DC Relaunch Spectacular Group 4: Fugitives & Refugees

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The DC Relaunch Spectacular continues as the Relaunchizers explore the darker side of DC with the final grouping, which is comprised of fugitives and refugees, undead and outcasts, monsters and maniacs...

Swamp Thing
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette

Danny Djeljosevic: Look, Internet, I know we've been pretty down on a lot of DC's relaunch titles, mostly because they seem ill-conceived, or look kind of bad based on creative team and character design. But this is going to be the week that at least I'm positive about these releases, because this group seems mostly awesome. Take, for example, a Swamp Thing title written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Yanick Paquette. There's nothing bad I can say about that. Somebody might whine about how DC is undoing whatever Alan Moore did to this book by making Swamp Thing definitely Alec Holland, but who cares? I don't.

Chris Kiser: If Swamp Thing hadnít been the vehicle through which Alan Moore chose to enter the American comics mainstream, then I seriously doubt the character would have ever made it out of the Silver Age. A man made of plants who roams the earth protecting other plants isnít really my cup of tea, but DC is taking the right approach here. Scott Snyder is one of the best writers in their stable, one of the few who might be able to match up to the characterís pedigree.

Nick Hanover: The choice of Scott Snyder on this book is a pretty interesting one and I applaud DC for making it. Though he's somewhat connected to horror through American Vampire, I'd argue he's now best known for his work on Batman, which has been intensely psychological. That psychological approach is what I think will pay off most here, as there's a lot of psychology to be explored with the character of Alec Holland.

Justice League Dark
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin

Nick: In my dream world, this book would be as crazily unique as X-Statix, which all smart people will remember as the first time X-Force was worth buying. I know that won't happen this time around but damn if I'm not excited anyway. Peter Milligan tends to work best when he's writing a book of outcast lunatics and with Shade the Changing Man being his breakout lunatic character, this makes perfect sense. Count me in.

Chris: Iím willing to give Milligan a mulligan on Flashpoint: Secret Seven, which on the surface appears to be sort of a pilot episode for this series about a Justice League for DCís top magical characters. Done rightly, this could resemble a high profile version of Shadowpact, a fun little series in its day. Iím also cautiously optimistic about the idea of multiple books under the Justice League banner. Itís sort of like what Marvel does with the Avengers and X-Men, only with a better defined notion of what slant each book in the line is going to have.

Danny: Justice League Dark, terrible title aside, is one of the books I'm anticipating most in this relaunch, by virtue of having Shade the Changing Man in it and being written by Peter Milligan. The last time Milligan did a team superhero book it was Infinity Inc., which was quickly becoming a pseudo-Vertigo book in its criminally short run. I expect some great things from Justice League Dark, even though it sounds like somebody forgot to change the working title.

Animal Man
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Travel Foreman, Dan Green

Chris: As with Swamp Thing, modern readers only know who Animal Man is because a really great writer, in this case Grant Morrison, got all metafictional with him in the Eighties. Also like Swamp Thing, DC got one of its hot new commodities to work on this character for the relaunch. Early indicators suggest that Morrisonís work is the primary inspiration for Jeff Lemireís take on the series, which is enough to convince me to give this one a try.

Danny: A lot of indie creators have ventured into mainstream comics to little success. None of you remember, but Dylan Horrocks wrote a bunch of Batgirl issues and both Terry Moore and Gilbert Hernandez worked on Birds of Prey. Jeff Lemire, perhaps by virtue of being a fan of DC (I don't think the aforementioned creators really care, which is fine), seems to be doing really well in the mainstream. Maybe the climate's changed. Either way, Jeff Lemire on Animal Man is way too exciting for me, especially when paired with Travel Foreman, who used to work on The Immortal Iron Fist.

Nick: With Sweet Tooth, Lemire has already shown himself to have a knack for crazy spins on traditional man versus nature stories and that sort of headiness could work wonders for Animal Man, who has been mostly divorced from his peak Morrison era thanks to odd roles in 52 and elsewhere. I'm not sure which specific part of Morrison's perspective on Animal Man Lemire will be pulling from, whether it's the meta aspects or the corruption of nature by man, but I'm willing to bet the latter will be the most utilized here and the series will be the better for it. Especially since man's corruption of nature is all the rage these days. Thanks Al Gore!

Demon Knights
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert

Nick: Paul Cornell on Demon Knights seems like a bit of an odd fit, and not in a good way. Cornell works best when he's working with characters who are mostly grounded in reality, like Lex Luthor. Etrigan by contrast is as fantastic a character as you can get, a demon who speaks in rhymes and has a passion for pastels. Still, Cornell has proven himself to be capable of reinventing long-standing characters in a way that's smart but logical, so maybe he'll surprise me.

Chris: After that amazing Lex Luthor story in Action, Iím ready to take a chance on anything Paul Cornell puts out there. Assuming that it doesnít crossover with ďReign of the Doomsdays,Ē that includes Demon Knights. As much as the concept of a demon superhero seems self-contradictory and too intentionally edgy, thereís a charm to Etrigan that I canít deny. Itís probably all the rhyming.

