52 Reviews 52

 

This is the start of 52 reviews of each of “The New 52” #1 issues. I apologize for the tardiness; The first 13 of The New 52 debuted the same week school started at the University of Memphis, where I am now teaching classes in addition to my job at The Commercial Appeal, my weekly column for Scripps Howard News Service and my monthly articles for Comics Buyer’s Guide. The timing couldn’t have been worse, really, as there is no such thing as “spare time” this month – perhaps all of this semester.

 

But I am making time for this event, perhaps the most ambitious the industry has undertaken in history, certainly the most ambitious since I began reading comics in the early 1960s. The New 52 deserves the attention.

 

 Again, I’m getting a late start, and various Legionnaires have already taken the time to comment on various threads. I assure you I have read all those comments, and have linked to them. It is not my intent to usurp those conversations, but simply to go on record with my initial thoughts about this unprecedented effort.

 

 

WEEK ONE

 

ACTION COMICS #1

Written by GRANT MORRISON

Art by RAGS MORALES and RICK BRYANT

Cover by RAGS MORALES

Variant cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS

40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

 

I love this book. Let me tell you why. (And settle in – I have a lot to say about this one.)

 

DC touts Action Comics #1 as the “cornerstone of the entire DC Universe,” which is entirely appropriate for the title that gave us the first superhero in 1938 – the character that gave his name to the entire genre. Superman’s status as “the first superhero” wore away over the years in-story, with Crisis on Infinite Earths – which inserted DC’s World War II heroes, previously relegated to “Earth-2,” into “our” Earth’s history – putting an emphatic end to that aspect of the Man of Tomorrow. After 1986, Superman was inarguably just one of continuum of superheroes stretching back to the 1930s, if not further (you could go back to the likes of Super Chief, Black Pirate, or even Anthro, depending on your definition).

 

But writer Grant Morrison restores Superman’s status as “first superhero” – this story is set “five years ago” before any other heroes appear – which does make it the cornerstone of The New 52, as well as a warm and welcome development all on its own. Superman deserves to be the first, and thanks to Morrison, the “new” DC Universe begins with the Man of Steel, just as the original one did in 1938.

 

But that’s not the only similarity the second Action Comics #1 has with the first. For one thing, Morrison’s story begins with Superman’s appearance in Metropolis, and the reaction of Metropolitans to it, just like in 1938. Well, technically, in this Action Comics #1, Superman is mentioned as having debuted “six months ago,” which allows for his future antagonists to already be mobilizing against him – a time-saving decision probably necessary for today’s faster-paced style, and the audience that expects it. At any rate, just like the original Action, there is no origin story – another time-saving decision of which I heartily approve, not only for its parallels to the original Action, which began in media res, but also because with today’s audience the “rocketed to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton” bit can be treated as a given. Also, intrepid reporter Lois Lane has already named the newcomer Superman, getting that out of the way.

 

So instead of dwelling on elements of the Super-mythos most Americans can recite by heart, Morrison dives straight into the story. And it is a fine, and finely crafted, story.

 

For one thing, it begins with action on the first page, action that hurtles pell-mell throughout the story and doesn’t end until the last page. Even when talking heads take over – exposition has to be delivered somehow – the action continues elsewhere, and it’s referred to, or it’s happening on screen in the background, or Morrison simply cuts back and forth. This book lives up to its name, which is another entirely appropriate touch.

 

And speaking of appropriate touches, Morrison’s reverence of the mythos extends to particulars that one only notices on close reading (and therefore doesn’t detract if you miss them). For example, Clark Kent’s landlady makes mention of Superman roughing up a wife-beater – a shout-out to events in the original Action #1. And in the course of the story, we are shown explicitly much of the intro to the Adventures of Superman radio and TV shows. Is Superman faster than a speeding bullet? (Sorta.) More powerful than a locomotive? (No.) Able to bend steel in his bare hands? (Yes.) Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? (Yes.) I suppose it’s too much to have had Superman change the course of a mighty river, too!

 

As must be obvious from the above, Morrison has also cut Superman’s power back significantly. For the most part, he uses the status quo established in the original Action #1, where Superman can leap 1/8 of a mile but not fly; where “nothing less than a bursting shell can penetrate his skin.” (Lex Luthor even mentions that mortars are ineffective, but Superman does sustain injuries in a fight with a tank that Kent’s landlady mentions.)

 

While this is enjoyable for the first story, I don’t think that level of power would be sufficient for today’s comic-book threats (nor would it allow Superman to be paramount in the Justice League, which he must be). Fortunately, we needn’t worry on that score; stories set in the present show a flying Superman with greater power (see Swamp Thing #1). So for the length of the “five years ago” stories in Action and Justice League, we can have our cake and eat it, too.

 

But Morrison is not so beholden to the past that he never deviates very far from it – something I think has been the problem with various reboots of the Action Ace from Man of Steel in 1986 to Superman: Secret Origin in 2009. From John Byrne to Geoff Johns, most Superman re-writes have just been some variation of the Mort Weisinger version from the Silver Age. And while I loved the Silver Age Superman when I was a kid, and still enjoy re-reading those old stories, it is no longer the 1960s and neither I nor today’s audience will be satisfied with that character regurgitated endlessly. It really is time for a 21st century Superman to appeal to a 21st century audience, and you can’t do that with simple repackaging.

 

So despite his obvious reverence for the character, Morrison is showing the guts to radically re-imagine some aspects of the mythos.

