Monday, September 26, 2011

Comics I Read: DC New 52 Week 3


Only twelve books this week because Justice League is a Week 3 book and it was released early. Several of my favorite artists had books out this week, so say what you will about this week's titles -- and there's a lot to say about some -- for me based just on overall art quality this was the best New 52 week yet.

Batman #1: Best overall book of the week. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo sold me on this in Baltimore, as I've mentioned before, but it was better than even I was expecting. There's a sense of humor in the writing that I didn't anticipate -- Snyder was really intense in person -- and Capullo really knocked it out of the park with the art. I assume it's not a coincidence that the ending of this issue is similar to Nightwing's, although neither ending quite makes sense if the other one comes first so maybe not.

Birds of Prey #1: Putting aside how much I miss the previous version, I thought this was a pretty good start. With Babs out of the picture (for now), it makes sense that Dinah is the one putting the team together. I have mixed feelings about Starling: it's good to have new female characters, but it feels odd that Black Canary has a new best friend. (So far, I still prefer Swierczynski's novels to his comics. I highly recommend his current book, "Fun and Games".)

Blue Beetle #1: For arguably one of the most mainstream recognized characters, thanks to TV appearances on Smallville and The Brave and the Bold, a fresh start. It's not a reboot in the sense that Beetle is still Jaime Reyes attached to an alien scarab, but we're starting over at the beginning. (And it's questionable whether there have been any previous Blue Beetles, which is probably for the best.) Tony Bedard makes an interesting choice by revealing the alien origins of the scarab, which is something the original series waited a long time for, right at the top. The other half of the issue introduces us to Jaime and his friends & family before his first encounter with the scarab. It's easily as good as the original series so far, and in another week I might say that Ig Guara (yes, the "Pet Avengers" artist) delivered the best-looking book but the competition was really tough in this week's batch.

Captain Atom #1: I liked J.T. Krul's new take on Captain Atom much better than his Green Arrow. He pretty much completely reinvents the characters powers: the old version was a man in a crunchy candy shell, and this one seems like more of a pure energy being with some Firestorm-like powers. (Given the ending to this issue, that may change.) The story flowed really well, although I didn't get the timer motif at all, and I'm interested to know more. I loved Freddie Williams' new character design, and the look of the book overall.

Catwoman #1: This started well, with some fun scenes and dialogue by Judd Winick and great art by Guillem March. Then about halfway through she suddenly gets very violent, which shouldn't be Selina's thing, and then Batman shows up and things get, um, inappropriately sexy. I'm not against sex in comics done well -- for f--k's sake, the characters in Secret Six used to jump into bed all the time, and see also these pages from the Wolfman/Perez Titans -- but the scenes here were just ugly and icky. (Made worse IMO by the fact that Selina & Bruce don't know each others identities anymore.) As retailer Brian Hibbs said in his review
"...let’s deal with the sex thing first: I don’t care if Bruce and Selina have sex… and I generally expect that they do quite often. I don’t really need to see it, though, and if I do, I really don’t need to see it in all of it’s stroky, frotagey, half-costumed glory...But here you go: would DC editorial EVER let the reverse of that scene happen in a comic book featuring Batman’s name on the cover? Especially in the first issue of a major repositioning? And since that answer is almost certainly “no”, this automatically becomes an inappropriate scene."
Here are some examples of this kind of thing done better, and an analysis from Bleeding Cool's Andrew Wheeler who's more outraged than me -- I'm more bothered by the crudeness of the execution than the idea itself -- but still makes some good points. I'd buy a light caper book starring Selina like the first half of this book, but the second half really put me off.


DCU Presents #1: Not really sure what the point of doing this as an anthology title instead of a series of miniseries is, but I really liked the slight reinvention of Deadman as a means for Boston Brand to become a better person in the long run instead of just being obsessed with his killer. (I wonder if this is the take the proposed TV series is planning?) I honestly can't remember the last work of Paul Jenkins that I read ("Mythos" maybe?), but I liked his writing here more than in recent memory. As opposed to Eddy Barrows in Nightwing, Bernard Chang manages to pull off some inventive layouts here without being confusing.

