All Star Western #1: Gray and Palmiotti’s Jonah Hex series was one of the under-appreciated highlights of the preboot DC line, so it only makes sense that the same writing team on the same character is one of the outstanding titles of the reboot. Moritat’s art is moody and effective, portraying both the grime and the elegance of the period well. Moving the setting from the frontier to Gotham is an intriguing difference. Seeing Hex as a man out of place has potential, and tying the book more closely to the rest of the DC universe has the potential to get more people paying attention to the book. I’m generally not one to care much for stories delving into the “rotten heart” and history of Gotham; where Gotham is NOW is more interesting than where it came from, generally. But having Hex in an investigative role, and giving him a partner/unreliable narrator in Amadeus Arkham, is a unique enough perspective on the city and setting to have strong potential.

Aquaman #1: The question of why Aquaman is supposedly so lame is one I’ve asked before, and it’s maybe only natural that any attempt to bring the character back to prominence is going to have to deal head-on with the damage lame comedian’s jokes about Super Friends have done. It’s an approach that could fall flat on its face, but Geoff Johns actually manages to pull it off, portraying Aquaman as a character who is both dignified and quietly a badass, albeit one who has to live in the shadow of brighter, more impressive characters. Setting him up as the man responsible for “the shore” is an interesting approach as well; less king of the sea or traditional super-hero, but occupying the space in between. Of course, it wouldn’t quite be a Geoff Johns book without a gory death or villain, and here it’s in the form of carnivorous amphibious shark-people. Of course it is.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1: Another Batman comic, another breakout from Arkham Asylum, another stupid change to an existing villain, another new villain given a silly modus operandi in order to convince us that they’re a serious, credible threat. David Finch’s art is much improved since the last time I saw it, while still not being entirely to my taste, and not even Paul Jenkins as co-writer can elevate this beyond the samey nature. For a line that DC apparently went to great lengths to leave relatively untouched in this reboot, very few of the new creative teams are hitting on all cylinders.

Blackhawks #1: This is straight-up G.I. Joe set in the DC universe. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, G.I. Joe owes a fair amount to silver age DC and Marvel war comics in and of itself, so this is more like coming full circle with the concept of a sci-fi international military special-ops team with silly code names and ludicrous villains. But the approach taken here is all action and character names, very little in the way of backstory or actual characterization. So we have a bunch of people with silly names fighting a secret war against an unknown villain with sci-fi weapons, only without the nostalgic appeal that an actual G.I. Joe comic would have for people.

The Flash #1: For being the book that was used to justify all these reboots, you’d almost think Flash would have had a splashier opening. But no, very very pretty art from Francis Manapul aside, this is pretty much a generic Flash comic. Setting aside the various generations of Flash family characters may reduce the amount of “grandpa Barry” drama that the title was groaning under, but replacing it with the same relationship drama/romantic triangles as every other super-hero book isn’t much of an improvement. Neither is a story that, yet again, ties into some secret, probably terrible, from Barry Allen’s past. It’s not really a bad comic, but it doesn’t break any new or interesting ground for the character either.

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #1: Oh, hey, another teen hero book with violent murders and torture.
What potential there is in a complete reboot of Firestorm, bringing back both Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond and attempting to create a somewhat unified backstory and concept for the title is pretty much tossed out in the window in favor of something squalid and icky. This feels like an attempt to pander to the same crowd that eats up the ultra-violence by making a “lame” hero more “hardcore”. It just ends up kind of gross.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1: As I seem to be one of the few people who will publicly admit to liking the “Rainbow Corps” storylines from the Green Lantern family, this should be an ideal book for me. I like the grand, space-opera tone that the multi-colored ring storylines bring to the titles. I just despair of the apparent necessity for extreme violence and melodramatic angst. We’ve got a small amount of that violence here, but luckily not too much of the angst. I’ve got hopes for this title, but in this first issue we’re not getting much story, so it’s hard to see what direction the book is going to go in. Especially when the promised content for the second issue looks to be basically just a big fight scene. It makes for a very frustrating first issue.

I, Vampire #1: I actually have a soft spot for the old I, Vampire back-up stories, so I was hopeful that this would be a good reintroduction of Andrew Bennett. This is pretty much just a restart of the title, only moved from the early 80s to the modern day, with the same main character and antagonist and central conflict. Only without the establishment of who these characters are and what they mean to each other. Unless you were already familiar with the concept, this would appear to be just a lover’s spat expressed through the medium of a vampiric war on humanity, with a curiously laconic and passive hero. The art is unfortunately generic, looking much like every other indie comic horror title out there. That virtually everyone looks the same doesn’t help it much either, and the only way to distinguish the lead in many cases is his white hair stripe. All in all, a disappointing package.

