Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New 52: Week Four (wave 2)

Blue Beetle #1: I want to like the new Blue Beetle. The character, not just this title. I've enjoyed his appearances in other comics and I liked the one episode I've seen of Brave and the Bold that featured him. For some reason though I've just never connected with him. Unfortunately, that carried over into his new number 1 issue. Adding such a sci-fi feel to the book didn't do the concept any favors though. In fact, now I feel like this is DC's attempt at a Nova-style character, with a whole mass of scarabs out in the cosmos just flying around waiting to bestow power on unsuspecting teenagers.

Tony Bedard does a poor job with the writing of this book. Dialogue is awkward, characterizations seem off and at time even stereotypical and the story is boring and repetitive of other, better books. The art by Ig Guara, whose work I'd never encountered before, was lackluster at best. This was one of the weaker books out this week and I won't be picking it up again.

Captain Atom #1: The comic book science, and old fashioned feel of this book were just what I needed this week. I've always been a Captain Atom fan and though it seems doubtful that this book will have a long life, I'll be onboard until it's end if it maintains this level of fun. I like the Captain Atom in this book. He's stoic and serious as always but philosophical as well. Sort of the New DCs version of Silver Surfer.

This is the first book I've genuinely enjoyed by JT Krul since he wrote the Blackest Night Titans series. He's reeled in his tendency toward writing cloying dialogue and focused more on superheroics. The Freddie Williams II art was great too. I've enjoyed his work before, particularly on Justice Society All Stars. His style here has been changed up enough to separate it from his past pencil work but his characters still emote and "act". This guy is a great visual storyteller.

Again, this book was good. Surprisingly, it will make the jump to my pull list.

Nightwing #1: Nightwing is my favorite member of the extended Batman family. When I first got back into comics in the early 00's his title was one of the ones I got hooked on. This feels like a natural part of those Dick Grayson stories with a new cast, new setting (the old Nightwing title was set in Bludhaven) and a closer tie to the Bat books. It's a solid book, with an interesting story that gives some back story to Dick and his early life in the circus. Unfortunately, it's just "solid". I used to dig the sense of fun and adventure in a Nightwing book and those feel absent here.

However, I'll be adding it to my pulls. Kyle Higgins obviously has a plan for the book and title character and I have enough of an interest in the title character to stick around for a bit. The Eddy Barrows art is, again, solid. His linework is fine, his backgrounds are detailed and he has the ability to draw exciting action. Unfortunately there were some really awkward facial expressions on display here. That's nitpicking, given, but it was something I noticed.

DC Universe Presents Deadman #1: Paul Jenkins is such a spotty writer. Though he's written some great comics, he's also responsible for books like Sentry: Fallen Son. One of the worst comics I've ever read. One of his biggest faults has always been that he writes wordy books. How wordy? It took me at least 25 minutes to read this book. I realize when I'm shelling out 3 bucks for a comic spending more time on it might seem like a plus but, unfortunately, it's a dull book. Very little happened. Not only that but I feel like I've read this book before. It feels like something that Neil Gaiman or Allan Moore would have written far better in the 80's.

On the other hand I was really impressed by Bernard Chang's art and the dynamic cover that Ryan Sook did. Chang rests comfortable in that Darwyn Cooke cartooning camp but without the nostalgic tint that defines most of that ilk. His pencils are perfectly suited to this character, I just wish the writing could stack up to it. I'll be passing on this book unless I'm a fan of the next writer they bring on.

Green Lantern Corps. #1: Falling directly in line with previous continuity, this book doesn't feel like a number one issue at all. Not only does it do a poor job of introducing new readers to the Corps or the lead characters but it's boring to boot. Choosing to focus on Guy Gardner trying to find a job as a football coach, and John Stewart failing to keep a job as an architect rather than a more introductory or action-heavy story seems like a mistake to me.

Peter Tomasi has been working with these characters and concepts almost as long as Geoff Johns has. However, where Johns excels at concepts, character and dialogue Tomasi writes tends to buckle in those areas whenever he's writing these characters. The Fernando Pasarin art is fine, but there's very little to be said about it. He gets the job done.

If you love sci-fi or just the Green Lantern concept this is probably the book for you. After well over five years though, I'm burned out on this type of book. Pass.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1: Why was this book even relaunched? Taking place entirely outside the relaunched timeline (seriously, a character even refers to the Flashpoint time-change and the fact that it hasn't affected these characters or their universe) the story picks right back up where it ended before the new 52. And it's just not my thing. There are way too many characters, the writing is overflowing with exposition and the art is subpar. I've got nothing more to say about this.

Justice League #1 Team Review

Almost a month since it's release date we're finally ready to talk about Justice League. I remember posting a story about a Jim Lee/Geoff Johns JL title all the way back in 2009 so suffice to say this has been a long time coming. To review the book in as varied a way as possible I've enlisted the help of former co-hosts on the podcast, Jason Utes and Paul Shirley. Let's get to it.

What worked:

Seth: For me, the highlight of a good team book has always been about the interplay between the characters. Sure it's fun to see them crush massive enemies but I want to see some pithy banter exchanged between leads in between all that. In this first issue we get almost nothing but interplay. When it works, it's fantastic. By focusing on only two characters (Green Lantern and Batman), with a small section featuring Vic Stone (Cyborg) in the first issue, Johns was able to focus on setting up the world these characters inhabit and craft some really fun exchanges between Bats and GL.

