The DC New 52: Reviews of Some of the Week Four Books
Reviews by KC Carlson
Birds of Prey #1
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
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
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.
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
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
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.