New 52: Week 2 Batch 2

Being the other half of this week's New52 releases. If yesterday's crop were part of recognizable franchises, these are a little bit more "niche".

Deathstroke #1 

The new DC Universe seems obsessed with covert ops, doesn't it? Over the last two weeks, secret missions/organizations have been featured in no less than 7 books, 3 of them in this very article, likely with more to come (Blackhawks maybe?). And the JLI works for the U.N. too. Deathstroke is a free agent in this new, conspiratorial world, and while I was deeply opposed to this revival, the result by Kyle Higgins and Joe Bennett isn't half bad. There's a high-octane mission, a mysterious enemy and a bit of a twist ending. It's more or less "done in one" which I appreciate, and the art is cinematic but not photo-realistic. But did it endear me to Wilson Slade? Not really. Some readers will find the book "badass" and it sort of is, but maybe I've moved beyond that sort of thing. 

Don't call it a reboot: Unlikely. This seems a reasonable follow-up to Titans.  

Upgrade? I didn't read Titans in which Deathstroke starred, but what I saw, I didn't like. This, on the other hand, was very readable.  

Will read? I might check in on it next issue or later, because there's potential there, but I'm rather ambivalent.  

Recommended? I think the anti-hero will play well with teens and young men, but then again, there's an anti-youth sentiment in the story that goes beyond Slade being an older character. Perhaps better to err on the side of caution...  


Demon Knights #1 

One of the New DC's few books to take advantage of a different time period, Paul Cornell's Demon Knights rewards attentive reading (i.e. there's a lot going on, a lot of characters introduced, and you might feel confused if you breeze through it too quickly) and is filled with surprises for both older and newer readers. The whole cast hasn't yet been assembled, but real effort has been put into the various twists that will make these "historical" characters interesting to follow month in, month out. There's the Demon and Madame Xanadu, who have apparently been traveling together for a while; Vandal Savage painted as a hero in this time period; and the Shining Knight as a cocky kid. Cornell scores extra points by staging this in the Dark Ages AFTER the fall of Camelot, which is pretty much all virgin ground in the DCU (new or old). The art by Diogenes Neves is quite good at this unique mix of superhero comics and sword&sorcery, and there's even something to like about the lettering. One to watch.  

Don't call it a reboot: Though borrowing heavily from past comics, Cornell's comments online have warned us away from taking the old history for granted.  

Upgrade? There was nothing like this at the old DC, but I can tell you know the Demon doesn't rhyme with every line. That's an upgrade, right?  

Will read? I'm a big fan of Paul Cornell's work (in every media). But it's not blind love. He just does good work, is all.  

Recommended? Yes. While older readers will enjoy the references to past continuity, new readers will think it's all new, and they'll be partly right. This is the kind of book that should appeal to Lord of the Rings, Conan and Game of Thrones fans, so please do make sure they get to see it. 


Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 

As with Jeff Lemire's Animal Man, I'm hoping audiences will embrace his just-as-indy-looking Frankenstein because it is da BOMB! Frankenstein's Monster working for a secret superhuman organization is already a pretty crazy premise. Lemire goes all out by teaming him up with the Creature Commandos (a team of soldiers based on classic movie monsters, as prefigured in the Flashpoint mini), giving SHADE the most insane of HQs, and the book a most promising of supporting casts. It's monster vs. monster vs. monster and huge fun. Alberto Ponticelli's art looks like something Lemire might have drawn himself and pitch perfect for the series, though some might find it scribbly and ugly (compared to the slick cover, for example). I like it personally, and I'm all about story anyway. This thing oozes horror and weirdness and comedy too.  

Don't call it a reboot: Dialog seems to indicate that Ray Palmer was never the Atom, a major change if it turns out to be true. 

Upgrade? I really liked the Frankenstein's Flashpoint mini-series, but this issue outdoes all of Flashpoint.  

Will read? Definitely. I've been waiting for a Frankenstein project since the 7 Soldiers series.  

Recommended? No back continuity needed, I whole-heartedly recommend this superhero/horror book. It's got literary verve (it's the Monster from Mary Shelley's book), crazy ideas that only comics can do justice to, and distinctive writing and art.


