Tag Archives: DC Reboot

DC New 52: Animal Man #1-review

Animal Man #1

DC Comics

September 2011

$2.99

This is one that I was looking forward to, based mostly on the creative team.  My familiarity with the lead character here was limited to his appearance in the series 52 from a few years ago.  Sorry guys, I have not gotten around to the older series, but it is on the eventual list.  Jeff Lemire and Travel Forman, with Dan Green are the team behind this issue, and they have done a very nice job.

This book starts off with a text “interview” with Buddy Baker about his newfound celebrity as Animal Man and manages to give you the set up for the current continuity.  We can assume that the past for Buddy that we know DID more or less happen, or not.  It is up to you depending on your preference and level of familiarity with the history here.  Very new reader friendly, really.

Buddy Baker has begun to settle into a life as an actor and part-time hero.  His home life is pretty normal, and he is a bit restless.  Anchored by his family, he stays in touch with who he is and keeps a level head.  His daughter wants a puppy, and things are mostly good.  It is when changes in his and his family’s established status quo that things get difficult for him. 

This is a reasonably fresh feeling book.  Story and art are excellent and fit the book very well.  There are sections where Forman inks himself and others where the masterful Dan Green handles the inks, and for the most part, that works quite well.  The art is very stylized and funky.  My only real complaint here, is that the book is too short to give a real taste of what to expect.  Like most first issues these days, this is not much more than a teaser for the first arc.  Had they doubled the size, to give us a deeper look, I would likely give this one much higher marks.  As it stands, this is a very good book and another excellent building block in the new DC 52.  definitely worth a look, particularly if you have not previously been interested in Animal Man.  In fact, I am hopeful that is where DC will see the biggest bump, in established readers will take a chance on books they would not have otherwise read.  In my case, the creative teams are bringing me over to books that I don’t generally read like Action Comics, Batgirl and this one.  The new ideas and premises on books like Detective Comics, and Stormwatch are pulling me on those books.  Everybody needs to look closely at the books hitting the shelves this month from DC.  I have been pleasantly surprised so far.

 

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OMF-ing G!! Detective Comics #1-review

Detective Comics #1

September 7th 2011

$2.99

Like many, I was not going to pick this up.  My experience with Tony Daniel’s Batman work has been a bit average.  I have never found the stories all that interesting and certainly not as compelling as Grant Morrison or even the classics by Denny O’Neil.  They never really lacked for atmosphere, but the actual story was usually two dimensional, even by modern comic standards.   Not that they were ever bad, just that they never stood out and really made you remember them.  What made me decide to pick this one up was a spoiler I saw online.  I’m not going to say where, as it will affect the overall enjoyment of the story.  But the spoiler was enough to get my hopes up that this might be more than just another average Batman story.  It was.  In a BIG way!

The basic plot is conventional enough, the Batman is trying to hunt down the Joker.  From there, the reboot takes over.  Batman has only been doing this for a few years and the Joker has been around even less.  He is a unpredicatble serial killer that no one can seem to catch.  Batman is once again working without the aid of the police.  Only Jim Gordon is on his side, and even that alliance seems a bit shaky.  The storytelling device of the internal monologue is ever-present, much more than it has been in recent years.  The Batman that I have grown tired of is gone though.  The attitude in the last few years has been “Batman knows all”, and to be honest, it has gotten old.  He should not be perfect and while he probably IS the smartest guy in the room most of the time, does he have to be such a prick about it?  Not here, it would seem.  While I would not call him humble, he is certainly not the Bruce Wayne we have gotten used to lately.  I have liked the idea that he is, and will always be the most experienced in the DCU, but I also would really like to see a human in that suit.  That is definitely something that was not there in Justice League #1.  Score one for the New 52!

The spoiler that grabbed me was the last page, and it is a doozy.  It is my hope that this signals the start of the “something really different” I have hoped for from the reboot.  I don’t want, and I think many people out there might feel the same, the same tired old stories with a new number.  Now that they have thrown the baby and the bath water out, make it worth something.  Take chances.  Shake up the franchises.  With the exception of Batman and Green Lantern, what have they really got to lose?  And even there, not much.  This change, assuming it is real, substantive and far-reaching, could make all the difference in both saving DC and the industry as a whole.  The tried and true trademarks of the big 3 will always be there, but the month to month storytelling in the comics needs help, and if DC get it right, every other company out there could well be playing catch up for a while.