 

One minor way he does so is to introduce Luthor in the first issue. In the Golden Age, Luthor’s first appearance is subject to debate, but it certainly wasn’t in the first issue (and he didn’t even get a first name until 1961). In Morrison’s Action #1, Luthor is there from the beginning, coolly telling Gen. Lane that “a monster … walks among us.” (Of course, we know what the general doesn’t – that the monster is Luthor himself, not Superman.)

 

But he also deviates from canon in a major way, by writing out Clark Kent’s pose as timid, clumsy and ineffectual.

 

And I applaud it.  Who believes Lois Lane could tolerate a co-worker like that (much less date him)? For that matter, why would such a man ever be promoted, given any position of responsibility or trusted by his colleagues? It may be a good cover for his Superman identity, but the “mild-mannered reporter” routine is a sure path to failure in an industry (if not a world) that rewards aggressiveness, so Kent’s relative success over the years – heck, his continued employment – has been harder and harder for this 30-year journalist to swallow.

 

The only time I thought Clark Kent really worked was when he was played by George Reeves in the 1950s Adventures of Superman, precisely because that Kent was not meek. Reeves imbued the reporter with an implicit toughness and serene confidence such that I truly believed this guy could be respected by friend and foe alike. But all other Clark Kents fail the plausibility test, so the character, IMHO, needs to be tougher.

 

And Morrison’s Kent certainly is. I don’t think I can describe it any better than did editor-in-chief Bob Harras when I interviewed him last week:

 

I kinda like what Grant has done, where you get this sense of, you know, Clark has rough edges. Clark is a little angry. He’s a little finding his way in the world. And that’s what intrigued all of us. That was kinda what the whole new 52 was all about. We wanted to tell stories about heroes who are at the beginning parts of their careers. And to me that’s much more interesting because again it’s about people who are less sure of where they’re going to end up in life. And that was more intriguing across the line, than people who are actually totally, totally set in their ways. I think that the ambiguity of points of view is something that’s very exciting and I think again will have ripple effects across the line when characters interact. … Clark’s in his early 20s, and in your early 20s you’re going through a lot, and if you’re Clark Kent and you have these powers, you’re going through even more than normal and what would your reaction be? And I think Grant has found an interesting way to explore that. He’s not the Clark Kent you expected, but in some ways he’s a more realistic Clark Kent.

 

Other changes include Kent working for one of the Daily Planet’s rivals, which – again – we won’t have to worry about beyond this initial story. (Kent is shown in the window of the Daily Planet with Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White in the aforementioned Swamp Thing). And speaking of Olsen, he and Kent are contemporaries and friends, removing the older man-younger man “Superman’s pal” business which occasionally veered toward the uncomfortable.

 

Lastly, a word about something else Morrison has lifted from 1938: Superman’s politics.

 

As almost anyone reading this knows, Superman was a New Deal Democrat in his earliest incarnation – mainly because most people in the late 1930s were, judging by election results. Most characters in the late 1930s and early 1940s shared that outlook, but Superman was, in particular, a champion of the little guy. As noted, one of his first adventures was defending a wife from her abusive husband (“you’re not fighting a woman, now!”). He also broke up rackets, terrified grifting politicians, saved innocent men from execution – in short, defended ordinary people from people and organizations more powerful than they were.

 

Which is exactly what Morrison’s Superman does. He forces a ruthless CEO to confess to white-collar crime against blue-collar people, and saves poor folks from going down with the demolishment of a building. “You know the deal, Metropolis,” he says. “Treat people right or expect a visit from me!”

 

One post on this board notes that the squatters Superman saved during the building demolition were there illegally. Well, yes, they were. (Most appeared homeless, with their possessions in trash bags.) And, technically, Superman was breaking the law when he stopped the wrecking ball from killing them in a legally sanctioned and properly announced demolition. Less technically, Superman was very much breaking the law when assaulted and threatened a corporate CEO, an act to which the police took a dim view. Then there’s resisting arrest, destruction of public property, assaults on police officers …

 

This Superman doesn’t care about the law. He cares about what’s right, just as he did in the early issues of Action Comics in the 1930s. He is in 2011, as in 1938, an outlaw. And if some of the people he helps are technically breaking the law, too, it’s because he believes the law is unfair. He even says in his confrontation with the police “tell it to someone who believes that the law works the same for rich and poor – which ain’t Superman!” Those squatters had probably been evicted from those very buildings, and had nowhere else to go. That’s supposition, but it’s not hard to imagine from the premise.

 

This new/old philosophy for Superman is on purpose, of course. In his book Supergods, Morrison defines the Man of Tomorrow as “a hero of the people. The original Superman was a bold humanist response to Depression-era fears of runaway scientific advance and soulless industrialism.”

 

I applaud this attitude adjustment in the Metropolis Marvel for a variety of reasons, not just because it mirrors my own politics. First, there’s that historical precedent. Plus, there are very few voices in today’s media that aren’t pro-corporate (regardless of what you hear about the nearly non-existent “liberal media”), and this gives Superman a unique voice (instead of the generic one he’s had for years). And, most important, this humanizes Superman in a way I haven’t seen before (except in reprints). Whether you agree with his politics or not, at least they’re recognizable. They’re human. His decades-old job as bemused and detached protector of the status quo was fine during economic boom times, but doesn’t make sense during the Great Recession, nor are most people as strangely and avowedly apolitical as the Weisinger Superman. His new/old attitude gives him a more human face.

 

But there is a danger in Superman’s politics being recognizable, in that it may drive off those with a different philosophy. For years superheroes have been fiercely apolitical, for this very reason. Remember Marvel being forced to apologize to the Tea Party for Tea Party signs depicted in Captain America, signs that were lifted from photos of actual Tea Party events. Politics is always tricky ground, especially in today’s divisive climate.

