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Gary Frank/DC Comics
Gary Frank/DC Comics

The 4 Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Gary Frank/DC Comics
Gary Frank/DC Comics

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

1. DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH #1

By Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Phil Jimenez, Ethan Van Sciver, and others
DC Comics

DC Comics

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is a giant-sized special issue that marks a new era for DC Comics. This latest event seeks to reset the status quo of their comic universe, but don’t call it a reboot; DC already did that in 2011 with the publishing initiative dubbed “The New 52.” Five years later, they are relaunching their main titles without throwing away previous story continuity. Instead, they are reinstating backstories and characters from the discarded pre-New 52 continuity.

Much of this 80-page comic is structured as a series of check-ins with various characters to tease future storylines in upcoming books. The thread that ties them together is Wally West, who became the Flash after the death of his mentor Barry Allen during 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths and was erased from continuity during 2011’s Flashpoint. It turns out that Wally still exists but is trapped outside of reality, forgotten by his friends and family. In fact, ten years of reality has been wiped clean from everyone’s memories, replaced by everything that has happened in the last five years of comics we know as The New 52.

These kinds of course corrections DC makes to its continuity are themselves a long-standing tradition. They seem to be caught forever in a struggle between appealing to new readers while still pleasing older fans. However, this comic runs the risk of alienating a whole swath of fans by indicating that it will be bringing Alan Moore's Watchmen into the main DC Universe continuity, a move that many will feel dishonors the legacy of that highly revered book.

2. SUPERMAN #52

By Peter J. Tomasi and Mikel Janin
DC Comics

DC Comics

As DC Universe: Rebirth opens the door for a new status quo, another book out this week closes the door on the old one. Superman #52 is the final issue in this series (all the current DC books will be ending with their 52nd issue). It's the conclusion to an eight-part story that has been running through all the related Superman titles, called “The Final Days of Superman.” While we’ve seen many a "Death of Superman" story before, this comic seems as if DC is legitimately and permanently killing off this version of the character that has been the subject of comics for the past five years.

It's the culmination of a number of recent storylines that have seen Superman infected with a Doomsday virus, drastically weakened, and exposed to lethal doses of Kryptonite. Yet, even at the very end, he has to defeat a powerful enemy one last time.

The New 52 Superman has proved mostly unpopular with fans since his debut in 2011, despite the efforts of superstar writers like Grant Morrison, Gene Luen Yang, and Greg Pak. It was probably the risky changes to his character and backstory that created a distance with fans (his romance with Wonder Woman and simply platonic friendship with Lois Lane; the drastic reduction in his powers; and his brooding, inhuman demeanor). Taking his place will be a predecessor from the previous DC continuity who has been lurking around the New 52 universe for the past year, hiding out with his wife Lois and their son Jonathan.

3. COMIXOLOGY UNLIMITED

Comixology

This week, Comixology unveiled a new “Unlimited” subscription service that grants access to thousands of comics, graphic novels, and manga for $5.99 per month. This move has been anticipated for a long time, but it comes with some caveats and some potentially large implications for the comics industry.

Digital subscription services like Netflix and Spotify have transformed the music and movie industries in both positive and negative ways, and its been expected for a while that comics would eventually follow suit. Marvel made an early jump into this arena with their Marvel Unlimited service which gives access to their entire library of digital comics (with new releases delayed by six months). Comixology is setting more limits on their “Unlimited" service. Not only are Marvel and DC comics not included, but most of the Unlimited offerings are limited to initial issues and first volumes in a series, not complete runs. What is and isn’t available will change over time, much like the regular changes Netflix makes with their content.

In theory, a full unlimited digital library on Comixology would be a tricky proposition for the comics industry, which is built atop a precarious network of brick-and-mortar retail shops. That said, many readers who haven’t made the jump to digital cite the cost for digital files, many of which are not DRM-free, so the idea of a low-cost subscription fee might actually make more sense to those readers. This is a big move for Comixology—one whose impact on the digital comics market may take some time to bear out.

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #1

By Nick Spencer and Jesus Diaz
Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

Two years ago, during the seventh volume of Captain America, the super-soldier serum in Steve Rogers’s body was neutralized during a battle with The Iron Nail, causing him to revert to his natural age of 90. While still pretty buff for a nonagenarian, he soon retired the mantle of Captain America, passing it on to longtime friend and colleague Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon.

Having an African-American take over as one of Marvel’s most high-profile heroes is a big deal and part of Marvel’s diversification efforts. However, change is tenuous in comics, and it would only be a matter of time before the original Captain American returned. While that day has now come, Rogers is not replacing Wilson, but rather getting his own title outside of the main Captain America series, with Wilson continuing to be the “real” Cap and brandishing the standard circular shield (Rogers will now have a new costume and shield-shaped shield).

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Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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Deadpool Fans Have a Wild Theory About Who Cable Really Is
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Deadpool 2 is officially in theaters and ruling the box office just like its predecessor did back in 2015. But this installment is about more than just crude jokes and over-the-top action scenes; it also includes the debut of a longtime Marvel character that fans have been clamoring to see on the big screen since 2000’s X-Men hit theaters: Cable.

But the Cable in Deadpool 2 isn’t quite the one fans have gotten used to in the books—for starters, his powers and backstory are reined in considerably. While it’s easy to assume that’s by design, so that audiences can better relate to the character (which is played by Josh Brolin), some fans have speculated that the changes are because, well, this character isn’t really Cable at all; instead, Screen Rant has a theory that this version of the character is actually none other than an older Wolverine from the future.

