL land, of course, since both my beloved Patriots and my almost equally beloved Eagles are already Super Bowl bound as far as I can tell; the hardest thing will be choosing who to root for (and confirming the results of next week’s games while I’m in jolly old England).
Meanwhile, my good friend and valued employee, Tim Stevens (not to be confused with that Tim Sheridan scaliwag) is spending the weekend in New York City with his lovely and intelligent girlfriend (whose name I will not give out here as we here at 411Comics refuse to place our friends and loved ones in danger of having to deal with you autograph hounds and paparazzi). As thus, he was unable to file his usual award-winning DC News & Views report this Saturday and I assured him I would cover him. Luckily, we’re still in that haven of all lazy internet writers called “the new year,” in which we can write eighty-five retrospective/prediction/top ten columns and it’s all good, bay-bee! (NFL update: Green Bay just blew the field goal, we’re going to overtime, and Boston-boy Matt Hasselbeck just earned my respect and loyalty by winning the toss and yelling “we want the ball and we’re gonna score!”)
In my Watchtower last week, I took a look at Wizard‘s projected top ten events for 2004. To cover for Un Gajje, I figured I’d just go over the rest of the DC preview section in Wizard and offer quick thoughts on what lies ahead for everybody’s favorite titles (NYX & Batgirl are not among my favorite titles, but they are somebody’s, so I will indeed tell you what I think lies ahead for everybody‘s favorite titles). However, between training for and competing in Beer-Olympics (again, long story…but we finished 4th, not bad), I did not get a chance to get the DC News & Views done in time, so I figured, what the heck, let’s go for the full monty, DC and Marvel (sorry CrossGen, Image, Dark Horse, manga, etc. fans…me trying to write about those titles is like me writing a comprehensive history of Melrose Place…that’s right, it would be too glorious and I would need to immediately retire afterwards). So let’s take a trip BACK to the future (work with me) and figure out what’s going to be the Formerly Known As The Justice League of 2004 and what will be the Human Defense Corps; what will be the Supreme Power and what will be the Rawhide Kid, Marville, Namor…hmm, this is going to be much harder with Jemas gone; and most importantly: will Aquaman actually become good? Come with me on this fantastic voyage, boys and girls…
(NFL Update: Well, that sure came back to bite you, Hasselbeck…looks like Green Bay are indeed the team of destiny…until next week, boys, prepare to face the great black Irish QB in history and the three/possibly two-headed monster of Staley/Westbrook/Buckhalter and head back to cheeseland)
(NOTE: Did I just promise to cover every title on this list? Holy crap…I did. Ok, look, I’m a man of my word…but there are a damn lot of titles on this list and while I read many comics, I don’t know the first thing about half of them…so look for my commentary to get more zany and scattershot as I descend further into madness as we go! Let’s go!)

Superman Titles (DC)
As has become something of a tradition in this column, I once again refer you back to one of my previous Watchtowers for my thoughts of the Superman revamp. But here’s some new stuff from Wizard and elsewhere:

-Chuck Austen says he’ll be bringing back Magog to the pages of Action Comics. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Magog was introduced in the sequel to Mark Waid & Alex Ross’ classic Kingdom Come, The Kingdom; he was a priest in a church dedicated to Superman in the KC future until a combination of the big guy unintentionally telling him he had wasted his life worshipping him (cos he’s no god) and the Phantom Stranger doing a weird mind whammy on him made him go nuts, dress up like KC character Gog, become wicked powerful and start killing alternate versions of Superman and trying to kill his and Wonder Woman’s son until he was stopped by the future and present versions of Supes, WW and Batman. To the best of my knowledge, that was Magog’s only appearance; the story itself was pretty awful, but Magog had potential in the sense that he actually has a feasible, if twisted, reason for hating Superman. I hope Austen focuses on the reasons behind Magog’s hatred of Superman instead of just bringing him in because he looks cool and he can drop KC references.

-Greg Rucka is promising a new villain with a “unique take on why Superman must be destroyed,” Clark working the crime beat, and several new supporting cast characters, many in the Metropolis SCU (Special Crimes Unit), including a “crazy new lieutenant who wastes no time in butting heads with the Man of Steel.” Not much new to report here from the last time I covered Rucka’s takeover of Adventures of Superman, but I hope he remember to check in on Supes’ classic supporting cast members while adding his own; past writers have made the mistake of disregarding Perry, Jimmy and anybody else after Lois in the pecking order and suffered the consequences.

-Not much new info on the Azzarello/Lee Superman, so see my past comments from the column linked above and also the one from last week.

-I’ve got to comment quickly on the rumor brought up in this week’s All The Rage. I won’t go into detail both because I don’t want to spoil anybody who hasn’t read it and because I still think it’s a bit early to take this as the gospel (though Markisan generally does a pretty good job over there). This is the type of thing I might have thought was cool when I was much younger, but now I just see it as counterproductive, the type of “big event” that the Superman books have fallen back on for the last decade and need to get away from, focusing more on the character. It does address the problem of needing one consistent version of the character, but not in a way I think will please readers; I think it might also hurt sales as readers will be more apt to drop one title when the inevitable crossover comes rather than pick up the other two. More on this as it develops (or doesn’t).

