Archive for the 'Brave New World; Bold New Direction' Category


4 Elements: Captain Atom

October 2nd, 2012 Posted by Gavok

12 months after DC’s problematic reboot made its way onto the scene, we finish the month of getting various #0 issues of DC properties. A couple comics are canceled as of their #0s, which includes the clever use of which in Resurrection Man. For years, that guy’s been wandering around while wondering who he really is and where he comes from and to have his story end in the origin issue is kind of perfect.

One comic I’m disappointed to see go is Captain Atom by JT Krul and Freddie Williams II. Not at all surprised, granted. In fact, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did (I had similar feelings about ill-fated comics Azrael and Magog). The series was selling terribly and did even worse than Hawk and Dove, which makes me incredibly disappointed because that means at least two people were buying Hawk and Dove before that got the axe.

I feel Captain Atom got a bad rap and was far better than most gave it credit for. It’s no surprise why. Captain Atom is a bunch of comic book wrongs somehow making a right. That’s excluding Williams, who while there are a couple issues that seem a little too fluid and melty, his art is great stuff. I mean, this is a comic written by JT Krul. That is NOT a name that makes you optimistic. You can reboot continuity all you want, but people will still remember a tripping Roy Harper holding a dead cat and thinking it’s his daughter. The fact that he hasn’t worked on anything notably good since then keeps that red flag flapping.

Then you have Captain Atom himself. Captain Atom is one of those guys who I really want to like, but know it’s a hard sell. He’s pretty boring most of the time. He’s a Superman-level hero without much of a spark. He’s so boring that they’ve given themselves no choice but to try and turn him into a villain three times and all three times it went horribly wrong. There have been times when he’s shown promise. I thought he was the perfect ambassador character to interact with the Wildstorm Universe during Captain Atom: Armageddon. I’ll even say that I didn’t hate his portrayal in the days of Extreme Justice. Judd Winick was able to make something of him in Justice League: Generation Lost but, oops, Flashpoint happened and that character growth no longer matters.

You put a character that’s hard to pull off with a writer who can’t pull off something readable and… you get something good! There’s something inspiring about that. I still won’t buy anything with Krul’s name on it that involves a bow and arrow, but I’ll be a little more open-minded to his future work.

I feel that Captain Atom is the best use of the New 52 concept trying something new. New 52 is essentially DC’s Ultimate Universe, only it’s the new mainstream instead of a parallel. Too many characters are nothing more than a reset button for the sake of telling the same stories, but you have guys like Morrison’s Superman who go in a slightly different direction. Captain Atom strays away from the original concept while holding onto just enough, making him a cross between pre-Flashpoint Captain Atom, Dr. Manhattan and the Sentry.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Six Months Later

March 5th, 2012 Posted by Gavok

Considering the… *ahem* …recent events on 4thletter, now’s as good a time as any to talk about DC Comics and their New 52. Sales were in the toilet for most anything that didn’t have a bat or a glowing ring in it, so DC decided to shake things up and reboot. Only they said it wasn’t a reboot. Yet it was. I was intrigued by the balls of this move and bought every single #1, deciding to give every one of them at least a chance.

As time went on, I naturally started to drop titles almost every week. Some comics were awesome. Some were terrible. Some were okay enough at the start and picked up. Some were okay enough at the start and fell downward. Some were merely okay and not good enough for me to keep buying, as much as I didn’t hate them. Then some I really enjoyed got canceled or put with a creative team that I have no intention of following.

All 52 books have reached their #6, so with the honeymoon over (I know I’m one of a hundred bloggers who had to have used that term), here’s my look back at the reboot. We’ll go in alphabetical order, like the cool kids do.

Action Comics is something I’m staying with right now, but my interest is noticeably waning. The first couple issues blew the doors off the hinges, but everything since has been the usual Grant Morrison weirdness hypnotism. It’s like this joke wrestler Chris Jericho made about the Ultimate Warrior’s ridiculous interviews from the 80’s. “I’m not sure what that meant but it… sounded cool, so YAY!” I have enough faith in Morrison to keep me entertained and if anything, I’m just going to blame this on the recent inclusion of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Never cared for those guys.

All-Star Western is like a guilty pleasure of mine, but not in the usual way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with reading Jonah Hex’s badass team-up adventures with the wimpy Dr. Arkham depicted through beautiful art by Moritat. It’s just that it’s $3.99 and it comes with a backup story involving another wild west hero that I promptly skip most of the time. The Hex stuff is so good that I’m willing to pay that extra buck regardless of whether I even glance at the last few pages of the floppy.

