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 

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