Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blue Beetle #1

So part of the impetus behind this whole reboot was to de-clutter the complicated histories that many DC characters have. Superman's been around since 1938, Batman's only a year younger, and the DC Universe has only grown more complex in the decades since. However, there are plenty of characters who've only been around a few years and are in no need of rebooting. But that didn't stop Didio and company from working their magic (SARCASM DETECTED) on a relatively fresh character by the name of Blue Beetle.

Jamie Reyes, the third hero to call himself Blue Beetle, first appeared in a 2005 DC crossover by the name of Infinite Crisis, but don't hold that against him. This crossover wasn't the usual abortion that Marvel and DC tend to put out. In a pretty well done sequence, Jamie becomes Blue Beetle, gets introduced to Batman, recruited for a mission in space to shut down an evil sentient satellite (sometimes I really love comics) and helps the world's greatest heroes save the day. He segued into his own ongoing series, which lasted only a few years, but was generally beloved by its readers. It was credited with being clever, light-hearted, and presented a young Latino character in a very positive light. This is rare in any sort of media, much less the comic industry, where the vast majority of creators and a sizable percentage of the readers are a bunch of old white dudes.

But alas, DC decided to mess with a good thing, and here we are at Blue Beetle #1. It's a ground-zero approach, so NONE of Jamie's six years of stories are relevant. In their place, we have a Hispanic family speaking a laughably bad combination of English and Spanish, despite being Americans who live in Texas and give off no indications of being recent immigrants. "No way I'm letting you to la casa de amparo cardenas!" exclaims Jamie's mother. "Pero mami, porque? Did Brenda's tia do something to you?" Jesus. I've read more realistic portrayals of Hispanic people in Stormfront newsletters. But it gets mas malo, amigos. Jamie's best friend is Paco, a dropout gang member who wears a half-buttoned shirt and drives a car with lifts. Fucking hell, Tony Bedard. You're a better writer than this. You wrote REBELS like, two minutes ago, and that was one of the best sci-fi comics ever. Do you owe a favor to a racist GOP senator or something?

Buy again: No, but I wish I could, in good conscience.

New reader friendly: Assuming you're looking for readers that dress up as pointy ghosts, sure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Batman #1

Despite an uninspired opening (Batman fights a bunch of his enemies as they try to bust out of Arkham Asylum, never seen that before, right?), this comic is the tits. Scott Snyder, the writer of this issue, just gets how to write Batman. Let me count the ways.

1) Batman is a stoic, serious, focused hero, but he can still hold a conversation with friends (Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock), family (the various Robins, Alfred), and civilians he interacts with as Bruce Wayne. There's a lot of writers who seem convinced that Batman's at his best when he's an unshaven, nigh-psychopathic, and only cares about crime fighting. Snyder presents a more balanced Batman.

2) Batman shows off his detective skills. For everything the Nolan films get right, the one thing they fall down on is showing Batman's keen mind. We see Bats show up at a crime scene that's already been processed by the Gotham City PD, and catch things that they missed.

3) Not only is Batman a detective, the story itself asks us as readers to try to figure out what's coming next, via a pretty decent cliffhanger.

4) He's working with artist Greg Capullo. Capullo's spent years drawing Spawn (God knows why, he must've lost a bet, or maybe Todd McFarlane has pictures of Capullo murdering Girl Scouts or something. It's impossible that he actually LIKED drawing Spawn.) and it shows, in his command of shadow, knowledge of how to draw an urban setting, and how big capes can look cool as hell.

Buy again: Aye, m'lord.

New reader friendly: Very, though there's nothing here that couldn't have been done pre-reboot or "preboot", as the kids say.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

There must be some sort of random comic title generator over at the DC Comics headquarters. It's sorta like the Fanfic Generator, in that it's complete fan-fiction, except the writer gets paid. Red Hood and the Outlaws (starring ex-Robin Jason Todd, suerpowered alien princess Starfire, and recovering junkie archer Arsenal) was the result. It could've been a worse idea, I suppose. We could've gotten a team-up book with Bouncing Boy, the Red Bee, and Hawkman (Hawkman is the worst, everyone hates Hawkman).
Anyways, out of this random combo of characters, we have a random something resembling a comic. There's some decent action to kick off the series, with Red Hood and Starfire busting Arsenal out of a Middle Eastern prison. That goes smoothly, no issues there. To relax after their little adventure, the trio relax on the beach. Starfire mugs a bit for the camera, but that's okay, right? Then we have this exchange:

Now, I have no problem with Starfire being down with random hook-ups. What I do have a problem with is Arsenal referring to her as "Jason's girl", which is pretty paternalistic. But it gets worse from there. We find out that Starfire's species "have a terribly short attention span about all things Earth." Translation: Starfire has sex with guys and then forgets about it. That's basically the equivalent of having sex with a human who gets blackout drunk. Which is rape. So now that we've established that writer Scott Lobdell views Starfire as a RealDoll (REALLLLLLLY don't click that at work), we can jump back into the rest of the issue. But there's not much that can top that. Jason runs afoul of some warrior monks or something.

Writer Scott Lobdell, except for his bizarre fucking choice to make Starfire into an amnesic fuck machine, turns in an unremarkable but occasionally fun script. Artist Kenneth Rocafort, on the other hand, does some great work. The art is vibrant, detailed, and pleasing to the eye.

Buy again: I'd like to give it another try, especially cause of the art, but the comic just didn't grab me.

New reader friendly: Not really. Starfire, Red Hood and Arsenal are all supporting characters at heart, and without their connections to Batman, Nightwing, and Green Arrow made clear, they are pretty confusing leads.

Red Lanterns #1

Atrocitus is a guy/monster whose family and entire race was murdered by some robots sent by the OA Guardians. Now he's assembled a team of freaks called the Red Lanterns to go out into the universe and wreak vengeance in a really disorganized, ad-hoc fashion. This team is apparently tubercular, since they're constantly spitting up blood. Atrocitus included his cat in the mix:

So what did we learn in this first issue? Other than that Atrocitus needs to attend some management seminars, not much. There is some kind of B-plot about a British grad student whose grandfather is mugged. This has nothing to do with the weirdos on Crazy Blood Planet, but I can only assume that he will become Sector 2814's Red Lantern after he defends his thesis. Have you ever tried defending a thesis while blood is pouring out of your mouth? I don't recommend it.

Atrocitus spends his off-hours talking to a Guardian corpse, saying things like "I am married to you in my rage," which is pretty much how I feel about writer Peter Milligan.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

When Grant Morrison put out the Frankenstein mini-series that was part of his Seven Soldiers of Victory epic, I thought it was the cat's tits. Goddamn fantastic.

Then Frankenstein made a few cameo appearances in Final Crisis, though apparently only to quote Milton. Here he still quotes Milton, seemingly for no reason other than the fact that he used to after his creation in the early 19th century. He works for a gothy version of S.H.I.E.L.D. called S.H.A.D.E. and they've teamed up with other genetic recreations of famous Universal Monsters. My reaction to this was similar to my reaction to a lot of these DC reboot titles:

Seriously, this book seems like someone went on a weeklong cocaine and vodka jag while reading every issue of B.P.R.D., watching The Monster Squad over and over again, and jerking off into a Dracula coffee mug.

Deathstroke #1

A series devoted to Deathstroke. I was not excited about this, mainly because Deathstroke is not an interesting character. He's the ultimate badass who kills tons of folks, occasionally growling surly things. Giving him his own series is kind of like giving a TV show to the cow gun killer from No Country for Old Men.