Grifter #1 

I can't believe I'm gonna say this about a former Wildstorm gun-totting character, but I liked it. Nathan Edmondson takes us through Grifter Day 1, which is a tremendous help. While many of the relaunches have featured heroes already established and no origin stories (which is fine, especially with the "name" characters), there's far less likelihood that even hardened DC readers will know anything about a character just introduced to the DCU. I know I really didn't. Much of the appeal for me was the opening scene which evoked an episode of Hustle or perhaps a David Mamet film, with a con in progress (that's a "grift", not a convention). I love con stories, and if there's more of this in the series, I might be tempted to stick around. Things go pear-shaped, and our protagonist wakes up with voices in his head, looking up at an alien in a tube. An alien entity is trying to kill/possess him, leading him to adopt, in the last panel, the Grifter identity. CAFU's art is pretty, as usual, and the comic has good action beats, a structure that keeps you guessing, and doesn't depend on the aforementioned "gun-totting". It builds a mystery that makes me want to check out issue #2, and that's what #1s are for.  

Don't call it a reboot: It's a cold restart of a character not previously part of the DCU.  

Upgrade? I can't tell. Any Wildstorm fans out there?  

Will read? Damn it, Grifter #2's got my 3 bucks.  

Recommended? My review is probably more positive than it ought to be because of low expectations. I will still recommend it as a strong, cinematic opening chapter to what might well be a compelling antihero/vigilante/fugitive story.


Mister Terrific #1 

I so wanted to like this, and you know what? It ALMOST gets there. Mister Terrific is reimagined without the Justice Society as Gen X corporate/scientific genius, gadding about the world righting wrongs as a science hero. The first issue makes good use of its London location, for example. But it's all so damn uneven. Eric Wallace's script contains some real whoppers that I can't believe came out of the characters mouths, in particular a couple of "black power" comments, and generally in trying to be clever, but sounding forced. Gianluca Gugliotta's art too, is uneven. Distinctive, yes, and I mostly appreciated it, but characters tend to change appearance from panel to panel. Room for improvement then? Because I do like the set-up, and this is the kind of book I want to support. There's a cool HQ, and some mad science, and Brains overcoming Brawn, and a subplot about Michael Holt's unborn son coming to visit, and a confounding guest appearance by Karen Starr (is she Power Girl or not?)... It can hopefully get better.

Don't call it a reboot: It's played as if Mister Terrific has always been a solo hero, and I've no idea if Karen is has gone through some changes (being a Kryptonian, it's a sure bet she has).  

Upgrade? He's lost his team, but has he lost his attraction? Still work to do before I can call it an upgrade.  

Will read? Groan... I feel like I should say no, but I know I'll be back for seconds, with fingers crossed.  

Recommended? I think the fact that there's a Doctor Who reference in there is telling. It's the kind of book that should appeal to Doctor Who fans, in particular New Who fans. It's about Big Science concepts, the promise of varied environments, a timey-whimey scene, and you've got to forgive a lot of its excesses. If you're that kind of fan, I think you can like Mister Terrific. 


Resurrection Man #1 

I was a big fan of Abnett and Lanning's Resurrection Man the first time around, and I may well like the series even more the second. It's all about a Mitch Shelley, a man who is resurrected with a different superpower each time he dies. In this first issue, Mitch resurrects and is immediately compelled (as usual) to interfere with particular events (to help, basically), but he's got angels and demons after his soul that don't make it easy. Resurrection Man sounds like a high concept tv show and plays like a good one, with lots of action and mystery, and attendant art by Fernando Dagnino that's on just the right side of realistic to make it work (and more than a little evocative of the original series' Jackson Guice), with strong, dynamic layouts that fuel the mood and action. It's Captain Jack meets The Fugitive meets Angel meets the first season of Heroes. I'm really liking this darker corner of the DCU, which reminds me of the late 80s books that would become the core of DC's Vertigo line.  

Don't call it a reboot: It's not.  

Upgrade? A world with a Resurrection Man is better than a world without it. 

Will read? Not only will I read it, I will also take the original series out of its longbox and read it again.  

Recommended? If you're uncomfortable with four-color superheroes, but like action fantasy, this will feel like a tv show you really wanna watch. Highly recommended. 


