Batman and Robin #1: Peter Tomasi sets the tone for the relaunch of the title right away, going from a “Batman Inc” reference to a Bruce Wayne who is making a conscious effort to move out of the darkness and a Damian Wayne full of youthful arrogance and a “cripple villains, ask questions later” aggressive streak. As much as I generally like the “little shithead” version of Robin, Tomasi lays it on a little thick, though his Batman who is giving up on wallowing in despair and grief is a welcome change and in line with the work Grant Morrison did on Batman over the last few years. I like a Batman who has at least something of a lighter side, and after the awfulness of last weeks Detective Comics it’s extremely welcome. What’s not quite so welcome is the horrific murder cliffhanger that sets up the villain for this first story arc. As tolerant as I am of darker storylines in a Batman book, it feels like a plot beat in conflict with the rest of the book’s tone.

Batwoman #1: Picking up almost exactly from where the Batwoman feature in Detective Comics left off, with very little in the way of recap provided, Batwoman runs a real risk of being too hard for new readers to pick up. Which is a shame, because it’s easily the prettiest of all the new titles released by DC so far. Another point in its favor is that the “Crime Bible” storyline which had so dominated previous stories about Kate Kane is, outside of that recap, pretty much absent here. It was an interesting storyline, but it had started to feel somewhat interminable, and so a new direction is welcome. A new villain is introduced, with an extremely disturbing modus operandi which, amazingly, is presented in a tasteful manner (something that really shouldn’t be noteworthy for a super-hero book, but somehow is in our brave new world). The return of Cameron Chase and the D.E.O. is welcome for longtime DC fans, but in general it’s another of those little details that may turn off new readers.

Deathstroke #1: It takes a lot to get me interested in a comic starring Deathstroke. This…isn’t quite it, but it’s an admirable attempt. My main gripe with Deathstroke is that he’s just a bit too much of a “pet” character for too many writers, which makes his skills far too inconsistent. It’s hard for me to take Deathstroke seriously as a credible threat, for example, when his original history has him getting his ass handed to him by the Teen Titans of all people, or at best fighting them to a draw. Add in the sheer tackiness of his implied sexual relationship with an underage girl, and he’s just not a character I really want to see around much. What Kyle Higgins does here that I like is present Deathstroke as a past-his-prime mercenary who has to re-establish his reputation. It’s a slight variation of the previous template, and has more potential for interesting stories, and Joe Bennett does some nice, clean action-style art here…but it’s a book starring Deathstroke and I really just can’t muster any enthusiasm for that.

Demon Knights: Sometimes what I want out of my comics is simple. I like my super-hero books, sure, but I like interesting blends of genre too. And here we have a book that gives us the Demon, Madame Xanadu, the Shining Knight, Vandal Savage, Mordru (of all people) along with several new characters who bear some resemblance to certain other super-heroes in a story that has Camelot, dinosaurs and exploding babies.
It’s pretty much exactly what I want. Paul Cornell introduces all the major characters briefly yet memorably, gives us a story with just the right amount of action and a healthy amount of black humor, and sets a major story in motion. Diogenes Neves gives us beautiful fantasy art filled with charming details. I particularly like a scene in the tavern all the heroes meet in (because where else would the heroes meet in a fantasy comic) where Neves captures perfectly an exasperated Madame Xanadu and a smirking Sir Ystin. They’re little details, easily lost in the huge fight scene, but they add charm and personality to the book and characters.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1: Jeff Lemire’s take on Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos hews fairly closely to the template established in the Seven Soldiers mini-series; weird science and monsters that wouldn’t be out of place in the Silver Age filtered instead through modern sensibilities. It straddles a line between a serious tone and a tongue-in-cheek one that works well, in a very self-consciously “comic-booky” sort of way. Overall the book is much lighter than the other horror influenced books, such as Lemire’s Animal Man, and the contrast is pretty welcome. The broader, more bombastic nature of a book like Frankenstein fills a gap between those darker books and the more traditional super-hero titles.

Green Lantern #1: The ultra-violent soap operatics of the Green Lantern family of titles continues, picking up right where the “War of the Green Lanterns” storyline left off and, for all appearances, the only title completely untouched by the line-wide reboot. In other words, this is exactly the same comic you were getting before the reboot, for good or ill. The only significant change is the return of arch-villain Sinestro to the Green Lantern Corps. That has the potential to be at least an interesting storyline, but just as much time is spent on an increasingly self-destructive Hal Jordan feeling sorry for himself on Earth. That sort of thing I’m pretty much tired of.

Grifter #1: Grifter is another one of those concepts that feels like a hard fit for the DC universe. About the last thing that’s needed is yet another alien conspiracy, it strains suspension of disbelief to think that multiple secret invasions don’t continually step on each others toes. Broadly the book fills the same niche as Deathstroke, an action title with an amoral protagonist. Grifter benefits here in that it’s a “from the ground up” restart, so any baggage the character had before is gone. The specific set-up of Grifter fighting a real menace but appearing to be just a terrorist because no one else is aware of the threat is not greatly original territory (the premise of Rom comes to mind immediately, not to mention They Live), but it works well enough, and in the end this is actually a fairly promising start for what could be a pretty good title.