Visually, this is a great book.  Lots of instances where Daniel is borrowing from Frank Miller and Neal Adams and many other artist, but unlike so many cheap homages, this works very well.  Large, dramatic splash pages and small, tight extreme close-ups.  There are pages that feel like everything else is shut out.  You are very much pulled into this book in a way that I have not felt in many years.  As I was reading this, the world around me really did fade into the background.  I don’t mean to say the story and art were that much of a revelation, just that the way it was put together was that effectively done.  The book was that well structured.  The art was clean, crisp and consistent through the whole thing.  It has been a gripe of mine in the last few years as far as the art has been concerned.  Some pages in a book may well be great, while others either look rushed or are done by a fill in artist, both of which can pull you right out of a story if there is no narrative reason for the change.

I grade on a pretty tough scale when I think of these things, so I wont be that specific here.  But this book is probably sitting at #2 of the current bunch from the New 52.  I have several others to review, including the one at the top of that list for me, all of which I will get to in the next few days.   Stay tuned…

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The New 52 Starts here-ish. Justice League #1: Review

Justice League #1

August 2011

DC Comics

$3.99 comic only/$4.99 With digital comic included.

A long wait for the New 52 or DCnU (DC new Universe) as it has been called.  With the end of Flashpoint setting off the end and the beginning for DC Comics, and all the hype surrounding this reboot/restart/cajigger or whatever you want to call it, the expectations for these new number ones could not be higher.  For every whining fool out there that swore he would never pick up a book from DC (the popular phrase was “oh look, 52 jumping off points!”) there must be at least one that is interested to see what is going to happen.  With an initial print run of over 200,000 and 2 reprint runs already scheduled, this book is going to be the big seller for august (or Sept, depending on how they calculate it)  and one of the biggest of the year.  DC’s attempt to grab back market share from Marvel is off to a promising start, at least from a sales standpoint.  (SIDENOTE:  does anyone else recall the halcyon days when a book that sold ONLY 200,000 was not a great seller?  Ah for the return of the 70’s and 80’s!)

This book, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee is fun, I will say that much.  But I have to be honest, it is ultimately disappointing.  I was really hoping for a huge game changer.  Not just in story, but in the whole approach.  I had been hoping that this book might change the way we looked at comics.  Something that was such a clear shift of perspective in how we read and perceived comics, that the entire industry might follow suit. No.  That didn’t happen.  What did happen was a decent comic that will make me pick up the next issue, and ultimately that is what the goal is.

The book is a sort of soft boot for the rest of the new 52, as this book (and Action #1) take place 5 years prior to what will be current continuity for the rest of the books.  This issue really plays out as a team-up between Batman and Green Lantern.  Where Batman seems more and more like the Dark Knight Returns version, all-knowing and all-confident, with everyone around him managing to look like fools or amateurs in comparison, the Hal Jordan Green Lantern is a bit of a clown.  No experience and no subtlety, pushing with all his power to keep up with Batman, the Lantern comes off as an arrogant lightweight.  There is also a brief look at the pre-cyborg Vic Stone.  Does anyone but Geoff Johns really like this character?  I certainly don’t think he belongs in the Justice League.  As the issue ends, we see Superman, clearly post-Action Comics, but before his solo series starts presumably.  Not the intro for the most powerful hero in the DCU.  Next issue promises Batman vs Superman, but I don’t really expect much that I have not seen in other books.  I am hopeful, but not very.

Many of the moments that need to be done well are not.  They are glanced over for bigger action bits.  The first instance where Green Lantern realizes that Batman is “just a guy in a suit”, with no special powers, should have been a strong character moment, but Lee is just not that subtle.  While there is some visual storytelling going on (more than usual for a Jim Lee book), I really missed those smaller moments that define what the characters are going to be.  This is the chance to make real change and develop these guys into something special.  More than just a retelling, and right now, that is what this feels like.  It is a retelling of a story we have never heard.

