The graduates of DC’s first writer’s workshop put their nose to the grindstone with a collection of nine short stories featuring some of their favorite DC characters, from John Constantine and Zatanna to Wonder Woman and Catwoman, with a little bit of each corner of the DCU in between.
Ranging from fully fleshed out stories to teaser preludes and even one or two that seem oddly ripped from a script book, the nine stories presented in New Talent Showcase #1 do have one thing in common: a bit of electricity for what it’s like to be fresh and new to a pantheon of heroes.
You get that sense immediately from writer Adam Smith and artist Siya Oum on the first story, a Constantine flashback to the hours before the funeral of John Zatara, his very magical, very heroic girlfriend’s father. Smith captures a much younger Constantine, long before he fully realized what kind of deep trouble having good intentions could get him in. At the same time, it feels fairly prophetic for the heartbreak that is the undercurrent on all of his relationships. A little more raw, perhaps, which is refreshing amid so many grizzled representations of the character over time.
Michael Moreci and Barnaby Bagenda’s White Lantern story clearly is meant to evoke a prelude to The Omega Men, with Kyle Rayner in a much more happy-go-lucky place alongside Star Sapphire. The central question of the story is one you don’t often see in super-hero comics played out in this is-she-or-isn’t-she way, since most writers would use that kind of reveal as a cliffhanger. But the naturalness of Kyle’s thoughts and reaction really makes Moreci’s choice a richer experience.
The Deadman tale by Christopher Sebela and David Messina is a great in to a character that I feel like is often hard for me to get into. His humor is restrained, with Sebela choosing to focus more on situational conflict, leaving Deadman as almost this guru-in-the-making rising above the fray. It’s a pleasant change from the feeling of desperation that usually comes with Boston Brand’s dilemma, to see him accepting the inevitability of his role with something approaching a zen-like attitude.
Not every story is as strong in the volume, although all of them have some moments of enjoyment and cleverness in either script or art. The ones that fall the hardest are the stories that don’t even feel like a chapter in a story, more like a jumble of half-story. The structure of the book as a whole feels like nine pitches for bigger stories, but something about Hena Khan’s retreading of Wonder Girl’s origin without much context or the odd lack of direction or explanation in Emma Beeby’s Catwoman/Wonder Woman tale left me not so much wanting more as just wanting something else.
Far and away the winner of the bunch, the cream of the crop, and the story I must DEMAND be expanded into an ongoing series (LISTEN UP, DC!) is Erica Schultz and Sonny Liew’s exemplary Hawkgirl story. A prelude to a much larger narrative, this 8-page story completely recontextualizes Shayera Hall, gives her a completely new and immediately comprehensible status quo — both as a Thanagarian refugee and a Chicago cop. Schultz putting her out there on her own, independent of Hawkman, and Liew reenvisioning her as a woman of color in my hometown has left me DESPERATE for more and re-reading/absorbing every page.
“More Schultz and Liew Hawkgirl please!” is my clarion call for New Talent Showcase #1, but in reality, there’s no boners in the bunch. The writers are all fresh, eager, polished, and give their all, backed up with some of DC’s finest young artists. If this book is the future of DC’s publishing slate, then we haven’t seen anything yet. The future is bright indeed.