Archive for the ‘DC Comics’ Category

Amazing Arizona ComiCon Hall Costumes and the unimpressive Trollgod   3 comments

On Saturday, January 25, I grabbed my little camera, and took myself to the Phoenix Convention Center to take pictures of hall costumes. Arizona fans have really been getting into cosplay the last few years, and the costumes keep getting better and better. I like cosplay, and cosplayers–they are so friendly, and some of them are really creative. They enjoy showing off their costumes and are usually very happy to be photographed.  So, since I was born to have adventure, I went off to see what I could see.

The trouble with giant conventions downtown is parking.  It is very expensive to park downtown. Event parking was $20 for the Con, and I didn’t want to spend that much money. The solution–park for free at ChrisTown and ride the light rail into the heart of the city. An allday pass is just $4. This is the first time I’ve bought a light rail pass since the line started, and I didn’t know how to do it–but a passerby helped me get through it. So, I bought my ticket, got my receipt, and didn’t know enough to pick  up the actual plastic boarding pass. The transit police explained it all to me as I was riding downtown. Luckily, they did not arrest me. At least I had my receipt. The other thing that went wrong at the beginning was that when I tried to take a picture of the train at the beginning of the trip, the camera shut iself down–battery power too low.  So, the whole photo expedition was not going to work because of lack of power. Luckily, I figured that out before I got downtown and tried to take pix with a camera that wouldn’t work. (It is truly better to be lucky than good.) I jumped back off the train, quick walked 2 blocks to the nearest Walgreen’s drug store, and bought myself a package of AA batteries–an unanticipated expense, but at least I have a supply of new batteries that that should last a couple of months.  The rest of the trip was uneventful.  I came out with some 87 usable  pictures from my trip, and they’re all available on my Facebook page, but here I’m only going to share 42 of the best (in my estimation) shots.  87 might be a bit much . . . 🙂 Oh, this is funny, the pix filled up  all the  space available to me in this blog, and so I was only able to caption 2 of them. You’ll have to figure out all the rest. Bwa  ha ha ha ha!

The first costume I saw on arrival. This  young lady is Big Barda, a new god from D.C. Comics.

The first costume I saw on arrival. This young lady is Big Barda, a new god from D.C. Comics.

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Three warrior maidens from Asgard posed with me, the totally out of place Trollgod. From left to right, the Enchantress, Thor’s Lady Sif, and a valkyrie. The goon in black is me, Ken St. Andre, Trollgod.

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The Flash squares off against Deadpool.

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Wonder Woman bounced some invisible bullets for me.

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Captain Hook went outside to get a break.

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along with his scurvy crew.

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This Predator told me he was cooking slowly inside his amazing outfit. He looked really uncomfortable, but graciously gave me the shot.

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The giant robot handed out Con literature and provided lots of photo ops.

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Robin, red Robin!

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I believe this woman is Ghost.

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This might be Harley Quinn, the colors are right, or just a vampire lady, but a beauty in either case.

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A character from the end of the Bleach manga. He told me his name, but I forgot it. Maybe one of  you viewers can explain  him.

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I don’t know who this is supposed to be, but it’s professional grade body armor if I ever saw any.

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This girl was so colorful and bright that I had to take her picture, nor could I exclude her mystical black-garbed friend.

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Green Arrow, Oliver Queen, looked like he was ready to rock and roll.

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Animated from anime!

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Batgirl has gone public. No mask for this crimefighter.

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I don’t think Ms. Marvel believed me when I told her I was in love, but she gave me a 20 megawatt smile.

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Roller Derby Harley Quinn ditched her Puddin to be with Captain America. In fact, Harley was all over the place and seemed to be hanging with everyone but Mr. J.

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She’s just another pretty face, but sweet and so close.

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I think it’s some kind of superhero lineup.

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Looks like Tinkerbelle has finally gotten Peter to notice her.

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Princess Aurora was the soul of curtsy (pun intended)

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Alien Smurfette or just a very brainy blue girl???

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Rocket Raccoon was gratiied that I recognized her.

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I talked to this guy a bit. He said he’s just an ordinary dude, but is his own character. He tricks out ordinary ties with all kinds of punk and kitsch ornamentations.

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Wyatt Earp looked a little out of place in this crowd, but I think he qualifies as a 19th century superhero.

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Most awesome shoes ever for a male character.

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Who wants a Kiss?  Not me!!!

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The Adam West Batman showed up  Great costume, but remarkably restrained by today’s standards of cool and awesome. Look! He actually has a batarang.

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Jean Grey and Bucky Barnes seem like an unlikely pair.

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Marvin the Martian promised not to deliver any earth-shattering kabooms while the Con was in session.

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Batgirl as friendly supermodel. It works for me.

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Jay Garrick, the original Flash was still prepared to run circles around his later imitators.

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I did not recognize the outfit, so I asked her about it. She said she was the girl from Sucker Punch, the movie, which I have not seen. I asked for her picture, and wound up getting one taken with her by her companion. It’s the Hat–it gets me the pretty girls all the time.

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Future Foundation Spider-Man looks absolutely terrified for some reason.

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Harley and Ivy.

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To infinity and beyond?

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This is not Lady Blackhawk gone bad, but someone from Japanese anime. You can tell by the hair color. She liked the idea, though.

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On my way out, I saw this graceful ninja flowing through a sword dance.  The whole dance will probably be available on the ComicCon Facebook page.

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Pirate Harley Quinn. This mixed-up villain has more looks than the Man with 1000 faces.

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Amazingly enough, I was there for almost 2 hours and didn’t see a single person I knew, but what a lot of extremely cool people I did see.  The Trollgod tips his beat-up old begoggled hat to all of them as well as to all the great costumes that you can see on Facebook, because I didn’t want this blog to be too long. It is too long, I know, but it could easily have been twice as long.

If you’ve ever seen cool hall costumes at a convention, why not leave a comment.  If  you recognize yourself in here, why not sign-in and tell the world what you were doing at the Amazing Arizona ComiCon.

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The Ape, the Bat, and the Spider   4 comments

I love superhero movies–always have.  And there have been more and more of them lately as Time-Warner (D.C) and Marvel get their acts together.  In the last couple of weeks I’ve made an extra effort to get out and see The Amazing Spider-Man and The Rise of the Dark Knight.  I enjoyed them both very much.  Spider-Man was more fun.  Batman was more epic.