 

Perhaps the retailer who threatened to boycott Grant Morrison comics because he interpreted a grunt as blasphemy is a lone nut. Or perhaps it’s the beginning of a smear campaign to force the Man of Steel – or rather, his corporate owner – to remember which side their butter is on. After all, that retailer revealed his own politics when he called Morrison a “liberal Scottish schmuck.” The political reference – and his use of “liberal” as a pejorative – suggests his complaint wasn’t really about religion after all.

 

I hope that doesn’t develop, especially since it’s likely to be a moot point after the “five years ago” stories are done. I don’t think either right-leaning or left-leaning readers will long accept a Superman who enforces his opinions by main strength, because none of us are in favor of “might makes right.” I think most Americans believe it’s the other way around, a philosophy I’d bet money Superman will adopt ere long.

 

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a Superman who is a champion for the little guy. We haven’t seen that fellow in 70 years, and it’s a breath of fresh air to see Grant Morrison take him out for a walk.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-political-aspect-of-...

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/profiles/blogs/dc-s-bold-gamble-gives...

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/dcnu-action-comics

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/action-comics-1-initial-...

 

 

ANIMAL MAN #1

Written by JEFF LEMIRE

Art by TRAVEL FOREMAN and DAN GREEN

Cover by TRAVEL FOREMAN

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

 

Animal Man is a surprise hit of The New 52, and after reading the first issue it’s not hard to see why.

 

Before delving into the actual comic book, it might well be worth noting how many different takes there have been on Animal Man. He was created in the 1965 in one of DC’s second-tier suspense titles, Strange Adventures, as a rather lame superhero, a movie stuntman named Buddy Bland Baker who was given super-powers by aliens. He made occasional cover appearances, but didn’t even get a costume until 10 issues into his run, and it was a pretty hideous one at that. Buddy was booted out of Strange Adventures after the advent of Deadman, with his final appearance being in issue #201. He was virtually forgotten for a couple of decades except for rare guest appearances, especially in a 1980s concept called (appropriately) “The Forgotten Heroes,” a team comprised of other marginal characters like himself. Fortunately, he was resurrected in 1988 in an eponymous title written by Grant Morrison, who revamped Buddy as vegetarian animal-rights activist and an everyman in bizarre situations, with a strong emphasis on his family life. That took a turn for the weird when the title fell under the new Vertigo umbrella in 1993, and writer Jamie Delano wrote Animal Man as a horror book. After the title folded, Buddy moved back to the DCU, where he was a fairly standard superhero, serving in Justice League Europe and going on an extended space adventure with Starfire and Adam Strange in the pages of 52.

 

All of which is neatly summarized on a full-page text piece presented on Page 1 as a faux magazine article on Baker. Granted, it’s not a very attractive Page 1, but I appreciated the effort at streamlining Baker’s confusing history and getting all of us on the same page – even Baker, as he is introduced reading the magazine article on page two, and discussing it with his wife.

 

What follows is some back-and-forth family dialogue for several pages. The adults talk careers and goals, the little girl wants a pet, the little boy is – well, he’s a little boy, running about excitedly.

 

In the second act, Baker does a superhero turn (in a new uniform that is marginally less hideous), wherein we learn that there is something wrong in “The Red” (the animal equivalent of Swamp Thing’s “The Green”). We know this because Baker’s eyes bleed mysteriously when he uses his powers.

 

In the third act, a dream sequence reveals the problem: “The Hunters Three” are stalking The Red, who way they represent a rot at the heart of the DCU that will have terrible consequences. They threaten Baker’s children specifically, which rachets up the drama. Baker awakens in a cold sweat to discover the nightmare has only begun; there is a truly disturbing revelation about his daughter that ends in a cliff-hanger.

 

Did I like it? Yes.

 

The story is by Jeff Lemire, whose Sweet Tooth is so absorbing that I love it despite my dislike for Lemire’s art style, so I expect good things. From Sweet Tooth I know Lemire is good at both  interpersonal relationships and horror, the two elements he juxtaposes in the first issue to good effect. I suspect that juxtaposition will be a theme of the series, as it was in the Morrison Animal Man – Baker attempting to defend his family from horrible weirdness, while maintaining some semblance of normality – and that’s a good hook.

 

Not every writer can write family dialogue with verisimilitude, but Lemire’s first few pages were perfect. That sort of thing may bore some readers, but I found it charming, and the dialogue rings true. Plus, I suspect it’s the last time we’ll see this humble domestic scene, and those few pages are there specifically to show us what Baker is fighting for: that warm, rumpled, homey contentment.

 

In case you missed how important Baker’s family life is to him, Lemire helpfully spells it out for you in a thought balloon: “It’s Ellen who lets me be who I am. I can be an actor, a superhero, a stuntman, an activist. It doesn’t matter because as long as I’m with her, I’m anchored. I know who I really am.”

 

If I have a complaint, it’s that the first issue is a little slow. Also, the art by Travel Foreman (Immortal Iron Fist) is excellent in virtually all scenes except The Hunters Three reveal, which could have been a little more horrible.

 

Those nits aside, I have very little to pick at in Animal Man #1. It’s a decent set-up, and I’ve seen Lemire follow through before, so I’m confident this is a keeper.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

BATGIRL #1

Written by GAIL SIMONE

Art by ARDIAN SYAF and VICENTE CIFUENTES

Cover by ADAM HUGHES

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

Let’s get this out of the way in a hurry: Yes, The Killing Joke is part of the “new” Batgirl continuity. She is out of the wheelchair due to an as-yet-undescribed “miracle.” Moving on now.