Spider-Man Titles (Marvel)

JMS is going to deal with some fallout from Amazing Spider-Man #500, along with guest co-writer Fiona Avery, featuring Loki, then, again according to today’s All The Rage, Straczynski plans to do some more “serious” Spidey stories, after doing a lot of humor stuff for the past year or so. Good move, says I; Spidey at his best is not pure laughs or pure tragedy, it’s the two overlapping and accentuating. JMS’ work on the title was at his best right when he started out and dealt with the bigger issues behind what Spider-Man is about, while also not losing that sense of fun. I think he got off-track with the whole Peter-Mary Jane thing, and I don’t think it was entirely his fault; for awhile Marvel didn’t know if he or Kevin Smith would be dealing with that relationship, plus he had the movie continuity bearing down on him, plus the responsibility of the 9/11 issue…but there’s been good stuff along the way, I just think without anything too major being unexpectedly dropped in his lap, JMS will get back on track, able to refocus without the distractions of anniversary issues or having to resolve other writers’ messes. The only potential pitfall could be if the big screen sequel does so well that Marvel starts micromanaging the book and trying to make it more like the movie; just back off and let JMS work unfettered.

Spectacular Spider-Man has been, to me at least, a surprise hit for Marvel, emerging as the Spider-Man buzz book despite Amazing Spider-Man celebrating its 500th issue. Marvel uses the two Spider-books the way I wish other multi-book franchises used their titles: Amazing is a book very much about the Spider-Man/Peter Parker character, far more character-driven, while Spectacular is updating one of comics’ best rogues galleries and telling some kick-ass action stories. After having worked his magic along with artist Humberto Ramos on Venom and Dr. Octopus, writer Paul Jenkins will team up with guest-artist Daimon Scott (of Batgirl “fame”) to tackle the Lizard. Looking forward to Jenkins covering the cool duality angle of one of Spidey’s most complex character in Curt Connors/The Lizard, but I must say that I’ll be missing Ramos’ art on this arc, as a down and dirty scrap with a force as primal as the Lizard would be right up his alley just like Venom was; don’t know much about Scott, but I think he’s more of a traditional artist…still, this is a title to watch.

Aquaman (DC)

Huge pressure on Will Pfeiffer as he has uttered those five words that have landed so many promising naïve young writers in padded cells: “I will make Aquaman cool.” Pfeiffer has passion going for him if nothing else. He hardly endears himself to me but saying he will sink San Diego, one of my favorite U.S. cities, in his first arc, but kudos to him for being so bold as to even put Aquaman back in the orange shirt and claim that is an element of his coolness. I’ve been burned too many times by revamps of this dude; if the buzz on the book is good in a year and Pfeiffer is still around, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

Avengers (Marvel)

2003 was a strange, strange time for Avengers, as it became almost Titans-like in its ability to take anything good surrounding it and transform it into something awful. The best writer in comics reduced to writing multi-part “epics” that feel like they move the plot along once every three issues. Olivier Coipel and Scott Kollins, two of the most unique artists in the business, looked like they were scribbling their work in between classes (and Steve Sadowski didn’t fare much better). One of the best Avengers lineups in years spent the year bickering for apparently no reason and striking dramatic poses for splash pages (until Hawkeye came in and was all “yo, somebody needs to start being written well in this book, foo”). Not a banner year from the A-team, and just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…along comes Chuck Austen. But wait…y’know what, even though “The Draco” may very well have been the worst X-Men story since…well…“Holy War” a few months earlier (to be fair, “God Loves, Man Kills 2” also gave both stiff competition…but nothing beats exploding communion wafers and……SATAN!!!), I am excited to see Austen take on the Avengers. He really was quite good when he initially took over Uncanny X-Men, and even though he seems to slip up at time with continuity or not having the characters yell out “THAT’S THE WOMAN I LOVE!!!” at the weirdest times, he had shown a knack for creating neat dynamics in an ensemble cast. All indication are that he’s keeping a similar, if not exactly the same, cast for at least the start of his run, so he has great characters to work with. He has shown that he somewhat “gets” Captain America, Hawkeye always seems to come out being cool no matter who writer him, Geoff Johns did some nice work on Wasp & Yellowjacket for him, and guys like Ant-Man, Falcon and the rest are the types of second stringers Austen loves to develop. As far as his ideas…Captain Britain as an Avengers…U.S.Agent leading a revamped team of Invaders…dude, these sound pretty cool. Again, Austen had a really nice groove for awhile on Uncanny and I think he may get it back here…just keep him away from the Vision-Scarlet Witch romance for a bit; even though that subplot needs to be resolved like ten years ago, I don’t think Austen is the man for the job with his track record (Angel-Husk, Nurse Annie-everybody, etc.). Also, both Coipel and Kollins weren’t so hot when they started on Legion of Super-Heroes and The Flash respectively; but after they had time to get used to their surroundings, both were incredible, so there’s that. My prediction stands: Avengers will be cool once more in 2004.

