Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Justice League #1

Story: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Scott Williams
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication date: August 31, 2011

The good. Whether we are all in, or we're partially interested or we have officially abandoned DC, the new DCnU is here. Today is the day. I have to confess that, as critical as I have been of this reboot, I find myself pumped and excited about more stories than I thought I would and Justice League was one of them. It does well as it opens with a bang of visuals, splash pages and action worth of a good number 1 issue. Jim Lee is spot on drawing a "new" universe for a new generation of readers that looks indeed exciting. The wink-wink moments hinting at the big bad wolf around the corner, which is the reason why these heroes will band together, are well written. A lot of Batman, a character Johns has not touched, is done relatively well as well.

The bad. This was to be Geoff Johns' day. Only two DC titles are being released and both are written by him, shepherding the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It's a big deal. And yet, while Flashpoint #5 suffers from one of Johns' most recent problems in writing big events (see review), JL#1 feels remarkably brief and flat in content for being *the* relaunch of this new universe. Johns' Batman, while decently portrayed, feels a lot like a rehash of Miller's All Star Batman (admittedly, Jim Lee's involvement and the interactions with GL could play a big role in this impression). But something feels off with the caped crusader, and it's not only the fact that this is 5 years later and our heroes are younger, brasher and less used to each other and the larger superhero community. On a similar note, Hal Jordan is even more unrecognizable. This is Johns' "baby" though! This is the man he brought back from the dead and turned into a book I looked forward to in every delivery. And yet, Green Lantern suffers from the Bob Dole syndrome of speaking about himself in the third person, over and over again. This is not a cocky Hal Jordan meeting the world, this is just downright annoying. It's also interesting that while both books are multi-character big event comics, both Flashpoint and JL have only a fleeting cameo of the most iconic DC (and all comics) character: Superman, while instead focusing on relationships between Batman and other main players (Barry and Hal) that feel forced and out of character.

The ugly. I did not find anything particularly ugly about the book per se, but more about the repercussions of releasing a mediocre first delivery of the new DCnU. I am looking forward to many books and many stories despite what I see as unnecessary sacrifices of some of my favorite stories in the old DCU, and I'm intrigued to see what specific people do with specific characters in what I think will be magical combinations (Snyder's Batman, Simone's Batgirl, Azzarello's Wonder Woman, heck even Johns' Aquaman). But this was the day for DC to shine and show us how it all was going to change and I really think it felt incredibly flat and underwhelming.

The grade: C+

Flashpoint #5

Story: Geoff Johns
Art: Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication date: August 31, 2011


The good: The issue does a decent job at wrapping up all the stories of Flashpoint into one place, despite quick and messy demises of some key characters. It even makes Superman's appearance useful, even if incredibly brief (although I'm still processing how he could intervene with something magical in such an efficient way). It gives us some moments of weight between Barry and his mother, and Barry and Bruce. Artwise, not many complaints here, since I have enjoyed the consistency of the main book in terms of art whereas Falshpoint tie-ins seemed rished in that regard.

The bad: As all things need to come to an end, I expected a decent explanation for the new DCnU. Instead we get a rushed merging of "timelines", and changes in outfits through a crucial yet absurd spread. Calling the three merging imprints a set of three timelines makes no sense at all, as if there had not been other timelines previously or concurrently. Also, hadn't Brightest Day already done part of the job of merging certain aspects of this (John Constantine, Swamp Thing)? This is what irritates me the most of this mediocre explanation through Flashpoint. That this merging done by Barry somehow is responsible for Swamp Thing entering the DCU, or Sinestro being on the wrong side of the law to a Green Lantern (thus negating his growth and the event s of War of the Green Lanterns that led to that).

The ugly: I think the most unfortunate aspect of it all is that this reboot was a chance to stop making the event books (anything with the word "Crisis" in its title, Blackest Night, etc) and doing away with the writing style for the sake of setting a seed towards the next "big event". This was an opportunity to do Justice League 1 from the get-go witha fresh new take on it. This was an opportunity to start characters like Aquaman from #1 into hundreds of great issues if written properly. Instead, we get the seed of the unknown character, we get the "impending arrival" of some evil presence who apparently had planned separating the "timelines", and we get whispers about the "cost" that will be eventually paid. Basically continuing the horrible tendency of Geoff Johns to write while planning on the next big event (something I hoped the new DCnU would avoid) instead of focusing on good writing and good characters. This is NOT a new way of making comics, it's precisely the old one.

The grade: C-

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The 'Other' New 52

So, more and more it seems that the new 52 is ballooning into way more than just 52 new titles. Of course, some of these titles could be limited series (Batman Inc), but some involve characters not listed in the current DCnU 52 that should certainly be missed (Ahem! Stephanie Brown! Ahem! Power Girl!). Let us not forget that according to 2 separate polls by CBR, most books seems to have an inverted bell-shape curve in terms of interest (with either people really excited about them or really hating the idea) and that the only clear winners are a handful of familiar titles (Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League).

