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Everybody Wave!

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Doc Savage. Batman. The Spirit. Three of the most popular names in pulps and comics unite for the first time in a new line of comics from DC. Who will join them and who should?

Fans of popular fiction like it when two or more different creative properties crossover with each other. Not just the typical “Spider-Man meets the Avengers” crossovers, but totally different franchises with separate continuities get merged into one new unified reality. Like Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill did with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Phillip José Farmer took this idea one step farther, stating that characters as different as Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond were all descended from a family who were exposed to a radioactive meteorite that landed in Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England in 1795. This “Wold Newton Family” was expanded by other writers and fans into a “Wold Newton Universe” as just about every character ever to appear in popular genre fiction became connect to one another.

I’m sure tomorrow’s First Wave #1 might upset the keepers of the Wold Newton Universe. It features a union of three divergent members of that universe—Doc Savage, Batman and The Spirit---into a new universe, one where they act differently than they ever had before. I can almost hear the teeth gnashing as the Wold Newton people try to fit these interpretation into their chronologies.

These three heroes operate in a new universe created exclusively for them by DC Comics. It is a world where art deco architecture never went out of style, where the evening nightly news opens with zeppelins floating above the city. It’s a world where the 1930s mated with the 2010s and left this universe as its offspring.

It is also a world with no superpowers, which would be perfect for the heroes selected. Each character has a history of being regular men who operate at the peak of human ability. It would seem like the perfect element for a lot of DC characters to play in. Many of the company’s Golden Age characters such as Sandman or Doctor Midnite might feel at home there. It would also be the perfect home for some of the other licensed properties, namely The Shadow, that DC has a history with.

None of these people will be in the cast—at least not yet. But there will be DC stalwarts and old-school licensed characters from DC’s past in the book, although not in the way you’d recognize.

The “Behind the Scenes” bonus part of the Batman/Doc Savage Special that introduced the First Wave concept says the licensed/public domain characters will include Rima, the Jungle Girl and The Avenger/Justice, Inc, both of whom had comics at DC in 1970s. However, Rima is now a mute South American girl who communicates only in bird chirps and whistles. The Avenger has taken on a darker psychological bent and his trademark pale eyes have been replaced by jet black ones.

DC characters Black Canary and the Blackhawks also appear in this universe. But Black Canary is now of mid-Asian decent and bears a physical resemblance more to Lady Gaga than any of her previous incarnations. And the Blackhawks are still a multinational air force but have a different line up than the classic version and now fight for whoever pays the best.

Of course, other characters have also changed. In this new reality, Doc Savage’s bronze skin is a result of his being born of mixed race parents and the usually gun-shy Batman will be carrying a pair of forty-five caliber handguns.

With characters around as long as these two have been, even subtle changes like that can cause controversy. But it does establish the fact that these are not your fathers, or grandfathers, Batman and Doc Savage. If fans want to see a world where these two coexist, will all the changes make it a world they want to investigate?

Also out this week:

Girl Comics #1:

When Marvel announced its “Women of Marvel” initiative, I expected we’d just get a bunch of cheesecake variant covers and that would be it. But the celebration extends beyond just that, as this anthology, a series developed entirely by female creators indicates. New creators such as Valerie D’Orazio and G. Willow Wilson join old vets like Louise Simonson and Ann Nocenti and indie/underground names like Molly Crabapple and Colleen Coover to take on some of the biggest names in the Marvel universe.

While the idea behind the miniseries is great (I personally relish the chance to read more stories from my longtime faves Nocenti and Simonson), what would be better still is if some of  these creators got more permanent work on Marvel’s ongoing series. This series puts a spotlight on the talent found amongst female comic creators, but many of these women deserve a longer time in the sun.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $4.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Justice League: Cry for Justice #7:

To say that this was a series with a lot of upheaval would be an understatement. It went from an ongoing series to a six-issue miniseries to a seven-issue miniseries. It arrived a year after it was announced to give artist Mauro Casioli time to draw the series but it still ended up delayed and with fill-in artists because of Casioli’s slowness. Then there were the critics, who had issue with the characterization, dialogue and sexism inherent in the series.