Justice League Dark #1: Peter Milligan definitely brings something of a Vertigo flavor with this title, which makes sense given that many of the characters were only fairly recently liberated from that imprint. The book assumes a fair amount of familiarity with the characters on the part of the reader. This is yet another situation where maybe some time devoted to exposition would have been nice, as it’s not clear what exactly is or isn’t different in this new timeline (though Deadman at least appears to be in line with his appearance is Hawk and Dove and DC Comics Presents). Mikel Janin’s art is an interesting choice for a book like this; his figures are fairly solid and almost plain, which is an odd contrast with the more unreal, magical aspects of the story. The story itself is fairly straight-forward, but that lack of exposition and shifting viewpoints results in a book where things appear to simply happen, with indirect transitions, demanding that the reader actually put some work into figuring out what is going on.

The Savage Hawkman #1: Philip Tan’s art is remarkably pretty here, so it’s a shame that it’s in service to a story that didn’t really do much for me. Hawkman tends to work best when he’s a big guy with wings bashing bad guys with a mace. The trend to writing him lately has been to make him a tragic, angsty figure, and that’s pretty solidly continued here. Making the wings and harness a part of Carter Hall, instead of equipment he wears, is a fairly arbitrary change that doesn’t do much to improve the character, and actually makes him more like a Wolverine with wings instead of his own concept.

Superman #1: Despite being set in the present day, this still hews fairly closely to the Superman in Action Comics. He’s cocky and a bit brash and his relationship to Metropolis is fairly complicated; loved by the common people but viewed with suspicion by those in power. The changes to the supporting cast and the status quo make sense in light of current events, and the apparent prominence of Morgan Edge and his companies has the promise of some Bronze Age appeal. It’s a perfectly good, if a little unambitious, Superman comic with nice art and engaging action and subplots that aren’t infuriating. The only major strikes then would be the “One More Day”ing of the Lois and Clark marriage and the presence of “horn blowing giant fish” from Stormwatch, which suggests a fairly heavy-handed editorial hand on the title, if cross-title threads are being introduced in the first issue without directly impacting the story.

Teen Titans #1: I have this sinking suspicion that I’m in the minority on this one, but I found this to be a fun comic. That it ties pretty strongly into Superboy, which has been a highlight title, helps, as does the art by Brett Booth which I’ve always liked, even if it is usually of the “everyone screaming” school of comics art. But the angst levels are tolerable, the characters and the writing is clever, and the central conflict has a fair amount of promise. And hey, it’s a teen super-hero book that keeps it’s violence and action within the reasonable super-hero realms, not delving into horrific torture and gore. That’s, sadly, a plus these days.

Voodoo #1: I can see this catching on in the same way that books like Witchblade do; half soft-core T&A, half well intentioned but not quite pulling it off “strong female character” tropes. That we don’t really learn anything about the lead in the first issue other than that she’s apparently an alien spy and is more than willing to kill characters of equally ambiguous morality.
It’s pretty, but for a number of reasons, this really is just Not For Me.

One Response to “The DC 52: Week Four”
  1. Cole Moore Odell says:

    I generally agree with all of this, although I’d go a little higher on the Flash comic simply because the art was *so* nice. Manapul seems to be the closest thing DC has to a Marcos Martin or Paolo Rivera, playing with the pages to show off things only comics can do. (JH Williams is in a category of his own.) Actually, (and perhaps not surprisingly) now that it’s said and done, the new line is far more notable for the art than writing. I can see myself going back and looking at some of these comics again, even the dumber ones like Hawkman, just to look at them.

    And I’m torn about Superman. People seem to like or dislike it for exactly the same reason–that’s it’s an old-fashioned (and therefore unfashionable) comic. I think the line has room for one or two of those. While I can see that a wannabe flagship title–not to mention a book/concept that was arguably in the greatest need of a rescue operation–maybe coulda/shoulda been more ambitious, Superman was decent for what it was, and was the only one of the 15 new DC titles I read in Sept. that took me more than a few minutes to read, other than the fantastic All-Star Western.

    Finally, and this is probably the biggest disappointment for me so far, the relaunch seems to have caught Paul Cornell and especially Gail Simone way off guard. Gail went from writing some of my favorite monthlies to a couple of stumbles out of the gate. I hope she finds her feet soon, (aka a real reason to want to write the books she’s been assigned) but I’m really missing Secret Six now.

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