Direct Currents: DC Discussion for August

DC Rebirth Promotional Image, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, HiFi

Welcome to Direct Currents, where Annie Blitzen and Cori McCreery will talk about the month that was for DC Comics. Since this is our first column, we thought we’d let you get to know us first.

Cori has been reading DC Comics since Superman died in 1992. Her favorite characters are Supergirl and the various members of the Teen Titans. Other than a five year break for the New 52, she’s been a DC fan for most of her life, and is excited to discuss her favorite universe.

Annie still has some Death of Superman comics in a box somewhere, but she was a Marvel gal primarily. Kate Kane and Renee Montoya are probably the top of her DC faves. She really just reads comics to see ladies kissing, and she’s definitely a bigger skeptic when it comes to some of the much-loved DC properties.

August was a big month for DC, with their first huge event since Rebirth kicking off. Metal launched this month, and we both had feelings about that book. It was also Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday and height of DC’s Kirby 100 event commemorating it. Along with the one-shot specials celebrating The King, DC also launched the much-lauded Mister Miracle this month.

Let’s do this. Metal was certainly a book! You seemed very impressed! Please gush about it before I spread a pallor of gloom over it.

Dark Nights: Metal 1 - DC Comics - Greg Capullo
Batman riding a DINOSAUR!

Cori: I loved Metal! I think a lot of it hearkens back to the fact that one of my all time favorite series is the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, so, I’m a sucker for the big universe shaping events. Plus, you had Batman riding a DINOSAUR. But really, it all goes to the grand scale for me. That’s what makes DC different from Marvel in my eyes. Marvel’s heroes are more human, DC’s heroes are legends. So when I settle into a DC comic, I like seeing my heroes facing threats that endanger universes.

Annie: I can get behind that sentiment. Who doesn’t like a dinosaur? I guess I’ve seen enough cosmic crossover events screw over characters and creators I loved that I don’t buy in quite as quickly. Final Crisis sure happened, huh?

Crisis on Infinite Earths 7 - DC Comics - George Perez and Dick Giordano
Epic superhero sagas, the way they were meant to be.

Cori: I mean…my favorite character did die in the first one…so I get that feeling too.

Annie: But she died cool, didn’t she? I’m talking more about dropped plots, characters who just disappear, creators who never get to finish what they were trying to do. And I think Metal is a good example of at least one aspect of that: Hawkman and Hawkgirl have been MIA since the launch of Rebirth, and not in the sense that characters have been searching for them. And now…spoiler alert, but they’re finally revealed in this book, and, frankly, I’m disappointed. I would’ve rather had a year of good stories with them than this.

Cori: That’s fair, but I think this is also leading somewhere bigger. They’re not the only ones that have been missing since Rebirth started, and I feel like we’re going to be using them as a springboard to get the Justice Society back. And Hawkman: Found is spinning out of Metal, so it looks like we’ll be getting further stories of the Hawkfamily after all.

Annie: I do love the Justice Society. Their old-timey nonsense is endearing, it really is. What I think is kinda hilarious is that almost all the high points of Metal for you were the low points for me. Justicezord? Why? What purpose did that entire story serve? The big reveal at the end? Are we going to spoil that here? I hate it. I just utterly hate the very idea of it.

Cori: On Justicezord, I can’t give you a great reason, other than it’s fun. My 10 year old inner child screamed in joy at the idea. Slam together the Justice League and the Power Rangers in a blender? Yes, please. As for the spoiler at the end? I think it makes a lot of sense. If you’ve some how managed not to be spoiled for the end of Metal by now, I applaud you, and you may want to skip ahead a few paragraphs. Daniel as Dream has always had intrinsic ties with the main DC Universe. His grandparents were Carter and Shayera Hall; his parents were Hector and Lyta Hall. He has appeared in both the JLA comic of the early 2000s and the JSA of the mid 2000s. This isn’t his first time being dragged back into the DC Universe. I’m intrigued to see how he’s involved.

Annie: Okay, yes, he’s connected, and that’s probably why the Hawks are the keys to launching this thing: as justification for using Dream. Part of the problem for me is that I both put Sandman on a pedestal and kinda never want to hear about it again. It’s become such an inescapable part of “the discourse,” similar to Watchmen, that I just cringe whenever someone brings up their incredible new take on it. Having him run around with the capes and tights brigade while the world ends makes me want to run screaming.

Cori: I totally get the apprehension there, but also he’s only been in one panel so far. Who’s to say how big of a role he’ll actually play? He could just be the tie to get Batman to Hawkman or Doctor Fate.

Annie: He could be, yeah. My cynical expectation is that they’re going to give him as many dramatic entrances as they can, though, because it plays well with a certain segment of fans. Challengers of the Unknown was a nice surprise, really. I hope they actually go somewhere with that idea instead of keeping them as backstory characters. I’ve wanted for a long time to care about them.

Cori: Well, the good news, there is that part of the Dark Matter line of books spring-boarding out of Metal is New Challengers by Scott Snyder and Andy Kubert. So Scott’s obviously got further plans for the Challengers!

Annie: Good, good. Let’s see, we covered the zord, Hawks, Dream, Challengers, bat-raptor…I’m just going to throw in there the fact that I hate the Multiversity map. I didn’t like the book back then, and I was sick of seeing that map by the end of New 52, and I really wish they’d just let it die. I think that’s my last hot take on Metal.

I have no take on the Multiversity map, because that book happened while I was on my self imposed vacation from DC Comics. I do however, have takes on Mister Miracle. How about you?

