Friday, October 07, 2011

Reviewing The New 52 - Part 6 - The Final Chapter

Hey, I’m a big Batman fan, but 11 Bat-Titles may be a bit much. Let’s find out.

Birds of Prey – Duane Swierczynski, Jesus Saiz
Birds of Prey opens with Charlie, a journalist trying to track down a “covert ops team run by a bunch of supercriminal hotties.” He quickly meets the first one, a tattooed, gun toting babe called Starling, as she and the Black Canary save Charlie from a bunch of ninja types who are trying to kill him. We then find out that these two have been using Charlie to flush out whoever’s behind the ninja types. They aren’t too successful, as they send Charlie to the airport and try to put him on a plane, at which point he blows up (an airplane seems to be a very bad place to be in the New DC Universe). If you like skillfully rendered pictures of hot, leather clad babes kicking ass, you will definitely like this book. If not, you may have to check out a few issues to see if it’s really going to become something worth reading. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Catwoman – Judd Winnick, Guillem March
I’m not sure that leather clad babes kicking ass is enough to save Catwoman though. Catwoman starts with our heroine leaping from her apartment, half dressed, as skull-masked baddies break in and destroy the place. It continues with her infiltrating a Russian mob party and shredding a rapist, and concludes with her banging Batman. All in a day’s work, I guess, but not anything I really need to see more of. Recommendation: Pass

Nightwing – Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer
I always thought that Nightwing, who is Dick Grayson, the original Robin, worked better as the leader of a team, specifically the Titans, and never took much interest in what he did on his own. Especially now, since it always seemed he was being groomed to be the next Batman, then he BECAME the next Batman, and now he’s back to Nightwing again. It’s a bit of an anti climax. This issue was pretty standard, Dick does some reflecting, fights some crime, visits his old circus folk friends, and fights some more crime. Nothing spectacular by any means. Recommendation: Pass

Batwing – Judd Winnick, Ben Oliver
Batwing is South Africa’s Batman, created as part of the Batman, Inc. initiative. Batwing’s secret identity is David Zavimbe, a police officer, so he really never gets a break from crime fighting, and can give Batman a run for his money when it comes to being obsessed. What’s interesting about the Batwing concept is captured perfectly in this little exchange:

I told Batman that a man dressed as a bat will not instill fear in the average criminal in Africa. They have seen too much.

He told me: “You just have to sell it.”

Need I say more? Recommendation: Keep Reading

Batgirl – Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, Vicente Cifuentes
In Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is back. About 20 years ago, the Joker ended Babs’ Batgirl career with a bullet. Since then, she’s been confined to a wheelchair, and fighting crime as information processor supreme Oracle. (The guy who really needs to register with DC’s complaint department is The Joker. His two big coups, killing Robin and paralyzing Batgirl, have been undone. What’s a psychopath gotta do these days?) Now Barbara’s back in action, and you can tell she loves it. She takes out a group of young murderous sociopaths with giddy delight, even remarking to herself “I did? I completely did!” when one of the villains comments on how Batgirl has knocked his compatriot out cold. However, we also see the other side, when, while attempting to save a victim in a hospital bed, she freezes when a masked villain pulls a gun on her and points it right where the Joker’s bullet went, triggering a trauma flashback, allowing the villain to kill his prey. There are a lot of facets to this character, and I’m interested to see where this one will go. Recommendation: Issue by Issue 

Batwoman – J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman
The claim to fame of Batwoman, a recent addition to the DC universe, is that she became the first mainstream lesbian superhero. I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the stylistic choice, but for some reason Batwoman has a very gothic feel, with lots of raven blacks, ethereal blues, smoky greys and blood reds. We start with Batwoman saving a family from some kind of creepy water spirit. We then move on to see Kate Kane, after a brief back and forth with a cop friend, hanging out in what appears to pass for her version of the Batcave, where she is offering some sage advice to her sidekick, who is not Batgirl, but Flamebird, AKA her cousin Bette. We then get a little backstory where we learn why Kate hates her father. The book feels sort of all over the place and I would wait for it to find an identity before following it. Recommendation: Pass

Red Hood and the Outlaws – Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort
This book is the Teen Titans Gone to Hell, and not in a good way. It features Roy Harper (Speedy), Jason Todd (Red Hood, A.K.A. Robin II), and Koriand’r (Starfire) as a ragtag band of I don’t know what. It starts with Jason breaking Roy out of an Arab prison, and moves to some tropical island where it seems they’re both sleeping with Kory. Roy has no personality, Jason has one, but it’s very unpleasant, and Kory seems to have been turned from a nuanced alien princess to an adolescent fantasy sex toy. I think you can guess where I’m going with this one. Recommendation: Pass 

Batman and Robin – Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray
Finally, we get to the books that actually feature Batman. Batman and Robin is fun, if for nothing else, than for Robin, AKA Damian Wayne, whose father is Batman and whose mother is the daughter of R’as Al Ghul, one of Batman’s greatest enemies. The result is a Robin who is cynical, nasty, smart, precocious and alarmingly vicious. Seeing Batman try to get this little brat under control is worth the price of admission. Recommendation: Keep Reading 

Batman: The Dark Knight – David Finch, Paul Jenkins, Richard Friend
This book is fine, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. It’s a standard Batman story, with Batman having to deal with a breakout at Arkham Asylum. I assumed that one of these books would be a Batman: Early Years, the way Action Comics is for Superman, but if that’s the case, I haven’t figured out which one. I’ll probably keep reading this for an issue or two to see if it distinguishes itself from other bat-books, but if you’re not big on Batman, you can skip it. Recommendation: Issue by Issue 