So who are the supporting characters? Well, there's his slick agent who hooks him up with work and there's a team of goofy young mercenaries who call themselves the Alpha Dawgs. Sounds like the spiritual successor to Entourage, right? Not quite. By the end of the issue, Deathstroke kills the alpha Dawgs for no reason and realizes the job was a set-up for him to recover the mysterious briefcase from Pulp Fiction. Super yawn.

Batwoman #1

I went into this knowing nothing about Batwoman other than she's a lesbian. I think now I know even less. Batwoman is Kate Kane, an impossibly pale ginger girl who lives with her sidekick. She had a sister Alice whom I guess was a supervillain? I don't know. It was all very confusing.

The enemy Batwoman is up against here is a ghost. An evil ghost woman that's kidnapping and drowning children. The issue ended with Batman wanting to talk to her, presumably about what dish she's making for the next Batfamily potluck.

Would I pick up issue 2? Probably. I like the art a lot and though I literally had no idea what was happening, I got this feeling that the writer was actually going somewhere interesting with all of it.

Batgirl #1 (Alternate Review)

I like the premise of this book. Having fully recovered from her former paralysis, Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl once again. The only problem is, she's a really shitty superhero. She is terrified of becoming paralyzed again and the fear greatly impacts her heroics. It's something different that I can get behind. Of course, the best solution to her problem is for her to stop being Batgirl, so Gail Simone will need to get around that.

Reading this comic brought up a recurring frustration I have with these reboot issues. I literally am trying to piece together however the writers arbitrarily changed the DCU. Like in this Batgirl, Barbara Gordon was still shot by the Joker, became paralyzed, but then DIDN'T become Oracle? I really couldn't tell.

I could see how a lot of comic fans might find this kind of continuity detective work appealing. I would also find this appealing if the entire DCU had been rearranged by a heavy hitter like say, Grant Morrison. I would have a ball trying to figure out why Superman is a heroin-addicted jazz critic without superpowers or why Batman exists only as a quantum singularity in a local supermarket. But no. I've never heard of these writers (except for Gail Simone, whom I like). I resent the fact that I must interpret their caprice.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Supergirl #1

Don't expect this review to be very long. There's so little content in Supergirl #1, I'm sort of having trouble trying to review it. Writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson wrote 20 pages of Supergirl punching giant robots in the snow. I looked these guys up because I had no idea who the hell they were. Turns out they wrote Smallville and the Green Lantern movie. So really, the based on their track record, 20 pages of Supergirl punching robots is among their best ideas. And yes, it took two of them to accomplish this feat. You think they each took 10 pages? Or do you think Queen was like "Supergirl fights robots" and Johnson's like "YES, BUT IN THE SNOW!" and then they high-fived? Either way, this comic sucks, but not because it was horrendously bad, just because nothing happened.

The art's okay, if a little scratchy for a Supergirl comic. Supergirl continues her tradition of having awful costumes. There's nothing compelling about the plot or likable about the characters. I just don't understand how a comic like this gets made. Supergirl is a character that rightfully deserves a place in the DC canon, but for the past 20 years, no writer but Peter David has been able to do anything worthwhile with her. DC needs a plan for her.

Buy again: Nope.

New reader friendly: I guess, though new readers might confused why Supergir fights robots in the snow before she even meets her more-famous cousin.

Catwoman #1

Judd Winick has done a lot of his best work on the Batbooks. As I mentioned in the Batwing review, he's done a lot of "topical" comics, but for some reason, his Batman (and family) work tends to be a little more straightforward action/adventure and is generally pretty successful. So it's not super-shocking that he got handed the Catwoman solo series. Winick turns in a decent issue, but he and artist Gulliem March fail to give a thesis statement for the series, a reason for a Batman supporting character/occasional supervillain to get her own series.

Winick's issue starts with the title character having to flee her home, as it's been blown up some thugs she pissed off via her thievery. In need of her next score, she gets a gig bartending at a bar populated by the Russian mob, so she can listen up for quality stuff to steal. Winick skillfully illustrates the difference between Catwoman and a proper superhero, when she sees a Russian pimp who wronged her in the past. Rather than keeping her cover, she follows him into the bathroom and beats the shit out of him. Seriously, there was enough blood to make even Dan Didio happy. She flees the nightclub and heads to a penthouse she's "borrowing" only to get an unexpected Bat-booty-call. In a moderately graphic scene, Catwoman gives him the Batsignal to go for it, and Batman ends up driving his fleshy Batmobile into her womanly Batcave. I'd post it here but it's vaguely NSFW. But if watching latex'd up vigilantes is your thing, click here.

A lot of people had giant problems with the sex scene. I have midget problems with the sex scene. I got no problem with Batman and Catwoman hooking up, I don't think it does anything detrimental to their characters. I do have a problem with spending four pages (out of a 20 page comic) on it, it's not like they actually get naked, so it can't really serve to titillate anyone, so why not just use a panel or two to hint at what's going on and then use those other pages for story? And while I'm not one of those "think about the children!" types, I do question if a four page sex scene belongs in a publication that DC seems pretty desperate to get into the hands of new readers, presumably some of which are children.

The actual big issue with the comic is that we have no sense of where this comic is going. Selina has no mission, one supporting character, and no real purpose as a protagonist. Why not just let her pop up in a Batbook as either an ally or antagonist until a writer has a strong enough story to merit a Catwoman solo series?

Buy again: Nah.

New reader friendly: Assuming you aren't an impressionable youth, yes.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes #1

One of the recurring problems I've noticed with the reboot has been the vagueness about how much of the old continuity still counts. That's one problem that the 800th (that's a rough estimate, pretty sure I'm not too far off though) relaunch of the Legion doesn't have. It's evident by the fourth page that every ounce of story that came before still happened. Done skillfully, that's fine. Look at the 2005 Doctor Who relaunch. Writer Russell T. Davies brought the Doctor back to TV, and didn't disregard the decades of stories that came before. He simply wrote in such a way that new and old fans could enjoy the series, without going overboard on minute pieces of trivia or spilling white-out over the Doctor's whole history. That sort of approach would've been helpful here.

Instead, we're thrown into what easily could've been Legion of Super-Heroes #331, instead of a first issue. Legion member Mon-El reminisces about the time he spent as a Green Lantern. We see statues being put up for Legion members who just died, but we never saw their deaths. Starboy is in a futuristic wheelchair but we have no clue what caused the injury. How did any writer that doesn't have brain worms eating his cerebellum think that this would be an accessible comic?

Putting aside the severe lack of giving a shit about new readers, the comic is somewhere between "meh" and "blergh", leaning closer to meh. The art is generally okay, though some weird layouts occasionally make panels reallllllly confusing.

Buy again: No, which is a shame, cause I really want to read another good Legion comic before I die.

New reader friendly: Not in the slightest.

Green Lantern Corps #1

This was a tough comic to review. Positives: good character work, solid art, an attempt at social relevance, and a clever way to get new readers up to speed. Writer Pete Tomasi and artist Fernando Pasarin should be proud of all that. I don't want to minimize that. These guys crafted a good comic that they should be pretty proud of. But...

