DC’s experiment of desperation goes full blast this week. Instead of going out with the old and in with the new with only two comics as of last week, we have thirteen new #1s to play around with. Naturally, I bought all thirteen for my own little experiment. As I stated last week, I used to read a lot of DC only a few years ago, but over time they almost completely lost me. Now I want to give them a new chance and see how their 52 jumping on points fare by the end of six months of story.
Alphabetical order works, so we’ll begin with Action Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. Couldn’t really ask for a better way to start. A couple years ago I read through a collection of old 1930′s Superman newspaper strips that featured less of Superman fighting robots and more of Superman standing up for the little man. Considering how unbeatable he was at the time regardless of who he was fighting, there was more enjoyment and will fulfillment in those down-to-earth adventures. I like getting to see a modern take and Morrison’s the best choice for it. He’s already said all there is to say about the previous incarnation of Superman with All-Star Superman and now he gets to go at it from another angle.
It’s fresh and it’s fun. Any shadiness from seeing him play interrogator is undone by his absolute glee in everything he does and the “oh shucks” way he interacts with the people he helps. Luthor comes off as menacing, Lois has her trademark death wish for the facts and the only real drawback is the occasional weird Morales eyes.
It’s a new world in the DCU, so time will tell what Superman will develop with and what he’ll develop from. Either way, I’m definitely sticking with this one for the foreseeable future.
I saved Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman for last in my reading order and I’m a better man for it. My Animal Man experience is the Morrison run and his appearances in 52. Having seen the whole fourth wall breaking aspects of the character, the first page magazine article by Jeff Lemire himself is absolutely brilliant and does a great job introducing the down-to-earth, yet entirely special character of Buddy Baker. Even better is the opening scene where Buddy reacts to the article and interacts with his wife, two kids and his son’s terrible mullet. Foreman’s art really comes to the forefront here with some priceless facial expressions. For instance, here’s Maxine reacting to being told she can’t have a dog while her parents tangent into a different conversation.
It’s hard not to love the Baker family. The actual crime fighting sequence builds on this and only proceeds to make Buddy even more likeable so that once the comic takes a slow burn turn for horror, it’s even more effective. The comic becomes dark and disturbing, but I hold faith that everything will work out. Lemire appears to know better than to go the same path that Morrison self-criticized. This is probably the comic of the week. Can’t wait for #2. Totally sticking.
Then it’s time for Batgirl by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf. Well, they can’t all be winners. I’ve never cared about Barbara one way or another, but I was open to the status quo reboot. Personally, I would have been far better with them acting like the Killing Joke never happened rather than do this Molotov cocktail of weird continuity choices. I echo Esther’s feelings on how over-the-top the whole gun fear is, but in a way, it’s kind of a funny choice of stakes. We aren’t so much supposed to join Batgirl in the fear that she may die. We’re supposed to join Batgirl in the fear that she may again be put in a wheelchair. That’s funny because a lot of people want just that! It’s almost like taunting us. It reminds me of an old Wolverine comic I flipped through years ago back when he had bone claws. The cliffhanger had some villains preparing to experiment on Wolverine and force the adamantium back onto his skeleton. But… but that’s a good thing! I wanted that to happen and I’m sure a bunch of other people did too!
I did enjoy the fight sequence against the serial killer group, but Chris Eckert had pointed out something about Simone’s villains that has ruined it for me. Simone can’t seem to write a compelling villain and instead will make them all come off as Hitler’s bowling team. Everyone is like an Ennis Punisher villain only without the need to go out of the way to make them more outright sinister than the protagonist. Well, maybe not with Secret Six, but it was still jarring when every villain is the worst person ever. Same pattern holds in the scene of the masked guys talking about how they’re the most evil men to evil evil.
I was in the middle on this comic at this point and even the foreboding main villain of the Mirror looked like he could have some potential. The moment everything sunk like a rock was the moment we got to meet Barbara’s excessively annoying new roommate. How much do I hate this character? Let me count the ways… Ten. She’s in ten panels so I hate her in ten ways. I know this is Simone and all, but if there was ever a comic book female who needed a fridging…
Anyway, the comic doesn’t really do much for me. Dropping it.
(Cassandra Cain was the best Batgirl anyway)
Batwing by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver is pretty middle-of-the-road. Oliver went to the Jae Lee School of Background Fog, but I dig his style regardless. Batwing is a new character outside of his one Batman Inc. appearance, so reboot or not, we’re getting a nice introduction. I have a soft spot for superheroes who also work within the system, so I like the whole bit about him leaving clues as Batwing so that his fellow police officers can pick up on it. Of course, the character of Massacre is one of Winick’s writing tics in how you can’t be a villain unless you slaughter an entire room of people, but I’m cool with it so far. There’s nothing especially gripping about the story as is, but it’s enough that I’m going to stick with it for another issue. We’ll see how I feel next month.
