Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Superman #1

Since Action Comics #1 is set in Superman's past, Superman #1 represents our first look at the character's new status quo. Parents say that the first time they lay eyes on their newborn children, they instantly love them. Hopefully writer George Perez and artist Jesus Marino feel that way about their little labor of love. Cause to the rest of us, this is just an ugly, unimportant mess that I wish was actually covered in afterbirth, so I'd have an excuse to not read it.

I wish I could say this was a basic Superman story. Clark pines for Lois, there's a couple scenes at the Daily Planet, Superman fights a big monster, etc. I mean, all that stuff is there, and if that's all this comic was, it'd merely be bland instead of horrible. Ah, the new DC, where bland would be a pleasant surprise. But I suppose horrible is pretty much pre-destined when you take a comic where an artist (Perez) handles the script and an inker (Merino) pencils the damn thing. What does DC have against letting people do the jobs they're good at? DC comics was a hospital, they'd have doctors waxing the floors and janitors giving gynecological exams. Hmmm...note to self, get DC Comics to buy a hospital, apply for job as janitor.

Anyways, Perez sucks as a writer. He uses flashbacks and voiceover narration to tell a story about how the Daily Planet was bought out by a media company. This is the first frigging issue, why not just start the story there? But Perez's writing sins are not forgiven just yet. He uses an article about Clark Kent as a framing device for the issue. Clark's supposed to be a pretty good writer, what with the winning prizes, working for a major paper and having a novel published. So why is Clark busting out prose like "Superman assumed that the thieves were not from Metropolis. No local criminals would dare do this. Not in Metrpolis. Not on Superman's turf." Jesus. It's like Superman doesn't even give a shit about pretending that he's not Clark Kent. He might as well have typed "Hey, Superman's well-hung and handsome and he's me."

The art side of things isn't quite as bad. Merino used to ink an artist named Carlos Pacheco, who is legit awesome. When he signed with Marvel comics, someone at DC (presumably someone with macular degeneration) decided that Merino was ready to fly solo. Merino's art is super-wrinkled looking, like everything on the page is in need of a good ironing board. He also draws Superman looking like Harry Potter. Which I, as a Potter fan, am all about. But presumably there are people out there that don't want Clark Kent to look like the Boy Who Lived.

Buy Again: Yeah, as long as they replace all the talent, concepts, and editors involved, I'm in.

New Reader Friendly: No, Perez's weird techniques made this comic not at all new reader friendly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1

As I mentioned, the Green Lantern books have been mostly spared from the reboots and re-imaginings that the rest of the DC lineup got. Hell, most of the Lanterns didn't even get the eye-cancer-inducing new outfits that every other superhero got. So this book, featuring Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, picks up in the middle of everything that was going on last month. Which is good news if you like having 6 other types of Lantern Corps, each with their own color and emotion. But it's bad news if you don't like ideas that Geoff Johns came up with after losing a bet or after he realized he needed royalties from more GL-related books to pay off his coke dealer or whatever the situation may be.

The GL books, when done right, should be a good blend of sci-fi, superheroes, and police procedural. Writer Tony Bedard has a couple of really great science fiction comics, some of them even at DC, using superheroes, so he really has no excuse for not writing a great comic. What we got instead was an okay comic with some real structural flaws. Simple stuff like, indicating that a flashback is indeed a flashback, doesn't get done. There's a retard-tacular scene where our hero explains to a little kid that he's not the Hal Jordan Green Lantern. A) Why would this kid care B) Why would Kyle bother explaining anything? C) Why even make the comparison between the two GLs? Let each GL shine in their own book.

Tyler Kirkham's pencils are pretty good. The color work, which is pretty important in any book called GREEN Lantern, is mostly solid. It is weird that he colors Kyle's hair, which should be black, as gray. Is Kyle now a silver fox, in the grand tradition of George Clooney and Anderson Cooper? Here's hoping.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

"Fear is a cannibal that feeds upon itself. It lives in every dark shadow -- waits around every corner. It can be in two places at once...on the path ahead, yet somehow always behind you. Fear hides in every decision, questioning your every move. And it's your fault. You're the one who gives it life. You are the parent of your own fear."

