Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 4

September 27th, 2011 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

We’ve reached our fourth week and if you’ve been following the comic blogosphere (whoa, Microsoft Word accepts that as an actual word!), it’s one filled with two instances of controversy that are bundled together. Don’t let it distract you too much, as we still get a really solid week overall. Am I going to be keeping every book? Hell no. But in the end, it’s a strong set.

Now let’s get to the gratuitous boob—I mean, let’s get to the reviews.

We get a sandwich of fantastic and the first slice of bread is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. A far stronger showing than the Detective Comics issue we got a couple weeks ago. Both comics used the same idea of trying to lure in new readers by showing what they know as an intro – in Detective‘s case, Batman vs. Joker mystery and in Batman‘s case, a fight against a bunch of known and lesser known villains – but this one simply gets it out of the way so it can move on to the real story. It’s a great scene that doesn’t so much show Batman as being able to beat a bunch of villains on his own, but able to beat a bunch of villains with a sneaky plan and teamwork. In fact, I just realized that with the reveal from a couple pages later that the opening scene of Batman #1 is a modern-day retelling of the Adam West show’s animated opening.

The opening scene is pretty awesome and does something that, to me, makes a good comic. That is, give us a cool sequence but have it make sense. Snyder decided to give us Batman and Joker vs. a bunch of rogues and goes out of his way to give us an explanation that makes total sense and even slightly hints towards the big cliffhanger. It’s opposite of Secret Avengers #13 where Nick Spencer had the kickass idea of having the ghost of George Washington lead a bunch of soldier ghosts and the Lincoln Monument against Nazi mechs, but when it came time to explain it, the entire issue imploded on its complete lack of logic and fell apart.

Capullo’s facial expressions rule the roost here, especially once Harvey Bullock enters the story. I genuinely enjoy it whenever Bullock and Batman get a scene together, mainly due to their mutual respect and Bullock’s inability to give into Batman’s bullshit. In only a few pages, Harvey becomes so expressive that it’s hard not to love the lug.

If there’s any complaint about this book, it’s that Riddler Mohawk. Hey, remember when Riddler was a detective on the level? Remember how promising that was? Well, nowadays he’s in Arkham with a Mohawk shaped like a green question mark. Goddamn it, DC.

Snyder’s Batman is not only better than the other Batman-starred books of the reboot so far, but it’s also better than his work on Swamp Thing. You better believe I’m sticking.

Then we have Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz. This is a weird one because it’s a good comic that I quite enjoyed, but it’s the least memorable one of the week. I’ve never gotten into Birds of Prey before, but as an introduction and rebooting of Black Canary as a wanted criminal for accidental vigilante murder, it does its job well. There’s fun action, good art and some okay character interaction. Especially that of Keen and the new heroine Starling. It’s cute to see them play off each other and the ending hits us with a curveball in regards to what we expect to see out of their possibilities. The ending also hits us with a mystery and a major sense of doom in terms of what’s been going on with Black Canary in the last fourth of the issue. I’m interested enough to stick and see where this is going.

Next up is Blue Beetle by Tony Bedard and Ig Guara. Hoo boy. I feel bad about this one because it isn’t even that bad of a comic. It just doesn’t work and is almost impossible to make work. The idea of having to reboot the character without being able to even mention Ted Kord reminds me of the mythical Venom movie screenplay that David Goyer wrote over a decade ago back when a studio other than Sony had the rights to the character. Goyer had to write a story where Eddie Brock got a black costume with a white spider symbol on his chest without a single mention or allusion to Spider-Man. That script is still my holy grail.

But it’s not the lack of Ted Kord that makes this such a harrowing task. It’s because of what I guess you can call “reboot fatigue”. Actually, if I can again compare it to a Spider-Man movie, I’d say to look at the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man. It can be a great movie and even superior to the original, but it doesn’t matter. I still can’t get into it because WE JUST SAW THIS. They’re reinventing the wheel when the wheel was invented just a couple years ago. And as a first issue, it doesn’t even rate when it comes to John Rogers’ take on the character. Much of that comes from trying to crunch a bunch of his ideas together and mix it with as many clichés as possible. Jaime Reyes went from being Peter Parker-like to being simply a latino Peter Parker. I’m just not interested. Dropping this.

Captain Atom by J.T. Krul and Freddie Williams II borrows an awful lot from Meltdown, an Image miniseries about a superhero who finds out that his powers are slowly killing him and the more he uses them, the quicker he’ll die. At first I was rolling my eyes between that and what appeared to be the Spawn countdown timer that would show up at the beginning of each scene. Luckily, both fears were subsided as the comic went on. The counter seemed to be ticking up instead of down and the whole “my powers will kill me!” storyline comes to a head during the cliffhanger and isn’t treated like a status quo looming threat meant to kill interest in the series like I expected.

