The DC New 52: Reviews of Some of the Week Four Books

Reviews by KC Carlson

Birds of Prey #1

Birds of Prey #1 cover

Upfront: One of my favorite “modern” DC concepts, going way back to its Gorf/Chuck Dixon origins. Have mostly enjoyed every issue of of all the various BoP series.

If you’re a Birds of Prey fan, run like the wind away from this. It’s Birds of Prey in name only.

Although it promises four characters on the cover, only two appear inside — Black Canary and a character named Starling, who’s supposed to be mysterious, but already I don’t care who she is. (Should I really care about somebody who spouts dialogue like “Who does a bitch have to cut to get some service around here?”) I guess the re-designed Poison Ivy and Katana will be showing up later — will anyone still be here to read that?

The Birds are now criminals — I think — Duane Swierczynski’s script is a mess. A quickie appearance of a non-handicapped Barbara Gordon indicates that Black Canary is wanted for murder (apparently wrongly accused), and Babs offers up Katana as a possible future Bird. There are also some meaningless fights with faceless guys. At this point, my brain gave up reading for meaning (there is none) and sped to the end where we see a reporter explode — just before my brain did.

Jesus Saiz’s art is remarkably inconsistent throughout. Black Canary usually looks like the mature woman we know her to be, but in other panels, she looks like a scared teenager.

Very sad. Birds of Prey used to be such an amazing concept. This is hash. Undercooked hash.

Blue Beetle #1

Blue Beetle #1 cover

Upfront: Although I’m a Ted Cord fan, he’s gone. Jamie has grown on me, and I’d really like for this version of the character to succeed.

Normally, I’d use Jamie’s full name above, but since it isn’t mentioned anywhere in this first issue, I’m not really sure what it is. (Since this is reintroducing the character, one shouldn’t assume that he has the same name as the previous version.) It’s a very bad editing mistake not to properly identify your lead character in a first issue — especially when minor characters are properly identified.

Such is the slap-dash feeling of much of this issue, which features a re-telling (with different details, so it’s not so connected to Infinite Crisis) of the origin of this new Blue Beetle. Because Jamie as Beetle only appears on the last page of the issue, the issue feels very unsatisfying.

We do get a lot of background on Jamie, however, meeting his friends, rivals, and parents. But this is a comic that cries out for a dedicated text page, as Tony Bedard has written his dialogue in Spanglish (a mixture of English and Spanish phrases). While this is completely appropriate for the characters, English-only readers may have a tough time with some of the untranslated Spanish (or at least be momentarily — and repeatedly — “taken out of the story” while trying to figure out what is being said). An accompanying list of common Spanish phrases would certainly be helpful.

Ig Guara’s artwork is very expressive for the human characters in this issue, slightly less so on the aliens in the opening scene, and still-to-be-determined on the Blue Beetle action — although he does a cool “alien” Beetle.

I’m on the fence on this one. I really want this character to succeed, but I felt that this issue was just a single when a home run was really needed. That could still happen later, but I’m starting to tire of the New DC’s penchant for delayed gratification. Too many of these first issues aren’t offering enough. That’s especially bad, since DC inadvertently provided a natural “stopping point” for readers with the New 52 along with the “fresh start” they were hoping for.

Captain Atom #1

Captain Atom #1 cover

Upfront: Very much enjoyed the Cary Bates-written Captain Atom series — which is now about 20 years old. It seems that the character has been floundering ever since, save for his on-again, off-again membership in the Justice League.

More floundering. I don’t see anything here in this series by J.T. Krul and Freddie Williams II to change my mind. The cliffhanger ending of the character seemingly dying makes me think that he’s somehow going to be re-created in the next issue — but this issue was so pedestrian and lackluster that I’m not excited enough to come back for more. Some nice artwork by Williams, but there’s no there there in this book.

Catwoman #1

Catwoman #1 cover

Upfront: Have enjoyed most of the previous Catwoman series and have been impressed with the growth of the character over the last several years.

This, however, is a giant step backwards for the character. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the last scene in the book. I kinda think that reading it was the comic book equivalent of accidentally walking into the room where your parents are doing it. Ew. Way to completely cheapen the really powerful relationship that had been developed between Bruce and Selina in the last several years.

