New 52: Week 4 Batch 1

Last week! I'm gonna go ahead and use the same format I did for the past three, and start with the best-known names, with the other half-dozen to follow tomorrow. As usual, these capsule reviews are geared towards the potential new readers DC claims it is wooing.

Aquaman #1
One thing Geoff Johns does in this Aquaman relaunch is make it a proper introduction to the character. The powers we don't see in action are at least discussed, his origin is told, Arthur repositions himself as a man who wants to explore his human, not Atlantean, heritage, and all with Ivan Reis' excellent art. Bit heavy-handed however. Most of the information we get because an obnoxious blogger corners Aquaman in a diner (it's tell, don't show), and Johns gets pretty strident (pun not intended) about defending the character. Though there's action and characterization, most of the issue is spent on repeating old Aquaman jokes and deflating them. Telling new readers that they're wrong to denigrate Aquaman only makes sense if you expect new readers that are antagonistic towards the character. For readers who do like Aquaman, they may resent the hell out of being told that Aquaman's no one's favorite and making Arthur suffer the indignity of having that thrown in his face. If you start the series out with Aquaman as a laughing stock, I'm sorry, but you have did him in yourself.
Don't call it a reboot: Unknown. Looks intact, but his history may have been shortened to exclude various eras of his career.
Upgrade? This is pretty much exactly where we left the character in Brightest Day, except the new Aqualad is nowhere to be seen. I hope he shows up later.
Will read? As a card-carrying member of FOAM, I sort of have to. And want to.
Recommended? Aquaman's a badass, and I want new readers to find that out. I just wish Johns hadn't been so gauche in showing it. Hell, new readers will probably get a hoot out of the comedy.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Let me tell you how pathetic I find The Dark Knight. First of all, it's a Batman comic designed as a showcase for David Finch. He's an artist I don't like (his perspectives and compositions are as bad as Liefeld's, he just hides them in more intricate detail so many readers won't notice) and an improvised writer, who here gets help from Paul Jenkins (showcase no more). Fans laughed at relaunching this book which took the better part of a year to get to #5, and now it's right back to #1. And this new #1 is just awful. The art is everything I expect it to be, and so is the script. Batman's first person narration is pretentious and overdone. Bruce Wayne swings on ropes without his costume, risking discovery. Anytime a woman shows up, it's a pin-up or ass shot. It's the second Batman book this month to feature an Akrham Asylum break-out, which tells me there's absolutely no editing going on. And don't tell what they've to Two-Face this issue makes him remotely more interesting, because it doesn't. It just comes off as silly.
Don't call it a reboot: Batman Inc. is mentioned, so it's business as usual.
Upgrade? You'd think having help from a co-plotter would help. It doesn't.

Will read? Not a chance.
Recommended? Avoid at all costs. New readers, you want to read Batman and if you have another 3$ in your pocket, Batman and Robin. That's it. You shouldn't even be thinking about picking up Dark Knight.

