Tuesday, October 11, 2011

DC increases comic industry sales by 1.1 million additional books!

So the September 2011 numbers from the Mayo Report are here.

But here is the greatest is the greatest achievement by DC on behalf of the whole comic book industry, and something to pay attention to:

- DC increased their sales by 1.1 million books, compared to sales in the previous months
- The numbers of Marvel month to month are unchanged, in fact they continue to grow moderately.
- The numbers of all other retailers as a whole are unchanged
- Therefore, DC brought 1.1 million new (or additional within the current reading population) readers to the comic book industry, a 17% increase for the whole industry.

That is HUGE. And of course, it will be interesting to see how the numbers for October and November look, considering drops from speculators and only #1 buyers. But if DC managed to bring in even half of that number of new purchasers to the comic book industry, that is an increase of almost 9% and that is something to commend.

Let's see how the coming months play out, but in the mean time well done DC!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Week 4 in the new DCnU

And so we come to the end of the new DCnU and all 52 new titles have come out - although a limited series for Huntress is coming next week and it looks great (courtesy of DC Women Kicking Ass) and a new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is out in November. But man, this week was rough. If you look at the number of titles dropped or on the fence compared to previous weeks, this was definitely not a good one.  Let's see what we got this week:

By Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
The Good: Ivan Reis’ art is spectacular to look at, from the action scenes, to flashbacks to the horror scenes with a new enemy emerging from the deep. Johns writes a few nice scenes that appeal to everyone including Aquaman y unexpectedl fighting petty crime (much like Superman and Batman would) and walking into a restaurant to order fish and chips only to induce some sort of environmental guilt on everyone.
The Bad: I disagree that spending so much time on Aquaman being the butt of all superhero jokes is a good starting point for this character. Yes, that works out great in our real world when we are watching SNL. It’s not that funny in a comic book and it’s not what I want a whole issue #1 to be about, particularly one that is written by Geoff Johns. This leaves much to be desired and feels like wasting a great opportunity to launch a wonderful new set of Aquaman adventures.
The Grade: C+
Status: Dropped

By Francis Manapul and Brian Bucecellato
The Good: This book was much better than expected. A lot of fun, engaging story elements are all present and the right place. We get Barry living the double-life, nonetheless acting as the “other” famous detective in the DC world under both personas. We get a new relationship with Iris, that is only disappointing in that she is coming “a little strong” and a lot like a stalker. We get a new antagonist who is an old friend, and may be part of a bigger scheme that wilL reveal a broader, evil conspiracy. Buccellato’s art is better than usual, with fun splash pages where a lot is going on, ambitious visuals that make it a fun read.
The Bad: Very little to be honest, for this may turn out to be my surprise favorite this week. Aside from Iris’ portrayal, the rest of the book is a great read and a good starting point for Flash. My biggest Flash-related complaint (combined with this week's Teen Titans, reviewed below) is where is Wally West?
The Grade: B+
Status: Staying in

by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino
The Good: This is was surprising, particularly since I was remotely enthused about it and I picked it up after a browse that showed promise. What we got is a legitimate introduction of a vampire uprising and a history in the making for centuries, a la Demon Knights. Aside from excellent, creepy, moody art and great storytelling, we get endless possibilities with characters that seem rightfully out of a Snyder book or an Anne Rice book (a good one, by the way) and not ridiculous Twilight/True Blood characterizations. Oddly enough, this may be one of the books I'm most excited about this week and I am looking forward to see how these characters interact with the Justice League and how they have interacted over the ages with other "older" DCnU characters. Good stuff.
The Bad: Mary, one of the two main characters, seemed a little forced at times. This usually bothers me about vampire characterization. It is really tricky to get the level of maturity and depth of someone that has lived for so long and gotten away with so much horror. Very tricky to get that balance right, and therefore it is rare to get a vampire that is written in a believable compelling fashion. Her character seemed unnecessarily sexual and childish, and (argue as you may want to) I have always found it hard to believe that kind of common mischaracterization. 
The Grade: A-
Status: Added

By Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin
The Good: This book is actually very dark, and at times this works and is done well in terms of writing and visual presentation. The ominous scene with members of the Justice League looking concerned with their approach dealing with a magical threat kind of says it all: this is a job for a different League. And that works very well with this introduction of this new team, including nice moments with Zatanna disobeying Batman and taking the reins on her hands.
The Bad: I am still trying to understand why would the creators of this book felt it was necessary to turn the introduction of “the fool” in the team as the goriest scene of the week for DC. This is something DC is actually bragging about it at The Source, and it really shouldn’t be. This book was actually quite OK without that scene. But that scene costed (at least with me) at least one whole letter grade.
The Grade: C-
Status: On the fence