The characters in this book are younger, less polished, and not necessarily the ones we know and love. Batman seems like more of a rookie than we've seen him in a long time. More the Year One Batman than the Hush version. Johns' portrayal of Green Lantern/Hal has drawn a lot of flack for being a cocky piece of crap. Frankly, I loved it. Especially after reading Green Lantern #1 and getting an idea of the character arc Hal is in for. Some times it's good to see a character evolve and I'm going to thoroughly enjoy that aspect of this book.

Jim Lee has helped to set the tone of the New DCU with this issue. Though a bit scratchier than some of his more recent work, it's still hyper detailed and beautifully rendered. Lee has always been one of the great action storytellers and he doesn't disappoint here. The opening shoot out on the roofs of Gotham was perfectly choreographed and even exciting. Alex Sinclair on colors does a fantastic job of adding atmosphere to the book as well.

Jason: I came to the DC game extremely late, so this entire relaunch business can, for me, be just as much of a “jumping off” point as it is a “jumping on” point for others.  It is a little bit frustrating for me that I was recently establishing a real feel for the context of the DCU and now I need to discard a lot of that.  Nonetheless, as a relatively new reader now being rendered a newcomer once again, I was entertained by this issue and remain interested enough to stay onboard for now.  This book has been pushed as DC’s “flagship” title for this relaunch, and thankfully, they seem intent on treating it as such- Lee’s pencils alone make this feel like an event.

Now, I’m known in some circles (and by some circles, I mean Seth) for having canned responses for everything.  I’m busy, and I don’t have time to saunter into your realm and bicker with you cretins about your funny books.  So in that spirit and in an attempt to not flat-out repeat everything Seth said (yet essentially repeat what I said in that paragraph up there…..I’m just intentionally wasting time and space here….). 

Paul: Did this issue work? Was it good? Did it meet expectations?... With all the "Dream Team" flak going on in pop culture this past year, trust me when I say this is the One team that I expect to meet expectations (unlike the Miami Heat who couldn't get the win, and the not-so-dreamy Philadelphia Eagles. And yes, I'm aware this is a comic blog). Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are a perfect fit for the Justice League. This first issue focused on easily two of the best characters in comics, Green Lantern (Hal) and Batman. I have no doubt that by the time Johns and Lee step off the book, there will plenty of critics complaining about this thing and that thing. If they didn't, what would they write about? But the fact is, we have a rare jewel in this creative team. Fans have been asking for this for AGES, and while I'm sure it won't be perfect in a nice little bow, it will undoubtedly be one of the most talked about, loved/hated series of the decade.

As for what works about this particular issue, I'll keep it short and sweet. I'm sending a digital high five to Seth for his points, for which I unanimously agree. As for Lee's art, let me say I loved it (wow, bet you didn't see that coming). I love his art anyway, but I was a little afraid I'd see Bats from Hush and Supes from For Tomorrow in here, and I didn't really want to. This is supposed to be new, fresh- the flagship for the new 52. I felt like everything about the art was just that: Jim Lee perfection meets subtle innovation. I mean come on, tell me you didn't love that last page with Superman's new "Kryptonian Armor"?

Johns conducted a fantastic story. He managed to do what many authors (with a few exceptions) have failed to do with this soft reboot: invite new readers with little previous knowledge. The GL/Bats banter is spot on, and I can already tell from issue one that these characters have so much more to show, with real personality and true depth. One more little thing I really enjoyed was the last line, Superman questioning Batman, "So... what can you do?" Heck yes, I can't wait to read Superman v/s Batman.

What didn't work:

Seth: Too much exposition sort of clogged up the works. Yes, I know we're establishing a brand new status quo here but some of the dialogue made me feel like I was being hammered with explanations for things. I guess it's admirable Johns didn't resort to narration balloons for everything but still, the dialogue in this issue was a bit spotty.

The only other complaint I have is with Superman's costume. It looks okay when drawn by Lee, but in every other book I've seen him in it nearly makes me want to toss it across the room in fear. A very minor complaint I know, and in all honesty, one not necessarily aimed at this book.

Jason: My complaints here are really just gripes due to my inability to suspend disbelief for the interest of story and character development.  I stand firmly on the side of those who believe Hal Jordan is being portrayed as a glowing green phallus.  I find nothing endearing about this character whatsoever, but I’m well aware they’re building him up to the point where his heart will grow three sizes- Then he’ll pull Superman’s head out of a kryptonite toilet and really bring the team together.

Meanwhile, we have a grown man in a batsuit pantsing muggers and getting in karate fights with helicopters on the evening news, but he’s managed to remain a myth to GL and completely unknown to Superman.  All I’m trying to suggest here is that if I had a magic ring and I heard rumors about BATMAN, I’d think myself up a flying green sandwich and investigate much sooner, if even for amusement.

If I’m being serious, I felt that some of the dialogue was a little painful.  Specifically, I felt like the jokes were a little bit reaching (HA!  Says THIS guy).  For a man who has seen multiple worlds, Green Lantern speaks like an Autozone employee, and Batman just shouldn’t be that playful.   Oh, and I was bored during the football game.

Paul: In case you haven't noticed, Seth is the level headed critical view, Jason brings the witty cynical aspect, and I tend to... well, be the naive fanboy. That being said, I'm going to try to give some valid criticism here. For one, I can see how some of the more drastic changes may scare people away. I hear the complaints concerning Hal's attitude, and I can see their validity for people that are unfamiliar with the character. Since he's one of my favorite characters, I'm excited about where his development is going, but I can definitely recognize that he may put off some readers. As for the Superman costume, I love it. However, I am afraid it may alienate age-old fans of Sups. And trust me, I'm right there with you all. I guess I'm just more excited about what's ahead, and trying not to dwell on what may be lost in translation. After all, this is the comics world, and anything is possible.