The title of this story is "Triumph of the Will", for those of you who don't know (and that includes whatever ignorant turds were in charge of editing this comic), the name comes from a documentary. Said documentary was a piece of the Nazi propaganda effort back in 1930s Germany. It stars Hitler and his right-hand man, Heinrich Himmler. I'm gonna assume you know about Hitler, but his buddy Himmler was the man most directly involved in the mechanics of the Holocaust. This guy drove around to concentration camps and made sure they were running as smoothly as possible. And when I say smoothly, I mean, this guy was pleased when Jews/gays/Gypsies/Eastern Europeans/the mentally retarded/etc. were BURNED OR GASSED TO DEATH. To think that making use of the title of a film glorifying sick pieces of shit like Hitler and Himmler is okay is just mind boggling. I'm honestly a little surprised this didn't become a one-day story on some in at least one major news outlet.

But hey, what's a little Nazi-glorification among friends, right? Everything else is smooth sailing? Not so much. The first four pages of this comic feature three violent deaths. We see an evil alien get bisected, a heroic Green Lantern get decapitated and then another bisection, this time a different GL. By the end of the comic, we have two more dead GLs, this time left to rot on pikes, and the genocide of a whole planet. And we see the corpses left over from said genocide being picked at by alien vultures. I've seen less pointless violence at WWE cage matches. I've been to orgies at Dan Didio's house that featured less gore to feed his murder boner. This is really over the top savagery that doesn't enhance the storytelling in the slightest.

Tomasi did himself no favors, because the gore distracts from a good story. He's a writer with a good command of how to use character to jump start a story. Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart return to Earth to try and reconnect with normal life, only to realize that duty calls and you can't always go home again. The art really works, especially the coloring. Even the cover, which wasn't drawn by the guy that did the interiors, really looks great.

Buy again: Despite some reservations with the blood/guts/idiocy, yes.

New reader friendly: Yeah, a scene where Guy Gardner is mobbed by groupies and has to explain what the rings can and can't do, how many GLs there are, etc., was a clever-as-fuck way to bring new readers up to speed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Superboy #1

One of my least favorite thing about comics is when you have a great artist doing amazing covers for a book with lackluster interior art. However, you rarely see the inverse of this. Superboy #1 bucks that trend. Cover artist Eric Canete's work belies interior artist R.B. Silva's fine work. So, push ahead past the cover and get to the good stuff.

And good stuff there is. Silva's detailed but clean art is the perfect for a sci-fi heavy superhero book. A team of scientists are attempting to clone Superman, and the result is Superboy, a human/Kryptonian hybrid grown in a lab. Once hatched out of his test tube, he's put through the ringer, as the lab geeks use virtual reality to test Superboy's morals and choices. The plot draws you in, though the dialogue could use a bit more work, as the number of word balloons per page is pretty high.

My only big complaints have to deal more with writer Scott Lobdell's choices rather than a lack of skill. I'd have preferred a bit more of a tangible connection to Superman, given that Superboy is a spin-off character of the big man. My other gripe is that while some of the cameos make sense (Lois Lane shows up, investigating the lab, Caitlin Fairchild may be one of the scientists), the big one at the end, featuring all the Teen Titans, is a bit out of left field and doesn't strike me as a good choice for a book that should stand or fall on its own.

Buy again: Yeah, it won me over.

New reader friendly: For the most part, yeah.

Resurrection Man #1

The history books of the comic industry (I studied those real hard before the SATs, whoops) are filled with characters and series that launched to little sales success or critical recognition. Most books get a few issues to try and win over and audience, and if it doesn't happen, the characters involved get shunted into limbo. If they're lucky, they may appear in the background of a crossover comic written by Geoff Johns, or Dan Didio may kill them off to engorge his murder boner. But in another example of just how weird this DC reboot is, they decided to bring back Resurrection Man, a character from the late 90s whose eponymous series lasted less than two years.

Points go to DC for at least getting the character's creators, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, to help bring the guy back. In the years since the series wrapped, Abnett and Lanning have raised their collective profile, as go-to guys for brainy-but-fun sci-fi in comics. This 1st issue makes use of their skills, as main character Mitch Shelley is a superhero who frequently dies in battle, only to be reborn with a different superpower. Over the course of this issue, we find out that this constant rebirth has made Mitch's soul a tasty treat for the forces of Heaven and Hell, bringing him into conflict with both angels and demons.

As I said before, DnA (as the writers are collectively called) have a good plot, solid dialogue, and enough action to entertain. The art is somehow both moody and clean, which a lot of artists have trouble with, so good job there, Fernando Dagnino.

Buy again: Yep, I'm down for more.

New reader friendly: Yeah, the comic's premise really lends itself to hitting the ground running with each new issue.

Grifter #1

If you've ever wanted to read a comic where a military man in full regalia has a soul patch, this is the comic for you. If that isn't your particular fetish, this comic may not have much to offer you.

So Grifter (we don't find out that the main character's goddamn name is Grifter until 9 pages in) is a con man or something, except we never see him get paid, nor do we see him pull any cons. This is kind of like reading a Superman movie where Superman never punches anyone and acts like a mopey wanker instead of an adult. Man, hope they never make a movie like that.

Anyways, Grifter gets kidnapped by a weird jellyfish thing in a tank. The jellyfish seems to have restrained Grifter, but Grifter just gets up. That's why I never hire jellyfish to help me in any of my kidnapping schemes. Grifter flees and ends up on an airplane, but the jellyfish starts talking to him telepathically or through the humans the jellyfish mentally controls or maybe this comic makes no sense. Grifter jumps out of the airplane after murdering a couple people (hey kids, comics!) and hides in a graveyard and puts on a homemade mask. As I mentioned, the jellyfish thing can talk to him telepathically, what the fuck use is wearing a mask gonna serve? "Oh hey, jellyfish creature, I know you're talking to me inside my goddamn head, but you've got the wrong guy, I swear, the guy you want doesn't have a cool mask."

So the writing (courtesy of a guy named Nathan Edmondson, who I've never heard of) on this comic sucks. The plot is hopelessly lost in a sea of crap, the dialogue is generic and there are no characters to speak of. The art's not bad, but nothing of note. If you want to read an actual good (well, actually GREAT) comic with Grifter in it, do check out the Wildcats 3.0 series from a few years back.

Buy again? Nay, frost giant.

New reader friendly: Nah, I hear new readers like stories that make sense.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Demon Knights #1

I feel like Paul Cornell really got the point of the reboot here. Use existing characters (Etrigan, Vandal Savage, Shining Knight, etc.) with simplified histories to tell fun stories (dragon attacks! psychic exploding babies! ladies making out with demons!) in a new setting (the DCU during the Middle Ages). The writing's tight, the art is GREAT (artist Diognes Neves has been floating around DC's books for a while now and his stuff has never looked this good before), and it's like nothing else DC is publishing at the moment. Keep up the good work, gents.

Buy again? Does the internet like cats?

New reader friendly: Do cats like the internet?

Legion Lost #1

In case you're totally new to comics, here's what you need to know about the Legion:
1) it's a team of teenage super-heroes from the 31st century
2) each of its two dozen (or so) members is from a different alien world
3) unlike say, X-Men or Harry Potter, where there's one unifying weird thing that gives everyone their superpowers (the mutant gene or magic, for example), some members of the Legion are superpowered because they're aliens (like Superman), some of them are superpowered because of an accident (like the Fantastic Four) and some of them aren't superpowered but are such badasses they get to hang out with superheroes anyways (like Batman)
4) The Legion is probably in possession of the most die-hard fanbase in all of comics
5) DC Comics may, as we speak in Sept. 2011, have just rebooted their whole fictional universe, but the Legion has had three distinct continuities and god knows how many issue #1s in their history

Got all that? Still feel like reading this comic? Did you just have an embolism?