By Peter Tomasi and Tyler Kirkman
The Good: This is probably the most polished I have seen Kirkman’s work on Green Lantern characters. It looks sharp and fun, and everything from Kyle’s constructs to the close-up of his face looks like something you would usually find in a better book.
The Bad: Man, was this book confusing. I was expecting some sort of new arrangement with the grumpy old little men to assign new Guardians after the event of the War of the Green Lanterns. Instead we get an (perhaps unnecessarily) extended retelling of the origin of Kyle as a Green Lantern (ironically, Ron Marz might manage to outdo his original “woman in a refrigerator” this week, but that’s the subject of a different post). This is followed by a confusing scene with all the other lanterns from the other spectrum of “emotions” (willpower is not an emotion!), chasing rings that Kyle has “stolen”, which we do not know if it happens a long time after and first time readers will have a lot of trouble with this. Overall, disappointing for new and old readers and something major will need to happen to get me excited about this book again.
The Grade: C+
Status: On the fence

By Tony Daniel and Philip Tan
The Good: Again, great art in this book. We see Carter Hall starting a new relationship with his outfit and powers, only to be met by a new alien menace that may be able to absorb this new powers, all within an Indiana Jones expedition.
The Bad: I am actually not sure I care about where this book is going. Yes there will be challenges and an evil new alien invasion that will be averted by Carter throughout this arc. But this book does not read like the development of a new nemesis or a new relationship with an archenemy. It also does not read like a good origin story for the new relationship of Carter with his Hawkman outfit, with little questioning of what is happening, or how or why.
The Grade: B-
Status: Dropped

By George Perez and Jesus Merino
The Good: Accidental or not, several metaphors are presented here that made this book a must have in the new DCnU. Perry’s sticking to print while part of the new Planet goes on business online/TV, as well as the demolition of the old Daily Planet and the opening of the new one. Superman’s scowl from high above, not at all happy to see the old building go, but carrying on because there is a job to be done, may be the most telling metaphor of this reboot just like Steph Brown was swinging into a purple sunset at the end of the old DCU.
The Bad: George Perez is one of those artists that everyone can recognize and as such brings a sense of continuity and a sense of a classic look to Superman, in arguably one of the most imporant releases from DC this month. It’s not an accident that Superman #1 gets released the last week, and it’s not an accident that Perez is in charge of this. That said, the older look makes this book look dated and not necessarily new. The story is mildly interesting although spends a lot of time on uninteresting topics (the old vs. new allegories) and way too little on others (the horn from Stormwatch finally makes an appearance, but leaves us more confused and intrigued).  A new alien menace (the topic of most of these book, oddly enough) is quickly dealt with, but it is unclear if this has to do with Stormwatch, or with Darkseid (linking to Justice League), or with a completely separate story. 
The Grade: B+
Status: On the fence

By Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth
The Good: Lobdell reinvindicates himself after his last deliver on Red Hood. This is not as good as Superboy #1 mind you, but at least it focuses back on the characters and the world around them. Maybe because the mysterious N.O.W.H.E..R.E. is involved and it leads a clear link into the Superboy book, or maybe because the strange feathers on Red Robin’s outfit are not as bad as they looked on the covers. Most memorable are the action sequences introducing Red Robin and Wonder Girl (but don’t call her that) and their abilities, definitely entertaining pieces of the puzzle that make you look forward to seeing the others in action and how the team will assemble.
The Bad: Kid Flash’s characterization was a little harsh. If Aquaman was the butt of all jokes, what is Bart Allen in this new DCnU? Also, as much as I'm enjoying the connectivity between Superboy and this title, do you really need two books to tell this story? Maybe if there really will be a lot of parallel growth, but looking at solicitations for the next couple of months, it just looks like we are going to see the same exact stories and discussions in both books. Let's hope that's not the case. I'm still having issues with the character redesign of many if not all of the members, but it is still too early to tell since the cover falsely advertises a full team and we only focus on two of its members. Hello, Justice League! Have we met?
The Grade: C+
Status: On the fence

Lastly, the following books were not reviewed and their Status remains unchanged for me: Browsed Through, Still Not Interested.

