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

Reviews by KC Carlson

Following up the first half of the week…

Batman #1

Batman #1 cover

Upfront: Writer Scott Snyder is just coming off a fan-favorite run of Detective Comics. Penciller Greg Capullo has been drawing acclaim for his work at Image Comics — mostly on Spawn-related titles. And Bruce Wayne is Batman. Perhaps you heard about that.

I knew I was going to love this new Batman run when I saw “the building that looked like Batman” in just panel two of this story, setting the entire tone for this new look at Batman and his Gotham City (a character in itself). I loved the fake-out of the Joker teaming with Batman to bring down marauding Arkham Asylum crazies out for blood. I loved the scene with the three sane Robins in tuxes (although wondered about the empty Robin suit under glass in the Batcave — is Bruce not aware that Jason is back in this new DCU?). And loved Bruce Wayne taking an active role in Bat-stories again. I even loved seeing Vicki Vale (although whenever I see her now I always hear TV’s Chuck muttering “Vicki Vale… Vicki Vale” under his breath, just before he meets Sarah Walker in the pilot).

Great comic. Great writing. Great artwork. Great two-page spread of the new Batcave (or is it Bat-bunker these days?). Great detective work. Great cliffhanger mystery. Great great great.

This was like reading a classic Batman tale from the 1980s, updated to modern sensibilities. An excellent tone for the series that has had much craziness and instability over the past few years (although some wonderful individual stories).

More please.

Green Lantern Corps #1

Green Lantern Corps #1 cover

Upfront: I’m currently suffering from GL overkill. Have always liked the GL concepts (especially the aliens), but really wonder if the franchise actually needs four titles. But the franchise is “hot,” so…

Okay, we start with more gore and body parts. I’m not such a prude that I just hate gore for existing. In the right hands, it can be a very effective and evocative tool. What I dislike about its use in the New DC is that it emphasizes the “sheep” mentality of current comic book creators — they see it being used elsewhere, so they gotta do it, too, whether it’s appropriate to the storyline or not. It’s such a hack-based, cheap-thrill, shortcut-for-actual-storytelling thing to do. I wonder if DC is so desperate to amp up their villains that there are weekly memos to Editorial stating, “We need 35% more decapitations this week! Get on it!”

I don’t mean to dump this on writer Peter Tomasi — who I think is a better writer than to need this crutch — yet I see him going to the gore well over and over again. It made me drop the previous incarnation of the book, although I came back for the disappointing “War of the Green Lanterns” crossover. I disliked that much of that crossover focused on the four human Lanterns, but enough interesting things happened to them there that I was looking forward to finding out how they were going to deal with the choices they made in the new series.

Green Lantern Corps #1 started promisingly, with lots of background on John Stewart and Guy Gardner (the obvious focal points), but by the end — when they’re off on a major mission dealing with the seeming genocide of the planet Nerro — I realized that what I was hoping for was probably going to be pushed off for yet another major war/battle scenario.

Based on the fact that there was absolutely no space saved to deal with any of the other members of the Corps in this issue — they only show up on the next-to-last page — I am guessing that at least a few of them are going to end up as cannon fodder. That seems to be the current role of many of the non-humanoid GLs. I did catch the tiny detail that the Corps has now doubled in size to 7200. My first reaction: even more faceless alien GLs to kill off in the goriest way possible.

Artist Fernando Pasarin excels at the aliens and detailed backgrounds, but I wish he’d work a little bit harder on the panel-to-panel consistency of faces and a little less on the detail of what a severed finger looks like.

I’ll probably stick around for a bit because I like the GLC, but if the story doesn’t grab me quick, I’m gone. Also, I saw a number of GLs on the cover that I’d love to read more about — I’d love for someone to step up and redeem Arisia as a character after what has been done to her over the years — yet none of them are in this issue. Sometimes poster covers suck.

Nightwing #1

Nightwing #1 cover

Upfront: Glad he’s back. Dick as Batman just felt wrong — mostly for the character — so I was eagerly awaiting this title.