Batman: Detective Comics – Tony S. Daniel, Ryan Winn
Detective Comics might be that Batman: Early Years book I’m looking for, since in it, the police are an enemy of Batman, but that may be true in the current New Universe. It’s a Joker story, and in the fine tradition of Joker stories, it’s a disturbing one. There’s plenty of brooding, action and daring saves, so if you’re a Batman fan, you should definitely check it out. Recommendation: Keep Reading 

Batman – Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion
I was obviously hoping for big things from the Batman title. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get it. In fact, I think this book exposes the problem with Batman oversaturation. This issue actually borrows sequences from the other books. There’s a breakout at Arkham, just like in the Dark Knight, and there’s a Batman internal monologue that turns out to be a speech Bruce Wayne is giving to a nattily dressed crowed, just like in Detective Comics. In fact, check out the art from P. 8-9 of Batman and P.11-12 of Detective. They’re practically interchangeable. And no, these aren’t just different takes on the same scene. There are enough differences that they are clearly separate stories. I don’t know who borrowed from whom, but the net effect is originality seems to have gone out the window. I can’t bring myself to tell you to pass on Batman, so I’ll just say Recommendation: Issue by Issue

And that’s it! Of the 52, I’ve only tagged 16 as must reads, so that’s a fairly affordable $12 a week. No need to send money, even though I’ve just saved you a ton of it; your undying gratitude and admiration are sufficient. I’ll probably take a break for awhile, and then possibly move on to non comics matters for a bit, so savor these reviews! Later!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Reviewing The New 52 - Part 5

We’re coming down the home stretch of The New 52 review, covering the Superman and Green Lantern titles this time, and finishing up with the Batman line next time around. So, without futher ado…


I have to say up front that I’m a Batman guy, but I was willing to try to keep an open mind when it came to the “New Superman Family.” Here’s what I found:

Superboy -- Scott Lobdell, R.B. Silva, Rob Lean
What’s been nice about The New 52 is that each group of titles has had one surprise for me, one title that I thought there was no way I’d have any interest in that I ended up loving. For the Superman group, it was Superboy. When I was a kid, Superboy, along with Teen Titans and the Legion of Super Heroes, was one of my favorite titles. Once I grew up, the idea of Superman as a kid no longer had much appeal for me. I’m happy, therefore, to say to today’s young readers: this is not your father’s Superboy. This Superboy is the child of Superman and Lex Luthor. Seriously. He was cloned from a combination of their DNA. This new Superboy has been around for awhile, but the first time around, he basically just appeared on the scene as a “hip” cocky young Supertype. In Superboy, we actually get a “clone’s eye” view. We first meet Superboy in the tank, where an organization called NOWHERE is “growing” him. We hear his thoughts as he is observed and experimented on by a team that does not realize he is conscious. We sense his frustration as he is “educated” through a virtual reality program that we know he knows is not real, a fact his captors are ignorant to. We feel his fondness for Dr. Fairchild, the one NOWHERE agent who seems to really care about him (one of the agents who does NOT really care about him happens to be Rose Wilson, Deathstroke’s daughter). We also eagerly anticipate what will happen when he is finally released to eliminate the Teen Titans, who are posing a problem for NOWHERE. At least, I do. Recommendation: Keep Reading

Supergirl – Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Mahmud Asrar, Dan Green
I mentioned in the last blog that Animal Man has really been put through the ringer by DC. That’s nothing compared to what has been done to Supergirl. She’s been made into a blob of protoplasm, an “Earth Angel,” a supervillain, and of course, she's been killed. This Supergirl really starts from scratch, and I think it’s a good thing. We start with Kara Zor-El, Supergirl, crash landing to earth in her costume (in a cute twist on the legend, we learn that the costume is some form of ceremonial gown that she was saving for her graduation). Kara acts exactly like anyone waking up in a strange place with no memory of how they got there would act, until of course, she is attacked by giant robots and finds out she has super powers. While Kara prevails over the giant robots, she’s still a bit lost, until finally cousin Kal (Superman) shows up. What will happen next? I’m curious enough to want to find out. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Action Comics – Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Rick Bryant
Action Comics presents Superman: The Early Years. His powers are not fully formed, he’s the “leap tall buildings, more powerful than a locomotive, but can still take damage from being hit with giant metal things” type. Even his costume isn’t fully formed. He fights crime in an “S” t-shirt, the cape he was wrapped in as a baby, blue jeans and Timberlands. His morality isn’t fully formed yet either, and he is much more of a Batman type crime fighter, using threats and intimidation to get criminals to comply. As far as I’m concerned, that’s better left for Gotham City, and this take on Superman, while original, doesn’t work for me. I’m going to go ahead and say pass, since if you’re a Superman fan, you’re obviously going to go buy this book anyway no matter what I say. Recommendation: Pass 

(NOTE: Since writing this review, I broke down and bought Issue #2 of Action Comics. Now that I think I see where Morrison is going with it, I'm actually on board)

Superman – George Perez, Jesus Merino
As you would expect from any book with George Perez at the helm, the book looks fantastic. Once you get past that though, it’s just the same old Superman, fighting a giant monster, and getting back in time to write it up for the Daily Planet (which has been taken over by Morgan Edge’s Rupert Murdoch-esque global media empire). There’s certainly nothing here to suddenly make me a Superman fan, although again, if you are, I don’t see how you could fail to buy it. Recommendation: Pass 

Green Lantern

Green Lantern, on the other hand, I always did like, because I thought the idea of science fiction heroes was always pretty cool. Here’s my take on the four new GL books.