The one off-hand complaint I have concerns Batman's character. As Jason commented, if Green Lantern heard of Bats, he'd surely find out if it was true, right? Perhaps. What is more difficult for me is the fact that Batman wasn't well-versed on Green Lantern. Well, maybe not that he wasn't "well versed," but rather that he was rather skeptical. I realize that this Batman is a bit "green behind the gills," but the Bruce Wayne I know makes it his business to have this kind of knowledge. I love the idea of these fresh-off-the-press heroes, but this felt a little strange to me.


Seth: This was the book that introduced us to the new 52 and I'd say it did it's job. It seems like a very workmanlike issue in a way. It's not interested in flashy action or a giant set piece. It introduces us to a couple of our leads, and sets about putting the band together. The art is wonderful, the action that is here is kinetic and fun and the interplay between the leads is interesting.

I've heard the book bashed for being decompressed but I don't think that's the case. It's setting things up and it does so in a way that seems reminiscent of Bendis' early work on Ultimate Spider-Man. I think that works and it doesn't throw too much out there that would overwhelm a new reader. I believe it's a great introductory issue and honestly believe it's only going to get better from here.

Jason: I liked this issue.

As far as keeping completely new readers for the long haul, I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to pan out.  Certainly, there was an explosion of new readers (and thanks to that the “New 52” has only been the “New 2” for me thus far, because I was too busy to update my pull list), but I’m fairly certain if you were just some gluehead who got caught up in the hype you won’t be sticking around.  This crap’s expensive.  If you were a Marvel fan with a sincere interest in checking out DC, this book should hold your interest at least through this arc.

Paul: I have looked forward to this issue for months, and even years before it was announced. This is the team we've always wanted, and now we have it. Was it the best single issue ever?... No. Was it great? Well, I thought so. This issue has spiked my interest in a way that I haven't felt since Morrison's run on Batman and Robin. I know one thing, when next month's releases roll around, I'll be rushing to my comic store for my pulls the morning JL #2 arrives. (By the way, did anyone else notice our Superman colors?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Plea to the Nerd Population of Planet Internet

Another day another internet-spawned, DC related controversy. What has raised the hackles of the angry masses this time? Apparently an issue of Catwoman and an issue of a terrible little comic called Red Hood & the Outlaws. Both books have been taken to task over their portrayal of women. Most seem to agree that the books are objectifying it's heroines and some are going so far as to claim it's another example of DC misogyny.

I'll quickly lay my cards on the table and state that Red Hood & the Outlaws is a bad book. Its poorly written, and if not for the art would probably go down as one of the worst I've read in years. The misogyny that fanboys and fangirls are pointing toward comes in the form of one of the main characters' (Starfire) promiscuous nature and panel after panel displaying her in various, absurd poses while wearing next-to-nothing. It's exaggerated to the point of parody and does nothing to help the poor characterization, lame dialogue, and dull plotting of the book.

However, the poses, and attitude of Starfire (which is, already, a ridiculous sentence that really displays the irony of how "serious" this argument has become) are pretty much in keeping with the way the character has been portrayed for at least the last 8 or so years. For further proof of this refer to 52 wherein she ran around literally naked half the book. Starfire is just one of those characters who has been locked into this sort of fanboy-pandering characterization. It's nothing new. I don't condone it, and being a stodgy old man I don't really approve of it, but it's nothing new.

The same holds true for Catwoman. Honestly, I can't quite figure out why people are targeting this book in the first place. Catwoman has always been a sultry character who slinks around in tight leather and has a relationship with Batman. It's silly to even begin to act like this book has shown the character in some sort of unspeakable display of misogyny. It hasn't. The art, the poses, and the characterization (I'm using that word a lot) of Selina as shown in this book are perfectly in line with the 90's Chuck Dixon series, and her recent appearances in Batman Inc. I'd even go so far as to say her appearance in that book was even more cheesecake than what is seen of her here.

So why is everyone up in arms?

As near as I can tell, nerds just want a cause. Something to rant against. This was evident earlier this year when DC was first hit with the "misogyny" label over their supposed lock-out of women creators. People rushed to slam DC for their "blatant sexism" ignoring facts such as that there are generally very few women superhero comics creators. Look across the market ladies and gents, there is a very small group of female superhero comics creators. This isn't to say there aren't women writing and drawing comics. Indeed some of my favorite creators are ladies. Maybe DC didn't do enough to hire women, maybe it did. To this day I find it very hard to believe that DC went out of it's way to lock women out of the creative process. It makes little to no sense.

None the less, that was the fanboy cry. Blog posts were written, site coverage was given, heck Dan Didio and Jim Lee issued a statement declaring their commitment to diversity.
The funniest thing about this whole outcry was that everyone was more than happy to rant and rave about the problem but no one was able to offer a solution. Did the nerds writing blog posts offer up suggestions for ways to integrate more women into the mainstream superhero market? Nah, that would interfere with the time spent "borrowing" other writers arguments against DC and claiming them as their own. Or it would have cut into the time spent spouting off meaningless data read on twitter. I'm looking at you, guy-who-asked-Dan Didio-about-the-percentage-of-women-creative-at-Comic Con.

