Birds of Prey #1
Like Justice League, Birds of Prey features an entire team on its cover, but only two members in the story itself, and therein lies the problem. I liked what Duane Swierczynski did on Immortal Iron Fist, but like this issue, his plots are paced a little slowly. The issue itself moves at a good clip thanks to well-choreographed action scenes by Jesus Saiz, but that's just incident. The PLOT is moving at a crawl. How long before we get a full team up and running? Black Canary is assembling that new team, which Batgirl won't join. Katana rates a mention. The only partner she's found to date is Starling, a new character who's something of a wild girl. Not unpleasant, though details are sparse. We're a far cry from the heroine showcase the book had grown into since its origins as a Black Canary/Oracle book. As with many New52 books, the book lacks strong villains, pitting its heroines against henchmen in camo-armor that make them nearly invisible. The who and the why remains nebulous. Don't get me wrong, I liked it well enough, but as an introduction to these characters, it left me wanting more.
Don't call it a reboot: Ambiguous, but it looks like there have never been Birds of Prey before, and Barbara Gordon may never have been Oracle at all (makes sense since she got her start working for the Suicide Squad, which has been rebooted).
Upgrade? I wasn't reading Birds of Prey regularly, but I didn't get the feeling it needed to go back to square one. So it's a downgrade as far as I'm concerned, but not a drastic one.
Will read? I like Swierczynski and Saiz enough to follow them through the first arc, and hopefully the story'll pick up.
Recommended? New readers can get in on the ground floor, and it's definitely one of the more solid heroine books DC's putting out (as opposed to, say, Supergirl and Catwoman). Slow to start, waiting for the trade (as with Justice League) may be indicated.
Blue Beetle #1
Another franchise that hardly needed to be rebooted completely, I feel like Tony Bedard' re-origin of the Blue Beetle will retread already exhausted ground. BB's former series was all about a teenager finding a way to juggle life and superheroics. Having him start over means it has to happen all over again. Not to say, Bedard doesn't write a compelling superhero story here. The alien scarab that turns its bonded wearer into a weapon gets a prologue that ties it to the rest of the DCU via an appearance by a Green Lantern, and we catch a glimpse of its former wearer. He's kept Jaime's supporting cast around, and it was one of the former series' strengths. And for once, a writer uses recognizable DCU supervillains (the Brotherhood of Evil) as a plot element. I sometimes feel like Jim Lee and co. spent all their time redesigning the heroes, they completely forgot about the villains. All that, and Ig Guara's art, make this a solid superhero effort. But couldn't the very same story be told a little later in Jaime's life, introducing his origin in flashback and allowing him to have grown somewhat in the role? Even the Brave and the Bold cartoon - ostensibly the impetus for giving him a series again - made him an ESTABLISHED rookie. I'm just afraid the book'll come off as redundant.
Don't call it a reboot: It is, even if there wasn't all that much to reboot.
Upgrade? It looks pretty much the same, except they've erased all his stories and made him start over. Small step down, then.
Will read? Bedard proved himself on "cosmic" comics like Green Lantern Corps and REBELS, though he had a tendency to drag out story lines. Will he bring in Blue Beetles from space? Could be an interesting angle. I'll support this book for now, but I've got an exit strategy.
Recommended? If you've never read a Blue Beetle comic, then it's new to you, and it's not bad at all.
Captain Atom #1
J.T. Krul probably did the right thing by not only rebooting Captain Atom entirely, but also bringing him closer to his derived cousin Dr. Manhattan. Perhaps it can attract Watchman fans, and besides, the character had been abused so much, he was just starting to get usable again. I fear some redundancy because Captain Atom's been given matter-manipulation powers and that's Firestorm's bag. It also brings the character very close to Jim Shooter's Solar, though that shouldn't matter to potential new readers. I'm not a fan of J.T. Krul, but I do like his reinvention of the character. Dr. Megala is involved (no General Eiling as yet) and the Captain's powers are still a new and undefined force (even to us, because they're clearly not as they were). The fluid, moody art by Freddie Williams II strikes me as halfway between Frank Miller's and Michael T. Gilbert's, giving the book a distinct and stylish look. The style almost positions the title in the DC Dark sub-line. I still don't know what to make of the mysterious happenings on both sides of the United States, but I figure Captain Atom's existence is causing reality to break down at the quantum level. Again, that's not unlike Solar Man of the Atom (if it's true), but I'll be at least interested to see where it's going.
Don't call it a reboot: There's no indication that any previous story about Captain Atom has survived the new continuity.
Upgrade? For all my affection for the original Bates/Broderick series, there's no denying that Captain Atom has been broken for a good while now. The only way to redeem the character at this point is to reboot him.