  • All-Star Western
  • Batman: The Dark Knight
  • Blackhawks
  • The Fury of Firestorn: The Nuclear Men
  • Voodoo 

Women getting the shaft on the new DCnU

Now that September has wrapped up and all 52 new titles are out, it is time to start taking a deeper look at the new DCnU.  While some excellent titles reviving the excitement on women superheroes have been released (including Batwoman being superb, Wonder Woman going back to her former glory and Batgirl back into kicking some butt) the new launch of DCnU titles seems to mostly fail trying to portray women comic characters and super heroines in any other way than sex symbols for comic dorks. Is this how they view us male readers? Like that’s what we would like in a comic? Like that’s what a new audience of young women and men would want in a comic? Do they really think I want to be embarrassed reading a comic book? And do they really think I want my daughters remotely close to these books? Here’s at the top of my head what we’ve seen in September:

  • Justice League Dark establishes proudly (at The Source) a new record for most ways of killing a blonde woman on the street displayed in one single splash page. Really?
  • Amanda Waller’s awesome stature, figure and presence gets reduced to a skinny, younger, exposed bra version of herself that only resembles her in name and race.
  • Catwoman likes to have her breasts and bras out in the air a lot. It seems Judd Winick (who I am a fan of) decided to unzip her outfit for every panel.
  • Voodoo spent a whole book in her underwear, literally beating Catwoman for exposition time, perhaps because being a lesser known character she needs to get more exposure. But this kind of exposure, really? This gem is coming from the man that put Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend in a refrigerator, who must have read “Boobs do!” instead of Voodoo as his assignment.
  • Harley Quinn got the look of a kinky S&M sociopath. That is going to end well.
  • Starfire got updated from a see-through bikini to a partial one, but got more splash pages than Playboy and Hustler this month. She also lost all memory of who she was and now has sex with all humans alike because we are all the same. Coming soon to a comic fan bed near you!
  • Karen Starr (Power Girl) showed up not in a book of her own but as a potential squeeze of the hour for Mr. Terrific. That's just that, terrific.
  • Hookers are getting killed in Gotham in the times of All-Star Western.
  • Iris West (not Allen anymore) is a stalking Barry. But that’s just because “she comes on a little strong”
  • Bleez’s behind gets a lot of screen time in two books that are not about her exclusively, and there is a great cover with her in a blood bath coming soon.
  • Martha Kent is dead.
  • Mary (from I, vampire) mixes sex with every item of conversation
  • Carol Ferris is not Star Sapphire anymore, she just wants to have Hal’s babies. He just wants a cosign for a car loan.

It is a shame that some of the good releases will be outdone by the multiple faux pas DC makes every week with the revamped DCnU. But DC is not even trying. Adding diversity and women in your books by making Ms. Izzy Izquierdo a partner in crime with Perry White is not going to cut it if you are going to destroy most women characters and over-sexualize the others.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 3 in the new DCnU

Wow. What a week. This week was filled with controversy for the wrong books, with further character assassinations that add Red Arrow, Starfire, Catwoman and most unfortuantely Jason Todd, to the Amanda Waller book of how not to have a reboot. A real shame because it should have been about how spectacular Batman was, how Wonder Woman is back to being interesting and how the Green Lantern Corps dealt with the same idea the Green Lantern book did in more successful fashion. Reviews follow below:

by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
The Good: Everything about this book is stunning and it has to be tied for first place with Batwoman for the best book thus far in the new 52. Batman #1 throws in a mixture of the mysteries of Gotham and a mystery a little reminiscent of Seven in which both the culprit and the detective are way ahead of the viewers in intent and depth. There are beautiful little tributes to everything that Batman is and has been lately, and it's delivered in quick witty writing. Snyder really gets everyone, from a cameo of Jim Gordon Jr. in Arkham that says so much in one panel and no words, down to one liner delivered by Damian in the whole issue that says it all, right in the middle of a perfect Batfamily portrait. Just beautiful. And the ending sets up the biggest most exciting change in dynamics I have seen in the DC world thus far.
The Bad: Snyder is always wordy, but effective. I felt Bruce's speech could have been edited for brevity since the point was made clearly by everything else in the scene. But other than that, this book is flawless.
The Grade: A+
Status: Stays in 