Animal Man is easily top three, if not the best of what DC has to offer. It’s the kind of thing that Lemire should always be proud of. If he continues to play his cards right, this run will sit next to Morrison’s Animal Man run as the iconic go-to read for the character instead of yet another follow-up to a classic run that doesn’t measure up. It accepts its ancestry, but goes in its own direction. It’s also an encyclopedia of nightmare material that continues to give me the jibblies. Like this thing.

There it goes again. The jibblies.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 13

November 29th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

The third full month of DC’s New 52 experiment comes to a close and I’m going to take my last look at the lineup for a little while. Coincidentally, I don’t have much of a choice in taking a break from writing about the New 52 as this coming week has zero books from the reboot being released. I don’t mean zero books that I’m following. I mean absolutely none of the 52 titles altogether.

First of the week is All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Moritat and Jordi Bernet. It’s a rather odd issue, as the Gotham Butcher storyline almost takes a bit of a break. The good guys win, almost a little too easily and once the villains get back at our heroes, Hex simply shrugs it off and leaves it behind for the next story. Obviously, the plot threads will stay in the background, ready to come back at a moment’s notice… at least, it better. I am noticing as the comic goes further that Hex is essentially Frank Castle in the DC Universe, only in a different time. Same personality, only he uses his bounty hunter persona to feed his need to kill those who need it rather than devoting himself to his own never-ending war.

The backup was so uninteresting it’s shocking. El Diablo fighting zombies turns into a brief confrontation with a Native American antagonist, some arguing between the main characters and then it simply ends. I can’t believe they pissed away all the good will from the first installment. I’m still enjoying the main story enough that I’ll endure the extra buck and check out the next backup. Just as long as Arkham isn’t completely pushed away from the story. I like him. Sticking.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis continues its strong run. It does a lot of decent world-building, while holding onto the fun gimmick that few take Aquaman seriously. Even when he proves himself a bit, the reaction is just slightly better, but still condescending. Not only are our villains given some more background, but we’re introduced to a new (?) villain of sorts in Mr. Shin, whose appearance only brings potential to upcoming stories. Will he rise as a threat or remain a bitter and sad man? What was he talking about when he brought up Aquaman’s trident? What’s that stuff going on on the side of his neck?

I think this has potential to be one of the top three best New 52 comics when all is said and done. Going to stick.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 12

November 22nd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s the third week of the third month, so what DC comics do we have in store? What will drop off and save me a couple bucks and what will stay with me for another month at least?

We start with Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I am really, really enjoying Snyder’s take on Batman here. More importantly, I’m loving his interactions with Bruce and Lincoln March. I’m almost desperately hoping that Lincoln isn’t messing with Bruce and that he isn’t part of this owl’s nest conspiracy. When I see the two, I get the feeling of Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. At least, what we’re meant to think the two were like. We never really got to experience much of it. An episode or two of Batman: The Animated Series, but other than that it’s usually Batman sulking over what Harvey’s become while doing what he can to make it like the old days. The idea of Bruce genuinely getting along with someone outside the hero/Bat community as a friend is something that I haven’t seen explored nearly enough. If Snyder plays his cards right, Lincoln could end up being a possible mainstay in the Bat-cast.

The other thing about this issue is that this is one of the rare times where owls come off as anything close to threatening. I understand that owls are actually scary as hell in real life, but in fiction, I can rarely buy it. Nite-Owl from Watchmen always looked like a complete doofus and Owlman always seemed like a complete joke of a concept. As far as I can tell, the only cool owl-based designs have been Supreme Power‘s Nighthawk and Soul Calibur‘s Olcadan.

Damn it, Namco. Why did you stop using this guy in your games?

Anyway. The story’s been doing a good job of painting an owl-based villain who I can actually take seriously. Hope Snyder and Capullo keep it up. Stick.

Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz continues to be a decent book that’s ultimately forgettable. I will say that Poison Ivy seems like such a different character when she isn’t standing around in her leaf pubes. The black and green bodysuit is a nice change. I’ve been enjoying Starling, especially when compared to the boring leader Black Canary. The team is starting to come together a bit more, but it’s hard to say if I’m still going to continue liking this. I’m going to go on a probationary stick here.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 11

November 15th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

The New DC experiment continues with the second week of the third month. As it is right now, I’m reading 32 of their titles. Let’s see what I’m left holding onto after another go.

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason is up first. I’m loving the relationship between Alfred and Damian. Even when you take away Alfred being slick with his chess and tracker skills, you get this feeling that he’s stealth-fathering Damian much in the same way he did Bruce. Only here, we’re able to see it happen more clearly. The villain has yet to do anything for me, but I enjoy the rift of disagreement he brings to Bruce and Damian. Damian feels underappreciated and underestimated, when Bruce is genuinely afraid for his wellbeing. The idea of Batman being so afraid for Robin hasn’t really been done all that much since he was babying Tim based on the death of Jason. There’s a strong desperation in his actions and a question of which Wayne is right in this situation.

