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As the first month of the New 52 winds down…

Well, I ended up buying 13 of the New 52, with 2 more of interest next week.

So far I can safely say, I have enjoyed all of them.  Some much more than others.  Some I will not buy the next issue.  Technically, I will probably only get the first arc for Action Comics, Batman and Detective Comics.  Animal Man and Resurrection Man are still on the bubble.  So here I will do a quick recap for all of the books I have read so far as I may not do full reviews for all of them.

Logo for the DC Edge books

Stormwatch:  This is the only one of the Edge group of books that I have had any interest in, and to be honest, I was disappointed.  I had really been looking forward to this one and found it every bid as bland as most of the old Wildstorm titles.  The various groupings of books is pretty tightly done, with the Edge books mostly being the books brought over from Wildstorm and a few odds and ends.  My high hopes were than they would make Martian Manhunter a little more interesting and less of a fifth wheel.  They didn’t, he is just a dick.

Green Lantern:  I was really not going to bother with this one since I have done just the collected editions of the main series, as well as Blackest Night and Brightest Day hardcovers.  But what the hell.  I grabbed it and it was decent.  I’m not going to get the floppies on a regular basis as I will still just do the hardcovers.  The Lantern books have read better in a single sitting since Geoff Johns started writing them.  A word about the grouping on these.  As far as I know, all of the Lantern books are in their own group, but I don’t recall seeing that officially anywhere.  I may have just missed it though.

Batman group logo.

Batman: This book was purchased based entirely on the creative team.  Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo drew me in and did not let me down.  The story had several good twists and made for a fun and fast paced book.  Capullo’s art was exactly what I had expected.  Sometimes a bit cartoonish for my tastes, but he has a strong storytelling sense that works well for this book.  Any anything that gets him away from the Spawn books is a winner in my mind.  Now we will see what he can REALLY do.

Batgirl:  Niiiiice!  This is going to be a really interesting book if the editors at DC allow this to go the way I think it is intended to.  This could get really cool.  I would not have touched this book with a ten foot pole if Gail Simone had not been tapped to write it, and I think she has gotten it off on a great path.  The Killing Joke is now officially canon, even though through some as yet unexplained “miracle”, Barbara Gordon can now walk.  Ardian Syaf’s art is perfect for this book, a good sense of action and pacing, while not being too dark and gloomy.  That is what the next book is for…

Detective Comics:  A great book.  See my review here.  A quick word about the individual books logos.  They have redesigned almost all of the books logo for the New 52.  Action, and the other Superbooks have not changed.  Neither has Swamp Thing.  For the most part, they look very nice.  The Blackhawks logo is awful.  Looks like a hight school football logo.  Just crap.  The others are sharp and modern, with some really standing out.

DC Dark group logo.

DC Dark books group logo.

Animal Man:  This is the first of the DC Dark books I read.  My review is here.  I liked all of the Dark books so far and they were the ones that I was most interested in from the start.  I will be picking up Justice League Dark next week.

Swamp Thing:  This one feels odd.  The fact that Superman appears threw me off, if only because Superman is being almost fully rebooted and Swampy appears to be more of a soft reboot, with much of the history being referenced.  If there is any line wide weaknesses in the New 52 it is that Batman and Green Lantern will maintain virtually all of their history, as the continuity will not change for them, but Superman and all the other books are changing.  Some very little and some quite drastically.  Held on its own, without the rest of the DCU attached, Swamp Thing was a good read and I am interested in the continuing story.

Resurrection Man:  If they keep this up, this could be the sleeper hit of the New 52.  I liked the character when he first came out in the 90’s but there was not much done with him.  This book is tightly plotted and strong with Abnett & Lanning (the character’s original creators) looking like they are one the verge of doing their very best work yet.  I have enjoyed the cosmic stuff they have done at Marvel and this looks like it could top even that.  This book has one of the best of the new logos too.  Very cool with a retro feel to it.

DC Superman group logo.

Supergirl:  A lot of fans were bothered by the creative team shuffling of some of the books.  What they came up with for this book is something that looks very promising.  Writers Green and Johnson have a good handle and a potentially interesting take on the most boring heroine in the DCU.  Mahmud Asrar’s art is inconsistent, but engaging.  Stylization sometimes wins over rendering, but not distractingly so.  There is a lot of promise in this book too.

Action Comics:  Boo-yah!  If you read only one of the new DCU, this should really be the one!  I have re read this since my original review here, and like this book even more.  It is too bad they didn’t launch with this instead of Justice League.  Superman #1 is out next week.  Still have not decided if I am getting it or not.  And NO.  If I do not get it at my LCS, I will not waste my money buying it on ebay.  That’s why DC is happily reprinting the really hot books.

DC Justice League Group logo.

