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!

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