DC's Divergence mini-relaunch: a run-down

DC's Divergence mini-relaunch: a run-down
So, you can't have missed the news that DC are overhauling their publishing line in June, following the upcoming crossover event Convergence. While Marvel are busy planning what looks like an almost-full-scale universe reboot (in the manner of DC's New 52 relaunch back in 2011), DC are almost going the opposite way, with something that seems more akin to Marvel's "All New Marvel NOW!" of a few years back.

In the process, the "New 52" branding is finally being dropped (although the continuity itself will remain in place - albeit with, if word is to be believed, a slightly looser approach to a rigid universe-wide continuity) in favour of the new "Divergence" brand - but the most notable aspect is that a range of new titles are being launched, some spotlighting characters that have yet to have their due since the relaunch, and several with exciting (and, crucially, demographically diverse) creative teams. Oh, and a Hitman spinoff.

While it's nothing like as big a shake-up as the 2011 one was, it's nevertheless the most significant since then - so we thought we'd take a look at the list of new and updated titles, to see what we think of their prospects...
New books

Batman Beyond (Dan Jurgens and Bernard Chang)
Black Canary (Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu and Irene Koh)
Cyborg (David Walker and Ivan Reis)
Doomed (Scott Lobdell and Javier Fernandez)
Dr. Fate (Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew)
Justice League of America (Bryan Hitch)
Martian Manhunter (Rob Williams and Ben Oliver)
Midnighter (Steve Orlando and ACO)
Mystic U (Alisa Kwitney and TBA artist)
Omega Men (Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda)
Prez (Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell)
Starfire (Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner and Emanuela Lupacchino)
We Are Robin (Lee Bermejo and Khary Randolph)

The standout here has to be Black Canary - a character I like a lot from her days in the '80s Green Arrow but who has been poorly served by the DC relaunch so far, getting her first solo ongoing series in the hands of Batgirl co-writer Brenden Fletcher. But it's the presence of Annie Wu, so utterly brilliant on the Kate issues of Hawkeye, that makes this unmissable.

Elsewhere, it's nice to see Starfire cut loose from Scott Lobdell's Red Hood and hopefully given a more respectful treatment care of the Palmiotti/Conner team, alongside Lupacchino who has been good on Supergirl lately, although I'm not sure I care enough about the character to pick this up. Another character I've never been that keen on is Martian Manhunter, but I'm intrigued by that creative team: Rob Williams has been bubbling under in search of a major breakout for a while, and Ben Oliver was of course brilliant on The Multiversity: The Just.

And it'll be interesting to see how Bryan Hitch's Justice League America distinguishes itself from the main Justice League title, as it seems to revolve around the core team - it makes sense to put an artist of his stature on those characters, but having him also write it could be seen as something of a gamble.

The two books that offer little hint as to their premises are Mystic U - Alisa Kwitney going back to the Vertigo character stable could be interesting, especially if Tim Hunter is involved - and We Are Robin, which seems like an intriguing way of dealing with Batman's current Robin-less status (superpowered Damian notwithstanding). And a Prez ongoing? Well, fuck it, why not?
New Miniseries

Bat-Mite (Dan Jurgens and Corin Howell)
Bizarro (Heath Corson and Gustavo Duarte)
Harley Quinn/Power Girl (Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner and Stephane Roux)
Section Eight (Garth Ennis and John McCrea)

I'd be more excited about Palmiotti and Conner returning to Power Girl if it didn't also involve the ridiculously over-used Harley (when this mini is running she'll be headlining two books of her own along with New Suicide Squad - she's rapidly turning into DC's Deadpool); but let's face it, this list is all about Section Eight. I remain hugely sceptical about that group's ability to function as anything other than a one-note joke in the pages of a wider comic, but let's throw all scepticism out of the window because DC are allowing Ennis and McCrea to do Hitman characters again and that's as strong a cause for celebration in comics as I could hope for.
Replacement Books

Constantine: The Hellblazer (Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV and Riley Rossmo)
(replacing Constantine)
Dark Universe (James Tynion IV and Ming Doyle)
(replacing Justice League Dark)
Green Lantern: Lost Army (Cullen Bunn, Jesus Saiz and Javi Pina)
(replacing Green Lantern Corps)
Earth 2: Society (Daniel Wilson and Jorge Jimenez)
(replacing Earth 2)
Justice League 3001 (Keith Giffen and Howard Porter)
(replacing Justice League 3000)
Red Hood/Arsenal (Scott Lobdell and Denis Medri)
(replacing Red Hood and the Outlaws)
Robin, Son of Batman (Patrick Gleason)
(replacing Batman & Robin)

Nothing especially exciting here, it must be said, although it's amusing that the moment the TV series goes belly-up DC decide to give John Constantine his old title again. Robin, Son of Batman could be interesting, although I have absolutely no idea what's been going on with Damian since his apparent return and I remain unconvinced that bringing him back was a good idea.

