Comics I Read: DC New 52 Week 4

I thought the final week of new DC books was a good one. Again, the art is incredible across the board, and I have to shout out to all the colorists as well. A lot of these books rely on a specific color palette to really make the art pop, and the results show there's a lot of thought being put into that.

All-Star Western #1: No matter what Jimmy Palmiotti says, this isn't the same "Jonah Hex" book. It's the same Jonah Hex character, and I liked the addition of the urban Gotham setting, of Amadeus Arkham as the psychologist who finds Hex defies analysis, and the lush art of Moritat ("Elephantmen", "The Spirit"). However, I know of at least one fan of the previous series who didn't like the changes. Personally, I'm looking forward to more, plus the upcoming backups by other great creators. (This is a $3.99 book because it has extra pages.)

Aquaman #1: Really great, and surprisingly subtle. Ivan Reis' art isn't flashy here (though he's certainly capable of that), but so much of Geoff Johns' script depends on Aquaman giving the right look to somebody and Reis' faces are just perfect. I think this would be a mainstream hit, if there was a way to get people to read it. Easily my favorite of the three books Johns is writing. (I'm "hooked"! HA!)

Batman: The Dark Knight #1: I haven't read any issues of this since the previous #1, but it doesn't look like you need to know anything from that run. David Finch's Batman still looks great, but I'm still not into the writing (even with help from Paul Jenkins). Like Detective, this ends with a change to an existing Bat-villain that can't possibly stick. Nothing particularly wrong with this book, but no compelling reason IMO for it to exist either.

Blackhawks #1: My "meh" book of the week. Basically Mike Costa was hired to create a G.I. Joe/SHIELD hybrid, which he delivered competently (down to the nicknames) but I didn't care much about anybody in it. Which, given that Costa's "Cobra" from IDW grabbed me immediately, is not a good sign. (I've only read the "Cobra" issues that Christos Gage was involved in, but I'm told the issues Costa wrote on his own are just as good.) Nice to see artist Graham Nolan back in mainstream comics, though. (Well, arguably, the Phantom newspaper strip is more mainstream but you know what I mean.)

Fury of Firestorm #1: A complete reimagining of one of my favorite characters, which I'm fine with because the previous pairing of Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond didn't work for me because the jock vs. genius dynamic was messed up by the fact that Ronnie was an experienced superhero. I liked both Ronnie & Jason here, and I'm glad that Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver aren't afraid to go into the racial tension between them. This is another book that depends heavily on "acting", and Yildiray Cinar nails those scenes as well as the big superhero stuff.

Flash #1: I knew this would look gorgeous, and it sure does -- the double-page splash is especially awesome -- but the question was could Francis Manapul write? It turns out he can. (Yay!) I really liked the story that Manapul and co-writer (and colorist) Brian Buccelatto came up with. Loved this book before, and I still love it now. I have to admit, though, that I'm more upset that Barry & Iris aren't together than I am about Lois & Clark.

Green Lantern & The New Guardians #1: I thought spending the first few pages recapping Kyle Rayner's origin was an odd choice. Yes, he's the focal point of this book, but his origin is basically a guy in an alley giving him a ring, so I thought those pages could have been better used to explain all the ring colors. That said, I liked the mystery that Tony Bedard sets up and I look forward to seeing it resolved. Tyler Kirkham's art suits the book well; he can draw all the space stuff well, and there's a touch of whimsy in it too. (Like in Kyle's ring constructs.)

I, Vampire #1: This probably would have been the biggest surprise like of the New 52 for me, except that creators like Gail Simone have been praising it online for weeks. I'm kinda done with vampires in general, honestly, but I liked Josh Fialkov's love story and that he's not shying away from the fact that his vampires live in a world with Superman and the Justice League. Andrea Sorrentino, another name I'm unfamiliar with (according to his blog he's been drawing "X-Files" & "30 Days of Night"), provides some delightfully moody art. (Praise to the colorist here too.)

Justice League Dark #1: Another book that pros have been praising online for weeks, and I don't quite get why. I thought it was a good start, but I'm not blown away yet. Still, the conflict is interesting and there are a lot of great characters involved, so I'm in for the first story arc for sure. I can't find any previous credits for artist Mikel Janin beyond the "Flying Graysons" Flashpoint mini, but I really like his work here.