Justice League:   Speaking of hot books, this is on a 3rd printing, and it looks like a 4th coming.  Good for you DC.  I just wish the book had been better.  My review is here.  Just not as strong as it could have and really should have been.  May turn out to be the first book to start losing readers quickly if it does not find its footing fast.  I know this is intended as a prequel of sorts to the rest of the DCU, but so is Action Comics, and it is much better.

Captain Atom:  Of all the old Charlton characters, this is the one I wanted to like the most and ended up not having any interest in.  Since Alan Moore did his version in Watchman, the Captain seemed poorly handled at best.  I was not going to pick up this book.  I’m mostly glad I did.  This is one of the books that I have seen so far (animal Man and Swamp Thing being the other 2) that could actually have a finite run and work well that way.  They are books that seem like a real beginning, middle and end to the run would be in the best interests of the title.  I can see all 3 with a clear arc.  If I thought that they would actually DO that, I would sign up for all 3 without a pause.  That is what would work best for these and serve the characters as started in the New 52 perfectly.  But all creative options aside, I know these are, first and foremost, properties.  They will not take a book to a logical and intelligent conclusion and end it when it could continue for more issues.  It is a mentality I have never wanted in my comics.  Why CAN’T Animal Man run for a finite number of issues and be an end to the character for a while.  Finish telling your story then let the book rest until someone comes along with a new take on things.  But DC, like Marvel, has the quantity over quality model going, despite what they say publicly.  The fact that they are more interested in getting books out on an arbitrary schedule than keeping a creative team is evidence of that.  The way to solve late books is not to replace teams, just hold off printing until more issues are in the can.  If the artist or writer feels like they are getting screwed, then they are in the wrong industry, and it IS an industry.  They do not print these things for fun.  They are there to make money and there is nothing wrong with that.  But there is a middle ground where the creative side and the corporate side CAN meet, they just never seem willing or able to.  Captain Atom is a book with a lot of style, sometimes to its detriment.  The art is sometimes more distracting than it should be, and the visual storytelling is spotty.  There are more positives than negative though.  The characters are still bland, but there is time for fleshing them out going forward.  The art has moments of being very off model, but the dynamic styling is powerful and hard to ignore.  If this WERE a finite story, I can see it really working well.  But I see this first arc being paid off and then just more issue coming where the premises being set up here will get watered down and made on-going.

Justice League International:  This book is a mess at times.  Dan Jurgens can be very hit and miss.  His best, can be classic.  This is not that book.  They have chosen the most B-listy bunch possible to people the group and they are not well written here.  Booster Gold has always been one of those guys with lots of unrealized potential.  So now for this reboot, he seems to have very abruptly realized it.  That does not really work well.  Fire and Ice are a team that have only really worked well when…well…they have never worked well.  If you look at their past stuff, they really are just plot hammers.  Or they are there so someone else can react to something about them.  They themselves were never all that interesting.  Guy Gardner seems like they are playing him as less of a prick, but since I never liked the guy no matter how they played him…  Rocket Red is fun to have here, and so is August General in Iron.  Having Batman at all is just silly.  He is being repositioned in the new DCU to being back to the dark shadow in Gotham, and he is just not a good fit here.  Fortunately, he is not likely to get  much play and can be more or less written out.  His presence here is to add some connection to other characters for the reader, like propping up Booster a bit with the readers as well as the other members of the team.  I can see this book always being in flux until they find the right mix.  With team books though, that is not a bad thing.

All in all, a good start.  I want to see risks.  Like the ones I have seen in other books of the relaunch like Catwoman or Red Hood and the Outlaws.  These are books that will push away long time fans, but maybe they will bring new ones in with stories that are daring and new.  Detective and Action look like they may be off to similar starts.  Here is hoping the New 52 changes the game as much as I think it can.  If it does, we are all in for a Hell of a ride!

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DC New 52: Action Comics #1 review

Action Comics #1

DC Comics

September 2011

$3.99

Well this one certainly lives up to the title on the front of the book!

Now THAT'S a cool cover!

