New 52: Week 3 Batch 1

Third week and it's the shortest with 12 new DC #1s, the 13th actually being Justice League which came out on Week Zero (and I mean that in a number of ways). My promise to review every single one, with an eye towards making recommendations for new comics readers, is weighing on me this week, perhaps because I'm far less enthusiastic about the majority of these books. Still, needs must. The more high profile, recognizable titles today. The rest tomorrow. Can you STAND IT?!

Batman #1
Well, this is certainly a better Batman book than Detective Comics, but I still feel some ambivalence towards it. Writer Scott Snyder reintroduces all the elements, including Batman, his rogue's gallery, his three Robins, Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred and the Bat-Cave. It's done pretty well, and with enough devices that it's never tedious, even to this tired old comics reader who knows them all. Snyder's Batman is definitely a detective - which is why I can't believe they switched titles on him - but he's also big on gadgets, which wasn't particularly true of Snyder's Dick Grayson Batman. At times, the script reminded me of the 1989 movie, at others, of "The Batman" cartoon. And if Snyder was working with an artist like Jock, as he was on 'tec, it would be firing on all pistons. Instead, we've got Spawn artist Greg Capullo on pencils, and I'm afraid I can't get too enthusiastic about that. His Americanime style is in places too cartoony for the Batman's gritty world, and Capullo has trouble maintaining the relative sizes of characters. His Dick Grayson is a head shorter than Bruce Wayne and looks about 16, but his own book says he just spent a year being Batman. Tim is a head shorter than that, and Damian another head shorter than Time (for a whopping three heads shorter than Batman). And then the new mayoral candidate shows up and he's a 6 inches taller than Bruce... depending on the panel. Capullo provides some good pictures, but it's uneven as a whole, and I'm just not sure he's the best fit for Synder's scripts.
Don't call it a reboot: Batman and his cast look generally younger, but nothing seems particularly out of place.
Upgrade? Snyder on Batman is better than not Snyder on Batman.
Will read? Snyder's building a mystery that interests me. I'm just waiting for the art to change to commit to it.
Recommended? I think that if you're going to read only one Batman book, it'll have to be this one or Batman and Robin. Neither was a homerun for me, but Batman at least does a good job of introducing all the key concepts with art that will likely appeal to people despite my own misgivings. It FEELS like the main book of the franchise.

Catwoman #1
I think Red Lanterns is still the worst book of the New52, but Catwoman certainly gives it a run for its money. The only nice thing I can say is that Guillem March draws some nice cartoon cats. His women, however, are distorted when they're trying to look sexy, and in any case, Judd Winick is having him draw what can only be called a step back for DC and society in general. Selina is consistently falling out of her rubber bondage costume, at least, when she's not showing her "goods" to distract her old pimp, or giving it up to Batman in a fetishistic wet dream that ends with the revelation that Batman is a premature ejaculator. I kid you not. This thing is RANK. Though mostly action-based (if you know what I mean), the story's first person narration is in overdrive and truly annoying. This is the kind of comic that puts in perspective the DC architects' publicized visit to the Maxim offices. It's for that demographic and no one else. And perhaps not even that.
Don't call it a reboot: It's probably not, though it reintroduces the idea of Batman and Catwoman being friends with benefits.
Upgrade? I wasn't reading Gotham City Sirens, but I can't believe it was worse than this!
Will read? If you look through these, you'll find I'm pretty lenient and give most titles at least a second issue. Not this one. No way, no how.
Recommended? Are you just skipping to the end?! Of course I don't recommend it! DC had a recognizable property with the potential for attracting female readers here, but they blew it royally. I feel dirty just having read it.

Green Lantern Corps #1
As with Green Lantern, so with the Green Lantern Corps. The book really hasn't changed its cast, its look or its writer. However, Peter Tomasi does realize this is a first issue, and starts Guy Gardner and John Stewart off on Earth, dealing with their personal lives or lack thereof. It's a good introduction to both, and the start of a new storyline that acts as a jumping-on point, continuity baggage from the previous series kept to a strict minimum. Artist Fernando Pasarin is adept at creating interesting aliens and environments as well. But for all its strengths, the book has the weaknesses it's always had under the Johns/Tomasi reign. Within less than two pages, we get our first decapitation, with more gore to follow. At this point, it's business as usual to the point of being cliché, and worse, it makes the non-Terran Green Lanterns look disposable. It's not even shocking anymore to see them go down in pieces, it's just gratuitous and silly. So if you liked it before, you'll like it again, and if you didn't, ditto.
Don't call it a reboot: It's not. Follows directly from the previous series.
Upgrade? Kif-kif. No change up or down, but I might give "up" the advantage seeing as it's not burdened by the interminable "events" of the past few years.
Will read? Yes, I'll continue to do so despite its excesses. It's still a fairly good book, and it features my two favorite Lanterns.
Recommended? GLC does a good job of introducing its two leads, has solid art and imaginative designs, and sets up its mystery villain fairly well. If you're not a fan of gory violence, you might want to skip it however.

