DC Comics Re-Launch – The New 52
Week 1, Part 1
For those of you who don’t know, DC Comics re-launched their entire universe last week, and re-introduced the DC Universe to the public via fifty-two Issue #1s, starting last week with Justice League #1, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. My goal is to read and review all 52 issue #1s. While I may not keep up with most of the books (there are a few that aren’t making it past number one in my reading of them, I can tell you that already), I’m intrigued by what I’ve read already, and am interested to see where it’s going from here. So, without further ado, the reviews for Week 1 (well, we’ll call it 1.5, since we’re including Justice League #1 in there and it was the only new #1 last week).
Justice League #1 – Geoff Johns/Jim Lee
This, honestly, was the book that sold me on the re-launch. Geoff Johns has been a favorite of mine since he re-launched Green Lantern back in 2005 and brought my favorite super hero, Hal Jordan, back to prominence. Couple his involvement with the fact that Jim Lee is locked in an immortal struggle with Alex Ross as my favorite artist of all time, and you have all you need for me to buy into the new DC Universe (or DCnU, in the parlance of my action figure collecting brethren over at http://www.TheFwoosh.com) wholesale. So, did it hold up? For the most part. Honestly, the thing that took me most aback about this book was the fact that it felt really short and like nothing happened. You have Batman and Green Lantern chasing a monster across Gotham, meeting apparently for the first time, and then we head to Metropolis for a two panel meeting with Superman. So, yeah, not much going on. However, the art is beautiful. Jim Lee just gets better and better. I read a review that said that he hadn’t changed his art style at all since his run on X-Men, but I beg to differ. Lee’s art now is more polished and refined, and I would dare say that his renditions of the DC pantheon has the ability to stand as this generation’s “iconic” versions of those characters. But, Lee isn’t the only man carrying his weight. I love how Johns writes Lantern a bit differently than he writes him in the normal GL universe. He’s younger, brasher and a lot cockier. You actually want to see Batman punch him in the face due to his cockiness. The interaction and Batman’s almost dismissal of GL made me laugh a few times as well.
What excites me most about this book is where it can go. We’re dealing with a Justice League that’s forming as we watch it, made up of some of the most iconic members it’s ever had. My only aggravation with the lineup is that Martian Manhunter isn’t in it, but we’ll get to him later. This issue starts to introduce us to the main players, sets up the world, the upcoming villain, and promises some Batman on Superman action in the next issue. What more could you want?
Animal Man #1 – Jeff Lemire/Travel Foreman
Oh, I love me some Animal Man. Grant Morrison’s 26 issue run on the book is some of the best graphic writing I’ve ever witnessed. Buddy Baker is such a cool character, and one of the only super heroes we ever get to see with a wife and kids. Animal Man is a family man, who has to bring in some cash and juggle his life at home with his life in tights. It’s such a cool dynamic, and I was really interested to see where this was going. What we’re being treated to in this book is a horror story set smack dab in Buddy’s own home, and that’s intriguing.
Lemire gets who Buddy is, and wrote him just like he stepped out of Morrison’s run from back in the day. The family dynamic VS the super hero dynamic is an important part of this first issue, and that is great, because that dynamic is what drives a good Animal Man story. This is another book that really makes me excited to see what Issue #2 has in store.
Action Comics #1 – Grant Morrison/Rags Morales
After Justice League, this book was my most looked forward to out of all fifty-two #1s. Grant Morrison wrote the single best Superman story I’ve ever read in “All Star Superman,” and Rags is no slouch when it comes to the art duties, so I was on board. This book, like Justice League, happens in the past, setting up exactly who Superman is in this new world. The thing is, I’m not sure who Superman is in this new world. Superman’s kinda mouthy in this book, honestly, and I wasn’t quite ready for that, I don’t think. He’s threatening people, egging on the cops who are trying to take him down. Honestly, he seemed almost a bit more like some weird Batman/Spider-Man mix than the Man of Steel, to me. We get to see Superman’s “proto-suit,” which basically consists of a Superman shirt, a cape, and a pair of raggedy jeans and work boots. Yeah, it speaks to Clark’s farmboy image and the fact that Superman is the hero for the working class, but it doesn’t really inspire me that much. It’s almost like we’re getting a DC Comics cannon version of “Smallville’s” Red/Blue Blur.
Superman’s very much stripped back to his Action Comics #1 (1938) days, too. He can’t fly yet, but he can leap tall buildings. He’s fast, strong, has heat vision…yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s just Clark Kent from “Smallville,” the more and more I think about it.
We get introduced to Lois, Jimmy and Lex Luthor, so we’re rounding out the important characters in issue #1, so I’m glad we’re getting a jump on things there.
While not the best #1 issue I’ve ever read, I have a lot of stock in a Morrison Superman book, so I’m not going anywhere any time soon. Good issue, not great, but tons of promise based on the creators alone.
Batgirl #1 – Gail Simone/Ardian Syaf
This one intrigued me based on the fact that Barbara Gordon has been in a wheelchair for almost 25 years (real time, not comics time), and suddenly she’s Batgirl again instead of the Oracle character she’s been for a long time. I was wondering exactly how that was going to be presented, as paralysis isn’t something one simply shakes off, but darned if that isn’t the way it’s presented in this book. We’re never given any reason as to why she can suddenly walk again, just that she “didn’t let the Joker’s bullet beat her.” Heck, it took Superboy Prime punching the walls of our reality for Jason Todd to shake off the beating Joker gave him, so I wonder what was powerful enough to reduce 20 some odd years of comics into a thought bubble’s explanation.