So how can Wolverine be Cable? Well, it’s actually quite easy, considering that Wolverine was Cable in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe comics, which was a series of books in the 2000s that completely reimagined the regular Marvel Universe. In this reality, a grizzled, aged Wolverine takes on the Cable nickname and travels back in time to prevent a takeover of Earth from the villain Apocalypse.

We were already introduced to Apocalypse in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, and while he was defeated in the end, Screen Rant theorizes that he could return like he does in the Ultimate X-Men comics: by inhabiting the body of Nathaniel Essex, a.k.a. Mister Sinister. Essex was already name-dropped in Apocalypse and Deadpool 2, so it stands to reason that there might be some larger story on the horizon for him.

This would, of course, lead to more X-Men movies down the road, with Cable revealing his true nature and teaming with a crew of mutants that includes the classic X-Men cast as well as their younger selves to battle a newly formed Apocalypse. It’d also allow the character of Wolverine to live on in Brolin, leaving Hugh Jackman to enjoy a retired life without claws.

Obviously this is just one fan theory based on a comic storyline from over a decade ago. It would also have to ignore a whole host of continuity problems—including the events of Logan. But having a twist with Cable actually being Wolverine from the future (and likely from a different reality) is the type of headache-inducing madness the comics are known for.

[h/t: Screen Rant]

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King Features Syndicate
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8 Things You Might Not Know About Hi and Lois
King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

A comics page staple for nearly 65 years, Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s Hi and Lois is a celebration of the mundane. Married couple Hiram “Hi” Flagston, wife Lois, and their four children balance work, school, and family dynamics, all of it with few punchlines but plenty of relatable situations. This four-panel ode to suburbia might appear simple, but it still has a rich history involving a beef with The Flintstones, broken noses, and one very important candy bar wrapper.

1. IT’S A SPINOFF OF BEETLE BAILEY.

Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker had been drawing that military-themed strip for four years when a friend of his named Lew Schwartz approached him in 1954 with a new idea: Why not create a strip about a nuclear family? Around the same time, the Korean War was ending, and Walker had sent Beetle home on furlough to visit his sister, Lois. Drawing a line between the two, Walker decided to pursue the suburbia idea using Lois as connective tissue. Hi and Lois was born: The two strips would see their respective characters visit one another over the years.

2. A CANDY BAR HELPED DEFINE THE STRIP’S LOOK.

Already working on Beetle Bailey, Walker decided to limit his work on Hi and Lois to writing. He wanted to collaborate with an artist, and so both he and his syndicate, King Features, went searching for a suitable partner. Walker soon came across ads for both Lipton’s tea and Mounds candy bars that had the same signature: Dik Browne. Coincidentally, a King Features executive named Sylvan Byck saw a strip in Boy’s Life magazine also signed by Browne. The two agreed he was a talent and invited Browne to work on the strip.

3. HI ORIGINALLY HAD A BROKEN NOSE.

As an artist, Walker had plenty of input into the style of Hi and Lois: Browne would later recall that trying to merge his own approach with Walker’s proved difficult. “When you draw a character like Hi, for instance, you immediately set the style for the whole strip,” he said. “You have already dictated what a tree will look like or how a dog will look, just by sketching that one head.” In his earliest incarnation, Hi had a broken, upturned nose to make him seem virile, puffed on a pipe, and wore a vest. Through trial and error, the two artists eventually settled on the softer lines the strip still uses today, an aesthetic some observers refer to as the “Connecticut school style” of cartooning.

4. EDITORS WERE WARY AT FIRST.

When Hi and Lois debuted on October 18, 1954, only 32 papers carried the strip. The reason, Walker later explained, had to do with concerns that he was spreading himself too thin. At the time, cartoonists rarely worked on two strips at once. Between Hi and Lois and Beetle Bailey, there was fear that the quality of one or both would suffer. Editors were also worried that having two artists on one project would dilute the self-expression of both. Walker stuck to his intentions—to make Hi and Lois a strip about the small pleasures of suburban life—and newspapers slowly came on board. By 1956, 131 papers were running the strip.

5. TRIXIE MAY HAVE SAVED THE STRIP.

With readers a little slow to respond to Hi and Lois, Walker had an idea: At the time, it was unusual for characters who don’t normally speak—like Snoopy—to express themselves with thought balloons. Walker decided to have baby Trixie think “out loud,” giving readers insight into her perspective. Shortly after Trixie began having a voice, Hi and Lois took off.

6. CHIP IS THE ONLY CHARACTER TO HAVE AGED.

Like most comic strip casts, the Hi and Lois family has found a way to stop the aging process. Baby Trixie is eternally in diapers; the parents seem to hover around 40 without any wrinkles. But oldest son Chip has been an exception. Roughly eight years old when the strip debuted, he’s currently 16, a nod to Walker's need for a character who can address teenage issues like driving, school, and dating.

7. IT LED TO HAGAR THE HORRIBLE.

Browne might be more well-known for his Hägar the Horrible, a strip about a beleaguered Viking. That strip, which debuted in 1973, was the result of Browne’s sons advising their father that Hi and Lois was really Walker’s brainchild and that Browne should consider a strip that could be a “family business.” By 1985, Hägar was in 1500 newspapers, while Hi and Lois was in 1000. Following Browne’s death in 1989, his son Chris continued the strip.

8. IT ALSO HAD A BONE TO PICK WITH THE FLINTSTONES.

The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera’s modern stone-age family, premiered in primetime in 1960, but not exactly the way the animation studio had intended. Fred and Wilma were initially named Flagstone, not Flintstone, and the series was to be titled Rally ‘Round the Flagstones. But Walker told executives he felt the name was too close to the Flagstons of Hi and Lois fame. Sensing a possible legal issue, they agreed.

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