The fact that the shakeup of the "dark/mystic" books includes Ming Doyle on art is a pretty positive sign, mind - I could be tempted back in that direction, for Dark Universe at least if not Constantine.
Continuing Books / New Teams

Action Comics (Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder)
Aquaman (Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy)
Batgirl (Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr)
Batman (Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo)
Detective Comics (Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelato)
Batman/Superman (Greg Pak and Ardian Syaf)
Catwoman (Genevieve Valentine and David Messina)
Deathstroke (Tony S. Daniel)
The Flash (Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Brett Booth)
Gotham Academy (Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl)
Gotham By Midnight (Ray Fawkes and Juan Ferreyra)
Grayson (Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin)
Green Arrow (by Ben Percy and Patrick Zircher)
Green Lantern (Robert Venditti and Billy Tan)
Harley Quinn (Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner and Chad Hardin)
Justice League (Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok)
Justice League United (creative team TBA)
Lobo (Cullen Bunn and Cliff Richards)
Secret Six (Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham)
Sinestro (Cullen Bunn and Bradley Walker)
New Suicide Squad (Sean Ryan and Carlos D’Anda)
Superman (Gene Luen Yang and John Romita, Jr.)
Superman/Wonder Woman (Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke)
Teen Titans (Will Pfeifer and Kenneth Rocafort)
Wonder Woman (Meredith Finch and David Finch)

It's pretty interesting that Geoff Johns will now only be writing one series, since he's departing Superman - although the fact that he's alluded to working with Gary Frank again suggests we can expect to see more of Batman: Earth One some time soon, as if anyone asked for it - and also that rather than working with an A-list artist, he's teamed with Jason Fabok on Justice League. The return of Justice League America means it's surprising that United also sticks around - but it's a title that had already lost some momentum lately.

The new Superman writer is extremely interesting - I don't know Yang's indie work, but he's highly regarded, and as the son of two immigrants his perspective on Kal-El should be worth seeing. It represents a welcome and unusual punt for DC to put him on that book alongside Romita Jr (who I'm also surprised is staying on past Johns' departure). I'll certainly be giving that a shot.

Other than that, it's largely business as usual - and you have to give kudos to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo for continuing their run on Batman. It's not always been the absolute best thing DC have put out, but it's been consistently strong for most of its run, and the length of their tenure is impressive given that they're now the only creative team who've remained in place ever since the relaunch.

Aquaman and the Others
Arkham Manor
Infinity Man and the Forever People
Red Lanterns
Secret Origins
Star Spangled War Stories
Swamp Thing
Trinity of Sin
World’s Finest

So Arkham Manor didn't get the stay of execution that Gotham Academy managed to pull - but really, the biggest name casualties here are Batwoman and Supergirl. Both are a shame to lose, although there were already signs that the new premise of the post-Red Lantern Supergirl wasn't really fitting well after all. It seems that ever since the relaunch DC just haven't had a clue what to do with her, and she's flitted around from setup to setup. You'd expect a new series to arrive once the TV show starts, however, perhaps with a setting more inline with whatever happens on screen.

(But hey, DC, if you're really short of ideas, I've got a pretty decent Nu-52-Kara pitch kicking around in my head. Give me a call, I'm pretty cheap.)

It's also perhaps a surprise that they've given up on the Secret Origins idea so quickly. It was a tried-and-tested method of filling in readers on a post-relaunch continuity (the original series had a very successful and significant fifty-issue run after Crisis on Infinite Earths), but this new attempt didn't really grab any attention; and perhaps its quiet retirement is an indication of Dan Didio's statement that "story will trump continuity" in this new era.
All in all, it's a pretty promising lineup. There's still plenty of stuff in there that I wouldn't want to go near, of course - but it's much easier to be accepting of DC catering to an audience that just wants to read adolescent violent '90s-style comics when it's not the only audience they're trying to cater for. Certainly, when compared to the immediate post-New-52 slate, it's a more diverse set of books all round - and while many of them undoubtedly won't succeed, the very fact that they're trying this sort of thing bodes well for the next round of launches, too.

A few months ago, we asked whether DC might finally be moving in the right direction. The post-Convergence books will take some time to judge, but tentatively, it certainly feels like a time to be optimistic.