Legion Lost #1: At the best of times I’m fairly indifferent to the Legion of Super-Heroes. Since their most recent re-introduction the books have been fairly good, but, much as I cannot for the life of me fathom the point of the X-Men going off into space and hanging out with aliens, I just cannot see the point of having the Legion have adventures set in the modern day. The entire point of the book is that they are super-heroes…in the future! We’ve got dozens upon dozens of super-hero titles set in the modern day. The sci-fi setting is the only thing that sets the Legion apart from all of those. Why would you take that away.
Apart from those issues, this is yet another book that’s just adequate. Neither the writing nor the art is particularly spectacular, and the casual killing of two of the character’s is either a trite set-up for a fake out or just one more example of using a body count as a substitute for real drama.

Mister Terrific #1: This book opens well, with an action sequence that does a good job of establishing the character of Mister Terrific and what he is all about, leading into a quickly sketched origin sequence, but it all goes rapidly downhill from there. Transitions are awkward and sudden, characters are simply…present, without being presented to the reader in any meaningful capacity, and the book’s relationship to the previous continuity is unclear. The second point could be forgiven since there’s no reason why the presence of the Justice Society would have any particular impact on a rebooted status quo for Mister Terrific…but the character’s name is fairly nonsensical without the Golden Age connection. Add to this the presence of Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, and the book’s setting just feels jumbled. The lack of clear character introductions is confusing as well; why does a random woman begin making catty comments to Karen at a party? Is she meant to be significant, or does Michael Holt just randomly invite incredibly rude women to his parties?

Red Lanterns #1: Despite my growing skepticism regarding whether or not it’s worthwhile to read the Green Lantern line, this book, surprisingly, feels like it has potential. It’s still rough, by all means, but Peter Milligan’s script has some nice touches of melodrama mixed with grand guignol violence that is actually almost…fun? Ultra-violent space vigilantes is just an enough of an oddball concept that it could actually work, in the same way that books like Lobo actually managed to mostly work. The primary difference, of course, is that Lobo was, at least to some degree, meant to be funny, but a serious tone works as well. If Milligan runs with the direction that this first issue seems to suggest, that the Red Lanterns are essentially going to be dozens of Punishers in outer space, this could work despite the roughness.

Resurrection Man #1: This is easily the most unexpected title revamp, but it’s surprisingly pleasant to see a well regarded book that never quite hit sales success get another shot. Abnett and Lanning appear to pick up right where the previous series left off in 1999. It’s a nice nod to the original series, but it does mean that new readers are getting essentially tossed into the middle of an ongoing story. A little bit more in the way of exposition than “I die and come back with powers” might have been helpful. It has been twelve years, after all, since the previous issue was released. It does help, though, that the book is firmly moving within the hybrid super-hero-horror genre that DC is building here, with the start of a new storyline setting up Mitch as a prize in a war between, presumably, heaven and hell, and tying him in a little more closely with the rest of the “dark” heroes, if the appearance of Madame Xanadu for the second time this week is anything to go by.

Suicide Squad #1: This is a really awful comic. No, not because Harley Quinn is a sexed up Juggalette now. I sometimes feel like I’m the only person who remembers scenes like this on the cartoon that introduced her. “Inappropriately Sexualized Harley Quinn” is not a bug, it’s a feature, and has been since day one. And while I’m sympathetic to the complaints about making Amanda Waller a generic sexy gal, I’ve never been a fan of the character and, anyway, it’s a reboot. These things happen.
No, this is simply an ugly, awful comic. Grossly inconsistent art, and a casual disregard for human dignity that’s excused in the name of “well, these are bad guys.” This panders to the same “extreme” crowd that Detective Comics did, and the only difference is that there are one or two well drawn pages in this book.

Superboy #1: Well, this was a pleasant surprise. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much when I realized that Superboy was getting a complete restart as well, especially when it was going back to the “clone created by evil scientists” well. And while the introduction of yet another clandestine organization with a silly acronym name is, well, silly, the book itself is really quite good. Scott Lobdell makes restrained use of references to the wider DC universe and integrates a key Wildstorm character in a pleasant way, while playing up the amoral nature of a freshly cloned Superboy. He has no morals or ethics because he has no experiences yet, and his hyper-awareness gives him a refreshingly nuanced take on the events unfolding around him. R.B. Silva’s art is nicely expressive as well, and he captures a convincing impression of adolescent confusion in his Superboy.

One Response to “The DC 52: Week Two”
  1. matthew says:

    At first I thought Suicide Squad was an easy first issue to read: it introduces the characters and their personalities and the basic setup of the story. It’s still that, but the more I think of it, the less I like it. It’s an example of modern comics’ confusion between telling mature stories and torture for the sake of it. There’s no art to telling an adult story about ripping people’s faces off, etc.

    Also, Waller’s new look bothers me more and more. What was so awful about a larger person? I suppose the counter-argument is that Waller wasn’t a one-note character, and she existed beyond her physical size, so a different shape shouldn’t matter to the character’s representation. Regardless, I think it’s kind of a boring move. She’s been made to look like everybody else in the DCU.

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