Well, the series is coming to an end. You could find basis in some criticism, but I don’t believe the series was all bad. I liked how Robinson made Prometheus a realistic threat, Donna Troy a strong, resilient hero and found a way to include a character he was born to write—Shade. This series will lead to some major changes in the DC Universe. So if you want to know what is to come, you should pick up this issue.

James Robinson (W), Mauro Casioli (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

Stephen King's “N.” #1:

Jokes have been made about Stephen King’s prolific nature as a writer. Over his 36-year career, King has written over 50 novels or novellas, put out around 10 short story compilations, and worked on at least three non-fiction books. So while King might be writing American Vampire for Vertigo and Del Rey is adapting The Talisman, there are plenty of other stories for Marvel to adapt.

This comic is adapted from a short story that appeared in and was used to advertise King’s 2008 short story compilation, Just After Sunset. The comic appeared online as a marketing initiative for the collection in July of 2008 and was done in connection with Marvel Entertainment. This makes it a no-brainer to be the next work of King’s to be adapted by Marvel.

Marc Guggenheim (W), Alex Maleev (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Belladonna:
 
Belladonna is, in the real world, a toxic plant that has been known to cause hallucinations and other negative effects. Its full name, Atropa Belladonna is derived from Italian, meaning “never betray a beautiful lady.” So it’s no wonder the name has been applied to a number of dangerous comic book characters, including two at Marvel, one from Avatar, and, this week, the latest one from IDW.

IDW’s version is a woman suffering from amnesia who is forced to live amongst the homeless of New York City. Why is she in hiding?  Because it turns out that she was an assassin in her previous life and the people who put her in her amnesia inducing coma are now out to finish the job. Now, she must solve the mystery of her identity before her past comes back to kill her.

Ben Ross (W), J.K. Woodward (A), IDW Publications, $7.99. Original Graphic Novel.

Prelude to Deadpool Corps #1:

You’ve got to hand it to Marvel, they aren’t afraid to milk a good thing for all it’s worth. If something is popular, they will beat it into the ground. Which is why Spider-Man has all those books and makes all those guest appearances, Wolverine is in 50 books a month, and why Deadpool is about to join them in overexposure.

This time, the comic-mocking Merc with a Mouth seems to be going into full-blown parody mode. The Elders of the Universe has tapped Deadpool with a task of intergalactic proportions. It’s so big that he needs help and in his mind there is no better help than four other versions of himself—Headpool, Lady Deadpool, Kidpool and Dogpool. I doubt that there will be any rings given out or any nights that will be considered the blackest, but I’m sure we all know who Deadpool is vamping on here.

Victor Gischler (W), Rob Liefeld (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Sparta: USA #1:

Sparta. It is a town where wholesome family values still exist. It’s a place where football is a religion and its players are gods. It is a perfect town that no one would ever think of leaving. They don’t think to leave because the last person who tried was quickly turned into food for the yeti that lives in the mountains surrounding the town.

Well, supposedly, the yeti got them. That’s what the man who controls the town, a man called The Maestro, wants you to think.   But when the man whose fate was rumored to be yeti food returns, it’s not only the myth that keeps the residents in Sparta that begins to fall apart. It might just spell the end for The Maestro’s oppressive regime.

David Lapham (W), Johnny Timmons (A), Wildstorm/DC Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates #1:

The Ultimate universe has recently undergone a total shake-up, trying to generate some excitement for the flagging sales of the line. The consensus was that the Ultimate universe had become as continuity bogged as the mainstream universe and wasn’t as new-reader friendly as before. What the powers-that-be did was kill off a whole bunch of Ultimate universe characters and wreck a lot of cities. The tangled continuities remained.

And, to confuse fans more, we get a second Ultimates series. The one done by Mark Millar and rotating artists, which, to be fair, was renamed Ultimate Comics Avengers, wasn’t good enough, they needed a “new” one by Jeph Loeb and Frank Cho. I think this might be a strategic error by Marvel. Really, is there anyone out there that would actually prefer a Ultimates series written by anyone other than series co-creator Millar? Especially when they can buy one written by him right next to it on the shelves?

Jeph Loeb (W), Frank Cho (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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