I’ve been reading/rereading a number of things this past week–Grant Morrison’s Supergods, the second and third volumes of Countdown to Final Crisis, and beginning Everett Emerson’s The Authentic Mark Twain–and part of my reading list has been the various first issues in DC’s New 52. Last week I wrote briefly about reading the first several issues in the relaunch, and since then I’ve been able to get to many of the others (and thanks to my latest shipment of comics arriving earlier this week). For the most part, I’ve been impressed with the relaunch and think that DC might have some success on their hands. At the same time, there are several titles that have left me cold, either because of some aspect of the execusion or because I just don’t have an interest in the title. Now all of the 52 are out, and although I don’t yet have those released on September 28th, I have all of the others. I haven’t yet gotten to everything leading up to this week’s releases–I’ve not turned to Birds of Prey, Legion Lost, and Suicide Squad–but I’ve read most. So here’s my take of those I’ve read in the first few weeks of release. Although I come to the comics in this relaunch as a reader and fan of many titles and characters–this is especially true of the Batman world, Superman, Swamp Thing, and Animal Man–there are some that I have no experience with, so I don’t bring the same kind of assumptions and baggage as I would to, say, the title Batman and Robin. Also, although I know most of the films that are adapted from these various characters/titles, I really don’t know the animated series and TV shows (e.g., Smallville and Lois and Clark) that perhaps some of the titles are at least partially, and possibly, culling from.
Justice League - This was DC’s maiden voyage, it’s first of the New 52, and I think it got everything off to a good beginning. I’ve seen some of the reviews out there criticizing the issue for being incomplete and not giving readers a “full” sense of the entire Justice League in this first issue, but I think that expectation is misplaced. Part of the strength of Justice League comics is seeing how its various members interact, the psychologies that go into the team. And with several high-profile members, expecting a submerssion into everyone is just unrealistic. I think that Geoff Johns did right to ease the readers into the “new” Justice League, letting us see the interplay between Batman and the Green Lantern, and then ending with a tease of Superman. And after all, don’t the writers want to frame the narrative so that the reader is impelled to come back for more? This title definitely piques my interest and has me wanting to come back for more. In other words, the new Justice League is definitely on my pull list for now.
Action Comics - High expectations for this one, especially since Grant Morrison is the writer. And it didn’t disappoint. Morrison is going back to some of the original concept of Superman, someone who combats corrupt bigwigs and criminals–realistic humans, no super beings or aliens (at least yet)–and fights for what’s right. Morrison’s extra added twist is the suspicion and paranoia surrounding Superman. The populace and the police aren’t sure what to make of him. This makes for some interesting drama. Even Lex Luthor is relatively down-to-earth and digestible. That’s good, since I am really not a fan of Luthor as supervillain.
Animal Man - I said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is one of my favorites of the New 52 so far. I was a fan of Animal Man from back when Morrison had the title, and I think that Jeff Lemire did an outstanding job of carrying on in the tradition that the Scotsman established (although not as off-beat). If I had a criticism, it’s Travel Foreman’s art. It really doesn’t do it for me. One of the reasons I really liked this book is that it had a Vertigo feel to it, and I’m partial to comics in the Vertigo imprint. ”The red”…the meat equivalent to Swamp Thing’s “the green”?
Batgirl - Good story, and Gail Simone did a great job of working around Barbara’s injury in The Killing Joke instead of ignoring it or wallpapering it. The trauma Barbara experienced is a gripping part of the drama, and I hope Simone continues to work with that past…as long as it doesn’t become tiresome.
Batwing - This one didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t a bad comic, but it wasn’t anything to really notice. I probably won’t continue with this one. And one thing I failed to notice when I first read this, but I heard about afterwards: there isn’t much background art in this comic, at least a background with any detail. What is up with that?
Detective Comics - Hot damn! What a great setup for this relaunch. This is one of the most gruesome and violent of the New 52 comics I’ve read so far, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve heard a few readers criticize this book because of the violence and how its maturity level is deceptive. Perhaps, and I guess this isn’t a comic that young readers should pick up (although, on the other hand, the book’s violence is what would lure young readers to it, I’d think). For me, it’s great. The Joker really helps to make this issue, but the real killer (so to speak) is the cliffhanger of an ending. The Dollmaker…damn, it’s enough to give you nightmares.
