Books Comics

My Initial Thoughts on the DC Black Label Imprint Series

So, I have taken about a week to examine the news that was released by DC Entertainment last week in the form of a new publishing imprint label for the comics publisher known as DC Black Label. In short, these new stories will be stand-alone series by iconic and well-known creators that will exist outside of the main DC comic universe to allow the respective creative teams a blank page to tell their stories in their unique and unrestrained visions.

As stated by DC publisher Jim Lee, “Many of our perennially best-selling, critically acclaimed books were produced when we unleashed our top talent on standalone, often out-of-continuity projects featuring our most iconic characters, a prime example being Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.” Lee continues, “Creating DC Black Label doubles down on our commitment to working with all-star talent and trusting them to tell epic, moving stories that only they can tell with the highest levels of creative freedom.”

DC executive editor Mark Doyle went on to say, “DC Black Label offers leading writers and artists of any industry the opportunity to tell their definitive DC stories without being confined to canon.” Doyle then explains, “We are carefully crafting each series to fit the vision of the creative team. All of these creators are masters of their craft. I’m psyched to be working on a Wonder Woman story with Kelly Sue and Phil, helping to bring John’s vision of THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE to life and reuniting with some of the greatest Batman talents in the industry.”

And, to be honest, I am not quite sure how I feel about this – because I certainly am not that much of a fan of shaking things up just for the sake of shaking things up. Still, I am excited for this new imprint because of the talent involved in the six initial series that are being used to introduce the imprint. With legendary and influential creators like Frank Miller, Kelly Sue DeConnick, John Ridley, and others, it would be a mistake to skip these titles and dismiss them as mere cash grabs. So, I am going to take a close look at these six titles and give you my initial impressions on each one.

Batman: Damned

Batman: Damned
By Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo

From DC Comics blog: On a deserted Gotham City bridge, a body is found. Whispers spread the news: Joker is dead. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare being born? Now Batman and DC’s outlaw magician John Constantine must hunt the truth through a Gotham City hellscape. The city’s supernatural recesses are laced with hints about a killer’s identity, but the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn’t wear a mask.”

Judging from what Azzarello & Bermejo did with the 2008 Joker graphic novel, and the inclusion of the character of John Constantine (of which I am a huge fan of), I am very interested in what will be presented in this series given the description that was provided by the DC blog. There is only one other series from DC Black Label that I am looking forward to more, but we’ll get to that later on in this post.

Batman: Last Knight on Earth
By Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo

From DC Comics blog: “Batman wakes up in a desert. He doesn’t know what year it is or how The Joker’s head is alive in a jar beside him, but it’s the beginning of a quest unlike anything the Dark Knight has undertaken before. In this strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes. Fighting to survive while in search of answers, Bruce Wayne uncovers the truth about his role in this new world—and begins the last Batman story ever told.”

So… this is pretty much a Batman/Mad Max-ish kind of story here tied together by some mystery of how Batman ended up in this dystopian nightmare. Admittedly, I am not as keen on this series as I am for the Batman: Damned series, but I think I may still give it a once over if only because I am a fan of both Snyder & Capullo and what they have done on past series together.

Superman: Year One

Superman: Year One
By Frank Miller & John Romita Jr.

From DC Comics blog: “A groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story in honor of his 80th anniversary. This story details new revelations that reframe the Man of Steel’s most famous milestones—from Kal-El’s frantic exile from Krypton, to Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas, to his inevitable rise to become the most powerful and inspiring superhero of all time.”

I was once a huge fan of the works of Frank Miller. And his status as a comic book creative legend is undeniable. But, in recent times, I have found his work less ground-breaking and more self-indulgent. By no means, there is nothing wrong with buying into your own hype, but, to me, Miller rest more on his legend than anything else. I am still a fan of Superman, and I am an even bigger fan of John Romita Jr., which is why I’ll give this book a chance, but I am doing so cautiously.

The Other History of the DC Universe
By John Ridley

From DC Comics blog: “A compelling literary series analyzing iconic DC moments and charting sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including John Stewart, Extraño, Vixen, Supergirl, Katana and Rene Montoya, among others. At its core, the story focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues. It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.”

Okay, so, as I understand this, this series isn’t a comic book series as much as it is a traditional book series. Okay, cool – I can dig it. And given that it is from the mind of John Ridley, the writer of 12 Years a Slave and the writer/director/showrunner for American Crime, I think that he will bring a unique and eye-opening perspective to the DC universe from the viewpoint of characters we hardly get to see more of in terms of who they are beneath and away from the super heroics of their world.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons

Wonder Woman: Diana’s Daughter (*working title)
By Greg Rucka

From DC Comics blog: “It’s been 20 years since the world stopped looking to the skies for hope, help, and inspiration. Now the world keeps its eyes down, and the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny.”

I’ve been a fan of Greg Rucka for some years now, so I am kind of interested in what he has in store with this series. I get a feeling we’re going to be in for some pleasant surprises in this title that looks at a future DC universe where no heroes or hope exist to lift the populace from the downtrodden complacency. What they may be, I don’t know – but what I do know is to always expect some top-notch storytelling from a writer of Rucka’s pedigree.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons
By Kelly Sue DeConnick & Phil Jimenez

From DC Comics blog: “A Homeric epic of the lost history of the Amazons and Queen Hippolyta’s rise to power. Featuring monsters and myths, this three-book saga spans history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever.”

Of all the series that are being released in the initial run for DC Black Label, I am more excited for this title than any of the others. Mainly because of the fact that Kelly Sue DeConnick is involved with this title. Looking at her past works (Supergirl Vol. 5 from DC, Captain Marvel Vols. 7 & 8 from Marvel, and Bitch Planet & Pretty Deadly from Image in particular), to say that I am a huge fan of hers is a severe understatement. She has a way of writing and empowering female characters and I can’t wait to see what she does with a character as iconic, empowering, and inspirational as Wonder Woman. Also, that preview image by artist Phil Jimenez is absolutely gorgeous, giving me even more reason to want to read this title.

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