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.
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.
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.
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.
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.