Deep thoughts, courtesy of Batman's narration boxes. Those poetic and mind-blowing ruminations, combined with images of Batman jumping out of an airplane, make up the first three pages of this comic. Out of a total of twenty pages. I get that David Finch is both drawing and plotting this comic. I know that artists-as-writers are a mixed bag at best. But he has a co-writer and editors here. How the fuck did someone not point out that he was wasting 15% of the first issue on total fucking filler bullshit?

So a couple pages later, we see Bruce Wayne making a speech to some rich assholes, using that same text from before. Doesn't anyone wonder why a goddamn CEO is lecturing them about fear. At the reception following the speech, a Gotham City cop confronts Bruce about his financing of Batman. The cop insists that Bruce MUST have an ally in the department that helps facilitate all this. Hey, Lieutenant fuckface, look for the cop who shines a giant frigging bat-shaped spotlight in the sky. Jesus, this guy won't be getting promoted soon.

Following that dramatic/developmentally disabled scene. Batman goes to stop a breakout at Arkham Asylum. What's that you say, last week's issue of "Batman"featured that exact same plot? That can't be correct, let me double-check. Oh wait, it did. Again, Finch and his co-writer may've crafted a story we've seen a million times, but they're just freelancers. There are editors whose fucking job is to make sure dumb shit like this isn't happening. I've seen better structure and leadership at Libertarian relay races.

But the homage to bad writing doesn't stop there. The last page is Batman confronting a gigantic and musclebound Two-Face. Two-Face tells Batman "You can call me One-Face now." Now, it's possible I suffered a debilitating stroke while reading this comic. But unless that happened, it looks to me like Two-Face still has two fucking faces.

Buy Again: No, "fear is questioning my every move", and I fear I can't buy a comic this bad again.

New Reader Friendly: Well enough, it requires only basic bat-knowledge going in.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Voodoo #1

I'm gonna put this out there right at the start: If you want to see an alien/monster/demon stripper murder an FBI agent in the middle of a lap dance, you'll be pleased with Voodoo #1. If that's not your particular fetish, better luck next time.

This part would usually have a summary, but that first sentence really covers everything.

So, jumping ahead. Writer Ron Marz has, up to this point, made somewhat of a career making scantily-clad-female-lead cheesecake comics into stories that actually have some content in them. He's written dozens and dozens of issues of Witchblade over at Top Cow. This be Witchblade:
So, as you can see, alien stripper monster should be totally in his wheelhouse. And to Marz's credit, he tries to elevate the material. He tries to give the characters some depth, and does attempt to justify Voodoo (that'd be the demon dancer) a reason for working at a gentlemen's club. But it doesn't work. The art is good, as Sam Basri's previous assignment was Power Girl, so it's safe to assume he can draw some boobies. His art's wasted on a pointless comic, but it is pretty.

Buy again: Nah

New reader friendly: Friendly enough, Marz gets how to craft an intact comic, but there's just no real quality material to be found

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Flash #1

So say you're Dan Didio.

Okay, cool, that's you.

You run DC Comics, you have a fun goatee and graphic violence fills you with a perverse glee. You know you want to reboot your entire line in an attempt to boost sales and streamline continuity. This is your chance to just present individual stories for what they are, and not as pieces of a delicious continuity-pie. But how best to do that? GOT IT. Bring back Barry Allen, the 2nd Flash, who is pretty unanimously agreed to be boring as hell. The guy whose teen sidekick successfully replaced him in the hearts of the most fickle fans on the planet. So step 1 was completed a couple years back, when creators Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver brought Barry back. But how can this lead to a whole new world of storytelling possibilities? Don't worry, the DC brain trust has this one covered. Have Barry Allen do such a shitty job time traveling that he fucks the whole universe up. Superman loses his wife, Flash is similarly suddenly single, and everyone has a shitty new costume. Thanks a lot, Barry.

