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One Year (and a month) Later

Brian Hibbs

So, listen, I’m not sure if I’m the perfect audience (long-time DC fan) or the deadly worst audience (long-time DC fan) for this kind of stunt – every “jumping on” point is equally a “jumping off” point, after all.

Some mechanical stuff, first, I think… that “One Year Later” logo looks disturbingly like the “DC Bullet” doesn’t it? Plus, I’m of the mind that it was misplaced, in most cases. “Most” stores either rack with an overlapping top-to-bottom, or with overlapping left-to-right (We’re in the latter group) – this means that the single most valuable piece of “real estate” on the cover is the top left hand corner. Sadly, most of the OYL books have the logo in the middle-right… basically a terrible spot for the logo to “pop” off the cover. A banner would almost certainly have been more effective.

Now, sure, that’s almost moot, because pretty much all of the books sold out on the national level, but still, it’s basic Event Design.

Some (HI, D.G.!) have suggested that, perhaps, DC knowingly “under-printed” the OYL books, in order to get week after week of press releases out of it. While I find the rapid sell-outs at DC to be pretty fucking sad lately, I can’t go all the way to “on purpose”. Why? Because that would be FUCKING STUPID. If you don’t have stock on hand WHEN people come looking for it, then you’ve blown your best chance for a new reader. I also don’t believe that press releases on Newsarama (or whatever) really do jack shit for selling comic books (sorry, Matt!) – the people who regularly visit sites like that are either in the business (I personally check the major sites 3-5 times a day), or are the “Heavy Users” – those people who are already buying huge scary stacks of funny books, and who aren’t moving the needle very much on big events. They are ALREADY ON BOARD.

On-the-ground demand has been pretty heavy for the OYL stuff. I pegged most books at +20%, but, on most titles, I should have gone +30-50%.

What will be interesting is how much of this “growth” sticks at all – what is unclear is if these are OYL buyers, or if they’re genuine “samplers”, and, thus, how many of them will come back. When you add the crazy “Who The Fuck Knows” nature of the upcoming weekly “52”, it could well be an insane roller-coaster of trying to order DC comics in the next few months…

Speaking as a long-time DC fan (over 31 years of loving those characters), I’ve felt pretty cold to a lot of the OYL changes. Why? Well, part of it, I think, is that the “DC Universe” isn’t just about plot points, but about the accretion of familiarity and affection over a long period of time. Monthly hero comics are more like Soap Operas, than not, and there’s a certain amount of staidness I want as a reader. Superhero universes are sort of the equivalent of “comfort food” – Chicken Soup with Stars, or something.

OYL, of course, is trying very hard to not be Chicken Soup with Stars – several of the books seem like they’re trying to be Beef, Mango, and Rice soup, if you understand my metaphor – but even switching to Chicken with NOODLES would have been a big change, you know what I mean? The upheaval of the status quo means that the DCU isn’t (to change metaphors, suddenly) a comfortable old pair of shoes any longer – I don’t like the fit and feel of some of these new designs.

Ultimately, OYL makes us ALL strangers to the DCU – my 31 years of patronage really don’t seem to mean much any more than your “I just started reading with INFINITE CRISIS” tenure. Now, I’m sure Dan Didio will really embrace that – clean starting place for everyone, and all – but I tend to suspect that in the medium-run, it is going to be the long-term DC readers that will continue to be the largest portion of DC’s revenues, and that a significant percentage of the Grazers will wander back to their traditional pastures.

Part of the reason for that is that there’s really only 2 ways to do a OYL comic – either you a) completely shake up the status quo, so the book might as well be an all-new #1 anyway, or b) make it a mystery (“How did things get to be like THIS?!?!”) that makes filling in the backstory the driving narrative thrust. Problem is that mysteries get tired after a point (I suppose it is just possible for it to last, say, a year – but I think 6-9 months is about all of the patience that the audience is going to have.) (especially given how many books this is touching)

What I find… interesting? Ironic? Is that, so far, I’d call the largest successes of OYL to be the core Batman and Superman books, AS THEY (seemingly) TAKE THOSE CHARACTERS BACK TO THEIR PRE-EVENT STATUSES. The “un-Asshatting” of Batman, in particular, is both long-over due (I think he’s probably been going the wrong direction since, jeez “Knightfall” maybe? Though it really reached peak in “War Games” and “Omac”). Given that the universe probably rises or falls on the Big Icons, this is a positive and hopeful sign.

