New 52: Week 2 Batch 1

Being the reviews of each and every new DC #1, as promised, with an eye towards recommending books for new readers. Half of this week's releases today, half tomorrow. And once again, we'll start with the more high profile titles (by which I mean, those with the most recognizable titles).

Batman and Robin #1
What the hell was that? With Batman's continuity untouched (and this is borne out in the comic), and Peter Tomasi, who'd already written some good stories for the book, I though this would be a no-brainer recommendation. Not so. The thing that made Batman & Robin work as well as it did was that Damian was paired up with Dick Grayson's Batman. It inverted the usual formula, with a darker Robin and a lighter Batman. With Damian's father back in the cowl, a new and less pleasant dynamic is born. Damian's attitude made sense when a "pretender" was Batman. Here, he's just giving his father lip, and that father is BATMAN. Bruce becomes a chiding father who has failed at disciplining his child, which isn't where I want to see the character. Not that Batman/Bruce Wayne is particularly well characterized, enduring as he does Robin disrespecting the memory of his parents while simultaneously planning to pave over Crime Alley. The issue's main plot about stopping terrorists from getting at a nuclear stockpile under a university swimming pool makes absolutely no sense, though the subplot featuring a new villain killing off members of Batman Inc., while probably mystifying to the new readers DC wants, is has more potential. As for the art by Patrick Gleason, I like what he's doing in the front half of the issue, but it looks like he rushed through the back half.
Don't call it a reboot: Looks like continuity's intact on the Batman side of things.
Upgrade? No. Though I'm fine with Dick Grayson returning to his Nightwing persona, he's really what made Damian's Robin work.
Will read? I'm interested in the Batman Inc. stuff, so I'm hoping it gets better.
Recommended? Wish I could, but while better than Detective Comics, this isn't quite as strong a (re)start as I would have hoped. Too dependent on past continuity for newbies, but not sharp enough for fans.

Batwoman #1
This is pretty much exactly what we've been expecting for months. As with J.H. Williams III's Batwoman work in Detective, each issue will be a gorgeous art book. Paired up with co-writer W.Haden Blackman, Williams catches us up to just before Kate's date with police detective Maggie Sawyer, toys with the idea of giving Batwoman a sidekick while giving her father the Colonel the boot (I hope she doesn't), and introduces a new, creepy villain that has its roots in South American myth. For long-time DC fans, there's also an appearance by Chase and Mr. Bones at the D.E.O. While other heroes seem to have been regressed to earlier in their careers, Batwoman actually seems to have gotten more experienced. Did I mention it looks AMAZING?
Don't call it a reboot: The recap makes it clear nothing's changed for Kate.
Upgrade? From WAITING for the book to be released? You bet!
Will read? Oh yes. The story is at least solid, and the evocative, intricate, inventive artwork is worth the cover price alone.
Recommended? Yes. I think old and new readers alike won't be able to resist Williams' art, and as far as variety goes, this is a book filled with women, three of which are gay. It's the kind of thing the new DC should put out, books with distinctive voices.

Green Lantern #1
Geoff Johns and Doug Manke pick the story up where it left off, and they are a very good creative team. The book itself has lots to like, including trademark GL weird aliens and with Sinestro forced to wear the ring again, Hal Jordan having hilarious "anti-adventures" among us normals. It's a good comic, with an intriguing first chapter. But see, it makes me question the whole Relaunch thing. At the end of the War of the Green Lanterns, it would have been dead easy to put a button on volume 5 of Green Lantern by leaving out the Sinestro bit, and then rebooting the franchise like many are forced to do. But Johns is one of the architects of the Relaunch, so his books are untouched. GL has been popular with the comic book fans, I agree, but with a movie in theaters this summer (whatever you may think of it), wouldn't have been smarter to make the franchise more newbie-friendly? Isn't the whole point of the Relaunch to bring in new readers? And wouldn't GL's visibility boost help do that? Sinestro's in the movie, sure, but is it really who you want to try and sell volume 6 to a new generation of fans? Anyway, as someone who was already reading GL, I thought it was a good book, one of the best issues in some time. If I put myself in the shoes of someone coming fresh to the story, I might think it's just not for me.
Don't call it a reboot: It's clearly not, and with so much GL continuity in the mix, therein lies the problem.
Upgrade? It's the same book, renumbered. However, it is a better issue than anything in the War of the Green Lanterns arc.
Will read? Yes, it's still on my pull list.
Recommended? I want to recommend it because Johns and Manke will no doubt continue to do good work on a book they've got a great handle on. If you were maybe thinking of dropping GL, check this out. If you're a potential new reader, I don't think you'll be lost, but realize it's part of a longer story. You might end up looking for trade collections that go as far back as the Sinestro Corps War (which was in 2007).