Talking with my son about them, I started to mentally compare the movies.  At first glance Batman and Spider-Man don’t seem very similar, but the two heroes actually have a lot of similarities.  In fact I’d argue that they’re both literary descendants of Tarzan who was the original swinger.

Tarzan was the original swinging super hero.

Then Batman got into the act.

Then Spider-Man made it his chosen mode of travel.

First Edgar Rice Burroughs had a super hero Tarzan swinging in 1912, although it was probably 1920 before he showed it off in the comics.  Then Bob Kane created the swinging Batman in 1929.  Finally, Stan Lee did it with Spider-Man in 1961 (and later with Daredevil in 1964.)

There are a lot of resemblances between these three male supermen.  They are all orphans. Tarzan’s parents died in the African jungle while he was still a baby.  Batman’s parents were shot down by Joe Chill in Crime Alley while Bruce as a ten-year-old boy.  Spider-Man’s parents perished mysteriously, when he was a young boy also.  Then Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben got killed by a petty criminal, so Spider-Man suffered the dead father figure twice.  (Superman’s parents died  when Krypton exploded.  Conan’s parents are generally thought to have died when he was young; Robert E. Howard never said, but the movie scripters kill them off when Conan is young.)  Is there something about being an orphan that creates heroes?

All three heroes base or get their powers from animals: apes, bats, and spiders.  My original comparison was simply going to be Batman and Spider-Man.  Both characters model themselves after animals that are loathed and feared–bats and spiders, and use an animal symbol on their costume.

Not too visible in this rubberized armor, but the bat symbol is right in the middle of Batman’s chest.

Spider emblem right in the middle of his chest. Granted, it is the best place to put a symbol on a costume, and all the heroes do it, but still . . . it’s a similarity.

Both Batman and Spider-Man are primarily known as crime fighters, and not just ordinary crime, although they will take out everyday thugs and such if the occasion arises, but freaky super-villains.  The Batman’s arch nemesis is The Joker (whose theme colors are green and purple).

Scary looking guy in green and purple, maniac, mass murderer.

Spidey’s all time worst enemy is The Green Goblin, whose theme colors are green and purple.

Scary looking maniac and mass murderer in green and purple.

Both heroes are scientific geniuses, coming up with all sorts of inventions to help themselves.  Batman does it more than Spider-Man does, but neither one is challenged in the IQ department.

Both of them have a tendency to get their girlfriends killed.  I won’t go into that, but ladies, stay away from superheroes (and villains) if you don’t want to die young.

Both of them developed female versions.  Batman has Batwoman and Batgirl.  (many different versions of both)

Kate Kane is the latest and perhaps the hottest Batwoman. She hasn’t made it to the movies yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Barbara Gordon is the original Batgirl, and still the best. She’s back, somehow, since DC rebooted their universe.

Spider-Man has his female imitations.

Spiderwoman, deadlier than the male.

Arana (should be a tilde on the n but not available while typing here) aka Spider-Girl.

Then there was the Batmobile and the Spidermobile, the Batcycle and the Spidercycle.  And who knows how many other similarities there are between the two heroes.  Is it just me, or is Marvel simply imitating D.C. as far as their hero characters go?

Batman is perhaps the most important figure in the DC pantheon of heroes.  Superman might be equal, but then why are there more Bat books than Super books?  Spider-Man is perhaps the most important figure in the Marvel pantheon of heroes.  It just had to be that way.  The two characters carry the same karma, and so achieve similar positions of prominence.

I’m not saying that Batman and Spider-man are identical, but dang, when you start to look at them, there sure are a lot of similarities.

If you can think of some comparisons that I may have missed, please go ahead and leave a comment.  If you’ve seen both of their new movies, and you’d like to weigh in on which was superior, then do that too.

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Green Lantern–Failure of Imagination, part 2   2 comments

 

I watched Green Lantern when it came out in June, and started to review it then.  Somehow that review bogged down.  I was going to spend a lot of time blasting the movie version of Sinestro, but there really wasn’t enough to blast.  I remember being angered by the character in the film, but after a few hours the rage went away, and I didn’t have much to say.  Thus, the review languished until today when I decided to finish it as my simple reactions to the movie.  I don’t really do reviews–there are plenty of other places on the internet for straight reviews.  I do reactions–the reactions of a life-long science fiction and comics fan, who would really like to see great superhero movies.

Green Lantern is probably my favorite DC superhero.  As a science fiction fan, I always wanted to  be able to transport myself all over the galaxy to alien planets–I always wanted to be able to do anything at all through sheer willpower.  Green Lantern and Adam Strange were the ones that most appealed to me–both were adventurers whose mind was more important than their bodies.  (not that they had bad bodies–I’d like to have either one’s physique).  When the news came out that there would be a Green Lantern movie, I was pleased and excited.  I went to see it on opening week.  For the most part I liked it.  I liked the special effects–the gorgeously detailed aliens–the weirdness of Oa, the beauty of Carol Ferris.

But, I have to admit that the story was shit.  I attribute this to the fact that Hollywood simply can’t even try to produce a movie from the base material as originally written.  My guess is that the people who don’t know beans about the original property nevertheless get to say how the end product should look.  So, the script writers–if they are not at fault for warping and placing their own interpretations on things–wind up putting all sorts of crap into the movie because someone thinks the audience expects it.  Example: Hal Jordan is a hotshot test pilot.  Let’s also make him a clown and a bit of an asshole–the audience can identify with a guy like that.   Well, originally Hal Jordan was neither clown nor asshole–though his writers at DC for the last 10  years or so have been working pretty hard on making an ass out of him.  We don’t need that, or appreciate it, Hollywood.  Give us back the real Hal Jordan–the excellent test pilot who was witouut fear.

Special effects don’t impress movie critics.  Costume design, scenery, excellent acting by bit players–none of that means squat to the critics.  But it impresses me.  Green Lantern is an outer space fantasy, notable for its aliens.  And the movie has great aliens taken from the Green Lantern comics.  Take a look at Tomar Re, one of Hal Jordan’s best friends in the Green Lantern Corps.  However, the one alien who is supposed to impress we movie-goers the most is Sinestro–a crimson-hued Errol Flynn clone.  Sinestro was the greatest Green Lantern–the one guy whose approval really mattered.  He doesn’t have a very high opinion of humans, and so he thinks Hal Jordan will be a washout as a Green Lantern.  He’s almost right, but his very antagonism spurs Hal to greater efforts. 