A quick word about the digital version.  I looked briefly at the book on my friend Kurt’s smart phone and was impressed.  The panels, formatting and the interface were easy and seamless.  There was a lot of versatility in the way you could read this.  One way the digital score over the paper version is the depth of the color and the black levels.  This looks much darker and richer than the printed comic.  It is a natural limitation of the print medium.  The best comparison I can make is what we all saw when we first opened the books in the 90’s that were utilizing the better paper and computer colors.  Like when you first opened Spawn #1 (ugh!) and were blown away by the visual quality of the product, if not the actual art or story.  I think the biggest likely benefit from day and date digital, will be the people, not that want one or the other, as those demographics will not change.  Many of us are in one camp or the other now.  Where the benefit will be felt is from the people who want both.  And there are those people out there, more I suspect, than anybody realizes.

This is a fun book.  It just isn’t worth all the build up.  But given the hype and press these have gotten, I am not sure that anything would have genuinely impressed me.  Sad to say, but true.

I am still very excited to see Action #1.  It holds most of my hopes for the main body of the DCnU, and after that, it will be up to the fringe books, like Justice League Dark to keep me on board.

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Women creators in the big time…

Wow, DC really can’t do something big without stirring up the storm can they?

Art by Amanda Conner

With the relaunch announcements grabbing more headlines than the real news (that being the day and date digital releases) DC has managed to not see one issue coming.  Or they see it, and just don’t care.  Where all da wimmin at?

Gail Simone is writing 2 of the new monthly books and Jenny Frisson is doing a cover.  Just one cover.  There is more out there in the world than Rob Liefeld.  Did we really need to bring him back?  There was not ONE other woman out there that could write Hawk & Dove?  This is a book that will more than likely, be on the short list for cancellation within 3 issues.  Maybe that is why no one would touch it.  There are, to my knowledge more female artists out there than writers, but I know there are more than just the wonderful Ms Simone!  In the artist end of things I am even a bit more surprised.  There are some real fan favorites (artists and writers) that have nothing on DC’s schedule in September.  Amanda Conner, Katie Cook, Nicola Scott, Trina Robbins, Louise Simonson and the list goes on!  True, some were probably offered something and were not interested for reasons of their own, but just Gail Simone and Jenny Frisson?

There was a point in the past I would have said that this was just the women complaining, then I grew up some and try to look at it intelligently.  Or at least as intelligently as I am able.  True, there are not all that many women in the field these days compared to the men, and a lot of that is a cultural issue.  Women have not been mainstays of the industry in any point in its history.  The days when a Dalia Messick could get work because she went by Dale are gone.  The internet makes all of that kind of insulting tomfoolery transparent.  There has always been a serious  lack of women but I believe that it can never be truly equal.  There just are not as many women as men interested.  The reason for some of that has shifted.  It used to be simple enough:  girls didn’t read comics.  That is no longer true.  Many books, and not just the ones you would assume, have larger female readership.  And it is not that women are not artists and writers.  One look at the bookstores will tell you that.  Now I wonder if it may not be the fact that there are other, more attractive mediums/markets to go into.  There is a talent drain that has happened slowly over the years from comics in the traditional mainstream sense, to other medium peripheral to the traditional comic book.  Web comics seem to have a much better ratio of men to women.  A couple of the standouts here would be Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots) and Lora Innes (The Dreamer).  In other media there is quite a draw also.  Design, book illustration art of all kinds that would draw someone, not already interested in comics further away.  In fact, I think it may be a safe bet that if someone, man or woman, is not a comic book fan to start with, they are not likely to enter the field professionally.  As the medium slowly fades away (yes, it is slowly fading away) fewer young people are influenced by it and chose it as a career path.  So there is that factor, but it does not explain this huge shift.

