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PCR #95. (Vol. 3, No. 3) This edition is for the week of January 14--20, 2002.

Wake Up and Smell the Comics

  #13.   Names & books to watch in 2002.

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God, I canít believe itís 2002 already. There are so many reasons Iíve anticipated this year, especially because of comics. From the slew of upcoming Spider-Man projects complementing the summer film to the return of industry great Jim Shooter, Iíve actually lost count of the books Iím looking forward to. Iíve been trying to think of ways to approach this discussion over the last week, so I could save time and effort by narrowing most of the largest, anticipated projects down to simple subjects. I think a good place to start would be with some of the talents who will undoubtedly steal the spotlight over the next 12 months.

The Power CompanyKurt Busiek - Having made a name for himself writing several major titles for Marvel Comics - including Alex Rossí fully-painted Marvels and the Avengers with industry legend George Perez - Kurt Busiek will soon become a household name by writing four of the most anticipated projects of this year. Debuting this month is the 7-issue Power Surge event, a collection of one-shots by a host of artists (including Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen leading into the launch of the Power Company series in February, penciled by Tom Grummett. The monthly book will take place in the DC universe with the majority of the regular cast being new characters, each one introduced in one of the 7 one-shots. The story follows a bunch of aspiring superheroes that join a firm who turn heroism into a business, some hoping to fight for justice and others just interested in fame and fortune.

The Order
The Avengers
Coincidentally, Busiekís Defender series (which he co-plots) will be relaunching that same month with a new storyline and creative team as The Order. Joining him as co-writer will be veteran Marvel creator Jo Duffy and artist Matt Haley. Departing quite a bit from the standard direction of the series, the four strongest members of the team - Dr. Strange, Hulk, Silver Surfer and Namor - all decide the best way to solve their problems is to save the world from itself. Itís superheroes and their quest for world domination, with the rest of the Marvel universe standing in their way. The new take on Defenders wonít be his last contributions to Marvel, as he has two more major projects in development. The first happens to be what could very well be the most anticipated comic of all time, George Perezís JLA/Avengers! After a horrible debacle over story control between Marvel (Jim Shooter) and DC Comics, the project was put on the shelf for 20 years. Now all the contracts have been signed and this expansive 4-issue mini-series is on target for a tentative October 2002 release! Cross your fingers folks, now would be an awfully inopportune time for the apocalypse.

Following his departure on Avengers, Busiek still had some loose ends to tie up namely the implantation of Ego the living planet in the body of the superhero Quasar. On the proposal table is a mini-series with artist Steve Sadowski (JSA) to finish the tale. Last but definitely not least, Busiek will be working on getting his critically-acclaimed Astro City back on schedule. Penciled by the incredible Brent Anderson and accompanied by character designs and cover work by Alex Ross, this series has gained the respect of other high profile creators such as Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman. Trust me, do yourself a favor and check this series out in trade paperback at your local bookstore. The best description for this series I could muster is this the series examines and defines the superhero. Youíll understand when you read it.

The FlashGeoff Johns - Continuing his highly successful run on JSA with co-writer David Goyer (Blade films) and new regular artist Leonard Kirk and his current stint on The Flash with penciler Scott Kolins, Johns will soon be expanding in all directions. Starting with the 4-issue Morlocks mini-series in April, with former Detective Comics artist Shawn Martinbrough, this will be his first major Marvel work. Following closely will be The Thing mini-series with Flash partner Kolins, featuring the one and only clobberiní king himself, Benjamin J. Grimm of the Fantastic Four. Barely a month later, heíll follow in Kurt Busiekís footsteps by taking the reigns of Avengers as the new ongoing writer, with Dwyer remaining as artist. Could the man possibly do more? Sure! Why not?

