The third wave of DC books makes a big splash as we continue our journey through DC’s RED HOT New 52. This week some classic characters get another shot at top lining new series, while others that should just go away keep on coming back.
Written By: Scott Snyder
Art By: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
As I start to review another weekly release of the NEW DC 52, I can’t help but get excited about some the creative teams that DC has assembled… With the crew behind the highly anticipated Batman #1 topping my expectation list.
Scott Snyder’s run on Detective Comics was special. It captured an essence of horror and suspense that books in the Batman-line have long lacked– and in my opinion– need. Naturally, when DC announced that Snyder would again be taking the helm of one of the most popular books in their catalog, I was more than ecstatic… Even if I was a little clueless why they just didn’t keep him on their flagship of “flagship titles”– Detective Comics. Yet, with the post Morrison-era Batman comics seemingly being phoned in– I welcome Snyder with open arms to any Bat title.
My expectations for what Batman— as a comic– could and would be were more than satisfied with this week’s release. Scott Snyder hasn’t skipped a beat– just changed logos (and Batmen, or course). Until now, we’ve only seen Scott write several great Dick Grayson stories… We’ve never been treated to one complete Bruce Wayne tale. Seeing how Snyder will handle the original Bat is, for me, the most exciting part of the comic.
Batman #1 starts with a great action sequence pitting the Caped Crusader against his entire Rogues Gallery. We even get to see the Joker in a surprising role. In the middle of the action, Snyder expertly introduces and weaves multiple plot threads that will surely set the stage for upcoming story arcs, including: Bruce’s vision of a new Gotham City, some great new Bat-Tech, and a couple of interesting new faces.
The art by Capullo and Glapion was some of the best that I have seen from this first month of new DC Number Ones. The scratchy thinner line fits the style of story perfectly. The artists’ unique ability to capture a particularly gothic Gotham City gives off a pulpy noir vibe that I wish every Batbook shared. Capullo takes great pains to differentiate every character in the book (and there were many). It was even super easy to distinguish the slight differences between each of Batman’s various Boy Wonders.
My favorite panel this week– no question– showed Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damien standing together in James Bond-style poses… Making sure that they were all sartorially squared away before joining a big dinner. So much was said in this one panel: We finally get to see the “family” together for the first time since the start of this new status quo. The only thing missing: Alfred Pennyworth looking on as the “father figure” to all of them… But who’s complaining?
This inaugural issue of Batman was more than just a typical comic. It resonated in many ways… Even in the style of a classic Hollywood crime thriller– as a main twist was revealed in the final pages. Batman looks on as an unknown murder victim hangs on a wall. There are obvious signs of torture as dozens of throwing knives are carved into the victim’s flesh. The detective inside the Bat is attempting to solve Gotham’s latest homicide as we get a great cliffhanger: A message written on the wall in paint thinner, now engulfed in flames, reads, “Bruce Wayne Will Die Tomorrow.”
The always-prepared Batman has ingenious ways of checking for fingerprints with his inspired Bat-Tech. As Alfred gives him the fingerprint match we get that “Oh Shit!” moment that, in my opinion, should be standard practice in any serialized comic book drama. Of course, I will NEVER tell you what that “Oh Shit!” moment is here. You’ll need to read the book yourself.
I loved that this issue seemed more like a murder mystery than a stereotypical superhero tale. The only thing that separates this from any other great crime story is the detective here wears a costume. You could have plugged in a completely unknown character in this issue and still had a great story… But I’m sure glad that it’s Batman.
This book had me wanting the next chapter right away… More so than any other book this week. There’s no question that Batman #1 earns its Bag It! Tag!Birds of Prey #1
Written By: Duane Swierczynski
Art By: Jesus Saiz
Birds of Prey is a title that I have bought and dropped repeatedly over the years. Much like my buying habits, the stories tend to fluctuate between really good or really bad. This issue started out much like Justice League #1. We don’t get an introduction to the entire team– just a little taste of some of the main characters. Fortunately, this taste was packed with great action and art. Story telling devices used to go back and forth between the past and present were refreshingly original and served to keep the story flowing. Usually this type of time jumping is more trouble than its’ worth– but it was fine here. Though I didn’t get many answers to the new Birds set-up in this issue, I did get enough info to feel engaged and even like the characters enough to want more.Blue Beetle #1
Written By: Tony Bedard
Art By: Ig Guara and Ruy Jose
One of the biggest disappointments this week: Blue Beetle #1. This book was all over the place. Growing up in a bilingual household, I couldn’t help but be annoyed at the constant dramatization of Spanglish in this issue. Besides the fact that it was overdone, there were times when it wasn’t even grammatically correct– even by Spanglish standards!