Legion Lost #1
A half-a-baker's-dozen members of the 31st-century Legion of Super-Heroes track a supervillain through time to our century, and get stranded here. Writer Fabian Nicieza does a fairly good job of introducing all the characters and their powers, except the villain, but he'll be around. A couple of Legionnaires seem to meet their doom, but I'm hoping it's not true. I can't stand it when they kill off Legionnaires. It's a thing with me. But more germane to this conversation, it wouldn't do to introduce characters to a potential new audience only to kill them off immediately. I like all the Legionnaires used here, and the smaller cast should do a world of good to the franchise (the team usually has upwards of 20 active members at any given time). I do wish the premise had been a little stronger. Being lost in the past (our present) isn't anything new. Pete Woods' art has a vaguely manga style that I neither liked nor disliked. Bit busy for my tastes, but he's got his moments. I did object to the lettering for some reason.
Don't call it a reboot: Doesn't seem to be. The future appears unrebooted, and Legion fans know that that's a miracle.
Upgrade? Replacing Adventure Comics' Legion Academy strip, Legion Lost is neither a step up nor a step down, though I think it has more potential than the Academy book.
Will read? Yes, but I'm a Legion junkie.
Recommended? I think the manageable team and recognizable setting might serves as a good introduction to the Legion's world, but the uniqueness of that world has been sacrificed some. That, and this first issue never comes across as anything more than a pretty standard and unimpressive superhero comic.

Red Lanterns #1
To date, the very worst New52 book I've read, and I wouldn't be surprised if no other book could beat it to that bottom spot. Wow. I know Peter Milligan is a better writer than this, and I could have imagined him giving a fun, weird spin on the admittedly icky concept of Rage Lanterns who puke up burning blood. I dunno, something like his X-Statix maybe. Or a full-blown parody of the gory superhero books of the last decade (not that I'm asking for a Lobo revival, you understand). He's playing it too straight, however. Overwrought captions turn the main character Atrocitus into a plodding warrior-poet and even moments which should have played as tongue-in-cheek, like Atrocitus rescuing his cat - just fell flat. And Milligan isn't getting any help from Ed Benes, one of my all-time least favorite artists, who's Image-y stylings can't cover up the fact that he has a tenuous hold on anatomy (unless it's women's buttocks, which he has an unhealthy obsession with). The highlight for me should have been Dex-Starr the Red Lantern cat, but Benes draws him as a small cat-man, with human articulations. But even if the art was good, I don't think the book would be.
Don't call it a reboot: By all accounts follows from whatever Green Lantern arc the Red Lanterns were last seen in.
Upgrade? The book didn't exist before. I wish it didn't exist now.
Will read? No. And you can't make me.
Recommended? Atrocitus? Or ATROCIOUS? Avoid like the plague. It's everything that was worst about the last decade's comics stuck behind a lame monochrome cover.

Superboy #1
The rebooted Superboy is a clone of Superman developped as a weapon by a secret organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. What we find out about this new Superboy through his narration may be troubling. For example, he might have no empathy at all, which at least gives his something to grow towards. Writer Scott Lobdell did churn out a couple of very interesting ideas. The virtual reality Smallville as a fragment of Superman's memories manifesting in Superboy's DNA. The red-head Superboy naturally bonds to (a nice wink to the past). And Lois Lane having a mole in NOWHERE. I was less enamoured of links to the Teen Titans (including Rose Wilson's role), but I shouldn't have been surprised since Lobdell is also writing that series. I just think a solo hero should be able to stand on his own. But overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this revamp, though I also recognize it could all spin out of control very quickly too. Time will tell. The art by R.B. Silva has a cute, slick design to it, though characters often look like stiff, shiny mannequins. Still, it's mostly likable.
Don't call it a reboot: Totally a reboot.
Upgrade? Though I was encouraged by what I read here, I will definitely still miss Lemire's take on the book AND the character of Connor. It's hard watching a character you've seen grow up in he comics lobotomized just as he'd come into his own as a hero.
Will read? I'm gonna stick around for a few more issues, though I'm ready to bail if the ship starts sinking.
Recommended? Fans of the previous iteration may give it a pass with my blessing, but new readers will find the start of a completely new story connected to Superman's. It should appeal to SF/conspiracy fans who don't need all their protagonists to be virtuous heroes.

Two good books, one terrible book, and three books that fall somewhere in the middle. Tomorrow we'll look at the other seven released this week, including a few I'm really excited about (Demon Knights, Frankenstein and Resurrection Man) and three (count 'em THREE!) gun-totting anti-heroes (who knew the DCU needed Deadshot, Deathstroke AND Grifter).

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The one thing about "Green Lantern" that makes it newbie-friendly is, it's Hal as a normal guy who screws things up at his job and with his girlfriend. The guy isn't cut out to live a normal life, like at the beginning of the GL film.

Agreed about the Bruce / Damian dynamic; maybe it will improve. I guess "Batman and Robin" is a victim of the reboot more than Tomasi: it probably wasn't Tomasi's fault that he's got to write Bruce / Damian.