Savage Hawkman #1: Another reimagining, presumably because the previous Hawkman history was thought to be too confusing. Personally, I thought what Geoff Johns boiled it down to -- "Egyptian prince & princess continually reincarnated through time by alien technology" -- was clever and easy to understand, but whatever. The book isn't unsuccessful: I like Tony Daniel's writing much better here than in "Detective", and of course Philip Tan's art is really great. It's too bad we never got to see what James Robinson was planning; at least he's always trying something interesting even when it doesn't quite work (*cough* JLA). Anyway, I liked this enough to read an issue or two more, but I'm not in love with this yet.

Superman #1: There's a lot of story in this issue, but it's more about Metropolis than Superman. I'm not sure the casual reader will be as interested in the print-vs-online news debate as George Perez seems to be, but I liked it and I'm interested in all the new supporting cast. But I still don't feel I have a handle on who this new Superman is yet. (Clark Kent is a little more fleshed out, which is good, but there's still a lot to learn about him too.)

Teen Titans #1: I liked this a lot, actually. It suffers a little bit from the same complaint I had about Justice League #1 -- the whole team isn't in it -- but this isn't the flagship of the relaunch, so I think it works anyway. Tim Drake is well in character -- his "Look what you started, Bruce" moment is priceless -- and Brett Booth made the new Red Robin costume look much better here than it did in the pre-publication art. The concept works best if this is the first set of Titans ever, which the book implies it is, and we'll try not to think about how Nightwing can be the same character if that's true. (More on that later.) As predicted, the last page of this book is the same scene as the end of Lobdell's Superboy #1 but surprisingly from a different point of view.

Voodoo #1: Now here's a book that takes place entirely in a strip club, and yet I thought that was entirely appropriate for this character. Great story by Ron Marz, which I'm pretty sure is connected to "Grifter" (although the tie is pretty subtle so far). Sam Basri's characters are sexy without being oversexed, and he's able to do creepy when the story calls for it. The twist on the last page grabbed me for sure, and I liked this book enough that it even makes me want to go back and read all those Witchblade issues by these guys that I missed. The biggest pleasant surprise of the New 52, even though I was prepped to like it by Marz in Baltimore.


Dan DiDio has said on his Facebook page that it's been decided that there haven't been any Crisis events in the new DCU. His reasoning is good, but, really, you're just thinking about this now? (There's a reference to the original "Crisis" in Hawk & Dove #1, so this is definitely a new concept.)

I said to someone over the weekend that the one New 52 criticism that I started to agree with is that they should have gone "all in" and rebooted everything to avoid all this talk of what history still exists. Hearing what DiDio says now, though, I think it's less that and more that I'm bothered that between all the writer & artist changes and the fact that they didn't think through the timeline beforehand, it looks like they're figuring a lot of things out on the fly. (And yet, there are rumors of micromanagement as well.) In the real world, publishers, retailers and fans all need this relaunch to work, and it's a little scary that they're making it up as they go along. End of rant. In general, as you've seen, I'm pretty happy with the new books overall: this is more of a topic of discussion and not so much a major complaint. If this experiment is still a success six months from now, nobody will care about this minutia. (Thanks to DC Women Kicking Ass for the Facebook images; I have a friend request in to DiDio's page but it hasn't been responded to yet.)


My Marvel pick this week is Ultimate Spider-Man #2. I won't say that I actually like this book better without Peter Parker in it, because that would probably make my little fanboy heart implode, but let's just say it's damn close. Terrific stuff -- the scenes between Miles and his dad in this issue are both heartbreaking and inspiring -- and you can start #1 without knowing anything that went before. (Bendis & Mark Bagley's Brilliant #1 was also a great start.)

Favorites this week: Flash, Aquaman, Firestorm, All-Star Western. Looking forward to next week: Huntress (preview here), Avengers 1959.

If you're interested, you can go back and read my thoughts on the Week 1Week 2, and Week 3 books, and I'll be back soon with my list of titles I'm going to keep following plus a last look at the old DCU via "DC Universe: Legacies".


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