Green Arrow - This one’s okay, but it’s not enough to keep me coming back. The art was good, though. Never much of a Green Arrow fan just by himself. As part of ensemble, though, I’ve liked him.
Hawk and Dove - Another one I won’t be returning to. The original Hawk and Dove is good, but I’m just not impressed with this relaunch. Plus, Rob Liefeld seems too invested in drawing angry faces.
Justice League International - Although I probably won’t be reading this one on an ongoing basis–there’s only so much I can read and subscribe to–I liked this comic. Unlike the Justice League, this one was able to bring in all key players in the inaugural issue, and they did it without cutting corners or shortchanging anyone. Plus, it’s got Batman!
Men of War - As I wrote last week, this one was a particular disappointment in that I was expecting so much from it. Perhaps my expectations were just too high. I avidly read Sgt. Rock when I was a kid, it was one of my absolute favorites, and I was wanting something similar out of this relaunch. Not sure they have me on this title, but I’ll stick with it for now. A part of me wants the old Rock, but I know that would be problematic what with the change in times, the change in wars. And after all, there’s only so many times you can keep returning to World War II before it becomes a non-effective historical backdrop. Having a relative of Rock’s is one way of continuing the series. But why stick with a Rock. Why not use this war title in an ensemble way? I’d be more interested in a company of personalities more than I would with a relative of the original Sgt. Rock. Plus, what’s with the streaking red light as the men are parachuting down? Some kind of superhero, but who? And why was an injection of superheroes needed? Are the writers afraid a war comic couldn’t stand on its own without a little bit of the superhero genre? Again, I expected more from this title.
O.M.A.C. - The best thing about this issue was that the art reminded me of Kirby. Other than that, I have no strong feelings about it. It was okay, but it didn’t capture my attention. Probably won’t go on with it.
Static Shock - I really have no interest in this title, and because of this, the issue fell flat. The art was too cartoony–Scott McDaniel’s pencils are too predictable, like stuff I could find almost anywhere–and as a result, it seemed more “kid-like” when compared to the other titles. Plus, Virgil is too much like Peter Parker. If I want Spider-Man, I’ll read Spider-Man. With all due respect to the late Dwayne McDuffie, this is definitely a title I won’t be picking up next month.
Stormwatch - This one had me confused. This is largely due to the fact that I wasn’t knowledgeable of the Stormwatch team or the earlier title. But if part of the reason for this relaunch is to get new readers, wouldn’t you think they’d do more to not alienate the audience? Should this opportunity of a clean slate, so to speak, make them want to create a comic title that would bring in new readers, not confuse them? Maybe it’s me, but this one I can do without.
Swamp Thing - Much like Animal Man, outstanding! This one also has a Vertigo feel to it, although the inaugural issue gives us Superman. I haven’t yet read the Blackest Night or Brightest Day events, but I hear that this one kind of picks up from the Swamp Thing epilogue to Brightest Day. This makes me want to read all the comics in those events even more.
Batman and Robin - Good solid issue, and Peter Tomasi does a wonderful job of picking up where the Batman saga left off pre-Flashpoint. Now, instead of the tense dynamic between Dick and Damian, we have that between Bruce and Damian. But whereas Dick was able to put Damian in his place at times, Bruce seems to be more tolerant (at least for now) of his son’s smart mouth and disrespect. That will probably change over time. But the back-and-forth between Batman and the latest Robin is certainly dynamic and should carry this title. One question, though: who builds a swimming pool above a nuclear research facility?
Batwoman - A home run! J. H. Williams III returns to this character, and align with W. Haden Blackman, creates another effective story of Kate Kane. This issue has some of the best art of any of the New 52 I’ve read so far, and it’s not just the drawing style specifically. It’s also the composition and page layout, which Williams and Blackman use in interesting ways to tell the story. There are quite a number of two-page spreads in this single issue, and while this might have been cut down a tad, it still works well. Two comments on the visuals in this comic, especially as they relate to Kate Kane. That must be one hell of a sturdy costume Kane has developed, because every time she puts it on she gets an automatic bullet-bra look, not the same kind of sillouette you see when Kate is not in her suit. (I’m not complaining about that, of course.) The other thing is the white albino-like skin. Why does Kate have that? I went back to Batwoman: Elegy to see if she had it then, and she does. What, did she fall into a similar substance as did the Joker? I know that redheads tend to have very fair skin, but this is just too much.