Red Lanterns – Peter Milligan, Ed Benes, Rob Hunter
No, this book is not about a bunch of power ring wielding prostitutes, although that might be interesting. In fact, one of the newer developments in the DC Universe is the splitting of the Guardians of the Universe’s energies into not just green lanterns and power rings powered by will, but a whole rainbow of lanterns, each powered by a different emotion. Red Lanterns and rings are powered by rage, which makes you wonder if perhaps any of us could be chosen. Their leader is Atrocitus, who is a pretty nasty, angry fellow due to the wanton slaughter of his entire race. This book is worth getting for the opening sequence where Atrocitus’ cat, also a Red Lantern, shreds the crap out of a bunch of aliens torturing some innocent soul. Not sure where this one is going to go, although it seems a rebellion by the Reds against Atrocitus is brewing. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Green Lantern: New Guardians – Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham, Batt
A bunch of years back, few will remember that DC attempted a New Guardians book, about a group that were chosen to eventually replace the Guardians of the Universe. That book was impossible to take seriously, in large part due to the cartoonish, Joe Staton art, and was quickly shelved. Now it seems that DC is reviving the idea. A cataclysm has left the Guardians wiped out, except for one, Ganthet, who tasks himself with finding a solution to this catastrophe. The solution starts with selecting Kyle Rayner, a struggling young illustrator, as the recipient of the last available Green power ring. This makes sense to those who have followed DC history, as Kyle has been the fourth official Green Lantern from Earth for some time, but it’s not really clear why he is chosen in this book. Furthermore, Kyle is given a ring for each color of the rainbow, presumably to help him find new recipients for them. Rudely, these rings have been extracted from their current wearers, while they were using them, which sucks, since ring bearers often use these rings to do stuff like fight off hordes of angry aliens or travel through space, which it’s difficult to continue to do once they are suddenly removed. While that’s an amusing idea, I’m still not clear where this book is going, and I don’t have high hopes. But we’ll see. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Green Lantern Corps: Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna
As a kid, I loved the Alan Moore Green Lantern Corps back up stories, so when they decided to launch a Green Lantern Corps series, I was thrilled. Imagine my horror to learn that rather than anthology stories of alien Green Lanterns in space, we were going to be treated to a team of Green Lanterns operating on Earth, saddled with that cartoonish Joe Staton art I mentioned earlier. Actually, don’t. You can’t possibly imagine. It was too horrible. Fortunately, I got over it. Even more fortunately, this Green Lantern Corps has a chance to get it right. Although we’ve got two human Green Lanterns, Guy Gardner and John Stewart, at the helm, they end up leading a team of alien Lanterns tasked with finding out why a bunch of GLs visiting a certain planet have turned up dead. And they do find out. It’s because everyone on that planet has turned up dead. What now, GL Corps? Recommendation: Issue by Issue 

Green Lantern – Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy
I’ll give DC credit on this one. While most of the flagship entries in The New 52, i.e. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, seem to be sticking with tried and true formulas, Green Lantern went a different way, decommissioning the classic Hal Jordan Green Lantern and re-signing his arch nemesis, Sinestro, as a Green Lantern and the star of this book (although, I’m forced to wonder, with Hal Jordan out of the picture, Stewart and Gardner fighting a world killer in the far reaches of space, and Kyle Rayner forming the New Guardians, who the heck is protecting Earth’s space sector? Talk about feast or famine!). I mean, yeah, we know Hal is going to get the ring back, but it’s a nice way to start fresh. In this issue, we follow Hal getting acclimated to civilian life, and Sinestro trying to get used to the idea of being on the green side of things. Neither are too good at it, and we end with Sinestro asking Hal to work with him so that they can get back to where they belong. Should be interesting. Recommendation: Keep Reading 

Okay, that covers everything but the Batman titles, and there are plenty of them, as you’ll see next time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reviewing The New 52 - Part 4

The Dark

In this part of the New 52 review, I’ll be talking about the “Dark” titles, which are the name DC has given its supernatural, horror, weird, scary, what have you, titles. Next time I’ll cover the Superman and Green Lantern titles, and then we’ll wrap it up with the Batman line. So, here we go, with THE DARK.

 Demon Knights – Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert
So a demon, a witch, an immortal and a sexually ambiguous magical knight walk into a bar… It sounds like the opening of a bad joke, but is in fact the very entertaining setting for Demon Knights, a medieval adventure featuring Etrigan, the titular Demon, as well as his partner Madame Xanadu and a host of other DC legends from long ago. Etrigan and Xanadu, having escaped the siege of Camelot together, find refuge at an inn that just happens to be in the way of Mordru, an evil sorcerer who has no qualms about killing a newborn baby or two in order to divine the future, and certainly doesn’t mind razing to the ground anything that gets in his way, including our heroes. This book looks to be a lot of fun, and something different from the usual fare, so it definitely gets my vote. Recommendation: Keep Reading 

