After all the talk of the DC reboot, this is the week that the second issues begin trickling out, and it’s also the first step to see if this huge experiment will pay off.
At first thought I’d do something fancy like do a video review, with as many of DC’s #1s as possible in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, then I thought I could do a summary of each ish in 52 words or less. Then I realised how time consuming both of those options would be, so here’s my quick thoughts after a month of being bombarded with DC’s grand plans. I’m going by memory and quick rereads on these, but I’d suggest visiting Greg Burgas’ mightily impressive review of all 52 issues for a very complete lowdown.
Really the only ones I’d continue to buy would be Aquaman, Batman, Green Lantern, Grifter, Batman and Robin and maybe Action Comics.
I’ve been a diehard DC’er for literally 20 years, but very little about this whole scheme has me excited. I get the why, but the how just doesn’t cut it for me. Yes, sales are off the charts, but let’s see how long it lasts. I’ll be sticking to back issues and trades, as I have many fond memories of reading DC stuff in those 20 years. I just wish they incorporated their newbie friendly desire into OGNs, like the hugely successful Superman: Earth One, and just left us old fans alone to continue to enjoy the complex tales that have been built up over years. For me, this feels like a step backwards. However, if it really does bring in new comics readers, I’ll be a happy man.
For the world’s most famous superhero, and the most tooled with version in DC’s plans, this ish disappoints. With its grandiose captions, and lack of a cliffhanger, it’s an unfortunate old school standout. Plus using, “twittered” instead of “tweeted” is just embarrassing.
Man, what a different Superboy series this is, though it does retain the bulk of his origin from his ‘90s debut, ie, he’s still a clone of Superman (and possibly Lex Luthor), and have powers that Supes doesn’t possess. This isn’t a fun series though, despite it’s jumping form lab, to imaginary Mid Western teen life to cameos from Lois Lane and the Teen Titans. Like Nightwing, it makes me miss the ‘90s series.
The idea of seeing Superman 5 years before he became the Superman we all know andlove is agood idea, but we’ve seen it before in Birthright, and more recently Secret Origin. Having 2 Superman titles, with one in the here and now and one when he was younger, more arrogant and didn’t have a proper costume, just seems confusing for an approach that’s supposed to be simple and accessible. It looks great though thanks to Rags Morales, and the usual characters make their presence known (Lex, Lois, and her dad General Sam Lane, and Clark’s “best friend” Jimmy), though Clark struggling for money, and as a superhero and living in a dodgy apartment all just screamed Spider-Man 2 to me. This is a Marvel Superman, and I can see why Grant Morrison thought the DC higher ups would reject this pitch. It does have a certain charm to it, but Supes’ origins have been dealt with before. Seeing him as a struggling superhero feels out of place and unexpected, although it may be realistic in this context.
Batman and Robin
Batman and Green Lantern are the most unchanged in the New 52, which makes sense, as the groundwork for their recent success was laid by writers Geoff Johsn, and Grant Morrison, who have held the keys to the DC kingdom for a few years now. This looks great, has awesome action and great characterization. A superb jumping on point, plus Bruce and Damian sliding down poles to the Batcave (corny, but it works) and Bruce reminding us why he set the password to the Cave as 10:48 on the grandfather clock entrance (that was the time his parents died).
Batman: The Dark Knight
This is kinda what a Batman book should be like, and it has an Arkham Asylum video game feel to it. Bruce Wayne should be the James Bond of the superhero world, with nice suits, pretty girls everywhere he looks and dangerous threats, all while looking good. This does that.
Greg Capullo’s art looks differently than what I remember from the brief Spawn art I’ve seen form him, but it does have a lively, fresh approach. Batman comics always work best when they include the greatest supporting cast in superhero comics, and here we have all the Bat lads with some great characterization, plus a double page spread of the Batcave, Someone wants to kill Bruce Wayne, and Dick Grayson (Nightwing) could be a killer. That’s enough of a hook.
Having fond memories of Nightwing from when Chuck Dixon wrote this original Robin’s first solo series, this looks good, thanks to Eddy Barrows. I’m doubtful over how entertaining the Dick revisiting his circus roots angle will be, and the red replacing the usual blue in his costume just reminds me of Chris O’Donnell in 1997’s Batman and Robin film. Not a good thing.
DC’s longest running series now seem s like the ill-fated All Star Batman and Robin series, with agruff, unlikeable Dark Knight. Tony Daniel has improved greatly as both a writer and artist, and this issue is purposely dirty and grimy. It reminds us that Gotham is a dark, scary place. Batman’s relationship with Joker and Commissioner Gordon are handled well, but the extreme facial surgery of the Clown Prince of Crime seems a bit over the top, though I’m sure many will be back to see what happens next.
