Saturday, November 26, 2011

The New 52: Month Three, Week Four

Last Week, I mentioned that I thought week three was the lowpoint of the month for the new 52. If that is the case, I am happy to say that week four is definitely the highpoint! Lots of good stuff this week.

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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The New 52: Month Three, Week Three

I have to start this post with a confession. After three months of observation, I feel safe in saying that week three of the New 52 comics are the lowpoint of the month. There are certainly some great comics out this week, but this is, overall, the week I am least excited about.Before we get into that, though, let's look at:

The Non-New 52

4. Young Justice #10: YJ is in a tough position. It wants to tell a clever mystery. It wants to be inviting to new readers. It wants to pay homage to the greatness of DC Comics past. Any one of these goals is admirable. All three, however, work at cross purposes. Captain Atom sends the kids on a "cold case" to discover the truth of what happened to a Captain Nathaniel Adams. Do even non-regular DC readers not see where this is going? Along the way they meet General Wade Eiling, who is a pretty bad guy in the DC Universe proper. What results, at least for me, is a perfectly fine story that lacks any of the surprise that a good mystery needs.

3. DC Comics Presents- Superman The Kents #1:
I'm not sure it is fair for me to review a story that has been out since 1997, but the story was new to me, so here you go. The Kents is the story of the role that Superman's adoptive family played in the early history of Kansas. Historical fiction is not really my favorite genre, but this story played out very well, covering the events of Bloody Kansas and the involvement of John Brown. Ostrander writes a passionate story that is educational without being too heavy handed.

2. My Greatest Adventure #2: I love the fact that DC comics is willing to put out an anthology of this nature. I wish that it could feature the done-in-one style that these type of books featured when they were popular in the 50's and 60's. The art of writing a complete 8 page story is simply lost, I suppose. Anyway, all three stories (Robotman, Garbage Man, and Tanga) are as fun as they are different from one another, so there is something in here you are bound to enjoy.

1. DC Universe Online Legends #17: I have to admit that this title was not one of my favorites when it first began. Although I love playing the actual DCU Online game, and obviously love reading comic books, this series' preoccupation with bouncing between the present day and the nihilistic future established in the early trailer for the game made it difficult for me to really enjoy the book. Lately, however, the emphasis on the different timelines has dwindled, and the book as a whole has become more cohesive and fun. This issue is a prime example. Issue 17 features a large scale battle between the Sinestro Corps and the forces of the evil Braniac. The Guardians of the Universe send the Green Lantern Corps on a mission that raises moral questions for Hal Jordan who, in a fashion typical for the test pilot, takes matters into his own hands. This was good stuff.

The New 52

13. Catwoman: Once upon a time, grimm and gritty was all the rage in comic books. Having the "hero" shoot a henchman's kneecap or take a baseball bat to the big bad's head was a surefire way to have a critical and commercial hit. But, that time isn't now, and that sort of storytelling is why I stopped collecting comics for awhile in the 90's. It was good to see Batman still being heroic and saving the villian, though, even standing against Catwoman when she was willing to do wrong. I also enjoyed the fact that the sexual aspect of this title was toned down this episode.

12. Captain Atom #3: Is there anything better than a super-hero team up? This series has been missing something the last few months, but the guest appearance of the Flash in this issue filled that void rather nicely. I haven't been particularly high on Captain Atom since issue #1,but the overarching concept of a being with near god-like powers handling the day to day problems of average people is kind of fun and one I am enjoying.

11. Legion of Super-Heroes #3: The great thing about the Legion of Super Heroes is the depth of their roster. Paul Levitz squeezes 16 members into this issue and somehow makes it all work. I'm also glad to see the Dominators returning as big villians. One of the unwritten rules of the new 52 has seemingly been the creation of brand new villians for every title. Seeing the return of some classic villians makes me very happy.

10. Birds of Prey #3: More so than any title this week, I don't know what to say about Birds of Prey. It is a perfectly acceptable book, and the characters are actually quite fun, but there just doesn't seem to be much here. All of that being said, Swierczynski has left us on quite a cliff-hanger, and I am eager to see how Black Canary escapes her fate.

9. Blue Beetle #3: I'm never going to prefer Jaime Reyes to Ted Kord. Years of reading and loving JLI assures that Ted will always be my Blue Beetle of choice. That being said, Jaime is a good character when judged on his own merit. There is a lot going on in this series, from the internal conflict between Reyes and the scarab, to the duplicity of aunt Tia, to the impending alien invasion. All of it works together for a fairly compelling super hero series. Plus, the Brotherhood of Evil is always a good super villian team, and I'm happy to see them getting some love (even with the pointless costume redesigns).