Suicide Squad #1 

During Flashpoint, Adam Glass wrote a Legion of Doom mini-series that made me lose confidence in his ability to write Suicide Squad, a title I've been a huge fan of in the past (during John Ostrander's lengthy run). It had no subtlety, characterizing super-criminals in broad strokes using shock violence and torture porn. I really didn't want to be right, but unfortunately, I so am. A team of super-convicts drafted into a secret task force, the Squad gives a few of its featured members a key scene (I was especially surprised to find the new El Diablo reimagined as a gang-banger), and while these might have potential, the premise has a major hurdle it must jump, and that's the Relaunch itself. When a villain (or hero) joined the Squad back in the day, you knew who the characters was (or could find out in your trusty Who's Who). That character had a back story, and its death had meaning. It was either pathetic or redemption or well-deserved. The character had a history, usually as some two-bit villain in a hero's book, which contrasted with his Squad mission(s). In the New DCU, well, I don't KNOW who these guys are anymore (actually true of a number of background roles here). They've been redesigned, revamped and rebooted (maybe), and because they are essentially new characters (or new versions of those characters), their lives or deaths have no explicit meaning. And it certainly doesn't help that those redesigns are among the most horrible in the whole line (which I realize is saying something). The worst of these has had some play on the Internet already: Amanda Waller as a hot sexy thing. I understand DC trying to match its drawn characters to their movie/TV counterparts, and the Wall is basically drawn as Angela Bassett. I would excuse it except that it robs the DCU of a unique character, sends the wrong message re: body image, and most importantly, there is NO COHERENT POLICY regarding matching up comics and screen representations of characters in the New DCU! So it seems as wrong-headed and random as the idea that the Squad's home base going from Belle Reve prison to Belle REEVE prison. What the hell. I don't dislike Federico Dallocchio's art. It's slick and moody, but it looks like certain pages aren't inked by Ransom Getty, or else the art team is rather uneven.  

Don't call it a reboot: It is. Deadshot's never been in the Squad before. The Wall is really more of a Fence or Sheet of Paper. And Belle Reeve (I SO HATE THAT).  

Upgrade? This is the worst Suicide Squad comic I've ever read. It's actually meant to replace the Secret Six, which was an awesome series. The loss is ours.  

Will read? I might borrow a copy for a future Squad Retirement Files article, but I'm not spending money on it.  

Recommended? Any way you look at it, this is a disappointment. More than that, it's actually infuriating. And I certainly don't want new readers to judge ardent comic book readers based on this material. I guess the surprise is Grifter, which was better than expected, while the bitter disappointment is Suicide Squad. Clear winners in this cycle are Demon Knights, Frankenstein and Resurrection Man. Join me again next week when the big name titles will be Batman, Catwoman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman, and there won't in fact be very much in the way of darker, quirkier books. I predict my most hated book will be Red Hood and the Outlaws. My favorite? I'm hoping to love the new Wonder Woman. Will I be proven right? See you then!


Prof. Booty said…
"I was especially surprised to find the new El Diablo reimagined as a gang-banger"

Uh... you mean like he's a gangster, right? Or is he really into gangbang sex? I realise this might be a ridiculous question but given some of the things that were happening in the DCU in the last few years, I don't think I can be so sure anymore.

I have yet to read any of the new DC titles but the "Demon Knights" comic looks the coolest to me, out of those.

Btw, this is offtopic but since you mentioned "Game of Thrones": are you a fan of the book series/tv show? I love both.
Siskoid said…
Booty: Lord, yes, I do mean gangster/gang member/leader. But you're right to wonder.

Demon Knights was awesome, but my clear favorites at this point are Jeff Lemire's two books. DK is definitely in the Top 5 though.

I haven't yet experienced Game of Thrones, but I've ordered the DVDs.
Jeff R. said…
Non-rhyming Etrigan is most definately a downgrade. Not at the Skinny Amanda Waller level; more at the clean-cut Deadshot level.
Siskoid said…
It's the early (Kirby) Demon, well before he becamse a rhymer (was that an Alan Moore inovation?).

I did feel some pangs when I saw Deadshot had shaved his mustache though.
Jeff R. said…
I believe it was (a Moore addition to the character), but Ennis's run definately and possibly the Wagner Miniseries (don't recall precicely) had him a Rhymer as early as the Arthurian era. I'm not a big fan of Kirby's version of the character as such, and even less so of the last attempt to re-Kirbify him by Byrne.
Siskoid said…
New world, new rules I guess.