There are changes to the character that I wasn’t too keen on as one of the few people who actually likes Captain Atom. For one, he’s become a being completely made of energy rather than a guy in a cool metal shell. His military leanings seem to be nonexistent… but then again, so is a lot of his character. I mean, we don’t know a thing about him. Just that he’s a superhero who hangs out with a dickheaded Stephen Hawking. I’m interested enough to see what’s next, but I’m wary. Especially because this is Krul of all people. Sticking, but with a definite probation.

Now for Catwoman by Judd Winick and Guillem March. *sigh* Let me get this out of the way: I didn’t hate this comic. I know I’m supposed to. I know it’s considered sexist trash and everything, but it didn’t really bother me outside of a couple instances. I get why people are offended, but I’m not one of those people. Maybe it’s because I’m a total goofball who knew what he was getting into, but I was more focused on the kitties being crammed into a little cage during the opening scene than the boobs. Hell, the bra shots had me thinking, “Wow, they’re actually having her wear underwear under her tights in this,” but yeah, objection is objection. In the opening sequence, the only thing that got me to take notice at first glance was the crotch-shot-from-behind thing when she’s running away.

When you get past the T&A, there’s not much inherently wrong with the comic. It’s otherwise fine as an intro to the character. In fact, and I’m going to probably catch flack on this, the last scene would have been perfectly fine if they hadn’t gone too far on the art. The idea of Catwoman coaxing Batman into Michelling her Pfeiffer worked for me, but they portrayed it in such a tasteless way, especially with the explicit last page.

In my eyes, it was a good character moment. For years the Batman/Catwoman dynamic has been that Selina wants Bruce and Bruce wants Selina, but is too stuck in the idea that he can’t do it because she’s a criminal and he won’t let himself be happy. Any time Catwoman tries anything, he points over her shoulder, waits for her to turn around and sneaks off. Before the sex breaks out, Bruce has an adorably transparent introduction that’s summed up with, “Oh, God! Catwoman, are you all right? I heard your apartment was destroyed and I had to come see you and—*ahem* What I MEANT to say is, what have you been up to?! You’re always up to trouble! …What are you doing? No, we can’t do this! You’re a villain and I’m—eh, to hell with it.”

Now, had they cut away or something instead of showing some horizontal Batusi, it would be totally fine. Instead, I’m putting this one on probation as I stick with this comic for the time being. Besides, it’s not like she’s the first cat-based burglar to force inappropriate sex on a masked superhero with zero regard for who he is under the mask.

Now, see, THAT got its point across without having to go all Cinemax.

DC Universe Presents by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang was a surprise to me, though I guess it shouldn’t have been. I think that with Brightest Day and Hawk and Dove, I’ve begun to tie in Deadman with bad comics. I was really reluctant to read this one, but it turned out quite good. We’re given a glazed over origin story that shows that Boston Brand was a dickhead who died and has to become the guy from Quantum Leap or his immortal existence is screwed. He goes through depressing life adventure after depressing life adventure and is reminded in a well-done scene with a fortune teller that he has no shoulder to cry on because of who he used to be. It’s a strong look at the character that takes a delightful turn in what is essentially a badass cliffhanger. Going to stick on this.

Green Lantern Corps by Peter J. Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin shouldn’t be any surprise. I was reading it before the reboot and it’s mostly untouched, so I can’t see why I’d stop now. The one thing I’m really glad to see is that Guy Gardner is back in the fold. I enjoy the Green Lantern side of the DC Universe and Guy Gardner is my favorite Lantern, but the idea of a third comic starring him just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t bring myself to follow Emerald Warriors outside of the tie-ins to War of the Green Lanterns. Besides, Guy/John is a dynamic I don’t think they’ve really invested much time into so that’s another plus. Naturally sticking.

Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz and Francis Portela is certainly better than Legion Lost. I have a better grasp on what the story is and what’s been going on with the characters, partially because with the million members of the team, we get a caption explaining each one’s name and power. I’m usually not too keen on that, but this definitely needed it. The problem is that apparently this is a continuation of the previous Legion storyline and I’ve never cared about them to begin with, so while it isn’t a bad package, I have no reason to stick around. I just can’t get a taste for these guys. Drop.

Nightwing by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows is fun to read alongside this week’s Batman, as they appear to be sharing the same storyline. This hits me as one of the few times when a superhero replacement has been a major success. I think it’s because while I wanted Dick Grayson Batman to stick around forever, he didn’t agree. Dick did it only out of duty and wanted to go back to being Nightwing the moment Bruce came back, only Bruce didn’t let him for whatever reason. So nobody’s dead to rectify things, nobody’s gravely injured, there’s no ill feelings and Dick goes back to his old status quo in such a way that I’m dragged with him because I’ve grown to really love the character. Higgins keeps me enjoying Dick’s exploits, even when his actions are somewhat mundane, all things considered. I mean, much of the comic is about him revisiting his old job and saying hi to everyone, yet I still feel the need to keep reading. Sticking, especially with the shared plotline and the badass don’t-call-me-Daken villain.