by Tony Bedard and Ig Guara
The Good: This is a great origins story, as far as getting things started within the reboot go. It's great for new readers and for old ones, but most importantly it welcomes everyone into the breadth of the universe where Blue Beetle exists, it shows you both the intergalactic origin of the scarab and how it lands into the back of a kid named Jaime and the reality of his earthy world. It has been interesting to see how different the books of the new DCnU read and contain, while some have almost nothing going on in them, some others feel like you have gone on a fantastic journey and like they are a great read at the end. This is one of the latter.
The Bad: While the story is very well written, I was not crazy about the character introductions and development. I'm curious though if the development is something we'll  just have to wait for, and thus I'm excited since there is a lot going on here in terms of characters and what they will mean to each other. I was also not crazy about the art, which feels in parts rushed like in other new DCnU books. I really think DCnU should be showing us the upper echelon of what comic book art can be in this relaunch, and only a few books have achieved that.
The Grade: B
Status: Stays in

by J.T. Krul and Freddie Williams II
The Good: An action-packed first issue that introduces a series of new characters while giving a sense of clear and present danger.
The Bad: There were many ways this book could have gone, including my favorite: following the story of Nate becoming something other within the realm of his powers, something not human, something beyond the physics we understand. While the book explores a little bit of that dimension, it also seems to confuse Nate with Firestorm (both stylistically and story-wise) and with Dr. Manhattan (which was inspired in Captain Atom), without really giving clarity of the direction of the book. I would kind of be interested if they took him into Watchmen territory and turned him into a being so powerful, not even Superman could match him. That would be interesting. This book was just confusing (and confused) and, again, art that is just OK should not be cutting it in the new DCnU.
The Grade: C-
Status: Dropped

by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Taparin
The Good: I am shocked as to how much better this title was at dealing with GLs on Earth (this time Guy Gardner and John Stewart) than the titular Green Lantern #1. This was an awesome read filled with earthly lives and contemplation, and the advantage that these guys over Hal Jordan of being able to get back to work as interstellar police. Not only that but the art is what you should expect of a new 52. It's exciting and detailed, particularly in the scenes in outer space and in the main action sequences. After the OK run right before War of the Green Lanterns I was expecting not to be interested in this book, but it's just become my favorite Green Lantern book (although I am a Hal guy to the end)!
The Bad: A little less violence (oh my gosh, that opening sequence is brutal) seems to be a common complaint from me. And this may just be the new 52 modus operandi, but at least it was done in a way that makes the story interesting.
The Grade: A
Status: Added

by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows
The Good: Beautiful art, particularly in an opening sequence that reminds us of what a sight Dick Grayson is while patrolling the city. We get action packed beginning and end and some interesting development in the middle, with the origins of the first Robin coming back to town to haunt Dick in more ways than one. It is not an easy first issue for first readers, but it is a fantastic one for long-time fans of the series
The Bad: What is up with Daken/X-23 wearing a hydra costume showing up at the end of this issue? I have no idea, but it would be nice if there was a little more oroginality in the character design (unless, of course, if this is an older character I'm not aware of).
The Grade: B
Status: Stays in

by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort
The Good: One of my favorite characters even, Jason Todd, finally gets his own book (no, the Lost Years mini does not really count), and the good news is that it centers on him, more than in the other characters. Hopefully there will be further development of the myth of Jason Todd through this series, which would be a lot of fun to see.
The Bad: There has been a lot of outrage out there about the character assassination of Kory (aka Starfire) as a sex toy, and what a mess this really was. In a week where DC releases an unbelievable Batman and a return to form in Wonder Woman, all of that is thrown out the window with horrible writing of characters and changes that were not necessary at all. Not only Starfire becomes, splash page after splash page, nothing but a sexual object that sees all humans the same therefore anyone will do for a little quickie, but it's so in your face it hurts. Let alone that two important characters in the mythos of Nightwing have been dropped in this book and become completely unrecognizable. Roy Harper, who admittedly grew a lot in the old DCU, has become a shadow of himself or as Jason would put it, a contender for "the wors sidekick"in the history. The art is just OK, and it seems to have most of its focus on Kory's body and on the fact that Jason's mechanical mask is now malleable to allow him to make facial expressions while checking Kory's body out.
The Grade: D
Status: Dropped

by Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar
The Good: The art is pretty good. There is also the fact that we get to see the arrival of Kara on Earth, although with the twist that she goes through Earth all the way to Siberia. As an origin story including the discovery of her powers works well...
The Bad:... but man was that slow. Aside from the good items listed above, nothing happened in this book. It just felt like it all happened in one scene and only leaves us asking for more on the very final page with a very special guest appearance.
The Grade: C
Status: Dropped unless it really picks up with the next issue