There is, of course, a big Bad in the movie.  It is a gigantic chaotic cloud creature capable of destroying planets.  The original Parallax in the Green Lantern comics was much more than that, but let’s keep things simple for movie-goers.  Parallax is the essence of Fear itself.  (Heh, sounds like a current Marvel mega-series.)   It is more powerful than any Green Lantern, or even any team of Green Lanterns.   Sinestro can’t handle it.  Guess who does.

Why does a big chaotic cloud creature have a horrific humanoid head?

 
I’d like to see more Green Lantern movies–maybe put them up against a better enemy–say the Khunds or the Dominators.  But, actually we don’t need any more of Hal Jordan or Sinestro.  Let’s do G.L. as a chick movie featuring Arisia.  I bet it would fly.
 

Arisia--how green was my universe!

 
Movies are typically rated by stars.  On a 10 star system I’d give Green Lantern a 5.  On a 4 star system it gets a 2.  The movie is worth seeing for special effects, Carol Ferris, and a trip to Oa.  You know, I bet it would be great for a MST3000 treatement.  I do hope they carry on and make a Justice League movie with Green Lantern in it.  If Marvel can do the Avengers, surely DC, owned by Warner Brothers, could do the Justice League.
If you have some comments about the Green Lantern movie, you could put them in below. 
 
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DC’s new 52–the final 13   Leave a comment

Alas! (heh, I just love that word), Alack!  and Woe is me!

I’ve reached the end of the deal on the comics deal of the century–all 52 of DC’s new 52 for just $100 at Samurai Comics.

You have to give DC credit for trying to provide variety.  This week’s comics include an eastern Western, two horror titles, and an occult superhero spinoff of the Justice League.  There are teen titles and old geezer titles.  Frankly I prefer the old geezer titles, but then I’m not an angst-ridden teenager any more.

Taking them in alphabetical order again, we start with All-Star Western #1–a title that may have the ugliest comic cover of the year–not necessarily the worst, but definitely the ugliest.

Look at all the bats in the sky. Is this a Batman title in disguise?

I don’t know why DC keeps trying to do western comics.  There hasn’t been a real market for westerns since 1960.  So, if ordinary westerns don’t work, let’s have a supernatural western with elements of horror and brutality–i.e. Jonah Hex.  To start this series bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes east to help the cops find a Jack-the-Ripper type murderer who only kills prostitutes.  Jonah’s reaction to Gotham City is the best part of the book–he’d like to burn the place down.  Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham team up to track down a sex killer.  It’s not a bad story with the juxtoposition of two totally opposite types of men.    Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray turn in a decent story, and they have fun playing with Batman’s home town 100 years or so before Batman is born.  The artist is someone or something named Moritat, and I hate his work–not because the art is really bad, although it tends to be rather flat most of the time, but because he’s one of those sophisticates who love to work in monochromatic shades.  Here everything in the book is a shade of brown, except the stuff that is shades of gray.  I really dislike monochromatic art.  I consider it very dull.  A good story, but I won’t be buying number 2.

Aquaman #1.  I have always liked Aquaman.  His undersea world is just far enough outside of the normal DC universe to be continually interesting.  Writer Geoff Johns sets him up to be in the same class as Superman in terms of pure power.  Artist Ivan Reis does beautiful evocative work.  It’s a nice reintroduction to Aquaman, and I hope it works for them.  In a world full of superheroes, I can’t afford to buy Aquaman, even if I do like him.

Aquaman meets the creatures from the black lagoon. Grrrrr!

Batman the Dark Knight.  It is probably fair to say that the Batman books area always well-written.  DC takes good care of the oldest superhero–remember Batman was invented before Superman.  The trouble with Batman is that he always seems to have about six different continuities going at the same time.  You sometimes wonder if the Batman in Detective Comics is really in the same universe as the one in the Dark Knight.  Spoiler coming here: Harvey Two-Face Dent turns into the Hulk on the last page.

Black Hawks #1.  Back in the day the Blackhawks were an international team of hotshot jet pilots left over from World War II who did Mission Impossible stunts against an international cast of crazies and bad guys who weren’t tough enough to warrant superhero intervention.  The coolest things about them was their battlecry of Hawk-aaaaaaa!  They seldom crossed over into the world of super heroes.  In this reboot the Black Hawks are a U.N. sanctioned group of international trouble shooters–a kind of airborne U.N.C.L.E. with an international cast of characters and an emphasis on high-tech gadgetry.  Every one of them is young and kewl-looking.  Retch. Puke.  The art is ok, the story is average.  Lady Blackhawk in her incarnation as one of the Birds of Prey was more interesting than this whole group of murderous mercenaries.  I will not buy issue #2.

Blackhawk was created in 1951 by the great Will Eisner. I'd rather read that story than the current incarnation.

Firestorm #1 or to give the book its whole title: The Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Man.  Here is the one of the teenage angst books I was talking about.  Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch are about as opposite as two teenage boys can be.  Ronnie is a white jock; Jason is a black brainiac.  See how writer Ethan Van Sciver has cleverly reversed the stereotypes.  And they don’t like each other.  Then in a crisis caused by a black ops team out to retrieve a magnetic bottle with magical scientific powers they both become Firestorm the Nuclear Man.  Imho, the art is decent–the story is heartless and too much a rewrite of earlier versions of Firestorm.  I will not buy issue #2.  I won’t even look at it on the racks.

The Flash #1.  I am really getting pissed off by all of DCs symbolic character portraits on the first issues of this new set.  Give me a real scene from the story any time.  Sigh.  I used to like the Flash.  If this Flash, or this universe has any tie-in to the Flashpoint series of the last few months, I can’t see it.  His name is Barry Allen.  He’s a blonde police detective.  He knows a woman named Iris West.  He’s real fast, but not all that good at using his powers yet.  He has the magic flash ring that carries the super compressed version of his costume, and when he wears it, he looks just like the old silver age Flash except that speed lightning flickers around him as he runs.  And he has a bizarre mystery to solve in his first new issue.  Nope.  Uh-uh.  Nothing here in this issue to make me follow the Flash in future issues.  I will not buy #2.

