Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing DC Universe Presents 19, originally released April 17th, 2013.
Shelby: I won’t lie to you, gentle readers: I wasn’t especially excited to write about this issue. I had heard rumor that the secret hero from the future was going to be Booster Gold. I don’t have anything against ol’ Booster, but I don’t feel any strong connection, either, so I wasn’t particularly joyful about it. But, as I took a closer look at the cover and saw the giant sword impaling Flash, and remembered the last time I saw Tony Bedard and Jesus Saiz [editor’s note: the issue was actually drawn by Javier Pina – Patrick talks about it in his response] team up, I grew more and more excited. I won’t spoil it here, in case you haven’t read it yet and want to be surprised.
Professor Gwendolyn Pierce is having a weird night. She’s trying to study an artifact which carbon dating shows to be negative three hundred years old, when a horrifying monster jumps out, copies her face, and runs away. The monster is pursued by our favorite, beefy Viking legend:
Beowulf tells the tale of being from about 300 years in the future, and how he thought he killed Grendel’s mom but apparently did not, because she created the shape-shifting púca. The creature led Beowulf to a trap which transported the both of them to the present through Gwendolyn’s artifact. They track the beast to Central Park, where it is assuming the shapes of members of the Justice League and demanding the people recognize it as master. Beowulf slays it with a mighty chok, and Gwendolyn rushes him back to the museum to send him back to his future. Then, doing something which will probably be pretty dumb, she hops through the artifact portal with him, and we get a “The End?” for both the issue and the DC Universe Presents… title.
I had almost forgotten how much I love Bedard and Saiz on this story. I love the circular nature of time: that the ancient story of Beowulf we know actually takes place in a dystopian future. Like Justice League Dark, there’s a fine line between science and magic, with Grendel’s geneticist mother churning out monsters as quick as she can splice them, and being considered a sorceress for doing so. I had definitely forgotten the part of the story where Beowulf was created as a super-soldier to defeat our favorite super-heroes.
Having forgotten that key piece of information, I had a lot of fun putting Beowulf’s story together with the numerous mentions of the Justice League as gods; there’s an ad on a bus that calls them “the new pantheon,” and the púca tells Beowulf they could just stay there and be gods. The real question is: are we going to see this race of Beowulfs (Beowulves?) created to stop the Justice Leauge(s) any time soon? Soon as in Trinity War soon? That would actually be a pretty ballsy move. I don’t think Sword of Sorcery has a very massive audience, and to include a three-part back-up with vital clues to huge, core-DC Universe events is bold, and super rewarding for those of us who happen to be reading both.
The one aspect of this story I’m not totally sold on is Gwendolyn. I like that she’s not helpless, and can completely keep her head when facing some fucking unreal shit, but jumping through that portal to what is probably three hundred years in the future in the name of science? It’s great that she’s pretty sure it’s the future, and wants to find out what went wrong so she can prevent it, but she doesn’t even know for sure that she can get back; what good will her knowledge of the future do her if she’s stuck there? Lack of foresight aside, I’m intrigued what will happen to her. I’m also not totally convinced I won’t find out what happens to Gwendolyn in the Danelaw of the future. There’s the matter of that sneaky little question mark after the “the end.” Could that mean this will be a regular title? Or is that just Bedard being cheeky? Because if it’s the former, I have no problems with that.
Patrick: Oh, I also have no problem with the latter. I mean, if this is a weird and silly one-off adventure, it certainly is a fun one. The concept is so simple – Beowulf chasing a shapeshifter that takes the form of Justice Leaguers? In modern-day Central Park? Perfect, self-contained little story. And all the extra little mythology details are a lot of fun: I especially like Beowulf’s ominous foreshadowing that New York City will be destroyed in “the mid 20th Century.” That is astonishingly close to “now,” so maybe Professor Gwendolyn is actually just making the smartest ever in opting out of NYC’s destruction.
Shelby, I do have to point out that while the original Beowulf stuff in the first couple issues of Sword of Sorcery were drawn by Jesus Saiz, the art in this issue was done by Javier Pina. The solicit that DC has up on their own website also credits Saiz, so it’s sorta hard to fault you for that mistake. Now, Pina and Saiz are both great artists, but Saiz is a rockstar. Remember how he absolutely OWNED Justice League 18? I’m not accusing DC of selling me shit and calling it chocolate – Pina’s no slouch either. I’m not upset by having one artist and not the other. What does kind of rub me the wrong way is how hard DC is making it to follow the work of specific creatives. I like Christy Marx and I follow comics very closely, (and write about them every fucking day) and her issue of Birds of Prey was on the shelf for three weeks before I realized that she was starting on issue 18 and not issue 19. Ditto Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s take-over on Batwing. I guess it’s common practice for people to follow characters and not to follow creative teams, but if that’s the governing principle here, why was Beowulf announced less than a week before this issue came out? Shelby assumed this was going to be a Booster Gold story – and with good reason, the solicit reads:
In this final issue, what time displaced-hero has arrived on our world—and is the destruction he brings the herald to a great disaster?
I suppose that’s in the spirit of WTF month – you don’t know what you’re going to be reading until you actually see it – but the whole thing smacks of some tacit dishonesty. They already publish too many comics for the average fan to read / care about, why can’t DC meet us halfway with a little clarity? Every issue I read with an X-Men character in it is happy to show me where I can follow the adventures of other X-Men, why do I have to be an EVEN BIGGER DC scenester than I already am to be aware of what’s going on?
Sorry, that’s more time that I care to devote to publishing issues. Also, look how negative I got -I really liked this issue! I absolutely love that there’s an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum on the Justice League that’s advertised around town on simple graphic ads on buses.
They’re billed as “The New Pantheon?” The idea that comic book superheroes have become our new folk heroes (which is essentially what the Greek gods were) is totally fascinating to me. But the kicker is that the Met is an art museum. Sure, this issue shows a dinosaur skeleton and Gwendolyn is studying historical stuff in the basement, but if this is the Metropolitan Museum, there’s no reason there’d be a Justice League exhibit. Unless of course, the Justice League are comic book characters – which they so totally are. That’s a neat way to acknowledge the actual cultural importance of these heroes.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?