This series has been a surprising hit for both readers and critics. No-one really expected a new, red headed, lesbian Batwoman to make a splash, but most of that is thanks to artist J.H Williams III. He along with writer Greg Rucka gave Kate Kane the biggest impression in the 2009-10 Elegy series. Williams is back here, now co-writing with W. Haden Blackman. It’s still the most eerie, and stylistically brave of the Batbooks, and Williams continues to impress with his unique art style, or art styles, as his more lush and fluid approach with Batwoman, and standard approach with her alter ego, works a treat. Plus, it’s good to see Agent Chase return to the DCU.
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Arsenal, the former sidekick of Green Arrow just seems to attract contoversy. From former drug addict to now starring in the issue that has received the most boos and hisses of all the 52. That’s not his fault though, as the female alien and former Teen Titan Starfire is reinvented as a sexual dynamo, who likes to sleep around, and can’t even remember all the men with whom she has. DC shouldn’t have been shocked at the huge backlash this new characterisation received, even if they try and explain it away as an alien unfamiliar with human sexuality, Plus, blaming shocked readers for not reading the T for Teen rating on the cover doesn’t help. It’s the smallest text on the cover! However, with Red Hood (the former bad boy Robin Jason Todd) teaming up with Starfire and Arsenal – now that’s an interesting trio, and Kenneth Rocafort’s art is dynamite. I’m dubious to give this another chance, but the art might just win me over.
And here we have another mis-step of handling a much loved female character. We hardly see Selina Kyle fully clothed in these pages, but like the series above, the art is a winner, thanks to Guillem March. Catwoman has always been an interesting character, but having her rubbing spandex with Batman in the final scene sets a bad precedent for DC superheroines.
Birds of Prey
The series that was always awesome back in the day (ie, in the ’90s) still has Black Canary, but now she’s joined with Katana, Posion Ivy, and Starling. One of the original Birds, Barbara Gordon shows up and has a chat with Canary and there’s an intriguing mystery with a Gotham Gazette reporter which weaves throughout a sort of origin of the group, although the gang’s not all here in this debut. A good mix of action and characterisation, and finally, some mostly covered supergals done right.
This title also proves it and having fan fave (and long running Birds) writer Gail Simone wnet a huge wya to helping fans accept that Barbara Gordon was no longer the crippled, super hacker Oracle and was returning to her Batgirl persona. I’m not a fan of this new costume, but this is an obvious push to see Babs in her own life, with a new apartment, new supporting cast and new villains. Babs mentions her crippling at the hands of the Joker (seen in the classic The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland) so it’s good to see that it’s still in continuity and that it effects the psychology of her character. Her dad, the Gotham commish shows up, there’s a great action scene in a hospital cliffhanger and you jsut know she’s going to have a future run in with her new roomie, an “activist.”
And now for a few random ones…
It’s kind of good to see artists doing their own writing at DC now (apart from the embarassing Batman: Odyssey from Neal Adams), so here we have Francis Manapul doing both. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Silver Age Flash Barry Allen, but this is largely unchanged since Geoff Johns revived him a few years ago. Like Batwoman, there’s great page design and sense of kinetic energy, and Barry’s new ring that fits the red costume onto him in pieces is cool. I do miss Wally West though.
The first cab off the rank in late August. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are the main guys who spearheaded this whole thing, so putting them both on DC’s best known superteam makes sense. Us fanboys have seen it all before though and it’s just another good looking origin story.
There’s lots of blood and chopped up mythical creatures and Wonder Woman changes in to her awful costume in front of a starnger. Another misfire.
DC’s most mocked hero in our world and his apparently. Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis brought the magic to Green Lantern and here they do their best to make the Atlantean king a bored superhero who doesn’t care what us silly land walkers think about his supposed lameness. This vaguely reminded me of Peter David’s defining run on the character in the ’90s in that its making him one tough superhero, and it makes me happy to see him with Mera again, because even superheroes/undersea rulers need love too. Hopefully this series will turn Aqua-doubters into Aqua-fans.
Embarassing costumes, unappealing art. Bland.
There’s a slew of GL titles for your fave ring slinger, but this series focuses on Sinestro, who is now begrudgingly a Green Lantern (not a yellow one) again, and a ring-less, earth bound and frustrated Hal Jordan. Both men want answers, and so do I. With that Johns guy again and one of my fave artists Doug Mahnke, I’m on board for this one.
Men of War
The struggle of living up to the huge legacy of his relative Sgt. Rock, and ordinary soldiers fighting the supervillains of the DCU are two cool concepts for a series. Sadly, this debut doesn’t do much with either idea. It’s filled with lots of military (and explained) acronyms though, so it probably fills the gap of ‘Nam and Semper Fi. War comics aren’t really made anymore, so this could act as a good “in” for those who prefer soldiers to spandex.
A good thumbs up to diversity is this horror title, forgotten from its debut years ago. Joshua Hale Fialkov’s script gets to the undead heart of the complicated relationship between Andrew and Mary and Andrea Sorrentino’s art is a thing of gothic beauty, which looks like Jae Lee’s spooky renderings. Yes, there’s still some life in vampire tales.