Thoughts on the New DCU – Part 1: Justice League Titles

DC Comics is revamping their characters and entire publishing line this September after Flashpoint in what appears to be the largest-scale shake-up since Crisis on Infinite Earths ushered in a new era back in 1986. As you might imagine, here at Speed Force, we all keep an eye on DC’s output. The four regular contributors here have written up our first impressions of the new line-up. [Edit: restructured to break things down by series instead of by commenter.]

Justice League · Wonder Woman · The Flash · Green Arrow · The Fury of Firestorm · Aquaman · Justice League International · Mister Terrific · The Savage Hawkman · Captain Atom · DC Universe Presents

Justice League by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee

Devin: All right, ANOTHER Justice League relaunch. Like many of the titles announced in this company line reboot, I just cannot muster much enthusiasm for this. It IS nice to see Cyborg getting some more attention these days. Although I find his role as “Superman” in the Flashpoint verse to be a little farfetched (more to do with his power set than him being Vic Stone) I figured he was due for a “push” either way.

Unfortunately I’m now almost completely indifferent towards the character of Barry Allen. And really that is what is going to be influencing my picking this up. It used to be that as long as there was a “Flash” or “speedster” on the JLA I would check it out. But after last time when they didn’t launch the book right away with a speedster and then Wally only had sporadic appearances here and there I stopped caring. I loved Dwayne McDuffie’s Wally and Wonder Woman story and picked it up after the fact but that was about all I really liked. I dropped it after Wally left the team and have not looked back since.

If this revamped version of Barry that Geoff is presenting to me is more interesting than he was in The Flash book I will keep it past the first issue. But with a rumored 7 more members being added to the roster I doubt I will get to see as much speedster action as I would like (of course that is what the main Flash title is for). Also Jim Lee’s art is not really a selling point for me, at least not after seeing this cover. Don’t get me wrong; I loved his work back in the day on X-Men, unfortunately it just doesn’t translate well to DC’s stable of characters.

To present and future Flash artists: The Flash is a runner, hence he should have a slim, runner-like build. He doesn’t have to be scrawny but he sure as hell isn’t He-Man. There is a happy medium. Thank you.

Nonetheless I am as optimistic as I can be about this. I really want this to be the move that puts DC on top again so I’m going to give it a couple of issues to get my attention.

Greg: The main Justice League team seems to indicate the book should serve as a DC weathervane, with ideas that could make quick jumps into other media.

Kelson: Justice League looks like they’re going back to the big-guns, which fits the back-to-basics approach…but I find the League more interesting with a slightly larger team to balance out the SUPER-humans with the super-HUMANS. Reportedly they’ll have 14 members total, which sounds about right (my favorite League was the middle of Grant Morrison’s run, around the time of Rock of Ages), but I’ve kind of gotten soured on Geoff Johns’ writing since…well, since Infinite Crisis, now that I think about it.

Lia: Since there’s supposedly going to be 14 members on the team, why have we only seen half of them? What’s up with the costume revamps and de-aging? (yes, this is more of a general-DC thing than specific to the title, but it’s most obvious here) We need to hear more about this series to properly judge, but I’m fairly cool toward it so far. Then again, hero team books have never been my thing.

Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang

Lia: She’s one of those characters that I really want to like, but haven’t had much interest in apart from during Greg Rucka’s run. Still, Brian Azzarello is a skilled writer and Cliff Chiang’s art is amazing, so that’s very promising. I wish she wasn’t always being retconned and revamped all the time, though — it’s very discouraging for anyone thinking about getting into her series/history. Obviously that can be fixed with this relaunch, but how long will it stick before another retcon?

Devin: Sorry to say it but I really do not care much about Wonder Woman. She is one of those iconic original seven Justice League Members so she has my respect as a character and I always like having her around but I just don’t care to read about her and only her on a regular basis.

