Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The DC Rebootlaunch: What It Means For The Bat-Family

First of all, I need to finally distinguish between Reboot and Relaunch. Apparently we're supposed to go with the latter, the former being too extreme. From what I can tell, 'Reboot' comes entirely from technology--something crashes, and you restart it. Whether DC has crashed is arguable, but I doubt they would admit to it, thus we move on to 'Relaunch.' This is much more in line with marketing, in the sense that a rebranding occurs involving changes and improvements.

Still, it requires more factual information on what DC is doing to make the final distinction. Every day new press releases come out telling us about certain titles and their creative teams and summaries. By all accounts, Relaunch is most appropriate, with characters returning to old identities and teaming up in new incarnations. So far it doesn't seem as if anyone has been completely, unalterably retconned. So is it just collective imagination that inferred Superman and other JLA-ers have been de-aged from Jim Lee's first piece of art?
Does Barbara Gordon wake up one morning with the use of her legs, or will there be an actual story to explain it? (I'm hoping, and expecting, a story, but Flashpoint could be the miraculous, magical catalyst for all these sweeping changes.)

As far as the Batman line goes, things are changing in a big way, while at the same time returning to a more familiar line-up. Bruce Wayne will be the only man wearing the Bat-costume now, and he will do so in at least four books: Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, and Batman and Robin, all starting over at #1. Grant Morrison's Batman, Inc. will end before the September premiere of all these titles, but then will begin again in 2012. Usually when Morrison makes a big change to the Batman mythos (like 'killing' Bruce Wayne) DC lets it stand for at least a year before returning it to something resembling the status quo. Now it seems that Bruce Wayne's revelation to the public that he is the funding behind Batman, and setting up a massive corporation to install a Batman in many major cities of the world, might be reversed more quickly. More likely it won't be, however, since other characters will be wearing his emblem if not sharing his name (see Batwing).

The main Bruce-centric title that interest me, and provides a big piece of Relaunch information, is Batman and Robin. In this Bruce will be partnered with his son Damian, who for awhile now has formed a strong bond with Dick Grayson's Batman. The father/son duo, I believe, will be the most interesting thing to read, and Bruce's rapport with Damian will no doubt be entertaining. The biggest thing it tells me though is that Damian will maintain his role as Robin, and thus Tim Drake will not be returning to his old costume.

So will Tim still be Red Robin? According to this morning's news: YES. We have not heard anything about a Red Robin solo book (though I expect and hope one will be forthcoming) but we have our first solicit for Teen Titans #1:

Tim Drake is forced to step out from behind his keyboard when an international organization seeks to capture or kill super-powered teenagers. As Red Robin, he must team up with the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and a hyperactive speedster calling himself Kid Flash in TEEN TITANS #1, by Scott Lobdell and artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund.

Tim's costume looks rather awesome. But apparently Wonder Girl and Kid Flash are NOT Cassie Sandsmark and Bart Allen, or at least not exactly. So where are they? And who are these newbies? And is that Connor Kent? And who are the other two weird looking chicks? From the art this looks like an intense, almost-90s feeling hardcore Teens Titan book. But truly all the matters it that Tim Drake is still Red Robin :-) And he's got freaking wings. Awesome.

Dan Didio claims that this will be Tim Drake's "main showcase" book, which is disheartening, but I will hold on hope for a Red Robin #1 (with 52 slots, they're bound to give him one.)

As for the rest of the Bat-family, there are several new titles. The first and foremost among them is Dick Grayson's return to his previous self-made identity in Nightwing #1. The Black and Red resemble both the Batman Beyond character and Robin's (Tim Drake's) post-Infinity Crisis outfit. The first arc seems to be about a return to his circus roots, which can always be fun (expect a Deadman cameo.) The fact that Dick is no longer Batman seems a bit like a demotion. Further, it somehow lessens his time as Batman, hearkening back to the days of Prodigal when he stepped into fill Bruce's shoes after crazy-Azrael-Batman was taken down. He spent so much time adjusting to this new role, and making it his own, and by all accounts he was massively successful. Still, it will be nice to see him in a more comfortable role, and I imagine he'll enjoy the Gotham wind whistling through his hair again as he leaps off skyscrapers.

The other huge news is that Batgirl #1 will star Barbara Gordon, no longer paralyzed and back in the role suit that made her famous. Barbara Gordon fighting, jumping, swinging, and doing all the active things she has heartily missed for over a decade. This is a mixed bag, as Oracle was an ingenious, well-crafted character who became a fixture in the DC Universe, all politically correct diversity BS aside. Many fans are no doubt heartbroken and worried, but this is comics after all, where people come back from the dead on a regular basis. The healing of Barbara now seems as if it were inevitable, and the glee with which she'll approach the job already feels infectious. The writer will be Gail Simone, a fan favorite and lover of Batgirl, but unfortunately not one of my favorite writers. I would have liked to see Chuck Dixon on this one.

My biggest problem is this: Where. Is. Stephanie. Brown?? The current Batgirl by Bryan Q. Miller is far and away DC's best comic. Stephanie has become quite the hero, even working in Batman, Inc. with Bruce's full approval and funding. Hopefully new will come soon about a new identity, still bat-related, for her to take up. And if she returns to being the Spoiler, I'm going to be very disappointed--unless Miller is still writing her, and they redesign that costume (in particular the full face ski-mask.)

Next we have Jason Todd in his own comic: Red Hood and the Outlaws. The former Robin and current sociopath, criminal-murderer leads his own team consisting of Arsenal and Starfire. Arsenal I get, who's become hardcore and is a bit harsher than most young heroes. (Hopefully the relaunch means his daughter's not dead anymore, which was one of the worst plot developments ever.) Starfire, however, although she is an emotional, passionate, fierce warrior, is not a killer. So it will be exciting to found out how this team comes together. And just as a side note, let's turn Jason's hair black again instead of red.

Other than that there will be a new Birds of Prey, the linup of which is unclear to me. It seems Black Canary is involved, and Poison Ivy, and maybe the powerhouse Grace Choi? Looks a bit strange.

Finally there's the new Batwing (African Batman), the Batwoman #1 that was supposed to come out earlier this year but has been added to the Relaunch lineup, and a Catwoman solo series.

There are brilliant marketing moves happening, some more exciting than others, but all hold great interest. My wallet lives in fear of September, and yet I eagerly await every piece of news DC sees fit to release (coughStephanieBrowncough.)

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