Flash #1
Francis Manapul is an excellent artist, very well suited to the Flash. I could recommend this book on the art alone. But can he write? Yeah, he can (here with the help of Brian Buccellato). Barry Allen, the fastest man alive, shares superheroics with the wacky world of SF CSI, making this a mystery book as well as a high concept superhero comic. What's here is solid enough, and acts as a pretty good introduction to the character, one I wouldn't mind handing to someone. Longtime fans will gripe at Barry's marriage being undone, Iris West relegated to pesky journalist who bugs Barry, but hasn't really met the Flash yet. For those fans, it's even worse. Barry's on a date with another woman. But as a reboot/relaunch, that's fine. Maybe they can get a will they/won't they dynamic going. Works for half the tv shows out there. What the book needs, however, is a good villain. Like many comics in the New52, the title hero faces off against nameless goons, which again makes me feel like the villains of the new DCU have been short-changed. Certainly makes that cliffhanger stand out as one of the most boring this month.
Don't call it a reboot: Marriage undone, playing the field, probably didn't die in the Crisis and come back. Totally a reboot.
Upgrade? Nah. It's the same series it used to be, without the deeper, richer history and relationships.
Will read? Yes. Enough of a Flash fan to do so, and Manapul's first effort wasn't bad.
Recommended? A solid superhero comic that uses its CSI element better than Johns did in the previous volume. Manapul's art is very nice as well. A good intro overall.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1
One of DC's more confusing efforts, New Guardians starts with a needless re-origin of Kyle Rayner in a flashback that isn't advertized as such. After that, there's a caption that says "Present day", and when we return to Kyle, he's got a different uniform, but he has to explain to a kid that he's not Hal Jordan. Entirely plausible, but it still makes it feel like Kyle's a rookie, and if you miss that caption (I did, at first), you'll get the feeling Kyle's history's been erased. Hopefully it hasn't, because that would make Tony Bedard's series clash with the rest of GL continuity, one of the few untouched chunks of DC's continuity. Looks like Bedard tried to make New Guardians a better jump-on point for new readers with that origin, but it really isn't. New readers won't really know what the heck is going on with all those colored rings, and like Justice League, the team isn't assembled by the end of the issue. The cover, in fact, acts as a spoiler about who will appear in later issues. The art by Tyler Kirkham is good enough, though derivative of Jim Lee's, and of course, it must include that staple of Lantern comics, gory violence. You only have to wait for page 9 before someone gets graphically disemboweled. So a slow start, though at least it presents an intriguing mystery.
Don't call it a reboot: A small one. Kyle's origin has been tweaked.
Upgrade? Only insofar as Kyle's gotten to lead his own series, whereas he was relegated to sharing the spotlight with two other Earth Lanterns in GLC before.
Will read? I am interested in the Lantern sector of the DCU, so yes. I hope New Guardians starts to move a little faster though.
Recommended? With reservations. New readers are unlikely to understand concepts developed during the War of Light without the help of trade collections despite being thrown a bone with Kyle's origin (which is predicated on some Oan event they won't recognize anyway).

Savage Hawkman #1
Carter Hall is a cryptologist (I guess he helps decipher alien languages or something? he's not a cryptoGRAPHER) who used to be Hawkman. He decides to burn his old wings, but the Nth metal has other ideas. It transforms him into a new-look Hawkman and he must immediately fight the horribly named Morphicus, an evil pile of alien vampiric goo. I didn't think much of Tony Daniel as a Batman writer, but Hawkman's more of a blank slate. Maybe he can do something more original here? It's not a bad start, one that gives the character a new beginning without voiding his past (couldn't have more series in the relaunch gone this route?). Philip Tan's art isn't strong on faces, but is helped along by the painterly colors of Sunny Gho. Tan loses some stiffness when he gets into the more fantastical and action-based scenes, so there's potential there.
Don't call it a reboot: Though some elements have definitely been de-emphasize, it doesn't feel like a reboot. Dialog seems to point to a more or less intact history, though probably without Thanagar in the mix. Let's call it a more streamlined history, then.
Upgrade? Still wondering where the JSA will be, because this is definitely its Hawkman, and not Earth-1's Katar Hol (who I'm kind of missing at this point). The new paradigm still has to prove itself, so I'm not gonna call it an upgrade quite yet.
Will read? Give it a couple more issues. I've been wanting a competent Hawkman series for a while. Is this it?
Recommended? A good jumping on point, with everything you need to understand the series. Doesn't quite stand out as one of the series new readers really should read, but perhaps if it keeps up a kind of Supernatural/X-Files mood, it could find its niche.