Will read? I've been
Recommended? Doc Manhattan being in the zeitgeist could help this series get some traction and I do recommend it for its "science gone wrong" elements. It's got real potential (I'm as surprised as you are).
DC Universe Presents #1
DCUP is going to be an anthology series à la Showcase, sticking to characters for the length of a single arc. Good for the trade paperback business, but not necessarily enticing to that vaunted new reader pool. Deadman's at least appeared in Brave and the Bold on TV, so it might attract the curious. Paul Jenkins writes a fairly good story, re-introducing the character's origin and giving his mission the familiar feel of Quantum Leap. I don't think he quite earns his cliffhanger, because we barely see what one of these karmic missions is supposed to be like. What we do get is a lot of narration, and Rama's pretentious zen claptrap. I didn't really dislike it, but I did feel a little bored, and I met such sights as the stripper or the Iraq veteran who wears his helmet into town with a raise eyebrow. The last few pages almost redeem the issue, but you do have to read the first 15 to get there. Bernard Chang's art is good though, unless he's responsible for my raised eyebrows, in which case he's just weird. Not sure how the story connects to Boston Brand's appearances in Hawk & Dove either.
Don't call it a reboot: It's the start of his career and some details were changed, but Deadman's still recognizable.
Upgrade? Not really.
Will read? DCUP may have features I like better down the road, but Jenkins' Deadman left me cold. I'm in for a second issue, but it's got to grab me.
Recommended? Hard one. Just because I found it a little dull doesn't mean everyone will think the same. Since this will be arc-based though, I recommend waiting for the trade on every arc. That way, you can check on the buzz before you spend your first dollar.
Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Let's get this out first: There's no way the Legion could stand another reboot right now. It's been rebooted so many times, it's become a running gag and a major gripe with fans. Paul Levitz doesn't do that here. What he ALSO fails to do is provide a true jumping-on point for new readers. The Legion is a huge team of super-heroes who operate a thousand years from now. It's not just about getting to know them, but about being introduced to their world. None of that happens here, and even current readers need to catch up with changes that have occurred off-panel, like the Academy kids having joined and the Legion reeling from having Lost some members. We even jump into an espionage squad mission in medias res (a mission that makes some Legionnaires get out of costume). New readers will have it harder, trying to figure out who the recently dead Legionnaire is and why they're being shown a scene about him, or having to google what Dominators and Durlans are. Francis Portela's art isn't a big help, as I dislike his stiff waxen figures and overwhelming background detail. And why the HELL is there a sniper on the cover?!
Don't call it a reboot: It flows right from Adventure Comics and the previous LSH volume.
Upgrade? Nothing's changed.
Will read? I'm a Legion fan and was following it before.
Recommended? I just can't. Levitz makes no effort to introduce the 31st century and his huge cast to new readers. For hardened Legion fans only.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1
The other book that's been making waves about its sexual politics (in addition to Catwoman), Red Hood and the Outlaws features a sex kitten version of Starfire that's essentially been lobotomized, has sex with everyone else on the team, and has superfueled ADD that's made her forget her time in the Titans. She does a lot of cheesecake posing too. Frankly, it's pretty insulting to women and to my intelligence. And it's really too bad, because I was entertained by everything else. Scott Lobdell's made the Jason "Red Hood" Todd and Roy "Arsenal" Harper duo genuinely funny, created an intriguing new character in Essence, and though his plot could be clearer in places, set up a Big Bad that puts the Outlaws (terrible name, but at least it's not the Outsiders.. hold on, why ISN'T IT the Outsiders?) in their own corner of the DCU as international rogues who might take on real world, SF and supernatural problems. Same with the art. Aside from the ghastly and gratuitous cheesecake, Kenneth Rocafort has his own dynamic style. A bit obsessed with panel shapes to the point of causing clarity issues, but like Lobdell's script, it holds promise.
Don't call it a reboot: Jason Todd hasn't been rebooted (or at least, not much). Roy Harper's got both arms, so I guess he's been saved from Krul. And Starfire is a completely different character.
Upgrade? Yes for the boys, dear God no for the girl.
Will read? Lord help me, I actually want to. Shame about Starfire's characterization, because it's actually putting that desire into question. I certainly don't want to support that kind of thing.
Recommended? This could be a great action-adventure-comedy, if it weren't so demeaning to women. Maybe critical retroaction will affect some changes. In the meantime, I'd advise new readers to steer clear unless the above caveats don't bother them.
So to my surprise, Red Hood and Captain Atom weren't as bad as I thought they would be, and none of these six are without redeeming value. Only Captain Atom really intrigued me, while the others never rose above "ok" or at best, "promising". This week has truly been the weakest of the New52. Hopefully we'll get some actual winners next week. I have high hopes for I, Vampire, Aquaman and Firestorm, but dread Batman the Dark Knight, Teen Titans and Voodoo.