Deathstroke - Pretty good, I liked this one, especially the twist at the end. But I probably won’t go on to continue with this title.
Demon Knights - I like Etrigan, but I’m not a fan of Medieval fantasy settings. It’s okay in some dosages, such as Lord of the Rings, but I wasn’t taken with the way it was used in this title. Plus, Etrigan doesn’t even rhyme in this one. What’s the point?
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. - I wasn’t sure about this one, but I really liked it. I read somewhere that this title was going for the Hellboy feel, and that makes perfect sense. It’s strange, otherworldly, filled with monsters, and involves a “hit team.” Also, I like Lemire’s writing, and I feel that Alberto Ponticelli did a great job with the art, which fit the tone of this title.
Green Lantern - Before now, I’ve not really been a fan of the Green Lantern family of comics. So this relaunch provides a good opportunity for me to jump on. And after all, wasn’t that part of the reason for the DC relaunch, to bring in new readers to many of their titles? I might continue with the Green Lantern-related titles. This one worked for me, and I feel that Goeff Johns did an effective job of bringing new readers on board of a series that, from what I hear, doesn’t really change much from its pre-Flashpoint storyline. And no, I didn’t get the issue with the supposed cover misprint.
Grifter - Okay, I guess. I found this particular issue compelling, but still, it’s a title that doesn’t strike my interests. Won’t continue with this one.
Mister Terrific - My reaction to this one is similar to that of Grifter. This individual issue is fine, and it’s a solid narrative. But the character is not one I have a history with, and this first issue hasn’t been enough to make me want to dedicate myself to following the title. I like Mister Terrific as part of an ensemble cast–as is the case with several other of these characters that have their own relaunched titles–but I don’t like him enough to follow him separately.
Red Lanterns - This title is to Green Lantern what Detective Comics is to Batman and Robin: bloody and violent by comparison. I like the comic, though, and I might go on to follow it. As I mentioned, I’m not really abreast of the Green Lantern family, so I might just be ignorant here: what’s with the parallel storyline of the dead English grandfather? I get that this is a story that illustrates the need for justice in the universe, but I can’t help but feel I’m missing something here.
Resurrection Man - This is another title I love, partly because it reminds me of the Vertigo imprint. The concept of coming back from the dead with new and unknown powers is compelling, and I’ll definitely continue with this title. I didn’t read the late 1990s Resurrection Man, also by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Reading this relaunch issue has me wanting to go back and do so.
Superboy - Not a bad first issue, and a good one when it comes to an origin story. Most of the issues in the New 52 aren’t origin narratives, which is good. Why start at the very beginning when you can effectively tell a story through the skillful use of exposition strategically placed? The concept of using Superboy for government experimentation is similar to the Superman Project in the Flashpoint event. Still, I probably won’t continue reading this title.
Batman - Another good Batman comic in the New 52. I thought that Scott Snyder’s story was great. In fact, I like a lot of the stuff that Snyder has been doing, beginning with the American Vampire series. But I wasn’t bowled over by the art of Greg Capullo. At time it’s fine, like the cover of this issue. But in other ways, it seems inappropriate. It seems too “innocent” or at least not serious enough for a Batman title. Maybe this is one reason why this Batman title was less dark than Detective Comics. That, and this one didn’t contain near as much violence. But like Detective, this has a great cliffhanger.
Blue Beetle - This one is definitely an origin story, so in that sense, if someone wasn’t familiar with the Blue Beetle character–and I was to some degree–he/she could pick up with no problem with this relaunch issue. The writing is okay, but I wasn’t impressed with Ig Guara’s art. Like Scott McDaniel and Static Shock, it just seems like so much of the art out there right now, simple and nothing special about it. I won’t be continuing with this title.
Captain Atom - Not bad, but again, I don’t really have an interest in this character…and the first issue, while enjoyable enough, didn’t do much to cause me to change my mind. And although I realize that Captain Atom was created before Doctor Manhattan, and that Alan Moore used the former to flesh out the latter in Watchman, I can’t help but compare the two characters, with Captain Atom coming up short.