Superman #1
George Perez didn't just write this comic, he drew the breakdowns for Jesus Merino's pencils. And it shows. Where a lot of DC's #1s have wide open spaces, a low average for panels per page, and lots of splashes, Perez' Superman is dense almost to the point of claustrophobia. This thing took a lot longer to read than the rest of the line, and I'd call that a good thing. Perez does a lot of things right. For one thing, he successfully tracks how media works these days, turning Lois into a frontline tv news producer, throwing tweets and web exclusives into the mix, all the while keeping old-fashioned guys like Clark and Perry plugging away in the dying print media. That's the real star here, and all the action (a battle against a Kryptonian fire monster) is seen through the news broadcasting process. The soap opera elements recall the late 80s and early 90s, again a good thing, even if I might decry the loss of Superman's marriage (but I'm moving on). Superman isn't THAT brooding, at least not yet. It all seemed justified to me. So it's a hit as far as I'm concerned. If there's a flaw, it's Superman's new costume, and I imagine it's not a coincidence that Perez and Merino often draw him at a distance or in close-up, giving the suit as little play as possible. Other redesigns that look awful: Jimmy's Bieber haircut and the crazy-ass new Daily Planet building. There was talk of making Perry a black man, but it's Morgan Edge who gets a new ethnicity instead. The supporting cast shows a lot of variety, actually, even if the roles were small this time around.
Don't call it a reboot: Completely.
Upgrade? Chris Roberson had brought Superman back from the brink after JMS' false start, so I'm not ready to call it an upgrade, but it's certainly not a DOWNgrade.
Will read? Yes. I liked it more than I thought I would. Reminded me of the franchise's better years. So long as I don't look at the suit directly.
Recommended? A resounding yes. There was a lot of exciting stuff happening, and not just with the superhero - Lois may turn out to be the true protagonist of this book. And you can't beat its content-per-dollar value.

Teen Titans #1
Just horrible. I knew I didn't like the costume redesigns, but I find Brett Booth's artwork disagreeable in general. Generally poor, he has trouble with page layouts, choreography and clarity. But writer Scott Lobdell is more guilty still. Not only does he pull off the New52 trick of taking too much time assembling his team (only three members have speaking roles, despite that being less than half of what's on the cover), but he also writes Teen Titans like it's an X-book. We're told upfront that there's a veritable "plague" of metahuman teenagers. That's not the DC Universe, is it? We meet up with Red Robin who feels the need to assemble these fugitive teens, Kid-Flash who screws up royally on national tv, and Wonder Girl, completely revamped as... well, I can't make sense of who she is really and what her abilities are. So nothing happens much and the Teen Titans don't actually exist by issue's end. Annoying AND ugly.
Don't call it a reboot: Tim Drake was Robin, but his Red Robin series may well have been erased. Wonder Girl's been rebooted entirely. Kid-Flash too, probably. I'm calling it a reboot.
Upgrade? The franchise had had a lot of trouble since, well since Marv Wolfman left it, frankly. Even so, this is a step WAY DOWN from where J.T. Krul left the book last month.
Will read? You can't make me.
Recommended? Not on your life. You do not want to crack this thing open, trust me. Boring, badly drawn and confusing.

The quirkier books I REALLY want to read will be tomorrow (but also Voodoo, so it's not gonna be all roses), I hope you'll come back for that. Of today's crop, Teen Titans and Dark Knight are clear losers, while all the others are imperfect, but pretty solid, Superman especially.


Eric TF Bat said...

I had an idea once for an opening scene of a Justice League movie that would feature Aquaman showing off his strength and low-level telepathy, and the beginning of Aquaman #1 was eerily close to it. I liked it, despite the heavy handed blogger "character" (from, presumably).

I didn't like Superman #1 as much, possibly because it felt like approximately episode #5 or so of an ongoing series, after the characters have been established and the intrigue, which you need the previous episodes to even begin to follow, has started ramping up.

But the big surprise is how much I enjoyed Teen Titans #1. Sure, the art is average, but there hasn't been much talent or style showing in anything that's come out of DCNu, so that's no big deal. I liked the new angle, and the fact that superheroes are public and considered useful (unlike Marvel) but are mistrusted and occasionally feared (very much like Marvel). It's a good balance, and less melodramatic and stupid than the whole "don't care how many times they saved us, we hate and fear them because they're different" that Marvel can't get away from.