Aight, so a few Legion members take a Time Bubble (no, you didn't hallucinate that) back to our time in pursuit of a future criminal by the name of Alastor. They arrive too late (yes, even with their own Time Bubble) and find that Alastor has already released a plague. If you're a DC devotee you may remember a high-profile comic from 2007 by the name of "Countdown to Final Crisis" (and you'd have to be a devotee, because that comic was so bad, it gave me Autism), wherein the Legion tries to stop a future virus from being released in the 21st century. If you're even more devoted, you may remember a year-long story arc from the mid 90s where a chunk of the Legion team got stuck in the 20th century. Ah, DC Comics, you're a veritable idea factory, assuming idea factories are places where ideas lose fingers in industrial accidents.

But let's try to put aside the lack of original plot points and just judge this comic on how well it executes its pilfered ideas. Writer Fabian Nicieza is a veteran of 90s X-Men comics, so he should be well-prepared to write a team with a billion members that is mired in decades of incestuous continuity. Unfortunately, this is not his finest moment. This is a book that could've benefited greatly from one of those nifty summary pages that Marvel puts in front of all of its comics, giving you a quick, concise summary of the setting/plot/characters. Artist Pete Woods turns in fun but messy art. Woods is capable of better.

The biggest failure of this comic is really the sheer joylessness of it. The Legion's future is a bright one, where planets have banded together, teenage superheroes have over-the-top adventures, and society is honestly better. Here, the comic is ravaged by disease, blown up hospitals, murdered cops, and exploding Time Bubbles (yeah, spoiler alert, the Bubble gets blown up, killing two members of the team). It's not to say that you can't do dark Legion stories. Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Levitz, and Keith Giffen are proof that you can. But you do have to do them well.

Buy it again: Can't do it.

New reader friendly: No, an accessible Legion story is a rare creature, like the Lighting Beast of Korbal that gave Legion members Live Wire and Spark their superpowers. And no, I didn't smoke PCP before writing that.

Suicide Squad #1

I gotta say, I like it. I’ve always been a fan on villain-focused comics. I was a big fan of Simone’s Secret Six as well as Johns’ one-shot Iron Heights. It’s a hard formula to screw up: villains are badasses, they do badass shit, occasionally we get glimpses of their humanity. Rinse and repeat.

So who’s in the Squad this time around? We’ve got King Shark, whom I think is that shark man that you always see in big groups of villains but he’s never been interesting enough to talk to. In the old DC Universe, he was a great white. Now he’s a hammerhead. Innovation, thy name is DC Comics. We’ve also got the ubiquitous Deadshot. In this bold new universe, Deadshot doesn’t have a mustache and he may not smoke. Then there are some other people I don’t know.

Harley Quinn is there, and she’s a crowd pleaser as usual. I was always one of those people who thought, “I wish Harley Quinn would show a little more skin.” Now she has a new costume that shows a LOT more skin. The only problem is that she looks less like a supervillain and more like some chick you might hit on in the Gathering of the Juggalos mosh pit.

The big shocker? Amanda Waller is now svelte! What's next? Who's going to get new shoes or some devil-may-care sideburns? Can't wait to find out!

The Road to Hell is Paved with 52 First Issues

In Hollywood they are always looking for something new and different. That’s what they say, anyway. In actuality what they want is something old and familiar that seems new at first glance. Then by the time you realize it’s the same old shit, they’ve already got their tendrils down your pants.

DC Comics has reset the continuity of their entire universe. This hasn’t happened since the late 80s. Sure, occasionally DC or Marvel will kill their signature characters like Superman or Captain America. But it’s always just a ruse to get an article in the Times and have a sales spike at the end of the quarter. What we have here is a much bigger ruse, and one that most likely will do more harm to the DCU than good. First, it reeks of desperation. Second, it could have a diluting effect on DC’s creative assets. In a recent interview, Alan Moore was asked his thoughts on the reboot: “the last time I looked at a rack of comics, there was nothing there that I recognized. Even the titles that I recognized, they were completely different characters, or characters who had been dead. It’s the same ideas recycled endlessly, and if you’re recycling your only fuel for decades, you’re only going to run out of any energy in your product, and it sounds like that’s what’s happening with comic at the moment.”

So what’s new besides slightly different costumes? Barbara Gordon is Batgirl, no longer the paraplegic Oracle. Justice League is toying with this highly original concept: what if people were hostile towards superheroes? Oh, and Superman is a dick.

Not only is he a dick, his title is being written by comics legend George Pérez. And what has George Pérez been up to in the recent past? “The popular Sisterhood of Superheroines Combat Adventures series from the pen
 of comic legend George Pérez!” Softcore superheroine porn.

In honor of all this, I am going to lock myself in a motel room with some fine scotch and all 52 first issues. I am going to read them all. I am going to write about it. And then I am going to die.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Batman and Robin #1

There's a lot to like about this comic. Picking up pretty much where the old DC continuity left off, Bruce Wayne is a more experienced, capable, and calmer Batman than we saw in either Justice League #1 or Detective Comics #1 back in Week 1 of the reboot. When the issue opens, he's taken the 5th Robin (name all the previous ones and I'll send you a prize!) directly under his wing/cape. Of course, this is no problem for Batman, it's old hat at this point. Take a polite young man (well, one time it was a girl) and turn him into a crime-fighting force for good. The only hitch? This time Robin is one Damian Wayne, a nigh-psychotic super ninja raised by Ra's Al-Ghul to eventually take over the world.

The character work, essentially boiled down to Damian's imperious and snobby attitude versus Bruce's calm, collected and humane persona, is what really makes this comic work. Writer Peter Tomasi excels at the less-bombastic moments in a comic, though he does slide slightly into sappiness. Where he falls down a bit (and really only a bit), is at creating a compelling villain for our heroes to fight. The result, a dude named "Nobody" who can turn invisible, is a threat that fails to feel threatening.

On the visual side, Patrick Gleason drafts some great Bat-images. Damian looks appropriately youthful, the action is dynamic, and he even manages to make Batman's over-designed new costume look good (though mostly by ignoring some of the more pointless linework on the suit).

Buy it again: I'll be back next month, yeah.

New reader friendly: Really only Damian Wayne would stick out to a new reader, but that's only because Dick Grayson as Robin is so indelibly positioned in the cultural zeitgeist. Jesus, I just said "cultural zeitgesit", you can punch me in the face for that one.

Mister Terrific #1

A hallmark (you'd think that a 2 week old initiative wouldn't have enough material for anything to be considered a hallmark, but hey, that's what happens when you flood the mar
ket) of this whole reboot has been some of the bizarre choices for ongoing series. Hawk and Dove? OMAC? and now, in that not-so-grand tradition, Mister Terrific.

Like a lot of the second week wave of books, there's nothing hilariously bad about this comic. Wait, I take it back, forgot about the horrible interior art from someone named Gianluca Gugliotta. Apparently DC Editorial managed to find the only crappy Italian art
ist out there. Marvel has about 19 new Italian artists working on their books, and they are all fantastic. Since their art is beautiful, and Gugliotta's is uglier than than the chanc
es of America ever getting national healthcare, I'm gonna post some of their art.

Okay, so, that was art from Sara Pichelli, Andrea Divito, and Emanuela Luppachio, respectively. If you like good art, go buy their comics. If you hate good art, stick around and keep reading Mister Terrific. If you like foreheads that seem to pulsate, keep reading Mister Terrific. If you think EVERYTHING should be wrinkled, not just clothing and old-people skin, keep reading Mister Terrific.