Rhyme or not, Cornell's given him a good role.
Anonymous said…
I miss the rhyming already. I loved that about the character and now he is just hellboy.
Siskoid said…
My comment was based on the many comments I've read over the years from readers who were either sick of it, or else thought most writers did a poor job of it. The first time I ever read a Demon story (probably DC Comics Presents), he was already a rhymer.
Austin Gorton said…
I was going to pass entirely on Demon but you've convinced me to give it a shot. Sounds like the kind of "different take/appeals to a different audience" feel I wish more of these reboots targeted.

Resurrection Man and Frankenstein might be worth a look, too. Question: would someone who hasn't read Morrison's 7 Soldiers still dig Frankenstein?
Siskoid said…
Demon Knights will be worth it.

You don't need ANY pre-knowledge of Frankenstein to enjoy this series. It reads like a fresh start.
ah Siskoid we seem to be ships passing in the night when it comes to all things ROM related and Suicide Squad these days. i look at these relaunch titles as being the beginning of titles with "What If" plot lines that way i don't let all my sentimental baggage about the past mess up my ability to look at these books objectively. despite Waller's new waist line and Harley's wardrobe they are still the same characters at the core. the whole torture test sequence was a great way to establish the new characters while showing how Amanda Waller is still tough as nails, manipulative, clever and demanding as ever. the new changes will get some getting use to and there will always be things i will miss about the original but like i said before to me this series will read like one long What If story so i can enjoy it that way as long as the stories are good and the characters are interesting. it's not perfect and i don't know if i will be a regular reader down the road but as far as a #1 relaunch book goes it's worth more praise then you gave it here.
Siskoid said…
It's really not about the comparison. I thought it was about as strong as Legion of Doom, which wasn't strong at all. Glass wields his pen(keyboard?) like a blunt instrument and goes for the cheap shock value every time. There was no characterization here beyond very broad strokes and Glass has said in interviews that he's not interested in giving any dimension to these characters more than "they are criminals". Am I the one who lacks objectivity? You're the one justify the fact you're reading by calling it a What If. What if-tinted glasses, David?

As for Waller being the same person, HOW DO YOU KNOW? One panel, she's a buxom babe smiling away. That's not even the Wall in a funhouse mirror.

I've tried to skew these capsule reviews towards the potential new reader, the audience DC claims it's going after. That you or I would read a Squad book regardless of quality kinda goes without saying. But for people who don't have any kind of loyalty towards the characters or material, and/or who can't possibly buy 52 books a month and will have to make choices, I can't justify recommending Suicide Squad.
regardless of how good any of these relaunch titles may be, or come to be it appears as if they have indeed done away with the mythology of all the teams and characters with the exception of the very basic premise. that's just something some people might not be able to handle which is understandable since the new stories erase years of history of favorite teams and characters. so that's why i choose to look at the relaunch as a big What If story line. and since i've read numerous What If issues from Marvel over the years that i've liked and some that i haven't liked i can do that with the relaunch too. but all that isn't a problem for Swamp Thing fans however. but at any rate if you didn't like the story in the first issue you didn't like it so of course i wouldn't expect you to recommend it.
Siskoid said…
I embrace the Reboot, don't get me wrong. My main complaints with it is that it's not actually across the boards. Batman and Green Lantern get a pass, which will cause all manner of headaches when people try to figure out how this new history works. Half measures drive me nuts. You either do it or you don't.

If you're going to only change certain details, then the choice of which details you change becomes relevant. Why choose to thin out Amanda Waller? Why choose to shave Deadshot? Both of these have standardized the characters, robbed them of something that made their looks distinctive. Why change Belle Reve to Belle Reeve? The first means something (Beautiful Dream in creole), the other does not. It just looks like the writer doesn't know what he's doing.

New readers won't get any of this, of course. But they also won't have brand loyalty and may wonder why they should care about any character in the cast. Cartoon fans may know Deadshot and Harley, but they won't recognize them here, so what's the point?
i dunno Siskoid i'm not the one who came up with the relaunch idea. i'm sure you know if i had a choice of a new SS series as they were over the relaunch version i'd take the original in a hot second. in light of all this it'll be interesting to see if The Suicide Squad survives past the 6 month " DC probation period" before they start to thin out the 52 herd.
Siskoid said…
I wonder if anything will get less than 12 issues. At 6-12, you may well think of it as a What If. But this is the new status quo, which is different from What If/Elseworlds. These changes are here to stay (until the next round of changes anyway).