by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
The Good: Wonder Woman is back, back to awesomeness, action and intrigue. She's back to (as close as you can get to) her beloved original costume and to being a tall amazon. How awesome is that? There are all the the elements of a good Wonder Woman story. There is mysticism, there is action, there is a story that makes you intrigued, there is a heroine you can believe in. All things done in Odyssey, and done so poorly. In only one issue, Azzarello proves that you can do all those things right and fun again.
The Bad: It somewhat took a lot of time to get momentum to get there. But by the time you get to it, it really kicks into high gear. Also, in a book about the most powerful woman in the DCnU and with the thought of re-empowering women with a fresh take on a taller, lean and mean Diana, it is kind of a shame to have unnecessary images of violence against women in the opening and closing scenes. I understand that this is to frame the level of evil of the antagonist, but it still felt a little gratuitous.
The Grade: A-
Status: Stays In

Lastly, the following books were not reviewed and their Status remains unchanged for me: Browsed Through, Still Not Interested.
  • Birds of Prey
  • Catwoman
  • DC Universe Presents
  • Legion of Super-Heroes

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Week 2 in the new DCnU

by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
The Good: A very good starting point that covers a lot of ground in showing the growth of Bruce Wayne, something we haven't seen in the new DCnU Batbooks until now. Also, we haven't seen major traces of Batman Inc until this issue, which is also refreshing, even though the fate of the Batman Inc character introduced is rather unfortunate. Overall a good launching pad for how this very interesting relationship is going to have to grow as both a father and son duo and a criminal fighting duo. All Robins have been in one way or the other heirs to the throne, and here comes the first son of the Bat, who is harder to trust or like than any of his predecessors. There is nothing but an awesome story to tell here. Let the games begin. In addition, we get an international enemy of Batman Inc as the villain that presents real, palpable danger. A great first test brewing for the new dynamic duo.
The Bad: Sometimes it felt like Bruce and Damian were having separate conversations, which I think was the point in part, but it resulted in being more distracting than leading to making a point. I am actually not sure how crazy I am about Bruce being so happy and so OK about the event that made him (his parents' murder) as much as that may make sense after the RIP and The Return of Bruce Wayne storyline. Also, DCnU relaunch notwithstanding, Damian seems a little more annoying than before, and I figured that some time with Dick would have made him outgrow that a bit.
The Grade: B+
Status: Stays in

by JH Williams III and Haden Blackman
The Good: This is the comic book of the week. Stunning and original art from beginning to end, every inch of this book is beautiful. Splash pages that leave you gasping. It definitely is a unique way to enjoy a comic, and there is nothing like it in the new DCnU. That's just the art. The writing is impeccable, and clearly complemented by the art. This is something that is extremely unique in the new DCnU thus far and I hope that sends a message to everyone on what comics should be about. The interesting thing, as I've posted before, is that this book existed in this form and shape (with minor tweaks) prior to the DCnU relaunch. So to award the success of this book on the relaunch would be ludicrous, this book should be what good comics should be about and it was completely independent of the relaunch.
The Bad: Absolutely nothing.
The Grade: A+
Status: Stays in (for the long haul!)

by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves
The Good: I had no idea of what to expect from this book. Aside from Etrigan and Xanadu, everyone else seemed like characters I didn't know or care about. But enter Vandal Savage and my heart is filled with warmth, and all of the other random characters that join the motley crew make this book not only fresh and original, but also fun. I was hearing a report on NPR about how most revolutions (military, political and ideological) have assembled in a bar, particularly in the US throughout its history. How fitting that the gathering of these heroes should happen in the same place in such an organic manner. The art is fun and perfect for this story and way of story telling.
The Bad: As much fun as I had, very little actually happened in this book. I am looking forward to the origin stories of other characters in the books to come, since we only got abbreviated versions of Etrigan and Xan. Most definitely want to know more about their encounters with Savage in previous times.
The Grade: A-
Status: Enthusiastically added!

by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
The Good: Doug Mahnke and Geoff Johns continue their story as if the relaunch had not happened. This story picks up where the aftermath of the War of the Green Lanterns left off and that's good news because it puts two of its most developed characters (Thal Sinestro and Hal Jordan) in the most interesting position they could find themselves. The art is as always gorgeous and the issue does a good job at introducing new readers to the situation while letting the rest of us that have been enjoying this ride since Rebirth see where it takes us.
The Bad: I would have hoped that Johns let both Sinestro and Hal simmer a little longer in their undesirable new situations longer, really have them sit in the reality of what these new positions they find themselves in are and do further character development. It does not look like Sinestro will be leaving the green ring any time soon judging from December solicits, but I don't like the idea that they already may have a plan to start putting everyone back in their place. We'll see how it plays out.
The Grade: A-
Status: Stays in