So for me, Superman was dull, Aquaman was a mixed bag, and TT was surprisingly good. I can't wait for your review of Humanoid Balloon Animals #1, aka Voodoo, because that will be considerably more entertaining than the actual book...

LiamKav said...

The "hate and fear" us only really applies to Marvel's mutants (and Spider-Man, I guess). Certainly everyone loves the Fantastic Four.

This will also be the last time I say it before moving on, but reading the Flash description shows what a horrible mistake it was spinning this whole thing out of Flashpoint.

"Oh no, I tried to change time to get my mother back, but it went horribly wrong. I now know that things like that shouldn't be changed, and it's not worth the sacrifices that everyone else has had to make."

"Hmm. I seem to have lost my wife. Oh, and so has Clark. And Wally's vanished too." *shrug*

Siskoid said...

I've been pleasantly surprised by books I thought I'd hate (Grifter and the non-Starfire sections of Red Hood), but Titans isn't one of them.

And while I agree that the art on many books hasn't been great, I can't agree that "there hasn't been much talent in anything that's come out of the DCNu". The DC Dark books in particular have had distinctive, even gorgeous, looks. Batwoman is beautiful. Reis, Manapul, Chiang, Manke, Moritat, have also handed in nice work.

Siskoid said...

Liam: It feels to me like NewDC should have been a result of the Final Crisis, and they just didn't think of it then, or didn't have the balls, or whatever.

rob! said...

I agree Siskoid; I think Johns was expressly writing to the (approx) 82,000 new Aquaman fans that were picking up this new book.

That did make me feel a tad left out, since I didn't need to be told how awesome Aquaman is, but I figure once we get past this in the next couple of issues then we'll all be on the same page, metaphorically.

Aquaman #1 was one of DC's top sellers, one of a handful that cracked 100K in sales. A new Golden Age for Arthur!

P.S. I like the idea of a "card-carrying" FOAM member.

Anonymous said...

I can readily forgive "Aquaman" for confronting fanboy guff directly (is that one guy Harry Knowles?) just to get the rebuttals out of the way. It may be a recurring theme that people underestimate Aquaman, but it probably won't be necessary to deal with it all at once like this again.

Favorite scene: flashback of Arthur and his dad at the diner.

Matthew Turnage said...

I read six of the new #1s, this week, five in this post.

Aquaman #1 - I agree it's written to refute the objections of the uninitiated, but that seems to be right in line with the point of this whole relaunch. We get Aquaman's origin introduced subtly, Mera and Aquaman's status established, and a showcase of Aquaman's powers that demonstrates how effective they are out of the water. Yes, the blogger scene was a bit heavy handed, but all in all, I really liked this issue. I'm also a card-carrying member of FOAM, but I'd be in for the long haul on this one regardless.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 - Bedard did a decent job of establishing Kyle Rayner and a bit of his background for new readers, but as you say it still hinges on things new readers wouldn't know about. The character moments are probably much more useful to the new readers than the actual events of the flashback. From the perspective of an established GL reader, we establish a premise fairly well. I hope things move much more quickly in the second issue, though. This was the GL I was most looking forward to, as Bedard and Kirkham's GLC was the most consistently good GL book for the past year. However, I found this to be the weakest of the four #1s.

Savage Hawkman #1 - I have avoided Tony Daniel's writing before this relaunch based on reviews I read, but this issue was pretty good. There are lingering questions about Hawkman's past, particularly relating to the JSA, but those wouldn't trouble a new reader. I thought this issue was very new reader friendly, establishes an interesting status quo, and despite so-so art and a questionably named villain, I like where it's going. I'll be sticking with this book for a while.