Batman Titles (DC)

The Azzarello/Risso “Broken City” arc on Batman ends in March with issue #625. Haven’t followed the arc myself ($ reasons), but from all indications it was a top notch piece of work and hopefully will do nothing but help 100 Bullets and the respective careers of Azzarello and Risso.

Up next: six issues by writer Judd Winick and artist Dustin Nguyen. “‘As The Crow Flies’ will be a gangster-heavy arc featuring Scarecrow and another mystery villain, with Alfred and Robin playing key roles…‘We dive into all the aspects that circle around Scarecrow—fear, and the terrors that motivate us.’” Well, I believe Azz & Risso just did the gangster thing, but I suppose Batman does deal with a lot of gangsters; as far as Winick’s choice of villain, top notch. Scarecrow is one of Batman’s most fascinating villains, a guy who makes for a good challenging opponent and gives the writer an opportunity to take a psychological look at Bats and his buddies no matter how many times he shows up (also, Scarecrow was one of the few villains Loeb really wasted during “Hush”). Scarecrow also has a dynamic visual that is perfect for a guy like Nguyen, who can distinguish his more down-to-earth characters from his surreal ones very well. As I’ve said in the past, Winick is at his best right out the gate on a project he’s excited about, and who wouldn’t be excited about a run on comics’ number one book?

In Gotham Knights, new writer A.J. Lieberman is bringing back Hush…already. Honestly, is Hush going to become for Batman writers like Magneto, the Sentinels and Phoenix have for X-Men writers, where they feel they can tell the “best” story their first time out to prove themselves. Originally, I heard Lieberman was going to have Hush coming after Riddler, bringing back Hush too soon and killing any credibility Riddler has just built up in one fell swoop. Now, supposedly Hush is coming back to “take on the Joker for underworld supremacy.” Dude…Joker was just in Outsiders, he was just in Gotham Central, and he was just in Batman during “Hush”; let the man rest! He won’t be smiling soon without workman’s comp! Not to mention, why would Hush want to dominate the underworld? I thought he wanted revenge on Bats and that’s all. Isn’t he supposedly independently wealthy as all heck? The way I see it, the only way to make this Hush’s motivation make sense and justify bringing him back so soon without giving Loeb a chance to tell his full story is it will be a fake Hush, and fans will just love that. Make Gotham Knights an anthology book about the entire Bat-family or just cancel it…actually, just cancel it.

Not much new to report on Detective Comics. They’ve got a new creative team of writer Andersen Gabrych and artist Pete Woods, both of whom are good. Since Batman seems to be the title that’s going to focus more on the big screen stuff with rotating creative teams, I hope these guys take a chance to make ‘Tec the title that does the deeper character stuff with a consistent and evolving vision(see my entry on the Spider-Man titles).

Birds of Prey (DC)

Birds of Prey, by writer Gail Simone, who may well be the nicest creator on the net (oh no, she doesn’t actually talk to me…but people always tell me she is…which makes me confident she’ll call and want to hang out eventually…) and artist Ed Benes (who draws really hot chicks…or so Tim Stevens tells me…over and over and over) looks to stay “the title Ben always flips through in the shop and would really like to buy on a regular basis if he had more money” in 2004. Seriously, if I weren’t already spending so much dough on comics and didn’t go to a store that’s big enough that the guys working the register don’t notice me standing there reading, I’d be snapping this up like candy or drugs…CANDY! The Canary-Oracle relationship is dope money and Huntress is a character getting long overdue respect. Savant may be the keenest villain not created by Geoff Johns in the last few years. So now Canary is going to fly to Japan and learn karate from Lady Shiva and the friggin’ awesome old school Titans nemesis Cheshire? If Cheshire starts ranking on Arsenal for being a deadbeat dad then they all go bombed on Saki, I will drop like eight books to buy multiple copies of this book each month. Damn…I’m not sure if I can go two more months without adding Birds of Prey to my pull list…you go, girls!

Captain America (Marvel Knights)

I stopped reading comics about the time Mark Waid was writing Cap then came back around three years ago…what the hell happened to the poor Sentinel of Liberty? I haven’t bought any Cap books since the late Mark Gruenwald was writing about robo-Cap, but I have followed the buzz on my patriotic hombre. Wasn’t Waid like the pinnacle of Cap writers? Why’d he leave? So then Dan Jurgens took over, I believe, and that’s where I came back. Then Reiber brought Cap to Marvel Knights and there was a big promotion on about how Cap (and Cable) were going to be Marvel’s big “real world” buzz books…where’d Reiber go? Then they had a bunch of fill-ins, for like two years…now we’ve got the guy who did The Truth and my least favorite artist this side of Tom Grindberg (anybody remember him), Chris “Oh you don’t think I can make every character in this book look like a wet rat? Watch and learn my friend…watch and learn…” Bachalo? Save your money for Captain America/Falcon, people. Oh wait, this just in…Cap is going to run for President! Surely this will be cooler than when John Byrne did it the first time…or Waid did it again…never mind.