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. – Jeff Lemire, Alberto Ponticelli
This book, on the other hand, does not. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., which features the “Creature Commandos,” who are essentially super beings based on classic movie monsters, working for a secret government agency to fight various dark things, seems to me to be little more than a clone of Hellboy, and if you like this sort of thing, you should probably read that instead. If you can’t get enough Hellboy, or you have nostalgic fondness for the Creature Commandos, you might enjoy Frankenstein. Not for me, though. Recommendation: Pass 

Swamp Thing – Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette
In the beginning, Swamp Thing was a guy named Alec Holland, a scientist who invented some kind of super plant food. Terrorists wanted Alec’s invention, presumably for some Fern-based world takeover plot, and blew up Alec’s lab with him in it. He ran into the swamp, and emerged the muck-monster known as the Swamp Thing. He was big, mute, and fought crime in the Louisiana Bayou. Kind of fun, horror type stuff, but not really enough to carry a whole book. Then, the holy messiah of comic books, Alan Moore, descended from the Heavens and told us Swampy’s true origin: Swamp Thing was not, in fact, Alec Holland, but the collective consciousness of the various plant organisms that ate Holland’s corpse after his dying body landed in the swamp. He was not a man who had become a plant; he was, in fact, a plant who falsely believed he was a man. This groundbreaking concept launched a new era in comic books writing, and expanding the idea to reveal that this plant creature was actually a plant elemental who had existed in some form for time immemorial only enhanced the concept. In the New 52, Alec Holland is somehow resurrected, and people (re: Superman) don’t seem to get the idea that he never was the Swamp Thing, who Holland bumps into in the final panel. I don’t know if I care for this re-reimagining of a sacred comics cow, but the writing and art is strong, so I’ll stick around a little while. Recommendation: Issue by Issue 

Resurrection Man – Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Fernando Dagnino
Resurrection Man is Mitch Shelley, who, due to some kind of secret government experiments, can come back from the dead. When he is killed, he returns moments later, with powers based on how he was killed. The first issue follows a disturbingly similar path as The Grifter, with a somewhat disoriented Mitch ending up on plane where supernatural forces attempt to kill him. Like Cole Cash, Mitch and the otherworldly beast out to get him end up diving out of the plane. Unlike The Grifter, Mitch dies on impact. Because he can. I’m not sure quite why we care though, and if you want to read about a troubled soul who has the forces of the heavens (hells?) out to get him, I recommend you pick up some back issues of Preacher. Recommendation: Pass 

Justice League Dark Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin
Justice League Dark opens with Madame Xanadu, a sort of female Dr. Strange who it seems will be the focus of the “Dark” portion of the DC Universe (For extra fun: If you ignored my recommendation and bought Resurrection Man, compare the last page of that book to the first page of JL Dark. They seem to immediately follow one another). The central crisis of this book seems to be that the Enchantress, a witch, seems to be losing it, with our reality suffering the consequences (Think Scarlet Witch-House of M, for you Marvel fans). The real Justice League tries to rein her in, but due to their vulnerability to magic, it’s not working out too well. Who can save the world? Justice League Dark! They’re not really called that, thank God, but they consist of a group of “underheroes” whom Madame Xanadu assembles to fight a growing evil that she cannot fully explain. They include Shade, the Changing Man, whose M-Vest allows him some reality-altering ability of his own, which he mostly uses to resurrect his dead girlfriend,  John Constantine, who, that terrible Keanu Reeves movie aside, is a pretty bad ass ghostbuster, and Deadman (possibly Zatanna and the Enchantress, if she can ever get her act together, as well). Just as Justice League seems to be the cornerstone of the New Justice line of titles, this one looks to be the anchor for the Dark titles, so if you want to keep up, you’d better keep reading; but don’t worry, Milligan/Janin is an incredibly strong team, so you shouldn’t be disappointed. Recommendation: Keep Reading 

Animal Man - Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, Dan Green
The “British Invasion” of music was headlined by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who. The British Invasion of comic books featured Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison (although Morrison is Scottish). Grant Morrison earned his place in the pantheon with his take on Animal Man, a deconstructionist romp that refused to stay locked within the confines of the traditional comic book panels. Since then, just about everything possible has been done with Animal Man. He’s had his family killed and resurrected, he’s lost his powers, he’s been rocketed out into space. Now he’s back on Earth, managing trying to resume his super hero career with the demands of a family. Frankly, I’m A-Manned out. I don’t love the art, it’s a little too “pop” for me, and the story, while sufficiently creepy, and climaxing with A-man’s daughter summoning a bunch of dead animals to play with, just doesn’t get my motor running. Recommendation: Pass 

I, Vampire – Joshua Hale Fialkov, Andrea Sorrentino
Well, it wouldn’t be a dark line without a vampire, right? This particular vampire tale features Andrew and Mary, vampire ex-lovers, disagreeing strongly on the place of vampires in modern society. To wit, Mary thinks they should rule the world, whereas Andrew thinks they should all be exterminated. This is clearly too big a problem for couples counseling, so instead they both go off to try to get their own way, Mary by forming a vampire army, Andrew by trying to be a one man slaying operation. Doesn’t look good for Andrew, does it? Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Okay, that’ll do it for the seamy underside of the new DC Universe. Back up into the light next time with the Superman and Green Lantern Titles.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reviewing The New 52 - Part 3

Young Justice

Continuing my review of DC's New 52, these are titles that feature teenagers as their main characters, so maybe they aren’t geared towards me. However, I’ll try to give them a fair shake.

