I had a chance to sit down with many of the big offerings for this year’s Free Comic Book Day, which takes place on May 2 at your local comic store. That’s a little over a week away!
I learned a few things about the big upcoming summer books from DC and Marvel, which I’ll reference below, so be warned: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE.
DC Divergence #1
Writers: Scott Snyder, Gene Luen Yang, Geoff JohnsArtists: Greg Capullo, John Romita Jr., Jason Fabok
For DC, the name of the game is change when the new line of books hits shelves this June. Convergence will be at an end and the move to Burbank, California will be over. With this new line — no longer under the New 52 branding — the company will introduce new status quo for their big three characters and a more diverse roster of books and creators. It all begins with the previews in Divergence #1.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo take the all-new Batman out for a spin in the opening pages. It takes no time at all for the team to establish just how different Gotham will be after “Endgame” is over next week. It’s a more peaceful Gotham, but also one that mourns the Batman, who is thought to have perished during his battle with the Joker (!!!). The art team (Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Plascencia) paint wonderful panoramic views of a mournful city, as the citizens step outside to pay tribute to their protectors. There’s a sky full of Batsignals and streets full of sad faces. Snyder pushes most of the quick exposition from panel to panel through newscasts, which I always love. It reminds me of that one Frank Miller book…
We also learn that the GCPD has taken measures in case the Batman ever disappeared and was thought to be gone for good. Having embraced his brand of justice, an all-new city-sanctioned official GCPD Batsuit was put into development. And it takes the higher-ups no time at all to find the proper candidate to be their new hero.
You probably know this already because the internet can’t keep its mouth shut, but it’s none other than former police commissioner Jim Gordon like you’ve never seen him before. Capullo draws a sharp-jawed, moustache-less rendition of Gordon, and even gives him the world’s worst haircut. The image of hairless Gordon is so striking that it almost mutes the revelation that he’s the guy behind the new robo-Batsuit. But the suit is beatiful, isn’t it? Plascencia’s intense, shiny blue adds so much to Capullo’s sharp-edged and grotesque suit. There has been a bit of an uproar about the suit, but I think it’s just so great.
Pick up Divergence on FCBD if only to get a couple of new pages from one of the best creative teams working in comics today.
Gene Luen Yang’s debut on Superman sees the world’s greatest hero having a chat with his pal Jimmy Olsen. John Romita Jr.’s new look for Supes is as plot-driven as Batman’s. The entire world has figured out that reporter Clark Kent is Superman, which makes life a lot more difficult for the hero. Metropolis has completely turned on him, and Clark is getting attacked by villains in broad daylight. The haircut, civilizan clothes, sunglasses, and beard should throw the most unsuspecting citizens off the scent, but villains who have fought the man time and time again will know better, and now there’s a fight at every street corner.
It’s nice to see Yang introducing a bit of the social media element that has made books like Batgirl so popular. Adding a cell phone, some “Hooq” messages, and people obsessed with 15 minutes of fame go a long way for these books, making them slightly more modern by reference. It goes well with Romita Jr.’s classicist sensibilities. I love a Romita page, and Yang (an award-winning graphic novelist) might just be the guy to push the story forward.
I usually take issue with Superman’s seemingly weaklessness. The solution is always go for those he loves or Kryptonite, and that gets awfully boring, so it’s nice to see something so rudimentary and simple present itself as a huge challenge to the Man of Steel. Everyone knows his identity. Bam! Now everything is different and harder and a bit more hostile in the city he loves so much. And when it’s revealed that it was Lois Lane who leaked his identity to the world, well, sparks go flying. We get one sad scene of shaggy-looking Clark living in a dingy motel. Things are going to get interesting in Superman #41.
The final section of Divergence is devoted to the lead-up to Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s Darkseid War, which is on the horizon. It’s not really the Wonder Woman tease I wanted, and I don’t think it’s a particularly interesting section, highlighting a bit of the old DC everyone desperately wants to get away from. Fabok’s intense, mythologizing art is a lot of fun, though, as we’re treated to a short story in the Amazon — the very beginning of the conflict that will erupt through the multiverse.