I wonder if there is a good reason for Superboy's lack of empathy, such as, at some level he's aware it's not real. They're winking at the possibility it's Lex's genes, but I am hoping it's nothing inborn like that. Shrug. I was happy with the "Superboy" series that just ended, so there are big shoes to fill here.

Siskoid said...

GL: Sure, but it seems counterproductive to me to launch a series without its protagonist appearing in his heroic identity. Or very slow. A lot of these seem built for the trade despite vague promises of done-in-one issues. It just makes me go back to my point about the only way to revolutionize the industry is really to go straight to trades/graphic novels.

B&R: Definitely, but what he came up with I found... awkward.

Superboy: Things are ambiguous enough to make me want to keep up with it. I'm definitely reserving judgment on this one.

De said...

If nothing changed for GL's continuity, is the character in Justice League the same guy or a parallel universe version?

Siskoid said...

I should probably have said "nothing recent", which does include an origin story which was already a War of Light tweak on the last one, superceding Emerald Dawn.

snell said...

Important note: on page 3 of Superboy, the tube he is in is very prominently marked "02." Which would imply...

Matthew Turnage said...

I only picked up four of the new ones this week, and you cover them all in this post. My thoughts:

Green Lantern #1 - the best read of the bunch, but it read much more like Green Lantern #68 than #1. I agree that they could have made it more new reader friendly. However, it was nice to see some consequences to what has been my complaint about the title since Rage of the Red Lanterns - absolutely no attention has been paid to Hal's life away from the ring.

Legion Lost #1 - a solid issue, but I don't think they sufficiently introduced the characters for a new reader. Still, I'm a Legion fan and I enjoyed it. I'll stick with it.

Red Lanterns #1 - I liked this one a lot more than you did. I thought it was one of the better #1s at introducing the characters and setting up a premise. I was initially skeptical of this title, but I think I'm going to like it based on this issue.

Superboy #1 - I really liked the last version of this title, so I sort of hate seeing all that wiped out. However, this issue was pretty well done. My Superman completism guarantees a purchase, but even so I think this series has some potential. I just hope it doesn't tie in with Titans too strongly, since I really don't think I'm going to follow that book long term.

Siskoid said...

Snell: Man... this new continuity thing is one slippery sucker.

Siskoid said...

Hi Matt, nice to read some more capsule reviews.

GL: I agree. Hal as a character has been neglected since that time Johns retold his origin story, basically. The book has been in plot overdrive for at least 2 years.

Legion: Yeah, it may well prove a book for the already converted.

RL: I agree that it took the time to set up its premise, main character and his upcoming arc well. I just didn't like ANY of what was set up.

Superboy: It's like Batgirl, isn't it? A pretty good start, but we're still stinging from losing an already good series.

Anonymous said...

We know there's going to be another shoe that drops, based on the presence of the Flashpoint cloak lady. I like to hope DC is basically flinging stuff at the wall right now to see what sticks, and when Shoe #2 falls, the failed experiments will be restored to their previous condition.

Also: anyone else like the notion of "Nightwing and Robin"? I could live with that.

Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

Hey Sisk.

I'm admitantly biased towards the whole reboot/relaunch simply because DC didn't need to do this. maybe Superman needed it in regards to the whole trademark issue going on right now, but the rest of the line did not need to be rebooted.

Batman and GL not being rebooted as the rest of the line reaks of the same nonsensical thinking that was to blame for the previous lines being out of sync during the Crisis reboot.

I defy/dare Didio/Johns to explain why they couldn't have continued on with the same series and numbering they had before and still hire the current crop of writers, especially Morrison on Superman. They didn't need to throw out the baby w/the bathwater, but they did anyhow.

I'm being pessimistic here, but after the initial boast in sales they get, expect sales numbers to go back to where they were before the relaunch. Then they'll have to play the "mysterious woman" card they've been keeping as back-up in case this whole relaunch thing didn't work.

Aliendw700 said...

I believe that the superboy lack of empathy is because he knows that he is in a Virtual Environment

Jon Hendry said...

The "nuclear stockpile under a pool" thing sounds like it was inspired by the first nuclear reactor: a nuclear "pile" in a squash court under the bleachers at the University of Chicago.

(Risky as hell, too, since it was just a pile of lumber, graphite bricks, uranium pellets, and control rods, without any shielding or cooling.)

Siskoid said...

Thanks for the context! Fact really is stranger than fiction!

Austin Gorton said...

I've mostly enjoyed Johns' GL stuff, but the reboot gave me a nice clean jumping off point, so I'm trade-waiting for that one. GL is in no danger of getting canceled, and I'd rather spend my single-issue money on a title that is in more need of the immediate-sales boost (like Batwoman, which I am absolutely buying).

I was a big fan of the Waid/Kitson Legion, but haven't kept up since then. Might check out a trade of Legion Lost if I continue to hear good things.

You piqued my interest on Superboy, too.

 

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