I wasn’t disappointed, but a little surprised, that the opening issue by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows was so low-key. But then, a getting-back-to-your-roots story was much needed to reset the character after a couple of years in the Bat-suit. I just didn’t expect that he’d go all the way back to his circus roots. (Quick nit-pick: How likely is it that there would be enough open space in downtown Gotham City to pitch a full-sized circus tent? Wouldn’t they just set up in Gotham’s version of Madison Square Garden?)

The book does an excellent job of transitioning Dick Grayson back to his former self as kind of anti-Batman (the Batman role never really suited him personality-wise), got him back in his regular element (bouncing and flipping across Gotham), and back in a welcome nod to an old M.O. — initially getting kind-of clobbered by a new bad guy and having to battle back from being behind. This showed a great understanding of what makes Dick Grayson/Nightwing such an interesting character.

It’s not a book designed to attract a huge amount of attention going in (like Justice League or Action), but the fact that Nightwing #1 is a good solid action comic lands it high in comparison to many of the other New 52 books.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Upfront: Hate the Red Hood character. Not much love for Speedy either, especially in recent years. And I don’t know who Starfire is any more.

Wow. I’m not even sure why this is a comic book at all. It’s so obvious that it’s Scott Lobdell’s screenplay for some gawdawful mash-up of uber-popular current film clichés (mindless action, slacker buddy comedy, exploitation of women, stylization of violence, etc.). In fact, it even reads like it’s shot in super slo-mo. (That is not a compliment.)

It’s so cold-blooded in its approach, it seems specifically designed by committee and targeted specifically to the media’s only focus group that matters anymore: white males aged 18 to 35 (although I would argue that DC actually wants that group younger, say 16-25). It’s soulless. And I’m not surprised that adolescent boys (or the adolescent-minded) are loving this title. It’s designed for them. At least there are 51 other DC titles that may be of more interest to the rest of us.

There’s already been lots of digital “ink” spilled over the portrayal of Starfire here. (Yes, I broke my rule of checking out other comments before writing mine on this title. And quickly regretted it.) I really enjoyed the thoughtful commentary of Laura Hudson over at Comics Alliance although many of the now-over-1,800 comments made me sad. Or angry. Or stupefied.

I think that something’s gone horribly wrong when a book like this is only rated T (for teen). Granted, there are no actual bad words or actual shagging (although much implied), but the fact that this comic can get into the hands of impressionable 14-16-year-old boys, who might think that this is how men are supposed to think about women, is worse than the comic itself. Not that anybody who worked on the comic would realize that.

Also: points off for the logo that implies that this book is part of the Bat-Family group of titles. Red Hood and the Outlaws is not fit for any family.

I really enjoyed the artwork of Kenneth Rocafort, although I don’t always understand his super-stylistic approach (especially hair that looks like wire). Too bad I won’t be seeing more of it — at least until he’s drawing another title.

Supergirl #1

Supergirl #1 cover

Upfront: I was really enjoying the Sterling Gates/Jamal Igle run on this book, until DC decided that they were too “quiet” for the character and replaced them. (Also enjoyed the recent Kelly Sue DeConnick-scripted tale.) The modern Supergirl series has been a unsatisfying jumble of half-baked ideas and co-opting of the character for larger storylines. So I was thinking that a re-launch might be a good thing for the title.

Boy, was I wrong. Well, maybe the book could have used a fresh start, but this seems a strange way to go. Although, to be fair, there is not a lot to go on here, as it’s another unsatisfying DC #1 that doesn’t even come close to letting us know what’s going on — or even offering up enough tantalizing mystery to force us to come back.

Supergirl has had a lot of not-so-great costumes over the years, and this issue introduces another one for that particular Hall of Shame, with a too-often repeated S-shield motif — one of which cries out “Hey! Look at my crotch!” — and the most ridiculous boots ever (cut-outs for the knees?). Laughed out loud at the “Mother would kill me” for wearing this outfit line in the story — but not because it looks like fetish wear on a teenager. She’d be mad that she was wearing this military-style costume before she actually graduated. So, what kind of kinky military does this new Krypton have anyway?

