Annual Extravagana!

From what I garner from the history books, there was a time where it was common for comic book companies to issue special “annual” issues in a series. These annuals would usually deviate from the normal ongoing storyline of the book, would contain a far greater number of pages than a normal issue, and would sometimes tie into other annuals to tell a bigger story. Now, I speak of annuals as old hat somewhat sarcastically. DC and Marvel have both still released annual issues of some of their series through recent years, though it has been on an inconsistent basis and with even more inconsistent quality. DC looks to be shaking that up a bit in the New 52. DC currently has 8 annual issues slated, 3 of which are to be released this month and 5 in August. It’s worth noting that May and August are months with 5 Wednesdays and that 7 of the 8 annuals are to be released on the 5th Wednesday. If this is an ongoing trend we can expect another batch of annuals in October as well.  I’m going to take a look at what we know about the currently announced annuals, because some of them look pretty darn interesting.

Teen Titans Annual #1 by Scott Lobdell, Tom DeFalco, and Brett Booth

This book as actually already been released to lukewarm critical reception, but I’ll go and ahead and talk about it. This issue is the only one of the announced annuals not to be released on a 5th Wednesday, but rather on the 1st. That is because this issue launches the Culling crossover between Teen Titans, Superboy, and Legion Lost, which will culminate at the end of the month in the launch of the new series, The Ravagers. I haven’t read the issue, but I flipped through it in the store and checked out the preview. Brett Booth’s art is really great in my opinion, but I’m not a big fan of the ongoing storyline in these books. The characters and the concept are really intriguing me and I like the hunger games aspect they are playing at with the Culling. However, I just couldn’t get into the earlier issues due to the execution of the story telling. If you like the current Teen Titans book or are interested in jumping in on the Culling event then this is a must have, if not, then I recommend looking elsewhere.

Anticipation Level: Don’t Care

Animal Man Annual #1 by Jeff Lemire, Timothy Green II

Jeff Lemire has been on fire lately and I’ll take any extra stories by him I can get. This annual ties into the ongoing story being told in Animal Man and Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing. Instead of focusing on current events, however, it seems this issue will tell the tale of an earlier Animal Man and Swamp Thing and their battle against the Rot. Hopefully this will shed some light on the changing mythologies of the characters while ramping up the excitement for the upcoming Rotworld crossover.

Anticipation Level: Must Have

Batman Annual #1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Jay Fabok

This annual issue will act as a tie in to Snyder’s Court of Owls storyline raging across the batbooks. The interesting part about this issue is that it features the first New 52 appearance of Mr. Freeze, who apparently has some ties to the Court. I’m not exactly sure how Snyder is going to tie the two together, but his work on Batman has been outstanding and Mr. Freeze is a childhood favorite of mine. If you’re like me and grew up on Batman: The Animated Series, you’re probably a Mr. Freeze fan too, so check this one out.

Anticipation Level: Must Have

Detective Comics Annual #1 by Tony S. Daniel, Romano Molenaar, and Sandu Florea

Not to be overshadowed, the other big batbook will also be getting an annual issue in August. Of the two books, I’m way more interested in Batman, and dropped off of Detective Comics after the first issue. This issue features Batman going up against the Black Mask, which to my knowledge will be the character’s first New 52 appearance. If you’re a fan of Black Mask or of Daniel’s run on Detective Comics, check this one out.

Anticipation Level: Meh

The Flash Annual #1 by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato, Marcus To, and others

From issues 6 through 12, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, with the help of Ray McCarthy and Marcus To, have and will be reintroducing the Rogues, the colorful costumed villains that plague the Flash. In the past the Rogues have become nearly has popular with comic readers as the Flash himself thanks to creators like Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins. This annual issue will bring all the Rogues together again against the Flash and will lead into a bigger Flash event later in the year. The Flash has been one of the most visually interesting books out there, but I haven’t read the book past the first story arc. This annual kind of has me interested in going back and seeing what’s been going on.

Anticipation Level: Intrigued

Green Lantern Annual #1 by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver

For me, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Geoff Johns teaming up with his Green Lantern Rebirth partner Ethan Van Sciver for a new Green Lantern story is such good news. The last time that I recall getting a Van Sciver GL issue was the Sinestro Corp War Special and that led to perhaps the greatest story of Johns’ Green Lantern run, so I’m hoping that the two can strike gold again. This issue will act as the ending to the Revenge of Black Hand arc, which we of course know next to nothing about. That cover does look pretty foreboding though, doesn’t it? It’s like the GL version of the Death of Superman. Hal Jordan wasn’t featured in the flashfoward in DC’s FCBD issue, could the team that brought Hal Jordan back to life kill him off again? That would certainly be a twist. I can’t shake the feeling that Johns is getting close to the end of his run on GL, so I expect that the stakes could be that high.

Anticipation Level: Off the Charts!

Justice League International Annual #1 Geoff Johns, Dan Didio, and Jason Fabok

This one definitely came out of left field for me. It appears that DC will be cancelling the current Justice League International book with issue #12 in August, but they are also giving the book an annual issue on the way out. This annual also just happens to be written by two of the most important people at DC, its star writer and CCO Geoff Johns and C0-Publisher Dan Didio. This issue will apparently play off of the events of not only JLI but Justice League #12 as well. I don’t know what Johns has up his sleeve, but you can bet it probably has to do with the upcoming Trinity War. Oh, and did I mention that this book has O.M.A.C. in it, cause it does. OMACtivate!

Anticipation: Must Have

Superman Annual #1 by Keith Giffen, CAFU, and others

This issue seems to hearken back to the classic annual format of having little to do with a series’ ongoing storylines. The story will deal with Superman being thrust into an alien gladiator-esque competition to fight for his live. This issue initially seemed like a throwaway issue to me until I dug a little deeper. There are two aspects about this issue that have me intrigued. First, the issue’s description on DC’s official blog promises to introduce an “entirely new cosmic realm”. Keith Giffen wrote perhaps one of the most critically acclaimed stories of the last decade for Marvel, Annihilation, which was also a cosmic story. If Giffen can bring over some of what he did in that series it would be amazing. Secondly, the issue is to feature the appearance of a mysterious new Green Lantern. Now, this could just be a random new GL character, but what if it’s the new Green Lantern seen in DC’s FCBD issue. While it seems like a Superman Annual would be a strange place to debut the character, you never know. Either way, Giffen has proven himself to me as a solid writer and I would love to read a really good Superman story. While the concept seems a little cliché, there’s some potential here for greatness.

Anticipation Level: Intrigued

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