Green Lantern New Guardians #1.  Why is Kyle Raynor in the new DC universe?  Why haven’t the Green Lanterns changed at all?  This issue recaps his origin story and sets up an intriguing mystery.  Good art.  Good story.  Kyle has a rougher look than he has had in the past.  If I could get over my objection to the fact that nothing has really changed for the Green Lanterns, I’d be fairly happy with this issue.  I will look into #2.

I, Vampire #1.  DC is trying something new with this venture into horror comics.  I’ll grant that the effort is pretty horrible.  It’s a love story between vampires–a good vampire and an evil vampire.  The evil one, Mary Queen of Blood, considers humans to be livestock.  The tragic love story leaves me projectile vomiting on the story and the monochromatic art only intensifies my repulsion.  Maybe this comic will work for horror fans.  I’m not their target audience and it doesn’t work at all for me.  I will not buy issue #2.

Meet the occult Justice League. From left to right: Deadman, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu, John Constantine, and Shade. Looming over all is the Enchantress. Hey, where's Dr. Fate and the Phantom Stranger?

Justice League Dark #1.  In a world where magic is obviously real–a world that has to deal with multiple pantheons interfering with everyday life, it only makes sense to have wizards and magical folks on the side of the good guys.  Thus, I’m happy to know that the Justice League has people they can call on when black magic comes a’calling.  Zatanna has been a member of the Justice League in the past.  The rest of the losers in this cast have staggered on and off stage in the old DC universe for decades–it seems that whenver a writer comes up with an interesting story for one of them, back they come.  None are popular enough to sustain a long-running series on their own, though I think they’ve all had mini-series.  I think this Justice League Dark is a doomed premise–just like every prior Justice League spinoff has been a doomed premise, but I think we might get a few good stories out of it, and I will follow it for an issue or two just to see where they go with it.

The Savage Hawkman #1.  How could one ever grow tired of being a superhero?  I don’t know, but apparently it happened to Carter Hall, the human shell of Hawkman.  No sign of Hawkwoman or Hawkgirl in the new universe, so maybe he’s just lonely.  Anyway, his deranged attempt to destroy his Hawkman gear unlocks a new property of Nth metel.  It bonds with him and sinks into his very body, so it can conveniently come right out of him when the Hawkman armor is needed.  So, I guess it’s just another case of fine feathers make fine birds, or the suit makes the man.  The story, with yet another alien incursion on Earth, isn’t bad, but it’s not good enough to make me want to follow Hawkman.  I will not buy #2.

Superman #1.  This is one of the few titles that everything else has been building up to.  I’m pleased that it got one of the best covers in the entire new 52 lineup.  At least it is a scene from the story, and it shows off the new uniform very well, and it’s a classic Superman as Atlas pose.  Things are changing in Metropolis.  Lois Lane is no longer a plucky girl reporter serving under Perry White–she gets to be head of the media section of Morgan Edge’s new media empire.  Morgan is no longer a slimy white executive.  Now he’s a cross between Rupert Murdoch and Morgan Freeman–kinda looks like black superstar Freeman.  Jimmy Olson is no longer a photographer, but a computer hacker par excellence.  Perry White has lost the cigar and looks more like a football coach than a newspaper editor.  Clark Kent has lost the blue suit and looks like a lost yuppie.  But Superman still looks great.  The story is some forgettable thing about an alien fire creature who’s apparently mad at Superman.  The story is ok; the art is good; the Daily Planet globe goes out with a bang.  I can’t say it did much for me.  Action Comics #1 was, imho, much better.  I won’t buy #2.

Teen Titans #1.  Robin (Dick Grayson) formed the original Teen Titans.  Red Robin (Tim Drake) forms the new Teen Titans.  He does it in response to a perceived threat and an apparent need to guide a new clump of teenage superheroes.  Judging from what I’ve seen in the last month, there will be plenty of teen superheroes who will need the guidance.  Cyborg is a grown up now–a member of the Justice League.  The best thing about the new version of Teen Titans is that it ties in directly with Superboy #1.  There is a Kid Flash who is apparently not Wally West or related to Barry Allen.  Wonder Girl doesn’t like to be called Wonder Girl.  I suggest we call her SuperBitch–that’s clearly her role in the new team.  Not bad, but I won’t buy #2.

Voodoo #1.  With the last title in the new 52, DC has reached a new low for sleaze from a major comics publisher.  I might be wrong, but I doubt if DC has ever spent this much time inside a strip bar, even going so far as to  chronicle a private session with the exotic dancer of the title.  But, it’s not really a sex comic–it’s horror.  Our beautiful heroine isn’t so beautiful when you see her true form, and our handsome secret agent was actually the sleazy one, so by the unwritten rule of comic books, deserves the horrible fate that comes his way.  Oh, and the art by Sami Basri is fucking gorgeous.  And I use that adjective by design, because that’s what a good part of the art is going to make you think about.  I don’t know about buying this comic on a continuing basis, but I will look to see what they do with it for the second issue.  This is no ordinary superhero or horrible monster story.

Beauty and the Beast--one and the same.

There you have it–not so much reviews of DC’s new 52 comics, but reactions to them all.  52 has been kind of a magic number for DC the last few years–two year-long 52 series–a multiverse consisting of 52 universes.  Maybe some other connections I haven’t noticed.  Are they all monthlies?  I don’t know, but I suppose they are.  On average I only liked 2 or 3 titles each week enough to care about the second issue.  Still, that’s about $9 a week more that I might wind up spending.  I don’t know if that’s enough money for DC to succeed or not.

I’m an old comics fan–been reading them for more than 50 years, but I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge.  I don’t follow everything, and I realize that my likes and dislikes probably don’t reflect those of most comics readers.  I can tell you what I like and don’t like, and why, but that’s about it.  For really good comics reviews every week you should check out http://newsarama.com.

I’d be happy to see your comments on these comics.  Am I right, or am I wrong about which of these new comics are any good?

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D.C.’s New 52–Week 3   1 comment

A poor cover for Batman #1

I don’t know why they make it so hard.  You would think that on the DC Comics site you could find good versions of their current comics, but no, all I could get for Batman anywhere is these small pictures without the logo.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I got a special deal from Samurai Comics in Phoenix that got me all 52 of D.C.’s new 52.  It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I couldn’t pass it up.  Thus, I get to comment and kvetch on their entire new line as they come out.

I’ll take them in alphabetical order again.

