A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson
Hey, let me tell you a little story…
A week or so ago, I was surfing the internet comic sites, as I do every couple of months or so, basically trolling for ideas for upcoming columns, or trying to find reliable comics news (which is getting harder and harder to do) and came across a (not new) story at Comic Book Resources. (And shouldn’t they be called Comic Book Movie News now? )
(Anyway… not really my main point here…)
The CBR story is about the then-upcoming Batman #9 and some odd things going on in that issue. Batman is creating his own version of a Suicide Squad, made up of current Arkham residents. Tom King wrote it, and Mikel Janin is the artist.
Later on down the column, there’s a reference to a mysterious character making a surprise appearance in 21st century Arkham Asylum. And I mention “21st century” deliberately, because the character in question is definitely not from around here — or more correctly not from around now! I should note that CBR posted spoiler warnings in their headlines but went ahead and revealed details (and artwork… obviously provided by DC) in the body of the story. But the book came out a couple of months ago, so I’m ignoring that nicety, because this is interesting news — at least to a really hardcore group of fans who have been dying for over a year because their favorite series has not been around.
The mystery character is Saturn Girl. That is, Saturn Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Of the 31st century. In other words, someone who is not expected to be anywhere in the 21st century. Much less an inmate of Arkham Asylum. (Who has identified her as “Doe”, by the way.)
I am intrigued. Enough so that I seek out and find Batman #9 at Westfield East last week (even though it’s a few months old at this point). I flip through the issue at the store, to confirm what I had heard, since I don’t generally trust people that I don’t know to make an actual Legion of Super-Heroes sighting these days, but, yep, that looks like Saturn Girl. I buy the book, take it home, and read it.
What the hell? What is Saturn Girl doing in Arkham Asylum in the 21st century? Obviously, I’m not going to find out here, because she’s in a grand total of five tiny panels. But that IS the LSH symbol she’s drawing on her cell wall with her finger.
The bigger surprise (at least to me) was I really enjoyed reading that issue. And not just because of the LSH thing. It was a really well-written and intriguing issue of Batman, obviously setting up a bigger (and most likely not LSH-related) storyline — which I’m also looking forward to reading, hopefully soon.
Why is this Batman/LSH tease so great? Because other than two single issues — The Brave and the Bold #179 (by Martin Pasko & Ernie Colon) in 1981 and The Brave and the Bold #5 (by Mark Waid & George Pérez) in 2007 — and a couple of other stray, fleeting appearances, Batman and the Legion have never really hung out much together. In fact, I believe that Batman may have teamed up with the Inferior Five more often than he did with the LSH. Just like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expects to see Batman and the LSH together! Good on DC for not doing the obvious thing of reintroducing the Legion in the Superman titles.
I’m pretty sure the main reason I really enjoyed Batman #9 was Tom King’s writing. I was a huge fan of his run on Marvel’s extremely different The Vision series — easily one of last year’s most oddly compelling reads — and a series that was frequently discussed on Wednesdays at Westfield East. The basic premise was that the Vision, apparently tired of being a superhero, decides to create himself a family (wife, son, daughter, dog), get a job as a consultant in Washington, DC, and settle down in one of DC’s cozy suburbs. And this is nice… for one issue. And then things slowly go to hell for the next 11 issues, when the series concludes. (By design, I might add. By then, King had been offered Batman full time and jumped at it. Like you wouldn’t, if you could write like that…) If Marvel doesn’t do a Vision hardcover with all 12 of these issues, they are idiots…
(I should also point out that the Smartest Man In Comics (well, usually…), Mark Waid, quickly scooped up Viv Vision (the daughter) to join the other Marvel teenage outcasts in the pages of The Champions — my current favorite Marvel title.)
Tom King’s Wikipedia page has a pretty good rundown of his interesting writing career, which of course began long before The Vision in comic books that I have not read (yet). He’s no stranger to the Batman family of comics, previously writing Grayson (with Tim Seeley) and coordinating the “Robin War” crossover as well as writing both of that storyline’s bookends. He’s also written Omega Men (prematurely cancelled but brought back and concluded due to fan demand), Teen Titans Annual #1 (both 2015), and an acclaimed Green Lantern story “Will You Be My God?” (with Evan Shaner) in Justice League: Darkseid War: Green Lantern in 2016, all for DC Comics. The Sheriff of Babylon (by King with art by Mitch Gerads) is ongoing from Vertigo Comics, and his novel A Once Crowded Sky (illustrated by Tom Fowler) was published in 2012. King also spent seven years as a counterterrorism operations officer for the CIA before his writing career began.
HELLO, I MUST BE GOING
Before wrapping up, let me backtrack a bit. When DC Rebirth started, I made a pact with myself that I would at least check out all the Rebirth series. I enjoyed a lot of them (and am continuing to buy and read many of them today). The ones I didn’t enjoy were largely the Batman- and Superman-related titles — which was pretty much a carryover from their New 52 series that I also didn’t read. So I stopped buying most of the Superman and Batman books after the first issue or two. Including Tom King’s Batman, which I felt was a little too Scott Snyder-influenced. (Yes, I realize that Snyder is the bee’s knees of Batman creators these days, but his work did little for me, both then and now.) Plus, I found the Batman Universe (especially during New 52) way too complex with entirely too many characters (and crossovers) to keep track of — most of whom seemed to be a Robin of some sort or another.
Truth to tell, I actually stopped reading most of the Bat-books years before New 52 even happened. Turns out I wasn’t much of a Grant Morrison Batman fan either (although loved his Doom Patrol and All-Star Superman). It has dawned on me that enough time has now passed, I might actually enjoy a more curated jaunt through Morrison’s run on the character, if I could manage to avoid major missteps like Final Crisis.
Anyway, reading this “stray” issue of Batman (for a completely different reason besides Batman) and really enjoying it, is leading me to go back and read King’s Batman run from the beginning. AND I’m taking advantage of being late to the party by reading this Batman series as it comes out in collections — the very first time that I am doing this. (Old floppy habits die hard…) I’m feeling like I’m finally headed into the future of modern comic book reading (or I guess I should say “a” future, as I’ve already tried digital and really didn’t like it much, except for the fact that storage was lots easier than floppies).
Speaking of the future, I also have to thank Batman for getting me excited for the (hopefully soon) upcoming relaunch of the Legion of Super-Heroes, which is strongly rumored to be by the team of artist Jim Lee and… writer Tom King! LLL! Woo Hoo HOO!
KC CARLSON: Used to have something to do with the Legion of Super-Heroes… about a thousand years ago. Or maybe it just feels that long ago…
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Like all those weird planet names in the 30th Century. They always irritated me because I had trouble spelling normal words correctly — and I had to remember planets like Cargg and Bgtzl and Imsk and Bismol and Xanthu and Talok VIII… And Earth… Earth was the worst!
The Brave and the Bold #5 cover is from the Grand Comics Database.