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

Wonder Woman #1

Reviews by KC Carlson

Following up the first half of the week…

Batman #1

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.

Batman #1

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

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

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

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

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

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