 

Can we? That’s what writer Gail Simone is trying to do, and by and large, I want her to succeed. The New 52 is supposed to be a new beginning, and the absolute last thing I want – and I presume what DC wants – is to have to know 40 years of comic-book history to understand something with a #1 on the cover.

 

Since we’re starting over, this first issue is lots and lots of set-up. The villain is introduced. Barbara moves out of her dad’s apartment. We are introduced to the zany roommate. Barbara has two outings as Batgirl, and we learn some details (one being a lack of money). There’s some unexpected psychological baggage revealed. The villain returns. Then a cliff-hanger.

 

Is that enough? It is for me. Batgirl #1 has to deal with a ton of exposition, and I think Simone does so as well as can be expected – especially since she manages to work in two action scenes, both thematically linked by a thorough understanding of Barbara’s psyche (which you’d expect with Simone’s long association with the character), presented with quirky humor, sparkling dialogue and squirm-worthy horror (which you’d expect if you’ve ever read anything by Simone, especially Secret Six). All of this ties together just as we’re treated to the cliff-hanger, and I’m ready for the next issue.

 

But beyond that, the real star of the first issue is Barbara’s joy at returning to the cowl, which bleeds right through the pages as if she’s a real person. Chalk it up to Simone’s insightful script, or to Ardian Syaf’s full-page reveal on Page 4, or to my own fondness for the character, but I finished Batgirl #1 happy and satisfied. So like I say, it’s good enough for me.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/dcnu-batgirl

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/batgirl-1-initial-reaction

 

BATWING #1

Written by JUDD WINICK

Art and cover by BEN OLIVER

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

The best part of Batwing #1 is also its greatest drawback: It takes place in Africa.

 

Before I explain that, let me get the summary out of the way. We are introduced to Batwing – the Batman of Africa – in combat with a ferocious enemy called Massacre. Massacre is wielding a machete, which from what little I know of African conflicts means he deals in horror, intimidation and terrorism as well as plain old murder. Batwing has Bat-armor and wings with which he can actually fly, which he helpfully informs us were provided by the Dark Knight himself (presumably as part of Batman, Inc.)

 

In the second act, we flash back to a visit from Batman as he aids Batwing in an ongoing investigation of brutal massacres. (No points for guessing who did it, since the heroes haven’t met Massacre yet and you have.) We learn about Batwing’s “Batcave” (The Haven), his “Alfred” (Matu Ba, formerly of The Children’s Harbor, a child-soldier rescue organization) and his secret ID, David Zavimbe of the Tinasha Police Department, Democratic Republic of the Congo. A potential love interest is introduced, a fellow officer named Kia Okuru.

 

In the third act, something really awful happens. Then there is a really awful cliff-hanger. I mean it, what happens is seriously awful (in a good way).

 

This is all pretty standard superhero fare – except none of it works the way it does in other superhero books, because this doesn’t take place in a Western democracy. Batwing takes place in Africa, and not even in one of the nicest places on that huge, complicated continent. The rules are different there. It’s like a parallel universe, like the old Earth-3, where up is down, black is white, good is evil.

 

Nothing really slaps you in the face in that regard; Winick isn’t on a soapbox. But the dialogue and the stone walls Zavimbe hits reminds you that the cops here aren’t necessarily the good guys, that violence is pretty much the norm and people are worrying about a lot more than their cell-phone service.

 

And I find that exciting. Like any parallel universe, everything you learn is fascinating, every bit of information important. And I spent my youth learning about parallel universes, so why not this one? The only difference between Batwing and “Earth-3” or the Ultimate universe or Kingdom Come is that the Congo is a real place, with real politics and real problems – this parallel universe is just a plane flight away. Wow!

 

Of course, for some people, that’s a reason to drop the book. Not in the U.S.? Pfft, adios.

 

I understand that. Ethnocentrism is a tribal instinct built into our lizard brains. And it takes time to learn about a foreign culture. It may strike some as a dull and useless waste of time. So they won’t read Batwing no matter how good it is.

 

And I think it is good – a solid superhero book set in an exotic locale, written and drawn by a veteran team. I was a little dismayed at Batman guesting, but I suppose it’s somewhat mandatory from a sales perspective. Thankfully he acted as an ally and a guest, not as a patronizing white superior telling a black guy how to do his job.

 

And the Batman appearance is just about my only quibble. I already knew from Vertigo’s Unknown Soldier and First Second’s Deogratias graphic novel that the story potential of Africa is astounding. Batwing threatens to mine that rich resource, and I want to be along for the ride.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/batwing-1-initial-reaction

 

DETECTIVE COMICS #1

Written by TONY S. DANIEL

Art by TONY S. DANIEL and RYAN WINN

Cover by TONY S. DANIEL

On sale SEPTEMBER 7 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

HEY! What the hell is going ON here?

 

Oh, wait. We already know. This is Detective Comics, starring Batman, like it has since 1939. And the Dark Knight we see here is the familiar one of recent vintage, doing familiar internal dialogue in grim, clenched-jaw fashion and taking on The Joker. For a #1, there’s not a whole lot of “new” going on here.


Which is not a complaint. The Bat-books have been very good lately, going back at least to the advent of Grant Morrison, and this book continues the quality. I particularly like Tony Daniel’s Batman: powerful, sleek and intimidating.

 

And, OK, there are some new things here. We readers are in the know on something Batman isn’t: There’s a new bad guy in town, and he’s really, really bad news. He’s called the Dollmaker, and at the end he and The Joker …

 

Hey, wait. Wait! HEY! What the hell is going ON here?

 

Wow, that’s some cliff-hanger!

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/detectice-comics-1-initi...