I've decided it's a good time to venture some guesses regarding who else will be coming in the fall 2011 and in 2012 to be part of the DCnU roster. Feel free to contribute your thoughts and rumors to this post. Let's start with #53:

53. Huntress #1 (confirmed in solicits)
54. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (confirmed in solicits)
55. Batman Inc. #1 (2012 release confirmed by Morrison at The Source)
56. Batman Beyond #1 (2012 release confirmed in the last issue of Batman Beyond)
57. Justice Society of America #1 (2012 release confirmed at the Source)

and here the list starts getting sketchy, based on suppositions from strong titles/characters not present in the announced DCnU, as well as hints in books.

58. Spoiler #1 (starring Steph Brown, maybe based on a DiDio announcement)
59. Superman Beyond #1 (based on his return to Metropolis in Superman Beyond #0)
60. Power Girl #1
61. Xombi #1
62. Secret Six #1

and beyond this point the list gets sketchier with characters present in the DCnU that could still get their own titles:

63. Booster Gold #1
64. Zatanna #1
65. Deadman #1
66. Jonah Hex #1
67. Donna Troy #1

Friday, August 26, 2011

This Week's Comics in 20 words

I'm starting something new, with quick reviews of books from each week in 20 words or less, hopefully bringing up some discussion on key aspects of these books as well as hopefully without spoiling too much. So, here is what happened in comics this week:

  • Action Comics #904: Superman gets to help a stranded alien (again) and Grounded gets yet another unnecessary epilogue. C-
  • Batman Incorporated #8: Bruce Wayne's Internet 3.0 hurt my eyes and took the Batman Inc story off rail a little bit. C
  • The Bionic Man #1: Intriguing start to an origin story that already has an evil bionic man in it. Cool. B+
  • Chew #20: A slow start through a bad trip quickly speeds up to an awesome nail-biting conclusion. A
  • FF #8: Doom wins team player award (and possibly the reins of FF after Fantastic Four 600?). A-
  • Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3: Does this change the meaning of "Everything will change in a Flash"? (as in a singular Flash). C+
  • Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #3: Another meh tie-in comes to an end but ends with a boom. C-
  • Flashpoint: Project Superman #3: Great story arc with an OK ending that raises expectations for Kal's involvement in Flashpoint 5. B+
  • Kick-Ass 2 #3: Millar makes up for delays with unfathomable violence (WTF?) and the reincorporation of two favorite characters into the story. B+
  • Superman Beyond #0: Superman was not gone long enough to be missed. Will this book be among the "new 52" in 2012? C+
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1: Not much happens, but worth at least a browse with one of the original creators at the helm. B-
  • Ultimates #1: Nick Fury has a bad day at the office in one of the best books this week. A
  • Wolverine #14: The twists in this book bring Logan to his knees and will make you reread the last issues again. A-

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Flashpoint did not change

We are less than a week away from the final issue of Flashpoint (and the final issue of the DCU as we know it), and all the regular DCU titles have bid adieu in their own particular way. All that's left is a single issue and then we all press the reboot button and forget about what we have learned, and get ready to enjoy (or hate) a new take on the DC Universe.

And in the midst of it all, the epicenter of this reality/numbering altering event is the event that "will change it all": Flashpoint.

With all of the issues and side-stories of Flashpoint wrapped to a close and only the final issue remaining next week, it seems like a good time to revisit what has Flashpoint taught us (mind you, SPOILERS ahead). In particular, about how even when everything changes, everything stays the same. So here it goes, regardless of the universe the following will stay true:

  •  Hal Jordan will be reckless but Carol will love him to pieces.
  •  Aqualad gets the shaft in all universes. Poor Garth, really.
  •  The Guardians are still mean, methodical, predicable morons.
  •  Some writer, somewhere will yet find a lousy excuse to mess with Wonder Woman's outfit. It won't be pretty. The reason behind it will be horrible.
  •  Atrocitus will have plenty to be angry about.
  •  Anything written by Azzarello or Snyder will be the only things worth reading, everything else will be close to literary toilet paper.
  •  Abin Sur will total a spaceship, and his witness will always be a Hal Jordan of Earth.
  •  Deathstroke, dad of the year.
  •  Plastic man will play a role that is totally forgettable.
  •  Dick Grayson will make an unfortunate fashion choice.
  •  Guy Gardner will have the wisdom of a fortune cookie.
  •  Incredibly powerful beings like Captain Marvel or Martian Manhunter will not use their powers, and will die at the hands of ridiculous lesser beings.
  •  Wayne Manor will be light enough to be built on top of a gigantic hollow cave.
  •  Mera will be the only interesting character from the whole Atlantean race.
  •  Zoom will have beef with the Flash.

But most importantly, nothing will really change. And even when it does, if it's done by a great writer (Snyder, Azzarello, Simone) it will still most likely be really good. Bring it on DCnU, let's se what you got.