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.

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