Blue Beetle -- Tony Bedard, Ig Guara, Ruy Jose

Blue Beetle was the most pleasant surprise of this group for me. All I had heard about the book going in was how great it was that it showed diversity by featuring a Latino superhero, which it does, in the form of average Puerto Rican American teenager Jaime Reyes. If that’s all it is, I thought, it’s probably not going to be for me. But far from it. I mentioned last blog that I dig sci fi heroes, and in this incarnation, that’s who the Blue Beetle is. Jaime finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between some nasties (including the Brotherhood of Evil), over a mysterious artifact, which ends up in the car that Jaime is riding in. Due to the backstory, we know what’s in it, a weapon called a Scarab, created by a race of world beaters called The Reach. What a Scarab does is turn people into living weapons, who can then be turned against their very own people. The Scarab that ended up in Jaime’s possession is a stray, and when it merges with him and turns him into one of these Scarab Warriors, there’s no telling what will happen. This book has shades of early Spider Man, a young, moral hero trying to do good while trying to grow up at the same time under impossible circumstances. It’s a keeper. Recommendation: Keep Reading

Static Shock – Scott McDaniel, John Rozum, Jonathan Glapion, LeBeau Underwood
Static Shock, on the other hand, feels like it’s going for that Spider Man vibe, but missing the mark. Teenager Virgil Hawkins, is of course, a genius, and also has electricity powers. The problem is, he spends most of the first half of the book narrating about the physics behind his powers. Here’s a sample of some of the leaden dialogue: 

“This won’t hurt a bit! A small positive charge for you… and one big positive push from me!
“Do you even know what you’re doing? I ought to sue you for assault!”
“Of course I know what I’m doing! I’m an expert! Like charges repel! You should be more… POSITIVE!”

I’m positive if I want a physics lesson, I’ll get a textbook. Yawn… Recommendation: Pass 

Hawk & Dove – Sterling Gates, Rob Liefeld

DC has never seemed to really know what to do with Hawk & Dove. Originally, Hank and Don Hall were brothers who would say “Hawk” and “Dove” and become avatars of war and peace, respectively. Then they would fight crime. Back in the ‘60s, when the Vietnam War made every teenager a “hawk” or a “dove” this seemed like a very clever idea. Now it’s not, but DC doesn’t seem to want to let it go. At one point they made Hawk the totalitarian ruler of the world, more recently, they killed off Don and replaced him with the mysterious Dawn Granger. That’s the current incarnation we read about in this issue, Hawk is Hank Hall, while Dawn has some unknown connection to the deceased Don (my theory? She IS Don, reincarnated). In another weird add on, Dawn is dating Deadman, who, as you might guess, is dead. Hank has anger management issues, Dawn is a mystery, and none of it is particularly exciting. Recommendation: Pass

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Teen Titans – Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund
When I was a teenager, the New Teen Titans was my favorite book. That kind of makes sense, right? The original titans were the sidekicks of the Justice League, joining together to fight crime as a team. These titans are younger versions of adult heroes, but not quite sidekicks. They include Kid Flash, whose connection to the Flash is not made clear, Red Robin, aka Tim Drake, who was the third sidekick of Batman before they went their separate ways, Wonder Girl, aka Cassie Sandsmark, who claims no affiliation with Wonder Woman (Don’t call me Wonder Girl!) but whose powers look very similar, and Superboy, the cloned love child of Superman and Lex Luthor (I’m not kidding). I’m curious how this book will fit in with Superboy, as he has his own title, which looks quite interesting. This one does too, so I’m sticking with it for now. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

The Legion of Super Heroes – Paul Levitz, Francis Portela
Paul Levitz is widely regarded as having written one of the most definitive LSH runs, so it’s great that he’s back on the book, which has undergone many mutations and changes over the years. Now we seem back to basics, with Chameleon Boy leading the Espionage Squad for covert missions, Brainiac 5 doing the thinking,  Colossal Boy being all brooding and self-pitying, Ultra Boy not being the brightest of the bunch, but always reliable, and so on. In other words, Levitz does a good job of portraying the Legion as a big group of teenagers with varying personalities stuck with a lot of power and responsibility. Will he be able to keep that up? I’m not sure, but I think this issue is a good sign. Recommendation: Issue by Issue 

Legion Lost – Fabian Nicieza, Pete Woods
This book, I don’t really get. A handful of Legionnaires, Dawnstar, Wildfire, Yera, Gates, Tellus, Tyroc and Timber Wolf, have become trapped back in time. Specifically, our time. They’re on the hunt for a villain named Alastor, who is about to release a catastrophic pathogen. Can they stop him? Can they get back to their own time? I’m thinking yes and no. But I’m also thinking this should be a backup feature in the regular LSH and not its own book. Recommendation: Pass 

Okay, that takes care of Young Justice. Next time, The DARK….OoooOOOoooh….

Monday, October 03, 2011

Reviewing The New 52 - Part 2

Continuing my series on “The New 52” this time with the “Edge” titles:

The Edge

I’m a big supporter of non-superhero books becoming more mainstream. Now that comic books aren’t much of a kids medium anymore (they seem to like, you know, video games and stuff), I think it’s even more important that superheroes give way to some more varied fare. This is why I’m on board with the Edge and Dark titles, which do include some flashy costumes, but not quite as much four color leaping from tall buildings and saving the day from evildoers.

