Batman #1: Scott Snyder’s recent run on Detective Comics was one of the highlights of the past few years of DC comics, so to see him move on to a higher profile book while still playing in the Batman family of titles is exciting and gratifying. This is a much more super-heroish take on the character then he had previously presented, and it works, especially with the big, crowd-pleasing fight in Arkham Asylum, and the cliffhanger the issue ends on is particularly well-timed, even if it’s obvious “fake out” nature is clear. Greg Capullo is an interesting choice for artist; when he’s drawing villains and action scenes it’s really quite nice, but his “civilian” scenes don’t mesh as well. The only obvious differences between Bruce Wayne and the various Robins are heights, for example. Still, this is a very minor complaint, and of the Batman titles released so far, this is far and away the best and most satisfying.
Birds of Prey #1: A new status quo is surprisingly welcome for this title. Towards the end of its previous run, the title often felt more concerned with pandering to fans by providing “fuck yeah” style moments for Tumblr fan communities. Duane Swierczynski takes the basic premise, a female black-ops super-hero team, and tweaks it slightly by having them perceived by the world at large as criminals and killers. Even though most of this issue is a long fight-scene, it provides a nice grounding for this new situation and sets up an intriguing initial adversary. Where it could have improved is in providing a little more background on (potentially) new character Starling and the changes to Black Canary’s history. Jesus Saiz is an excellent artistic choice for a book like this; his action scenes are well-choreographed and his characters are distinct-an important trait in female majority books when too many comics artists still draw all women as essentially interchangeable.
Blue Beetle #1: It’s a little surprising to see a relatively recent character like the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle get a total reboot, especially when his new origin is so close to his previous one; slightly nerdy Mexican-American teenager stumbles upon an ancient artifact/space invader and becomes reluctant hero, even with the same supporting cast with essentially the same personalities and conflicts. The previous series was charming and fun; this book feels like an attempt to be more serious and closer in tone to the slightly darker DCU we have nowadays. Setting up a lot of the gradual revelations from the prior series, such as the malevolent nature of the scarab, could be a good way to shortcut a lot of repetitive backstory, especially when this new series drops Jaime right into the midst of a bigger universe at the start. Ig Guara’s art is slightly cartoony, but feels well-suited, and he draws believable teenagers well.
Captain Atom #1: This is an extraordinarily pretty book, artist Freddie Williams II has gone out of his way to give it an appealing, unique look. Story-wise, J.T. Krul throws us right into the middle; this appears to be the same Captain Atom who has been running around for awhile, just deaged and slightly reset, but without an origin or any kind of detailed backstory in this issue it’s hard to estimate. This feels like the middle of a story in many ways, and while it’s not a bad approach to starting a super-hero comic, we’ve been seeing a lot of this sort of thing from DC lately. In fact, this “middle of the story” feel isn’t entirely dissimilar to Krul’s other title, Green Arrow. And like that title, as pretty as this book is, it doesn’t really have a strong “grab” but isn’t really bad enough to complain about either. It’s just sort of there.
Catwoman #1: Somewhat silly sex scene aside, this was a book that was better than I expected it to be. Guillem March’s art is stunning and lush and the book looks incredible. Winick is a writer that tends to be hit or miss (though I may be biased, as I think the comics internet’s hate-on for him is silly and unjustified), and this is mostly a hit. Catwoman works best in that anti-hero space, and that’s the area that Winick is playing with here. It even manages, amazingly, to be somewhat fun, though there is still a lot more of the angst and “darkity dark” storytelling tropes that I find tiresome. The book has potential and could be cheeky fun. If we cut down on the silly sex scenes.
DC Universe Presents #1: You can tell DC is serious about this “try everything and see what works” approach because they’re even willing to give an anthology title a shot again. Paul Jenkins strikes a good balance between a total reboot and continuing with the previous continuity, with a slight revision to Deadman’s origin that gives his existence as a ghost slightly more direction. It’s a very good story laid out here, very character driven, though an argument could be made that very little happens in this first issue . In context it works; Deadman is, after all, dead. And the question asked here, “is Deadman actually helping the people he haunts or not?” makes for a good set-up for new stories with the character. This is something, frankly, the character could use. His popularity (such as it is) seems to be based mostly on his visual design and somewhat nonsensical name and situation, rather than any definitive or compelling past history.