Once you get past the art (logic trap: you can't get past the art, it's too crappy), the comic is just bland. We're told repeatedly that our lead character is a genius and possibly the third smartest person in the world, but that's really nothing special in the world of comics. Dr. Doom invented a time machine to steal pirate gold back in the 1960s, if you want to impress a comic fan with super intelligence, you're gonna need some real feats, none of which you get here. Which is a shame, because in prior appearances (which may or may not have happened, thanks nebulous DC reboot), Terrific's been a pretty interesting supporting character who actually has pulled off some cool intellectual feats.

Buy it again: No, I really wanted to like this comic, but there's nothing here that drew me in.

New reader friendly: Yeah, Mr. T's origin is presented and there's nothing too crazy for a new reader to handle.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Green Lantern #1

Finally, Geoff Johns gets it. The long-time Green Lantern writer finally figured out that Hal Jordan is the least interesting GL out there. Finally, he's seen the (emerald) light. His bosses on the planet Oa stripped him of his ring and banished him back to Earth. In his place, we have Guy Gardner. Wait, nope, not him. John Stewart, must be John Stewart. Whoops, wrong. Kyle Rayner? Not him either. Alan Scott? Abin Sur? G'nort? Hell, at this point, I'd even take Ch'p, the sentient squirrel Green Lantern. But it's not him. Surely there's no crazier choice than a frigging rodent with a power ring. So who'd they go with?
YUP. Sinestro. The rogue ex-Green Lantern. The guy who was kicked out for being a space fascist. Who created an army of evil ring wielders to depose the Guardians and kill Green Lanterns. Yep, he's a GL again.

Admittedly, Johns tries his best to write-around how sillybones this idea is. He has some fanfiction-y sounding explanation, but it doesn't stand up to any actual thought.

But hey, if you can get past that, the comic is fun. It's Sinestro being a badass, Hal Jordan being a dumbass, and amazing art from artist Doug Mahnke.

Buying the next issue: It may cost me a couple IQ points, but yes. I'm a genius (I assume), I can spare them.

New reader friendly: Yes, casting Sinestro in the lead puts the reader in his shoes, as he starts up as a GL again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Static Shock #1

Hold on, let me check my calendar. Ah, excellent, it's 2004. A whale just exploded in Taiwan, water has been confirmed to once have existed on Mars and the Static Shock cartoon series has just wrapped up its four year run on the "Kids! WB" network (yes, they had an exclamation point in the middle of their name). Now is the perfect time for DC Comics to capitalize on Static's national publicity and give him his own comic book.

But wait, it's not 2004, it's 2011. So, seven years after the cartoon wrapped, DC finally decided the iron was hot enough to strike. Problem is, the iron is so cold it's frozen, striking it results in it shattering into a million pieces of useless crap. Pick up one of those frozen shards. Look it over. Congratulations, you've now read Static Shock #1.

Scott McDaniel and John Rozum "wrote" this comic, and McDaniel, not content with the crime he'd committed against storytelling on the verbal end, decided to compound his sins by drawing it as well. McDaniel, along with "Green Arrow" artists George Perez and Dan Jurgens, as well as "Detective Comics" creator Tony Daniel, are part of a growing trend at DC Comics. They're all artists turned writers, and in the weeks to come, the DC Reboot will have even more of them. They mostly suck at writing, and some of them even suck at drawing (that'd be our boy McDaniel). The proliferation of these guys is mystifying, especially given how crappy this particular comic is.

From start to finish, this comic makes me wish that old adage about masturbation making you go blind was true. If it were, I'd buy a gallon of CVS-brand lotion and never have to see another comic this crappy again. From the crap art (does McDaniel know that people are supposed to by symmetrical?) to horrendous dialogue ("Okay buddy, you asked for it, time to take the kid gloves off and put on the plasma gloves!") there's nothing good about this comic.

It's not just the execution though. Conceptual stuff, like Static having a holographic adviser named Hardware (a preexisting character from the DCU who gets no introduction/explanation) to Static having to pretend to be a juvenile delinquent to get an internship (taking one of the few minority characters in comics that hasn't been in prison/grown up in the hood/etc and making supporting characters assume he's a criminal), this comic failed before McDaniel and Rozum even started writing their script.

Buy again: What part of "I'd rather jerk myself into blindness" didn't you understand?

New readers: Nope, and it's a shame, because if this comic had been done seven years ago and with some actual care, you might've actually been able to get some cross-media-pollination going on.

Stormwatch #1

One of the more confusing thing that DC loves to do is buy other characters from other comic companies. They did it, pretty notably, with Shazam/Captain Marvel back in the day, they did it in the 80s with The Question/Captain Atom/Blue Beetle, they did it in 2008 with the Red Circle line of characters (FREE FINANCIAL PLANNING ADVICE: if ARCHIE COMICS tries to sell you their superhero line, always say yes, it's a great investment). They've had varied levels of success each time, sometimes publishing the characters in their own stand-alone stories, but often seeking to integrate them into the shared DC Universe, so that Shazam can meet Superman, Blue Beetle can join the Justice League, etc.

Way back in 1999, DC Comics, as part of their habitual "buy other characters rather than just make our own" initiative, bought out Wildstorm Productions. Not only did they pick up a ton of talented staffers (including current Co-Publisher and Justice League artist Jim Lee), but they got the rights to Wildstorm's entire cabal of characters. And for the last decade or so, they've published (or at least tried to), those stories, keeping them in their own little publishing kingdom, away from DC's other characters. Well, no more. As part of the reboot, those characters now have a shared history and setting with Superman, Green Lantern and the rest. The first title to reflect that is Stormwatch #1, by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda.

The result is a comic that raise a couple of questions about the wisdom of a shared universe, but also manages to entertain in the process. We're introduced (or re-introduced, I guess) to Stormwatch, a group of superhumans who look at the big threats facing the planet (an angry, sentient moon, in this case). Not every character resonates as being important or interesting, but Cornell manages to give a sense of the history of Stormwatch and the scale of the threats they face. Fingers are crossed that next issue, Cornell will be able to delve a bit more into character work. Additionally, while it doesn't have to be addressed JUST yet, I am eager to see how the more morally-minded Justice Leaguers feel about sharing a universe with the pragmatic Stormwatchers.

Artist Miguel Sepulveda turns in good work, in the vein of his recent space-stories over at Marvel. Weird satellites, crazy monsters, the aforementioned sentient moon, they're all great looking. He could use a bit of work in human faces, as everyone looks a bit pinched and squeezed into shape, but otherwise, quality work. This is also one of the few reboot books where the colors really looked great. Colorist Allen Passalaqua's super satured hues really made the book look great.

Buying again: Yep

New reader friendly: Fo' sho'.

Batgirl #1

Batgirl #1 is an extremely difficult comic to review in the abstract. In the abstract, it's an okay comic with some troublesome storytelling devices (narration boxes and flashbacks) used to tell a opening chapter. But as a comic addict, I don't have the luxury of coming in clean, and that makes this issue problematic.

Writer Gail Simone may've just authored her first issue of Batgirl here, but she wrote the lead character, Barbara Gordon, for over five years over in the series "Birds of Prey". And those were some good stories, where Gordon shined as Oracle, a paralyzed information broker who doled out secrets to the good guys and stole them from the bad guys. She was competent beyond belief and the comic often had conflicts that extending beyond people getting punched in the face.