Meanwhile, Gleason’s art is looking fine. I feel this comic is getting stronger by the issue. Definite stick.

Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman continues to be an entertaining pile of barely-connected scenes featuring a bevy of subplots. I don’t care because I have no trouble following it and the art is fucking nice. The best part of it all is how all these different subplots are coming together more and more and the varying art styles are starting to interact. The realistic ghost, the well-shaded Batwoman, the Mike Allred-style Kate Kane, the noirish Chase, and almost comic strip-like Bette. A cool touch I really like is how the art starts to change in the characters. Now that Bette is Flamebird out of spite for Batwoman, she is shown to be in the same shaded and detailed style that Batwoman had before losing her mojo mid-issue. I mean, just look at the final page.

I barely even notice the “to be continued” and feel a groan come on when I turn to the next page. I’m in for the next go. Stick.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 9 and 10

November 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

With last week’s misadventure that prevented me from updating, I’m mixing the last round of #2s with the first round of #3s. I’m going to be quick on this one because I’m tired and the #2s aren’t as fresh in my mind.

Also, I’m kind of feeling as though this whole experiment has lost its luster. At least, in the writing part of it. Nothing especially earth-shattering is said and by this point it’s going to be more and more of the same. A lot of the good will continue to be good and it’s a stretch to keep coming up with paragraphs to remind everyone that after every month. I figure that I’m going to stop the regular updates by the end of this month, once all the #3s are out. Then maybe three months down the line, I’ll do a little retrospective to see where I stand and what went wrong with the ones I dropped.

First let’s get with Week 9.

All-Star Western by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Jordi Bernet continues to kick a lot of ass, although the first segment makes Hex seem a little too good. Even Frank Castle wants to trade his plot armor for that shit. It’s not quite as good as the first issue, but at least the backup story is readable, unlike a certain book about men being of war. Stick.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis does a better job holding onto the momentum of the first issue. The only problem is how short it feels, although Johns shows potential in getting me to care about Mera for the first time. Well, other than that time she vomited acid blood on a baby. Stick.

Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato is solid enough, but the art only hides how it doesn’t feel like much has happened. Flash understands his powers a bit better and… stuff is brewing. Sticking, but my regard isn’t as high as the first issue.

Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men by Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar is something I gave a second chance to because the concept is so ridiculous it just might work. And you know what? I still think so. Just with another writing team. For a hero concept that’s supposed to be so upbeat, having to put up with our protagonists being labeled terrorists while surrounded by blood just doesn’t do it for me. Drop.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 8

October 25th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Another week has gone by and once again, I have my plate full. Last month, I dropped Blue Beetle, Legion of Superheroes and Red Hood and the Outlaws. From what I hear from those who have read those, I made the right decision. That leaves ten comics to read and review.

First is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which may no longer tie in with Nightwing. It’s hard to tell, since their “Dick Grayson is a killer” plots appear to be moving in different directions. Still, it’s the best Bat-book of the relaunch by far. Snyder’s Batman seems to embrace just enough sci-fi gadgetry, high-octane action and dickery without going too overboard. I really dug his moment of confronting Nightwing about the suspicions that he was involved in a murder. He takes Dick’s explanation at face value, which makes it seem like a trust moment where he’s cool because they’re family… only we find out that Bruce is a bit of a cock (calling him a dick in presence of Dick doesn’t sound right) and didn’t trust him all that much after all. Dick, used to all of this, plays it off like it’s the usual Bruce thing, but even Bruce seems a little disappointed in himself.

“Yes, I’m a jerk. I know.”

The main story is moving along well enough and I’m cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of the new mayor hopeful character. Of course, I won’t know more about what he’s all about until the next issue. Most definitely sticking.

Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz isn’t so much a bad comic as it’s just weak. I kind of like it, but there’s nothing especially strong about it. There wasn’t too much in terms of strength of the last issue either. It’s cute and I can easily see the potential in the characters, but it’s in this strange middle area. Nothing about it offends me, but nothing about it has me super excited. I’m going to go probation style on this one. Sticking, but I need something to latch onto by the next one or I’m done.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 7

October 18th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

For any new readers, here’s the deal. I used to read a lot of DC comics. Then over the years, they lost me to the point that I was only reading about six a month. Over the first six months of their big reboot, I want to see how strongly they can hold onto my interest. Week-by-week, I’m looking at what I want to keep, what I don’t and what I’m on the edge about. As it is right now, I’m still reading 37 of their new titles, but it likely won’t last.

