Thursday, September 22, 2011

12 more closer to 52

Got another shipment of new first issue comics in the NEW 52 relaunch of DC Comics' superhero universe earlier this week. Finally had a chance to work my way through all of them. This brings us to -- what? -- 39 total, leaving 13 more for next week.

The Good:
Wonder Woman. Spookiness and action meet in a story mixing Greek mythology with X-Files conspiracy (and giving me the first indication that this reboot is going to represent the gods of myth as akin to what we recognize in today's culture as "grey aliens" with high, rounded heads and big black orbs for eyes. Compare Hermes in this issue to Rama Kushna in the Deadman story below.) The art by Cliff Chiang is stylized and strong, and the story by Greg Rucka  Brian Azzarello (Rucka was a previous WW writer) makes our favorite Amazon a force to be reckoned with.

Birds of Prey. Strong art and a story with flashbacks used in a cinematic fashion introduce only two of the regular team this issue, although there's a visit from the team's former leader, Barbara Gordon. This is action adventure that could easily translate into film, which I maintain is the primary reason behind these reboots: Making the DC Comics universe more multi-media friendly, and more accessible to readers who like their books to reflect their video games and movies rather than vice versa.

Supergirl. (Am I seeing a pattern here? This week's best books seem to feature female characters?) This is another origin story for Supergirl, who was just relaunched a few years back in the pages of the Superman/Batman title (a story that was also adapted direct to DVD.) What can I say? The art is very good, and the story drops you in the heroine's thoughts as she wakes from a long sleep in a crashed spacecraft in Russia, only to discover she has frightening powers when she is attacked by armored goons. There's fun in her discovery, her confusion, and the way the goons react to seeing her costume. Worth a second look at least.

DC Universe Presents: Deadman. Boston Brand was a prima donna who died by an assassin's bullet and gained the power as a ghost to possess living people. In this new 52 version, he has a mission to complete in order to balance the scales; he just isn't sure what that mission requires, and he feels like a failure. Good storytelling, atmospheric art, and a blue Avatar alien for Rama Kushna. I want to know what happens next. (My understanding is that this series will tell a complete story about a DC character -- Deadman's tale is set for five issues -- and then begin a new mini-series that focuses on another DC character.)

Batman. Some reviewers are touting this as the second-best book of the New 52 (after Grant Morrison's Action No. 1). I don't know if I would say that, because it's just a pretty average Batman comic, with the exception of a teamup in the first seven pages that will make you go WHAT?! That was well-played, DC. The final panel drops a big bomb on the Batman family that will be interesting to see play out. You should see this one for sure.

The OK:
Nightwing. Dick Grayson goes back to fighting crime in a new costume that's closer to Batman Beyond than the original Nightwing suit. He visits old friends at the circus where his parents died. Nightwing fights a mercenary hired to kill Grayson. All solidly told and illustrated, but not enough to make me want to grab issue No. 2.

Legion of Super-Heroes: I'm familiar with the Legion, so this tale was not outside my realm of experience, but it was still a little thick with characters and catching up on continuity. This is not a reboot. It's a continuation apparently unaffected by the events of "Flashpoint," the recent mini-series that reset the DC universe. There's even a comment to the effect that the Flashpoint event has made time travel to the past impossible, meaning they can't expect backup from Superman again. Still waiting to see a reason why I should want to pick up a second issue.

Green Lantern Corps. I have a coworker who always pronounces the "p" in "corps." I think that would be appropriate with this book, which seems to be about piling up the body count so the heroes can make up things with the power rings. Never liked the Guy Gardner character, and don't understand why people keep reading him. Otherwise, solid art and portions of a decent story (John Stewart's portion).

Catwoman. Great art. Sexy character. Starts with a bang. Good action. But this one is definitely not one you want young readers picking up. Hint: The first issue is titled "all the costumes don't come off" and the second issue is supposed to be called "the morning after."Between the main character showing off her boobs at every opportunity and the three-page spread as she and Batman strip each other for some sexy time, this is a grown-up story ripe for a PG-13 (soft R?) movie adaptation.

Captain Atom. I picked up the 1980s launch of this character; DC had bought the Charlton Comics characters and introduced them via "Crisis on Infinite Earths," then launched them in solo comics as part of its combined and streamlined universe of 1985. If you read (or saw the film of) The Watchmen, you'd recognize a version of him as Doctor Manhattan. This comic brings the good captain close to Dr. Manhattan depth as he begins to see his body as atoms connected only by cosmic forces, and learns he can change matter into other arrangements by thought alone. Intriguing concepts and execution.

Blue Beetle. Another Charlton character, but this time rebooting and reintroducing a latter incarnation created only a few years ago by "Leverage" producer/co-creator John Rogers as a Mexican-American teenager. I'm familiar with the character as interpreted on the "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" TV show, but haven't seen much of him in comics, so this is pretty new. However, I don't read or speak Spanish, so much of the dialogue is beyond me. Doubt I'll give it a second look.

The Bad:
Red Hood and the Outlaws. Oh, this is just awful, especially if you have any history with the main characters. Red Hood is a jerk (but then, he always has been, which is why callers voted to kill him off when he was Robin back in the 1980s). Roy Harper (the former Speedy) is a douche, willing to hop into bed with his buddy's girl because she invites him. And Starfire, the former Teen Titan, interstellar princess, fierce and honorable warrior, and love of Dick Grayson, is now a slut from outer space who apparently cares so little about earth and its people that she can't be bothered to remember any of them for any length of time. Which makes it easier, I think, to forget about reading a book featuring her.

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