The Flash by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato

Greg: Count me among the fans of the creative team for Flash. Manapul and Buccellato have already brought new ideas to super speed as portrayed in Flash, and their recent comments seem to indicate they will continue to take on new challenges.

Lia: I’m somewhat leery of having two writers on board who don’t have a lot of writing experience, but delighted to have Francis Manapul back on the art. In general I’m really looking forward to this, so long as there aren’t many retcons and resets to the Flashverse. I hope the Rogues will be handled well and get plenty of love — and if there must be resets, please bring back the dead Rogues too.

Kelson: I’ve been drifting away from the core of the DCU for a while (the weird characters on the outskirts seem to appeal to me more these days), and I don’t see much here to change that.

Flash is the notable exception: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato on art were my favorite part of the post-Rebirth Flash series, so having them back on the book is really encouraging. I’m still a bit apprehensive about the direction, but now that I think about it, I’m more interested than I would have been if Geoff Johns were still on the book.

Devin: Seriously the only title I really care about here. Unfortunately it is only to see if Wally is anywhere and if Barry is still a piece of wet cardboard. Francis did impress me a whole bunch with his art in the last series (really the best part about it) so he has me with that but can he tell a story? And can he make me care about Barry Allen where only Mark Waid (who is nowhere to be found) has been able to in the past? I’m giving him an honest chance; at least an arc before I drop it. I figure The Flash’s new direction deserves a look before I‘m done with the title.

I wouldn’t be so disgruntled and fed up if DC had been straight with us about Wally from the first place and not try to undermine his accomplishments and push him to the background to push Barry ahead. It is only exacerbated by the fact that Johns has shown us no reason why this change had to happen. Why we had to move backwards other than him wanting Barry back. He wanted to undo the only interesting thing that Barry has done to me besides train Wally and be an inspiration to him. Barry is a great role model and that is about it. Now I probably wouldn’t have noticed the lack of Barry’s personality if the stories were good enough but nope, both arcs that came of the last Flash series were pretty pointless and showed me nothing that couldn’t have been just as easily told with Wally as the star. I guess I’m just a bit jaded. I want to be optimistic and hopeful but damn it I really miss Wally. I feel like one of my best friends up and left town without saying a thing and that I occasionally get a post card from him every few months and never with a return address.

The Fury of Firestorm by Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver & Yildiray Cinar

Devin: When I first saw this cover my thoughts immediately went to the horribly miscolored Firestorm Happy Meal Toy from McDonald’s released last month.

After that I thought about how the concept of Firestorm has never really appealed to me. When my brother and I were younger, my mom would take us to McKay’s Used Bookstore. They sold comics at 25 cents a pop with double sized issues and annuals going for 50 cents. My brother and I would each get a dozen or so and they were our primary forms of entertainment besides action figures and of course after we were finished reading our own we would swap them. This gave us a chance to experience something a little different. Amongst the various titles my bro would pick up was Fury of Firestorm. Because he started to collect them I had the chance to read them when I was done with me and man did I not give a damn about Firestorm. The costume was ok, but I didn’t get the logic of the flaming hair or what point it had. The puffy sleeves were kind of the last straw when it came to the costume. As for the characters I really didn’t care for Ronnie Raymond or Martin Stein. Ronnie seemed like a doofy jock and a screw up and Martin Stein was a stuffy professor. These two would join to make Firestorm? Meh.

I gave the character another chance years later with Jason Rusch in the matrix and I found him to be a lot more interesting than Ronnie. I liked that he was intelligent, thoughtful and not so much of a meathead and I also liked that he was a young, bright, black guy like me. I rarely find characters that I can identify with on that level. The costume was also updated fairly nicely and the stories were pretty good. Unfortunately I stopped reading around One Year Later.