It's easy to whine, rant, and moan about perceived problems but actually takes thought and original ideas to come up with solutions.

So now we're onto the Starfire/Catwoman controversy. DC-gate. I'm not sure who first pointed out the Starfire one but whoever went after Catwoman needs to read more than one comic staring the character before attacking the book and DC in general. The amount of articles now written about this single issue of a comic that portrays the title character perfectly in keeping with prior continuity is one of the most blatant examples of the hive-mind that is internet comics fandom I've ever seen.

I spent some time last night reading an article on Comics Alliance about this subject written by their leader, Laura Hudson. It's a well-written piece about the misrepresentation of female characters in the DC relaunch. Of course it ignores strong female characters like Batgirl, Wonder Woman and the Birds of Prey but hey, she's on her soapbox and she can write well and expresses some valid points. If you read the comments section of said article though it's a different story. Essentially you have 1000+ comments echoing (occasionally word-for-word) what Laura said or exclaiming how right she is in her views. Those poor few who post to voice their disagreement are met with derision, or, of course, accusations of being misogynists, pigs, inbred hillbillies, or uneducated dolts.

I didn't read a single comment that offered a valid point that would have bolstered Laura's post. Heck, to be honest most of the people who posted to argue AGAINST her weren't really making any valid points. It's instead a maelstrom of uninformed opinion, blatant plagiarism, or name calling.

Listen, I'm not on the side of displaying women in a misogynist manner or objectifying anyone. Heck, I'm sort of a prude when it comes to this stuff. But come on, nerds (of which I am one) try and come up with some original thoughts. Inform yourselves. Don't quote meaningless numbers that you read on twitter. Don't shout misogyny as soon as you hear someone else do it. For the love of all that's holy... LEAVE THE HIVE. It's okay to have opinions contrary to those held by your favorite comics news site. It's okay to disagree with that one guy you follow on twitter. It's okay to actually make some statements that aren't regurgitated from an article or blog post you just read.

I'm not taking the creative teams side on their portrayal of Starfire but I am asking you why you're so dead set against or for them. Do you even know?

Friday, September 23, 2011

DC New 52: Week Four (wave 1)

One more week to go...

Birds of Prey #1: When I first got back into comics in the early 00's Birds of Prey was one of the first books I added to my pull list. It ended up being one of the few books I stuck with all the way through. When written by Gail Simone it was a blast. Anyone else (Chuck Dixon excluded) just didn't seem to know what to do with the book. Thankfully, Swierczynski doesn't seem to have a problem. He's writing a new version of the team but his first issue is strong enough to give me hope that BoP will stay on my pull list for the foreseeable future.

Of course it's a very different team, with only Black Canary returning, but it's still got the mission-oriented, spunky heroines thing going. The opening issue doesn't do much beyond introduce a couple of the main characters, and start gathering the team but it also sets up an interesting story. It's also great to see Saiz back on a book like this. I've loved his stuff since his days on Manhunter and, again, he doesn't disappoint.

Catwoman #1: Having loved Brubakers work with this character the bar was set pretty high for this book. It didn't completely botch the job but this opening issue was middle-of-the-road for me. The Guillem March art is the high point and if it wasn't for that aspect of it I'd probably take a pass on buying another issue. It's a fairly standard Catwoman story, feeling as much a part of the previous series as anything Will Pfeifer wrote after picking up the reins from Brubaker on it. I'm sitting here trying to even remember anything about the story that stood out and I can't. So... I'll probably pass on adding this to my list. Maybe I'll pick up the second issue and see if it improves but for an opening issue this was tepid at best.

Wonder Woman #1: A fantastic opening issue here, courtesy of Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. Having enjoyed runs with this character by Greg Rucka and Gail Simone, and even George Perez I was aware that the idea that she's impossible to write was a misconception. Borrowing some of the best aspects of prior runs, and adding a new, startlingly dark tinge Azzarello has crafted an interesting take on Princess Diana that, though seen before, feels new and modern. Best of all, they've taken a character whose world at times can seem inaccessible and made it perfectly understandable. Sure we it's only an opening issue so we aren't into the mythological aspects of the character yet but this serves as a perfect set-up for Wonder Woman and her world.

I haven't said enough about Cliff Chiang's artwork. It sets a dark, atmospheric tone and his ability to draw perfectly executed, understandable action sequences is part of the books success. I really can't think of another artist who I'd rather see drawing this book. This is going on my list.

Supergirl #1: Again, a surprise. I've never had an interest in the character of Supergirl. I'd go so far as to say that I find her dull, repetitive and unnecessary. However, if this title can maintain the level of quality on display in the first issue they may just bring me around. Though little more than one extended action sequence this issue does a good job of setting up Kara, and making us feel for her. The fact that she doesn't seem to know about the death of her parents on Krypton makes our knowledge of it work in favor of the character. She's easy to sympathize with and instantly propels her beyond being simply Superman's cousin.

The writing team of Green and Johnson did a solid job here. As stated, they manage to make us care about a character who has always been a little unrelatable. The real story here is the art. I'm not just talking about Mahmud Asrar's pencils (they're gorgeous by the way) but the colors by Dave McCaig perfectly suited them. There were panels at the beginning that almost looked like watercolor that served the early pages of this issue perfectly. Asrar is someone to watch out for apparently. His work here reminds me of Mark Bagely... only, in all seriousness, I think I preferred this to what I've seen from Bagely lately.

Much to my surprise I'll be adding this one to my pull list.