Nightwing #1
Kyle Higgins trained on Dick Grayson's voice in Gates of Gotham (co-written by Scott Snyder) and he does a good job with it here. I like his Nightwing. It's not particularly groundbreaking, but it's solid superhero stuff. By having Dick's old circus come to town, Higgins flirts with the idea of his returning to the trapeze life, and you know, that would be a pretty cool concept for a superhero's secret identity/private life. Pretty sure it won't go passed the first storyline, but in the meantime, it's nice to see Dick in his element (which was one of the strongest elements in the Flashpoint mini-series that featured him). The action is good, and Eddy Barrows is energetic and well-paced. I liked his work on Superman, but he really gets to cut loose here, only infrequently letting his enthusiasm get in the way of clarity (a very minor complaint). The weakness for me was the lack of any recognizable (or well introduced) villain. I don't know who that guy is at the end, but despite being featured in a couple scenes, he looks awfully generic to me. Giving him a name would have gone a long way, you know?
Don't call it a reboot: Dick mentions having been Batman for the past year, so it's not.
Upgrade? From being Batman? Not really. However, the issue makes me believe his being Nightwing again could be a good thing.
Will read? The issue has convinced me to stick around.
Recommended? New comics readers interested in the Batman universe (i.e. Gotham City) shouldn't ignore this book about a former Batman and former Robin. It just might turn out to be a solid monthly action book, which I can't say of every other Gotham book, including some with a higher profile.

Supergirl #1
Supergirl has JUST arrived and she immediately gets into a huge brawl with armored Russians (but not Rocket Reds, for some reason). That's pretty much it. Michael Green and Mike Johnson haven't written much else (despite there being TWO of them). Ok, some first person narration, and it gives you the jist of the Krypton she left, but in small doses. There's no real indication of what the book or character will be like. Here, she's all instinct and believes she's dreaming, so we can't really infer anything from her actions. The only thing that's for certain is that her redesigned costume just doesn't work. Think what you will of its appearance on the cover, it's as good as it gets. The interiors make it clear that even the book's artist Mahmud Asrar can't make those boots and armor joints look anything but awkward. Otherwise, I do like his fluid art, and want to also commend colorist Dave McCaig for some gorgeous work, giving snowbound scenes some variety and texture.
Don't call it a reboot: I have to, because it reboots Supergirl completely.
Upgrade? There's little to go by, but Supergirl had just found her way in the last year or two, so it's a shame to have her reset like that.
Will read? Not a big chance.
Recommended? Sorry no. If only this much happens in the first issue, I can only imagine how quickly the plots will advance.

Wonder Woman #1
Ok, this is a weird one. Wonder Woman has definitely been pushed into the DC Dark corner of the universe, where Swamp Thing and Animal Man dwell. Regardless of whether the book is good or bad, I think asking if that's an appropriate choice for the character has some relevance. Wonder Woman is one of the "Big Three" and is as recognizable as Superman or Batman. Neither of those characters inhabits the same world exactly (one light, one dark), so giving Diana a more supernatural/mythic environment gives her her own sandbox. And yet, the tone here is so dark that you're wondering if she's a superhero anymore. "Wonder Woman fights monsters" is a perfectly good premise, but playing that dark, violent and disturbing may alienate one potential new reader pool, namely young girls. I don't know how many parents would hand Wonder Woman comics to their young girls as a form of empowerment fiction, but Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's story may be too adult for that. Then again, it's a Greco-Roman Buffy the Vampire Slayer and that wasn't particularly nonviolent. And some may claim (as many comics writers have) that WW is impossible to write for, that no one understands the character or her world, or how to make it financially successful. Maybe an important paradigm shift is exactly what's needed. That's my preamble, take it for what it's worth. Me personally? I liked it. I've always loved Chiang's art, and here I feel like Wonder Woman's walked onto the set of Roberson and Alred's I, Zombie. There's a supernatural mystery and strong action, etc., but it could stand to be just a tad less gruesome.
Don't call it a reboot: Too early to tell. Wonder Woman hasn't been herself all year anyway, so it's hard to say if this is an evolution of the character, or a complete revamp.
Upgrade? Anything's better than what JMS weighed down the character with, so the bar wasn't set high. The creative team vaulted over it.
Will read? Yes. DC Dark is turning out to be my favorite corner of the DCU.
Recommended? With strong warnings, yes. If you don't mind the gore and more adult take (i.e. aren't planning to hand it to younger children), it's a strong repositioning of the character in the Buffy mold. The art is easy on the eyes too.