 

GREEN ARROW #1

Written by J.T. KRUL

Art by DAN JURGENS and NORM RAPMUND

Cover by BRETT BOOTH and ROB HUNTER

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

My first reaction to Green Arrow was: Whew! The second was: Meh.

 

The “Whew” was a sigh of relief that they’ve completely divorced Oliver Queen from the unworkable and inexplicable character he had become prior to The New 52. I won’t get into all the ways previous writers ruined the Emerald Archer, as it’s history now. (But I will mention A) punting his marriage for no reason and B) committing murder for no reason are two things that made the character toxic.)

 

Green Arrow #1 makes all that moot – this is a much younger guy, with an entirely different temperament, and an entirely different status quo. (How much of his past holds over from the previous “universe” – especially with the Justice League and Roy “Arsenal” Harper – remains to be seen.)

 

We open with the CEO of Queen Industries, a fellow named Emerson, griping at a meeting about Oliver Queen not being at the meeting, a fellow who I suppose tends to miss a lot of meetings, even though he’s the head of “Q-Core,” the R&D division of Queen Industries, because he’s also secretly, duh, Green Arrow. (Why the guy with his name on the letterhead isn’t the CEO, or can’t get rid of this CEO, who clearly has it in for him, is not something I understand. But then, I’m a journalist, not an MBA.)

 

Anyway, what Queen is doing instead of attending the meeting is tracking three super-villains in Paris, and then proceeds to capture them over the course of a number of pages while participating in the meeting by phone, with the help of his two partners back at Q-Core, Naomi and Jax (new characters, as far as I know). These three super-villains are really quite powerful, but Green Arrow captures them almost with ease, thanks to a variety of high-tech toys.

 

In the final act, Queen returns home to meet with Adrien, an older employee whom he assigns to be liaison with Emerson “to keep Queen Industries as far away from Q-Core as possible.” (Again, this doesn’t make sense to me, since Emerson is the CEO of Queen Industries, and Q-Core is described as a division of Queen Industries, so it seems to me he can get as close as he wants, or fire everyone there including Queen, or just shut it down, or whatever. He’s the CEO! Man, I need to take some business classes – or writer J.T. Krul does.) We get a little more chit-chat with Naomi and Jax (revealing a little more of their background and relationship with Queen, none of which is very interesting), and then we shift to the three super-villains in jail, where a cliff-hanger occurs.

 

So, yes, I heaved a sigh of relief that Green Arrow was no longer the schizophrenic moron of recent years. There was definitely a Smallville vibe to this version instead, which is a definite improvement over that homeless guy wandering in a forest near Star City. (Who should have been in jail. Hello, “Justice” League, he killed someone.)

 

But following the “whew” was the “meh.” I like cool toys as well as the next guy, but the set-up here seemed terribly familiar and cliché: Rich guy uses toys to fight crime, abetted by standard sidekicks, with an arch-foe businessman. (Frankly, it read like 1980s Iron Man. “Clytemnestra and your brother whose name I forget, help me figure out how to beat Obadiah Stane!” Sometimes I thought of Naomi and Jax as Wendy and Marvin from Super Friends and Teen Titans.) There was nothing particularly original or interesting about the super-villains. There was nothing particularly original or interesting in here at all.

 

It may have just suffered in comparison to the other New 52 books, where there was a lot more meat – and, it seemed to me, craft. Green Arrow seemed shallow and by-the-numbers, a single-act book surrounded by three-act books with lots more information.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

HAWK AND DOVE #1

Written by STERLING GATES

Art and cover by ROB LIEFELD

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

I didn’t like Hawk & Dove the last time Rob Liefeld worked on it, and nothing here changes my mind. This book is for people other than me, and that’s OK.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/hawk-dove-new-old-spoilers

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1

Written by DAN JURGENS

Art by AARON LOPRESTI and MATT RYAN

Cover by AARON LOPRESTI

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

This book can’t seem to make up its mind what it wants to be, but I still enjoyed it.

 

The first act involves two people (Andre Briggs and Emerson Esposito, new characters AFAIK) trying to sell the United Nations Global Security Group – which consists of three of the Security Council members, France, UK and China – on a UN super-team. They discuss various members, dismissing a few for various reasons. They decide on ones that are easy to manipulate, especially the leader, Booster Gold. The act ends with the introduction of the problem, a mysterious hole in Peru that swallows a UN research team.

 

The second act is the gathering of the team, which is mostly the old Justice League International with a few new faces. Specifically, it’s August General in Iron (from China’s Big Ten), Booster Gold, Fire & Ice, Godiva (from the Global Guardians), Guy Gardner, Rocket Red and Vixen.

 

The third act is the team going to Peru to investigate the mysterious hole. Batman appears and effectively joins the team as Booster’s Jiminy Cricket. Once in Peru they are attacked by Lava Men – which first appeared in Avengers #5, at another company, which is kinda strange – and then a giant robot. That’s the cliff-hanger.

 

Let me get my complaints out of the way.

 

As I said in my lead, this book doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It veers toward Bwah-ha-ha here and there, but it also wants to take itself seriously as a standard super-team book. They present the characters as heroes, while simultaneously suggesting they are little more than easily-manipulated puppets. It seems Jurgens wants to have it both ways – the Giffen-DeMatteis humor, but the drama of Justice League: Generation Lost.