There’s been a lot of bad words about Detective Comics #1 by Tony Salvador Daniel and I agree with a good chunk of it, but I’m still going to defend it. Of all the big DC names, Batman and Green Lantern are the ones who aren’t really affected by the change in continuity. Superman, Wonder Woman and the League are all new for all readers. Green Lantern, meanwhile, is going through a continuity change of its own with Sinestro in the title role. That means that Batman is just the same old shit in a comic that’s meant to draw people in. Being that it’s Batman, they want to pull in people who don’t normally read comics. That’s why this issue is about familiarity over all else. It’s just a generic Batman vs. Joker story that hits the same notes as Dark Knight. Batman tries to catch up with Joker, he figures him out, they fight and even in victory, we find out that Joker was planning on Batman catching him. For you and me, it’s nothing special. For someone who might be reading a Batman comic for the first time due to the hype, they aren’t being turned away. The whole face-cutting part of the end is gruesome and is something where I want to see where they’re going with it.
One minor thing I really enjoyed was this sequence.
Listen, I get that these days Joker is supposed to be the most unflappable villain ever and he isn’t afraid of being caught, foiled, beat up or killed but considering he fights Batman every other week, can’t we go back to giving him moments like this? Sometimes a comic book villain is meaningless when you can’t get a losing reaction to him. While he is back into his controlled mindset a panel or two later, the fact that he acts surprised, even briefly, makes a world of difference.
All in all, I’m not going to call Detective Comics #1 good, but I feel that it gets a pass for being a Batman vs. Joker comic for the sake of welcoming new people. I’m sticking, but only because I think of issue #2 as the true #1.
Green Arrow by J.T. Krul, Dan Jurgens and George Perez is– *zzzzz* –Huh?! Sorry, I dozed off for a second. I could never bring myself to watch Smallville, so I don’t care about Green Arrow’s outfit. All I know is that the entire thing is as bland as you can get and there’s absolutely nothing memorable about it. The hero doesn’t interest me, the villains definitely don’t interest me and there’s nothing in there to keep me buying. Sorry, Olly. Dropped.
Now for Hawk and Dove by Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld. As bad as Rob Liefeld is, he almost gets a pass for how used to his work I am. I can read through a Liefeld comic with no problem as long as there isn’t an especially bad case of art mixed in there. The rest of it is fine as long as I don’t stare at it for more than five seconds. It’s just that every once and a while you get a page like this:
The attempt to go for style makes this a mess. The origin of Hawk and Dove goes from Hank and Don gaining their powers to a big middle panel of Hank and Dawn getting their powers instead. And since Hank is not in his superhero outfit while telling his story, the right panel has to have Dawn in her civilian form about to start a line that’s continued on the next page… where she is flying and in costume. There’s also a panel in the comic of her smashing a car for no reason whatsoever.
The core story of the two distrusting each other has promise, but I can’t take the art. I’m just glad to have this over with. Dropped.
Justice League International by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopreski isn’t much better. Sure, it gets the team together, but it’s pretty uninteresting. It seems to miss the point of everything. For a #1, it doesn’t do much to hook us in. Nobody in the team comes off as especially memorable or even all that likeable and the threat is as paint-by-numbers as it comes. The idea of Booster Gold as the leader that Batman believes in doesn’t hold so much water when you’re hand-waving away Justice League: Generation Lost. The whole point of him being leader there was that it was organic. Booster was the most competent hero on the makeshift team and everyone was surprised because it’s Booster’s job as time cop to make sure not to point it out. So halfway into the story, it was brought up by Fire and Ice out of surprise and they went with it. Here he’s leader just because he’s been handpicked and Batman sees the potential. The main point missed is that this is supposed to be based on the funny era of the Justice League and it’s really not very funny. It’s barely even humorous.
I should drop this, but due to my love for Booster and Guy Gardner, I’m going to stick for maybe another month. Consider it on probation.
Men of War by Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick (with backup by Jonathan Vankin and Phil Winslade) is another comic I’m putting on probation. There’s an interesting story in there, but the storytelling rings a little, I don’t know, sloppy? It’s good setup in that a soldier who doesn’t want to move up in the military works under a sergeant who really wants him to do so while their one mission causes the young corporal to look up to this man who respects him so much. Then a superhero vs. supervillain fight gets involved, but in a nice little way that puts it in the forefront while at the same time keeping the details in the background. Almost like Cloverfield with superheroes and no douchebags.
