Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 5

October 4th, 2011 by | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It’s the last week of #1s for the New 52 and it’s an interesting one. The last few weeks have been filled with comics that I had been genuinely looking forward to, but not so much for this week. This week it’s nothing but DC trying to win me over. Characters I don’t care for, characters I’ve never read before and a couple comics that feature heroes in new comics that already set the bar high. Let’s dive in.

First is All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Moritat, which surprised me as being one of the top three of the week. Nothing says “western” like a fictional city in New Jersey, but whatever. I bet they figured that despite being a pretty awesome character, Jonah Hex’s name was too poisoned by the recent movie to carry the title. Or they’re going to be doing non-Hex stories down the line. Anyway, it’s an interesting pairing with Hex and Dr. Arkham, with the latter reminding me of the biographer character from Unforgiven, only with actual talents to keep him useful. It’s a murder mystery from the past mixed with a buddy cop movie… only the two will surely still hate each other by the story’s end.

I like that with Arkham around, we have a protagonist who could talk down at Hex to us as being something of a monster (though he’d never have the balls to do so to Hex’s face) and yet we have our cake and eat it too by being able to follow and root for Hex as the other protagonist. A prostitute gets fridged because, well, there’s nobody else to really get at someone like Hex through and even that only shakes him up verbally. With his gritty know-how and Arkham’s occasionally helpful brilliance, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they have this wrapped up with no problem. Then the ending turns it all on its ear where even our two main characters accept that they may indeed be fucked. I’m drawn in and definitely want to see this story through. Between that and Moritat’s Tony Moore-like art, I’m sticking.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis is probably the best intro we can get that doesn’t involve turning him into the beloved Zap-Brannigan-meets-Hank-Scorpio incarnation that Batman: The Brave and the Bold gave us. I don’t know when the whole “Aquaman is worthless” thing truly came into being. I’d like to think that it was something people silently agreed on for years, especially in relation to the first season of Superfriends and didn’t fully explode until that skit on the State where Superman gives the Superfriends missions, tells Aquaman to “go talk to some fish” and everyone begins laughing relentlessly at him. Either way, the guy has been a laughing stock and DC’s been trying so hard to make him work. Personally, I loved what they did with him last time they gave him a reboot with the One Year Later underwater Conan concept where he carried a sword and hung out with King Shark. That ruled pretty hard until Busiek left the book.

It’s a strong start. Aquaman acts like a badass to the point that getting shot in the head causes him to get slightly cut open in the temple, but he’s considered to be this big joke by the police and public. After years of stories about superheroes doing the right thing only to be hated for being menaces who everyone thinks are really evil, it’s pretty great to see a different, more light-hearted take on it. Granted, no matter how Aquaman tries, he’ll still never measure up to Namor. I bet if that asshole blogger guy asked Namor about what it’s like to be nobody’s favorite superhero, he would have flown off through the wall and come back later to tell him that he’s now that blogger’s mother’s favorite superhero. Then he’d punch him in the dick for good measure.

I tend to have faith in Johns’ storytelling and I like what he’s doing so far. As long as he doesn’t draw out the “Aquaman sucks” gimmick too long, I’m sticking.

Then we get Batman: The Dark Knight by David Finch and Paul Jenkins. We’re at the point where there are three Batman solo comics, a team-up comic with his son and two team books, not to mention the sidekick spinoffs. So Dark Knight has to fight hard to stay afloat. Does it? No, not even close. Snyder’s Batman stomps right on its toes the moment it walks through the door. While Batman has the titular character deal with an Arkham breakout within the first couple pages to show that it ain’t no thing so he can get to the real story, Dark Knight uses that as the first step in the plot. A bunch of inmates go on a rampage, Batman runs in there, decides that it’s really important to specifically find Two-Face, runs into a mysterious T&A character dressed as a rabbit and we get our cliffhanger. Our cliffhanger being that Two-Face is pumped up on venom steroids and is now calling himself “One-Face”. Even though he still has two faces.

It’s nice when you see a cliffhanger that has you saying, “You know what? I’m good. Have fun with the rest of the stories, because I’m done.” This issue does nothing for me and hides in Batman‘s shadow. Drop.

I read Blackhawks by Mike Costa and Graham Nolan, but I have such a hard time remember what happened in it. They’re government commandos and they have special nicknames and they’re all tough as nails and… I’m sorry, I just don’t care and this issue hasn’t given me much reason to care. I know there’s that whole reviewer gag about how you forgot what happened right after you read it, but other than one of the characters stumbling onto superpowers and the guy with the hat being called Irish despite not being Irish, I really couldn’t recall a single thing. I don’t even know what they are fighting against other than generic terrorism. Yeah, this is a drop.

Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato was going to be a tough sell because, as I’ve discussed before, I just don’t like Barry Allen. Luckily, this comic delivers. It’s energetic, a good introduction to our hero and his situation and has a bit of intrigue to it. More than anything, the art is fucking fantastic. Look at these pages.

The story deals with a criminal dying and it being someone that Barry used to be friends with. This leads to some brief, but well-written moments of him dealing with this news (I really love his claim that every one of these crimes is like a personal thing, regardless), but it doesn’t last due to a twist in the situation. This leads to an even bigger twist in the end of the issue that has me grabbed for the next go. I’m going to stick with the speedster, even if he is the biggest mass murderer since the Anti-Monitor.

Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men by Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar is something I should probably hate, but I don’t yet. It begins like your average Simone story by showing the most ruthless, sinister bad guys you’ve ever seen. This time they prove how hardcore and evil they are by torturing a family, murdering them and then blowing up the surrounding block and framing the son so he’ll be labeled a terrorist. That said, the joke about the apple made me crack a smile.

It isn’t the best-written issue by any means, but I sort of respect what they’re trying to do. People love both guys who were Firestorm, so they of course both get to share the spot. Naturally, they’re supposed to hate each other to begin with and get along as time passes. While I wasn’t a big fan of Brightest Day, I did at least like their relationship there, especially when Ronnie went from acting like he couldn’t remember Jason’s dead girlfriend’s name to tearfully admitting that he remembers killing her as Black Lantern Firestorm. That continuity is out of the question, so it becomes jock vs. racist nerd. This is easily the worst part of the issue. I mean, the idea of them getting into a big argument and then later having them think twice about what was said against them isn’t bad, but Ronnie questions himself by asking his mom why they don’t have any black friends.

Ronnie’s only friend shown in this entire comic is black!

So anyway, things come to a head and Ronnie and Jason each become Firestorm. In order to give it a fresh paintjob, they’re each their own Firestorm and can FUSION-HA! into an even more powerful Firestorm known as Fury. I won’t lie to you, that’s kind of rad in a ridiculous way. It’s so explosively silly that I want to see what’s next. Sticking for one more issue, but I don’t think it’ll last.

I mentioned last time that I dropped when DC released a third Green Lantern title, but will that happen with Green Lantern: The New Guardians by Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham? I’m not so sure. There’s some okay setup in there, but it only feels like half an issue. It’s all about a retelling of Kyle’s Lantern origin and a bunch of scenes where different Lanterns of the spectrum lose their rings in the middle of battle. You’d think at least one of them would be taking a nap or a dump or something. I really dig the different Lantern Corps going around and this is different enough from the other two comics that it could stand on its own, but I’ll have to wait until at least one more month to be sure. Another probation stick here.

The surprise of the week for me is I, Vampire by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino. Sorrentino, as I’m sure every single review points out, is very similar to Jae Lee. For me, that’s a big plus. I love Jae Lee’s art and how perfectly it represents the dark underbelly of the fantastic. What’s great to me is how the whole idea of a vampire uprising is a desperation move based on the coming of the superheroes. Like the vampires are fucked unless they step up and take over ASAP. The whole thing comes off as Xavier vs. Magneto, only they’re vampires and they’ve been in a romantic relationship… and they’re shirtless like all vampires these days. If this New 52 initiative is able to grab new readers, I hope it at least gets the attention of the people who cause my place of work to have a “Teen Paranormal Romance” section, because I really want to see this succeed. Sticking with this book.

Seriously, though. Barnes and Noble has a “Teen Paranormal Romance” section.

Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin is a good start, though I don’t think it deserved the hype of getting its own YouTube trailer. Those things always look dumb anyway. Magic has always been the area where DC’s been able to trump Marvel, even if Marvel’s main magic dude is more high profile. There’s a lot of cool setup as our characters are drawn together and even though this is my first time ever reading something with Shade the Changing Man (not counting the first issue of Flashpoint), I really liked what I saw. It’s hard to tell if this will hold up over the first arc, but I’m optimistic enough to stick with it. Right now, I’m more shocked that Deadman and Xanadu each appear in three comics this month. Hell, Xanadu’s on two teams in two different eras!

Savage Hawkman by Tony S. Daniel and Philip Tan has pretty sweet art, but fails to draw me in. Hawkman sucks and even Carter Hall knows this because he goes out of his way to destroy his armor. There’s nothing in here to change your mind over the idea that Hawkman is cool because we don’t even get to know anything about Hawkman as a superhero identity. Just that it’s a thing and something about nth metal. Then some blobs show up and start fighting. I’m not enthused. Dropping it.