 

Also, a number of character act oddly or out of character, not for story reasons, but because of plot necessities or needless drama:

 

  • Guy Gardner, for example, storms off – although everybody, in story and out, knows he’ll be back. So what’s the point? If you want to remind people he’s an arrogant hothead, you could do that with dialogue – you know, writing – and use those panels for something constructive.
  • Batman acts as a wise old mentor for Booster instead of his usual take-charge self. Which is way out of character. Plus, he’s a lot less competent than usual, so that the team can shine. If this was Dick Grayson I’d buy it, but it’s not.
  • Godiva is so over-the-top in the flirtation/snark department (isn’t that Fire’s job?) that she should have been kicked off the team by now. I know, I know, it’s comics, and super-teams always have at least one trouble-maker. But her “characterization” is really heavy-handed.
  • Speaking of Godiva, when the Lava Men attack she’s in there fighting with the rest of the team. In the very next panel, Batman chides her for not pitching in – which she was clearly depicted doing – and she tells him to “sod off” because she doesn’t want to ruin her nails or something. I’ll write off the miscommunication between writer and artist (Godiva should have been shown not participating), but I won’t write off the clumsy way a Batman-Godiva tiff has been set up. Seriously, it’s Batman – if he doesn’t like Godiva, she’s gone.
  • Speaking of tiffs, I agree with The Baron that the Chinese and Russian guys bickering is ham-handed and annoying, instead of amusing, and I’m tired of Russian guys who talk like Boris Badenov. (You know, some Russians are actually smart enough to master a second language. True fact!) Plus, it requires August General in Iron to act in a petty and undignified way, which is the opposite of how he’s been presented to date. He’s China’s Superman, not their Green Arrow.
  • The whole point of Booster’s last title was to establish him as “the best hero you’ve never heard of.” Again and again we were shown that despite his growing maturity and competence, the world didn’t know what he was doing in the timestream and still thought of him as a clown. Now he’s suddenly the leader of the highest profile team on the planet? I guess the UN was reading Booster Gold comics, not his press clippings.
  • Which, if nothing else, should make Booster suspicious of this sudden offer. He’s egotistical, but even he should suspect something.

 

OK, enough of that, because I still want to complain about something else. Specifically, the “10 impossible things before breakfast” the book requires for you to believe. There are just too many.

 

For example, the United Nations is going to form a super-team? You’re joking, right? For one thing, it would have to get by the Security Council – which includes Russia and the U.S., not just the three members of the fatuous “Global Security Group” – which can’t agree on anything. Plus, it’s United Nations Research Team Three that’s swallowed in Peru, which means the DC Universe United Nations has about three more research teams than our world does.

 

Also, people are protesting the Hall of Justice being given to the new JLI, because it’s a public building. How dare the U.N. use a public building for the public good? That always drives me to violence.

 

The UN thinks Green Arrow is too likely to cross the line and rejects him … although they accept Fire, who as a member of Checkmate, has crossed that line so many times she’s crippled with guilt.

 

I could go on, but at this point you’re probably wondering what I like about this book. And the answer is simple: I love these characters. I didn’t even realize that until I read this issue, so it’s a fairly recent conversion, which I blame on the latest Booster Gold series, which gave him a status quo and a purpose I could respect, and Justice League: Generation Lost, which showed these guys believed in themselves when nobody else did – so convincingly that I began to believe in them, too.


That sounds corny, and it is. It’s also probably tenuous, because these are fictional characters who are only as good as their last issue, and if they continue to be mishandled I will stop liking them. So far I’m only annoyed, and I’ll give Jurgens time to get his feet under him. And who knows: Maybe I’ll start to like Godiva.

 

Naw.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

 

MEN OF WAR #1

Written by IVAN BRANDON

Art by TOM DERENICK

Cover by VIKTOR KALVACHEV

40 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T+

 

My hopes for this title were only mid-high … and I was still disappointed.

 

I asked for a war book, I want a war book and I will buy a war book. The genre has been ignored for far too long and even *I* get tired of superheroes now and then.

 

So we get a series starring Sgt. Rock’s grandson, and what’s that I see on Page 9? A superhero. Which one, we don’t know, but that’s not what I wanted. And I’ll bet these guys are in “Qurac” or someplace, not Iraq or Afghanistan, also not what I wanted.

 

What I wanted was ‘The Nam. Or the recent Sgt. Rock minis that take place in real battles of World War II. Or Harvey Kurtzman's Two-Fisted Tales or Archie Goodwin’s Blazing Combat or Garth Ennis’s Battlefields. Our folks in uniform – especially the special forces – virtually are superheroes, with the training and weaponry they have. I want to read about them, not fictional characters in a fictional country fighting a fictional war with superheroes overhead. At worst, I want moving and realistic war stories from any theater in any war.

 

The second story, about Navy Seals is more along the lines of what I wanted. I’m not too crazy about the leads – they’re a little clichéd, and they talk too damn much – but I’m more interested in that than I am the lead feature.

 

I can’t hold DC accountable for my expectations, and I don’t. I’ll try to adjust my perception to what they’re giving me instead of what I want them to give me. I’ll give Men of War more time, in the hopes that occasionally I’ll see the kind of story I want. Because if I don’t support it at all, it’ll be a million years before I see another war book.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

O.M.A.C. #1

Written by DAN DIDIO and KEITH GIFFEN

Art and cover by KEITH GIFFEN and SCOTT KOBLISH

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

I thought I’d hate this book sight unseen. Turns out I like it.

 

It’s not a very deep book. The story in issue #1 is that Cadmus is invaded by O.M.A.C. (one similar to the Kirby original, not the recent ones). A voice is instructing O.M.A.C. to download Cadmus’ computers, and giving him all the power he needs to overcome each obstacle that comes up. In the meantime, a Cadmus employee is concerned for her missing boyfriend, while a mutual friend (that she has slept with in the past) is snarky about it. O.M.A.C. succeeds, there's a Big Reveal on the voice, The End.

