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?
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.