More DC books hit their #2 issue this week. Of the stuff that came out, I’ve already done away with Batgirl, Legion Lost and Mr. Terrific. That leaves ten books.

First is Batman & Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The main story of the issue is Bruce’s attempt to be a supportive dad to Damian and Alfred noticing that he absolutely sucks at it. While Damian is able to hold back his bloodlust in Bruce’s company, he emotionlessly takes it out on a bat. I think this is awesome. This is how it should be. It isn’t regressing for the sake of regressing. Why did Damian chill out in the first time? Because of who was mentoring him. Dick Grayson was such a loving, supportive and emotionally genuine partner that Damian was able to let him into his heart and change him. Bruce doesn’t stack up and Damian is starting to have a hard time figuring out why Bruce is worth following more than his mother.

It’s great because after having to put up with years of Dick trying to live up to Bruce’s example, Bruce is now in a spot where he has to live up to Dick’s example. Batman needs a Robin, but Damian is just another Batman. Batman doesn’t need another Batman. Neither has the crutch of a cheery partner to keep them stable, so dysfunction is in their future.

Gleason’s art is fantastic when it comes to action. Really enjoying his stuff, especially this page from after a criminal announces, “What the hell?”

I’m going to stick on this one.

Also in Gotham is Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Despite what I said about Gleason, it’s Williams who is the true king of art these days. Good God! The opening scene especially, where not only is he doing the cool x-ray box to show bones being shattered upon punching impact, but Batwoman is colored differently from Flamebird. Flamebird is flatter and more simplified, while Batwoman has a more realistic sheen that makes her step out of the page like a 3D image.

The story is more coherent than last month’s intro, though the threat appears to be just as much a mystery as it ever was. The Cameron Chase part does include something I really wish we’d see more often in comics. I like when people try to figure out a superhero’s secret identity and get it wrong in a way that makes sense. Like how Jameson used to think that his son was Spider-Man or how Gordon once believed Harvey Dent to be Batman. It always makes it easier to accept that the public hasn’t figured out what appears so simple to readers such as us. While the story isn’t setting my world on fire, the art is and the narrative is worthy enough. I’m going to stick.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 6

October 11th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

It’s time to start round 2 of this experiment. It’s the second month and we’re getting our second issues. Will the good comics continue to be good? Will I regret giving some of them another shot?

The DC comics I didn’t get this week due to dropping them a month ago are Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove and Red Lanterns. To fill the void, I figure I’ll talk briefly about the two miniseries that just started up.

First up is Action Comics by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and Brent Anderson. The wave of awesome continues and Morales eyes or not, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. The carefree Superman really is a breath of fresh air and I just wish more writers could get a handle on it more than Morrison and, from little we’ve seen so far, Johns. What I truly enjoyed was how it portrays Lex Luthor. He goes from cruel and egotistical on his quest for knowledge and dominance to a desperate coward at almost the drop of a hat. One thing I’ve always loved about Lex Luthor is his main weakness of being closed-minded. Once he believes something, it takes a lot of persuasion for him to change his mind on it. It’s much like how AI characters lose due to humans making human choices, but for Luthor, it’s about non-Luthor people making non-Luthor choices. That’s why he could never put it together that Clark and Superman were the same in older continuity. If he were Superman, he’d never have a secret identity, ergo Superman is just Superman. This leads to him acting like he has four aces when it turns out Superman has a royal flush up his sleeve. Then we get this perfect angry face.

I have a feeling the new Luthor is going to have a couple more character surprises. I can’t wait. Better believe I’m sticking.

Speaking of rad comics, Animal Man follows up on the first issue’s momentum. It’s kind of jarring, yet welcome, how similar the Baker family is to the Richards family in FF, only more suburban and a couple family members don’t have powers. It’s reached its stride in being an off-putting horror comic, but there’s just enough family togetherness to make it work. Ellen is justifiably pissy about what’s going on, but not pissy enough to make her unlikeable. Maxine’s know-it-all hold over her now powers mixed with being a naïve child make her almost as creepy as whatever the real threat is, but it’s kind of sweet how she stands up for her brother. I also find it kind of funny how when Cliff – the son of a superhero – is threatened, the very first person he calls for help is his mother. That’s a cute touch.

When it’s creepy, it’s disturbing. The hippo sequence is gross as hell and we still don’t know what we’re really up against. Just that whatever it is, it’s unsavory and downright demonic. I’m hooked. Sticking.

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Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 5

October 4th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

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.

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