This new book looks to be incorporating both of our main Firestorm hosts into the matrix with the appearance changing depending on who is wielding the matrix. Personally I don’t see why they couldn’t just have one costume for both of them and simply change the color of the skin and the features depending on who is in control but whatever. I just think it kind of makes Jason look like Kid Flash to Ronnie’s Flash. That may just be me projecting though.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be picking up the first issue. I like Gail and Ethan a lot but I don’t really have a lot of interest for yet another iteration of Firestorm. Jason was interesting, but he will only be half the story. Not enough for me to break out the bucks for it. Sorry.

Lia: Good lord, that quickly-pulled concept art — hopefully it’s already been significantly changed and streamlined, because otherwise the new design for Firestorm is awful. Still, I enjoyed the interplay between Ronnie and Jason during Brightest Day, so this could be good.

Kelson: It’s good that they’ve managed to include both Ronnie and Jason in the new Firestorm series, which makes me wonder what DC will do (if anything) to try to heal the fractured Flash fan base.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns & Ivan Reis

Lia: I’m kind of annoyed that Geoff Johns left the Flash to go to this book, so maybe there’s a slight grudge here. But Aquaman himself has never really interested me, just Black Manta. And Mera somewhat, as of recently. So I’ll pass unless the series is full of Black Manta being a horrible dick, which I kind of find funny.

Devin: No interest whatsoever. I love Ivan Reis’ work. The art on Blackest Night was great and I loved his Flash. Geoff however no longer impresses me. I thought if anyone could make the Flash awesome, he could. Unfortunately he mucked it up just as much as anyone else has. Bringing back Barry and flinging Wally into off-panel oblivion was just the icing on the cake. You get a few of my dollars on Justice League, Geoff and that is about it.

Justice League International by Dan Jurgens & Aaron Lopresti

Lia: Justice League: Generation Lost was pretty terrible, but hopefully this series will take the better aspects of it (the new Rocket Red, for instance) and leave behind the worst ones (the complete revamping of Ice). The lineup is groovy but perhaps a bit too big, and Batman should not be in yet another book. He’s as bad as Wolverine now.

Greg: I’m a fan of Dan Jurgens, and it’s good to see his name here twice, but I would have like to see him write and draw Justice League International.

Devin: My first exposure to the Justice League in comic book form was the old Justice League International and Justice League Europe series. I remember being utterly confused when I opened them up at first because I only had an idea of who the main characters were and none of them were acting the way that I had seen them act before. Eventually I learned more about the DC universe and I came to appreciate it for what it was but at the same time I’m not clamoring for a revival of those days. And no one in this roster is enough to make me care. If they add Wally at some point and time maybe. Until then, no speedsters, no sale.

Mr. Terrific by Eric Wallace & Roger Robinson

Devin: I really loved Roger’s work on Starman. It is still one of my favorite runs of all time, and I will occasionally go back and read it. Unfortunately in recent years with things like Cry for Justice, Robinson has fallen out of favor with me. Mr. Terrific isn’t a character I’m terribly familiar with (despite having an action figure of him) and I don’t really see his abilities as anything really interesting. His costume redesign is also pretty terrible. I thought his old costume was one of the few costumes in the DC Universe to really have that contemporary vibe. And what is what the ink? I know it is the craze these days but sheesh. Pass.

Kelson: This is the first big surprise in terms of titles announced, since he’s never had a solo series before.

Lia: What is with that cover? I miss his jacket, and the colouring of the T around his mouth makes him look like an offensive stereotype. Seriously unfortunate.

The Savage Hawkman by Tony Daniel & Philip Tan

Devin: Sorry Carter, never cared about you and I never will.

Lia: A confession: I really hate Hawkman and his entire mythos. You’d have to pay me to read it.

Captain Atom by JT Krul & Freddie Williams II

Devin: I think a Dr. Manhattan version of Captain Atom is probably more interesting than any other version that I’ve seen but not enough for me to care. I actually hated his character back in the old JLI series and while I don’t hate him now I don’t particularly like him either.

Lia: Never had much interest in the character. The cover is lovely, but I’ve never really liked Freddie Willliams’ art and have heard bad things about JT Krul’s work.