Voodoo – Ron Marz, Sami Basri

Since reading Voodoo, I’ve read some less than favorable reviews of the issue from a few sources. Frankly, I loved it. A big distinction between me and them may be that I knew nothing about the character going in, since she was transferred over from the WildStorm imprint which I never really read. We open with Voodoo, a (hot) stripper of indeterminate ethnic origin doing her thing on stage. We quickly learn that two (government?) agents, Tyler and Jess, have been tasked with following and observing Voodoo. Tyler seems to be observing a little too vigorously, and he and Jess fight, which results in Jess walking out. Tyler then takes it upon himself to break protocol and move in for a little one on one interview with Voodoo, using the tactic of buying a private dance. Well, there’s no sex in the Champagne room, but I think the twist regarding what does happen is too good to reveal here. I recommend you go buy it and find out. Recommendation: Keep Reading

Suicide Squad – Adam Glass, Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty

Glass finds a very clever way to introduce us to the Suicide Squad – They’re under a torture interrogation, having been captured by unknown assailants. While they resist efforts to get them to reveal who they’re working for and why, we do learn through flashback who they are and how they were captured, specifically, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Voltaic, King Shark, El Diablo and Black Spider, six very nasty villains who comprise the Suicide Squad, a Dirty Half Dozen who now perform Black Ops in the service of the government, specifically Amanda Waller’s Task Force X. There are a few twists in this one (the absolute least of which is the “new” Amanda Waller’s dramatic weight loss), which I won’t reveal, so if you want to know more, you guessed it…. Recommendation: Keep Reading 

OMAC- Dan Didio, Keith Giffen, Scott Koblish 

This is probably my least favorite of the New 52, in part because of the art, which is Keith Giffen channeling Jack Kirby. That might be great for some, but I prefer realism in my comic book art. OMAC, or One Man/Machine Army Corps, also reads a lot like a New Gods story, which was never really my thing. Essentially it’s one big monster beating up a lot of little monsters in order to get to a supercomputer called Cadmus. Not for me. Recommendation: Pass 

Grifter – Edmonson, Cafu, Gorder 

Grifter is one of those books where there’s not quite enough information yet, but it could be interesting. The Grifter is Cole Cash (a pseudonym, one would assume, but he’s got a brother, not a grifter, also named Cash), a con artist who is abducted by aliens while making his escape from his last con job. Cole wakes up 17 units of time into his capture (what those units are is unclear: Minutes? Hours? Days?) He escapes, but not before something has been implanted in him. He boards a plane only to find that the aliens seem to be everywhere, possessing the humans around him and trying to kill him. He escapes, only to earn a reputation as a terrorist, which causes the military to send Cole’s brother, a Special Ops officer, to get him. With aliens, the authorities and his own brother after him, how will The Grifter survive? I guess I’ll need to tune in to find out. 

Recommendation: Issue by Issue 

Deathstroke – Kyle Higgins, Joe Bennett, Art Thibert

The first line of Deathstroke says it all: “Deathstroke, the Terminator—The scariest badass on the planet.” Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke, was invented about 30 years ago as a foil for the New Teen Titans, and has been one of DC’s most enduring villains ever since. He’s actually been more of an antihero, an assassin for hire with a heart, as evidenced in part by the family that he truly seems to care about. The problem is that Deathstroke is supposed to kill people—a lot, which in the past, did not fit in well with traditional comics behavior, especially from a protagonist. But this is “The Edge,” and the new Deathstroke doesn’t f—around. If you don’t believe me, just look at how he treats his new “team.” Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Stormwatch – Paul Cornell, Miguel Sepulveda

Stormwatch, and its literary progeny, The Authority, were among the few WildStorm titles I did read, owing largely to the skilled take on the super hero genre that Warren Ellis offered. Cornell here gamely takes up the mantle, with the existing Stormwatch members, including Jack Hawksmoor, who is specially designed for urban environments, The Engineer, whose blood is basically made of machines, the Projectionist, who possesses an alien language processing lobe in her brain, the Swordsman, whose abilities you can probably guess, Jenny Quantum, the “Spirit of the 21st Century,” Adam-One, who seems to be in charge, and the Martian Manhunter, who presumably got tired of being the sixth wheel in the Justice League for five decades, trying to recruit their potentially most powerful member, Apollo, who is pretty much Superman, but better. They ultimately capture Apollo, but he is rescued by the Mid-Nighter, who is basically Batman but better (I know, and now YOU know, that these two will eventually become lovers, but this is not yet hinted at in the book). My problem with Stormwatch is that they don’t really seem to fit in the DC Universe. This is a group that in their own book took over the world because they thought they could run it better. This new incarnation seems like it’s just going to be an edgier Justice League, but I’m willing to reserve judgment. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Men of War – Ivan Brandon, Tom Derenick, Jonathan Vankin, Phil Winslade

A war book! Cool! Not that I’m any big fan of war, or even war movies, but any non super hero mainstream book is worth at least a look, in my estimation. In this one we are introduced to a soldier named Rock, a tough grunt who’s smarter and more skilled than those who outrank him. Old school comics readers will think we are being reintroduced to the famous Sgt. Rock of Easy Company, but in fact, this is Frank Rock’s grandson, and he is only a Corporal, at least for now. The twist seems to be that this book asks the question: “What is it like to be a soldier in a world where people can fly and shoot laser beams from their eyes?” I’m curious to find out. Recommendation: Keep Reading