And it’s super grim. I mean, it punches the fun we just had with Batman and Superman in the face. It’s that old imperative that DC comics have to be very serious and grim. Let Marvel have all the fun. But books like Batman, Batgirl, Multiversity, Grayson, and Gotham Academy have helped usher in some of the pop the DC line-up has been missing. I hope Justice League can take a chill pill sometime soon.
There’s a ridiculous birth scene, by the way, in case you’re interested.
All-New, All-Different Avengers/Uncanny Inhumans/Secret Wars
Writers: Mark Waid, Charles Soule, Jonathan HickmanArtists: Mahmud Asrar, Brandon Peterson, Paul Renaud
Ah, this is the good stuff! Mark Waid takes over Marvel’s flagship from the great Jonathan Hickman, who will be busy with his own little Marvel crossover event for the next few months. From the very first page, the All-New, All-Different Avengers are in full swing. A new generation, fronted by Ms. Marvel, joins the team in a comedic action sequence that starts on a punchline. Ms. Marvel yells, “Avengers Assemble!” much to the chagrin of the older members, who inform “the kids” that only the veterans can say that. Nevertheless, the best part of the issue is watching the overzealous newbies get themselves into trouble, as the team faces off against a radioactive dragon. Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and Nova are the fun of the issue, although you get a lot of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Vision, too.
Waid and artist Mahmud Asrar brilliantly split the team in half for the action sequence. The pages switch between the old and the young, juxtaposing their techniques and their reactions to the same situations. The adults are a bit more serious while the kids stumble along (only a tiny bit), having a great time. But in the end, the team is unified by their moral code, as Ms. Marvel, Miles, and Nova learn the first rule of being an Avenger: protect the citizens over everything else. It feels very X-Men to me.
Best of all, Avengers feels like a brand new book. Duh, it’s All-New, All Different, right? Yes, but I mean that while Hickman basked in a very continuity-heavy approach, Waid dials it back a bit for newer readers. This feels like a book — like his Daredevil — that will be very comfortable having standalone adventures and one-off villians, all while developing these younger characters and solidifying them as Earth’s Greatest Heroes. I’m genuinely excited abou this run, even more-so from this preview.
Charles Soule and Brandon Peterson take on the Uncanny Inhumans for another entertaining NuHuman origin tale after April’s #0 issue featuring Black Bolt. The fast-paced issue comes down on the players like the Terrigen cloud that’s turning a select few into Inhumans. Bollywood superstar Ajay Roy isn’t ready for the transformation, as he suddenly find himself transformed into a grotesque tree creature (it’s awesome that Soule also wrote DC’s Swamp Thing), who will eventually become Naanis, a tree-like Inhuman.
Peterson unveils “the monster” beautifully, drawing a grotesque thing that should be human, but it’s lined with bark and vines. Soule offers only a few sparse words during the transformation: “I feel…strange…” Ajay, used to celebrity isn’t ready for all the attention he’s about to get in his new role. The irony is so sweet.
We also get our first few steamy (heh-heh) moments with Johnny Storm and Queen Medusa, who leads the Inhumans in this particular issue. Johnny’s inclusion in this new team is very high-profile to comic book fans, but perhaps his romance with Medusa will be even more-so. They share a couple of playful lines that lead into a long kiss.
Finally, we get to Hickman’s Secret Wars, which is surprisingly accessible and simple. Not that a continuity-heavy tale is a bad thing, especially when Hickman’s been pulling all the Marvel strings for so long, but this issue does what a FCBD issue should: get the fans excited and grab new readers, both of which are accomplished here.
There’s barely more than a tease — you’ll have a lot of space to follow all of these threads, trust me — but the sci-fi elements are inspired, as Valeria Richards, daughter of Mr. Fantastic, prepares a life raft to weather the coming storm. As the multidimensional rift begins to open in the sky, Valeria convinces her friends that the raft is their last best hope for survival. Her father was unable to stop this disaster from happening and now they must run.
They watch another Earth appear in the evening sky from atop the Baxter Building. The heroes of two words charge at one another and the Secret Wars begin.