 

This is pretty paint-by-the-numbers. O.M.A.C. is exactly who you think he is (the missing boyfriend). The voice is exactly what you think it is (Brother Eye). It’s a one-act play with no subtleties whatsoever.

 

And it’s written by Dan DiDio, who has only written Outsiders before that I’m aware of, and I didn’t care for that (especially his character creation Freight Train). I knew Keith Giffen was going to draw it in his Kirby pastiche style, and that has always annoyed me. So I expected to dislike the book.

 

Instead, I found something I wasn’t expecting, and even if had expected it, wouldn’t expect to like: Wackiness. Full-bore, Kirby at his Don Rickles craziest, Three Stooges wackiness. DiDio took a bunch of Kirby Koncepts from different series and threw them in a blender. O.M.A.C. and Build-A-Friend from O.M.A.C. Mokkari, Cadmus, Gobblers and Dubbilex from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. Nebbish protagonist Kevin Kho from – well, just about every Kirby series. Even the Cadmus minions looked like World Peace Officers from O.M.A.C.

 

All of this was thrown together, and it all having the same “dad” and a guy drawing like “dad,” it all kind of worked. I thought Giffen’s Kirby swipes would bother me, but they actually helped. (And points for drawing the “pretty girl” like Kirby would – which isn’t all that pretty.) Also, there are visual hints that O.M.A.C.'s mohawk is an antenna  to keep in contact with Brother Eye -- which explains that odd fashion choice, and is kinda cool.

 

I don’t know where the series is going, and I don’t know how long DiDio can continue rifling through a dead man's closet, without coming up with his own stuff. It’s a high-wire act, and either writer or artist could fall at any time. Or we could all just get bored.

 

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the wackiness. Bwah-ha-ha!

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/dcnu-omac

 

STATIC SHOCK #1

Written by SCOTT McDANIEL and JOHN ROZUM

Art and cover by SCOTT McDANIEL and

JONATHAN GLAPION

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

 

I love Static! If Scott McDaniel is true to the character, I will love this book.

 

And so far, so good. The story’s not much – mostly just set-up, where we learn A) Static’s family has moved to New York, B) Virgil’s an intern at S.T.A.R. Labs, and C) he’s being mentored long-distance by Hardware. There’s a fight, Virgil wins, the bad guys plot to kill him. The End.

 

Terrific! Not because of that flimsy plot, but because Virgil read like Virgil, and I love Virgil. Also, I loved that Dakota was acknowledged, and that Hardware is (indirectly) progressing as a character as well. Plus, Virgil’s sister is as nasty to her sibling as ever, and I had two sisters, so those scenes had me chuckling. (I love my sisters and they love me, but MAN we were mean to each other growing up!) Keep this coming, and I’m a happy camper.

 

Did I mention I love Static?

 

STORMWATCH #1

Written by PAUL CORNELL

Art and cover by MIGUEL SEPULVEDA

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

 

I was never a big fan of Stormwatch, although I appreciated what Warren Ellis and others did with it – at least philosophically – as it morphed into The Authority. (The actual execution was somewhat depressing.)

 

So why go backwards? That’s what this Stormwatch is, an anachronism from its pre-Ellis days. And I didn’t much enjoy it.

 

For the record, the story is as follows: The Engineer, Adam One (a new character) and a girl who was never named are in Stormwatch HQ in The Bleed monitoring three missions. In the first a new character named Eminence of Blades discovers something called “The Scourge of Worlds” on the moon, with that celestial body somehow transforming into a giant claw. In the second mission, Jack Hawksmoor (who now has tire treads on his hands as well as feet), Martian Manunter and a new character named The Projectionist attempt to recruit Apollo in Moscow. In the third, Jenny Quantum and an immortal black man whose name was never mentioned (c’mon, Mr. Cornell, names are Storytelling 101) are transporting a gigantic horn from the Himalayas to HQ for study. The other two missions are unresolved, but in the second Apollo defeats Manhunter’s team and meets a fellow named Midnighter. The End.

 

Wow, that was tedious. Lots of bickering, and an insistence – twice – that this team was somehow not superheroes, were better than superheroes, when they don’t behave any differently than the Justice League. But Hawksmoor says they’re “professionals,” not superheroes (although Apollo defeats them easily enough), and Martian Manhunter says he’s a “superhero” when he’s with the Justice League, but a “warrior” when he’s with Stormwatch (*Snort!* But at least they didn’t eliminate his entire history.) There’s also indication that Stormwatch has been around for centuries, like Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D., and at least one incarnation is related to Demon Knights.

 

With stories like this, it won’t be around much longer. Hey, if you’re going to bring WildStorm characters into the DCU, have the courage to make them those characters, instead of re-inventing them. I’ve read The Authority and even liked parts of it, but I don’t know who these guys are, and with a beginning like this, don’t much care.

 

A “warrior.” *Snort!*

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/stormwatch-1-initial-rea...

 

 

SWAMP THING #1

Written by SCOTT SNYDER

Art and cover by YANICK PAQUETTE

32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T+

 

Swamp Thing has had numerous incarnations, and therefore has been all over the map in quality and enjoyment. Based on this first book, I’m hopeful this will be one of the highlights of the moss-encrusted mockery of a man’s career.