Further, the old Selina wouldn’t have put her lingerie and other objects before the safety of her cats (opening scene), which makes me think that writer Judd Winick hasn’t a clue to what was interesting about Selina in the past. He seems more interested in developing a new, not-confident, scared-to-the-point-of-unwarrented-violence, and bimboesque Salina for the New DCU. There was a certain inner strength to Selina being able to overcome her past and becoming a character who was Batman’s equal in many ways. Now, that’s gone.

But then again, there was that Jim Balent run of Catwoman several years back, where her breasts were bigger than her head. Apparently, that’s what the New DC wants Catwoman to be, so we’re back to that. Ew. Not me. I’m out. Guillem March’s art is well-done (although weirdly colored), but I’m not particularly interested in what he is drawing here.

Sadly, more bimbos to come. Like last week’s recurring inadvertent mayhem on airplanes scenes (ideal for for potential screenplays!), this week’s DC “theme” appears to be women as sex objects.

DC Universe Presents #1

DC Universe Presents #1

Upfront: Always had a soft spot for Deadman, since the early Strange Adventures days. One of the first projects I “edited” (as an assistant) was the Mike Baron/Kelley Jones version of the character.

I liked this. I thought it was a lot like the early Deadman tales from Strange Adventures, which revolved around the problems of unrelated strangers, before most creators took him into doing strictly supernatural stories. Writer Paul Jenkins excels at stories about “ordinary” people — I loved his series of Peter Parker and Uncle Ben stories for Marvel — and this is the perfect place to show off that talent.

Here, Deadman attempts to help a wounded Gulf War vet, only to find that he has no idea how to help. So he uses his power of taking over other people’s bodies to contact an old friend from the circus who might be able to assist. He ends up just freaking her out, which lead to a powerful two-page “flashback” sequence of just how difficult Deadman’s life-after-death has been — which in turn leads Deadman to an extreme solution of how to help the troubled soldier. It’s a cliffhanger, but one that makes me want to come back for the next issue.

I’m not always a fan of Bernard Chang’s often moody artwork, but it’s entirely appropriate — and highly effective — here.

Total aside: I was excited about the return of the classic DC Comics Presents title — but then I started to think about it some more. It seems like a fair number of the New 52 books may end up as six-issue miniseries. So why set up a anthology title with only one feature rather than just publishing a Deadman mini? Then I remembered that, from time-to-time back when I was editing for DC, occasionally there would be requests for us to try to do something with an old DC trademark that was was going to expire unless used shortly — and could we help out? So that’s why you’d see things like “Mystery In Space” or “Strange Adventures” used as story titles or parts of cover copy (sometimes actually using the old logos). There’s your “behind-the-scenes” bit for today. Not certain if this is the case with DC Comics Presents… but it got me thinkin’.

Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Legion of Super-Heroes #1 cover

Upfront: As before, one of my favorite DC concepts/series. Edited it myself for a while.

I’ve now officially lost count on how many “fresh starts” (don’t say “reboot”) the Legion has had over a long publishing history. It seems like quite a few in just the last few years. I hope this one sticks for a while, just for the stability.

I didn’t expect this to be a done-in-one issue, as writer Paul Levitz’s specialty is multi-part epics, yet Paul does a great job in filling us in on what has happened “between issues” — quite a bit, as it turns out. The Legion was another relaunch series that had been described as not changing too much from its previous incarnation, and that’s true, as this issue updates the previous series, the Legion Academy series in Adventure Comics, as well as last week’s Legion Lost debut. Paul’s an old hand at juggling huge amounts of essential information, and here, it’s seamlessly woven into the beginnings of a new action adventure.

Actually, more has changed than I was expecting. There’s been a big flux in the membership between issues, including the Academy members being brought in, with Dragonwing being given a featured role. Other characters’ statuses have changed between issues — but not Mon-El, who is still Legion Leader. Only bad thing: Because of Flashpoint, there is no more time travel between the Legion and the past — so no more Superman appearances (for now). This is one of those arbitrary “because I said so” things that make no sense on the face of it, so I suspect that it’s not Levitz who made that ruling.