Now for Red Hood and the Outlaws by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort. I think the best way to decide how I feel on this would be to go best two out of three. After all, it has three protagonists, so how much do I care about them? Arsenal gets the thumbs up because anything as an alternative to the way he’s been for the last year and a half is a step up. I’d rather read about a guy shooting people and living it up while being looked down on than a one-armed moper who goes back to drugs. And hey, at least his penis works post-reboot!

Then there’s the elephant in the room with Starfire. Do I consider what they’ve done with her offensive? Of course. I’m just not as offended as I would be if it was any other DC woman. If it was Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Maxima or whoever, I’d be rolling my eyes harder. I just never saw Starfire – outside of her cartoon self – as a character worth caring for. From her creation, she’s always seemed to be a fetishy creation and the last few years haven’t done much to wipe that idea from my head. After all, her purpose in 52 was to have her top torn off and to act as temptation for Animal Man being away from his wife for a year and that was written by DC’s top writing pantheon. When I first heard about the controversy, I figured, “Hey, Starfire is around for the sake of nerd boners, anyway. What’s so bad about that?” Then I read the issue and figured that the only thing I can defend about her portrayal is that the idea of an alien lady not being to differentiate between two humans is an idea with potential. It was a minor gag in Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (the explanation for why Superman wore his cape and tights in the ring) and could be explored better. Anyway, I didn’t care for Starfire before and I care for her less. Thumbs down.

That leaves Red Hood. First off, his Destro moving mouth helmet is bothering the hell out of me. Second, we’re just coming off a good Red Hood storyline in Batman and Robin #23-25 and we’re put in a situation that doesn’t follow up on it at all. What I’m saying is that I’d rather this comic had Scarlet around. Especially if it means in replacement of Starfire… and I only mean as the third wheel and nothing more! Ew. With all the Batman-related stuff that gets to stay part of continuity, I’d rather have seen a follow-up to this.

I absolutely love the bottom panels of the first page. He’s too cool to act like he cares, but his offer to let her leave and complete lack of fight in letting her stay shows that there is a definite bond in there. I’d rather see a corruption of youth than a talented artist being wasted on an alien sex machine with zero personality. Yep, we’ve got a drop.

I still think the Amanda Waller situation in Suicide Squad is a bigger deal, but whatever.

Supergirl by Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar is like a Bizarro comic in light of how I complained about Blue Beetle. In actuality, this is a far more entertaining introductory issue than what Loeb gave us in Superman/Batman, while we ultimately get the same concept. In Superman/Batman, a confused Kara wakes up and runs around Metropolis for an issue and it ends with Superman appearing and communicating with her. In Supergirl, a confused Kara wakes up and spends the issue fighting mechs and it ends with Superman appearing and communicating with her. Bonus points for her having clothes on in this version. I’ve read about this Supergirl being less interested in humanity than her cousin and her pre-reboot predecessors, which I’d like to see developed. Add that with an overall fun issue with nice art and you’ve got a definite stick.

That leaves Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang to be the second slice of bread in that aforementioned sandwich of fantastic. While I haven’t read Greg Rucka’s run on the character, the reviews of it from pretty much everyone give me faith that a character I’ve never really had interest in is more than capable of having a good series. The intriguing creative team behind this issue certainly doesn’t hurt either. I’m liking what I see so far, especially in the use of integrating the mythological with modern civilization. I guess what I’m saying is that it reminds me of the last several years of Marvel’s Hercules and with Herc being canceled soon, I can think of worse ways of coping than reading more of this series. Sticking here.

For the third week in a row, I only drop three comics. As of this week, I’ve gone from 46 comics to 43. Next week it’s our new batch of #1s with absolutely nothing that I’d go out of my way to check out. But hey, I’m sure there’ll be some pleasant surprises mixed in there.

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6 comments to “Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 4”

  1. Interesting takes. Kory has always been much like you describe her and she has repeatedly, explicitly stated, multiple times, that her culture values love and expressions of love in very different easy than in Earth cultures.

    With that in-mind, I am only disappointed that I’ve not seen the character explored inmore useful ways, over the past 20-30 years, than I am bothered that they used a titillating character to titillate.

    BoP and Captain Atom were of-interest because they almost always have been, to me. The executions were seriously lacking, though, IMO.

    CA came across as an unnecessary and unpleasant change smashed against a well-worn and quite ragged threat (the hero’s powers killing him). The metal was one of the coolest things about him…and gave Bart Sears a reason for living.

    BoP is all but alien to me, now. Quite the letdown but I may continue to observe from the sideline, for a while. Btw, was that Grace, from Outsiders with them?

    DC’s sure savi me some money with these series changes.

  2. The bit about starfire being a humanoid carrot viagra kinda wonder if they made her with that intent from the start.

  3. Don’t know if I’ve ever been attached to another idea as vague and nerdy the Riddler-as-detective, but I concur: it was a great premise that never got properly exploited. I’d assumed they were setting it up for the Nolan films, but I guess not.

  4. I’m pretty sure I’m the ONLY one who liked Secret Avengers #13, so why are you still carping about it?

  5. And fair play: I read Morning Glories #7 and #8 and they were filled with horrible plot holes.

  6. @Dan Coyle: Because I was making a point.