The rest of the issue is all fight scenes with giant robots “falling from the sky” so that Supergirl can discover her new powers and cut lose without hurting anybody — except she discovers that the robots actually have on-board human operators. Before she can deal with that, costumed Superman shows up. To Be Continued.

New Kryptonian math: 20 pages of badly drawn robot fight scenes – (no) story = No sale. And not worth the complicated credits: Two writers (Michael Green and Mike Johnson), a penciller/inker (Mahmud Asrar), and an additional inker (Dan Green).

Better luck with the next Supergirl. #42 in the series.

Wonder Woman #1

Wonder Woman #1 cover

Upfront: DC’s most frustrating character gets yet another makeover. Frustrating in the sense that there have been so many interpretations of the character over many long years, and none of them ever seem to stick or last long. Even more frustrating, when the book is actually perceived as being good, often sales do not match the perception.

This is a very good comic. It’s produced by two modern masters of the field: writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang.

Azzarello is best known for his work on 100 Bullets, Hellblazer, Loveless, and various Batman and Superman storylines (Joker, For Tomorrow). Cliff Chiang has illustrated Human Target, The Creeper, The Spectre, and Green Arrow/Black Canary. The two collaborated on a eight-part Dr. Thirteen back-up in Tales of the Unexpected, collected under the title of Architecture & Mortality — a much-heralded deconstruction (or is it?) of the DC Universe (and possibly of comics itself). In the wake of the New 52, perhaps it’s time to pull that out again for re-reading — in a whole new context.

So it is with some anticipation that they come to Wonder Woman. And for many they won’t disappoint.

The big bad is a mysterious hedonistic type who drugs and uses party girls as quasi-oracles before burning them to a crisp in the process. What I thought was a typo on page 1 (“I’m the sun of a king”) I now think is a clue: The god of the Sun is Apollo, who just happens to be the son of Zeus, and the twin brother of Artemis — two long-time supporting characters in the Wonder Woman mythos. And the Oracle of Delphi was originally inspired by Apollo. So that’s my guess, although on first reading I thought the character might be the son of Darkseid for some reason. He’s certainly cruel enough.

This interpretation of Wonder Woman may be unique in that it appears to have much of its basis in horror. Besides people being burned up, there are animal mutilations (and creepy aftermaths) and much violence and blood. Which is actually not that far removed from the backgrounds of the characters being actual gods and goddesses, since those original myths are quite bloody and brutal. In a more ordered comic book world, Wonder Woman might be better served as a traditional comics barbarian or sword & sorcery character than as a superhero, although she’s rarely been portrayed that way before. It’s an interesting — and gutsy — approach for the creators to take. And it might be a hard sell for traditional superhero fans who only think of Diana and company in that light.

I probably fall in that category. For now, it’s in my “Not My Thing, But You May Like It” category. Unlike other books that I’ve put under that heading, I’m continuing with this one, based on the strength of the creators and their outstanding track record. That several framed Cliff Chiang prints can be located around our house may also have something to do with it. Man, that guy can draw!

I’m kinda creeped out by this book right now — which will probably make this even more appealing for many of you — but I am hoping the gore will be served up in small doses. These creators don’t need it as a crutch to tell great stories. I’m sticking around to find out.

Weekly Wrap-up Scorecard

Top Notch: Batman

Back for More: Nightwing

On the Fence: Green Lantern Corps

Not My Thing, But You Might Like It: Wonder Woman (but still buying it)

I’m Probably Done: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Supergirl


11 Responses to “The DC New 52: Reviews of the Rest of the Week Four Books”

  1. Ed Howard Says:

    Batman was definitely lots of fun, and Red Hood was definitely utter trash. Adolescent in the worst possible ways.

    I thought Green Lantern Corps was pretty fun as just a lightweight action book; not much substance to it but it promises mindless space-faring adventure and some likeable characters – though I see your point about the alien Lanterns unfortunately remaining anonymous, and I hope they get fleshed out some more in the next few issues. Assuming we do get some characterization of the others in subsequent issues, I prefer that approach over the first-issue infodumps of some of the other books with big rosters and long histories. It’s not a series I’m super excited about, but I’m willing to stick around a few issues to see if it’s satisfying past the first issue. The art was much better for the aliens and space stuff than the Earth stuff, so it’s probably good that they seem to be leaving Earth behind now.