Danny: I like Paul Cornell and I always enjoy a good Etrigan appearance, but for some reason this one isn't exciting me. I may have to force myself to pick this series up and let the finish product decide if it's for me.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli

Danny: We're getting a taste of Jeff Lemire-penned Frankenstein in Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, and it's delicious -- a seamless continuation of what Grant Morrison introduced in his Seven Soldiers miniseries. If anyone was wondering why that was an Flashpoint tie-in, I'm pretty sure the mini is an appetizer for the ongoing. Hey, do you guys remember the Wachowski Brothers' Doc Frankenstein comic with art by Steve Skroce? This will be more fun than that, and will come out monthly.

Chris: Again, weíve got a character most closely associated with Grant Morrison, and again itís Jeff Lemire doing the writing. Based on the small piece of his work that Iíve sampled, I wouldnít have pegged him as a Grant-alike, but the quality of the Flashpoint Frankenstein book, also by Lemire, seems to indicate that Agent of S.H.A.D.E. will be another winner.

Nick: If the only good that comes out of this relaunch is that it makes Jeff Lemire rich, then it will have been worth it. Lemire is overflowing with ideas these days and it's great to see an indie creator who isn't burdened with a fear of superheroes. Not that Frankenstein is your normal superhero, but neither is Animal Man when you get down to it. Lemire, like a lot of us non-closeted, unabashed lovers of superheroics and art titles, gets that there is a worth to superpowered beings trying to make right or make up for mistakes. Frankenstein has a bit of both and could very well be the character that really brings Lemire to the attention of the mainstream, questionable Essex County film adaptation notwithstanding.

Resurrection Man
Writers: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artist: Fernando Dagnino

Nick: For whatever reason, I always seem to get drawn to doomed books. I loved the original Resurrection Man, in spite of (or maybe because of?) its off-kilter campiness and overzealous ambition. But there's no dodging the fact that it was a deeply flawed work from DnA, who had yet to really find their voices or hit their stride. With their resurrection of almost all of Marvel's cosmic characters a success, it makes sense that they'd return to a series they clearly dearly loved. And how fitting is it that the book itself is all about resurrection?

Danny: Here's a surprise none of us were expecting: a new Resurrection Man with the same writers as the original. This will surely excite the handful of fans who remember this series, but -- and this isn't pessimism, it's common sense -- they'll have to settle with watching it get prematurely cancelled a second time. Resurrection Man will surely be the relaunch's Xombi.

Chris: I guess the so-called ďDC DarkĒ line is where all the writing talent has been hiding! I only read one issue of DnAís last Resurrection Man series, and that was the crossover with ďOne Million,Ē so I never really got a feel for how that book was. Itís a spectacular concept, though, about a character who comes back to life with a new superpower each time he dies, so Iím planning to make up for lost time by hopping on board with the relaunch. After taking my pick of the bookís weíre discussing today, my pull list is starting to look rather long.

I, Vampire
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Danny: I was about to remark that I, Vampire is one of the only wholly original relaunch titles, but then I did my research. I shan't be picking this one up. Not that I doubt the creative team's abilities, it's just that my vampire plate is full with reviewing them. Why make another vampire comic when you can promote the shit out of American Vampire, a comic you already publish?

Chris: On the one hand, youíve got DC trying rather obviously to hop aboard the zeitgeist train by unearthing a decades old property that has the word ďvampireĒ in the title (IÖVampire was originally a popular feature in House of Mystery during the early Eighties). But on the other, youíve got to give them credit for calling in an up-and-coming indie creator, Joshua Hale Fialkov, to write it.

Nick: I have a feeling this book might wind up being a sleeper, but I'm having a hard time drumming up enthusiasm for it. That's unfortunately more likely due to vampire burnout, but given that quite a few of us are experiencing that these days, it's going to take a lot for this book to really stand out. I wish Fialkov and Sorrentino all the best and truly hope they make me eat crow.

Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Sami Basri

Danny: While it's nice to see that DC hasn't completely abandoned Wildstorm after closing down the imprint, I wonder what the mentality behind a Voodoo series even is in the same way I wonder why Hawk & Dove is happening. This feels like the kind of book people are going to ignore, which is a shame because I like seeing female-starring books on the shelves. But take a good look at that cover -- if you didn't know Wildcats or anything, would you pick it up? A lady with a lizard hand, looking as confused as we are?

Nick: I'm not the biggest fan of Ron Marz's writing and I too am bewildered by the seemingly random Wildstorm integrations going on with the relaunch. With a truly, ahem, wild writer on the series, a Joe Casey perhaps (who, if you remember, actually wrote WildC.A.T.S at one point), this book could have grabbed me, but in its current guise it appears to be the definition of superfluous.

Chris: Thereís a new DC book starring Kyle Rayner and one written by Ron Marz, but, sadly, they arenít one and the same.

Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda

Chris: Given that the Stormwatch/Authority characters were often used as commentary on the logical ramifications of superheroes, itís hard to envision them working within the context of a full-fledged fictional universe like DCís. It is Cornell writing, though, so my earlier proclamation stands. Maybe they should have called this Justice League Wildstorm?

Danny: I haven't thought too much about the Stormwatch relaunch, but, reading the solicit I'm suddenly excited for it. Apollo and Midnighter in the DCU doesn't make a lick of sense to me, but I have faith in Paul Cornell's ability to make them work. Plus, Martian Manhunter.

Nick: Apollo and Midnighter being in the DCU is going to make things kind of awkward for Batman and Superman, isn't it? Unless things get really crazy and they provoke Supes and Batty to confess the feelings for each other they've long hidden.

Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Artist: CAFU

Danny: Cafu and Bit? It's like DC is trying to rub the loss of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents in my face. But otherwise, Grifter is a fun character (he's like Gambit and Wolverine, but with a gun!) and I would gladly read him do stuff. Remember that Cole Cash-centric Point Blank comic by Ed Brubaker? That was cool. If anything, it's a more sensical choice for a solo series than Voodoo.

Chris: I donít know much about Grifter other than the fact that he was a popular WildC.A.T.S. character who had a really cool-looking costume. Does that make him the Gambit of Wildstorm? If CAFU has to be pulled away from drawing Nick Spencerís wonderful T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents stories, Iím glad itís for the purpose of helping another indie creator like Nathan Edmondson make it in the big leagues.

Nick: The team for this series is such a weird conglomeration of talent it just might work, despite the somewhat anonymous status of the character. I don't know that Grifter has enough going for him to justify an entire book, but Edmondson and CAFU are undoubtedly the most interesting pairing here and that alone could be worth the price of admission.

Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Ken Lashley

Chris: Wikipedia tells me that Mike Costa is currently the writer of a G.I. Joe book for IDW, which is possibly why the synopsis of this most recent revival of the Forties war comic Blackhawk sounds a lot like the description of a new toy line.

Danny: Why, yes, I do like G.I. Joe, thank you for asking.

Nick: At least this title isn't called Blackhawks D.O.W.N.?

Sgt. Rock and the Men of War
Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artist: Tom Derenick

Danny: I'm almost tempted to drop the same exact line that I used with Blackhawks, but I like Ivan Brandon, for starts. Secondly, this bit in the solicit makes my ears perk up a bit: "Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCUís Super-Villains?" I like the idea of military dudes fighting supervillains. It seems more Metal Gear Solid than Call of Duty, which means I'm in.

Chris: I agree that there needs to be some non-superhero variety amongst the big two comics publishers, but Iím not sure going back to the war comic genre of the Forties and Fifties is really the way to go. As a child thumbing through the boxes of old comics at my grandparentsí house, those were the ones I always skipped over.

Nick: I'm with Chris. I think it's especially bizarre for DC to put an emphasis on these kinds of books given the military climate of today. The series that are being revived here and with Blackhawks were successful in their time because they appeared in an era when the American people were truly proud of their military accomplishments. Unless these two books take the kind of emotional look at warfare that, say, Marvel's The 'Nam did, I think these series will be out of touch at best and jingoistic garbage at worst.

All-Star Western
Writer: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Moritat

Chris: Itís the revival of DCís All-Star line! Okay, not really, but itís fun to pretend. DC figured that Jonah Hex was better off starring in a series named after the book where Frank Miller made Batman call Robin retarded than an eponymous one that might remind folks of the 2010 Josh Brolin movie.

Nick: Westerns, unlike war books, truly are due for a revival. Palmiotti/Gray have been doing stellar work on the Western front for ages now with Jonah Hex, so this one doesn't require much thought and if we're lucky, maybe it will inspire other creators to dig into the Western genre.

Danny: If you don't mind your Palmiotti/Gray Jonah Hex with minor rebranding, this should be a great read. Can I make a promise here? The art by Moritat will melt your fucking eyeballs.

Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Joe Bennett, Art Thibert

Nick: DC should just combine the Grifter and Deathstroke books and have themselves their own little Cable & Deadpool. It'd undoubtedly be more interesting than this, which I'm not expecting to be too different from Deathstroke's last series.

Chris: How many comics starring bad guys have actually been good? Sure, youíve got Suicide Squad, Secret Six, and Thunderbolts, but Iíd say those are the exceptions. Die-hard Deathstroke fans are in for a treat, though, considering that there will be a way for them to get their fix without having to pick up an issue of that awful looking Teen Titans.

Danny: DC Comics, I think you overestimate the number of people who want to see a Deathstroke solo comic. On the bright side, Kyle Higgins.

And that's all folks! Until Marvel goes and rebuilds the 616, you can catch the three of us separately! And sometimes together.

Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book writer, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no followup questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat.†

When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.†

Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin.† He's currently in the midst of reading and reviewing every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and regretting every second of it.

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