Green Lantern Corps #1: Liked this. Guy and John Stewart make a good partnership, and I liked the looks at why they can't have civilian lives anymore. There's also a decent attempt at explaining how the Corps works for new readers. (But how are the rings automatically finding replacement Lanterns with Mogo gone? Or did that get resolved and I just forgot?)

Legion of Super-Heroes #1: This is pretty much the same book as before, so you already know if you like it or not. Which is fortunate, because they're not exactly inviting new readers. (The ending depends on knowing what a Daxamite is, for instance, although I suppose technically you could figure that out from Mon-El's ID caption.) There's a bit of a gap between the last volume and this one, during which the (unseen) events that led to Legion Lost happened -- from the 31st century POV, it seems that the Lost Legionnaires are presumed dead and time travel is broken -- and some of the Legion Academy graduates from the Adventure series have joined. Adding the younger characters is a smart choice, letting Paul Levitz do both youth-oriented stuff and still draw on the long history of the Legion. (But again with the "Flashpoint effect"...how could they possibly know that name?)

Nightwing #1: Very good. Feels very much like the old series, with the addition of the lessons Dick learned from being Batman. Bringing in his old circus for contrast with his new life was smart, and fleshes out Dick's past some more for new readers. I still think the costume with the blue highlights looks way better than this red one, and Nightwing is a little more brutal than I would like, and sometimes Eddy Barrows' page layouts are a little confusing, but these are minor complaints.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1: I liked this more than I expected to, sort of. Scott Lobdell writes Jason Todd and Roy Harper with an easy and fun chemistry ("The only reason I’m here is ’cause if anything happens to you–that would make me the worst former sidekick ever."). Even though the exposition slows things down a lot in the middle, I'm interested in what happens next. I could live without the ditzy sexpot characterization of Starfire, however. (Though I am thrilled I got to use the word "sexpot" in a sentence.) Laura Hudson did an impassioned critique of that aspect of this book and Catwoman at Comics Alliance, which again is way more intense than my opinion but still worth considering. Kenneth Rocafort is a favorite of mine, and he contributes another great-looking book to this week's stack.

Supergirl #1: Very much a first chapter, but I like what we see of Kara so far. It's a nice touch that she doesn't know English yet, and the bit where her new super-hearing lets her hear bits of dialogue from some of the other #1 issues was clever. (I guess we're off the notion that Kryptonian powers take a long time to build up under a yellow sun, because Kara's are in full force almost immediately. I can hear John Byrne shaking his fist from here.) Thanks to Mahmud A. Asrar, this is probably the third best-looking book in a week with extremely high art standards.

Wonder Woman #1: The great Cliff Chiang delivered the best-looking book of the week. (But not by much, Mahmud A. Asrar's Supergirl and Greg Capullo's Batman also look terrific.) I wasn't that engaged with the story until Diana showed up, and then I felt the book really came alive. Otherwise, not much to add to Mike's review. This one's a keeper. That said, retailer Hibbs makes the point that if you wanted to hand this book to an 8-year old girl -- and there's an argument to be made that you should be able to do that (with Supergirl too) -- it's a little too graphicly violent for that.

I'll get back to more writing about Marvel next month, but I can't resist mentioning not only how well Mark Waid has rehabilitated Daredevil but that with #4 he's somehow for the first time made it a compelling legal drama as well as a superhero drama. (Not to mention the artistic genius of Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin.) Easily my favorite Marvel book at the moment, and that's saying a lot.

I also wanted to love IDW's Star Trek #1, the first original series following the characters from the J.J. Abrams reboot movie. (A similar situation to the DC New 52, now that I think about it.) But they inexplicably decided to adapt the second original 60's Star Trek TV pilot as their first story, which I think is such an astonishingly bad idea that I can hardly process it. I kept thinking they were going to throw in some clever twist, but it basically follows the original script like a slow-motion train wreck. Have whatever opinion you want about the new DC books, but at least they didn't do scene-for-scene remakes of 1930's Action #1 & Detective #27.

As usual, only one DC book that violently disagreed with me this week, although I probably won't wind up following some of the marginal ones. Liked best this week: Batman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Blue Beetle. Most looking forward to next week: All-Star Western, Aquaman, Flash, Firestorm.

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