by Ntahan Edmonson and Cafu
The Good: Cafu's art is gorgeous, particularly in the opening sequence that feels takes straight out of Lost or 24. Very well done across the board. 
The Bad: The story is just OK, and Grifter is written so much channeling Sawyer, and I really don't get to care about any of it (including the mysterious otherwordly villains) by the end of it. It's a bland origin story and I was hoping for much more.
The Grade: C-
Status: Dropped

by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes
The Good: In very few pages we get Atrocitus origin story, the renewal of his rage depite the events of War of The Green Lanterns, the beginning of a revolution within the Red Lanterns and the prequel to an origin story of a new Red Lantern (tentatively) back on Earth. That is a lot of a small book, and it does so seamlessly both welcoming new readers and old. We even get (I think) a pseudo-tribute to the art of Kevin O'Neill in the famous "Tygers" story with the opening scene. This is a universe that has a lot of potential to be developed, there are so few Red Lanterns that we have gotten an origin story form, and this is a nice opportunity to see what drives all of these creatures from all over the universe, while exploring familiar ground.
The Bad: There was quite a bit of violence in this book, which is to be expected, but it may only descend into more chaos. This is a complaint many readers of the new DCnU are getting, and I don't think it's totally unjustified. There is also the matter of the mumblings of the Red Lanterns, how they operate out of pure rage and can barely put a thought together while communicating, whereas Atrocitus looks and sounds like a genius compared to his troops. It makes for difficult reading, but also leaves readers scratching their heads a bit.
The grade: B+
Status: Stays in

by Scott Lobdell and RB Silva
The Good: I was not expecting this book to be this decent, since I was thinking I'd drop it after the first issue. There's good writing, good action good twists. In very few pages we have a "recreation" of the escape of Superboy from the lab from Death of Superman, in a brand new fresh (and violent!) way. But we also get to meet all these new and old characters, with fun winks (two versions of Rose Wilson!) and interesting hints (the Dr. in charge of Superboy is either called Dr. or "Red", but never by her last name- perhaps a Luthor?). 
The Bad: This is one of the outfit redesigns I have been the least happy about, but I guess it may have to grow on me. I'm also curious of how they treat the origin of the human DNA for Superboy as such a mystery, while dropping way too many hints as to the obvious answer. They may be pulling our leg for a big reveal later on, or making this unnecessarily mysterious even for new readers. As enjoyable as it was, I'm not enthralled by this book at this point and may only stay in my pull list for a short period of time. Unless of course, the overlap with Teen Titans is phenomenal and the story develops a little more complexity. We'll see. 
The Grade: B-
Status: Stays in for a couple of issues

Lastly, the following books were not reviewed and their Status remains unchanged for me: Browsed Through, Still Not Interested.

  • Legion Lost
  • Deathstroke
  • Resurrection Man
  • Mister Terrific
  • Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
  • Suicide Squad

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Miles Morales takes the DCnU to School

In an effortless demonstration, Miles Morales showed the DCnU how to release an awesome #1 issue this week. What a wonderful issue #1, showing a whole new origin story filled with intrigue and interesting characters and the discovery of powers that will even shock people that have known Spider-Man for decades. DC should take note: you don't need a mass relaunch to produce a high quality book. You need good writing, good characters and good art. Check, check and check.

The one notable exception on the DC end was Batwoman #1. My gosh, what a beautiful book, and clearly the only book that can put Ultimate Spider-Man in second place this week (more on that later). But the fact that it's this particular point reinforces the point: this book pretty much existed in this form 8 months ago, before the DCnU reboot. This book is just good and did not need the reboot to be good, it exists in a space of excellence all of its own. 

Interesting that two books this week, one from DC and one from Marvel, can show so clearly how unnecessary the DC reboot is in terms of putting out good books and good number 1 issues, yelling from their beautiful pages "That's how it's done!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Random thoughts on Week 2 of the DCnU

The new DCnU continues to raise questions, and here are some as I'm preparing reviews for this week's issues #1:
  1. Is Red (in Superboy #1) a Luthor? All signs point to maybe!
  2. With Batman Inc in full swing (as indicated in Batman and Robin #1) is it public knowledge that Bruce Wayne funds the Batman? If so, why does the Batman continue to seem like this force of nature Gotham is still getting used to?
  3. Amanda Waller was awesome as she was before. This sexified, younger, skinny new version stinks and does not help a book (Suicide Squad #1) already swimming in mediocrity. Is the DCnU not going to have any adult figures with everyone getting young-ified?
  4. Is Renee Montoya dead? Or is she just in a list of officers outside of the office. Very hard to tell, and very nicely left up in the air since this book as originally to be in the "old" DCU.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This week in the New 52

Wow, lots to talk about. Particularly with all the red flags raised last week with a weak ending to Flashpoint and a mediocre transition into the new DCnU with Justice League #1. I was waiting for this week to see how the new 52 will fare with books I was really excited about, but also (and in no small measure) somewhat concerned about, given the treatment to GL and Batman in JL#1.