Red Hood & the Outlaws #1: This book is really not good. At all. Like a couple other books released as part of the new 52 it seems to exist in the 1990's, and not in a good way. The book is full of bad-boy posturing, cheesecake stabs at being provocative that instead come across as fanboy fantasy fiction, and clumsy dialogue. The story starts with Red Hood busting Arsenal out of prison and I can't for the life of me recall any other elements about the story. There are a few awkward pages where Starfire skanks around in a swimsuit and Jason and Roy have a weirdly frat-guy attitude. Other than that I couldn't tell you anything about the book because it's just so forgettable.

Rocaforts art is the only aspect of the book that isn't terrible. Scott Lobdell, after writing a decent issue of Superboy last week, has put himself firmly on my writers-to-beware-of list. I'll be passing on this title.

Batman #1: I saved the best for last, so allow me to gush for a few moments. Scott Snyder's run on Detective Comics was the one of the best Batman stories of the last few years and seeing him continue to work with the character and the world he inhabits was one of the things that excited me most about this relaunch. Here he's continuing to flesh out not just Bruce Wayne, Batman, and the major supporting cast but the lesser characters and the city they inhabit as well. Gotham has never seemed like such a real, authentic place before.

As an opening issue this works perfectly, serving as an introduction to the cast for new readers, while continuing to build on a larger story set in motion over a year ago on Detective Comics. There's action, mystery and a few really great character beats here.

On the art side of things, Greg Capullo draws frantic, choreographed action better than anyone. His panels seem to have real movement to them, and his layouts are perfect. Best of all, this is a comic where people seem to actually EMOTE rather than just standing around with dead eyes and blank expressions.

Taken as a whole these parts all add up to the best comic released this week and probably the best of the New 52 thus far. Between Detective and Swamp Thing Scott Snyder seems to be leading the charge in terms of great writing. Obviously, this made my pull list cut.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New 52: Week 3 (wave 2)

Grifter #1: I don't know anything about this character but I always had an interest in him. Probably due to the mask and the fact that he duel-wields pistols. This was my first time reading a book about Grifter and I have to say, I enjoyed it. It moved a bit slow but it's also an origin story which, for me, is perfect since I know nothing about him.

The pencils by CAFU (what the heck is with the one word names?) are dynamic and Nathan Edmondson did a fine job on the scripting. If I had a problem with the book it's that the main character, currently seems to be a direct rip-off of Sawyer from Lost. I imagine that will change as the story progresses though. I'll pick up issue two at any rate.

Legion Lost #1: Oh man... this was BAD. It's a shame because I like the creative team but I have nothing good to say about this book. Only a tiny portion of my distaste for it can be credited to my general lack of interest in these characters. I've liked some of Fabian Nicieza's work in the past (particularly his Thunderbolts stuff) but this is like trying to decipher the mad ramblings of... well, a bunch of superhero time travellers. I had a hard time following what was happening from panel to panel let alone identifying which Legion character was which.

And poor Pete Woods. This is such a far cry from the fantastic pages he drew on Action Comics that it's hard to believe they're both drawn by him. He goes for a rounder, more cartoony look this time around and it ends up just generic. I won't be adding this to my list. Obviously.

Mister Terrific #1: It strikes me that most of the books I'm talking about today weren't very good. I didn't plan it this way, I guess the first half of last weeks books were just higher quality than the second half. I hated this book. Like Legion Lost it's bad. Mr. Terrific, though, is bad due to a boring story, dull characterization and lackluster art. Eric Wallace also seems to be giving JT Krul a run for his money in the terrible dialogue department. Gugliottas work is okay. It just sort of sits there on the page and doesn't do anything to help overcome the poor writing.

I should say, while I'm a fan of Mister Terrific as a member of the Justice Society, I don't feel like he's a character who can sustain a solo series. I love him as the field leader of a team, and the way he interacts with other characters. Taken from the team book setting we're left with another rich dude who also happens to be a superhero. We've got enough of those. I won't be giving this a second try.

Red Lanterns #1: When they teased this book at the Green Lantern panel at C2E2 I leaned over to my friend and said "that doesn't sound like a book anyone really needs". Sure enough, it's not. Opening with a two page splash of everyone's favorite blood-vomiting cat, Dex Starr, Red Lanterns #1 is all sound and fury signifying nothing. Which seems a shame. I like what I've read of Peter Milligan's work and I find it depressing that Ed Benes went from drawing Justice League six years ago to drawing this. I know a lot of people don't care for his pencils but in the Jim Lee/Michael Turner camp I kind of feel that he's one of the best.

Again, this book is a good example of a new number one issue that isn't new-reader friendly. Not only did my girlfriend seem annoyed by the comic but she had to read a Green Lantern 101 app on my iPad just to understand who the Red Lanterns even are. I'm done with this title.

Resurrection Man #1: In terms of quality this is a good book. Abnett and Lanning do a fine job on the writing end (as always) and Fernando Dagnino's pencils are solid. However, this didn't do anything for me. I guess maybe I could say it's due my aversion to horror stories. But, then again I really dug the first issue of Swamp Thing and even preferred the opening issue of Animal Man to this. In the end, I guess Resurrection Man is a perfectly good comic that just didn't appeal to me at all. Probably won't pick up the second issue but maybe I'll give it another shot down the road.

Suicide Squad #1: I heard some lousy things about Suicide Squad going into it. People seemed to hate the Harley Quinn redesign and after my lack of enjoyment of the first issue of the villain-centric Deathstroke comic I was beginning to think I'd wasted another 3 bucks. I didn't. In fact I liked this book a lot. It has a cast of interesting, fun bad guys,some solid art, and one-liners.