I want to see where this is going. Sticking, but I doubt it’ll last. Also, the backup is completely forgettable.
O.M.A.C. is handled by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen. I admit I’m a novice when it comes to the Jack Kirby experience. I never read any of his old O.M.A.C. series. I’m also not too keen on Didio’s writing, since he recently took a comic that featured two of my favorite underused DC heroes – Creeper and Eradicator – and made me not care in the slightest. That said, I found O.M.A.C. to be ridiculous fun from start to finish. It’s weird and it’s crazy and I can’t wait for what’s next.
To the uninitiated, think of the comic as the Hulk going on a rampage against far-out villains and listening to the directions of a computer voice while his Mohawk crackles with blurry electricity. When you go through that ride and the cliffhanger tagline is, “Next issue: things get REALLY weird,” you know you have to stick with it.
Next it’s Scott McDaniel and John Rozum tackling Static Shock. Again, I know so little about the title character. I never watched his cartoon and my only experience with him is when he showed up on the Justice League cartoon. I’ve heard him described, especially in the context of this comic, as being a Peter Parker for the DCU. I disagree with that a little bit. Static is more like what Peter would have been like if he became a superhero, but lacked the “great power” moral that came with Uncle Ben dying. Static does what’s right, but doesn’t seem to really care much about the collateral damage he causes. No apologies or anything like that. He just shrugs, decides, “sucks for you!” and takes off. I’m not knocking it. I actually find it to be refreshing and more realistic for a teen superhero.
What I really enjoyed about this issue is that it’s dense. It’s probably the most dense of all the comics this week. The opening action sequence is lengthy enough, we get a good look at his home life, the behind-the-scenes look at his hero life and a couple moments from his villains. I didn’t need to find out where his powers came from or anything like that. I like what I was given here. Definitely sticking.
Stormwatch by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda is the first book I read of the bunch and I enjoyed it. I never read the original Stormwatch, but did enjoy a lot of the Authority. While there’s a lot of info left to be dumped, there’s enough here to keep me interested. If anything, it has the big, weird threat concept that would usually keep the Authority busy, much like the time they had to fight “God”. In this case, it’s because the moon has horns that make it look like a claw and it’s coming to kill us all. You know, years ago at work while hanging out in the break room, a stoner guy once told me that he wanted to make a movie where the antagonist was the moon and I looked at him like he was a stoner guy who told me about a movie plot where the antagonist was the moon. Maybe I should have been more supportive.
There’s a scene in there where one member of Stormwatch gets taken over by an extraterrestrial deity of some sort in order to help strengthen them against the upcoming moon threat. It reminds me of the plot of the Ultimate Galactus trilogy, which I liked but thought could have been done better. So maybe we’ll get that here. The main criticisms I’ve found from elsewhere are that the art isn’t good and that it’s too set on having everyone introduce their powers. The first part didn’t really faze me. I don’t mind the art at all. The other part seems necessary. After all, this is a superhero comic where the characters don’t dress or act like superheroes. They kind of need to remind you that they’re superheroes.
More than anything, I just love the concept. Ever since the reboot was announced, I was intrigued by the idea of Wildstorm characters being inserted into the DCU proper. The fact that Martian Manhunter is hanging out with this crowd instead of being the tired backbone of the Justice League makes it sweeter. There’s something fitting about him working with the likes of Hawksmoor. Sticking with this one, probably for a while.
Then there’s Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. Swamp Thing comes off as Animal Man‘s little brother in terms of storytelling. I’m not as invested in the main character, but there’s a similar cool subplot in there that mixes mother nature with horror. The whole neck-snapping scene is awesome. There’s no real reboot to Swamp Thing, as they’re using the confusing Brightest Day backstory as a first impression. Dr. Holland was blown up and turned into Swamp Thing, only it turns out he wasn’t really Swamp Thing but a creature that thought he was Dr. Holland and now Swamp Thing is dead and Dr. Holland is back from the dead as Swamp Thing. I mean I get it, but I can see it as being a pain in the neck for a new reader.
Still, I enjoyed it and it’s raising enough questions that I want to see answered. Sticking.
Two weeks in and I’m from 52 comics down to 49 while several of this week’s comics are teetering on the edge. We’ll see how they fare next month.
As for next week, we have a lot of gritty badass stuff going on. The Red Lanterns, Frankenstein, Damian Wayne, Deathstroke and Grifter. Here’s hoping they don’t suck!