 

We begin with mass extinctions all over the globe. Not MASS mass extinctions, but like when those birds all dropped dead in Arkansas a while back. LITTLE mass extinctions. Birds in Metropolis, bats in Gotham, fish somewhere near Aquaman and (we’re told later) cattle near Coast City. Superman takes the initiative to go ask Alec Holland, newly resurrected in Brightest Day, if he has any ideas. Although, since these are all animal deaths, Superman should have gone to Animal Man. Not that it matters, as Holland makes the new status quo crystal clear: He is not Swamp Thing, and he never was Swamp Thing. Just like we discovered in Alan Moore’s “The Anatomy Lesson,” Holland died in Swamp Thing #1, and the monster-cum-Defender of The Green simply thought he was Holland for a while, due to some planarian worms. However, since his resurrection, Holland has flashes of Swamp Thing’s memory, for reasons unrevealed. Holland is now working in construction, trying to get far away from his previous life, although we do learn that he has re-created the bio-restorative formula, which seems important. This remains unresolved, but meanwhile some force animates a mammoth fossil in Arizona (that’s “mammoth” as in the animal, not “mammoth” as in size, although it is that, too). Three diggers are attacked by swarms of insects, which fly into their ears and make them twist their own heads backwards, killing them. However, they remain animate, following orders from something unrevealed. In the last few pages, Holland’s hotel room is overrun with plants while he sleeps, and he threatens the plants with the bio-restorative formula, when he is stopped … by Swamp Thing.

 

OK, I’m having fun. This is CREEEEEE-py! Especially the bugs thing, which harkens back to Moore’s run, when Abby’s dead husband was animated by flies for a time as an agent of Hell. It also reminds me of The Amityville Horror, which has nothing to do with Swamp Thing, but Rod Steiger’s death-by-flies was the best part of that movie.

 

It was interesting to see the Superman parts, as it established what we didn’t know from Action Comics #1, which is that in his current incarnation he can fly, and he works for the Daily Planet. Also, he was shown being in immediate contact with Justice League friends Batman and Aquaman, information we didn’t have yet from Justice League of America #1. So, that happened.

 

And it happened fast. I admired Snyder’s economy in covering all that info in just a few panels, completely silent. The story rocketed along without wasting any time on exposition. That came with Superman’s chat with Holland, a necessary evil, I’m afraid, but Snyder handled that pretty well, too – if you have to have two talking heads, it helps visually if one of them is in a Kryptonian battle suit and is hovering four feet above the ground.

 

It also helps that I know Snyder is a terrific horror writer from American Vampire, which you should be reading if you’re not.

 

Anyway, as mentioned, the flies thing was ultra-creepy. Yanick Paquette’s art is superb, and his horror scenes convey the chills that the ones in Animal Man did not. And Swamp Thing’s appearance at the end – sorry for the spoiler – raises more questions than it answers, which just whets my appetite for issue #2.

 

Other threads on this board on this topic:

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/the-new-dcu-begins-now

 

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/dcnu-omac

Views: 382

Comment by Rich Lane on September 19, 2011 at 6:44pm
I agree 100% on all but two, I think.  I liked Stormwatch, but I could not stand JLI.
Comment by Philip Portelli on September 19, 2011 at 8:39pm

Wow, I never got Animal Man! I gotta make a call!

It's kind of odd that Animal Man, Hawk & Dove and Batgirl's backstories are relatively intact and we have no idea what Green Arrow's is!

I felt a bit let down by Swamp Thing but only because it has so much to live up to!

Comment by The Baron on September 20, 2011 at 1:57pm

Our folks in uniform – especially the special forces – virtually are superheroes, with the training and weaponry they have.

 

I've often thought that a platoon of modern "special forces" types would roll right over any number of Golden Age non-super "mystery men".

 

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on September 20, 2011 at 2:52pm

I've often thought that a platoon of modern "special forces" types would roll right over any number of Golden Age non-super "mystery men".

 

Sounds like a story I'd pay good, cash money to see ... 

Comment by The Baron on September 20, 2011 at 3:25pm
Well, what started me on that line of thinking was thinking about Dr. Mid-Nite - basically he was a guy with night-vision goggles and smoke bombs. Amazing enough in 1942, but not so much in 2011.
Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on September 20, 2011 at 4:26pm

Good reviews, Cap!

Of the week one releases I read, Stormwatch and JLI didn't work for me.

I did enjoy Green Arrow, not as much as the other releases though. I like the character so I'm always willing to give him a chance. I like the setup so far.

Of the week one releases it's a tie between Action and Detective.

Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on September 20, 2011 at 4:28pm
I'm delighted to see all the positive talk about Animal Man and Swamp Thing. I'm a fan of both characters both pre-Vertigo and during their Vertigo runs (mostly, anyway). I don't think either of them were ever taken that far from their DCU roots. So there's no reason why the current incarnations shouldn't appeal to me. It will feel odd following DC titles again, it's been a few years since I consistently bought any DC stuff outside of Vertigo.
Comment by Figserello on September 21, 2011 at 3:31am
Comment by ClarkKent_DC 12 hours ago

"I've often thought that a platoon of modern "special forces" types would roll right over any number of Golden Age non-super "mystery men".



Sounds like a story I'd pay good, cash money to see ... "

Aw, what have the Golden Age mystery men done to deserve that rather heinous fate?

Actually, Batman Begins draws the parallels between modern soldiers and superheroes quite explicitly. It's all modern military gear that Batman adapts for his costume and armoury.

In his new book, Morrison has fun things to say about how superheroes and soldiers have drawn very close together in the last decade.
Comment by Philip Portelli on September 21, 2011 at 9:48am
Is it just me or does Green Arrow seem like a pilot for a new show for the CW? Star City or The Archer Diaries?
Comment by Philip Portelli on September 21, 2011 at 9:50am
As for an example of "special forces" Vs "non-powered mystery man", see Batman: Year One for one outcome and Watchmen for another!

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