As I look at this more, I really do wonder if this isn’t something different.  This level of exclusion is SO out of the norm, that I wonder if it might not be deliberate.  This is not to say that I think Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Dan Didio are sitting in the dark halls of the DC compound planning ways to exclude Ms Frisson et al, but there can be an institutional mindset that can be so much a part of the industry, that even the newer blood is not immune.  It does not have to be a conscious choice to be something that is made to happen.  The “old boys” network is not just for the long serving, and it need not be worked at.  At some point, to reverse this trend, a deliberate choice to go the other way may be needed.  No, not quotas or preferential hiring.  The need for a meritocracy is still there.  Bringing in female writer “X” just because the is female does not solve the problem.  In fact, it will make it worse.  Nevermind the inevitable male backlash, the issue here is that bad books by less than stellar talent, again male or female, will drive readers and other talent away.

What is needed, I think, is a concentrated search for new talent ALL the time.  Just like any kind of marketing or recruiting, you tailor it to fit a demographic.  Just like you want to sell a car to a thirty something male with no kids and a lot of disposable income, you can target any segment of the market you want.  You can choose to bring in new talent in very much the same way.  Even the days of the old Marvel Try out book are well past, and no longer likely to be of use.  (Any one who thinks products are not marketed that specifically needs to wake the hell up!  I knew an ad guy for a car manufacturer many years ago that was quite proud of a campagne he helped design that marketed one specific model of a car to gay men over 40.  And it sold to that demo just as planned.)

I remember there was once a lot of talk about the big two recruiting in the art schools, but that never seemed to materialize.  Now you get portfolio review at cons.  The attitude that the talent will show up when needed does not bring the top talent, it brings in whatever comes through the door.  Comic as an industry has always been more than willing to cannibalize itself.  I think that comes from the trash product mentality from the earliest days of the medium, and it is unfortunately still with us.

Get it together DC.  For that matter, the entire industry.  While some publishers are better than others, and most are better than DC in this case, there is a long way to go.  The diversity created by women and men sharing the creative duties can only help comics.  This all just seems so short sighted…

 

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A new Action Comics # 1?

Well, it is official.  The DC reboot will be a truly line-wide one.  Even Action Comics will not be safe.  The bright spot in this is that the book will be by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, two people who can do great work!  Morrison is likely best know in recent years for All-Star Superman and the current Batman Incorporated storyline, and Rags Morales has done piles of great books.  The book that stands out for me is Identity Crisis, the best of the various DC Crisis books in my opinion.

This is a slightly scary and slightly thrilling idea for me.  I didn’t get a chance to buy a copy of the first Action # 1 as I would not be born for three decades when it originally hit the stands, so yes, I will most likely buy it just for the geek factor.  There are some concerns though.  This will be, for all intents and purposes, a full reboot.  It sounds like they will be de-power Superman, assuming Morrison continues some of the ideas about the character that he has expressed in past interviews.  I have an issue with too much of a de-power though as the other books are not all changing to the same degree.  It looks very much like some of them (Green Lantern) are not really making any significant changes.  If that is the case, will Superman, as his name needs to imply, still be the most powerful hero in the DCU?  It also looks like there may be a real return to the “social crusader” that Superman was in his earliest days.

The two images of Superman that I have seen so far have been very different.  The George Perez preview image for Superman # 1…

Superman # 1(?) by George Perez

…looks very different to what we have seen as a preview image for Action # 1…

Action Comics # 1 (?) by Rags Morales

The differences in costume could be that one or both are not the final look.  The Action image is a clear homage to the original Action # 1, and the superman one has some similarities to the original # 1 of that title, but that may only be because I want there to be.  These are both fairly big redesigns if you know what you are looking for.  The loss of blue tights entirely on the Morales design, the angular Perez look that loses the underpants on the outside and simplifies the “S” somewhat.  These could be responses to the legal issues of copyright and trademark thanks to the various legal battles that have been going on, almost since the first Action # 1.  (See my post on this from May 29th)