Green Lantern Corps #1: When Peter Tomasi titled this issue “Triumph of the Will” I suspected he was deliberately poking at the internet. When font choice makes it initially appear that the entire population of the planet “Nerrd” is wiped out, I was sure of it.
Most of the book focuses on Guy Gardner and John Stewart trying to live normal lives outside their roles as Green Lanterns. At these moments the book is excellent, fun and a compelling read. The rest of the book is, sadly, the same sort of casual ultra-violence that seems to typify the Green Lantern family these days. At least with a title like Red Lanterns that level of ultra-violence is expected and can be read as knowing. With this book, it just feels like pandering to an increasingly jaded audience. The characterization is so strong and has such potential it feels like giving in to that audience is wasting the opportunity.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1: Yes, this is a Legion comic. If you’ve been reading Legion for the last few years, it’s the same stuff you’ve been reading, picking up right where everything left off last month. This means that the question of whether it’s good or not depends entirely on if you were enjoying the stories we were getting before.
Francis Portela’s art is attractive, but this is yet another of the books that is neither good enough to be noteworthy, nor bad enough to really criticize.
Nightwing #1: Chalk this up as another pleasant surprise, at least for me, who is on record as not being a great fan of Dick Grayson as Nightwing. Kyle Higgins, for the most part, keeps this within the realm of fun, super-hero adventure comics, playing off of the recent Batman family titles but making a clear statement that this is a new direction and a new start for the character. He does this primarily by focusing on Dick Grayson’s past, reintroducing Haley’s Circus and that element of Dick Grayson’s history, and setting up a new adversary motivated by secrets from Dick’s past that even he seems to be unaware of. If there’s a notable weakness in the book, it’s the presence, again, of slightly more violence than is maybe necessary, but even then the level is consistent with what could be expected for a title in the Batman line.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1: This comic has been pretty thoroughly excoriated by the internet at large, and I’m not particularly interested in piling on. Yes, it’s awful. It’s stupid, it’s ugly, and pretty much every complaint you’ve heard about it is dead on.
It’s still not as bad as Detective Comcics #1, though.
Supergirl #1: In keeping with the rest of the Superman line, the new/old Supergirl gets started over from scratch, despite only being around (relatively speaking) for a short time. Most of the changes aren’t clear, as the entirety of the issue is a fight between an amnesiac Supergirl and several people in giant robot suits. It’s just a fight comic, in other words, though it does drop a few hints about the new status quo for the Superman titles. Mahmud Asrar’s art is nice, but the costume design is just odd enough to be slightly distracting. Whether or not the book has potential isn’t very clear from this first issue, as there really isn’t much in the way of story or character here; just something that looks a lot like the prior Supergirl title, rewound a bit. It was a fun fight book, though.
Wonder Woman #1: This is a very, very good Wonder Woman comic. I’m not entirely convinced it’s the best direction DC could have chosen for Wonder Woman with this reboot, but it’s still a very good comic. Cliff Chiang’s art is spectacular, as is to be expected, and although Brian Azzarello isn’t a writer whose work I’ve ever really warmed to, I can recognize his skill, and this is a very strong opening issue. It’s got some action, the establishment of central conflicts, and good, subtle characterization. The new vision of the gods has promise, and I have a strong feeling that we’re going to get the origin for Wonder Woman fleshed out along with this opening story.
My only hesitation is that this is, again, the “warrior” version of Wonder Woman, which means this is a fairly gory book, though it at least feels like a genuinely mature approach to violence, and not the pandering that some of the other books seem to use. And I wouldn’t even mind the Xena-fied approach to Wonder Woman so much if there was a more general audience friendly book starring Wonder Woman on the stands as well. Seriously, Wonder Woman is a superhero princess, and DC constantly ignoring that feels like willingly leaving money on the table.