HawkmanIn March, one of comicdomís most creatively screwed-up characters will finally get the relaunch fans have asked for. Hawkman, after about five years of sitting on the shelf, will once again brandish his own ongoing monthly series. Co-plotted by James Robinson (Starman), written by Johns and penciled by Rags Morales (JSA, Hourman), the book will take Carter Hall in a new, exciting and completely sane direction for the first time in a VERY LONG time. If you donít know the story behind this one, hereís the short version: Following DC Comics Crisis event, far too many creators tinkered with Hawkmanís modern age origin. Leaving the original Golden Age Hawkman existing, but introducing a new version from another planet (with the same name?!?!). Things took a turn for the worst when they came up with the bright idea of merging all the versions together in a rather incoherent manner. The current JSA writing team spent 3 issues putting the pieces back together and luckily did a very good job of it. Anyone interested in Hawkman should definitely check this book out, itís the strongest the character has been in over 20 years. Believe me, his background not only makes sense now itís very cool.

The JSA With Avengers, JSA and even part of the Fantastic Four now under his belt what could Johns do to top himself? I know! How about a JLA/JSA crossover by the Johns/Goyer team with pencils by the unbelievably good Spanish talents, Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Marino (Fantastic Four)! Entitled "JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice", the story will be presented as a graphic novel. Hopefully the project will see light sometime late this year. Detective Comics Greg Rucka - This crime-fiction novelist has already established himself as one of the top Batman writers today through his work on No Manís Land and Detective Comics, with the latter now joined by the incredible penciler Steve Lieber (for more information on the Batman books, see my column in PCR #78). Following the preposterously long Bruce Wayne crossover sometime this summer, Rucka and Batman writer Ed Brubaker will be launching the new police comic, Gotham Central. Set, obviously, in Gotham City, the book will follow the GCPD and two respective shifts in alternating story arcs. Rucka and Brubaker will each handle their own shifts, containing their own distinctive supporting characters. Michael Lark, who has worked with Brubaker on previous crime-oriented comics, will pencil the ongoing series. Expect some serious stuff here, folks.

ElektraIn addition to his work on the Batman titles, 2002 will also see the release of his Wonder Woman: The Hikketeia graphic novel, penciled by J.G. Jones (Marvel Boy). In theory, Rucka is supposed to follow current Wonder Woman writer/penciler Phil Jimenez after his run has concluded. Jimenezís work has been very well received, his work was recently extended by another year. As DC editorial will decide what happens after the second year concludes, it remains to be seen whether or not Rucka will takeover at that time, hence, the in theory business. Rucka has always been known for writing strong female characters, so it was of no shock that he became Brian Michael Bendisí replacement on the Elektra ongoing series. Beginning this month, he will continue as regular writer for the foreseeable future with current artist Chuck Austen. For those of you interested in seeing more of Ruckaís contributions to the Elektra character, you can check out his 3-issue prose graphic novel mini-series, Elektra & Wolverine: The Redeemer, with Yoshitaka Amano (Sandman: The Dreamhunters) that is currently running. Later he will have a short story in the notoriously late (four months so far) Marvel Knights: Double-Shot anthology series with CGI painter, Greg Horn.

Queen & CountryRucka will also be one of the many A-list creators doing a Spider-Man project to coincide with the theatrical release. Entitled "Spider-Man: Yith", itís still a bit early to get all the details on this 4-issue mini-series. However, preview art by the series painter has been incredible. The best explanation I can give is that it looks like standard Marvel art done in CGI, but also obviously paint. Itís very strange and very nice. Finally, at least for Marvel, he is penning a new 3-issue Black Widow mini-series with art by Igor Kordey (Cable) solicited for sometime in late spring or early summer. If thatís not enough, you can also check out his black & white ongoing series from Oni Press, Queen & Country. Following the exploits of a British Secret Service agent named Tara Chase, this book is set in the more realistic world of political espionage. Think the TV series "24" without the hindering of budgets and content restrictions. The art teams are rotational with each new storyline, but the with the bi-monthly schedule youíll hardly notice. The trade paperback of the first 4 issues will be available in bookstores by April.

Thatís it for this preview of 2002. Until next edition, see you then!

"Wake Up and Smell the Comics" is ©2002 by Drew Reiber. All character names and their distinctive likenesses included in his column are copyrighted and trademarked by their respective companies and are used here for review purposes only. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.