New 52: Week 1 Batch 1

As promised, here are some thoughts on DC Comics New 52 books, with an eye towards recommending (or not) books for non-comics readers who have told me this initiative might get them reading at last (i.e. it's for you, Marc-Sam!). You already know I didn't think much of the new Justice League #1, but how did this week's selection fare? I'm not gonna do them all in one go (13 is a bit much), but I'm gonna at least give you the high profile half.

Action Comics #1
DC has said this isn't a reboot, that there are things that still happened, and others that didn't, but for sure, the heroes were younger, only 5 years into their careers, and all those things that did happen, had to happen in that compressed timeline. Grant Morrison took that to the extreme with his Superman Year 1 series, taking us right back to 1938's Action Comics #1. When Morrison tells older Superman stories happened, he doesn't stop at the last reboot (Byrne's 1986 series), he goes right back to the beginning. Superman'll have just five years to fit seven decades of good works. The Golden Age flavor is really here. Superman is throwing corrupt businessmen out of windows and threatening criminals with violence, hanging from dirigibles and stopping trains with his bare hands. He's not even working at the Daily Planet (my guess is the Daily Star). And the book does what it says on the tin: It's filled with Action. In addition to Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, we also meet Lex Luthor who is working with General Lane to get this "superman" under control. Morrison even finds a new reason for Lex to hate Superman, pulling something cool out of a barrel I thought empty by now. The art by Rags Morales is well suited to the subject matter and should please most readers, and he doesn't have to draw that ridiculous Kryptonian armor (always a plus). If I have one complaint, it's that Metropolis looks like it's under martial law. The tanks and machine guns looked out of place in an urban setting even if Metropolis isn't yet the golden paradise of later years.
Don't call it a reboot: Don't be ridiculous. It's a complete reboot, especially given it's a Year 1 story.
Upgrade? Cornell's run on Action was quite good, but the Superman franchise has been in trouble for years now. Morrison usually delivers quality, and I think he did in this instance.
Will read? I'm a sucker for Morrison's work, sure, but I haven't liked everything he's ever written. This looks like a classic in the making, one that won't require Morrison retreading over his previous Superman opus, All-Star Superman.
Recommended? It starts at the very beginning, so no prior knowledge required. I think the new reader will enjoy the action, the art and the promise of an epic clash between Superman and Lex Luthor.

Batgirl #1
Barbara Gordon is back on her feet following a three-year recovery that's at least addressed in the book (where Stephanie went or if she was even Batgirl isn't). Barbara is an enjoyable character in her own right, always has been, and Gail Simone knows how to write her as equal parts witty and vulnerable. She's lovely, though I can't say the same of her over-busy costume. It's not a big complaint because artists Adrian Syaf is quite good, rocking the action and shining when it comes to drawing his reasonably proportioned heroines. Barbara gets a new roommate, a situation that has potential, and it seems we'll continue to explore her relationship to her father, Commissioner Gordon. And there's a new villain in the picture, the Mirror, who has a thing about killing people who survived where they should have died... including Barbara! The strange villain and teeth-kicking action makes this a primordial Bat-book.
Don't call it a reboot: Though Commissioner Gordon is younger (and red-haired), there's no reason to believe Babs hasn't been Oracle for the last three years. Collapsed timeline, but nothing's really been changed.
Upgrade? I loved Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl, and I think I can love Gail Simone's. Both books (and heroines) have a similar sense of fun and a natural "proving herself as Batgirl" arc.
Will read? Yes, I'm still a fan of Batgirl, Gail Simone and fun.
Recommended? Boys and girls alike will enjoy this book, in my opinion. It kicks ass. It's funny. It's got a scary villain. And Barbara is a heroine you can feel for.

