The New 52: Month Three, Week Four
The Non New 52
2. Shade #2- I like James Robinson. I think I've said before that his version of the Justice League, with the second string members and sly nods to the more obscure corners of DC's history, was ideal to me (better than what I've seen so far from Johns and Lee), and so I'm naturally inclined to like this series. That being said, I'm not sure that an awful lot happens here. Someone is trying to kill Shade, so he goes to ground. He says goodbye to a lot of people, fights a monster named Bete-Noire, and that's about the end of the book. What I can say is that this is not a quick read. Shade's vocabulary is heavy, and quite superior to what one might see in an average modern comic book. This is a good thing. It reminds me of the comics I read in my youth, the kind that forced me to pull out a dictionary and beef up my own personal vocabulary. I definitely felt that I got my money's worth on this issue. Speaking of which . . .
1. DC Comics Presents: The Life Story of the Flash- This was my great value purchase of the week. $7.99 bought me 100 pages of entertainment, many of them dense text pieces that gave me hours of enjoyment. This is the story of Barry Allen as "written" by his wife Iris. The book covers it all, describing his childhood, acquisition of his Speed Force power, major battles (including a detailed look at the "Trial of the Flash" story arc), all the way through his death during the Crisis on Infinite Earths and a quick look at those who have followed in his footsteps. This was originally released in 1997, so the information is a little dated now (well, a lot when you factor in the new 52 reboot), but I was surprised that, despite my standing as a DC Comics geek extraordinaire, there was still information to be discovered here that I did not know already. That's not an easy thing for me to find, so I really enjoyed this story.
The New 52
13. The Savage Hawkman #3- I really want to like this series. Hawkman falls solidly into my niche of B or C list characters who don't get their just dues because they are mired in their own silver-agey goodness (Look, he has big bird wings and a mace!) This interpretation of the character, however, doesn't seem to have much in common with the character that I know and enjoy. This story just isn't that fun. My hope is that it will soon cross over with some other title (much like Captain Atom and the Flash met last week) and that this will ground Hawkman in the DC universe proper more than he has been lately. Maybe this will elevate Carter Hall's story.
12. Blackhawks #3- This series continues to be better than what one might expect (or sales would indicate). In this issue, we discover the main villain, a seemingly eternal dealer in nanotechnology named Mother Machine. There is also a security breach at the Eyrie and, best of all, talking dogs! This series isn't a blockbuster, but it does have its fun moments.
11. Green Lantern New Guardians #3- Kyle Rayner is always going to be my least favorite Green Lantern, but I like the concept of the various colored corps (even if it has been overplayed in the last few years). If the different corps are your thing, this is the comic for you to see them. In this issue we learn that the Guardians are mean little blue midgets and that Glomulus is fearless and a lot of fun. Also, it's nice to see that the evolution of Bleez that happened earlier this month in Red Lanterns is being honored at least to some degree in this story. That sort of continuity is a good thing.
10. Justice League Dark #3- This is a beautiful book. Mikel Janin has an incredible artistic gift. These are also wonderful characters that I really enjoy reading about (although I'm not sure when everyone became capable of seeing Deadman). With all of that being said, I'm still kind of waiting for the story to get started. The heroes are gathering to fight the threat of the Enchantress, and after three issues, they are still gathering. I think this story will be something really good if it picks up the pace some. Also, this may be my least favorite version of Zatanna's costume (personally I prefer the red, white, and blue version from her Justice League Detroit days).
9. Firestorm #3- This title moves up a few a spots in my list this month because Gail Simone finally gets to do what she does so well, create a creepy villain. This issue introduces us to Helix, the first individual to undergo the Firestorm Protocol, an attempt to create a nuclear superhero that goes horribly wrong. Helix is frightening, not only because of his physical power, but also because of how well Gail Simone (and Ethan Van Scriver in fairness) writes a disturbed character. Firestorm still isn't the best series in the new 52 (When Firestorm isn't a composite being you lose some of what has made this character special and unique), but the overall conspiracy theory theme of this series has a lot to recommend it.
8. Batman The Dark Knight #3- There is not any doubt that this is the "pretty" Batman book. David Finch's art is over-the-top and perfectly on display here. The result is a beautiful book that is light on real plot. What plot there is, however, is done well. Batman, in pursuit of the pretty and mysterious White Rabbit (the girl on the cover), does battle with a super sized Joker (sort of), teams up with the Flash (that guy is everywhere this month), and sets his sights on Poison Ivy. Much like in Green Lantern New Guardians, it was nice to see a bit of continuity, as Bats makes mention of Ivy's association with the Birds of Prey here.
7. The Flash #3- Okay, a little backstory to start here. Last issue we learned that Barry's brain can access the Speed Force as easily as his body can, granting him a form of super intelligence or precognitive ability (he can mentally run through the consequences of every choice at super speed, thus allowing him to make the right decision every time). This issue, we learned that this new power comes with some dangerous consequences. We also get to see Barry Allen riding a horse as drawn by Francis Manapul, who is really doing an excellent job on the art on this book. This is a beautiful book that I'm really enjoying.
6. Voodoo #3- Voodoo gets her cross over this month! Unfortunately, she has to team up with Kyle Rayner to get it. Still, Ron Marz tones down the sexy this issue (although Sami Basri's art is still beautiful), allowing the plot to actually take center stage. Voodoo is on the run, out to fulfill whatever her mysterious mission might be. I don't have any experience with this character, and I can't even tell you if she is a hero or villain, but her story is compelling and interesting. I want to see where this is going.