8. Wonder Woman #3: This issue has received quite a bit of attention already because it features the "new" origin of the Amazing Amazon. I'm torn about this. On one hand, I really loathe retcons. Just on an instinctual level, there is something wrong with moving away from the creator's original intent. On the other hand, this new spin on the origin is both logical and sets up future dramatic moments in the series. On an unrelated note, Cliff Chiang is knocking things out of the ballpark on the art of this series.

7. Red Hood and the Outlaws #3: Since issue #1, I have to admit that I have actively been rooting against this title. Wolfman and Perez's Teen Titans was one of my foundational comic book experiences growing up, so anything associated with those characters is nearly sacrosanct to me. Lobdell's handling of Starfire in issue #1, therefore, upset me as much as it did many others. Fortunately (I suppose), Starfire has kind of moved to the background of this book, and so the book has become more palatable. In this issue, aside from an overly surreal journey, the main thrust of the story is an examination of the most prized memories of our three protagonists. As one can imagine, this gives plenty of opportunity for the reader to get a sense of who these characters are in the new 52. Princess Koriander is a prideful champion who does not suffer fools easily. Roy Harper thrives on being the underdog. Jason Todd suffers from his loss of childhood. All three characters are irreparably dysfunctional, but they are also human characters that we can root for to overcome their weaknesses.

6. Nightwing #3: What is it about a circus? Robin, Deadman, even Ghost Rider find their origins in a traveling attraction. I know that the current arc, featuring Grayson's return to the big top, is meant to be a temporary storyline, but there is so much potential there. Dick Grayson, owner of Haley circus, travels with the crew and fights crime along the way. There is something kind of retro cool about that set up, and I know I would enjoy it.

5. Batman #3: I've been enjoying Scott Snyder's take on the Caped Crusader and, although this was a bit of a down issue, it was still remarkably good. The Court of Owls is an interesting threat, and I'm excited to see where this story goes.

4. DC Universe Presents #3: Before I get into this issue (which was really good), I have to express how excited I am for the next arc in this series. Dan Didio (who has been writing the phenomenal OMAC series) will team up with the legendary Jerry Ordway on Challengers of the Unknown! I could be disappointed with this, but my hopes are very high for what this team can do with that concept. Anyway, the 3rd issue of Deadman's story is as good as the previous issues. Deadman's body jumping antics are just a pretext for a story that is deep and thought provoking. Looking forward to seeing this one through.

3. Supergirl #3: First of all, Mahmud Asrar is really doing a bang up job on the art here. Kara looks like a teenage girl. Beautiful, yes, but age appropriate. Plotwise, the introduction of Simon Tycho provides a good foil for the Maid of Might, and a gelatinous walking brain makes me love this series all the more. This title has been a lot of fun.

2. Green Lantern Corps #3: I think I've said this before, but I'm really loving the way in which Peter Tomasi makes each corpsmen an individual character. The problem with the GLC has always been that they (with a few exceptions) are a wacky bunch of aliens, all with the same uniform and power set. Here, however, Hannu is a very different character than Salaak, who is different from my new favorite (albeit short lived) lantern, Porter. The action, in this issue, is also superb, forcing the Lanterns to face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Really liking this series.

1. Justice League #3: Part of me dies inside jumping on the bandwagon here, but this issue was really good, particularly compared to how plodding the series has been thus far. Most of the credit for this goes to Geoff Johns' depiction of Wonder Woman, who is much more fun here than she is in her own comic. Now, don't get me wrong. I still far preferred the Justice League that James Robinson was offering us prior to the reboot, and I long for the day when the tides turn again and the League can be more than just the big players, but Johns writing does a wonderful job of making this an acceptable attempt at the Justice League.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The New 52: Month Three, Week Two

Man, these weeks come up quickly. Thinking of calling this feature "Last Week's Comics" since, given how many comics I read, I'll never get this out in a timely manner (unless, of course, DC wants to start sending me preview copies of their titles). Thoughts?

Okay, before launching into the New 52 this week, a brief look at the additional titles DC released this week.

4. Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #2: P:PaP, (as I have just now decided to call it), feels like an important comic. It's always interesting to see things from a villian's perspective. I've made no bones about the fact that I prefer my Batman a little more silver-agey, and that is true of the villians as well, but I have to admit that this title makes Penguin a credible and chilling threat. Penguy's Oedipal Complex is something I could live without, however.