Another, more concerning possibility is that the two books may exist in slightly different continuity.  This last one is concerning to me as it defeats the purpose of the intended, jump on friendly nature to the reboot, but the official statement regarding the book makes me wonder if that is not exactly what the plan is.  Action will start the DCU off and tell the earliest possible days of Superman.  DC’s official statement for Action # 1 is “This momentous first issue will set in motion the history of the DC Universe as Superman defends a world that doesn’t trust their first Super Hero.”  The reads to me like it is the true start point for the entire line.  You can’t have Superman show up one day and then everyone else the next.  Doesn’t work.  Is this book, at least from the start, in an earlier timeline, that will become the rest of the main continuity?  An intriguing possibility from a story standpoint, but maybe a little less new reader friendly.  Then Superman # 1 is the current continuity that Justice League etc all exist in?  The change in costume from Action to Superman would lend credence to that possibility.  Bleeding Cool seems to be painting the Action  Comics Superman as a “liberal activist”, basing that opinion on Morrison’s own statements from recent interviews.  That would certainly be in line with the original concept of the character as created by the two kids from Cleveland.  I don’t think that would be all bad either.  It would certainly make the stories more relevant for a modern audience, regardless of which side of the liberal line you come down on, and the media will certainly grab onto whatever will stir up the most controversy.  There is a lot of upside to making the character more relevant not least of which is the greater potential for projects outside of the comics medium, like the upcoming Man of Steel movie, currently with director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) and Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Dark Knight) as producer.

I will always give Morrison a chance, as he always make the ride an interesting one, even if I don’t always like the end result.  And George Perez doing Superman?  Where do I sign up?  But these look like two VERY different books, at least given the small amount of info we have been given so far.  That may well be the key to this reboot working.  Give fans a clear choice, and a bit of variety.  Marvel has never managed to keep multiple books fresh and different for very long.  Pick up any Spider-Man book out there and, to a casual or new reader, there will be very little difference.  Maybe a change of pace is in order.  For this to be the game changer it is intended to be, it needs to not only change the status quo for DC, but the entire industry.  They need to re invent the rules of comics publishing, and hope the readers like it enough to inspire the other publishers out there (I’m looking at you Marvel) to up their game and do it not only better, but differently too.  This reboot is make or break.  More people who I speak to, my friend Kurt started me on this fear, believe that if the reboot fails to put DC back on top of the market, or at least make it a much tighter race, that it could kill the line.  I think that is worst case, but at least it could seriously cripple the publisher.  And anything that is bad for one of the big guys in the market, is potentially bad for all.

UPDATE:  As of the next day at the LA TIMES HERO COMPLEX, the reveal in an interview with Jim Lee and Geoff Johns is that the new JLA book will start in the past and then jump forward into the new continuity.  This makes me think my theory above is getting more plausible.

SECOND UPDATE:  George Perez made a comment on his Facebook page to clarify his involvement on the new Superman: Man of Tomorrow book.  He is writing and doing thumbnail layouts for artist Jesus Merino to work from.  He will also be supplying covers.  Bit of a bummer there and now not as exciting.  Merino is pretty good though, so I imagine this will still be quite a book.

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Well, it is certainly hard to ignore…

52 #1’s in September.  The reactions have begun to get at least a little more varied.  Ranging from “Oh boy! 52 jumping off points!” to ” But I actually LIKED where Batman inc was going”.  There have been piles of announcements ahead of the full official list and there are a few interesting things.

George Perez writing and drawing Superman (confirmed).  Just freaking cool.  I’m there.

Grant Morrison doing another Superman book (still unconfirmed).  I loved his All-Star book.  I’m there.

Batman inc is on a break until sometime next year.  I went on a break from a girlfriend once.  That didn’t work out all that well.

David Finch on Dark Knight.  What?  He pumps out 2 cruddy issues in 6 months and they are “rebooting”?  I can see the solicitation for  September 2012 already…”superstar Finch to release 4th fabulous issue!”  Ooh!  Can hardly wait to miss this one.  But since it will not be on time much, we will all “miss” it.  On the whole the Batbooks seem to be getting kind of the short end of the stick.  There is a little shuffling of names from one book to another, but nothing really cool.  Greg Capullo on a Batman book is pretty cool.  He is always a fun artist and getting away from Todd MacFarlane will do nothing bad for his career.  Looks like Jason will still be around, and they will continue to clean him up and make him an anti-hero.  Damian is still Robin, and Dick Grayson will go back to being Nightwing.  The part that bugs me is that Barbara Gordon will be Batgirl again.  Not from a continuity point does it bug me (The Killing Joke was never intended to be in canon), but rather the fact that I liked the Oracle angle.