Of that half-dozen, the tasteless Catwoman has a big "DO NOT READ" stamped on it. The best book was probably Wonder Woman, though like Batman, Nightwing and Green Lantern Corps, it comes with caveats attached. Tomorrow might offer a crop of less mitigated reviews, but looking at what's left, I wouldn't be so sure.


snell said...

I think Xena might be a more accurate comparison with Wonder Woman, particularly with a) we're dealing with the Greek gods and mythos; and b) Zola makes a Gabrielle analogue, particularly the "unknowingly impregnated with god baby" angle...

Siskoid said...

Probably because I just watched 5 seasons of Angel, the Whedonite comparison came to me first.

De said...

I happen to be the parent of two girls (ages 12 and 3). She loves the Percy Jackson books so Wonder Woman's ties to the gods of myth would be a no-brainer. I'd love nothing more than to get my oldest a subscription to Wonder Woman but I can't. Unfortunately, DC's turn toward the violent means this Wonder Woman if off limits to her and that bites.

Siskoid said...

That's what I was afraid of. DC's quest for a new reader base has been PR spin up til now, and not much else, because most books that had a chance to appeal to a new demographic have instead been geared towards hardened comic book readers.

Craig Oxbrow said...

And it's possibly to do a violent-as-Buffy book without showing a lot of gore. The show itself managed it, monster gore excepted.

Oh well.

Siskoid said...

To be fair, the decapitated horses BECOME monsters.

Matthew Turnage said...

Like last week, I only picked up four of the #1's this week. Of the three in this post, here's my view:

Batman #1: I was impressed with how Snyder managed to introduce all the characters and settings without it seeming too expository. It was a solid read, and set up an interesting mystery going forward. However, Capullo's art didn't really do it for me. It seemed a bit too cartoony for this title. It'll be a one and done for me.

Green Lantern Corps #1: Solid, and pretty much what you would expect from this creative team based on their run on Emerald Warriors, and Tomasi's GLC stint before that. I give Tomasi a lot of credit for how he introduced Guy and John, and even concepts like the GLC's sectors without becoming intrusive. I'm getting tired of the gore in this book (my super-hero double standard coming in to play; I've been re-reading and enjoying the early Dark Horse Conan issues, but I prefer my decapitations there, not here). Nevertheless, I'll be sticking around for the forseeable future since I know it will be a solid, entertaining read month to month.

Supergirl #1: The promotional material didn't make it clear this was going to be a ground-up reboot. Now that I know that it is, I'm a bit nervous. Based on what DC has said about focusing on Supergirl "not liking humans" I'm afraid we'll be retreading the same ground we did early in the previous Supergirl series. It took almost three years and Sterling Gates to get that book on track, I hope this one finds its way much sooner. Again, I'm a Superman completist so I'm in it for the long haul no matter what, but I liked Johnson and Green's Superman/Batman run for the most part, so I'll be cautiously optimistic for now.

SallyP said...

Frankly, I thought that Wonder Woman was fabulous, and of course I loved Green Lantern Corps. But Catwoman, made me want to take a shower.


Siskoid said...

Matt: I think the thing about gore (or sex) in comics (or any media) is a matter of intent. Why is it there and who is it for? Used with good reason and in a book that warrants it, no problem. That's not the case in GLC. In Wonder Woman, it works, though the question of who this is marketed/marketable to is still hanging.

Sally: Wonder Woman as a horror book is so outrageous it just might work.


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