That's what makes this comic seem so weak in comparison. We have Barbara here, walking again (though without explanation), ready to literally kick ass. Simone's formerly deft storytelling descends into standard fare. Barbara finds a wacky counter-culture roommate, uses her father's connections as Gotham City Police Commissioner to track down criminals, and then confronts said criminals by beating them up. It just feels pointless, it's stuff that Barbara did throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. It'd be like a 61 year old man going to a high school and making out with some of the students (and now you know why I don't like my dad).

Adrian Syaf, the book's artist, has a lot of work to do if this book is gonna start to look respectable. Batgirl's costume really needs to be tweaked. It's done in the style of the recent Batman films, with all sorts of striping, scalloping, and detailing. There's no way that drawing something this convoluted doesn't make Syaf consider sticking his number 2 pencils in his eyes. The amount of work that must go in to just keeping the suit on-model is insane, it must not leave time for him to do much else. The art is lifeless and perfunctory all the way through.

Buy again? No, sorry Gail, you're better than this.

New reader friendly: No, it attempted to return Batgirl to her decades-lost status quo, but ended up being confusing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Animal Man #1

Opening your first issue with a solid page of text is a risky move, as a lot of readers are gonna get real bored, real fast. If we comic readers were a literate bunch, we'd read the books WITHOUT pictures. But writer Jeff Lemire presents a fictitious interview with the title character, and, in the span of ONE PAGE, tells us everything we need to know about Buddy Baker, AKA Animal Man. Good stuff.

This is a refreshing comic in a lot of ways. Buddy's a pretty normal guy, except for the ability to channel the abilities of the entire animal kingdom. He's got a wife, two kids, a normal house, a job ( a stuntman, giving him a chance to use his powers for stuff besides punching bank robbers in the face), the whole deal. It may sound mundane, but I assure you, in the realm of superheroes, this is pretty unique and also helps ground the story in some semblance of reality.

What is less unique is Lemire's use of a dream sequence to hint at the threats to come. It's a tired tool. It's almost as played out in fantasy/sci-fi as prophecies are. I'd rather come in 1st Place in a penis-kissing contest than see another story with a prophecy in it.

The art in Animal Man is problematic, but that can't all be attributed to artist Travel Foreman. The colors are flat and washed out, like it was colored with Microsoft Paint or something. Foreman does have to take the blame for the occasional panel where otherwise healthy people look like they've suddenly become burn victims.

Will I buy it again: Probably not, but not every good comic is for every good/hairy comic reader.

New reader friendly: Quite.

Hawk and Dove #1

I really hope series artist Rob Liefeld is enjoying this comic. Because I can't imagine anyone else is.

Funnier people than me have made fun of Rob's artistic...oh let's call them quirks. Like this guy, so make sure you check that out. Oh, alright, one amazing Liefeld image:

Right. So, Rob Liefeld and writer Sterling Gates, assumingly without guns to their heads, gave us Hawk and Dove #1. A comic where Hawk (one of our heroes) looks to be the same age as his Dad. A comic where Dove (our other hero) is on a date with a ghost named Deadman, who wears a circus acrobat costume, and no one acts like it's weird or even tries to explain it, leaving any new readers hopeless adrift in an ocean of ignorance.

I will say this: While the they first few pages weren't well executed, the attempt at an action movie start was appreciated. Hawk and Dove have to stop a hijacked plane with science-terrorists and a "monster of mass destruction" from crashing into Washington. Nice thought, just get a different set of creators and protagonists to carry it out next time.

Buying the next issue: Wait, there's gonna be another issue? This wasn't just the fevered nightmare I get for reading old Liefeld comics while huffing gasoline?

New Reader Friendly: Not really, they try, with a flashback origin sequence, but it's not enough.

Justice League International #1

Not content with just one Justice League title, DC put out "Justice League International", featuring Batman and a bunch of characters that I love, but you probably haven't heard of. And that's okay. A good writer can take obscure characters and craft them into fan-favorites. And maybe, down the line, writer Dan Jurgens will do that. But he didn't do that here.

In this issue, Batman hijacks a government sponsored version of the Justice League, with the intent of finding out why the United Nations is suddenly in the business of hiring superheroes. There's some character interactions, I think, and the team might fight some sort of...rock monsters? I think it was rock monsters. Lemme double-check. Okay, it was lava monsters. I was close. Jurgens' plotting can't be faulted, but his execution can. The interactions between characters are lifeless and the threats feel pointless. Back in '1986, writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatties created the first incarnation of the JLI. Their craft was flawless - characters were vibrant and there were nanosecond gaps between effective drama and lulz-worthy humor.

The comic fares a little better from the visual perspective. Aaron Lopresti's pencils are crisp, dynamic, and unlike a lot of artists in the industry, he can draw more than three facial expressions. The costumes (which he had little hand in designing) are mostly in-offensive, with the exception of Booster Gold's. It's busy on the top and dead on the bottom. A better balance of color and striations would've helped immensely.

Buying the next issue: No, I love the mix of characters, but the writing just isn't there.

New reader friendly: I could see this being confusing. Over in the other Justice League title, Batman is a n00b and the team hasn't even been formed yet, which could be confusing.

Swamp Thing #1

Swamp Thing is a character who's had an insane level of talent working on him. Alan More, Grant Morrison, Brian K. Vaughan and Mark Millar have all taken a turn at the character, crafting what is supposed to be top-notch work. But I haven't read any of it. So, armed only with vague memories of a shitty live-action TV series featuring the character, I charged into Swamp Thing#1.

DC wisely made sure they got a writer with actual ability to handle the revived series. Scott Snyder, who's telling a hell of a story over in "American Vampire" and just wrapped up a solid run on Detective Comics, is the man behind the keyboard here. He presents Swamp Thing's human alter-ego, Dr. Alec Holland, as a man who has completely stepped away from his old life. He's rejected his past as Swamp Thing and taken a construction job to step away from his career as a biologist. Honestly, this is the big fault of the issue. The titular (hehe, titular) character only appears in his mossy glory on the last page. There's something to be said for keeping the audiences wanting/waiting, but for a first issue that's supposed to grab us, it doesn't work. The other flaw, though a small one, that I found, was Holland's opening narration, where he talks about how his father's career as a florist brought to mind his time as Swamp Thing. Now, maybe it's my fault for hating my own dad, but this is weaksauce writing. First off, it seems like every superhero either has daddy issues OR completely idolizes his/her dad. Superman's always talking about Jor-El, Batman's forever recounting how many lives his father saved as a doctor, Nightcrawler's dad was The Devil and sired him in an attempt to have a teleporting mutant baby who could transport him out of hell (true story, read Chuck Austen's X-Men run and then vomit blood for 8 days!). It's a played out dramatic device. Also, Swamp Thing's dad was a florist? Coincidental. Almost coincidental as Flash villain Captain Cold having a grandfather who drove an ice truck.

Piping in on pencils (and inks, but I wanted the alliteration) is the uber-talented Yanick Paquette. Paquette's art is srsly just the best, you guys. I love his art, you love his art, people who haven't even seen his art love his art. Keep up the good work, you beautiful French-Canadian man, you. Also, I posted that picture of Emma Frost because Paquette drew it and she's hotter than a moldy old monster.

Buying the next issue: No, but only because I really don't care about Swamp Thing at all. It was quality work though.

New Reader Friendly: Definitely.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Green Arrow #1

J.T. Krul must've had his parents tragically ripped away from him. That's the only explanation I can come up with. As a young lad, much like a real-life Bruce Wayne, violence must've snatched away his mother and father, resulting in Krul becoming eager for vengeance. The perp? I reckon it has to be paper cuts. It's the only logical explanation for why Krul's wasted so much fucking paper in his career. A career that's culminated in Green Arrow #1.