To start off, I think it is inevitable that Superman will go back to the same character we have all know for our entire lives, The Big Blue  boy scout.  I really don’t see that staying away for very long.  The core concepts of the character are pretty much untouchable, but the things that hover just at the edge of that, the apple pie goodness that so many fans find foolish and hokey, seem almost as pervasive.  As a quick aside:  I am not blind to the fact that many people just don’t like Superman.  There is one particular reader out there that seems to waste focus a great deal of energy on just how much he dislikes the character.  First to that person, and the other people out there that calls themselves “fans” of comics…  It is perfectly acceptable to dislike everything you read, see, hear and otherwise experience.  I would respectfully suggest that if you do not like something, stop trying to explain to everyone why you hate it, and try to spread the word on something that you DO like.  On this blog I welcome all views as long as they are reasoned and expressed respectfully to everyone that might read it.  To be honest, I am not a Superman fan.  Not really.  There are people who have an allegiance to a character regardless of any other factors.  I am not one of them.  I enjoy good comics, and that starts with talented and inspired creators putting that product out there for me to read.  Superman, like all other company owned properties, has had many creators far beyond the two kids from Cleveland.  Many have been hacks, or at least did not really bring their “A Game”.  Many others were masters of their craft.  And many more were somewhere in between.  I should not really ever say (but sometimes I do slip up on this) that I like or dislike Superman, Batman, Thor, The Avengers and so on.  What I should say is I like Thor as written by Walt Simonson, or the Avengers as drawn by George Perez.  Saying “I hate Superman” is really not saying anything of substance.  Opinions are only valid when expressed with a reason attached, even if that reason is irrational.  It is like saying “I hate cabbage”.  Well, OK, sure, but WHY?  No one NEEDS a reason to hate something, true.  But without a reason, you will not get anyone to listen to your opinions.  The best way to get people to dismiss or just plain ignore your opinions is to shout them out at the world like an idiot.  So if you have an opinion, share it, but do so intelligently and respectfully.  The words “Superman Sucks” over and over will lower the interest has of everyone reading it.  Even if they agree with you.  If you don’t like something here, that I DO, or the reverse, try to change my mind.  You probably won’t, even as I cannot change yours.  Opinions are like that, once formed, they tend not to change much.  But the debate is always more fun and stimulating that just mindless bitching.

Having said that, it is true.  I am not a Superman fan.  On my shelves right now are 8 trades or hardcovers where they are predominantly Superman books, and that is out of, what I will guess to be something between 750 and 850 similarly formatted books.  ( I don’t really do floppys anymore and the New 52 books I am reading now are very much the exceptions to the rule, as I might have something in the area of 100 floppys at any one time.  When they are put in a nice trade or HC, I tend to get rid of the originals)  Those Superman books are by some of the best of the modern writers.  (sorry, not much of the classic stuff out there that I enjoy enough to own and re read) Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman, being the most recent of the really fine books.  And that is why the New 52 and the re launch of Action Comics really had me interested.

If you were not previously much into Superman, this might be the book that changes your mind.  If you prefer the boy scout as mentioned above, this may really send you screaming.  I hope not.  As I said, this will not last.  The Supes we all know will slowly return.  But for now, there is a pretty good take on the character.  This Superman has returned to the social crusader that first appeared in the late 1930s and his methods have a lot more in common with Batman than the big blue we all recognize.

This book is in the past, behind the continuity of all the other new books except Justice League.  These are here to establish the world as it is now.  As I understand it, JL will eventually catch up.  That has not been explicitly stated for Action, but that is a safe bet.  The world does not understand or really even trust this guy in a tight T-shirt, jeans and a cape.  They are wary and frightened of him.  The police and military are after him even as he tries to fight FOR them.  Lex Luthor is here too, and he is on the side of the average man, much like he has always claimed.  The plot really is just “let’s get Superman” at this point.  They manage to re-establish that Clark Kent is there and that he still works for a news agency , but Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane work for a rival one.  This Superman is FAR from invulnerable.  Yes we have seem him take a pounding in books before, but not really like this.  The beating he takes has consequences and they follow him.  Clark SHOULD have bruises if Superman does.  I like that this Superman is more fragile, it adds impact to the story, but I don’t want to see his de power go to far.  He should still be the most powerful being on the planet.

That is where I didn’t care for this book.  To me, and this is strictly MY opinion, Superman IS a Sun God, just as Morrison has stated.  If any but the most amazing mortal was confronted with seeing a being with the kind of power that Superman has, they would likely be unable to function.  They would go bibbldy.  At least they would wet themselves.  That might be why Superman has been a character I have failed to enjoy as regularly, I cannot believe in the more simple aspects of the story.  Suspension of disbelief starts with very subtle things, after all.  My version would probably not make for very human comics, though, so the approach here is bringing the Sun God down just a bit, and making him more believable.

Grant Morrison and Rags Morales are the writer and artist that are bringing you this book, and I have to say that it met my very high expectations for it.  I will be picking up the monthly issues for the duration of the first arc.    Morales’ art has found a perfect complement in inker Rick Bryant.  The line is stunning and pulls you in and keeps you there.  Clark is believably human and he and Superman actually do look like they might fool you into thinking they are different people.  Morrison’s new take on Superman is an interesting one and I can only say 2 things:  One, please stay on the book as long as you have good stories to tell(with the obvious thought that there are a lot to tell, rather than just this first arc).  And two, that they don’t chicken out.  Take your ideas to the logical conclusion without making concessions to the commercial aspect of the industry.  I doubt DC editorial will allow something with an actual beginning, middle and end, but I can dream.

Buy this book.

 

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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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