Catwoman (DC)

Catwoman is not really my cup of tea, but it’s one of those books I really respect and heartily recommend. So rather than try to comment on a subject I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll just give Ed “Over The Top” Brubaker (who has never beaten me in arm wrestling…though he embarrassed Daron pretty badly, though, to be fair, so did my soon-to-be new best friend Gail Simone and half of the staff at the St. Louis branch of Hooters) the floor via Wizard: “Early in 2004, Catwoman gets into the bloodiest all-out brawl of my entire run…She goes in swinging to a fight she’s fairly sure she can’t win. Whether she does in fact win is not a sure thing. I mean it. She could lose. It’s not like Batman, where you absolutely know he’s going to win at the end. You never know what could happen in this book, and I’m going to spend a lot of time reminding fans of that this year.” Sounds pretty cool, Ed! Also, the title gets two more quality artists in the form on Paul Gulacy and Jimmy Palmiotti.

Daredevil (Marvel Knights)

After the pretty lukewarmly-received “Echo” arc by David Mack, regular writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev return this month with #56. The story picks up a few months after DD kicked the crap out of Wilson Fisk and took over as “Kingpin” of Hell’s Kitchen. Says BMB: “There’s one thing about [Daredevil’s] personality that we’ve never addressed, and when we do, there will be life-altering changes.” What is this personality facet? No idea, dude, Bendis ain’t saying! What we do know is that Mr. Fantastic, Luke Cage and others will be dropping in on DD to question his new role and that Black Widow is back as DD’s partner and possible love interest in #62. What happens to Mr. Murdock’s current squeeze? Not enough information provided! But trust in Bendis people, he shall lead us to the promised land.

Fantastic Four (Marvel)

Currently my second favorite title on the market, Mark Waid looks to be making a serious push to make Fantastic Four my number one in 2004. The FF is at it’s best when it is exploring far out places like the Negative Land or the Microverse, right? But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby take them everywhere cool imaginable already and then John Byrne came up with a few more places, right? Wrong. Waid and artist Mike Wieringo are taking them to one more undiscovered country: the pearly gates. As anybody who read Kingdom Come knows, Waid knows his theology enough to treat the subject respectfully while still making it entertaining. And if this statement doesn’t draw you in, I don’t know what will: “To say that the FF will be reunited with some from their past would be a vast, vast understatement…When people see what ‘m talking about, they’ll just fall down dead!” I have no idea who Waid is talking about, but I’m sweating to find out…that is the sign of a great story. I also love that after “Hereafter” concludes, the next arc is about the FF trying to repair their public image, a down-to-earth story with Spider-Man guest-starring. I think some people were worried after the back-to-back “heavy” story arcs “Unthinkable” and “Authoritative Action” Waid was losing the fun vibe that he brought back in his early FF issues, but I think he’s just ebbing and flowing, taking his characters to the brink then bringing them back together. It’s the same story-telling style that he utilized on The Flash and that keeps long-running ensemble TV shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer successful: things start easy, get hard, look bad, then the characters have to rediscover their love for one another to climb back…repeat. I’m glad Waid & Ringo are on for the long haul without question now; this is the type of run that is going to be a pleasure to watch play out for years.

The Flash (DC)

And then there is my current favorite title. The beauty of “Ignition” is that it does exactly what the title promises and puts the key right back in The Flash and revs it up; everything old is new again. A few months ago a Nightwing guest appearance would have just been like “whoa, neat,” now it’s like “I’ve got a million questions on how they’re going to handle this, this, this and this…” y’know? For a long time The Flash has been a title that was so consistently good that you could take it for granted, that things could get mundane and still be better than 80% of what’s on the shelves. Since “Blitz,” not only is the book better than just about everything else just on principle, it’s also a book you need to pick up every month, because you want to see what happens next. It’s high stakes and there are very real consequences. Now we’ve got Howard Porter, who has proven himself on Flash before, coming onboard and Flash rediscovering his place in the DCU, the JLA, with his Rogues…like its title character, this book shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Green Arrow (DC)

Not wasting any time, writer Judd Winick is teaming Ollie up with his erstwhile love interest Black Canary immediately in the wake of his infidelity with Johanna Pierce and her death. A fine line is being walked here as the emotional baggage is piled on ol’ GA with the potential for doing some high-stake emotional drama…but at the same time, Ollie is a fun character and you don’t want to make a book with him too dark. So it’s going to be tough, but I like that Judd is addressing the issue right off the bat. Too many times in these times we read comics in, with self-contained story arcs and writing with trade paperbacks in mind, writers will do something this big and then not pay it off, moving right on to the next big fight or other event. So I’m proud of you, Judd; as my parents always say to me: “don’t make us regret our faith in you again, son…not again.” As for the rest of this arc, a familiar DC villain is promised to be coming to Star City to set up shop (and those of us who read solicitations know this is the Riddler…who got whooped by GA & BC back during Kevin Smith’s run) and “a controversial conclusion that introduces a new costumed vigilante to the streets.” Interested to see where Judd goes with this, but I’ll be watching close; in my eyes this is his make or break arc after a good start on the series, to see if he’s a flash in the pan or can keep up the quality.