But, perhaps

Let’s get into individual titles, shall we?

Start with the Batman books. As alluded above, I thought DETECTIVE #817 was VERY GOOD, with BATMAN #651 probably in the GOOD range (there was some padding, I thought, on the latter)

CATWOMAN #53: used it’s OYL jump well, I thought – it really does feel like a year has past, but even older events are still relevant. I do think that it should be obvious to anyone (even, yes, the sad Angle Man) that Holly and Selina have different builds, but I guess that is comic books. Still, a promising new start: GOOD

NIGHTWING #118: Pure shit, as Dick seems as out of character as can be, and as editorial idiocy reveals the JT thing in the next issue box, but never mentions it in the comic book itself. Sad that he’s here, too – the story as left at the end of “Under the Hood” wouldn’t haven’t suggested this path to me. I’m also kinda annoyed that #117 ended with “Babs, will you marry me?” and #118 begins with Dick banging some anonymous redhead. Feh. CRAP.

ROBIN #148: Aside from the very very very clumsily staged opening (and thus the short-term plot of the book), I liked this more than I’ve liked the book in some time. Still, just OK

The Superman books were great, giving both SUPERMAN #650 and ACTION #837 VERY GOODs (though the latter sorta spoils IC #6, doesn’t it?)

SUPERGIRL #7: Oh, wait, this hasn’t come out yet. Ooops. I thought that was the whole point of shortening the Loeb run? For that matter, is #25 of SUPERMAN/BATMAN (though not OYL) going to come out in anything like a rational schedule, as it relates to INFINITE CRISIS?

Then into the general DCU…

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #40: Suffered a bit from ugly-in-places art, and there’s the somewhat…well, I don’t know, “derivative”? No, that’s not it… “Know ye, O Prince” narration, but this was probably the most like what I expected from OYL books – a radical rethinking of the base concept, and a strong new direction. I’ll go with a solid GOOD. Oh, and now that I’ve gotten home from unpacking the new comics, and have read #41 as well, yeah, AQUAMAN is what all of the OYL should have been, in theory.

BIRDS OF PREY #92: A bit clumsy, I thought – the Black Canary pages seemed like they belonged in another book, and I didn’t understand the “Jade Canary” thing, since Shiva wasn’t wearing that color. But, at least, Babs wasn’t running around in costume with her legs perfectly back (my biggest fear). A solid, if somewhat confusing OK.

BLOOD OF THE DEMON #13: Almost certainly the weakest of the OYL books – it felt like I missed 1, maybe 2 issues, not a whole year. No way this will make it past #24. Either a low EH or a high AWFUL.

BLUE BEETLE #1: OK, so not technically OYL (in fact, half of it was “pre-Crisis” – I guess Superboy punched something to explain the differences between the origin here and in IC), but, still it seems to fit. While I pretty much hate that new costume, and I’m very very confused as to powers (holding off a GL? Really?), I thought the human set up and reactions were pretty right on, and that this was a real enjoyable read. A very solid VERY GOOD, and a possible contender for PICK OF THE WEEK status.

FIRESTORM THE NUCLEAR MAN #23: I was a little dismayed that 1 issue after bringing back Prof Stein, he’s already gone, but the Firehawk thing was kinda cute, so there you go. Oddly, the was the sole OYL book for us that sold LESS copies than the previous issue. Couldn’t tell you why, however. Maybe too many changes too fast? I liked it OK.