    Supergirl was OK, in a similar vein, but nothing amazing either. I certainly won’t argue too much with anyone who found it boring, but the art was nice enough and I liked the inner monologue and the fact that she’s slowly coming to terms with this not being a dream. Again, I’ll give it a few issues.

    I like Dick Grayson, but Nightwing was pretty boring.

    But Wonder Woman was amazing. That’s my second favorite book of the relaunch so far, topped only by Animal Man. Just really amazing stuff: dark and gory, but also fun and lively, so it’s not just wallowing in the gore and horror. I thought it was a blast and I really loved that balancing of tones. It’s such a perfect slant on the character: as you say, it initially seems counterintuitive considering the usual treatment of WW, but it actually fits perfectly with the bloody myths that serve as her foundation. This is one I was looking forward to and it even exceeded my high expectations.

  2. Westfield Comics Blog » Link Blogging: KC reviews DC’s New 52 week 4, part 2 Says:

    [...] Regular Westfield contributor KC Carlson continues his reviews of DC’s New 52 at Comics Worth Reading. This time, he concludes his look at the Week 4 books including Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern Corps. Check them out here. [...]

  3. Kenn Says:

    I totally agree about Batman! Right up there with Action for me! I liked Nightwing a tad more than you did, mostly because I really tried reading it from a new reader perspective, and it worked terrifically under those conditions. I have to re-read Wonder Woman. I’m one of the very few that don’t like the art. Not impressed with Supergirl (Didn’t DC put any thought into the order in which these were being released? Why have Superman appear here and in JL before Superman #1 debuts, especially as he’s different than the Action character?), as there was no actual story. And creeped out by Red Hood et al. Not at all a way to get me interested in Lobdell’s Teen Titans. A woman who wants random sex with guys whom she’s not going to recall with any specificity afterward because she’s ALIEN (but not too alien to want to hook up with us humans, don’t you know?)and because Lobdell apparently likes the idea of every time with Starfire being the first time. Takes the pressure off a guy if he’s never going to be compared to anyone else. Yuck.

  4. James Schee Says:

    Agreed on Batman, I haven’t read much by Snyder but he seems to really get it. Loved the varying voices, and the mystery is really good. I too thought of Chuck when I saw Vicki lol!

    I was surprised by GLC, it was a little surprising to see Guy & John back on Earth though I guess it was done in a way to show that they don’t fit there anymore. It looks like it could be a good buddy cop show type of comic.

    Higgens has said on twitter that he was a big fan of the Dixon Nightwing run, especially the first few years worth. It showed here as we get back to what made Nightwing & Dick Grayson just such a fun character read about.

    I honestly feel people are giving Red Hood more attention than the book deserves. Its a train wreck of a book, that I don’t expect to last past 6 issues as there doesn’t seem to be a point for these characters to be together. Its a book that probably would be ignored but with the attention now, will probably get those fans who aren’t old enough (or brave enough) to buy Playboy to check out.

    I liked Supergirl slightly better than you did. For good or ill strange costumes have been a part of superheroes forever. I thought the first issue was light in terms of story, but like the basic premise of a girl from elsewhere on Earth.

    I’ll get the next issue to see what she and Superman discuss, though if he offers to put her in an orphanage, than I understand the punch on #2’s cover clearly.:)

    This is the first time I’ve ever found the Greek Gods interesting in Wonder Woman, so it has me liking the book. Before they were just boring or had shallow portrayals (except for Ares) so good to see them apparently setting up Diana to be our shield against them.

  5. Thad Says:

    “I really enjoyed the thoughtful commentary of Laura Hudson over at Comics Alliance although many of the now-over-1,800 comments made me sad. Or angry. Or stupefied.”

    Don’t let that be the takeaway from the thread — that’s what the trolls WANT you to do.