Green Arrow by JT Krul & Dan Jurgens

Devin: I’ve never cared for Oliver Queen. I dug Connor Hawke but I don’t even want to know where he has ended up in the NEW DCU, if anywhere. The costume reminds me a bit of Smallville, but in this instance it is not a terrible thing. It still isn’t enough to me read it.

Lia: Another JT Krul book (to be fair, I don’t think I’ve actually read anything by him and am just going by what I’ve heard) and another character I don’t much care for. But hopefully Ollie fans will enjoy it.

DC Universe Presents by Paul Jenkins & Bernard Chang

Greg: DC’s roster is easily rich enough to support an anthology book, so it is nice to see a title like DC Universe Presents listed here. Books like these work best when they rotate creative teams, so here’s hoping DC makes some bold choices.

Lia: I love anthology series which focus on lesser-known characters…provided the stories are good. Often they aren’t, in my experience, but hopefully that won’t be the case here. Keeping an established writer like Paul Jenkins on the title — as opposed to using it as a try-out book for up and coming writers — may help.

Kelson: I’ve never been one to read an anthology regularly, but I like being able to pick up stories about characters who wouldn’t otherwise get a spotlight. I’ll probably pick up individual issues based on the featured characters and creative team.

Devin: Deadman: Another character I care nothing about. Pass for now. I wonder if we will see a Wally story down the line (assuming he isn’t showing up anywhere)?

Next up: Green Lanterns.

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17 thoughts on “Thoughts on the New DCU – Part 1: Justice League Titles

  1. BCVM22

    re: Mr. Terrific/Devin, you seem to be confusing artist Roger Robinson (who I’ve never heard of, I have no problem admitting) with writer James Robinson of Starman/Cry for Justice notoriety.

    Reply
  2. Jason West

    RE Aquaman/Lia: I would just like to point out that Geoff Johns was already writing Brightest Day and therefore Aquaman and company while writing The Flash so if he “left” The Flash for anything it’s Justice League (where he’ll still be writing him)

    RE JLI/Greg: I completely agree. I would be way more excited if he was doing both writing and art…

    Oh and BCVM22 is correct. James Robinson is not writing Mr. Teriffic. Eric Wallace is with Roger Robinson doing art…

    And just for the record I’ll be picking up Aquaman, Justice League, The Flash, The Fury of Firestorm, and JLI from this bunch. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lia

      The info I’ve heard is that Johns and Lee have been working on JLA for a long time (honestly, that’s probably the only way it’ll come out on time). So if that’s true, JLA’s been in the works for a while and Aquaman is Johns’ new book.

      Reply
  3. Devin

    HAHA. My mistake. I blame it on the drugs (I’m nursing a horrible tooth ache and in 40 minutes I will be having my root canal),and the fact that James Robinson sticks out so far in my mind.

    I remember Roger Robinson now, he did the designs for the cancelled Flash video game a few years back. I wonder how much input if any he may have had on the new look.

    Reply
  4. Jason

    My only concerns about Flash(aside from the fact that it isn’t featuring Wally…grrr) is Francis Manapul. He was the primary reason that the last series was NEVER on schedule. So how do we reward that, we add writing to his list of duties. I really can’t wrap my head around that one. As much as I love his art, I enjoyed it more when he was working with a regular inker on Legion of Super Heroes and actually making his deadlines. I’m not a fan of “soft” art for comics. Especially when it takes longer and damages the shipping schedule. You can’t be a top artist in a periodcal field if you can’t make a deadline.

    Reply
    1. Lee H

      Francis Manapul has said that he wasn’t to blame for all the delays. He had periods of time with no script to draw from, so had to be assigned covers instead.

      He won’t be waiting on a writer when he IS the writer.

      Reply
      1. Jason

        I don’t buy that for a second. The entire reason Scott Kollins was brought in for the last 2 issues and the fill ins was so that they could get them out on time and to give Manapul time to get a head start on the next batch of issues. I can imagine a few script rewrites and revisions towards the end of the series but not so much during the beginning.