GREEN ARROW #60: The first of the “did you see your own cover, man?” issues, wasting 22 pages to tell us what we already knew before we even opened the comic. Maybe it is me, but this also seems like the most unlikely/compelling OYL change. I mean, EX MACHINA works because it very much isn’t about super-heroes – I can’t possibly seeing GA either being believable or sustainable with the concept. Like when Luthor was President – that shit just didn’t WORK. I’ll go with a very weakly stated EH, close to AWFUL

GREEN LANTERN #10: Worked fine to give the sense that a geopolitical year has passed. Am very very worried about the “Sinestro Corps” idea. Wasn’t fond of the “Hal was a POW thing”, really, because wouldn’t one of a dozen other characters have come and rescued him? I’ll give it to Geoff, though, because this does allow him to neatly sidestep the tendency to make OYL stories a mystery ABOUT the lost year. I’m split between a very high OK and a very low GOOD though.

HAWKGIRL #50: Woof. That was…. Not very good. Between the art that was far too often phoned in stock poses and layout, and a script that seemed to be written to 8 year olds (“and then…” “…the lights went out!” ), this was almost an epic misfire. Or maybe I was anticipating it too much? Truly AWFUL.

JSA #83: Wait, a year passed? Honestly, it feels like Just Another Issue of JSA. I’m like a mad crazy JSA fan – on display in the store is a custom set of Matt Wagner JSA sketches (I’m, what, 6 short of the full set?), I was the biggest retailer booster of the characters at RRPs over the years, etc. – but, man, I just don’t care about the book any longer. And there’s a spin-off title too, yeesh. I’m Jumping Off here because it was just EH, just like JSA has been for nigh on a year (or more) now. (#84, which I just read tonight, cements that – double EH)

JSA CLASSIFIED #10: Much the same rant, with the addition that I like Paul Gulacy’s art on many things, but not on Superhero comics. On the very low end of EH.

MANHUNTER #20: Surprised me how much it felt connected to the (DC) Universe it actually felt. Problem is I still don’t find the base character to be all that compelling. OK

OUTSIDERS #34: Blech. Pretty much the only time “covert action” and “super heroes” has ever worked was in John Ostrander’s SUICIDE SQUAD. This is no SUICIDE SQUAD. AWFUL.

SUPERGIRL & THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #16: Like GREEN ARROW, working to it’s last page, despite the cover. On the other hand, because the legion has changed a lot, and this might be the introduction of the “new characters” for a large # of people following Supergirl, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case. Still, “I’m dreaming you” better have something to back it up, Toot Sweet, cuz the next year being “is it? Isn’t it?” might just be too much to bear. Still, generally GOOD.

TEEN TITANS #34: I’m squeaking this in because I unloaded the comics today, and had time to read it. It didn’t ship in OYL month 1. (which, might I add, had 5 weeks in it!) Lots of big changes, but it looks like it is going route “b) make it a mystery (“How did things get to be like THIS?!?!”) that makes filling in the backstory the driving narrative thrust” with Vic as our POV character. What I will say is that I by and large think that TITANS is not X-MEN, and having former enemies join the teams as members just doesn’t work for this book. (despite not having read the next 4-6 issues!). Having said that, I liked quite a lot of this – especially the time-compressed first 3 pages from Vic’s POV, and I’ll be charitable and go with a low GOOD.

MM, that’s it then.

Hrm, for this week’s books (3/29) I liked ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #3 or BLUE BEETLE #1 or X-STATIX PRESENTS DEAD GIRL #3 or FALLEN ANGEL #4 as my PICK OF THE WEEK. Listed in order of If-You-Held-A-Gun-To-My-Head, but take your pick, they were all terrif.

For the PICK OF THE WEAK I’m going to go with IRON MAN #6, not because it was that bad, really, but, because after the year and a half, or whatever it was, it left me saying “And that’s it?”

My TP/GN OF THE WEEK is the softcover of TRAILERS from NBM. Terrific little book with art by the love child of David Lapham and Terry Moore. Big-time recommended!

What did you think?


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