Detective Comics #1
Tony Daniel only traded places with Scott Snyder, moving from Batman to Detective Comics, so I wasn't expecting much better than his well-drawn, but slightly confusing/dull stories on that other book. The continuity clean-up did some good actually. Though I still find Daniel's story telling sometimes confusing - he keeps switching camera angles for no reason, for example - it's far from as bad as it once was. Truth be told, I do enjoy his style, if not his panel transitions. Gone is the huge cast of guest-stars his Batman kept crossing paths with (as if Battle for the Cowl never ended). Instead, we have characters all readers will recognize - Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, the Joker - and the introduction at the end of a new villain, the Dollmaker (cue horrifying visual sure to bring you back for a second issue). Daniel certainly benefited from having to start again, clearing up some of his clutter.
Don't call it a reboot: It sometimes seems like Batman is hunting down the Joker for the first time, but that may be due to Daniel's confusing story telling. From what we've been told, the Batman franchise should not have been rebooted it at all.
Upgrade? Considering the previous reign holders were Snyder, Jock and Francavilla, and that their Detective was moody, disturbing and refreshing, I can't say it is. Compared to Daniel's previous work, it IS an upgrade though.
Will read? I think I can be counted on to see this first storyline through.
Recommended? I'm sure new readers will like the combination of pretty art, recognizable characters and shock horror. The more discerning among them may find it somewhat ordinary (but certainly not as much as Justice League).

Justice League International #1
The Justice League is this rogue element, so the U.N. security council decides to build its own Justice League and put P.R. god Booster Gold in charge of it. So right away, other selectee Guy Gardner up and leaves, while Batman, NOT selected, slums with the team as liaison between Leagues, and because he trusts Booster (so the Booster Gold: Time's Champion series still occurred). Fire and Ice are back, as is the humorous new Rocket Red from Justice League Lost. Vixen, China's August General in Iron and the UK's Godiva (lately seen in Flashpoint) complete the team. Dan Jurgens does fairly well with the soap elements and team banter, though the feud between his Russian and Chinese characters is kind of grating. The enemy is unrevealed, but at least each team member gets to DO something this issue, marking JLI as a better series than Justice League to date. Perhaps the banter isn't as funny, but I can't call it a decompressed piece of art candy. Not to say the art isn't good, because I really like Aaron Lopresti's work - it's some of my favorite in the New 52.
Don't call it a reboot: It doesn't appear to be.
Upgrade? Not on Booster Gold, which had a more interesting premise, a supporting cast I'm likely to miss, and Booster in a better costume. As the promised follow-up to Judd Winick's JL Lost, it misses the mark, losing both the purpose of that series (defeating Max Lord) and some of its elements (Power Girl, Captain Atom and Blue Beetle).
Will read? There are enough characters I like here to keep me in the game, and I'm especially enamored of the faith Batman has shown in Booster's leadership.
Recommended? New readers will perhaps wonder who all these characters are, though they'll be able to follow the action regardless. It's nothing to ooh and ahh at either. Are new "potential" readers interested in a quirky B-team?

Stormwatch #1
Stormwatch is the superhuman organization that has been covertly saving Earth from alien invasions etc. since at least the Middle Ages. They call themselves the professionals to the Justice League's hobbyists. Having never read any of the Wildstorm books where most of these characters appeared before, I probably felt like one of these new readers DC is courting. Was I any more lost than a new reader of JLI? Well, writer Paul Cornell throws so much strangeness as the reader that it all becomes part of the feeling. The heroes have bizarre (but cool) abilities, and they're up against monster manifesting in the moon, horrors out of Lovecraft and Dune, and each other. The only character I already knew was the Martian Manhunter, who has a look slightly less classic than on the cover there, but is nonetheless the same J'Onn J'Onzz who also served with the Justice League. The book has at least three strands going, including the recruitment of Apollo (and Midnighter?), so something is bound to stick with readers who like sophisticated superhero strangeness. Artist Miguel Sepulveda is not my favorite - his figures frozen in time lack energy - but he does succeed in bringing Cornell's world to life. Some of that stuff can't be easy to conceptualize!
Don't call it a reboot: The Wildstorm universe comes to DC and many of them no longer know each other. So yes, this is more reboot than it is secret history.
Upgrade? The Martian Manhunter hasn't been doing anything meaningful in a good while, and I'm glad someone's given him a potentially pivotal role.
Will read? Yes, but then I'd read anything by Paul Cornell. He doesn't disappoint here, and he's made me want to discover the original Stormwatch/Authority stories.
Recommended? If you're interested in a different kind of superhero, one that doesn't necessarily uses code names and costumes and fights evil from behind the scenes, this is for you. For a slightly more literate comics reader, but will many first-timers feel lost?