Batman #1.  Of all the different DC continuities, Batman seems to have changed the least.  The Bat family seems to have their act together at the moment.  Bruce and Dick work together to quell (yet another) uprising of the horrible kind in Arkham Asylum.  Tim Drake and Damian Wayne are also shown in tuxedos at the mansion.  An improbable murder mystery is set up that implicates Dick Grayson as a killer and a threat to Bruce Wayne’s life.  I can’t help but feel that writer Scott Snyder has gone off on the wrong path with this mystery.  With D.C. starting Dick off on a new Nightwing series the same week, the Batman story line seems very weak.  Greg Capullo’s art is medium good–very moody, a bit blunt.  Overall, I liked the comic–it has classic Batman feel to it, and some great scenes.  I will probably buy #2, unless a scan of that comic shows it has totally lost it.

IMHO, the variant cover was better, and I got that one.

Birds of Prey #1.  This Bat team book has a symbolic cover showing that our new Birds of Prey teamup will be Black Canary, Starling, Katana, and . . . Poison Ivy!  Say what!!!!!!    It can’t be easy to keep turning out interesting new story lines, but clearly writer Duane Swierczynski has lost his mind.  Artist Jesus Saiz does a nice job with the art, and there’s a good cliffhanger ending.  Barbara Gordon, now that she can be Batgirl again, turns her back on the team.  The comic is well done, but the characters are not my favorites by a long shot.  I won’t buy #2.

Blue Beetle #1.  This book features a new origin story for Jaime Reyes–is that his name?  It has good art, a natural feel to the story, and is set in El Paso–certainly a likely place to find a hispanic superhero.  Blue Beetle is starting over from scratch, but the characters and setups are all the same.  It’s ok, but I won’t buy #2.

Captain Atom #1.  Captain Atom has a new and punkier look.  He’s now somehow connected to the infamous Dr. Megala, instead of the unscrupulous U.S. Air Force.  The art is kind of washed out and distorted, but maybe that’s the look they wanted.  I lost interest in the book by page 3.  I won’t be buying #2.

Catwoman is upside down more often than Spider-Man.

Catwoman #1.  I don’t care much for this artist’s version of Selina Kyle, but the writer carries on with Catwoman, in trouble as usual–super acrobat and butt-kicking femme fatale.  What is not to love about this comic, except perhaps the scenes where she sits around and talks or her new face?  Writer Judd Winick has provided us with a great title: “… and most of  the costumes stay on …”.  It would be too much of a spoiler if I told you what that refers to, but just remember that this is a Batman book.  I probably won’t buy issue #2, but I will definitely skim it on the stands.

Deadman #1.  The cover shows Deadman (Boston Brand) in chains.  The story is mostly origin story.  Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Bernard Chang are trying to make the comic socially relevant.  I hated it.  It wasn’t real bad, but I still hated it.  I won’t buy #2.

Green Lantern Corps #1.  I do believe that rebooting the DC universe would have been the perfect opportunity to get rid of Guy Gardner and John Stewart.  As Green Lanterns go, they were always the least interesting.  But, it doesn’t look like Green Lantern continuity has changed at all–they just won’t mention all those places where Lantern continuity and DC universe main continuity were the same.  Unable to fit in on Earth, Gardner and Stewart wander off into space where horrible things are happening (as usual), and other Green Lanterns are dying.  You know, for a force with the most powerful weapon in the universe, the Green Lanterns sure die very easily.  I have to think their training stinks.  They really have very little idea of how to best use their rings.  I won’t be buying #2.

Legion of Super Heroes #1.  Here’s a fresh take on a bunch of old heroes.  I have to ask, why in hell should we care what happens in the 31st century to these guys?  The Legion was a cool idea once upon a time, back in the 50s and 60s when it was new.  It wasn’t really about the Legion in those days–it was about Superboy and his friends.  We cared about Superboy back then.  It’s going to be real hard to care about the new clone Superboy the killing machine.  Now the Legion is just another gang of super-powered cops in outer space.  There are so many legionaires that it’s hard to develop much feeling or sympathy for any of them.  I won’t be buying #2.

Mister Terrific #1.  Michael Holt is the world’s 3rd smartest man, and he uses those brains to create super scientific gizmos and to play superhero.  In additon to being super smart, he’s also an olympic class athlete.  He dazzles his foes with science and a great right cross.  Let’s face it, Mr. Terrific is a black Batman without the history or the baggage.  Did we really need a black version of Reed Richards in the DC universe?  Come to think of it, he already has a blond girlfriend.  Shades of Sue Storm, she even dresses in blue!  The art is good; the story is boring.  I won’t be buying #2.

Nightwing #1.  I’ve always liked acrobat Dick Grayson.  I still do.  He’s a likeable guy.  But does the world really need another crime-fighting acrobat with a bat on his chest?   I don’t think so.  Oh yeah, somebody mysterious is trying to kill him.  Hmm, they’re trying to kill Bruce Wayne in the Batman title, and trying to kill Dick Grayson in the Nightwing title.  Is this a conspiarcy?  I won’t buy #2.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #2.  Jason Todd, Roy Harper, and Koriandr are the Outlaws–a super team that works on both sides of the law.  Roy Harper looks younger and has got his arm back.  Koriandr is now a super-powered space ho.  Even so, she is the main reason to read this book.  Bimbo or not, she’s hot.  I won’t buy #2.

Supergirl #1.  Michael Green and Mike Johnson, are the new writers for Supergirl.  They took the whole issue to cover Supergirl’s arrival on Earth.  Complete continuity reboot here.  In the past, DC covered her arrival in a page or two.  And she arrives catastrophically in Russia.  Good art, a nice costume redesign, no plot.  It’s probably one of the best of the releases for this week, but I won’t buy #2.

It's too easy to make jokes about a cover like this one. Supergirl is hot!

Wonder Woman #1.   Yes, it does have a crummy symbolic cover.  All those arrows are surely phallic symbols and one goes right through (or behind if you see no symbolism here) the vital spot.  And why is she carrying a bloody sword?  Ouch!  So, forget the front cover.  Once you get inside you’re in the best story of the week.  The Greek gods are up to trouble again.  Zeus is still fathering demigods on the world.  Apollo is counterplotting, in a nasty, heartless sort of way.  Divinely created centaurs arrive to assassinate a young woman named Zola.  Hermes tries to save her.  Diana (aka Wonder Woman) gets involved.  You don’t see the title of the story or the credits until the very last page, and they are very modestly done.  Kudos to Brian Azarello (writer) and Cliff Chiang (artist) for what is, imho, the best DC comic of the week, perhaps of the month.  I don’t ordinarily follow Wonder Woman, but in this case I will make an exception.  I will buy #2.