Blackhawks – Mike Costa, Graham Nolan, Ken Lashley

Okay, I know I just said that any non super hero book is worth a look, but I’m going to backpedal a little. The Blackhawks, which were originally a team of WW2 Flying Aces, have been reimagined as a crack tactical assault team with code names and quirks. That’s right—they’re GI Joe. If you like GI Joe, you might like this book. It’s not for me. Recommendation: Pass

All Star Western – Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat

All Star Western picks up where their Jonah Hex book, which was quite good, left off. The twist is that the tides of fate have brought Hex to Gotham City, where he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery as the reluctant partner of Amadeus Arkham, who video game fans will recognize as the architect of Arkham Asylum, the home away from home for Batman’s sociopathic villains. I love the idea of putting Hex in this setting, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Recommendation: Keep Reading

Okay, that’s it for the “Edge” titles. Next up, Young Justice!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Reviewing The New 52 -- Part I

So about every twenty years or so, DC Comics does a “reboot,” essentially scrapping their existing universe and starting over. The characters are the same, maybe a few are added or subtracted, occasionally costumes or identities change, but it’s basically a new starting point, a “System Restore,” if you will. There are a few good reasons to do this. One, it’s a way for the new generation of comic book readers (Hello? Are you out there?) to get in on the ground floor. Two, twenty years of writers and stories create a continuity that becomes somewhat too complex and unwieldy to continue with and three, if they didn’t do this and remained chronologically consistent from when these characters began, you’d have a Superman and Batman in their 90s running around, which might not be that much fun to read about.

This decade brings us “The New 52,” a “soft” reboot where much is the same, but DC is cancelling all books and starting fresh with 52 titles, all of which are starting (or starting over) at #1. Batman has been around for about ten years, other heroes about five (Batman needs to be around longer because of Robin, which fixes him a bit with regard to continuity. Specifically, there have been four major Robins of different ages, all of whom exist in the current universe, so Batman must be aged accordingly).

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Sounds interesting, but who can be bothered to spend the time and money sifting through 52 titles to decide which ones are worth reading?” Fortunately for you, dear readers, I have no children. Which means I have plenty of time and money to waste buying and reading all of these first issues and reviewing them for your entertainment. Which I have done. What follows, in multiple parts, are my brief reviews of each title, plus my “recommendation,” which is really just what I plan to do about each title, either: Keep Reading, Issue by Issue or Pass. A pass doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t read it, it just means I won’t be. None of these books are terrible, but at three bucks a pop, I expect them to be more than good to pick them up every month.

DC has segregated their books into groups as: New Justice, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Young Justice, Edge and Dark titles. For Part I of this blog, I’ll be looking at the New Justice titles. So, without further ado: The New 52!

New Justice

Aquaman – Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado

 Quick, what’s the first thing you think of when I say “Aquaman?” Guy who talks to fish, right? DC faced a challenge with this one. How do you make a superhero who’s basically the joke of the superhero world cool and hip for modern audiences? DC embraced the challenge and put their all star, Geoff Johns, on the case. Johns immediately goes to work getting right out in front of the problem with Aquaman. In the first sequence, after Aquaman thwarts a bank robbery (on land), the cops ask him if he needs a glass of water. Later, patrons are aghast to see Aquaman go into a seafood restaurant for lunch, likening it, seemingly, to cannibalism. It’s here in the diner that the Aquaman challenge is fully presented and accepted. First, this exchange, between a diner and our hero:

“Aquaman talks to fish. Everybody knows that.” 

“Fish don’t talk. Their brains are too primitive to carry on a conversation. I reach into their midbrains and telepathically push them to help me out.

And then, a hipster douche blogger at the next table really brings it home:

“I’m sure you’ve heard all the jokes and seen all the skits from Saturday Night Live on YouTube. So how’s it feel to be a punchline? How’s it feel to be a laughingstock? How’s it feel to be nobody’s favorite superhero?”

Aquaman doesn’t like hearing it, but the guy is saying what we’re all thinking. I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but now I’m looking forward to finding out the answer. Recommendation: Keep Reading

Justice League - Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Scott Williams

Justice League takes us back five years from the current universe timeline for the formation of the Justice League of America. It seems that this book will be the sort of cornerstone of the new universe. Here we get to see the first meeting of Batman, Green Lantern and Superman, and soon thereafter, Cyborg (who was a New Teen Titan in the pre-booted universe, but is now a JLAer), Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash. Not sure if they plan to keep this as an “early years” book or catch us up once the team is formed, but it’s worth it to check out now just to see these early meetings for the first time. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Green Arrow – J.T. Krul, Dan Jurgens, George Perez

One thing I have to say about all the New 52 is the art is spectacular pretty much throughout. That’s pretty much the only really good thing I can say about Green Arrow. The “New” GA seems to be the Justin Hartley, “Smallville” version, which was adequate for a TV show, but I’m not sure translates really well to the comics page. He kind of comes off as trying to be a cooler, hipper, younger Batman, but I’m not seeing anything too inspired about the new Green Arrow so far. Recommendation: PASS