Green Lantern (DC)

I read “Urban Knights,” so needless to say, I’ve avoided Raab’s run on this title like the plague. From what my little Wizard friend tells me, it’s coming to a head with #175, “in which Kyle just might have to make a life-or-death decision that will impact the future of the Green Lantern legacy forever.” Yeah…I’m going with he might not have to. Then Ron Marz comes back for six issues, so that’s six months during which H.E.A.T. members will be burning the old GL symbol on yards everywhere, so make sure you know who your neighbors are. Lips are quite tight for what the summer holds, but there is an emerald glimmer on the horizon that just might be Hal Jordan; I’ll comment on that if and when it comes to fruition. Me, I’m hoping for the return of Guy Gardner as the one true Green Lantern and that is all I’ll hear on the matter. Period.

Hawkman (DC)

Hawkman: another book that DC has yet to announce a new creative team for after Geoff Johns & Rags Morales fly the coop (ooh! Fun with puns! Yo soy en fuego!). What do we have to look forward to in the mean time? Well, for one: John Byrne and vampires…oh yes, you read that right. After that, four issues from co-writers Jimmy Palimiotti and Justin Gray along with artist Ryan Sook (who I’ve seen some amazing preview work from). Now then, my creative dream team for Hawkman: Kurt Busiek & Ethan Van Sciver, a writer who knows his continuity and an artist who draws beautiful birds.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League (DC)

Oh sweet Giffen…March, hurry up and get here! All I wanted for Christmas was a Formerly Known As The Justice League ongoing, but I’ll settle for this as a late birthday present. I can’t possibly do this one justice, let me allow Mr. Giffen so do so instead: “Guy Gardner comes back (be still my beating heart!! Oh…that was me, Ben, not Keith Giffen, by the way)…We send [the League] to hell, and then on the way out of hell, they make a wrong turn and wind up in DC’s version of the Ultimate Universe where Max Millar is running the ‘Ultimate Super-Buddies’ out of a Times Square peep show.” …wait hold on, I need another ellipse…does this get any better?! Let me get this straight…Guy Gardner is coming back in one of my favorite series in years…and…and they’re going to make fun of Mark Millar and The Ultimates?! I know it seems highly improbably…but if Giffen & DeMatteis can somehow shoehorn the New Warriors into this series, I will cancel that octuple order of Birds of Prey I vowed a few paragraphs up and get like twenty of every issue of this mini-series. Hey Keith & J.M., make sure the Ultimate characters call somebody “meatball!” All this and it’s bi-weekly, too!

Incredible Hulk (Marvel)

Supposedly this series has faltered a tad after being a big-time Marvel buzz book last year and the year before. The Mike Deodato art is gorgeous, but I hear that Bruce Jones is going in circles (hence brining super-villains into what was previously a psychological drama). The preview says he’s bringing Doc Samson and Betty Banner together…isn’t Banner with Samson’s ex? Or Abomination’s ex? Or is Abomination with Samson’s mom? Ack, no wonder I don’t read this book…just bring back those silly Kaare Andrews cereal box covers. Also, I finally watched the Hulk movie on In Demand and I gotta say, it was really quite good. It was as my freshman year Film Professor used to say “filmed, not shot.” If the book is suffering, blaming it on the movie is way too easy, and, in this writer’s opinion, unfounded.


“Black Reign” is going to be cool as all get out. The last few JSA events have been good, but even “Princes of Darkness,” which had threads tying all the way back to issue #1, seemed to come out of nowhere. “Black Reign” really does feel like a payoff; readers have been very into Black Adam since he came into the book and they’ve teased the formation of his team just right, slowly at first and the building up speed; the Hawkman prequel issue in which Hawkman encountered Adam and Northwind (please tell me they’re not really changing the “i” to a “y”) was really good. Lots of players to watch here, lots of fan favorite characters, and two great artists in Don Kramer and Rags Morales; look for Geoff Johns to really strut his stuff in his first big JSA outing since David Goyer left the book. After that, we’ve got the long-awaited return of Degaton, who I’ve never actually gotten to read in a modern story, then a Spectre story that may or may not lead into that stuff I talked about in the Green Lantern write-up.