She fends off the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune now instead of bullets.

And that’s this week’s report on DCs latest batch of failures–I mean comics.  Lots of cliff-hangers. lots of new mysteries being launched.  On the whole, the new DC line shows little evidence of connectedness from title to title.  It is unclear where we are in time and space most of the time.  There was nothing as completely worthless as the new Hawk and Dove or Frankenstein, but there wasn’t much to get excited about either.  The Bat books and Wonder Woman are the best of the lot.  Your mileage may vary.  If you have comments about DC’s new line, please feel free to sound off below.

–end

The New 52–Week 2   Leave a comment

Continuing my evaluation of DC’s new 52 line-up–Samurai comics only got 12 of the 13 that were supposed to come out this week.  Mr. Terrific failed to show.  I’ll tackle them in alphabetical order, and insert cover pictures later.

How many zillion times has this cover been done? Competence but no originality in this art.

Batman and Robin #1.  There are so many Batman titles that they are practically a separate universe inside DC.  I wonder how Batman even has time to breathe, much less cope with all the relationships involved in the Bat-family.

And family is the key word here.  Bruce Wayne–Batman finally partners up with Damian Wayne–Robin, and finds the kid abrasive, rebellious, and none too impressed with his father.  The ten-year old kid is all about kicking butt in the fastest way he can.  Batman likes to think about what he’s doing.  Conflict ensues.

It’s a typical Bat-story–the crooks are smart and tough–Batman is smarter and tougher.  But what interests and bothers me about all this is how little Batman has been changed by the reboot events.  The stories just continue from the same point where they left off.  Damian still refers to his history with Dick Grayson as Batman back when Batman was “dead”.  It feels like they didn’t do anything at all to the main Batman titles except change the numbering–these stories were in the can months ago, and they just continue.  What worries me is Batman’s previous relationship with Superman and the Justice League.  Brother Eye is in the universe.  Considering how some of the characters have changed, can we assume that the whole Crisis of Conscience sequence took place in the new universe also?  Green Arrow was very important to that sequence, but Green Arrow is totally changed in the new universe.  I’m really interested to see how DC wriggles through this.

Batman and Robin #1 was a good story, but not good enough to get me to buy #2.

Seems like just last year we got this take on Batman and Robin. The story hasn't changed--just somebody else under the Batman mask.

Batwoman #1.  Because the Batwoman title has such a dynamic, stylized look to it, I was buying and/or looking through it before the big change.  Being renumbered hasn’t changed the new Batwoman a bit.  This is a story written about women for women.  I’m not a woman.  Newsarama gave this comic a 10 out of 10 review.  I wouldn’t be so generous–maybe 7 out of 10, which is still a lot better than most of this week’s releases.  The art is good, bordering on sexy in places, but the story doesn’t grab me at all.  I will not buy #2.

This cover is kind of murky and you can't really see the title that well. They did it better the fist time., imho.

This is how they did it right last year.

Deathstroke #1.  Slade Wilson is the world’s greatest assassin.  He has been beaten by superheroes a few times, but no prison can hold him.  He likes killing people.  He hires himself out as a mercenary to do assassinations and bodyguard work.  He used to spend a lot of time messing with the Teen Titans.  Slade Wilson is a villain, pure and simple.  It disturbs me that DC would create a book about a villain as cold and nasty as Wilson/Deathstroke.  They have created villain-centered books before, but they all had short runs.  I wish the same for Deathstroke.  I will not buy #2.

Demon Knights #1 serves as an origin story for Etrigan the Demon.  It takes place in the Dark Ages shortly after the fall of Camelot, and has a Swords and Sorcery feel to it.  I love Swords and Sorcery.  Story by Paul Cornell, art by Diogenes Neves–this is good stuff.  As long as it stays in the Middle Ages and doesn’t cross over into regular sci-fi superhero continuity, I’ll probably follow this title.  I will buy issue #2, but I wonder why DC is doing Dark Ages swords and sorcery.

Best new book of the week. DC's immortals as they were 1000 years ago.

Grifter #1.  We get something of an origin story here for a character that crossed over from the Image line of comics.  A whole new evil conspiracy of immense scope is hinted at.  The book kind of feels like the old tv series called the Fugitive.  It’s not bad, but I won’t buy #2.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1.  Hire a monster to slay monsters–now there’s an original idea.  Evolve the Frankenstein monster into an intelligent futuristic James Bond style of agent licensed to kill.  Guess what?  Ray Palmer isn’t the Atom any more–or maybe he is–but he’s still the master of size control technology and teleportation, and is employed by the super secret S.H.A.D.E. organization.  Shades of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.  or is it S.H.I. E. L.D.  Oh, and let’s bring back the old Creature Commandos–a loser idea from the fifties.  Apparently writer Jeff Lemire thinks they were cool and managed to talk some of the D.C. top brass into agreeing with him.  Retch. Puke.  I will not buy issue #2.

Green Lantern #1.  Take away Hal Jordan’s ring.  Assume that the Green Lantern history of the universe didn’t change at all for the reboot.  Grab Sinestro, who is fresh from saving the whole universe in the Darkest Night crisis and reinstate him under the principle of “Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.”  I waffle back and forth on Green Lantern all the time.  I like the Green Lanterns as a group.  I want a power ring for myself.  I think I could do a hell of a better job with one.  But the writers do wander off and do the stupidest things to the universe some times, and I just can’t stand it, and quit buying them for a while.  This relaunch puts Hal Jordan and Sinestro back together again.  I won’t put it on my pull list, but I probably will buy #2.

Legion Lost #1.  A small subset of the 31st century Legion of Super Heroes gets stranded in the past–presumably 21st century Earth, although you really can’t tell for sure.  It’s not the group I would have chosen if I were going to do a Legion spinoff series.  The only really interesting or likable ones are Lone Wolf and Dawnstar.  Average art and forgettable story–I won’t buy #2.