Swamp Thing #1
Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing has the feel of Alan Moore's and that's about as good a compliment as I can give it. There are buzzing flies, and disappearing fossils, and dead birds raining from the sky, and plant life committing excruciatingly slow violence. The existential horror of the natural world is beautifully rendered by artist Yanick Paquette whose work is just gorgeous here (though like most artists, he can't quite make me like Superman's Kryptonian armor). What's that, you say? Superman's in this? For some reason, it seemed important for this book to make the bold claim that it was set squarely in the DCU, so we see about as many Justice Leaguers as there are in Justice League itself. There's also a lack of on-panel Swamp Thing! Lots of Alex Holland denying that he's a swamp monster though.
Don't call it a reboot: Seems to follow directly from Brightest Day and Search for the Swamp Thing. No reboot (except for nuSuperman).
Upgrade? Much better than the terrible Search for Swamp Thing mini. I'm just happy to see Swampy in regular comics again.
Will read? Yes. Snyder has done good work at DC over the last year, and his take on Swamp Thing feels like the good old days are back.
Recommended? The issue builds towards both an unspeakable evil AND our swampy protagonist. Hope that's enough for new readers!

Six new books, at least four of which I would recommend strongly, and all of them better than Justice League #1. Seven other books came out this week, most more obscure than the above, but I've really got to sleep sometime, so they'll keep for later. What did YOU think of the above six books?

20 comments:

snell said...

Re: "Metropolis looks like it's under martial law"

The same could be said for Gotham, both in JL #1 and Detective #1(helicopter gunships opening fire in populated areas).

A theme of the nuDCU, or just storytellers trying to up the stakes with unlikely violence?

Siskoid said...

Gotham I can believe just a smidgeon more, y'know?

It looks like "5 years ago", martial law might have been declared to deal with the perceived threat of suddenly public superhumans. I just wish a piece of dialog CONFIRMED that. Contemporary-set books I've read to date look like they trust superheroes by now.

snell said...

But Detective #1 *is* contemporary, and they still have an assault chopper firing (in a densely populated urban area) at Batman, despite Gordon's "trust". You'd think that Batman would have brought that up in their meeting: 'Hey, Jim, you're cops are acting like it's dowtown Somalia out there..."

Siskoid said...

Oh yeah. That's how memorable Tony Daniel's Batman work is. But like I said, Gotham is a bit of a hell hole.

Matthew Turnage said...

I don't have my copy handy, but I though some of the dialogue in JLI #1 implied that the previous JLI stories didn't happen, meaning complete reboot there. I'll have to look again when I get home, maybe I imagined it.

I really enjoyed Action #1, it was my favorite of the bunch so far. I'm a Superman completist, so I'd get it anyway, but it is the book I'm most excited about so far.

Batgirl #1 was good, I'm on the fence about whether I'll keep getting it. Mostly economic factors coming in to play there, though.

Detective #1 wasn't my cup of tea. A little too gory for my tastes. My opinion - Detective and Batman should be all ages appropriate (as well as Superman, Action, and the other big guns). I won't be following it any further.

JLI #1 wasn't bad, but I think I hoped for a bit more. I'm on the fence.

The other two I picked up will presumably be covered in your next post on the subject, so I'll save my thoughts on Green Arrow and OMAC for later.

Siskoid said...

You'll find the other 7 books tomorrow morning. Dialog that reboots away the JLI might include strong intimation that Animal Man was never a member (in his own book).

rob! said...

