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.

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