The news is overall really good, and I'm for one a convert onto the DCnU who is willing to forget about last week's fiasco and look forward to some exciting books ahead. So, for a change, I will be doing a review of several books at once. Also, a new category of Status will refer to whether it stays in my pull list, whether it gets dropped after issue #1 or whether it gets unexpectedly picked up.

by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales
The Good: A fun ride with Superman in an interesting place sotrywise, being hunted by everyone much like a similar masked vigilante from Gotham would. The opportunity here is the range of growth from where Superman is as a hero of the people chased like a vigilante (while others in the hunt understand very well the larger implications of his origin and power) to what he eventually becomes. While everyone's limiting to dropping hints in the formed of the mystery veiled lady, Grant has Luthor point out matteroffactly that no one has noticed something up in space coming our way (too early to be Darkseid? hard to tell when is this story happening in the new DCnU timeframe- could it be Kara?).
The Bad: My main problem is going to be the look of this book. Morales' art is exciting when done well, but there are several panels that seem unfinished or where the anatomy of characters' faces seems terribly off, making you question who you are looking at from panel to panel. There are also choices (Jimmy's haircut) that seem off and amateurish. Considering this is Action Comics #1, written by Grant Morrison, the new DCnU, I was expecting the art to be outstanding and it is not.
The Grade: B+
Status: Stays In

by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Dan Green
The Good: Imagine opening a comic book for the first time in the 21st century, a comic book that is about superheroes and family and the paranormal, where the art is stunning and the storytelling has a rhythm entirely of its own. It goes from the standard daily lives we all want to escape (much like family scenes in Invincible) to beautiful action-packed scenes with dreary revelations to a a surreal landscape. All with a style of art and writing all of its own. A book that reads as if it was Image Comics' next big thing, and it is not a coincidence that I bring up Invincible (one of the best books about superheroes out there) a couple of sentences ago. This is that book and it will blow you away, because it is all that (original, diverse, relatable, fantastic) and the sum of its parts.
The Bad: Absolutely nothing.
The Grade: A+
Status: Stays In (for the long haul)

by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
The Good: This books is brilliant. I am going to miss Stephanie Brown tremendously, but going back to all the Batgirl #1 issues (starring Cass, Steph, etc) this has to be the best one ever. The art is beautiful, capturing Barbara to perfection in and out of the outfit. A lot of the Killing Joke aftermath within the new DCnU gets explained, and for a first issue it was done satisfactorily. Of course there are still questions to be answered (how is she back on her feet? was she Oracle those 3 years?), but enough time is placed on the psychological effect of it and where Babs is today because of it to get us going on an interesting ride. In addition, several new interesting female characters (a roommate, a police investigator) make their first appearances and I hope we'll get to see them develop and grow. Lastly, in another feat worth mentioning,considering Babs is deaged for the new readers, she doesn't sound like an absurd egomaniac (see JL#1). Well done, Ms. Simone.
The Bad: The emphasis on the paralyzing effect of the Joker's actions are a core component of the story and lead to the critical climax in the first issue. I thought it was handled well throughout, but it feels forced onto Babs as the catalyst for her moment of failure. It's a minor complaint, since it was hard to believe this was consistent with her character, but that may be because this is a different, younger Barbara. I am curious to see how Ms. Simone proceeds from here.
The Grade: A
Status: Stays In (for the long haul)

by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver
The Good: I was not planning on picking this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by the art and the story. Considering there could have been better stories to tell about other characters of the Batfamily, I thought Batwing seemed like a stretch. Nonetheless, Judd Winick does a great job transporting us to this world of a new detective in the Batman Inc world, learning the ropes of the detective world in and out of the suit. The art won me on several places, particularly the most action packed moments.
The Bad: By the same token, the art might suffer in the calmer moments from the video game syndrome. It does look like it belongs in the narrative of a video game, and that could be a problem in the long term. In addition, Winick adds a lot of characters in very little time, with cameos reduced to one panel in some cases. I expect this will be hashed out as the story progresses, but some of it felt forced and could have been balanced against some of the awkward long pauses elsewhere in the book.
The Grade: B-
Status: Picked Up

