For the entire month of September, Bags & Boreds™ will be changing our format a bit and focus the column on the relaunch of the DC Universe. We thought it would be fun to give the books a try and see which ones stand out from the rest. We will feature an in-depth review for the BEST OF THE WEEK™ and compressed reviews for the remaining titles of interest. I’ve been waiting for this week since the big announcement so lets jump right in!
Action Comics #1
Written By: Grant Morrison
Art by: Rags Morales
There have been MILLIONS of books published throughout comics history. We’ve had mystery comics, suspense comics, romance comics– but we’ve only ever had one “Action Comics… Quite possibly the most important comic book ever created. This is the book that would introduce Superman– the poster child for the then fledgling superhero genre… A character that would go on to inspire hundreds of millions to do good over a 70-year span. So seriously… If revamping their entire publishing line– a decision that may shake the very foundation of the comics industry as we know it– wasn’t enough pressure for DC Comics… Do you think restarting and remaking the most famous character and comic book of all time might be?
Since the announcement of DC’s New 52, the book that had me the most excited was Action Comics. Then when DC stated that Grant Morrison would be at comic’s helm, I knew that we would be in for something special. No character in the DCU needed as much help to bring him back to glory than Superman. I’ve heard all kinds of the excuses from various comics journalists why the character has never truly been revised or revamped– including the Golden Goose excuse. In case you’re not familiar with this, the Golden Goose excuse means that Superman is to Warner Bros what Mickey Mouse is to Disney… Therefore WB would never allow creators to take major chances with the Kryptonian… Even if that unfortunately meant we we’re saddled with some fairly mundane stories (with the exception of one or two good tales that somehow slipped through the mandate every few years) for decades.
Given that, you can certainly understand my excitement when I found out that one of comics most talented and intriguing writers would be taking The Man of Steel in a bold new direction. With the overwhelming critical and retail success of All-Star Superman (one of those aforementioned genuinely good Superman stories), it is no surprise that DC decided to allow Grant Morrison to lead DC’s biggest boy scout into the 21st Century… And it was a decision that definitely paid off in a big way this week.
Action Comics #1 follows the same formula as Justice League #1– as it is set sometime in the past of the New DCU continuity. The decision to use an earlier timeline in the latest JL has been polarizing to some. Yet, if you read my review of that issue– you’ll know immediately that I (at least) am enjoying the risks that DC has been taking. I like that they are placing some books in different eras of their new continuity. To be fair to the detractors: Action Comics can afford the luxury of using this device since Superman has two feature books to himself… Whereas the new Justice League comic is meant to standout as DC’s flagship title and may throw many new readers off by being set in the past.
In the end, it is up to the creators to sell you on their premise… And regardless of how you may feel about the approach with JL, I can guarantee you’ll barely think about it when you read this comic book.
First issues of new comics need to accomplish specific things if they want readers to come back for more. The most important thing a new comic must do? Introduce the main characters and make sure said characters are engaging and intriguing. Morrison smartly features Superman from the beginning and keeps him a constant force throughout the issue. He even goes so far as to feature Supes in nearly every panel… While making certain that the rest of the narrative flows so smoothly that you’re never left missing the boy in blue.
What else does a #1 issue of this magnitude need to do to work? Well, if it’s called Action Comics– it damn well better have some action… And no other book that came out this week had as much action in it. Very smart. We get to watch a young Superman doing all of the things that we expect: Stopping bullets with his bare hands, using his X-Ray vision, shooting beams from his eyes and standing up for justice… Which he believes Metropolis is lacking.
That’s why we love you, Superman! That’s why we’re glad you exist. That’s why we need you in our lives…. To become the very thing that each person wishes they could do be.
But what is a Superman without a great cast of characters? In addition to getting a proper introduction to the Big Blue, we also get to see Lois Lane doing what she does best– beating her competition by snagging the next big story. Jimmy Olsen is by her side and the maniacal Lex Luthor is exactly where we expect him to be too… Going after Superman.
Rags Morales’ art is absolutely beautiful, amplifying an already great story. His attention to detail and his ability to sell the reader on motivations using carefully rendered character expressions is near perfect. Little vignettes thrown in by Morrison– and expertly drawn by Morales– will also undoubtedly please fans old and new.
Suddenly, all is right in the world.
Reading this book made me so excited for what’s to come in the DCU that I truly can’t see how this initiative could fail. I fully understand that this is a bold statement made off the back of one book but I truly believe a massive transformation is on the horizon for this industry. For the first time in a very long time Marvel will need to take a back seat to DC and let them steer the comics industry for a while. Action Comics #1 is a prime example of why this is possible and well within DC’s grasp to accomplish.
I think we sometimes forget what we want– or even need– from a superhero story… And that, sometimes, the best ideas are the simplest. Superman is back… And as long as we can get stories from creators that remember what makes him– and the other characters in the DC Universe so great– there’s no place to go except, Up! Up! And Away!Animal Man #1
Written By: Jeff Lemire
Art By: Travel Foreman and Dan Green
This issue served as a great introduction to Animal Man. If you’ve never read Grant Morrison’s legendary run, then this issue will be the perfect entry point to learn about the character. Along with great art, this book carries a psychedelic change of pace from the rest of the books released this week– as only an Animal Man book can.