I enjoyed Swamp Thing quite a bit, was disappointed (a lot) in Men of War.

Siskoid said...

Did you catch the Aquaman appearance in Animal Man?

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Siskoid, I enjoyed Stormwatch, and it took me four times as long to read as JL. I had picked up the Authority books starting in the late 80s, but stopped after the 25th issue. They, too, seemed to be rebooted instead of organically evolving from new creative team/WS event. I then picked up the Stormwatch trades and the stories are interesting. I do like the "old" A characters more than those of the "old" SW. Also, almost every character from the new SW is actually from the old Authority, so you might want to check the latter out first. This is what a team book should be. JL sure isn't.

Siskoid said...

Yeah, that's why I put the Authority on my Old52 list (yesterday's post).

Maki P said...

The only one I've read this week is JLI and I agree, it's much better than JL (at least we get to meet the whole cast)

Anonymous said...

Action #1 was very much the pick of the litter. Suddenly I don't mind resetting the trip counter back to 1 on Action: it's going back to where Superman was in 1938 in enough ways that it "earned" a renumbering.

I dug Batgirl #1 too; not Barbara Gordon at her very best, but that's where they need to start. She mentioned that a "miracle" is allowing her to walk again; depending on the nature of the miracle, it may or may not be a permanent thing. It might even be one of those miracles that Barbara gives up for a greater good.

As to Stephanie and Batgirl in general, I suspect Barbara will eventually realize that there is no shortage of bat-themed crimefighters in town, but there's only one Oracle on earth, and it would be a shame for Oracle to go away just because she regained the ability to kick muggers in the mouth. Nor would I mind if Barbara and Stephanie were to share the title, with Stephanie doing street-level crime-fighting and Barbara focusing on the information end of things.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

YES! i uploaded a video review of Swamp Thing #1 to Youtube early this morning and your review is almost word for word what i talked about. you have excellent taste Siskoid good job.
i co-worker loaned me JLA #1. i'm not quite as down on it as you were but i can see where you were coming from.

Siskoid said...

Anon: I think that's wishful thinking. If character logic prevailed (and this were the same universe with the same elements and thus the same logical sequences), you might be right.

Just count the number of Oracle-like characters introduced in the lives of many of the new titles' protagonists!

rob! said...

Siskoid--No! Ah! Have to go get that book now. Thanks!

Siskoid said...

Wait! No, I confused it with Swamp Thing there! Ha! (The Green and the Red, y'know.)

So no Aquappearance in Animal Man, sorry Rob, but if you do get it, I thought it was an awesome book.

rob! said...

Siskoid-

I just looked through AnimalMan #1 like, five times. Where's Aquaman?

rob! said...

Oh...whew. I thought I was going crazy.

Yeah, I did see him in ST. Very cool!

Anonymous said...

Just count the number of Oracle-like characters introduced in the lives of many of the new titles' protagonists!

Yeah, I caught Wendy and Marvin over in "Green Arrow" #1 and was unimpressed. (I realize their names aren't Wendy and Marvin, but I defy you to give me a reason to memorize their correct names.)

Even if Babs were to be reduced to the Oracle of the Bat-Family, I'd be okay with that. And I'd be happy with an Oracle who, when she needs to clear her head, puts on a costume and kicks muggers in the mouth. Wishful thinking, as you say.

And, I put it to you that the reboot simplifies the introduction of Stephanie to new audiences. It was mentioned in flashback that Barbara was recuperating for three years, so it could be likewise mentioned in passing that Stephanie has been carrying the mantle of Batgirl for three years. There, you don't even have to explain Spoiler or the Gotham gang war or the whole Leslie Tompkins business.

Austin Gorton said...

Glad to hear the next batch is a little less ho-hum than JL.

Action I've got on my pull list, and am looking more forward to that now.

Might have to check out Stormwatch, too. That sounds interesting.

I'm pleased that Bab's return to being Batgirl is being well-handled, but I think I'm still going to wait for the trade on that one and see how things play out.

 

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