Language aside, the art was okay. Nothing truly stood out, which was pretty amazing since there were TWO PENCILERS on the book. The last complaint I had: The hackneyed circumstances in which Jaime comes to possess the Beetle Scarab (the source of his powers). I know I am reading mainstream SUPERHERO comic books and sometimes I’m not meant to look to deep– but the way he becomes the Blue Beetle is far too convenient. C’mon! The end of the comic was as ridiculous as the poorly written dialogue before it. I know their might be some grief over my decision to throw the BORED Tag on yet another minority comic, but — for the FIRST and LAST time– please check my LAST NAME on the logo of this column. What can I do? It’s not my fault they keep writing shit like this!
Captain Atom #1
Written By: J.T. Krul
Art By: Freddie Williams II
I’ll readily admit that Captain Atom has not been one of the characters I’ve ever really been into– mostly because I rarely see him in anything I want to read. This issue was proof that a less-than-mainstream character like this can sustain his own title (As Captain Atom did for 89 Charlton Comics issues in the 60s and 57 issues for DC Comics in the 80s –Wiki-Ed), and was, by far, my BIGGEST SURPRISE of the week.
Captain Atom is a former fighter pilot. He suffers an accident that turns him into a super being who can manipulate atoms and molecules. In this first issue, we discover that his great gift also has the very real potential to kill him. This intriguing double-edged sword becomes the focal point of the book.
I don’t want to draw too many comparisons to Animal Man in fear of the online crucifixion that I would undoubtedly face…But there were many elements in this book had which seemed vaguely familiar to AM– whether you like it or not. Much like Animal Man, the stakes seem to be higher in Captain Atom than most other new DC comics– which is a luxury of using characters not part of the DC mainstream. At first, I found the art somewhat questionable for this type of storytelling… But decided by the end that it fit perfectly with the darker theme.
There are only two problems I had with this issue… Surprisingly neither had anything to do with the story or the art. The title of the first issue’s story is Evolution of the Species— which, I believe, is the title of an older X-Men story arc. Problem #2: The next issue’s title is Messiah Complex— which I know is definitely a major X-Men story title. What’s up with that? Of course, these repetitive titles don’t reflect on the artistic success or failure of the stories in question… But I did want to throw the fact that they exist out there– especially after comic fans noticed the, uh, problem with the title for Peter Tomasi’s first Green Lantern Corps #1 story. Doesn’t any DC editor us Google… Or does Warner Bros discourage internet surfing at work?Catwoman #1
Written By: Judd Winick
Art By: Guillem March
Uh. Uhmmm! Ya.
Well, if Judd Winick was going for shock value– he certainly achieved it… Even if Catwoman #1 was straightforward and exactly what I expect from a comic called Catwoman. Very little has changed for Selina Kyle in this New DCU, as she is still a lonely cat burglar getting in over her head now and then. She still has her wits and can definitely take care of business if she has to. Though we didn’t get a lot of forward movement story-wise, we did get what I’m sure will be the talk of the comics community this week– as Selina and Batman engage in a Penthouse quickie. For those of you monitoring your children’s reading: Don’t worry. There is very little flesh “…and most of the costumes stay on.”DC Universe Presents #1
Written By: Paul Jenkins
Art By: Bernard Chang
If I understand it correctly, here is the plan for DC Universe Presents: Publish a comic focusing on the lesser-known characters in the DCU– without having to dedicate an entire series (or mini-series) to them. This way we get great stories with great characters and don’t have to worry about the inevitable cancellation that most DC books that don’t feature Batman, Superman or Green Lantern seem to face.
That said, DCU Presents is the perfect platform to introduce Deadman to new readers. It gives us a brief origin story while still keeping us firmly planted in modern-day. We learn who Boston Brand was– and whom he so desperately needs to become– in order to save his soul. As solid as Paul Jenkins’ story is, Bernard Chang’s art is better. Read this!Green Lantern Corps #1
Written By: Peter J. Tomasi
Art By: Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna
As we now know, the only books that were to remain the “same” after the DC Relaunch were the Batman books and the Green Lantern books. If any book did just that, it is Green Lantern Corps #1. Picking right up where the last issue left off, we have Guy Gardner and John Stewart still “ringslinging” (as author Peter J. Tomasi so creatively puts it) and serving as the additional protectors for Planet Earth.