Gather round the campfire while I tell you a scary story. It's the story of an awful writer who somehow tricked one of the biggest multimedia corporations in the world into letting
him write Green Arrow for 20 issues. It's the story of a man who purported to write the comic Fathom, which we all know is softcore porn and has no script.

Krul is also the man who scripted this classic comic moment, wherein a heroin-addled Red Arrow (Green Arrow's former sidekick) uses a dead cat to beat up an alley full of men.

But perhaps Krul's put all that crap behind him. Maybe he took a couple of creative writing classes at his local learning annex and he's emerged a better author. So, in the spirit of ̶C̶h̶r̶i̶s̶t̶m̶a̶s̶ Columbus Day, I'm going to review this comic in the abstract.

(ten minutes later)

Oh well, I tried. Green Arrow #1 sucks.
Page 1: Shows us a corporate tycoon with a metal hand. I WONDER IF HE WILL BE A BAD GUY IN A LATER ISSUE.
Pages 2-3: Green Arrow is wearing his costume from the TV series "Smallville". WAY TO CAPITALIZE (he said while writing in all caps) ON THAT SHOW IN A TIMELY MANNER. Jesus, the show was on for literally a decade, but you wait until the year after it's over to style Arrow like his TV counterpart?
Page 4: Introduction to Arrow's support team. This instantly makes the comic seem like one of USA Network's original series, where-in the lead character has quirky yet entirely interchangeable supporting characters.
Page 7: The villains of the piece show off their powers. I'd tell you what those powers were if they weren't so generic and forgettable.
Page 13: Green Arrow knocks one of the villains off a boat and into a harbor, then fires an ice arrow(no, you didn't hallucinate that) at him, making ice form all around him. Wouldn't this do more harm than good? The guy can no longer tread water. I get that ice floats, but I don't know if it'll float when it's surrounding a guy that looks like he's about 400 pounds of muscle.
Page 14: "On second thought, you're right. You're not a punk, you're worse. You're a loser." I like that Green Arrow has a delineated system for his tough talk. Loser is worse than punk. Got it.
Page 20: A cliffhanger: more new villains for Ollie to face. If you want to see Green Arrow fight a lady Chewbacca, a midget and an Irish guy with a leather jacket but no shirt, this is the comic for you.

So yeah, this comic is a bigger piece of shit than Michael Vick, and that guy ran an interstate dogfighting ring for like five years.

Krul can take most of the blame, but this stillborn comic had a couple other parents. Dan Jurgens provided pencils and George Perez inked it. Perez and Jurgens are both capable writers who have written way better stuff. I can only imagine what a tangled web of horror and curiosity they felt as they got script pages from Krul.


New Reader Friendly: Assuming new readers like to hemorrhage blood from their eyes, definitely.

Batwing #1

Batwing #1 makes for a nice palate cleanser after Men of War. Sorta like a nice lemon sorbet after eating 50 dog turds. Batwing could have been written by a brain-damaged Vin Diesel and still seem okay in comparison to Men of War, but fortunately for all parties involved, it's bordering on good.

Judd Winick's a writer who has found himself surrounded by haterz, some he deserves, and some who are just bigots who found a good target. He's gotten criticism for introducing an HIV-positive superhero (Speedy 2) had a superhero take down gay bashers (the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern), and had a superhero team take on child slavery rings with the help of "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh (the early 2000s volume of The Outsiders). He's also had a very solid run on Batman, and it's here, using a Batman spinoff character, that he succeeds in telling a semi-topical story with a superhero protagonist.

David Zambizi, a police officer from the fictional city of Tinasha (itself set in the very real Democratic Republic of the Congo), has been hand-picked by Batman to become his eyes and ears in Africa. It's a minor criticism that one dude is expected to guard the entire African continent, while Batman only has to look after one city. But given DC's track record with culturally insensitive stories (see the recent Flashpoint mini-series, where Gorilla Grodd, a supersmart gorilla, is emperor of Africa), this could've gone down a lot worse. Winck does a solid job of focusing on Batwing as a character unto himself, rather than an emissary for all of Africa. The two villains we've met this far are pretty generic, but the story itself is above average.

Pencils and inks are courtesy of Ben Oliver, who turns in competent work. His painterly style looks nice, even if it's not particularly suited in tone to this series. To his credit, Oliver is a better storyteller than most artists who utilize similar styles, getting emotion and action across each page.

Buy again: It didn't really speak to me, but there was nothing truly wrong with it. I won't be buying it again, but that's no slam against the series or its creators

New reader friendly?: New readers may wonder why Batman chose to take on a protege on the other side of the planet, but other than that, they're good to go

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Men of War

"Yo dawg, I heard you like contrived stories, so I put contrived stories in your contrived stories so you can read contrived stories while you read contrived stories. "

"Men of War", DC's most recent stab at reviving war comics, has every war-story trope you can imagine. Enlisted men disrespecting officers! Enlisted men not wanting to get promoted! Battlefield promotions! This comic has them all, for the low, low price of 3.99! Which is way too much.

Now, any good review should have a decent summary of the comic. Not sure I can give you one here. I think this comic was about soldiers having to flush out insurgents. Somewhere in the Middle East, though they never actually say where. Also, when we see the insurgents, they are all wearing uniforms and berets, with close cropped or no facial hair. This, to me, says they are an actual military or police force, but hey, I'm not the writer of this abortion of a comic. In the midst of this battle, our soldiers encounter a superpowered being, who crashes the fight, knocking shit over for a few pages. There's also a back-up story about Navy SEALs trying to find a sniper in a crowded city (an unidentified city, to help ground the reader in FUCKING NOTHING). It ends with a laugh-out-loud last page, where a terrorist who looks like a cartoon version of Osama bin Laden is hiding behind a young girl.

What creators have to share the blame here? The lead story was by writer Ivan Brandon. Brandon's been one of the very few homegrown talents that DC has attempted to develop over the last few years. In stark contrast to Marvel, who have a nice pack of developing writers, DC has almost nothing but superstars or complete no-names. Based on this comic, Brandon, much like a nice soup, needs more time to develop complex flavor. His co-conspirator, Tom Derenick, doesn't get to use the same excuse. He's been floating around DC for years, doing terrible fill-ins when editorial clearly doesn't have a plan for a book. To put him on a first issue, that's meant to attract readers to a series, is bullshit. The back-up story had different creators, but I can't write about this comic anymore without getting feline AIDS.


New reader friendly: Sure, it's as accessible as any piece of crap action movie with zero talent or heart.

Detective Comics #1

For long-time comic fans, the term "reboot" can mean anythings. It can mean anything from a slight rejiggering of a character's history up to a complete slaughter of continuity, starting completely from scratch. So while Superman is getting the year zero treatment over in "Action Comics", Batman is only getting a bit of a resurfacing. In that vein, DC decided to keep writer/artist Tony Daniel working on a Batman ongoing series, and handed the "Detective Comics" relaunch over to him.