A couple of things HAVE gotten my interest though.  Justice League Dark looks to be written by Peter Milligan and has a fabulous cast.  Any chance to see Madame Xanadu back in a book, since her great series by Matt Wagner and mostly Amy Reeder on art, is a real treat.

Also looking good is Animal Man.  A possible cover is below, along with the third book that looks super cool, Resurrection Man, a character from the late 90’s being brought back by its creator’s Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

At least from the odd corners of the DCU, things are looking interesting.  But to be honest, the whole “women need to cover their legs” thing is really stupid, and Power Girl in pants is gonna suck.  It is as if DC thinks that no one will notice the huge boobage on all the femal characters if thier legs are covered.  Take PG out of the mix and the cup sizes are still pretty spectacular.  We shall see, but I’m guessing this last only as long as the readers keep coming.  Sale dip, and off come the pants!

Justice League Dark cover by Ryan Sook

The return -again- of resurrection Man

Animal Man

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Just Like DC, I am starting over with a new #1!!!

Don’t worry though, I will be returning to my “legacy numbering” in a couple of years, when sales drop off or a new crossover occurs to me.

Amazing how negative the reactions to this have been so far.  Do we as fans have as short a memory as the industry as a whole?  Is there an issue of a comic this month starring “generic guy”?  Yes?  Then who cares what the numbering is?  Justice League will be starting with a new number one by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee (it will either be awful/late all the time or the most amazing 6 issue series in history).  Yes, you heard me, 6 issues before Lee either leaves or is so late there are fill ins.  I think there is amazing potential in that book.  But this is just the newest in a really long line of JLA number ones.  It is one of the worst, and that’s even before you start counting the other series that were multiple per month titles.  Birds of Prey #1?  They have not managed to get a book yet that will sell well after the 3rd issue, despite some world-class talent.  The longer Gail Simone run a while back is as close as they got , and it was always closer to the bottom than the top.  Too bad too, it has generally been one of the better DC books.

So, yes, there will be 52 new titles in September.  And if you don’t think there is significance in that number, you are drinking the wrong kool aid.  So many books have re numbered, then gone back again and again that it really makes no difference at all.  It would be news if they stopped publishing a character entirely for a few months, but even that is a rare occurrence.  Hell, even when Superman died, there were piles of Superman books!  “Yes, he is dead.  And now we are going to do one book with no Superman for one month, but he will still show up as flashbacks and memories.  Then we will tease you forever with several Supermen (4 if memory serves) and then tell you it is none of them.  BAH!  Finding change in comics that lasts is like trying to nail jello to a tree, and has always been that way.  Fans seem to think that SOME change is acceptable, but other change, that when you look at it, is identical, is bad.  If DC has said “there will be a new series of Justice League by Johns and Lee (better yet, called it “All-Star JL”) and quietly let that be the only book, no one would be saying anything but positives about it.  The other books really are not different.  You can never win by giving the fans what they want as they will always rebel against it as “not QUITE what they had in mind”.  Just as an aside, when I say “fans” I don’t mean “you”.  I mean the group of us.  All of us.  We are generally pretty smart, sensible people individually, but as a group we are short-sighted, and have no long-term memory at the best of times.  So there will be new branding on 52 character’s books.  Some of these are likely to be new books entirely, meaning an all new title for a fella that has not had a book in a while, say Deadman.  Others will be re-branding old books or the same book with a new number and creative team.  Bets will be flying as to which ones become limited runs and how quick.  If the 52 has any significance, they will likely last as long as they need to so they can move the arc along.  Believe me, this is not being done as an end unto itself, but towards another goal entirely.  I’m betting the overall number will not move much as there is a goal here.  I have no interest in Flashpoint, but what will come out of it with the reboot, has me very interested.  If only in the hope that there will be real change that sticks around for more than 10 minutes.  I know that is not likely, but like all fans, i always hope that what I am going to read next is the coolest thing I will EVER read.  Just like the one after than and so on.

One last note on the book here that CBR mentioned.  See the caption for what they sparked in my head…

Could Action #904 end up being the highest consecutively numbered book on the stands?

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