I’m not initially crazy about the art by Francis Portela, which seems much too detailed (backgrounds) for a book with a cast of hundreds, but hopefully, he’ll calm down a little in an issue or two. One thing I’m not entirely sure about in the series so far is the relative age of the characters. I’ve always looked at the Legion with the “teenagers in the future” perception that was the original concept. But over Levitz’s long original runs of the strip, he gradually aged the characters into young adulthood. That’s what I suspect here, especially since Portella draws most of them as well-developed and older.

Legion of Super-Heroes: good before, still good now. It will be interesting to see how this new Legion will do in attracting new readers (the ultimate goal of the New 52), as Levitz has not dumbed the concept down for beginners at all. As always, being a hardcore Legion fan is not for the weak.

Weekly Wrap-up Scorecard

Top Notch: None

Back for More: DC Comics Presents, Legion of Super-Heroes

On the Fence: Blue Beetle

Not My Thing, But You Might Like It: None

I’m Probably Done: Birds of Prey, Captain Atom, Catwoman

The rest — first thing on Monday. Sorry for the slight delay. I’m dealing with minor — but time-consuming — fallout from my recent (not serious) car accident and (not related) extensive dental work this week. Ow.

19 Responses to “The DC New 52: Reviews of Some of the Week Four Books”

  1. Johanna Says:

    I couldn’t finish Captain Atom. No reason to care about any of the characters. Couldn’t finish Catwoman, either, for the obvious reasons that have already been talked about. It’s the kind of book that justifies every negative stereotype people have about comic readers being overgrown adolescent boys who can’t cope with real women.

    Birds of Prey could be fun action, but too much “you WILL like my new character” authorial insertion turns me off. (Really? A comment box that has a character say “Can’t help but like her.” ?) Not to mention how everyone in the book is interchangeable.

    LSH — wait, Dragonwing’s a girl now? Wasn’t that, back in the Zero Hour days, the same name used for that kid in the dragon costume who wanted to be a Karate Kid replacement? I don’t think I’m still as much of a fan of this as you are, KC, because I see these collections of 2- and 3-page scenes jumping from character to character, and there isn’t enough meat there for me to care. I just don’t get any connection to the gang any more.

    Reading this batch all at once, my main thought is that all of these comics have way too many caption boxes.

  2. Ed Howard Says:

    I agree on most of these – most of the titles you’re reviewing here I thought were pretty weak in general. The art in Captain Atom was actually really nice, very distinctive and idiosyncratic, but everything else about the issue was disappointing, from the silliness of the concepts and writing to the fact that so much of the characterization is cribbed from Alan Moore’s Watchmen. I liked looking at it, but not reading it.

    Blue Beetle, Birds of Prey, DC Universe Deadman and Legion were all disposable and boring to me. It sounds like you have a long history of reading Legion comics, so I guess that helps, but to me, who hasn’t read about these characters before, that issue was utterly empty of anything to make me want to come back. The whole thing reads like a series of one-or-two-panel introductions for 30+ cardboard cutout alien characters, with no sense for why I should give a damn about any of them.

    On the other hand, I thought that within its parameters, Catwoman was pretty fun. Yeah, it’s trashy and dumb and kind of sleazy, but it knows it and embraces it, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. The cheesecakey art style is really good, and it was funny and entertaining, which was about all it aspired to. There’s certainly room for a more substantial take on this character, but for a pure silly sugar high this is a fine book.

    You haven’t gotten to my 2 favorites from the week, though: Wonder Woman and Batman.

  3. Paul Says:

    I hope Blue Beetle picks up. I liked how he worked as part of a legacy character and a hero on his own. Plus, scenes of Hispanic families in comics.

    Blue Beetle is Jaime (Hi-meh) Reyes.

  4. taichara Says:

    LSH — wait, Dragonwing’s a girl now? Wasn’t that, back in the Zero Hour days, the same name used for that kid in the dragon costume who wanted to be a Karate Kid replacement?

    Dragonmage was the kid in the v4 volume who slung spells, wore a green-and-black costume with a dragon motif. Myg/Karate Kid II followed after Karate Kid.

    If there’s a character somewhere in the middle that was a previous Dragonwing, I’ve lost them in the shuffle *sheepish grin*

  5. Jeff Says:

    Profoundly disappointed by the entire 52. So far, only two titles merit buying again (Swamp Thing and Animal Man) and one I’m on the fence about (Superman). I may pick up a few more based on positive reviews, but I’m pretty much done.