3. Star Trek / Legion of Super Heroes #2: I'm cheating a little here, as this title always shows up on Diamond as a production of IDW (probably because it allows them to sell it for $3.99 instead of DC's line standard $2.99). I love classic Star Trek. I love classic LSH. I would love this title just a touch more if they got a move on with the plot. I'm not sure how many issues this mini-series will run, but it needs to be somewhere in the 80's to get the amount of story I am hoping for in this concept at this rate. Finally, after two issues, the two teams meet on the last page of this issue. I am, however, really enjoying the mash-up of the various alien species from both realities. This is full of potential, but cut out the decompression already.

2. Huntress #2: I'm really enjoying this series. The creative team (Paul Levitz writing and Marcus To on pencils) is doing a masterful job of making Helena a dynamic and strong character who is also incredibly feminine. This storyline obviously can't last longer than the six issues we are being offered, but I hope we hear more from the Huntress once this series wraps up.

1. Batman: The Brave and The Bold: I've said this more times lately than I can remember, but Sholly Fisch is a superstar. The writing on this book takes me to my personal comic heyday of the early to mid 80's when comics were fun and smart. In this issue, Mr. Fisch introduces us to the Robin's past, present, and future as they try to save Batman's life. I really enjoyed seeing the different Robins and seeing how they operate differently from one another. I wish I could see this issue (and really the series itself) pencilled by George Perez and running instead of what we see today as Detective Comics.

Okay, on to the New 52 titles this week.

13. Demon Knights #3: DK is certainly the critical darling of the New 52 experiment, and probably the biggest surprise. There is alot that is good about this series, and there is nothing I love more in comics than a good ensemble cast. That being said, there is something about this issue in particular that just wasn't clicking for me. I'm not sure if it is that the writer (Paul Cornell) brings so much of his Britishness to the story, or that this issue was largely about our characters waiting around for something to happen, but I was left cold this time around. Vandal Savage was not as funny as he has been and the other characters (particularly Demon, Horse Woman, and the Shining Knight) were less likable in general. Still, the last couple of pages drew out the right emotional response from me, which means Cornell did his job well even if I didn't notice it at the time.

12. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #3: I feel like I talk about this every time I pick up this title, but I am distracted by the art here. Intellectually, I think it is the absolute perfect match for the tone of this story. On an experiential level, however, I feel hesitant to even read this knowing that I will have to deal with the art. This is solely a matter of personal preference, however. I like things a little more photo realistic and less busy. Art aside, the story is an over the top action event that is a lot of fun, just don't think too hard about the plot. Frankenstein is an awesome charcter and I am glad that I get to read stories with him in them.

11. Deathstroke #3: Slade is a character that I just can't relate to in any way. The importance of reputation to him is something that I don't understand. That being said, I'm not sure that I have to agree with or even understand Deathstroke's motivations to enjoy the action of this series. Much like Demon Knights, this issue was a step down from what I have seen in the previous two issues, but it was still an exciting issue.

10. Resurrection Man #3: I have no prior connection to any of the characters in this series (which is different than most of the rest of this line), and I think that is the main reason this issue is not higher on my list. The Body Doubles are fun villians and I like the concept of this character. Not sure that much has happened so far, but it is a beautifully illustrated and interesting story so far.

9. Mister Terrific #3: There was no greater surprise for me this week than seeing this title not at the bottom of my list. When Eric Wallace isn't busy telling me that some people are inferior because of the color of their skin, he can tell a pretty compelling story. At the heart of this issue was Michael Holt coming to terms with the fact that heroes have to act in a certain way and the knowledge that their are consequences when heroes step over the line. It's been awhile since I've seen a comic with a good message to it. Enjoyed seeing that this week.

8. Superboy #3: I've enjoyed being reintroduced to this character. This is a pretty radically different take on the character, but it is one that is working. Also, did they just backdoor pilot Gen13 into the DC universe? Interesting.

7. Batgirl #3: Not sure if it is because of Nightwing showing up this issue, but Batgirl is one of the titles that seems to be picking up steam and getting better. This issue is more about relationship, both between Barbara and Dick, but also between Barbara and her father. That personal nature made this issue really effective for me. Good stuff.

6. Suicide Squad #3: There is no argument that Harley Quinn has gotten alot of attention in this reboot. In this issue, in particular, she is both too provocatively dressed and really, really, written out of character. And, somehow, it all kind of works. I'm not saying that she is my favorite part of this series, but Harley as written works in the context of this story really well. Really enjoying the concept and execution on this book.