Anyway, it’s Babs as Batgirl, and it makes me happy, as I’ve been wanting her to be Batgirl again for a very long time. She’s not as confident as she should be, which given the bullet to the spine during a home invasion is understandable, but we get glimpses of what she was and what she can be again.
I thought the ending was weak, not gonna lie, and I’m wondering where they go with it. I trust Gail Simone a lot after all the stock she bought from me with Secret Six, so I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride, I suppose.
Detective Comics #1 – Tony Daniel
I’m glad that Week 1 of the re-launch included both Action and Detective, DC’s two longest running books. I wasn’t as interested in this book as the others, mainly because I figured I was going to make Batman & Robin my main Batman book out of all of this, but the fact that one of the advertised points to this book was that they were pulling back the character list and basically making this one Batman, Gordon and Alfred, that interested me. The book is an all out chase for The Joker, which was cool because I was hoping we wouldn’t have to wait long to get to him. He’s my favorite Batman villain by far, and I didn’t want to have to sit through a year of Clayface and Zsasz, or someone like that before we got to him. We’re definitely getting a post-Grant Morrison Joker, as this one is a bit more serious and a bit scarier. He’s not as all out psychopath with a knife that he was during the Batman R.I.P. storyline, but he’s not too far removed.
I like the fact that the police in Gotham are not on Batman’s side in this book. They’re hunting him down on orders from the Mayor, and that helps the dynamic between him and Gordon a bit more, since Gordon is caught in the middle of his job and his friendship/respect for Batman. I also think it adds more to the mystique of Batman that I always think gets hurt when he’s buddy-buddy with the cops and just wandering around a crime scene while they stand around and watch. Batman having to get there before them and do things in spite of them is something I like seeing.
The last page definitely made me want to pick up Issue #2, so I guess Batman and Robin may have competition for my main Bat title when all of this is said and done.
There were 14 new #1s between last Wednesday and this Wednesday, so I’m going to do seven here and seven in a day or so, so that I don’t have to sit here and write 14 reviews all at once. Plus, I still need to read three of the books, so I can’t review them tonight anyway. So, I’m going to leave with one of the books I hated the most of the new ones, and one of my pleasant surprises/favorites of the new 52.
Hawk & Dove #1 – Sterling Gates/Rob Liefeld
I’m not going to hold any pretense with this book, nor am I going to bury the lead. I hated this book. There wasn’t a thing about it that I liked. I thought the writing was terrible, the art was terrible, the story was terrible…I think it could be one of the worst issues of a comic I’ve read, and I’ve read most of the entire run of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose. Hawk & Dove aren’t my favorite characters, by a long shot, but I liked their involvement in Blackest Night, as well as Brightest Day, so I was willing to give it a shot. Unless I’m in train-wreck mode next month, it won’t get another one.
It doesn’t seem much has changed, continuity-wise, in this book. Brightest Day definitely happened, as we learn that Dove is still in a relationship with Boston Brand, aka Deadman. Deadman’s inclusion may have been the only thing that saved me from getting violently ill while reading it. The majority of the issue is dealing with Hawk being upset that Dove didn’t help him fight off zombies as they were in a plane that was heading for the Washington Monument. His anger doesn’t make any sense, because had it not been for Dove trying to fly the plane, they would have both died in a fiery crash, and that would be that. Actually, after typing that, yeah, I’m mad that she didn’t help him, too! Anyway, we see Hawk talk to his father and then suddenly break into a fit of rage, for apparently no other reason than to show us that he gets angry, hence him being the embodiment of War.
The issue ends with…someone…showing up in a brown version of Hawk and Dove’s getup, but he honestly looks more like Barry from The Tick than anything. I didn’t understand the ending, didn’t care to find out about it, and don’t feel I’ll be reading issue #2 until I’ve literally read everything else I can get my hands on. In fact, if I read issue #2 before I’ve read ANY of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing, I’ll hold myself accountable for everything wrong with the world today…
Storm Watch #1 – Paul Cornell/Miguel Sepulveda
Now, onto #1 of my 2 favorite books to come out of this first round of readings. I didn’t read any of the Authority or the Wildstorm universe, so this book wasn’t even on my radar, honestly. I love that they’ve started bringing some of the Vertigo and Wildstorm characters into the actual DCU, if for nothing else than it furthers my chances of getting a Grifter action figure from DC Universe Classics, but not knowing any of the characters, I wasn’t that excited about this book in particular. That all changed after reading it. This book was my favorite of the ones I’ve read based almost solely on Martian Manhunter. I’ve wanted to see J’onn become a real stand out star character for years, because, when you get down to it, he’s basically an equal to Superman, plus he’s a more visually interesting character, and he’s a telepath so we get another angle on him that we don’t get with Big Blue. I feel I’m going to get everything I wanted out of J’onn with this book, if it continues down the path the first issue laid out.
Another thing I really liked about this book is that it reminded me of Torchwood. It’s been around for centuries, operating below the radar, protecting us from alien threats. Yeah, sounds exactly like Torchwood to me.
Not knowing who the characters are and seeing them get introduced helped bring me the rest of the way in. I don’t know who Apollo is, or why Storm Watch is trying to recruit him, or why he doesn’t want any part of him. I don’t know who Midnighter is, and why he’s against Storm Watch. Those questions will bring me back for more. For that, DC, I applaud you.
So, there it is…Week 1, Part 1. I’ll be back this weekend with Week 1, Part 2, where I cover:
Green Arrow #1
Justice League International #1
Men of War #1
Static Shock #1
Swamp Thing #1