Superman #1 - Best book of the week for me. I was worried that this book might get overlooked in the wake of the higher-profile Action Comics. Perez and Merino have established a solid setting and supporting cast for Superman's new adventures. I loved the characterization in this issue, and I loved the density of the story. Not only was each page more packed than the average comic, there were more story pages - 25 by my count last night. Definitely value for money with this book. I also was pleased to see that Perez and Merino weren't drawing Superman's new costume to look like armor (aside from the boots). On the cover and interiors it appears more like leather to me, with the lines as seams. That will make the new costume a little easier to take.

Teen Titans #1 - Let's just say this one wasn't for me, and leave it at that.

I passed on Flash because I really wasn't crazy about Flash rebirth or the series that followed it, despite Manapul's excellent art. I may reconsider trying #1 based on your review, but ultimately I don't know how much enthusiasm I can muster for Barry Allen (or at least this interpretation of him). Barry was the first Flash I encountered, but it was Wally who made me a fan. And besides, the current character doesn't feel like the Barry I remember anyway.

Siskoid said...

Rob: All you have to do is shrink the certificate to wallet size. Like I did.

I agree with you both that once this issue is out of the way, it should be smooth sailing for the King of the 7 Seas.

Too bad about not actually "talking" to fish though. I was hoping for Topo to make a comeback. But if he's just a mental slave...

Siskoid said...

Matt: We see eye to eye on all of those. Consensus building!

LiamKav said...

This pretty much sums up my feelings on Barry:

At least with Hal Jordan, you can take the piss. Barry is just...


Siskoid said...

Shortpacked is really scoring points against DC lately. Love it.

If the new Barry is Wally Westish, then I'm reminded of the Flash tv show, where the two of them were pretty much amalgamated (with Jay thrown into the origin story).

Michael Hoskin said...

>Aquaman's a badass, and I want new readers to find that out.

Perhaps he is, but didn't we already see this character when it was Geoff Johns' Hawkman?

Siskoid said...

I was out of comics at the time. How similar are they?

Aliendw700 said...

"For readers who do like Aquaman, they may resent the hell out of being told that Aquaman's no one's favorite and making Arthur suffer the indignity of having that thrown in his face"

Totally agrre with you in Aquaman, I dont understand why Geof spent a complete issue, accentuating that Aquaman is a Joke, there is the entire run of Peter David to prove it wrong. you don't need to reinvent the wheel.
And why The Badass Arthur Curry will care about people think if him. Is the King of the 7 seas. he has not time care about that.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Johns made Hawkman very badass, Siskoid. I'm not particularly enjoying the first issues I've read, though the surprises are in ones I didn't expect to enjoy, like Grifter. Never read the character before, I might end up liking Voodoo, who knows? Now that you'll have completed the first #1s, I'd like your take on the old DCU as a whole compared to the new. I might have only enjoyed 9 of the first 52 I bought or borrowed, but I've been dropping DC titles since Blackest Night, so in the last two years I went down to maybe 15 a month, some who have no DCnU versions yet, like Power Girl or JSA. I suppose I should even look up how many titles per month DC was putting out over the last two years, I dunno. But I'd be curious as to if you are experiencing a similar experience, percentage-wise. For the other commenters, the same. I've always been about an 85% DC guy, so what about it. Out of the new 52, how many are buying MORE of these titles than of all the books that came out in August, or earlier in the year before some books were canceled.

Siskoid said...

Quick count, I read all 52 and LOVED about 10, and liked very much another baker's dozen.

I outright HATED only maybe 8.

That's not too bad.

I'll check the numbers of monthly publications pre-Flashpoint for you.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Siskoid, I'd even include I, Zombie as a title I bought, though I never even looked at it as a Vertigo title. But I'm mostly curious as to if the new 52 was a success compared to books dropped from the pull list pre-FP. As an example, I'll still buy Birds of Prey, because I was buying BoF after Brightest Day, as well. I'm buying Batman (for now), wheras I hadn't since Morrison's work, but I also read Power Girl. Batwoman goes without saying, and I tried to be fair about what I purchased.

I think what I'm learning most ids about writers like Scott Snyder I *should* have followed, and the fact that Winnick and Krul haven't changed a biy.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Sorry about the typos.


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