My thoughts on the big upcoming Claremont/Byrne arc are available in my last column (do I need to link it again? ok, you twisted my arm…), instead, I think I’ll finally take this time to rant about this dumb rotating teams junk on JLA. It all started with Mike Carlin making that infamous statement: “Every creator has one good JLA story in them.” Well yes Mr. Carlin, I believe they make things called anthology books for that, some are even quite profitable. On the other hand, when I read a monthly comic book, it’s to see characters grow and change, to see subplots tantalize us and then blossom into great stories (remember what I said about JSA?). If there’s no long-lasting consequences why should I care? If every six issues we hit the reset buttons, what’s the point? Creatively it’s a bad move and financially, it’s going to crash and burn as well. Why will anybody want to buy any tangent JLA mini-series or one shots when that’s essentially what the monthly book is? The realistic outcome is that people will line up in droves for their favorite creators, than skip the months where an ambitious up and comer takes the wheel, whereas were that young go-getter given a year or two, they could make the characters their own and build an audience. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Gerry Conway wrote in the letters pages of Justice League of America #200 that rotating creative teams cut down the glory years of that book after Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and others had made it the hottest seller in comics. This isn’t the Silver Age any more, yet DC is set to run their flagship property as if it were. The only upside to this is that Chuck Austen can write the characters in his arc however he wants and not get yelled at for breaking continuity, because the c-word about to become a thing of the past for JLA. I’ll be picking up Claremont/Byrne then Joe Kelly’s #100, then after that I’m freeing up wallet space for Birds of Prey or more booze and gambling…probably the latter.

The Legion (DC)

I don’t get why DnA are leaving this book. Legion is the type of property a team of writers can stay on for years before they get stale, there are so many characters and like a whole galaxy to explore. Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen were on the book for what, like thirty years? And their stuff rocked. There is so much I’m still waiting to see from the current team. Granted they have trouble managing the large cast at times (the nice thing about the aforementioned fellows was that they’d always have everybody doing something, even if you only got to see each character a few pages an issue with two or three getting the spotlight each month), but they’ve been growing into it. Their handling of the franchise has been too solid for them to be booted for no reason. Not only that, why does Chris Batista have to go? This is the first regular work he’s had in years and he’s rocking it. If the Mark Waid/Barry Kitson rumors are true, that’s cool, I guess, I love ‘em both, but why not send them to a title that actually needs the help? The Legion is doing fine as is. At least finally give us “Legion Lost” in TPB.

Nightwing (DC)

Love the character, have never read the book, but supposedly Devin Grayson is handling it beautifully and I’ve liked the criminally underrated Patrick Zircher since his days on New Warriors. The description of the next year seems like it will be one of those neat gauntlet storylines where the big bad sends lots of little bads after the good guy; well, Nightwing is a great character and ace fighter, Zircher is good with the punch and kick, and supposedly Blockbuster (the big bad in question) is an A-list bad guy now. This is another book on the bubble for me should I marry a rich girl.

NYX (Marvel)

Don’t read it, but flipped through the last issue. Actually looks pretty good…actually, it looks great thanks to Josh Middleton, but what I mean to say is Joe Quesada seems to be writing a pretty intriguing story different from a lot of what’s out there. I do wish he’d picked an X-Man other than Wolverine to tie the series to (I would have cracked up if he’d made the third Summers brother some teenage junkie just to be a dick), but the man didn’t get to be E-I-C by being a dummy when it comes to knowing what characters you can count on from a commercial standpoint. Sadly, I think Joey Q is too busy to stay on this book past #6 and I don’t think anybody else is going to handle his baby as well as he can.

Outsiders (DC)

After an entertaining first three issues, then a horrendous second three, then a nice comeback with the latest issue, the next arc of Outsiders is make or break for the book critically (hmm…I feel like I just said all this for Winick’s other book, Green Arrow…and for Winick’s run on Batman…I’m sorry if I’m putting too much pressure on you, Judd, no matter what you’re still the best comic book creator to come out of the Real World…unless that Neil guy from London was actually Neil Gaiman). The next arc, which brings back Captain Marvel baddie Sabbac (who?) is very guest star-heavy, with The Huntress, Black Lightning and CM3 all stopping by; this concerns me. I’m all for seeing the awkward tension between Nightwing and Huntress or seeing how BL and Thunder do when they’re fighting side by side, but between these three, Metamorpho, and the Arrows Green, we haven’t had an issue without a guest star since number five. If all the characters are merely defined by how they relate to the guest host of the month, this book becomes the equivalent of Saturday Night Live (the guest stars are the stars, the regulars are just background jokes and Grace eventually gets a swelled head and makes really bad movies). Winick also says that the next arc involves child slavery and “in all modesty, it will have people talking both in the comics community and the mainstream media.” Whoa, slow down there Judd Jemas…could we develop the cast of the book a bit first before we go for the Dateline special report? Not that the issue is one to be shied away from, but seriously, I still don’t know why Jade is on the team or why I should care a whit about Indigo. I think Winick has skipped a few steps in crafting this book, jumping right ahead to the point where the audience is attached enough to the characters that they’ll watch them through guest stars and real life issues and still care more about them. Judd did some really good stuff developing team dynamics early on, I hate to see him drop that ball for the sake of cheap gimmicks.