by Tony Daniel and Ryan Winn
The Good: This is a dark, wicked book that continues the great tradition of Detective Comics in wonderful fashion. The art is stunning from panels to splash pages, from the creepy opening to the gory shocking ending. Storywise, it's a perfect sandwich format, much like Batgirl (action-buildup-action). We have a classic Joker at the most dangerous in the kinetic sense of the word (not like the creepily and methodically machiavelian of Morrison's recent Batman run), who happens to be outstaged by an unseen second villain. This is the beginning of something wonderful and dark, that will require the best detective work from the caped crusader. This is what makes Detective Comics work. And that's a tough job, considering the flawless run from Snyder right before this relaunch. Looking forward to see how it plays out.
The Bad: Very little to complain about here. Some of the fights went from exciting to underwhelming and confusing in very few panels, but that was a minor exception to what was mostly an impeccable book.
The Grade: A
Status: Stays In (for the long haul)

by Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan
The Good: This book starts the assembly of the JLI in full action mode with guest appearances, and plots developing on all fronts, including an attack on the Hall of Justice (which hopefully will be further developed) as well as a new Maxwell Lord-type character pulling the strings from the UN.
The Bad: Sadly, and despite the rapid-fire kinetics of the story, I was left underwhelmed by the plot, the threat, the characters and the cliffhanger. A big contributor I think was the art, which seems to be a little unambitious in parts. But a much bigger threat to this book is how shallow the characters feel compared to the recent JL: Generation Lost run (one of the reasons why I was hoping Winick would be in charge of the rebooted JLI). The characters in this book suffer from the syndrome of youthfulness and brashness out of place and out of context that plagued JL#1 last week. The lack of depth and intrigue at every corner of this book have unfortunately made it the first casualty from my pull list of books that I will not be picking up for a issue #2. The JLI mythos is so rich, that this storyline or others down the road could prove me wrong later on, but right now it is not something I'm enticed to reading again.
The Grade: D+
Status: Dropped

by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda
The Good: This is a match made in heaven in terms of writing and art. In terms of the books released today, this is probably the most modern looking and tight of them all, perfect and mesmerizing at every corner. Mysterious and dark, showcasing the different level that Stormwatch is aiming to play at, both as a book and as an entity in the DC world. As they have been touting in spoilers, they are indeed "The Professionals". This book is packed with action and beauty, Martian Manhunter hasn't looked this good or this badass in a while, and there is even a little Flashpoint Project Superman reference that will have everyone that enjoyed that tie-in smiling. And all of this happens before the stunning closing sequence that ends with a wonderful first meeting. Cheers to the greatness to come!
The Bad: Some of the characters could use a little more development, and I'm sure that that will come with time and as the book progresses. Considering the number of characters, the most familiar faces need little introduction but use most of the screen time, while the less familiar characters use a lot of dialogue in very little time. Some balance here would be welcome.  I also hope the storyline about the moon posing a threat to Earth continues to be treated as a "larger than any of us" with a slowly churned explanation and does not falter to fall into ridicule. There is a risk here, but no great book did so without taking some.
The Grade: A
Status: Stays In

by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
The Good: Wow, this was something else. This is (along with Animal Man) what comic books should be about. The art is impeccable and engulfing even when it shows a plant quietly strangling another one, and it is filled with grandeur in the big moments, like the reveal of the threat across the world, the villain of the story in a horrifying sequence and the final pages. The art alone could sell this book. But then enter Scott Snyder and how he puts the fear of God in you through his quiet, precise means of creating clear and present danger and framing the context for the hero to rise up to the occasion. This is pure genius in what a issue number 1 should do.
The Bad: A minor complaint, and this goes largely against what I enjoy in comics, but the build-up might be a little slow for new readers. This book reads perfect for me, but new readers might find the pace a little slow at first despite the fact that there is major payoff a couple of pages down the road.
The Grade: A+
Status: Stays In (for the long haul) 

Lastly, the following books were not reviewed and their Status remains unchanged for me: Browsed Through, Still Not Interested.

  • Green Arrow #1
  • Hawk and Dove #1
  • Men Of War #1
  • O.M.A.C #1
  • Static Shock #1

So, overall a very good week for the new 52! Let's hope they keep them coming!