        Also if lack of scripts were the case how come all of Johns’ other titles managed to ship on time? One would have to think that with The Flash just starting and leading into the “next big thing” a writer of his caliber would have his ducks in a row. I’m the last person in the world that would jump to his defense, but I have to respect his professionalism based on years of experience.

        Reply
  5. Savitar

    With Justice League, JLI, and Justice League Dark, DC apparently is trying to emulate (re: cash in) Marvel’s recent best-selling approach to the Avengers (which I hate. Thank YOU Bendis)

    Multiple teams with multiple focuses. This might be a good idea if only to re-enforce the idea that the Justice League is the supreme team in the DCU. (The approach taken in the JLU cartoon was brilliant)

    That being said, I would check out JLI only because of Jurgens. A solid, consistent, entertaining writer/artist.

    Reply
  6. Jason West

    @Jason: Johns’ other titles weren’t on time though. Green Lantern has had so many delaysover the past year it hurt. GL 67 is supposed to be the finale to War of the GLs but it’s been delayed a month and a half to mid-July from early June. And as far as Brightest Day, Tomasi was writing most of it. Johns was more or less creative input and mainly covering the Aquaman/Deadman stories. So don’t even try to pin the delays on The Flash on Manapul. The man kicks ass on art and kicks ass on getting the issues done fast. Johns was the primary issue.

    Reply
    1. Realitätsprüfung

      True, but last year’s Blackest Night had EVERY issue ship on time – many of which were oversized. Over 30 of them were written by Johns. Brightest Day shipped on time for 23 out of 24 issues – a twice-monthly series. GL has been on time for most of the last 3 years.

      So without someone coming out and pointing fingers, better not to do it ourselves out of ignorance.

      In fact, my speculation is that the delays weren’t caused by blown deadlines or busy creators, but that DC had to switch gears and get set for a wholesale reboot of their universe. That put the Flash book, and its now super-important lead-in to Flashpoint, up for a lot of plot revision.

      No reason to write scripts or draw pages if you aren’t 100% on what you’re setting up.

      Reply
  7. JonQCitizen

    This first announcement set me up for an excited, psyched, can’t-wait-till-September feeling in my heart! I am a long-time fan of B-List Heroes Green Arrow & Hawkman….Aquaman looks like it’ll be good…of course, The Flash & Justice League (with the “Big Names” makes me look back to the days of Morrison/Porter).

    In addition to the above, I’ll be giving Mister Terrific a try….I’ve wondered for years if they would give the character a chance with his own ongoing, and with the updated duds it may be pretty cool.

    Reply
    1. Ben Hall

      It has given me another reason to go the trade waiting route, starting in September. I like all the heroes you mentioned but this is not the direction I necessarily want DC Entertainment to go. I have other reasons for the trade waiting such as money and space issues. I do think that the updated duds are okay for some such as Booster Gold, but the Mr. Terrific update not so much.

      Reply
      1. JonQCitizen

        Yeah, I agree….I do a lot of trade waiting!

        They HAD to get Mister Terrific OUT of the 80’s rapper gear, and into something this century!….lol. I do find it interesting that MR. T is the only JSA character that seems to have “survived” the re-vamp.

        Reply
  8. Esteban Pedreros

    Mr. Terrific was re-designed by Cully Hammer. He now has an “M” on his face and a “T” on his Chest/body.
    Not crazy about the design, but what really worries me here is Eric Wallace, I find him to be an awful writer, pretty terrible actually, so I’m sorry for Mr. Terrific, but there’s no way I’ll support that book.

    There is not one book on this list that I would buy. But I’ll wait and see if Flash gets my attention one more time.

    BTW, I’d rather have Jurgens drawing, with a decent inker he is a good penciller, but I’d run away from anything that he writes

    Reply

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