Plastic Man (DC)

Kyle Baker will explore the “ex-con” side of Plastic Man early this year. Well good for him. Too many writers just use the “ex-con” thing as the punchline for some of Plas’s jokes. Yeah, that’s all I got; another book I’m sure is good, but just ain’t my thing.

Punisher (Marvel MAX)

Then on the other side of the landscape entirely…Garth Ennis will take a look back at The Punisher’s origin in his new MAX book where Ennis and artist Lewis Larosa can get as messy as they want. Logical progression for Ennis, who just did Born, looking at Frank Castle in ‘Nam, now he heads forward to when the man’s family was murdered. Ennis has become the Punisher writer and I think he’ll be on the book as long as he’s having fun. Looks like he’s gotten making fun of other Marvel characters out of his system (for a bit) and now he’s going to stay focused on business. With the movie giving the property that mid-winter boost, I think Punisher is going to take off bigger than Daredevil did last year; it’s a character a lot of people can get behind. The only danger is that Ennis’ new version will be too nasty for fans of the movie to access…but I doubt it, I think the movie version will be no boy scout.

Robin (DC)

Bill Willingham is swooping in to try and save this book after a disastrous last year plus. He’s promised to give Robby “his Joker” (ugh, I hate it when writers pull that out…just say he’s a cool new bad guy), Johnny Warlock. Sadly, Rick Mays will only be the artist for two issues; that’s a shame, I was looking forward to Mays getting a regular gig. The new new artist is a fella named Francisco Rodriguez de la Fuente, who I’ve never heard of. If you followed Robin through the last couple years, I do think it will get better than it’s been; how much better is a bigger question.

Runaways (Marvel Tsunami)

Please buy this book, folks. Everybody really likes it and I don’t have the money. Buy the book for me…and for Tim Stevens, who really doesn’t ask for much…and has even less.

Superman/Batman (DC)

I gave my thoughts on the Supergirl situation, yep, last time. I’m looking forward to the Robin/Superboy issue, but I hope Jeph Loeb doesn’t step on the toes of what’s going on in Teen Titans; as cool as this book has been, Loeb has been guilty of making more than a couple guest stars look somewhat foolish, usually JSA guys, so here’s hoping he doesn’t mess things up for another of Geoff Johns’ books (especially because the two guys share a studio and I like both of their work too much to see them in a prank war that envelops them both or something). I’m very curious to see where this current storyline ends up and especially what happens with Lex Luthor; I’ve got faith in Loeb that he won’t just degenerate the guy to pre-Crisis status, he’s got something up his sleeve.

Teen Titans (DC)

This book has been good so far, but every time it reaches the cusp of being great it seems to fall a bit short. I think Robin, Superboy and Wonder Girl have all been handled brilliantly; I still miss Young Justice each and every day, but the evolution of these three characters has been very natural and very nice to see them becoming legit heavy hitters in the DCU after being comic relief for so long. Kid Flash I don’t so much like; Impulse was a very unique character, this progression does not seem as natural, and the book learnin’ thing gets real annoying, real fast. I’d like to see Beast Boy portrayed as a slightly more three-dimensional character, as he is the bridge in age between the two groups; I’d also like Geoff to remember that the kid has a tragic side as well, a big one, he’s not all jokes. Geoff gets Beast Boy, he showed that in his limited series, and I think he’ll step more to the fore this year. Starfire has been hit or miss; I’ve beginning to think that the character just can’t work any more, that she was cool in the 80s because she was this neat dichotomy of innocence and war, but the innocent side has been lost by years of tragedy (which is inevitable for any character with any longevity, but it’s made Kory less interesting). I hope Geoff can find a way to reinvent Kory, but if not, dump her and bring back Donna Troy. Cyborg…I just want to see him do more, Mike McKone draws him real nice and Geoff has written him well in the past. As always, I have faith in Geoff…if there is no other constant in comics, we must have faith in Geoff (all through his Avengers run, I kept the faith, hard as it was, and lo and behold, he gave us a nice sendoff issue). The Wizard tease also mentions Deathstroke training a new Ravager and of course the next big storyline, where the Titans have to save Raven from Brother Blood. The latter should be hot no matter what; the former is intriguing, and it will be neat to see if the new Ravager is a pre-existing character (the last two were Deathstroke’s son and brother, respectively)…Deathstroke’s daughter Rose, who was a neat character in the old series ruined by Titans, perhaps? I like Deathstroke as a recurring character, gives back to the extended ensemble feel of the old-school book.