Superman by George Perez and Jesus Merino is already screwed by standing next to the ass-kicking Action Comics. Getting an older artist to write the hip, new incarnation of DC’s #1 hero is a bad first step and while there are some good ideas in the issue, I’m not too excited about it. I think replacing the narration with Clark Kent’s newspaper story has legs, but not when the comic’s writer can’t stand up to the task of emulating a top tier newsman. The banter is pretty crappy as well and you don’t need to be all that great to pull that off. I felt like I was going to hold onto it with a probation sticker because I feel like I should give Superman a pass due to wanting to like the all-new version of the character, but I can’t do it. I have to drop it.

Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth makes me wonder why Lobdell gets to have three books in the first place. Of his stuff in this big reboot, they’re okay at best. This comic is pretty mediocre, hurting me with the overly-annoying introduction of Kid Flash. I’ve always found him to be annoying in an adorable and charming sense, but here I just want to see Deathstroke shoot him in the knees for the new continuity. The setup between Red Robin and Wonder Girl shows a spark of potential and, to be perfectly honest, the main reason I’m going to stick with this book is because with the reboot, we might get a storyline that doesn’t revolve around the villain being some problem caused by the team and no Titans dying for the sake of Titans dying. I’m not incredibly enthusiastic about the comic, but since it’s tying into Superboy, I might as well give it another shot for the sake of how much I want to like the series. At worst, I’ll have something to rail on next month.

The 52nd book is Voodoo by Ron Marz and Sami Basri. Lots of boobs and all because it’s about a strip club, but at least there’s enough context in there for me to give it a pass. Voodoo is a mysterious stripper who is considered to be the best of the best at the club. A douchey guy working for the government keeps an eye on her while his female partner takes a powder so she can beat up random street goons. The issue doesn’t have my interest all that much until the last few pages, where we learn just what Voodoo really is. The whole stripper aspect is taken out of the equation and her interactions with others from earlier in the story make a bit more sense, despite how little we know of her. Again, I’m supposed to hate this because the first black female lead in a DC comic spends 20+ pages in her underwear in her reboot debut (that’s fun to say out loud! Reboot debut!), but I’m grabbed enough that I want to see more. Another probation, but I’m sticking.

Now with our #1s out of the way, where does this leave me? I started with 52 titles to read and after this batch, I’m down to 39, including a bunch of titles hanging on by a thread. In review:

Sticking (26): Justice League, Action Comics, Animal Man, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch, Swamp Thing, Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Deathstroke, Demon Knights, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, Resurrection Man, Batman, Birds of Prey, DC Universe Presents, Green Lantern Corps, Nightwing, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, All-Star Western, Aquaman, Flash, I, Vampire and Justice League Dark.

Probation (13): Batwing, Detective Comics, Justice League International, Men of War, Grifter, Suicide Squad, Superboy, Captain Atom, Catwoman, Fury of Firestorms, Green Lantern: The New Guardians, Teen Titans and Voodoo.

Dropped (13): Batgirl, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, Legion Lost, Mister Terrific, Red Lanterns, Blue Beetle, Legion of Super-Heroes, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batman: The Dark Knight, Blackhawks, Savage Hawkman and Superman

Huh. Exactly half of them I’m pretty positive on while another fourth I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt. Pretty good start, DC Comics. We’ll see how it holds up next week when we break into the #2s.

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8 comments to “Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 5”

  1. “Granted, no matter how Aquaman tries, he’ll still never measure up to Namor. I bet if that asshole blogger guy asked Namor about what it’s like to be nobody’s favorite superhero, he would have flown off through the wall and come back later to tell him that he’s now that blogger’s mother’s favorite superhero. Then he’d punch him in the dick for good measure.”

    Thank you, I laughed so hard.

  2. The cheesecake lady in the bunny costume is Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five. No idea why she’s in Arkham. Though if she and the IF and her sister and her ape partner showed up regularly it would almost make me interested in what is supposed to be a pretty terrible comic…

  3. @LurkerWithout: According to solicits, she’s White Rabbit, a reimagining of a Steel villain who showed up during Death and Return of Superman.

  4. How many Lewis Carrol-inspired villains in the DCU does that make? Twenty? Do they have a league?

    And, oh God, I didn’t even notice that about Firestorm; that’s hilarious.

  5. @Gavok: Thats too bad. Though why they’d reimagine a cold-hearted weapons dealer as a smexy Arkham inmate is baffling…

  6. League of Lewis Carrol-inpired Villains sounds good.

  7. I bought a Geoff Johns comic and it was Aquaman #1 and I did not regret buying it at all and so thank you for that.

  8. Gavok apparently hasn’t read Peter Milligan’s Hellblazer run, and for that he should feel ashamed.