The Biggest Surprises of New 52's 'Second Wave'

<i>By Vaneta Rogers, Newsarama Contributor, and <a href=>Newsarama Staff</a></i> <p>Last month's announcement that six titles from DC are being canceled, with six replacement titles already lined up, didn't come as a huge surprise. <p>After all, DC executive vice president of sales John Rood <a href=>told Newsarama last year</a> that the publisher would probably be ending some of the lower selling New 52 titles around issue #8, and that those would most likely be replaced by other new titles. <p>But among the titles announced for this replacement batch seen in full with <a href=>DC's May solicitations</a> released earlier this month come some revelations that <i>are</i> a bit surprising. So in the spirit of our first countdown of the <a href=>10 Biggest Surprises of the New 52</a>, we present the 10 Biggest Surprises of New 52's "Second Wave." <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>


It's hard not to notice off the bat that three of DC's cancelled series are the publisher's solo titles starring minorities. <i>Static Shock</i> and <i>Mr. Terrific</i> are both African-American characters, and <i>O.M.A.C.</i>'s Kevin Kho is Asian-American. <p>But it's tough to blame DC for the cancellations. All three comics were dropping fast on sales charts, and sources have told Newsarama they were dipping below the mark of 20,000 copies sold, which is, in recent years, the point of cancellation at Marvel and DC. <p>Of course, fans might use the defense that DC should have made sure their most diverse books were higher quality, and <a href=>at least one blogger</a> had already started calling for publishers to take a better approach to minority heroes. <p>"[If] minority-led books get canceled, it will send a message to the comic book companies that their audience does not care about diverse heroes. Then the cycle of poor representation of diversity swings back around one more time," said blogger Jon Erik Christianson, predicting the cancellation announced today. "Hey, DC Comics and Marvel: dare to put your well-known minority heroes such as Cyborg, Storm and Vixen on solo books and keep your lesser-known heroes away from the poorly-written suicide missions that they keep ending up on. It will prevent the necessary euthanasia of jobs that I foresee happening in the next several months."


Speaking of <i>Mr. Terrific</i>, the cancellation of his solo series comes <i>before</i> the character's scheduled debut as a member of the Justice League, currently the industry's best-selling title. <p>Fans have to wonder if DC couldn't have generated more interest in the character as a solo star <i>after</i> that debut, if the publisher had held the title for its "second wave."


One of the more surprising moves by DC is the decision to add yet <i>another</i> war comic to its line-up, despite the fact that the only two war comics in the September relaunch <i>Blackhawks</i> and <i>Men of War</i> were the two lowest selling comics from the New 52. <p>Theoretically, the comic offers a creative outlet for stories by a variety of DC writers and artists, and it also supports editor-in-chief Bob Harras's stated goal of "world-building" in these follow-up titles. <p>But part of the company's motivation for <i>G.I. Combat</i> might be to protect some of DC's intellectual properties. Trademarks persist until 10 years after the trademark owner stops using the mark, so titles like "Haunted Tank" and "War That Time Forgot" have to be utilized by DC every 10 years. Could it even be possible some of the material in <i>G.I. Combat</i> will just be a re-branding of material originally intended for <i>Men of War</i>? <p>Trademark protection might also explain some of DC's other choices for this year's new titles more on that soon.


Along with DC's "Second Wave" in May is the addition of a new comics writer in the publisher's roster: China Mi&#233;ville, who is writing <i>Dial H</i>. <p>But this isn't the first time the fantasy novelist has been linked to DC Comics. In June 2010, the writer <a href=>told a Swamp Thing fan site</a> that he had written five issues of a <i>Swamp Thing</i> series that was axed by DC. <p>The writer described the never-published series as "epic," and alluded to his strong political views showing up in the comic. <p>"It was (unsurprisingly, I suppose) pretty political," he said. <p>The fan site and other rumor sites guessed that the title was supposed to be written for Vertigo, but Newsarama has learned that the title was also considered for the character's introduction to the DCU. After it was scrapped, Swamp Thing was instead introduced through the biweekly series <i>Brightest Day</i>, which was already being published in 2010. <p>However, the fact that Vertigo VP Karen Berger is editing the new <i>Dial H</i> comic supports the idea that Mi&#233;ville was originally recruited to work on Swamp Thing for Vertigo. <p>Of course, the Swamp Thing character is now under the pen of DC's new star writer Scott Snyder, who has turned the <i>Swamp Thing</i> series into one of The New 52's surprise hits.


OK, we were wrong to question <i>I, Vampire</i> being in the debut round of The New 52 titles when we did <a href=>our first countdown of DCnU surprises</a>, as that's gone on to be a critical darling and made the first cut. <p>And China Mi&#233;ville seems like a good get. Kudos. <p>But <i>Dial H For Hero</i>... with Vertigo-spin when there is still some seemingly low-hanging fruit left on the branch? (Cyborg ongoing anyone?) <p>And while DC doesn't seem to at least aggressively and/or publicly be courting youthful digital readers at the moment, still, a hero with powers based on a telephone <i>dial</i>... ? <p>In 2012? <P>Might as well invent a hero with a special super-suit that plays VHS tapes that allows the hero to mimic what's on the tapes... <p>Hey, waitaminute, that's not half-bad. Someone get DC on the phone!