    There were literally hundreds of positive, supportive responses before a half-dozen or so people showed up to repeat the same vitriolic criticisms over and over again. Focus on the positive — and I sincerely hope Laura does too.

  6. James Moar Says:

    “I did catch the tiny detail that the Corps has now doubled in size to 7200.”

    That’s part of the run that predates the reboot. It’s two per sector now.

  7. Anthony Says:

    I only read “Red Hood” (and “Catwoman”) just to see if it was as bad as the complaining merits. Which it did… ick. Granted, not a fan or follower of Red Hood (didn’t follow the whole “Jason Todd back from the dead/whatever and taking up what I always thought of as ‘Joker’s pre-Joker identity'” thing, or whatever), so this was my first real exposure to the guy. Still, Red Hood felt a lot like some Deadpool-knockoff to me…

    That said, this book was garbage… did anyone at DC watch their own corporate cousins’ “Teen Titans” cartoon (to get an idea what new readers from the general public will imagine Starfire as being like)?

  8. Jason Says:

    ” And I’m not surprised that adolescent boys (or the adolescent-minded) are loving this title. It’s designed for them. At least there are 51 other DC titles that may be of more interest to the rest of us.”

    I love how critics (in particular those who have been discussing the new 52) are desperately trying to shame anyone who might like what they don’t by associating them or subtly implying they’re some sort of socially stunted basement dwelling fanboy. This kind of nonsense is happening more and more and it’s really kind of sad. They tried it with Catwoman as well and now there is a growing backlash developing as a result as more and more comic blogs are “coming out“ with critics on record as actually (gasp) liking it.

    I’ve personally enjoyed very few of the new 52. Resurrection Man, Demon Knights, Action, Captain Atom. I didn’t care for Red Hood a whole lot but if I knew someone who did, or someone who liked anything I didn’t like I doubt I would try to guilt them or shame them or subtly insult them. Because you know, that would make me look like a complete tool. Just like you look. That’s really more pathetic than the people whom you think might like Red Hood or Catwoman or Batgirl or whatever else.

    Now, please feel free to continue looking down your nose at those great unwashed masses, those poor, tasteless, uneducated slobs who don’t know any better who might make the unfortunate mistake of liking something you don’t. We now return you to the pretentiousness, childish hyperbole, hypocrisy and feigned indignation, all ready in progress.

  9. kiwijohn Says:

    It is unfortunate to hear about the gore factor in the GL Corps comic. I first read work by Tomasi with his excellent writing on Hourman, so I know he is certainly capable of good writing and without any gore factor either. Hourman not withstanding though, I’ve never been sufficently interested in any of the other DC titles he has written, from the sounds of GL Corps I probably haven’t missed much.
    As a slight tangent, I thought DnA’s writing of Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy showed how a “galactic police corps” (in this case the Nova Corps and the Guardians)could be written well. It seems DC would like their ‘space’ titles to get the same buzz, but their approach is probably too editorial committee driven and GL much too well-known to let any writer have their head with the characters (Jim Starlin notwithstanding :-)).

  10. Patrick Says:

    I’m surprised so many people didn’t like Red Hood, it was my favorite of the launch. I don’t think your supposed to like the characters, though I found them easy to relate to. Their sexual attitudes (both men and women) remind me of myself and friends when we were in our 20’s. When often traded off girls in the manner shown, though I never though it was degrading being that the girls we knew were much the same. Perhaps the bulk of the readership weren’t as fortunate as I was sexually but that’s what draws me to the book. On top of the action and fantastic art I feel there is fantastic room to explore these dynamics, both there sexual attitudes growing from quick gratification to genuine emotions for one another, complete with all the trappings of jealousy and hurt. I’d imagine that this will be forged by the present violence in the book destroying their feelings of invincibility which is another theme having to do with the bubble that is college bursting as they discover real life. The short is I feel a lot of people missed the point of this book.

  11. Aldonn Says:

    Vicki vale, Vicki Vicki vale. I totally did the same thing when I read the batman book. So funny, just the one random line from chuck’s pilot has stuck with me this whole time.




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