5. Batwoman #3: I think I have said this before, but J.H. Williams III could illustrate a phone book and it would be high up on my list. Combined with this moody and atmospheric story, though, it is really awesome. On a side note, I really love the Bette Kane Flamebird character and will be very upset if they kill her off.

4. Green Lantern #3: Sinestro is a complex character, and I am enjoying his portrayal here. Coming to understand why he was such a respected Lantern, which is not something that I've really comprehended before. The little touches, like him still being able to teach Hal Jordan how to use his ring better, emphasizes why he is an important character. And, if nothing else, the last page of this issue leaves me wanting more of this title.

3. Legion Lost #3: I have always loved the Legion of Super Heroes. There is an inherent silver-agey goodness to the team that they really haven't been able to completely shake since those halcyon days in Adventure comics. That being said, they have always had two basic struggles. First, the team is just so huge! I love so many of the individual characters, but it is hard for anyone to get screen time when you have literally dozens of characters to play with. Secondly, they have always been a little distant because of their future setting. I like a future that is optimistic and positive (refer back to both my love of LSH and Star Trek), but it is also just a little antiseptic. Legion Lost fixes both of these issues. A small team (and not just the usual heavy hitters that tend to dominate the main title) gives everyone room to be featured, and the idea of those characters in our era (with the limitations that this places on our heroes), makes for some great adventures with great characters. Despite the names on the mast head, this is the main LSH title in my book.

2. Grifter #3: Grifter is the big budget, blockbuster, summer action movie that (hopefully) never ends. This issue featured the ubiquitous tense standoff scene between our protagonist and the well meaning but utterly misinformed law enforcement agent who thinks our protagonist is the bad guy, complete with guns drawn and shadowed bridge setting lighted only by the spotlight of a passing helicopter. The scene ends with explosions, as these things often do. All around, a fun story that is like 20 minutes in a dark, cool theater on a Summer afternoon.

1. Batman and Robin #3 One of my most fundamental beliefs about the DC Universe is that Batman is the most overrated characters in all of comic history. I've always been more of a Superman guy than a Batman guy. Heck, I've always been more of a B'wana Beast or Captain Carrot guy than a Batman guy. Therefore, it is almost painful to me to rank this comic as the best comic this week, but here we are. The writer (Peter Tomasi) understands that at the heart of every good story is the human element, and this works beautifully here. Batman playing the paternal role with Damian, the comical rivalry between Damian and Alfred, the internal struggle within Damian himself, all are played out subtly and brillantly. It is almost cliche to elevate a new villian by making him the physical equal of Batman (think Bane), but "Nobody" is intriguing because he seems to be as psychologically matched with the Dark Knight as he is physically. Also, it was like I could literally hear one of William Dozier's famous voiceovers as I read the last page. Got to love the elaborately designed deathtrap. I will definitely tune in at the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel to see how the dynamic duo escape.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The New 52: Month Three, Week One

Some of you know that for the last two months, I have been tweeting my feelings, thoughts, etc., about DC's new 52 titles. Well, sometimes you need more than 140 characters and, well, to be honest, I was kind of feeling bad about filling up everyone's twitstream with my ramblings. So, since this site hasn't been used as of late, I thought this might be a repository for my thoughts. So, without further ado, and in no particular order (except they are totally in order of how much I enjoyed the titles), here are my new 52 thoughts version 3.1

13. Hawk & Dove: I'm not saying anything particularly controversial in stating that Rob Liefeld's art is so emblematic of the 90's that anything he draws seems like it ought to be set in that decade. I'm not a fan of 90's comics though, so I've never really been a fan of Liefeld's art. After three months, though, I'm willing to say at this point that Hawk & Dove would be at the bottom of this list even if George Perez were drawing it. It just isn't clicking for me. Much like Liefeld's art itself, Hawk and Dove are characters best left in a particular time period. Steve Ditko's creations made considerable sense in the turbulent 60's. That isn't to say that these characters couldn't work in a current context (as a matter of fact, the OWS and Tea Party movements seem to indicate a similar political climate exists today), but the whole convoluted avatar pantheon thing takes these characters too far away from where they work the best.

See, told you 140 characters wasn't enough.

12. Static Shock: One of the great promises of the New 52 was that it offered readers a great jumping on point for new titles. Static Shock seems to have missed that memo. Why does his sister have a clone? What happened in Dakota? The sad part is, the story isn't quite compelling enough for me to overlook my questions.

11. Detective Comics: DC's flagship title should be better than this. The Dollmaker is a fairly compelling villian, but this Batman is just too gritty for my tastes.