Red Lanterns #1.  This is an origin story for Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns–and it’s just what we need (not!)–more blood and senseless violence in the D.C. universe.  Yes, let’s follow the adventures of a bunch of ugly aliens dedicated to killing things in the bloodiest ways possible.  Retch. Puke.  And there’s even a Red Lantern kitty cat who wears its ring on its tail.  Projectile hurling at this point.  No, I won’t buy #2.

Resurrection Man #1.  Both Heaven and Hell want this guy’s soul, but he won’t stay dead, and he keeps reincarnating every time he’s killed.  He also comes back with a different super power every time.  Some kind of supernatural mystery is being played out here.  It has a good gimmick, and some good computer-assisted art.  Kudos to writer Dan Abnett and artist Andy Lanning, but I’ve never cared much for supernatural mysteries.  I won’t buy issue #2.

Suicide Squad #1.  This gives us an origin story for the Suicide Squad and this time it contains both Deadshot and Harley Quinn along with 4 other B villains.  We know the universe is different here because the Amanda Waller in charge of this group is a sexy young black woman, not a fat old black woman.  Much as I enjoy the maniacal Harley Quinn, I won’t be buying issue #2.

Superboy #1.  Back in the old universe Superboy was an artificial being, cloned from the combined DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor and created by Cadmus.  In the new universe, he’s an artificial being cloned from the DNA of Superman and a mystery donor  (want to bet it’s still Luthor?) by a super secret evil organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E.  He was designed to be a weapon.  (Some writers are too influenced by Wolverine and Marvel I think.)  Is it giving away too much to tell you that Superboy’s first act in life is to kill the scientific team that created him.  They deserved it, but still . . . is this our super hero’s way of solving problems?  The last page tells us that Superboy is going to be used against the Teen Titans.  Okay, that blows the whole continuity of the Teen Titans part of the new 52.  I’m marginally interested to see where they go with this, but not enough to buy #2 when it comes out.

That’s it.  12 titles reviewed.  10 losers, 2 possible winners.

What do you think of D.C.’s new lineup of comics?

end

Posted September 16, 2011 by atroll in Batman, DC Comics, Green Lantern, Uncategorized

The First 14–D.C.s new line of comics   10 comments

I am a comics fan.  Not a big fan, just a long-time fan.  Although my favorites have always been Tarzan and Conan, I have also followed D.C. and Marvel superheroes since the beginning of the Silver Age.  Yeah.  I’m that old, and I never gave up my youthful habits.

Samurai Comics is the best comic store in Phoenix, Arizona, and when they offered a deal on the relaunch of the D.C. universe–all 52 of the numbers 1s for only $100, it was too good an offer to pass up.  $100 is a big purchase for me in comics, but I talked myself into it.

Now, I’m not so sure it was a good idea.  In terms of comics prices it’s a steal.  Every new title retails for $2.99 or $3.99.  But would I have ever bought them if left to my own devices?  Probably not.

If ever there was a crummy generic Justice League cover, this is it.

The very first comic in the new line is Justice League number 1.  I’m old enough to remember the very first Justice League of America which featured Starro the Conqueror–a starfish from outer space.  The first appearance was in The Brave and the Bold Comics and looked like this.

How convenient! Five heroes and five arms to the starfish from space.

Which of the two covers is superior?  I think the old one from the 50s beats the new one to death.  The heroes are doing something–not just bursting out of the artist’s pen.

Story for story the old one has the new one beat also–it’s just a better, faster-paced superhero story.  The new Justice League isn’t of America any more–patriotism has gone out of style.  Neither Aquaman nor Wonder Woman is technically an American.  Superman is an immigrant.  Green Lantern is a space cop who spends way too much of his time on Earth.  Yeah, it’s a Justice League.

I have collected Justice League off and on over the  years.  It has always been my favorite superhero team-up book, even more so than Avengers.  This rather unlikely team-up of Batman and Green Lantern who go looking for Superman because Batman thinks a new menace is coming to Earth from outer space has lots of pretty Jim Lee art but really no inkling of Justice League connectivity.  I suppose Geoff Johns will put it all together in another 5 or 10 issues, but it seems kind of forced.

Big spoiler: the menace from outer space big enough to require all of Earth’s greatest superheroes to team up and fight it is Darkseid and the New Gods.  I suppose he has become the ultimate D.C. villain.  I’m sick of gray-faced Darkseid and his minions of pain and sadism.  How I wish Jack Kirby had never come up with that idea!  Hey, Geoff, that’s not really a new or exciting idea.  All the old DC fans are sick of the New Gods.  They are just a bunch of humanoid aliens with a bit of kinky technology.

I’m not real impressed with the new Justice League.  I may buy number 2 just out of a certain loyalty to the title, or I may just page through it while standing by the new comics next month.

Here’s a bit of a rundown on the other 13 titles that came out this week.

IMHO, the best of the lot was the new Action #1.  Here we see a very young Superman–perhaps 20 or 21 taking on the corruption of Metropolis.  Shades of Gotham City–the new Superman is an outlaw.  He’s a lot like . . . you guessed it . . . Batman.  Superman and Batman meet for the first time in Justice League #1.  How contemporary the two stories are is not really obvious from the text.

You have to wonder why, if Superman is basically wearing jeans and t-shirt--then why did he keep the cape?

It’s kind of a generic cover.  Rags Morales is a terrific artist, but I don’t think his cover inspires the same kind of awe that the original did back at the beginning of DC history.

The first appearance of Superman.

Let’s compare what the covers give us.  Morales is, in my opinion, the better artist, but the actual picture needs to be considered.  The first Superman had a full costume, property destruction, and terrified humans in the scene.  The latest Superman has a kid running through a hail of bullets in the sky, no property destruction, and no full uniform, and a bunch of people in cars.  Seems to me that the first old cover delivers more wonder than the new one.  Both have Superman and cars, however.  Is there some sort of subconscious association of Superman with automobiles?

I have read the first Superman stories.  Siegel and Schuster originally saw him as a kind of outlaw, like Batman, who made justice prevail when the authorities were either helpless or corrupt.  Morrison’s new Superman is a kind of outlaw, interested in making justice prevail, when the authorities are definitely corrupt.

We all know the authorities are corrupt these days, don’t we.  Show me the man who really trusts government, and I’ll show you a fool.

