DC First-Issue Catchup: Creeper, Shazam, Deadman, Martian Manhunter

Lately, DC’s been launching several new series, and to promote them, they’ve been sending out comp copies to various bloggers (as well as other review outlets, I presume). I applaud this, even if I personally am running behind and haven’t talked about any of them yet. On the bright side, that means for these series, I now have the first two issues available for evaluation. So here’s some quick thoughts on how they started.

Martian Manhunter #1 cover
Martian Manhunter #1

Martian Manhunter (A.J. Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo, and Bit) — This created a large amount of apathy in me. The scenes that stuck in my head did so because they were clichés — the badass boss killing a subordinate who had bad news, for example, or the Superman-level hero being drawn on by cops because he looks different — and the lead’s narration, meant to establish his alienness, I merely found pretentious.

I like the idea of MM being set apart from heroes like Superman by his unusual perspective, but this just makes him bitter and mean, as well as ruining his unique status by giving him other Martians to fight with. It fits right into the current DC take on its universe, full of murder and pettiness, but it’s not what I’m interested in.

Deadman #1 cover
Deadman #1

Deadman (Bruce Jones and John Watkiss) — Without the property title, I may have been more interested in this, but I kept trying to figure out what this has to do with the skull-faced circus acrobat. The answer is: nothing. THIS dead man is a slackerish pilot with an overbearing older brother. The brother crashes a loaded jet plane, killing them all, and then guides the younger through a sort of psychological afterlife decision.

It’s all very Vertigo, but I would rather it would have gotten to the point — the guy’s dead but still walking around — sooner, and I really didn’t need to see the page of dead body erection jokes. The dead guy is roaming through different realities, but instead of making me learn more about the character or ponder the meaning of existence or want to know what’s really going on, it only makes me think that none of it matters. After all, even death isn’t permanent in this series, and as soon as you know what’s going on, it all changes.

The Trials of Shazam! #1 cover
The Trials of Shazam! #1

The Trials of Shazam! (Judd Winick and Howard Porter) — Grimly unpleasant, much like the Martian Manhunter, but even more inappropriate here because of the history of Captain Marvel. Where’s the youthful optimism and fun that should be inherent in the idea of a kid becoming the World’s Mightiest Mortal with a magic word?

Instead, we’re getting the purported explanation of how magic has changed in the DCU. Only widespread continuity “fixes” like that never work, because they’re promptly ignored or misused by other writers. Just tell me stories, and make them interesting. Without maiming the female heroes, as you’ve done here.

The Creeper #1 cover
The Creeper #1

The Creeper (Steve Niles, Justiniano, and Walden Wong) — Jack Ryder’s an obnoxious talk show host who gets injected with an experiment to prevent bad guys from getting the medical technology. After he almost (?) dies, he becomes the whacked-out Creeper.

Out of this set, this was the only series I felt like I could participate in without having to have read other comics (current or past) or otherwise bring my own knowledge of the DCU. It’s a promising beginning that looks forward instead of back or inwards (aka navel-gazing), and it’s got a welcome sense of energy.

The second issue is another adventure, and it’s perhaps the best use of a Bat-cameo I’ve read recently, mainly because the dark knight is just passing through. I’m amused by the way the Creeper talks to himself, which freaks out the freaky villain he goes up against. It’s parallel to Batman’s “I will scare the scary men” approach, only the Creeper out-crazies the crazies. As a series, it’s not particularly memorable in the grand scheme of things, but at least I was entertained for a few minutes.

Batman and the Mad Monk #1 cover
Batman and the
Mad Monk #1

Batman and the Mad Monk (Matt Wagner) — Classic Batman done in a modern style. (For instance, I don’t think we would have seen Batman and a woman cuddled naked in bed in a previous era.)

It’s Batman versus a vampire cult, plus girlfriend Julie Madison is becoming suspicious of his nocturnal activities and Commissioner Gordon is trying to navigate between a corrupt police force and his extra-legal partnership with the vigilante.

Great stuff, but wait for the collection so you can get the whole thing at once.


7 Responses to “DC First-Issue Catchup: Creeper, Shazam, Deadman, Martian Manhunter”

  1. Rob Staeger Says:

    I haven’t tried many of these books beyond the Brave New World preview, but I’m really looking forward to the Mad Monk trade when it comes out; I just finished Batman and the Monster Men and it was excellent. The patience of tradewaiting is rewarded.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I’ve got that first volume on my stack — I’m looking forward to it now.

  3. Jer Says:

    Where’s the youthful optimism and fun that should be inherent in the idea of a kid becoming the World’s Mightiest Mortal with a magic word?

    I realized that this wasn’t going to be the Shazam book for me when I read the interview at Newsarama with Winick and Didio. There was some discussion about what makes Captain Marvel unique, and their answer was “He’s just like Superman, only he’s magic.”

    Once I read that, I knew I could pass. If you don’t grasp that Captain Marvel is unique because he’s a kid with a magic word that makes him a superhero, I know I’m not going to like your take.

    I read the preview in the Brave New World book and flipped through the first issue. Seeing Mary hospitalized after falling to nearly her death assured me that my prejudice on this book was probably right and I could save my $3 for something else.

    (I’m still waiting for that Jeff Smith Captain Marvel graphic novel – I really hope its still coming out at some point…)

  4. Bill D. Says:

    Only widespread continuity “fixes” like that never work, because they’re promptly ignored or misused by other writers.

    That reminds me of the post-COIE Rip Hunter revival series, Time Masters, and its incredibly convoluted rewriting of the rules of time travel in the DCU. Outside of that series, I don’t think those rules were ever mentioned again.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Bill, good comparison — I thought of that as well. I was also reminded of the recent Comics Journal interview with Bill Willingham, where he said he was supposed to fix something similar in whichever IC-tie-in miniseries he wrote, but he didn’t really have anything figured out.

  6. Rob Staeger Says:

    Wasn’t Michael Moorcock supposed to be involved in some way with reimagining magic in the DCU? I coudl swear I’ve heard that, but I haven’t seen his name on anything.

    As for Winnick, I’ve read interviews where he’s said that Captain Marvel is his favorite DC property; he’s a really big fan of the whole Marvel family. It makes me want to read his take, but the BNW preview and issue 1 left me much less interested than his enthusiasm would lead me to believe.

    I really wish he’d do more Barry Ween, though. Those were gems.

  7. George Says:

    Just about any time the current crop of creators like Winnick proclaim their longstanding affection for a property they’re about to write/are currently writing, I run and hide. There’s been such a spate of these creators missing the essential core qualities of concepts all the while trumpeting their fan-status for them that it makes me even more cynical than ever. Winnick’s worst work in the medium has been his super-hero stuff, too. I really wish he’d stick to things like Barry Ween, Frumpy, autobiographical storytelling, and even projects like Bite Club.

    Plus, yeah: they screwed with Mary. When’s enough enough, eh?




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