So, now that I've vented my rage against a fictional character, how's Flash #1? Not terrible. The writing is basic, but that's to be expected from artist-turned-writer Francis Manapul and colorist-turned-writer Brian Buccellato (who must've have had at least one guest appearance on the Sopranos). Barry fights some clone terrorists or something. There's the mandatory juggling of romantic interests, and an old friend with a dangerous secret. It's paint-by-numbers writing.

What does work is the art. Manapul just does everything right. Some artists can only do action, or only do facial expressions, or only do dynamic page layouts. Manapul has the full set and the comic is beautiful.

Buy again: No, the writing just wasn't there and Barry Allen is just the worst.

New reader friendly: Friendly enough. Like a toll booth worker that smiles at you, but you know they want to get the fuck outta there.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nightwing #1

Like the rest of the Batbooks, Nightwing picks up with the status quo that existed last month. So while Superman lost his wife, Wonder Woman lost her pants, and Wally West lost his ENTIRE EXISTENCE, Dick Grayson's more or less intact. So, it's extremely difficult to judge this as just a single issue. You see, last month Dick Grayson was Batman, part of Grant Morrison's overarching Batman storyline, wearing the cape and cowl and protecting Gotham City. So to have Dick Grayson back in the Nightwing suit does seem like a major demotion, which does impede this series.

So Grayson's been demoted, but perhaps there's still a chance for him to star in a good comic. What writer Kyle Higgins does with Grayson's character is solid. He quickly establishes his confidence, his abilities, his attitude towards being a superhero, and his taste in cereal. It's extremely solid character-building work. Where Higgins fails is the plotting. The villains he confronts are uninteresting, Dick Grayson returning to the circus he performed in as a kid is boring, and we do see Nightwing get his ass handed to him at the end, which is sort of lame way to show off your lead hero in his first issue.

The biggest problem with this issue is really the sheer gore. Graysno gets attacked by an assassin. He ducks away for a moment to throw on his costume, and in those few seconds, his attacker slashes the throats of two police officers. And by throats, I mean from sternum to mouth. Seriously, the blood sprays across the bottom of the page. It's fucking disgusting. I've seen less disgusting donkey shows.

Buy the next issue: No, as much as I want to see the further adventures of Dick Gryason, this isn't worth my time or money.

New reader friendly: Yeah it's okay for a fresh pair of eyes, assuming those eyes don't mind being spattered with copious amounts of blood.

Birds of Prey #1

There's a recurring problem that a lot of the contestants on competition show "Top Chef" run into. They make a perfectly suitable dish but present it to the judges using a name of a specific dish. Inevitably, the judges find fault in the dish, because, while it's good, it's not exactly what the chef called it. In other words, don't take a random cut of steak and call it a t-bone. That's the problem that writer Duane Swiercyznski runs into in this first issue of Birds of Prey.

Birds of Prey is a concept that predates the reboot. Writers Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, and Gail Simone did great work in establishing Black Canary, Oracle, and Huntress into both a team and a family. And that's where this series fails. Black Canary's there, but Oracle only cameos and Huntress is nowhere to be seen. In their place we have a couple of new characters, specifically Starling, a completely new hero, and Katana and Poison Ivy (though they are only on the cover, not in the actual first issue). Birds of Prey doesn't just mean "super-heroes capable of menstruating", you can't just throw any female characters into the book and call it BOP.

Jesus Saiz (not Jesus Christ, that's a different guy), does an okay job on the art. He's one of the few comic artists out there who excels at drawing humans and fails at drawing the more exciting stuff in comics. Everyone looks realistic, but the action just isn't compelling. And it should go without saying that Black Canary's new suit looks like total ass.

Buy again: No

New reader friendly: I could see new readers being confused by only having half of the characters on the cover show up in the actual comic.