A new evil has emerged and wiped out an entire planet… So a few Corps members must solve the mystery. Although Tomasi does a great job of quickly introducing Guy and John to potential newbies, the rest of this book strikes me as more of the same. Some would argue that the main GL book is also more of the same but the slight character rearrangement in that book is keeping me excited… While the Corps title just has me feeling BLAH about the whole thing.Legion Of Super-Heroes #1
Written By: Paul Levitz
Art By: Francis Portola
As if one unreadable Legion book wasn’t enough, DC felt the need to heave two in my direction– like a nasty corporate monkey throwing shit at me. I’m gonna make this review short and sweet, so sorry if it sounds a bit familiar: This book is filled with a bunch of characters that I do not— I repeat– do not give two shits about. Everyone’s a “Something-Boy” or a “Something-Girl”. Did they run out of cool super hero names when they were creating ALL these characters? Just so that NEW DC 52 gem, Legion Lost, doesn’t get cold at night… I’ll go ahead and give it a friend on the BURN pile.Nightwing #1
Written By: Kyle Higgins
Art By: Eddy Barrows and JP Mayer
I was looking forward to this book almost as much as Batman. Unfortunately, Nightwing #1 doesn’t possess the same elements that made Snyder’s book so great.
Throughout the comic, writer Kyle Higgins attempts to convince his readers that Nightwing (Dick Grayson) is somewhat satisfied with his life– even though he’s given up his reign as Batman… But, as I read the issue, it sure never felt that way. There seemed to be an unspoken sorrow surrounding Dick.
What’s strange: I don’t believe this was the writer’s intention.
This could definitely be a bit of a problem, as sad air lends an inconsistent tone to the entire proceedings. This tonal problem is further exacerbated when Higgins can’t seem to find the right balance of humor and action in his story either. The art by Barrows and Mayor is also way too stiff for a high-flying acrobat like Nightwing.
All in all, this comic seems intended for rabid fans who plan to follow the character indefinitely. As a reader with only a previous casual interest, I was looking for something more to latch onto… So I doubt I’ll be coming back.Red Hood and the Outlaws #1
Written By: Scott Lobdell
Art By: Kenneth Rocafort
A clear runner-up for the IMJ Best of the Week™ title, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 was tons of fun. I have been extremely curious about this book ever since it was announced– mainly because I am such a HUGE fan of Kenneth Rocafort’s art.
The thought of giving Jason Todd— a character disliked by so many– his own book also seemed absurd to me. Sometimes though, it is these intangibles that make for good reading.
RHATO passively deals with the baggage characters like Todd and Roy Harper bring with them and then quickly moves on. Somewhere it seems to make perfect sense that two characters that failed as wards to established superheroes would befriend each other. It’s almost like the Perfect Strangers TV Show on crack! Great action sequences and laugh out loud dialogue make this a clear-cut contender. I was a bit disappointed when I didn’t really understand the book’s cliffhanger– but the end tagline reads, “To be explained.” With something this entertaining, that’s good enough for me.Supergirl #1
Written By: Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Art By: Mahmud Asrar
Traditional origin stories are the new rarities of the DC 52. Although we were told that everything would start over (which it mostly seems to be), some of the heroes in these books are already– in some form or another– very much established.
Supergirl #1 breaks this pattern, as the book opens with her ship crash-landing on Earth. A brief explanation of her costume and we’re off to the races.
This is a Kryptonian-speaking Supergirl who is unaware of the massive power she possesses. This doesn’t stop our confused hero from kicking some ass though… And we’re left with a fairly good cliffhanger featuring the Boy in Blue— making a grand entrance, of course. The art is simply beautiful and fits its’ good-looking character perfectly. Figures. If you’re going to publish a comic with a good-looking hero, she might as well look– well– good-looking. The end definitely had me excited for the next issue.Wonder Woman #1
Written By: Brian Azzarello
Art By: Cliff Chiang
Let’s face it, Wonder Woman comics rarely sell well. Jose and Ian have told you this many times on many IMJ Podcasts. I’m still hoping Brian Azzarello will do much to change this pattern and bring in outside readers who know his worth. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
For those who need NO convincing, this issue was a non-stop romp of fun. There is NO DOUBT that readers who try it will come back for more. Immediate action and bits of strong humor were issue stand outs… That, and the fantastic art by Cliff Chiang. I wasn’t sure if Chiang be a good fit but he is overwhelmingly great.
His unique facial expressions bring the characters to life and make each turn of the page a real treat. And hey, IMJ Nation™– much as Ian predicted, it looks like the DC Powers That Be decided to go with NO pants. Figures they’d go traditional after all the back and forth art changes we were seeing with every passing week.
Pants or no pants, Wonder Woman #1 is a great debut! If it’s been a while since you read a WW comic– now is DEFINITELY the time to start!