Federico Dallocchio does good work on the art side of things here, and given the setting of the issue he deserves a lot of credit. Why mention the setting? Essentially the whole book is set in one room. Hats off to Adam Glass for writing a first issue where the plot of the opening story arc isn't even divulged by its end and still manages to be this much fun. I'm looking forward to this series now.

Superboy #1: wordy. So, so wordy. This opening issue was certainly better than I'd imagined it would be but I'm not sure I'm invested enough to add it to my list... or even pick up the next issue. Also, am I the only one getting a strong Invincible vibe off this book? Not sure if that's due to the lettering, the talkiness or the outlandishl- powered-characte- in-a high-school-setting aspect.
Lobdell does a good job of setting up the characters that will make up the cast of this book (as well as his Teen Titans) but man... learn to be more spare with the exposition. RB Silva's pencils were great though. Loved the look of this book. Again, the colors and the way Silva handles action sequences really reminded me of Invincible. That's not necessarily a criticism as Invincible is one of the best old-fashioned superhero books on shelves today. I'll probably come back for the next issue if I have a couple bucks to spare and see where things go from there.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New 52: Week 3 (wave 1)

Another week, another slew of number 1 issues from the DC "relaunch". Before I get into my thoughts on this weeks stuff I'd just like to point something out that was cemented for me this week. This was most certainly NOT a reboot, as DC stated it wasn't. However, it's not necessarily simply a relaunch featuring new number ones and drawing on past continuity either. Instead it seems that this was an ill-defined initiative by the company to grab new readers, reset some things, and keep what was working for them.

In other words, it's nearly the mirror image of what DC did post Crisis on Infinite Earths. And as with that situation, this is really freaking confusing. You see, we have complete reboots with guys like Superman in Action Comics, and Justice League. Then you have books like Batman and Green Lantern that are picking up EXACTLY where the books were pre-relaunch. They're essentially just continuations of the prior stories but with new number ones. That'd be fine except I was under the impression one of the main goals of the reset was to make these books accessible to new readers.

I believe Action and Justice League have succeeded in that goal. Anyone could pick up either of those books and be able to follow them fairly easily. I'm not sure the same can be said for Batwing, Batman & Robin, or Batgirl. Or Green Lantern. Or Swamp Thing. Or Hawk & Dove... You get the point. These stories are drawing heavily on past stories. Stories set in the old DC timeline but apparently also set in the new timeline... It's confusing even to me.

My thinking is that yet again they didn't go all-in as they claimed they would be doing. They tried to have their cake and eat it too, throwing out past stories for characters they felt weren't working (like Superman) and sticking to what came before for the titles that were selling (Batman). In my opinion if they'd rebooted everything this whole event would have been much more new reader friendly. Having said that, I'd have hated to see all of something like Morrison's run on Batman or Johns work on GL be thrown out simply to gain new readers.

Man, this is giving me a headache simply writing about it.

I'm not nit-picking the reset. In fact I consider it a wild success. But there are definitely holes and they're appearing in the area that DC always struggles with so hard. That of continuity. I just hope ten years from now they don't foist a new Zero Hour event on us to fix the holes in the continuity that are going to start appearing here real soon.
Okay, I've ranted. I'll probably write up some more opinions on the continuity down the road but for now on to this weeks books...

Demon Knights #1: I've already stated that Cornell is my favorite of the "new" writers involved in this whole reset. His work at Marvel was stellar and his Action Comics arc starring Lex Luthor was one of my favorite comics of last year. I was really excited for this book. It ended up being just good. Issue one is all set up through and through. A gathering-of-the-team story with not a lot of Cornell's unique voice on display. I'd even argue that last week's Stormwatch #1 showed off more of his storytelling abilities.

I enjoyed the book overall but not as much as I'd anticipated. I'll be adding it to my pulls but mostly due to my faith in Cornell as a writer. I'd never seen the pencils of Neves before and he surprised me. Unlike with Stormwatch I almost feel the art was one of the highlights of this book. I'll be here for the next issue but I hope there's an improvement.

Batman & Robin #1: Tomasi takes something of a different approach to this book than Morrison did. Obviously Morrison is the king of the big idea whereas Tomasi is content to write a straight-forward adventure comic featuring Bruce and his bratty son. I enjoyed this far more than Detective Comics and though it's no where near the level that the title hit under Morrison it's still a lot of fun.

Gleason's work is gorgeous as always and really elevates the book in terms of quality. I will say that Tomasi's characterization of Robin has improved tremendously from what he was doing with the character before the relaunch. I loved the banter between Bruce and Damian and I'm looking forward to the father/son dynamic far more than I would have imagined. Definitely this title is going on my pull list.

Batwoman #1: Here's a book that perfectly encapsulates what I stated at the beginning of this post. Batwoman #1 is a number one issue in name only. It does no setting up of the title character, her world or her supporting cast. If this was a continuation of the previous story instead of a new number one issue that is being marketed to new readers it'd make a lot more sense but as is, it's a bit of a head scratcher.

J.H. Williams is a phenomenal artist, and here he's handling the writing chores as well as the art. He proves himself up to the task, and the book has the same tone as the previous Greg Rucka work with the character in Detective Comics. It's gorgeous too, with dynamic layouts and an almost painterly quality to some of the pages. As before, Williams adapts different art styles for different sections, again proving he's one of the most talented comic artists working today. Having said that, I won't be adding the title to my pull list. It's a good book but the slow-burn approach ensures it'll read far better in a lovely oversized hardcover.