Catwoman - And speaking of fleshing out…I’m sorry, but like many guys, I have a big thing for Catwoman. She’s a great character, and Judd Winick does a pretty good job with her in this issue. Will it be enough to sustain an ongoing series? We’ll see. I’ve read some criticism of this title, stating that this along with Red Hood and the Outlaws are two of the most egregious examples of female objectification found in much of the New 52. Perhaps. It is curious to note that Selina’s face (at least in its entirety) isn’t seen until page three of the narrative, and then that’s at a slant. It’s not until page four that we get a good closeup of her face. And even then she’s wearing a sexy pout or twist of the lips. In the panels leading up to this, we see various parts of her body–her cleavage and ass in tights being the most prominent–bit by bit. Hard not to argue what the creators of this comic see as Selina Kyle’s strongest selling points. I love her body, sure, but her character is what greatly adds to the allure.
DC Universe Presents - This one I really liked. It’s another origin story, but not the easy fallback kind. The DC Universe Presents title is supposed to be an anthology series, and this time the featured story surrounds Deadman. It’s a great story, and I like Bernard Chang’s artwork. But what will they do in the next issue of the comic? Will it continue with the Deadman story, or move on temporarily to another character? Guess I could check out Previews to see.
Green Lantern Corps - Another pretty good Green Lantern title, and I might continue with this one. As he did with Batman and Robin, Tomasi got my attention with this issue.
Legion of Super-Heroes - Of all the New 52 I’ve read so far, this is definitely the one that lost me. At least, I lost my patience reading it. If, I said before, part of the purpose behind the DC relaunch is to bring in and not alienate new readers, this title fails that test. I’ll admit that I really don’t know much about the Legion post-Zero Hour and that I have never watched the animated series, so I’m sure that’s contributing to my confusing. But reading this issue I had nothing but questions. The writers tried to take up that slack with what seemed an endless series of brief biography boxes, where characters were described when they first appeared, but that did nothing more than clutter the pages and really turned me off. I read the issue, but after the first few pages, I did so half-heartedly and without any desire to read deeper. This is definitely one I won’t be returning to.
Nightwing - I like Dick Grayson and Nightwing, so I guess I was predisposed to appreciate this title. And I did. It didn’t have the impact that some of the other Batman family titles had, but it was good enough.
Red Hood and the Outlaws - A so-so title. Not bad, but then again, nothing to compel me to continue reading it. I like Jason Todd well enough, since he’s a very conflicted character, and that makes for great drama. But I don’t sense the conflictedness in this issue. In fact, the most memorable part of this comic is Starfire, her orange and scantily-clad body, and her promiscuity. Maybe good for fanboys, but not enough for me to pick up issue #2.
Supergirl - Another competent issue, and another origin story. Or at least somewhat of an origin story, in that we really don’t know yet why Kara was sent to earth, or how. In that way, we’re in the same boat as she is, unsure what is going on as the action happens. There’s some of that hostility or suspicion of super beings that we see in Action Comics, and so that’s interesting. Superman showing up on the last page just underscores this, but it’s the Superman who has grown and is no longer the Grant Morrison’s man in jeans and a t-shirt.
Wonder Woman - Although Lynda Carter was perhaps the wet dream of my childhood–while everyone else had posters of Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith, I had mine of Lynda Carter in that knotted blue shirt and sexy bare midriff–I’ve never really been a Wonder Woman fan. Like the Green Arrow and several others, I’ve appreciated her more as part of an ensemble than as a character on her own. But I thought Brian Azzarello’s efforts here weren’t bad. I read the issue a couple of times, since upon first reading I found it a little busy and not immediately graspable, and I appreciate it. Still, as much as I like Azzarello’s work, I’m not sure I’ll continue with this title.
So there you go. My take on all but three of the New 52 released up to September 21. One thing I neglected to mention was the hooded female figure that is placed, almost like an Easter egg, in all of the issues. This is the same Harbinger-like figure we see in the last part of the last issue of Flashpoint, telling Barry about the existence of three different worlds. What role does she have in the new DC lineup, and how will her appearance possibly pull everything together? Guess I’ll need to keep reading to find out.