Daniel goes straight to the DC treasure chest, and busts out a Batman versus Joker story. It's fairly by the numbers, with Joker in-hiding after his 800th or so escape from Arhkam Asylum. As I said before, this is a slightly reupholstered couch, so Batman is no longer on great terms with the Police Department. They trip over each other as they hunt for the Joker, which is a pretty hard conceit to get over, even in the realm of superpowered fiction. A direct quote from Batman in this issue establishes that the Joker has killed over 1400 people in the past six years. You'd think that would encourage the GCPD to be open to a little extra help when catching the Joker, but Daniel disagrees. This is one of many thoughtless little mistakes Daniel makes throughout. Whether it's having Batman say to himself, in a narration box, "I'm Batman" or the scene where it's unclear if Batman's butler is a real person or a hologram, Daniel just couldn't assemble a proper story.

As I mentioned before, Daniel both wrote and drew this issue. His pencils are a bit better than his script, with no major flaws. He doesn't have to take the blame for Batman's new and over-designed suit, though it is pretty bad.

Will I buy the next issue: Nope. Nothing compelling here.

New reader friendly: Understandable enough, not that there's anything great to be discovered.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Do you know who Jack Kirby is? Do you like when 20 pages and $2.99 are devoted to slavish devotion to his style, at the expense of telling a compelling story or establishing characters you can give a shit about? If you answered yes to those questions, O.M.A.C. is the comic for you. It's about a scientist or researcher or programmer that gets turned into a giant blue superpowered robot or cyborg or Robocop or something. He smashes shit for 19 pages. The last page is a reference to Infinite Crisis, a 2005 DC Comics miniseries that I'm gonna go ahead and say most of the mythological new readers DC is trying to recruit didn't read.

The creative team is "writer" Dan Didio and artist Keith Giffen. Didio, author of such hit titles as "the last few issues of Superboy before the book got canceled" and "the last few issues of Outsiders before the book got canceled" is also a higher-up at DC/Time Warner. Art was courtesy of Keith Giffen, a well-respected artist and writer (and one of the few creators in the industry who manages to pull double-duty and not totally suck at one or the other), who should have known better than to get involved here. Giffen's in total Kirby-homage mode, and while he does a capable job here, it's in service of nothing. Total fail.

Will I be buying the next issue: Hell to the nah.

Would a new reader be able to pick up this book and understand it: See above.

Action Comics #1

Oh snap, I got Action Comics #1, I can buy a jetski and relax now. Valued at over $100,000,000, Action Comics #1 features the first appearance of Superman. Unfortunately, I have a different Action Comics #1. Not even the longest-running American comic series was spared from DC's line-wide reboot.

This Action Comics, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Rags Morales, serves as a reintroduction of Superman. Morrison, drawing inspiration from the character's Great Depression roots, has recast him as a champion of the underdog, saving homeless teens from wrecking balls and throwing wife beaters (the man-who-beats-a-woman kind, not the kind Italian-Americans favor as undershirts) into rivers. With his powers toned-down and his superhero experience at zero, this version of Clark Kent is intended to be more relatable and human than previous incarnations.

While it's not my preferred take on the character, it is a perfectly valid one. Morrison executes his vision skillfully. This is no surprise, as DC handed the keys to the character to one of the top writers in the industry. Morrison's written dozens of excellent comics, including the semi-recent "All-Star Superman". Action's protagonist is fairly well-developed in this one issue. The supporting cast doesn't get as much attention, and Morrison perhaps relies too heavily on readers knowing that Lex Luthor hates Superman, Lois Lane is a rival reporter and Jimmy Olsen is Clark's loyal friend.

But writing only half a comic makes (I'm Shakespearean up in this bitch). Providing the art is Rags Morales. The art is a mess. Characters have faces that appear to be melting, Superman occasionally looks manorexic, and everyone seems to have a horrible fucking haircut. He does manage to occasionally make it look like Superman is having fun though, so I award him half a point (out of a possible 8000 points).

Will I be buying the next issue: Yes, but largely on Morrison's track record.

Would a new reader be able to pick up this comic and understand it: Yes, except for counting a bit too much on Superman's place in the cultural canon, it's a straight-forward and accessible story.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Justice League #1

As part of the big DC relaunch, DC put two of its most popular creators on one of the companies flagship titles. The creators are writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee, and the book is the newest iteration of the durable "Justice League of America" franchise. Johns and Lee are both high-level executives at DC and had a major role in this whole rebranding/reimagining/rebooting of the DC line. But Justice League is the book that'll be demanding their full attention.

The book's cover promises a fairly unimaginative line-up of characters. The JLA has swung between having a roster of a 6-8 of the company's top characters to being stocked full of C and D level members. The best JL runs have had a good mix of icons and supporting characters. This time, DC went with 6 superstars (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Barry Allen version of Flash, the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern, and Aquaman) and one supporting character (Cyborg, though even he has some mainstream recognition, having appeared on the Superfriends cartoon in the 1980s).

Now, the book's cover may show off 7 brightly clad superheroes, but the interior pages disagree. The issue features Batman and Green Lantern running afoul of both each other and an alien menace. Superman pops up at the very end, and a pre-superpowered Cyborg puts in a brief appearance as a bystander as Batman and Green Lantern do a flyby. As a comic fan of 18 years or so, I understand that a cover doesn't have to really tell you anything about a comic. But if I were one of those fabled new readers that DC is looking to snag, I'd be pretty pissed if half the line-up didn't even show up.

But let's talk about what actually DID show up in this comic. Geoff Johns delivered a straight-forward, mostly inoffensive script. Jim Lee, widely considered to be one of the greatest comic artists of the past 25 years, drew the hell out of the issue. It's not Lee's best work, but "meh" art from Lee is still frigging awesome.

Where Lee falls down are in his character designs. In addition to being an exec at DC and the artist of this title, Lee designed (or co-designed, in some cases) the new costumes that each character in the relaunch sports. Lee's talents are in storytelling, not in design. Batman and GL, who get the bulk of the page count, have only minor, though unneccessary modifications to their standard looks. Batman's suit features more segmented plates, giving him a more armored-up look. It's not a look I love, but it does seem to be what mainstream audiences have embraced via the Batman films. GL gets away with only few stray additional costume details. Superman, making a one-page cameo, is the one who really gets the short end of the pencil. Lee's radical reinterpretation of Supes is made of fail. The guy is frigging invulnerable, yet his new suit is almost as armor-y as Batman's. Gone are the yellow belt and red underwear, which, to be fair, always were objects of ridicule.

The bigger Superman sin belongs to Mr. Johns. In Superman's brief appearance, he punches GL through a building for no reason, and then asks Batman, "So...what can you do?" This suggests Mr. Johns either doesn't know how to write Superman, or decided to take this 1st issue to establish Supes as a thug who likes to get into veritable cock-measuring contests with other superheroes. Neither of these options are particular attractive.

Will I buy the next issue: Not looking good. Great art can't save an uninspired script and crap character work.

DC Comics: The New 52

If you know anything about me (and there's a chance you don't, as google search results for male enhancement pills seem to send a lot of people here), you know that I love the comic books. and if you know anything about comics (and chances are that you don't, because most people think that they stopped publishing comics at some point in the 1970s), you know that DC Comics just kicked off a gigantic publishing initiative. Dubbing it "The New 52", the company canceled every superhero title in their stable in August. In their place are 52 first issues, each one promising to be new-reader friendly (both by virtue of being available in a digital format and with a stream-lined continuity).

While I was/am dubious about this whole idea (except for making everything for sale digitally, that's solid), I decided to give it a shot. Thanks to the fine folks at, I was able to mail-order all 52 first issues for just under a hundred bucks. For those people that thought they stopped making comics back in the 70s, please note: this is actually a really good deal. So I'm going to make use of this fine blog again, this time updated more regularly, to review the first issue of each series.