This site is not a destination for news. We update twice a week, generally with content that is more analytical than informative. Yet, in January when DC launched its 8-book publishing initiative New Age of DC Heroes, a dozen readers on Twitter asked me what the deal was with these books, specifically if they were any good.
There was anticipation, doubt, and curiosity, and it was all understandable. These books follow a roughly 18-month-long period during which DC deliberately avoided large-scale new book rollouts. Now, all of a sudden, they’re doing eight. I responded:
I admire DC for trying new things, but 8 books at once seems like too much, especially when none star a bankable character (you could say Plastic Man but I’d say that’s stretching, then I’d laugh at my pun until everyone got uncomfortable). My guess is the art will be incredible, but, overall, I’ll be surprised if most of this line lasts 20 issues.
Three of the books have now dropped, and, the thing is, I’m still hearing questions, although not as many. Some fans are reading the damn things (good!) and others have moved on to asking about Scott Snyder’s Justice League or Brian Michael Bendis’ Superman.
For those still curious, however, today I have some brief impressions of the three live titles, plus updates on my thinking about the five that are yet to come.
The Known Knowns
Damage by Robert Venditti & Tony S. Daniel: One of the conceits of New Age of Heroes is some books are basic Marvel ripoffs, this character the most. Damage is The Hulk, if Banner had been a foot soldier rather than a scientist, a military pawn rather than architect of his own trauma. The first issue was a Hulk story, albeit one that hinted at deeper exploration of the modern military industrial complex. The art was good and the story did enough to get me to read #2.
Next issue: 02/21/2018
Silencer by John Romita Jr. & Dan Abnett: I wasn’t expecting much here because I’ve never found stories about vigilantes with guns compelling, due to lack of escapism and excess of uncomfortable reality. I know they can cautionary, but they also walk a line between glorifying the behavior they examine. It’s especially too much right now given the power the NRA wields in Congress. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this book is actually a far cry from that brutal brand of vigilante justice, although part of me wonders if it’ll get a bit closer as the first arc progresses.
Next issue: 02/28/2018
Sideways by Kenneth Rocafort & Dan DiDio/Justin Jordan: Sideways is my favorite so far, although I should note I’m a sucker for Kenneth Rocafort art and teenage superhero origin stories. Still, this one is especially well-done. As many have pointed out, Sideways has Spider-Man vibes, but that’s fine. Youth culture has changed dramatically since the last Spider-Man origin overhaul was done in the Ultimate books by Bendis, so there’s ample ground to explore, and I’m game to explore it through visuals as lush as these.
Next issue: 03/14/2018
The (So Far) Unknown Knowns
Terrifics by Ivan Reis and Jeff Lemire: This book is a blatant DC take on the Fantastic Four, swapping Reed Richards for Plastic Man, The Human Torch for Mister Terrific, and so on. It’s also written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Ivan Reis. This is, to be clear, my most anticipated book of the line, so much so I openly insist you all read it. All of you.
First issue: 2/28/2018
Curse of Brimstone by Philip Tan & Justin Jordan: The title of this book put me off at the start, because it sounds like a Hardy Boys novel. The description, however, is intriguing. It’s about a man making a deal with the devil to save his struggling small town. If this plot goes into the withering Midwest, the opioid crisis, the brain drain challenges plaguing smalltown America, it could be really good, or at least relevant.
First issue: 04/04/2018
Immortal Men by Jim Lee & James Tynion IV: Jim Lee, one of the industry’s best and tardiest artists, is drawing three issues of this book, the first of which has been delayed...and delayed...and then delayed. I think the debut will come out, eventually, but I have no idea whether two more Jim Lee issues will ever drop at this rate.
First issue: 04/11/2018
New Challengers by Andy Kubert & Scott Snyder: This book is an update of Challengers of the Unknown, one of Jack Kirby’s many creations. Embarrassingly, I have zero familiarity with it. However, it doesn’t seem like I’ll need any, as the previews make clear this is about new characters. Challengers Mountain was mentioned in Carter’s journal during the Metal event, so this is also poised to have a direct Metal connection. Overall, I’m a Scott Snyder fan, plus the character designs from Andy Kubert are intriguing. If Snyder really lets his psyche roam, we could be in for some fantastic adventures.
First issue: TBD
The Unexpected by Ryan Sook & Steve Orlando: When this book was announced, Steve Orlando (a MASSIVELY underrated writer) described it as Seven Samurai meets The Dark Tower. Okay, cool! And from what I understand, some characters have already been introduced, during Metal or via connections to more prominent stories. That said, it seems any of them will be notable enough to pull in readers. What may do that, however, is Orlando writing another team books with a disparate group struggling to cooperate. See Justice League of America to observe how skilled he is at that.
First issue: TBD
New Age of DC Heroes Overall
Maybe I’ll lose any cred I had as a discerning comic book reader, but I think this line is kind of cool. The books are $2.99 and there are no variant covers, which allays (a bit) my suspicions of cash grabs and gimmickry. I’ve also genuinely liked two of the three books so far, and the next one coming is from Jeff Lemire, easily one of my favorite writers.
And really, what should DC be doing instead? More alternate takes on Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman? More books with new lenses through which to see obscure characters? We’re getting enough of both those things. DC is confident and exciting right now, more than it has been in many years. Good for them for looking in new directions, even if they lead to failure.
Whether these books last hinges on sales, but sales never tell whole stories of success and failure. Upcoming solicits show an effort to integrate these characters with existing DC properties. The cynical view sees this as desperation to move more books. My sunny optimist view, however, is that it’s actually commitment to the concepts long-term, regardless of whether they sell. They say you should always end your writing with a cliche (right?), so...I guess in the end, only time will tell…
I’ve been burned out on X-Men and had zero interest in X-Men Red, until some smart readers told me this one was different. Now, I’m adding my voice to that chorus. Even if you’ve become X-Hausted, this first issue is worth a read. It hems closer to the central metaphor than any X-Story in years, rightly picking Jean as true caretaker of Xavier’s legacy. Plus, there’s a twist!...The literary writer Mat Johnson is one of my favorite accounts on Twitter. He’s witty, sharp with his politics, and prolific. Incognegro Renaissance is one of the smartest and most subtle comics this year, understated in a way that is often difficult for the medium. Johnson takes risk with nuance and they all land...Finally, Milk Wars has been great. The first round of Young Animal valued aesthetic oddity over deep meaning AND accessibility. I prefer my odd visuals with one or the other, otherwise it feels like showing off, kind of like Terrence Malick’s lesser movies. This event, though, is odd, accessible and might have some deeper meaning, too. Plus, it’s worth reading for the story line in part 2, within which Batman is a preacher and his congregation is a bunch of mini Robins with big shotguns.