5. Teen Titans #3- I had no greater surprise this week than enjoying this comic as much as I did. There are so many reasons not to like it. Obviously, anything with the title Teen Titans is going to be compared to the seminal work of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Not only is this series not as good as that run was, but because of the whole reboot thing it denies the existence of that work (which is a heresy in my opinion). In addition, this issue features the debut of the token homosexual character Bunker. Now, I've long since given up the hope that my conservative values will be reflected in comic books, but an overly flamboyant character whose "sexuality is an important part of his character" (according to the writer) just seems doomed from the start. So it would be fair to say that I went into this wanting to hate this issue. I was surprised, therefore, that when I had finished, I didn't hate it at all. Bunker is admittedly flamboyant, but in a way reminiscent of Changling from the Wolfman / Perez era. I was also surprised to find Bunker more overt about his faith than about his sexuality. Now, the fact that the only character espousing Christian beliefs is an out of the closest homosexual is a whole new topic of conversation, but it is one best saved for another day. The book had a number of good qualities without mentioning the new character. Brett Booth did a wonderful job on the art chores. The opening splash page with Kid Flash, for example, was wonderful, reminding me of those Family Circle strips where the kids took the most circuitous routes to accomplish some simple task. Red Robin is shown as a competent and capable leader who was obviously trained by Batman. The issue had a great balance between comedic moments and great super-heroey action. I still don't think this series will ever reach the heights of its forefathers, but I am beginning to think that it may be worthy of calling itself a Titans book (it's at least as good as Team Titans).
4. All Star Western #3- This issue is a little awkward, basically tying up the loose ends of the first arc before launching into the next story. We also have here the end of the Jonah Hex - Dr. Arkham partnership which, if a permanent split, makes me sad. One of the real joys of this series so far has been the interaction between these two very different personalities. Hex's roughneck brutality makes him a wild and unpredictable character, but those traits are best put on display when they are set in contrast to the refinement and civility of Arkham. I'm hopeful that this is just an intermission in what has thus far been a really cool "buddy movie" type relationship. The back up, featuring El Diablo, was also fun, showcasing a zombie attack in the old west drawn by the legendary Jordi Bernet. I appreciate the efforts to introduce us to the New 52 versions of these classic western characters, and even more so when it is done while showing respect to the greats who have done this their whole lives.
3. I, Vampire #3- I've really been enjoying this series. The art is dark and beautiful. The story is compelling and heart breaking. This issue was just a touch less engrossing to me than the previous two, largely because the point of view switched from our protagonist Andrew Bennett to a sidekick, Professor John Troughton. This change in voice, while probably necessary to convey the information we discover in the issue, robbed the story of some of its emotional appeal. Still, it is one of my favorite series in the new 52. Next month the title will guest star Batman, which will probably improve sales, although I think this is one of the few times that a crossover will not help the storyline.
2. Aquaman #3- Geoff Johns writes a good super hero story. Ivan Reis draws a beautiful super hero story. Together it is near perfect. Aquaman encounters the Trench (the ugly guys on the cover there) a species he has never encountered before. That seems weird but, as we are often reminded in this issue, the ocean is a big place. Johns does a masterful job of not only moving this story forward, but planting some seeds for what is to come (How did Aquaman get his trident? How far will Mr. Shin go to find Atlantis?). This issue balances the out and out super heroic action with humor (not sure why, but the "Aquaman is lame" scenarios that Johns refutes make me laugh every time). Aquaman is written as noble (without being as grumpy as he is often portrayed), Mera is beautiful and ferocious in combat, and Reis draws dogs as cute as buttons.
1. Superman #3- Far more than any other writer in the New 52, George Perez gets what great comics should be. Superman is in the midst of telling a big overarching story about some strange alien menaces that are plaguing Metropolis in general and Superman in particular. Lots of other comics are also telling large multi-issue stories. The difference is that when I pick up Superman #3, it doesn't feel like chapter three in a lengthy story. As revolutionary as it seems in today's comic market, George Perez isn't writing for the trade. He recognizes (in that old Stan Lee adage) that every comic is somebody's first comic, so the way he writes is different. For one thing, unobtrusively, Perez reminds us of what has already happened. He doesn't take a lot of room in doing it, but if issue #3 is your first time picking up the story, he will fill in the details you need to know and not leave you feeling as if you have to do some research on Wikipedia before you can start reading the book. As someone who reads more than 100 comics a month, I appreciate the reminder of what happened last time (and in a far more natural format than a text piece on the inside front cover). Secondly, Perez gives you a complete story in this issue. Yes, there are large set pieces that lead into this story or are unresolved at the end of this issue, but if, in 20 years, you were to pick this up out of a back issue bin and it was the only issue you owned, there is still a good story for you just between these covers. I'm being vague here and I'm not sure why. The set up for this story is that Superman is being attacked by different alien menaces each issue. There is some connection between the threats (they are all speaking what I assume is Kryptonese), but within each issue, Superman is confronted by the threat and manages to defeat his alien foe. It's not a complicated plot taken by itself, but it isn't like Perez writes 18 pages of the buildup to the conflict and then gives us the cliffhanger of Superman being blindsided and we have to tune in next month to see if he figures out how to beat the bad guy (and it is even worse, one might suppose, if you only have the next issue where Superman starts the issue unconscious and you have to figure out how that occurred). I know I sound like an old man here (which I am, so at least I'm being authentic) but I appreciate the fact that George Perez recognizes that I spend my $2.99 every month and should get a story for that money, not just a chapter in a trade that might be released some day. We have already learned that Mr. Perez is leaving this title in the next few months, which makes me terribly sad. I hope that his replacements (Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen) follow the maestros lead here and write solid, complete stories in future issues of Superman.