Annie: Honestly, until this month, I had zero takes on Mister Miracle. He was Barda’s husband, and also some other guys wore the costume too. Cool. Now…Well, I have a take on Mister Miracle the book, at least. And that is: warn me if you’re going to do some shit like open your book with a two-page spread of someone bleeding out from self-inflicted wounds on a bathroom floor. That wrecked me for a day and a half. I’m not a crusader for “put warnings on EVERYTHING,” necessarily, but damn. How can you think that’s a cool thing to do?

Cori: Yeah, the lack of a content warning was a big issue for me too, I made sure to try to tell everyone who I told to read the book that there should be one. It’s surprising to me, that with Tom King’s history, that he wouldn’t have included one. The man knows what an effect trauma can have on people, because he served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Other than the lack of warning though, I thought Mister Miracle was probably the best book of the month. I didn’t expect it to be, but here we are. It gave us a very intriguing idea, of the world’s greatest escape artist escaping the one inevitable end. And it felt very much like a classic Vertigo horror book, which is something I didn’t realize I missed reading.

Annie: I definitely got that Vertigo vibe. It could’ve been an issue of Hellblazer circa 1995, and that’s a good thing to me. “Which reality is the real one” is a tired trope, but I was actually intrigued by how it was used here. One thing that held it back from being really awesome (aside from the fact that I was losing focus on the present while I tried to read it because goddammit) was the formalist/experimental elements. The half-blank 9-panel grids, the bizarre color layers, all that stuff. It felt unoriginal, weirdly. The grids read like Watchmen, and The Wicked + The Divine has kinda cornered the market on using Watchmen formal elements for new purposes for a while. I am, however, and always will be, a sucker for “Darkseid Is.” I’m super mad at Grant Morrison for how well that originally worked on me.

Mister Miracle 1 - DC Comics - Mitch Gerards
Creepiest panel sequence in a very creepy book.

Cori: See, I thought the grids and the color layers worked extremely well. Especially in the talk show sequence. Holy crap, was that one of the creepiest two page spreads I’ve ever read. I still send panels from that spread to friends at random just to creep them out.

Annie: I should clarify. They did work. Quite well. The moodiness and creepiness and disassociation of the whole issue was unbelievable. Not enjoyable, necessarily, but admirably well-executed. I just wish they’d, for instance, just not done 9-panel grids. There are plenty of other layouts that would’ve worked and not made me think about how sick I am of Alan Moore.

A good reason to have that complaint. But you know what creator I’ll never be sick of? Jack Kirby. Mister Miracle was part of DC’s year long celebration of Kirby’s life, which started on August 28, 1917. To celebrate his birth month appropriately, DC had not only Mister Miracle, but also had six over-sized specials featuring new stories about several of his original characters, complete with reprinted back-up stories by the King himself. And for the most part, those specials were fantastic.

Shilo Norman and the Black Racer Special - DC Comics - Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
Shilo Norman and the Black Racer

Annie: Look at you with the segue! So good. This is why you write actual reviews each week, and I just count stuff. Before we get further into the Kirby celebration stuff, I just want to address a sentiment that’s been going around and some of our readers might be thinking right now: “Celebrate Kirby by creating something new, like he did.” Shut it. Comics creators make new stuff all the time, and it’s a lot more involved than the scope of this month-long set of specials. Kirby wrote other people’s characters all the time, too. But! The specials. Some were amazing. Some…weren’t. I’ll take the positive option and say that my favorite was the Black Racer/Shilo Norman one. For one thing, it incorporated both showcased characters into a single story quite well. Kinda tied in with Mister Miracle, in a way, since Shilo Norman is Mister Miracle in this story, and he’s trying to escape the Fourth World incarnation of death, the Black Racer. The pacing was phenomenal, and the art balanced homage with creativity in a way you don’t often see.

Cori: I think my favorite part of that special was the essay at the end, explaining that originally Jack wanted to immediately hand off the Black Racer to black creators, to help them make it in the industry, but instead DC insisted that he use him with the Fourth World. So to have a predominantly black creative team handle this special made it a unique way of honoring the man’s legacy and wishes, even if it came 40 years too late

Annie: The essays were really good in all the specials, really. They were written by a guy who used to be one of Kirby’s assistants, who has since written a biography about him. They’re full of pithy anecdotes, which, at least to me, are an essential part of Kirby’s legacy. Things like “the time some Nazis came to the Marvel office to pick a fight with him and ran away before he got downstairs” are what make him the figure of legend he has become.

Kirby Grabber - Jack Kirby
The King’s own self portrait

Cori: This week I was reminded of my own favorite story about the King. When he left Marvel for DC in in the 1970s, DC told him he could (and rightfully so), have any book he wanted. Rather than taking a book that already had prestige and name recognition, Jack asked for a book that had no consistent creative team. He didn’t want to put anyone out of work. So that’s how Jack Kirby’s first DC book was Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. That’s his legacy, one of the most genuine, warm men to ever work in comics. Long live the King.

Annie: Indeed. I think that’s all the DC news that’s fit to print this month, except the all-important number: the number of lady-kisses in DC books this month: 3! And Kate was part of two of them. We’re truly blessed.

Cori: There’s Annie, always on brand. See you next month DC fans!

Cori McCreery

Cori McCreery

Cori is a life long comic nerd residing in Northern California. A life long Supergirl and DC Comics fan, she is the DC Comics Beat Reporter for Women Write About Comics.