Written By: Gail Simone
Art By: Ardian Syaf and Vincent Cifuentes
I was hoping for an explanation as to how Barbara Gordon can now walk. I didn’t get it. Still, I was pleased to see that the spirit of what has been making Batgirl a fun book to read for the last two years was not completely lost. (Although it almost was.) I’m also glad to see that DC decided to keep Alan Moore’s Killing Joke within the Barbara Gordon mythos. The comic satisfactorily reintroduces us to the original Barbara Gordon– and we get a nice cliffhanger to boot.
Detective Comics #1
Written By: Tony Daniel
Art By: Tony Daniel and Ryan Winn
I wasn’t a fan of Daniel’s run on Batman, so going into this issue I was a bit worried. I was hoping that Detective #1 would receive the same care and thought that Action Comics did. No such luck. Just more of the same from Daniel here. As the first of the main Bat books to be released under the New 52 banner, this issue provided little to care about– with the exception of an average cliffhanger. I’ve never dropped a Batman or a Superman title and I don’t intend to start now (I’m too much of a fan) but that doesn’t mean I like this.
Green Arrow #1
Written By: J.T. Kruk
Art By: Dan Jurgens and George Perez
Some of the changes made in the new DCU are bringing new life to their characters. Oliver Queen definitely falls into this category. He’s set up here as a Steve Jobs zillionaire techie type– as references to the Q-Pad and Q-Phone would infer. They also decided to make him a lot younger and more relatable to the new reading audience that DC is going after. Unfortunately though, the overused plot devices had me barely scraping by as I read this book. I repeatedly had to stop reading out of boredom from bad dialogue. Instead I decided to enjoy the great art by Dan Jurgens and George Perez. This title will need to do something amazing next month to get my repeat business with issue #3.
Justice League International #1
Written By: Dan Jurgens
Art By: Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan
I love a good team book. But what I love even more is a book that offers a fun and plausible team formation. There’s nothing like the moment a new superhero team gets together and shares great dialogue. Part of what made J.M. Dematteis and Keith Giffen’s original JLI so memorable was the humor and wondrous dynamic shared between the team members. Jurgens does a great job recapturing the essence of the old title and infusing it into the new team. We get a look at the new headquarters and a new team jet! That’s what I want out of a team book, baby! Dan Jurgens had a big week and made me excited to be reading this book. It’s the freakin’ Justice League International, people!
Written By: Paul Cornell
Art By: Miguel Sepulveda
To be fair, I am not very savvy in the Wildstorm Universe… But we need to remember that with the new team now in the DCU Proper– I shouldn’t have to be. As I read this book I got the sense that I was supposed to know who these characters were already. Obviously Apollo and the Midnighter are easily recognizable as the some of the most popular Wildstorm characters– but some of the others had me cracking open old issues of The Authority attempting to remember who’s who. The plot was all over the place and the fact they are now attempting to portray Apollo as the most powerful being on Earth– even as he now shares the place with Superman– is fucking outrageous. I know I’m in the minority but I never really cared for Apollo and reading this book did nothing to change my mind, as he seemed to bitch and moan in every scene he was in. As much as I wanted to like it, I simply couldn’t get past my confusion.
Swamp Thing #1
Written By: Scott Snyder
Art By: Yanick Paquette
Based on J.’s Open Thread comments, most of you were probably looking forward to this book– and for good reason. I too have jumped onto the Scott Snyder bandwagon and have no doubt that he will eventually reign supreme as one of the big guns at DC. Swamp Thing #1 definitely helps the writer toward that goal, as it was one of the best books of the week. I’ve only read a few of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing trades but Snyder’s approach seems to make the character and his world much more accessible. As I read this issue, I got the distinct sense that the average reader wouldn’t need to know a damn thing about Swamp Thing to enjoy this book– which is no small feat for such a complex character that has been around for so long. Accompanied by Yanick Paquette’s great art, this issue was a fun, quick read and has me excited for the stories to come. If you missed this book (which I’m guessing most if you didn’t) go get it right away! Hawk and Dove #1
Written By: Sterling Gates
Art By: Rob Liefeld
This was one of the titles that I had me on the fence before I even cracked the cover. Having never read a Hawk and Dove story before, I felt a bit ignorant as I thumbed through the pages. Though the story was enough to keep me engaged for a while, eventually Rob Liefeld’s art took me right out of the book. It may have been something as simple as the horrible Hawk uniform and the ridiculous spikes coming out of his suit. Mark Waid once said, “Really good art can lift a really bad story but really amazing story cannot lift mediocre art.” I understand that art is extremely relative so there’s a chance that you may enjoy this. As for my opinion on the matter…
Story and Art By: Dan Didio
and Keith Giffen
The last book I read this week was O.M.A.C. #1. I almost didn’t purchase it because I was just as unfamiliar with this character as I was with the Hawk and Dove duo. Nevertheless, I decided to keep an open mind and give it a whirl. By the end, I was having so much fun that I wanted more! Not much can be said on the plot side… However it never seemed to me that the plot was Dido and Giffen’s biggest concern. Instead, they seemed more intent on just showing us what will make O.M.A.C so much fun… Seemingly satisfied to let any real story develop at a later time. I guess we’ll know for sure if I am right next month or if the creators really do have nothing up their sleeves to surprise us. On a sheer fun level though– you should give this comic a try if you have an extra THREE BUCKS to spare.