Green Lantern #1: Prior to the relaunch I was totally burned out on this book. It had seemingly lost it's way, and was mired in the color-centric storylines that had become so repetitive since Blackest Night. Thankfully, the book seems to have regained it's footing. Sinestro back as a Green Lantern is a fantastic, intriguing twist in the character's story. Meanwhile, Hal Jordan's life has taken a turn for the worse and I love it. Poor, downtrodden and a penchant for screwing up... this is a character who you can do something with.
Doug Mahnke's pencils are strong here. Probably the strongest they've been since he started on the title back in the early days of Blackest Night. This was my favorite title this week, and the quality of the book really gets me excited to see what Johns is going to bring to this post-relaunch DCU. Justice League was solid and Green Lantern was great. Now lets see what he can do with Aquaman.

Deathstroke #1: My problem with this book is my same problem with most villain-centric books. There's no real protagonist and the main character isn't someone we can identify with. This would be okay if the story was interesting enough or the characters kooky or likable (as in Secret Six) but that's not the case here. It's an "okay" book. The writing is passable and the art, though generic, certainly isn't ugly. I guess there will probably be an audience out there for this but it definitely wasn't me. Pass.

Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #1: This book surprised me. The concept was one I liked and I love anything that involves the Universal cast of monsters but I wasn't exactly taken with Lemire's previous handling of this character and concept on the Flashpoint tie-in series. Here though, everything just clicks. It's a classic adventure book that falls firmly into the Hellboy and Atomic Robo camp. It very much feels like DC's version of those books.

Lemire handles a fairly large cast of characters really well and introduces some funny and interesting concepts. I love the side characters and can't wait to see more of them. On the art side of things I was initially hesitant about passing judgement for or against Alberto Ponticelli. The first couple pages seemed a little too muddled for me. But by the time Frankestein is air dropped into a town over run by monsters I was onboard. I loved this book and if not for the awesome work Johns did with Green Lantern this would have been my favorite of the week. Definitely adding this to my pull list.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DC Relaunch: Week 2 (wave 2)

And now for round two of last weeks New 52 reviews. I probably won't get around to writing up my thoughts on this (9/14) week's books until later this week or possibly next. Till then...

Green Arrow #1: JT Krul seems like a nice guy. I've had some interaction with him on Twitter and he seems to have a genuine love for the characters he's writing and the universe they inhabit. Unfortunately, here he has written the worst comic I've read out of this relaunch. Green Arrow (the book not the character) has seemingly stepped out of the early 90's. The dialogue is solely expository or cheesy one-liners.
This vibe is only helped along by the dated art of Dan Jurgens (inked by George Perez who, though one of my favorites, only helps to cement the 90's thing) who does his best with the material but sadly can't overcome the cliched writing. Nothing here is interesting enough to sway me to buy a second issue and this book has the distinction of being the only one where I made up my mind I'd be dropping it by the time I reached the third page. It's that bad.

Hawk and Dove #1: Consistent with Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove also seems to be a title steeped in a time when Rob Liefeld was selling jeans on tv. Unlike Green Arrow, this book is actually fun. Your enjoyment of it, however, will probably boil down to your opinion of Liefeld's art. I neither hate nor love his work. For me, he's just another superhero artist who happens to love cross hatching and have an aversion to drawing feet. His work here is strong as far as I'm concerned.
Gates is definitely writing to Liefeld's strengths as an artist. The story never slows down and what few character building scenes there are still seem to take place on the run. And that's just fine by me. This is a book for people who loved 90's Image or Liefeld's older work with these characters. Since one of the purposes of this whole relaunch was to recapture "lapsed" readers I'd imagine there are quite a few of those types who will find this book perfectly suited to them. I enjoyed it too. Heck, much to my surprise I'll even be picking up issue 2.

OMAC #1: insane. I don't really know what was happening in this book. There was a lot of punching and exclamation points and things exploding and weird creatures. Oh and a hero who is apparently a cyborg with a mohawk made of wires... or something? It was all a bit of a mess. An entertaining one, but still a mess. Serviceable art, and writing that suited the rushed, throw-back nature of the story still didn't do enough to make me want to come back for issue two.

I will admit that I came into this book with a lot of trepidation. My only prior experience with Dan Didio as a writer was when he came onto Outsiders and wrote some of the worst, over-the-top, clunky, horrendous dialogue I've ever read in a comic. His work here, as already stated was just fine.That's all there is to say about that.

Men of War #1: This was a big surprise. Aside from my love for GI Joe I'm not much of a war comic fan. I just can't seem to get into it. But the first story in this book grabbed me. There's explosions and shooting, and a mysterious, powered figure flying around causing havoc. Our protagonist is a little thin in terms of characterization but then again it's a war story. The main purpose is action, right?

Ivan Brandon did a decent job on the writing, and Tom Derenick (didn't he handle some 52 issues or something?) really impressed me with his pencil work. The same can't be said for the back-up story which seemed to whole-sale rip off a scene from Hurt Locker and call it a day. I haven't decided if I'll stick with it but this was good overall.

Justice League International #1: Up front, I'll say I was disappointed by this book before I'd ever cracked it open. I adored Judd Winick's handling of these characters in Generation Lost and replacing him with Jurgens seemed immediately questionable. Sure enough, my suspicions were correct. Jurgens writes a decent enough opening issue here with a couple funny lines and a typical setting-up-the-team story. But it's just "okay". Winick's work with these characters was funny, sentimental, and action packed. This book has action, and some funny bits but, like Green Arrow, feels like a throw back.