The Ultimates (Marvel)

I owe Mark Millar an apology. After my last column, I went back and read my Ultimate X-Men collection (I actually do own every issue since #6) to see if the characters used “meatball” as much as I thought they did…and I was wrong. While they say “meatball” as much as twice an issue sometimes, the insult of choice is actually “little man.” Indeed, not an issue goes by without somebody, be it a S.H.I.E.L.D. officer, Magneto, or the f’n Phoenix Force itself, calling somebody else “little man.” I am sorry Mr. Millar, you wacky meatball.

Ultimate Fantastic Four (Marvel)

I don’t really have much motivation to buy this book. When the other Ultimate books came out, they flourished because their Marvel Universe counterparts were floundering creatively. Fantastic Four is awesome right now; I don’t think the concepts need re-imagining, because Mark Waid is already doing that in the main one. The new Marvel Knights series 4 seems like a fun and interesting new perspective, but this just seems like an attempt to cash in on the Ultimate brand name. Bendis is overextended and Millar…well…I’ve said enough. I’m sure the series will do fine, but it just seems unnecessary.

Ultimate Spider-Man (Marvel)

The most consistent book on the market, always with quick-witted writing and quality art. Elektra and Black Cat will be cat-fighting to kick off the year, then comes a very tongue-in-cheek five-part arc where Spidey and Doc Ock go to Hollywood to talk to Sam Raimi and Avi Arad about a Spider-Man movie; should be fun. The most intriguing bit is that Bendis promises to introduce Ultimate Carnage this summer and in the course of which, somebody will die and the ID of Carnage will be somebody the readers already know…color me curious (but as Tim Stevens said in his last news report, enough with the generic covers already, you’ve got Mark Bagley for heaven’s sake).

Ultimate X-Men (Marvel)

“New Mutants” has gotten off to a good start with the intro of Angel, and BMB promises that Dazzler, Havok, Emma Frost and more are yet to come. I’ll be sorry to see Bendis go as he’s really invigorated this title and made it fun again. David Mack has a lot to prove, as his Daredevil arc kinda fizzled. Not too many details on what he’s got planned except that the team will probably be headed to Japan to deal with Wolverine’s wife. Well, at this point he’s got my interest to lose, so go nuts, Dave.

Wolverine (Marvel)

Man…this list is getting long…head spinning…uh…Rucka is leaving the book this year…he’ll do something with Sabretooth before he jets…Darick Robertson is yet another New Warriors alum…say, between Mark Bagley, Darick Robertson and Patrick Zircher, all the old Warriors artists have jobs on books that are doing well…that’s awesome guys…now will one of you use your pull to bring back the friggin’ Human Rocket?!

Wonder Woman (DC)

Geez, Greg Rucka really gets the short end of the stick as I’m covering two of his books in a row as my sanity is slipping away faster than a woman after one of Mathan’s pick-up lines. Speaking of women, in DC’s top lady’s book, Rucka will be fleshing out two of WW’s villains, one of “his” and one older one. Good move by a good writer; Wondy has never had a particularly solid rogues gallery. But Rucka has made Ares cool and Dr. Psycho even creepier, he’s batting 1000 so far.

X-Statix (Marvel)

I still haven’t forgiven Peter Milligan for dissing the old X-Force yet. Ooh, wait, X-Statix is going to have a war with the Avengers…oh that sounds fun, I may need to actually buy that, if for no other reason than to see Mike Allred draw Hawkeye…if Doop beats Hawkeye, I will hunt you down, Milligan.

X-Men Titles (Marvel)

Must regain composure for final big group…oh what’s the point, Marvel is not telling us anything concrete about what’s going on with the X-titles! It’s madness! The rumor mongers have become our oracles!!! …I apologize. Ok, word is that come Spring time, Austen is out, Claremont and Davis are on Uncanny X-Men, X-Treme X-Men may or may not stay alive with Claremont and Larocca, and Joss BY GOD Whedon will write New X-Men with John Cassady on pencils…but that might not be until, like 2006. This is too much to take in…I’ll write something on it when it all gets sorted, promise…c’mon, my article on the Superman revamp was good…

Quick Hits
-Batgirl is going to fight Batman? This girl power stuff is beyond out of control. Ok, you want to empower female readers, fine, and the new Batgirl can beat up, like, everybody…but the line must be drawn at Batman! That’s like Lara Kroft kicking John Wayne in the nuts, man!

Exiles is not mentioned anywhere. Cancellation? I say give ol’ Jim Calafiore a shot at the whole magilla, writing and drawing, it was all his idea anyhow; if that doesn’t work, then can it and re-start What If? or something, it will save me money.

-This just in: everybody loves Gotham Central, moreso than Raymond (oh lord, this needs to end…)

-Look for Spider-Girl to be cancelled…in 2020.

-…Ok, sorry Thor, but I need to end this madness…

This column nearly killed me; that is the love I feel for you all. I’m heading to England for a week, behave or Daron will tell me. And e-mail me nice things…I like things that are pretty…