With superhero comics, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this past weekend’s Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) made that especially clear. Both DC and Marvel made big announcements about upcoming publishing initiatives at the annual convention, but neither Dark Matter nor Marvel Legacy are offering much that is genuinely new. Announced on Thursday, “Dark Matter” is the banner for five titles spinning out of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s upcoming Dark Nights: Metal event, with each series spotlighting a new addition to the DC Universe.
Dark Matter is being promoted as “a new age of heroes,” but this new age features a lot of the same names readers have come to expect from DC Comics: In addition to Metal, Snyder is writing New Challengers for artist Andy Kubert, an update on The Challengers of the Unknown. Sideways teams DC publisher Dan Didio with Justin Jordan to co-write a story for artist Kenneth Rocafort introducing a teleporting teen, Dan Abnett and artist John Romita Jr.’s Silencer explores the life of a former assassin that is pulled out of her suburban domesticity, and writer Robert Venditti and artist Tony S. Daniel give DC a Hulk/Captain America hybrid in Damage. Finally, writer James Tynion IV and artist Jim Lee deliver the only team book of Dark Matter, Immortal Men, starring five immortal siblings that have been protecting the world from the shadows.
DC heavily pushed the role of the artists when discussing Dark Matter, which felt very much like a reaction to Marvel higher-ups recently saying that artists don’t sell books. While it’s nice to see DC putting big-name artists on new characters in hopes of bringing more attention to those titles, “Dark Matter” is also a squandered opportunity to bring some fresh talent in for a high-profile launch.
Over at Marvel, a lot of the conversation was about last week’s Secret Empire debut and Marvel Legacy, the line-wide initiative that follows it. Rather than relaunching books with new No. 1 issues, long-running Marvel series will be returning to their original “legacy” numbering, and the line will have a renewed sense of hope, heroism, and heart. It sounds a lot like DC Rebirth because it is a lot like DC Rebirth, and with Marvel getting a lot of negative attention recently, it makes sense for them to look to their competitor’s success in getting back on track after hard times.
Marvel Legacy begins with a one-shot reuniting the Thor: God Of Thunder team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic, and while the details are the typical vague promises of twists and revelations, readers can expect the return of a “beloved Marvel mainstay.” The Fantastic Four is the obvious choice as a major Marvel property that has been off the board for the last two years, and bringing back Marvel’s first family would definitely be a step in the right direction (assuming they don’t come back as Hydra agents).
The most surprising Marvel announcement was that Christopher Priest would be returning to the publisher to write Inhumans: Once And Future Kings, a five-issue miniseries with art by Phil Noto exploring the origins of the Inhuman royal family. Priest is currently responsible for one of DC’s best titles, Deathstroke, and his ability to turn complicated superhero continuity into fuel for compelling, character-centric stories makes him a very smart fit for the Inhumans. Noto is also one of Marvel’s best artists, and it’s very exciting to think of these two creators bringing their talents togethers.
Outside of Marvel and DC, IDW announced First Strike, a new crossover between its Hasbro properties written by Transformers veterans Mairghread Scott and David Rodriguez with art by Max Dunbar. The series unites the Hasbro comics as Cobra targets all Cybertronians for termination, putting the Transformers in grave danger. Meanwhile, Dark Horse Comics’ president Mike Richardson is teaming up with Concrete creator Paul Chadwick for Best Wishes, a new original graphic novel about two strangers whose lives are magically intertwined when they throw coins into a Central Park fountains. As Chadwick’s first comics work since 2013, it’s one to keep an eye on.
Finaly, one of the major C2E2 news events didn’t happen at the convention: Canadian cartoonist Gisele Lagace, artist of Dynamite’s Betty Boop and the current arc of Jem And The Holograms, was turned away at the border after driving for two days when authorities took issue with her reason for traveling to the U.S. Because she still needed to complete some of the commissioned pieces she had accepted money for before the show, the border patrol considered her to be working in the U.S, and even though this is all very common for foreign creators traveling to U.S conventions, she was still refused entry. (Lagace wrote more about the experience in a Facebook post.)