And yet, I believe the Action #1 is the best thing DC released this week.  It manages to hit the high points and start a new Superman legend.  Most of our old friends are in place–Jimmy Olson, Lois Lane, General Sam Lane, Lex Luthor, the Daily Planet.   Luthor already knows that Superman is an alien, and he’s out to get him.  The new young Superman isn’t quite the unstoppable force that he became in the past, although there are indications that he will become that force.

Remember the old Superman tv show?  The intro said: “more powerful than a speeding locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”.   Interestingly enough, the new script works both of those references into it.  At one point Superman has to escape the authorities by leaping over a tall building.  At another point near the end of the story he has to try and stop a speeding train.  It’s not an old locomotive from the thirties, but a futuristic bullet train of the 21st century.   Still, a train is a train, and jumping over buildings is jumping over buildings.  Clever, Mr. Morrison!  I wonder how many new readers will see how you worked those old references into your script.

I will buy Action Comics #2–the story is strong enough and the writing is good enough to compel me to buy the next one.

Alas, that cannot be said for any of the other titles.  I won’t do all the covers, but I will make some comments.  My comments are only my opinions and may be completely wrong.

Animal Man #1.  This is a wasted title.  The art is ok, and Buddy Baker is a likeable fellow, but the Animal Man stories are supernatural in nature.  I don’t think Animal Man will last for more than a year.  He’s a second-rate hero in a world where even first rate heroes have a hard time keeping their audience.  I will not buy issue 2.

Batman Detective Comics #1.  They started off with a classic confrontation–Batman vs. the Joker.  It’s the second-best story of the month.  It has a horrifying cliff-hanger ending.  I will buy issue #2.

Batgirl #1.  Barbara Gordon was Batgirl in the past.  Then the Joker shot her and broke her back.  She survived and became Oracle.  Well, Oracle never happened.  Barbara somehow recovered from getting shot, and after 3 years she put on the old costume and became Batgirl again.  Hmmm.  That implies a lot of continuity with the old DC universe.  It’s a good story.  Barbara Gordon is one of the most likeable characters in the DC universe.  I will want to know how she is doing, but I doubt if I’ll follow the comic for long.

Batwing #1.  Yawn.  A black Batman as a member of Batman International.  I guess that idea carried over from the old Batman universe.  We get a confused story that ends badly–quite a cliffhanger.  I will not buy #2.

Green Arrow #1.  Shades of Smallville!  This Oliver Queen is not the old rakish Robin Hood–Errol Flynn figure of the previous DC universe.  He’s a high-tech vigilante who uses his wealth to build a crime-fighting team.  He’s Batman in green with bow and arrow.  Obviously the DC universe has taken a radical swing away from the old Green Arrow.  Good.  But I won’t be buying #2.

Hawk and Dove #1.  Puke.  Retch.  This Hawk and Dove revival carries on from where Brightest Day left off.  I think these stories were probably in the can before DC even decided to relaunch the universe.  Doesn’t work for me.  Will not buy #2 and don’t expect the series to last long.

Justice League International #1.  It has the same kind of generic heroes coming at you cover as Justice League.  However, in this title, the Justice League is fully established.  Booster Gold is the leader.  Guy Gardner is the power.  Say what?  Why the hell is Guy Gardner even in the new 52 universe?  DC tried a Justice League International before.  It flopped.  Why are they doing it again?  Probably won’t buy #2, but will browse it on the stands to see how the first story goes.

Men of War #1 is an origin story for Sergeant Rock in the new universe  Ordinary soldiers versus some kind of supervillain.  Bad cover.  Boring story.  High price–this is a $3.99 title.  Will not buy #2.

OMAC #1.  Confusion.  OMAC portrayed as a kind of 2nd rate Superman.  Cadmus is a super-secret base for the New Gods under Darkseid on Earth.  Did I mention how much I hate the New Gods stuff?  Most interesting point in the story–OMAC makes contact and is controlled by the intelligent satellite that the old disgusted Batman created–Brother Eye.  How can Brother Eye be in the new universe where Batman is much younger and the events that led him to create Brother Eye and the OMAC corps in the first place didn’t happen?  DC has a continuity screw-up of potentially epic proportions here.  I want to see what they do with OMAC–a lot of mysteries are hinted at–but I probably won’t buy #2.

Static Shock #1 comes straight from the television cartoon and the pages of Teen Titans.  This character switched to the new universe without any trouble at all–the story is a direct continuation of everything that came before.  It’s not bad, but it isn’t a title I have any interest in.  Static Shock is another one of those B list heroes that have no real reason to exist–the black kid hero.  Hooray for political correctness!  Won’t buy #2.

Stormwatch #1 came to DC from Image Comics.  Image had several superhero teams with a grittier approach to the genre than DC.  Stormwatch is a Justice League group that plays dirty and faces more dangerous threats.  It’s a title I only looked at once in a while.  DC integrated it with their regular line by having J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, be a member of the team.  Well, he was dead, but Brightest Day brought him back to life.  It’s hard to tell what will happen with Stormwatch.  I will probably follow it for a while.  Will buy #2.

Swamp Thing #1 features an Alex Holland–the human–who is back from the dead.  He isn’t Swamp Thing any more.  He has a long visit with the grown-up, no longer an outlaw, Superman, implying that everything that happened to Alex in the old universe, also happened to him in the new one.  Weird!  Potential for continuity screw-ups enormous.  But then, Swamp Thing always was weird.  I didn’t buy the comics in the old days, and I won’t be buying them now.  Will keep an eye peeled for the occasional crossover with the rest of the DC line.  But I won’t buy Swamp Thing #2–just scan it on the racks when it comes out again.

That’s my reaction to the first wave of new DC releases.  I liked a couple of them despite their weaknesses–Action Comics, Detective Comics, Stormwatch.  I’m pretty unimpressed with the rest of them.  Your mileage may vary.  If DC was going to do a universal relaunch, I expected a whole new universe, with different ways of looking at it.  That’s not what we got.  It seems to be a confused hodge podge of old and new–I really think they did minor modifications of stories that were already bought and drawn–and just stuck a number 1 on them, figuring they could straighten out the continuity later.  Or, to hell with continuity.  It’s just comics and people will buy and follow whatever they like.  Thus, Hawk and Dove fans, if there are any, will follow the new Hawk and Dove series.  Smallville fans will follow the new Green Arrow.  Etc.

The opinions expressed in this blog are all mine.  Feel free to comment and tell me why any particular issue was actually better or worse than I said it was.

–end