NYCC ’17: The Return Of the Dakota Universe And The Launch Of Earth M Panel

by Noah Sharma

After years of rumors and unfulfilled announcements, this Thursday at New York Comic Con, DC Comics finally announced a return to the world of Milestone Comics. Panelists Denys Cowan, Derek Dingle, Reginald Hudlin, Kyle Baker, Alice Randall, Kyle Baker, Greg Pak, Ken Lashley, and Jim Lee .

Discussing the impetus of Earth M, Hudlin discussed the importance of capturing the cutting edge mentality of the original Milestone. It’s not enough to do Static Shock, the company has to strive to reflect the times we’re living in the same way that it did in the 90s. That imperative was part of the decision to give Dakota its own universe.

Cutting right to the chase, Hudlin announced that, at long last Earth M will launch in spring 2018 and that it will be led by Milestone #1 Featuring: Icon & Rocket. The book will be written by Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan with art from Ken Lashley. The book will be a reboot of the universe, but worry not purists, the original runs will be collected in time. Asked about the first arc, Hudlin merely assured us that it will be “a story that Superman will never do.”

Alongside Icon and Rocket, Static will also return from Hudlin, Cowan, and artist Kyle Baker. With both a stunning cover that modernizes the classic Milestone aesthetic and an image that seemingly combines The Dark Knight Returns with the Air Jordan logo displayed, Static Shock #1 received significant applause. Hudlin was also tight lipped about this first arc, but he just mentioned that he grew up in St. Louis…not far from Ferguson. Apropos of nothing, obviously.

Static Shock will also introduce a new character, Amber. Hudlin joked that every black neighborhood includes one white family that’s too poor to move out and wondered if a child of that family couldn’t be caught up in the same things as the people of color around her. It’s hard to say what role the character will play and how her race will affect her outlook, but the presence of hand cuffs on her belt hint in some interesting directions.

Greg Pak will relaunch the classic series Xombi as DuoXombi followed David Kim, a scientist rescued by his assistant, Kelly, who injects him with experimental nanobots, only to be devoured by them herself. Pak’s take adds a new twist: Kelly, now Kim’s wife, has her consciousness transferred into his body. Now the two exist as a fused, self-repairing entity. There’s plenty of meat to play with in that concept, but cover artist Jim Lee points out that while this has a sort of romantic beginning it will quickly become more horrific. The series will explore ideas of consciousness as outside forces look to control the outcome. After all, as Pak reminded us, “in a body like this you’re basically immortal and there are people who might not like that.” An artist was not explicitly attached though Jim Lee will provide cover art.

Hudlin described the idea of Love Army as a world wide secret organization made up of new, badass characters that will give his daughter and all girls an awesome shirt to wear proudly.

The last title was the most secretive of all. Going under the title Earth-M, Hudlin and the panelists weren’t even ready to reveal the character’s name yet. That said, they were able to say that the story would explore what it means to be a vigilante, showing off some decidedly Batman-esque artwork. That art, by the way, will be drawn by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. The first arc will be written by Hudlin, with the next being written by Alice Randall. The series will explore what it means to be a vigilante and, very significantly in my mind, what crime is.

Randall told the audience how she learned to read from comics, how she made her first long distance call to tell DC Comics what she thought of Batman. She, with a distinctive mixture of humor and solemnity, said that she very much looked forward to bringing her perspective as a black woman to Earth-M.

These five series make up the first wave of Earth M, but not the last. A second wave is promised to follow and Christopher Priest has been stated to be part of an undisclosed series.

The panel ended early, a rarity for shows like this, with a screening of part of Robert Kirkman’s Heroes and Villains: The History of Comic Books, detailing the struggles of black creators in the industry and the formation of Milestone. Hearing Cowan recount how a DC editor gave him a positive portfolio review before announcing that “we already have a colored artist” reminds how necessary Milestone was and how far behind we still are. Still, a better encapsulation, to my ears, came from Derek Dingle, “People have marched and died so that we can create these images.”

Images. That’s all.

But, they matter.