The Savage Hawkman – Tony S. Daniel, Philip Tan

As a Sci Fi guy, I always liked it when Sci Fi heroes like Green Lantern or Hawkman appeared in comics. Of course, the sci fi version of Hawkman, a police officer from an alien world, was in itself a reboot, and DC has recently seemed to favor the original version, of Hawkman as a reincarnated Prince who has discovered a mysterious “Nth” metal, enabling him to fly. In Savage Hawkman, Carter Hall has actually merged with the Nth Metal, and seems to be able to call upon it whenever he needs it. Although he does fight an alien, this Indiana Jones-Robert Langdon type who transforms into winged fury as needed is not really my cup of tea. Recommendation: PASS

The Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Men – Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, Yildiray Cinar

The conceit of the original Firestorm, the Nuclear Man was that he was actually two men fused together, Professor Martin Stein and Teenager Ronnie Raymond. Ronnie was the dominant personality when they merged to become Firestorm, with Stein offering advice from inside Ronnie’s mind. The new Firestorm is actually two Firestorms, Honor student Jason Rusch and dumb jock Ronnie Raymond, who naturally, hate each other. They become Firestorm by accident when terrorists come after the Firestorm technology, which in this universe, Stein invented and entrusted Rusch with before he died. They can transmute matter, and when necessary, merge to become FURY, a very big, very nasty looking Firestorm monster. I’m interested to see how the conflict between these two very different young men who suddenly have a very big responsibility, develops. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

DC Universe Presents: Deadman – Paul Jenkins, Bernard Chang

I suspect this book will change its focus every three or four issues or so, but for now it’s Deadman, so let’s talk Deadman. I was always a fan of this supernatural hero, who is, let’s face it, a ghost in a funny costume. The premise of the original Deadman, which I think would make a great movie, is that egotistical aerialist Boston Brand is murdered in the middle of his circus act by an assassin, but is granted permission by the God Rama Kushna to come back and try to find his killer, provided he help others along the way. He would do this by possessing those people, which would be the only way he could act or communicate with the mortal world. This version presents an intriguing idea, which is that Deadman does not use his abilities merely for superheroic feats, but also to help people with moral, ethical or even psychological problems. Sort of like Quantum Leap without the time travel. In this first issue, Deadman, who is called upon to help a war veteran who has been left a shadow of his former self by an insurgent attack that left the rest of his unit dead, is having his own crisis of conscience, and seems to be willing to go no further until he has a little discussion with Rama Kushna. I definitely think it’s worth sticking around to see what happens. Recommendation: Keep Reading

The Flash – Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato

I remember having a lot of Flash comics around when I was a kid, but for a long time I couldn’t figure out why. Now I kind of get it. The Flash was fun. He was all bright colors and flashy villains and clever quips. It was amusing how he was The Fastest Man Alive, but his alter ego Barry Allen could never get anywhere on time. So far this new Flash, which has restored Barry Allen to the role (in the prior continuity, Allen was killed saving the universe and replaced by his nephew Wally West, although he had been recently resurrected. The current disposition of Wally, or Barry’s predecessor Jay Garrick, is not known to me at this time), is just not that much fun. It’s a perfectly adequate story about a friend of Barry’s who is killed during commission of a crime and seems to have had his DNA tampered with, but nothing that’s going to keep me coming back. Recommendation: PASS

Mister Terrific – Eric Wallace, Gianluca Gugliotta, Wayne Faucher

I have to confess, I was never a big fan of Mister Terrific. With his status as “Third Smartest Man” in the world, his “T-Spheres” and other tech toys, his Olympic level athletic ability, tremendous wealth and tragic origin (his wife and unborn child were killed in an accident), it just felt like he was supposed to be “like Batman—but better!” In this first issue, we get a bit of a reminder who Michael Holt is, plus a high tech mystery to solve. It might be of interest to some, but I just can’t connect to this character. Recommendation: PASS

Wonder Woman – Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chang

I’d like to tell you whether or not to keep reading Wonder Woman, but there’s simply not enough information. For this book, Azzarello decides to jump right into the middle, where a woman who is being pursued by mythological creatures literally drops into Diana (Wonder Woman)’s bedroom. Diana acts to protect her, and in the process we learn that the woman in question is carrying Zeus’ baby. Is that enough to know whether this book will be worth reading? Not for me. Recommendation: Issue by Issue

Captain Atom – JT Krul, Freddie Williams II

Captain Atom underwent a bit of a renaissance after Alan Moore used him as the model for Dr. Manhattan, of Watchmen fame. It seems that Krul and Williams are trying to draw on the Dr. Manhattan mythology, but it’s not clear how much. The big dilemma presented in this issue is that Captain Atom seems to be literally coming apart at the seams. However, there is little enough character development that I’m not sure that I care. Recommendation: PASS

Justice League International – Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan

Under the guidance of Keith Giffen, the old Justice League International was the “funny” Justice League, a comical counterpart to the serious squad of Superman, Batman, etc. That book was a little too funny for my taste. This one has just the right element of humor, as the story of a Justice League team assembled to be the U.N.s own personal super hero squad. What’s funny about it is that no one seems to really want to be there. The leader, narcissist Booster Gold, thought he was joining the “real” Justice League, and the Green Lantern of the group, Guy Gardner, bristles at being led by someone he thinks is a buffoon. The Chinese superhero and the Russian don’t get along, and no one seems to be entirely pleased that Batman is sent along to nursemaid the group. This is the “fun” book I was looking for. Recommendation: Keep Reading

OK, that’s it for “New Justice.” Next time, I’ll talk about the "Edge" titles. It’ll be fun; you won’t want to miss it!