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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?