It's no surprise that Grant Morrison is returning to Batman, since the writer has said all along that he would. But as recently as December 19, <a href=>DC was referring to the extended Morrison Batman story as <i>Batman: Leviathan</i></a> and as the "epic concluding <i>act</i> of a Batman story six years in the making!" <p>Morrison has also previously said that his return to Batman with Chris Burnham will be 12 issues long. <p>DC has confirmed with Newsarama that <i>Leviathan</i> will indeed be a story arc in <i>Batman Incorporated</i>, but this now raises questions - does Morrison intend to stay on <i>Inc.</i> after <i>Leviathan</i> concludes, or will the series continue on without him? <p>And early talk about James Robinson and Nicola Scott's JSA series had hinted it would also be 12 issues. But that's now also being dubbed an "ongoing." <p>Again, is Robinson only slated for the first 12 issues of <i>Earth 2</i>, with more creators lined up to explore the multiverse after? <p>Or are we reading too much into all of this?


The cancellation of both <i>Static Shock</i> and <i>Hawk & Dove</i> seem especially surprising given that both series will be two and three issues into new directions respectively, with Marc Bernardin having started writing <i>Static Shock</i> with #7 announced in <a href=>solicitations</a> as both "new series writer" and the beginning of "an exciting new chapter in a young hero's story" neither of which suggest that the book will be cancelled with the next issue. Rob Liefeld's taking over as <i>Hawk & Dove</i>'s writer with #6 of that title and has <a href=>given the impression in interviews</a> that he was thinking long-term about the series. <p>Similarly, <i>Men of War</i> had seemingly changed formats with its penultimate issue, with original series writer Ivan Brandon being replaced by James Robinson and J.T. Krul, and original lead character Sgt. Rock being dropped in favor of two new stories; unlike <i>Hawk & Dove</i> and <i>Static Shock</i>, however, this was <a href=>announced as</a> "individual stand alone stories" as opposed to a new status quo for the series. <p>When contacted by Newsarama, Bernardin said that "<i>Static Shock</i> "was an ongoing [series] when I agreed to take it on... But the market does what the market does." (Bernardin was <a href=>announced as the new writer back in October</a>, one month into The New 52 initiative and at a point when the books were all selling at a point where cancellation seemed a distant possibility at best). <p>While it's a shame that we won't get to see more of what Bernardin could've done with the character or what Rob Liefeld had in store for <i>Hawk & Dove</i> it looks like sales were so low that even a new direction was unlikely to turn things around.


It's also surprising that DC would use the title "Second Wave" for this part of their New 52 initiative. <p>DC's own <i>First Wave</i> line of comics, was canceled just last year, and Marvel's early 2000s faux-Manga Tsunami titles have some interesting parallels six (ish) disparate ongoing series being branded together and launched the same month as a "wave." <p>The "all wet" sales performance by both previous "waves" doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the metaphor, making it peculiar DC would try to surf the imagery again.


There are a few things about this announcement that lend further credence to recent cries by many comic industry watchers that DC's editor-in-chief Bob Harras is reviving some things about his '90s stint as Marvel's E-i-C. <p>The announcement that Howard Mackie, who had previously been closely associated with '90s Marvel, is writing one of DC's new titles (<i>The Ravagers</i>) follows the migration of other '90s Marvel creators to DC, including well-known names like Rob Liefeld and Tom DeFalco. <p>When asked about the addition of Mackie to DC's roster, Harras immediately credited that decision to co-publisher Dan DiDio. "[Mackie] had a couple meetings with Dan DiDio over the last few months," the editor said. "I think they talked story, they talked character, and I think Dan was very impressed with Howard's way of approaching story."


Bob Harras has said that the Second Wave is all about "world-building," but with <i>Earth 2</i> and <i>Worlds' Finest</i> being two of the higher profiles new launches, did Harras misuse the singular modifier? <p>Its noteworthy that just a few days after reminding everyone of the existence of the hooded stranger and naming her "Pandora" (which certainly raises questions in and of itself), DC seems to be swinging open the doors to the Multiverse in earnest among their core New 52 titles, and so early in its life as the "prime" DC Earth. <p>In fact, the concept of <i>Worlds' Finest</i> (notice the punctuation) seems to position the New 52 Earth as more of "a" DC Earth, rather than "the" DC Earth, an interesting tact to take considering DC's presumed intent to continue to try to reach new and lapsed readers. <p>With Grant Morrison's epic <i>Multiversity</i> reportedly also being readied for a 2012 debut a series that Morrison has confirmed connects the core DC Universe with the other 51 multiple Earths and "Pandora" watching over it all, is DC very intentionally headed down the same path that led to all those Crises of the past?

The Biggest Surprises of New 52's 'Second Wave'

Date: 12 January 2012 Time: 09:08 PM ET