They were wise enough to bring Lopresti back to handle the art and he does a typically wonderful job here. I will always have a spot in my heart reserved for his artwork. Sadly I won't be seeing it till either they bring Winick on to write the book or he moves to another project. This one issue was enough for me.

Static Shock #1: Another surprise win. This book, more than anything, reminded me of Geoff Johns' early work on the Flash. That might be due as much to McDaniel's kinetic artwork (reminiscent of Scott Kollins work on Flash) as it is to the classic superhero trappings and down-on-his-luck hero. My only complaint with this title was the complete lack of character introduction. I've had literally no prior experience with this character and I'm guessing I'm not alone in that. It seems some set-up for the protagonist and an explanation of his power set would have been helpful.

Despite this complaint I'll be picking up the second issue. McDaniel is a fun artist who I've followed since his Nightwing days. I'm thrilled to see him on a book this good.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

DC Relaunch: Week Two (wave 1)

I'll probably be attempting to write up my brief impressions of the DC relaunch book-by-book over the next month. I bought all 13 #1's that came out this week but only made it through 7 issues before collapsing from shear exhaustion. Not so much from reading comics but from a long day in general. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Batgirl #1: I was a little underwhelmed by this title. Simone is one of DC's stronger writers and I've been enjoying her work for years but something was missing here. However, there was enough to keep my interest piqued and I thought the generic-but-fitting art was good enough to entice me to add it to my pulls. I just hope Simone can add whatever I felt the missing element was with this issue over the course of the first arc.
Also, am I the only one curious as to how they're going to make two ginger locked, bat-themed, female heroines running around the same town not an absurd idea. I mean wouldn't they constantly be mistook for the other? Does it matter? Am I just being a nerd?

Batwing #: The first comic I made the decision to drop this week was this title. It's not a bad comic by any stretch, but the art is too stiff (though that isn't to say it's not pretty) for my taste. Also, the Judd Winnick writing this book is the Winnick of Green Arrow rather than something like Generation Lost which I loved. There just isn't enough to keep me coming back and even after one issue I can tell this will probably read better in trade format.
Again, a minor complaint... shouldn't this have launched post-Batman Inc relaunch to explain why Batman is setting up a global network of Batmen? Y'know, for all those new readers that this whole relaunch is geared toward? Just a thought...

Detective Comics #1: I wasn't crazy about Daniel's run on Batman. I enjoyed his art but the book came across as a very juvenile take on the character. It was a book that reminded me of something I would have adored as a 13 year old, with all the Catgirls, Riddler-daughters and senseless stories serving as secondary to dull action sequences. As an adult I need a little something mor... OH MAN JOKER JUST HAD HIS FACE SKINNED AND HUNG ON A WALL! I'm in!
Also, Daniel has changed up his art style again. It's much less cross-hatched and Image-esque and far more cartoony. I dig it. A lot.

Swamp Thing #1: By far the most gorgeous book to come out of this relaunch so far. Even more than Jim Lee's beautiful Justice League work. Paquette has drawn an issue where costumed superheroes appear in close proximity to scenes of character building and graphic horror without anything seeming out of place. Snyder's work here is equally impressive, not in any hurry to blow our minds with insane action sequences. This is a creative team that has a story to tell and characters to build and I can't think of any one out there I'd rather have handling a Swamp Thing book. Great first issue.

Animal Man #1: I just don't care for the art in this book. It's ugly and there are seriously messed up proportions taking place here that I can't overlook. I'd have a hard time saying it's just my taste in art because I think my tastes are somewhat varied. Maybe that's the problem though.
Whatever the case may be the art is going to keep me from coming back. Despite my love for the character of Buddy Baker (developed over the course of 52) I'm not that interested in this story and the writing here wasn't enough to make me overlook the art. I'd be interested to hear what others thought of the book as a whole and especially the pencil work.

Action Comics #1: This is what it's all about for me. This book captured what I was hoping for from the relaunch. A fresh, new take on an existing character that captures key elements of them while creating something new, exciting and intriguing. I don't think of myself as a Morrison apologist (indeed, I've been as perplexed by some of his work as anyone else) but with this book he showed me yet again why he's my favorite writer working in comics today. This is much less big-idea Morrison and more straight ahead but it's still complex and interesting and action packed.
There's one sequence in particular involving an elevated train that really shows off just why Superman is the perfect character for massive action sequences. Thank God for Rags Morales too. This is his best work since Identity Crisis and I think even a step above that. His characters are always expressive but his storytelling seems to only be improving. And check out the panel progression on the elevated train sequence. It's like a giant summer blockbuster scene. Loved this book.

Stormwatch #1: I got very excited for this book in the last few days. I love Paul Cornell, and the characters he's working with here are some of the only Wildstorm characters I have any familiarity with. This issue didn't disappoint but it's not in any part due to the art. It looks rushed, and at times downright ugly. There are a few panels that looked fine and even a couple that looked great but for the most part it barely got the job done.
Thankfully Cornell is writing a ramped-up sci-fi story that reminds me very much of the early Authority stuff I've read. Only it's set in the DCU and Martian Manhunter is a key player. I'm onboard for sure, and I'd even go so far as to say this was probably the best-written of the relaunch books behind Action Comics. But seriously, the visuals need some serious work.