10. Animal Man: The art on this title is just disturbing. Don't get me wrong, Travel Foreman's art is pitch perfect for this series, but it is just hideous. I'm also not sure that this plot has legs. In my opinion, you don't ensure the longterm viability of a title by telling us that the title character's only contribution to the DC universe was in bringing a daughter into the world.

9. Swamp Thing: Animal Man's spiritual brother is quite a bit better. The art, for one thing, is much more grounded in reality while sacrificing none of the creepiness. The plot, likewise, is more straight horror than the metaphysical weirdness that has defined Animal Man thus far.

8. Batwing: Ben Oliver has a beautiful, photo-realistic art style that elevates this book. I'm not sure that "Batman in Africa" is ever going to be a chart topping concept, but there is a place for this title in the DCU. I'm intrigued to see where this Kingdom storyline goes.

7. Stormwatch: I want to say that I would like this a whole lot better if it featured mainstream DCU characters, but things have been just a touch too surreal so far for me. I am a big fan of the personifications of cities, though. Would like to see more of that.

6. Action Comics: If you don't know, Grant Morrison is one of my least favorite writers. So I want to rank this much lower, and I won't say I'm completely unboard (Krypton, for example, seemed a little off to me). Despite this, there were some enjoyable parts to this. Clark's relationship with his landlady is nice. I'm thankful that in the midst of all the hoopla about isolating him that they have still given Clark some sort of a Ma character. I'm a sucker for a good personal story, so I enjoyed a book with more Clark than Superman.

5. Red Lanterns: Intelligent Bleez may be one of my favorite new characters (although I could live without the butt shot in the last panel). Comics are good when they tell a personal story, and that is what this issue was all about. Also, any story with Dex-Starr gets a little grace from me.

4. Green Arrow: A couple of things right off the bat. First, I miss GA's old costume, not that this is a new 52 thing. Ollie Queen hasn't looked right since the 80's. Second, Any time Green Arrow uses trick arrows, I am going to enjoy the book. Green Arrow #3 features the conclusion of the first story arc of this title. In the modern era, with most storylines going 10-12 issues, A 3 part story feels like a breath of fresh air. That being said, I'd still like to see some good done-in-one issues.All in All, Green Arrow is one of the most straight forward super hero titles in the new 52, and I appreciate that.

3. Men of War: This comic is unapologetically macho, and I mean that as a complete compliment. Now, much like Static Shock, I've got some questions about what is going on, but unlike Static Shock, I'm willing to hold on for the answers. Also, and this may be the Neo-Con in me, but I love, love, love, the back up story we have seen the last three issues that (again, unapologetically) paint members of the U.S. military as (*gasp*) the good guys in the current real world conflicts we face. I'm not sure that this tone will win it readers in a largely liberal comic reading culture (sales bear me out here), but I for one am a proud reader.

2. Justice League International: Two things here. First, team comic books, for me at least, are all about observing the realtionships between the characters, and Dan Jurgens makes this happen better than just about anyone. Whether it is the rivalry between Rocket Red and August General in Iron,or the apparently unwarranted trust between Booster Gold and Batman, or the romantic tension between Rocket Red and Fire, or the almost father-daughter relationship between August General in Iron and Godiva, the interplay between these heroes will bring me back even if I don't enjoy a particular plotline (For the record, I'm enjoying the plot as well so far). Secondly, I love Jurgens callback to the old JLA trick of splitting into smaller teams. That worked well this issue and I would be happy to see more of it.

1. O.M.A.C.: I can feel within myself that this will quickly turn into one of those one note refrains that I tend to have, but I love O.M.A.C. and I think you ought to as well. It is, without a doubt, my favorite title to come out this week and is in my top 5 of all the new 52. This is for one simple reason: O.M.A.C. is fun! It isn't all grim and gritty like a certain pointy-eared vigilante with six titles a month and a ton of over the top violence. It isn't a horror-tinged nightmare that (probably) makes more sense if you have a business relationship going with the saggy-pantsed kid who hangs out in front of the nearest convenience store (that's a drug reference if you aren't hip to the lingo). O.M.A.C. doesn't take itself seriously, is filled with over the top action (not violence, there is a difference), has absolutely horrible puns (The Psi-Fi Man, Omactivate) which are awesome, and Kirby-esque super science. It is like a wormhole through time opens once a month and a newly discovered bit of awesomeness from the "King of Comics" himself drops out. So, if you aren't catching my meaning here, you ought to be reading O.M.A.C.. It isn't life changing literature, but it is a darn fun read that makes me smile every month.

Alright, thanks for reading, and leave a comment if you have something to say.