    I’m an old school comic reader and haven’t bought a new DC Comic since about 1988, and was looking at this as a way to return, but the characters I grew up have become alien and the content doesn’t justify the price.

    Thank you DC, but I’ll stick with my large collections of pre-1990 comics.

  6. Westfield Comics Blog » Link Blogging: KC reviews DC’s New 52 week 4, part 1 Says:

    […] Westfield contributor KC Carlson continues his reviews of DC’s New 52 at Comics Worth Reading. This time he looks at some of the books from week four including Birds of Prey #1, DC Universe […]

  7. Jesse Says:

    Of the books that have been released I’m sticking with OMAC, Red Lanterns, and Animal Man. I’ll keep trying Swamp Thing, but I found the first issue to be boring. Week three has pretty much been a big whiff.

  8. Jesse Says:

    Sorry, by week three I meant week four.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Ed H, I don’t blame you feeling that way about the Legion. I felt a little bit of that, and I supposedly knew who the heroes were. (Although not Dragonmage, thank you taichara.) I can see where someone would find Catwoman sleazy fun, but I also think I would be more amenable to that approach if there were more female-led books that weren’t pitching the same way.

    Paul, I second your statement about Blue Beetle entirely. I was hoping for more of that here — because how many second chances is the book going to get?

    And Jesse, it’s a perfectly natural confusion, since week 1 had all of one book.

  10. James Schee Says:

    Odd I liked Birds of Prey, I thought it wa nice kitchy action starring women doing stuff not there to be looked at as in so many other books.

    Catwoman Was SO bad and over the top that I almost wonder if it was meant to be a farce which might have been fun. Then that last page just weirded me out.

    I’ve always wanted to like Captain Atom & I’m finally willing to give BB a chance. Yet first issues just seemed rather empty.

    I didn’t read the Deadman story as that’s a character I feel has a deadend

  11. James Schee Says:

    Darn it went through for some reason. I haven’t read LSH yet, I haven’t been too enthused by Levitz’s talk in interviews of focusing on the younger characters. As long as Levitz’s is writing it, it just needs to embrace what it is a book for long time DC fans.

    I’ll be curious to see what you make of Batman, Wonder Woman and Nightwing which I thought were strong.

  12. Johanna Says:

    I’m glad to hear that there are some good ones coming.

  13. Rob Barrett Says:

    I loved Blue Beetle–of all the New 52s, it’s the only one that really functions as a straightforward origin story. Sure, Jaime only shows up in the armor on the last page, but that’s positively light-speed fast in an era of decompression. (Look at all the complaints about Miles Morales’ intro in the new Ultimate Spider-Man, a good book that ends on a similar note but doesn’t have the advantages of all the plot stuff that takes place in Blue Beetle.) The writing is certainly the best I’ve seen from Tony Bedard in a long, long while.

    P. S. I also note that Bedard has wisely left open a very long period of time in which the scarab is available for Dan Garrett and Ted Kord should he ever want to introduce them again as Blue Beetles. It’s a nice way of closing no doors in advance while still benefitting from ignoring what’s come before to just let Jaime’s story stand on his own.

  14. Paul Cornsack Says:

    How come you guys never review CHEW?

  15. Johanna Says:

    Last time I sampled Chew, I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep buying it, and Image doesn’t send me review copies. It seems kind of gross for me, too, since I’m squeamish. It strikes me that I might like it in bigger chunks (as with a collection), but it’s been going long enough that I’m not sure I could jump in now.

  16. William George Says:

    ” It strikes me that I might like it in bigger chunks…”

    I see what you did there.

  17. Johanna Says:

    Ooops! Not intentionally. :)

  18. Kenn Says:

    I wasn’t too thrilled with any of these, and agree with your reviews. I LIKED the Balent Catwoman! OK,not so much the art, but a LOT of the writing was terrific! I’ve never liked Winick, though, and he lived down to my expectations. I actually found the worst change to be the loss of Selina’s knowledge that Bats is Bruce Wayne. That fact went a long way toward making their previous relations more of an equal, adult pairing. Now not so much.

  19. The DC New 52: Reviews of the Rest of the Week Four Books » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] up the first half of the […]




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