New 52: Week 4 Batch 2

This is it - the final 6 books from the New52! Before we get into it, I want to talk a little bit about sex & violence, if I may. I've condemned both in these reviews, and plan to do so again at the bottom of this post, and yet, I'll also be giving rave reviews to books that use both. How is it that Catwoman is objectionable, but I, Vampire's nearly naked vamp cover isn't? Why bitch and moan about the gore in the Green Lantern books, but give Jonah Hex's violent adventures a gold star? For me, the answer has something to do with how appropriate such scenes are for the comics franchise they're found in, but also their redeeming value in the story being told. I find extreme sex & violence in superhero books to go against the genre, especially where characters who used to be G-rated are concerned. It's fine in war books and westerns. It's fine in DC Dark's horror books (though having Justice Leaguers show up in each is jarring). In those books, the sex & violence seems far less gratuitous (but it can be, see Voodoo below). If the shock is part of the story, then fine. If the same story could be told without the entrails or boobs, then it's bad. And if the story is really ONLY about the entrails or boobs, it's even worse.

All-Star Western #1
I guess Palmiotti and Gray's Jonah Hex was doing well enough to continue into the new DCU, but they've opened the book up to other western stars with that title. We still start things off with Jonah Hex, in a story set in old Gotham City (not in the West, but ok) in which Jonah teams up with Dr. Arkham to catch a serial killer in the Jack the Ripper vein. It's the closest you're gonna get to Hex's Victorian Adventures and it's pretty awesome. New readers will be introduced to Jonah through Arkham's psych evaluation-type narration, and the well-known Gotham acts as the series' midwife. The art by Moritat is beautiful, giving off a real sense of time and place (Gabriel Bautista's colors give the whole thing the feeling of a daguerreotype too), and while the violence is raw, it's not exploitative. I hope the art team stays on for more than an arc, though Hex has usually been well served by his artists in the past. And I also can't wait to see who else can show up in the book's pages. DC has some interesting western stars in its catalog.
Don't call it a reboot: It's not. Even Gotham City seems pulled from the recent Gates of Gotham mini-series.
Upgrade? I was an irregular reader of Jonah Hex, but opening the door to other features may counter the fatigue I once felt at the sameness of his stories.
Will read? They got me. They got me good.
Recommended? Definitely. Not only is it a great book for western fans who might not be into superheroes, but hey! Batman fans! Read this, you'll like it!

Blackhawks #1
The old WWII pilots have been re-imagined as G.I. Joe in a world of superhumans. As an old comics reader, I wish there was more of a connection between this team and the original (at least the Island, come on!), but that scarcely matters to the new reader. Blackhawks is a paramilitary team with cool vehicles and gadgets, culled from every country in the U.N. and where everyone has a codename. They undertake missions to fight metahuman terrorism (or at least, that's the focus of the first issue). Mike Costa provides some good action scenes before throwing us into the characters and their soap opera. There are a lot of characters here, but those we spend time with are distinctive and promising, as is the subplot of one of their own developing her own powers by accident. The idea that the team is covert and is pissed that someone snapped a picture of their logo on their secret vehicle isn't well thought out, but the comic scores enough points to make me forgive the lapse in logic. Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley have a dynamic style, that's yes, a bit Jim Lee and a bit Marc Silversti (what is it with the new DC and Image-style art?), but has a rough edge that makes it its own animal, well suited to these characters.
Don't call it a reboot: Lady Blackhawk likely went through a makeover, but otherwise, there's no reason these guys couldn't have evolved from the WWII aces.
Upgrade? Nothing to compare it to, and too early to tell if these Blackhawks are inherently better than the originals.
Will read? Made enough of an impression, yes.
Recommended? Though there are metahuman elements, Blackhawks plays as enough of a paramilitary scenario to appeal to war comics fans, and fans of the G.I. Joe concept in particular. I hope it does well, because the potential for something different at DC is certainly there.

Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #1
I read this hours ago, and I'm still not sure what to think. Gail Simone and co-plotter Ethan Van Sciver have completely re-imagined Firestorm and turned it into a narrative that I can't for the life of me predict the direction of. Ronny and Jason are now teenagers at the same high school, one a football star, the other a brilliant A-student who's hiding a tube of the next era of physics sent him by the now dead Professor Martin Stein. Some kind of organization is after the canister, but Jason activates it turning him and Ronny into different versions of Firestorm, and by the end they seem to combine to create an entity called Fury. Add to that archive shots of other Firestorms (and a Firehawk) and you've got an attempt at a completely new mythos for the Nuclear Men. It's a lot to absorb, and a touch violent for a teen hero comic in my opinion, but it's a very intriguing base that should have readers coming back for more. Vildiray Cinar's art is up to snuff, solid without being particularly distinctive, and it's not so concerned with splash pages and dead air as other books. A lot happens - good value.
Don't call it a reboot: It's totally a reboot. Perhaps the biggest reboot of all.
Upgrade? Mmm... To early to tell? Certainly it should make Firestorm more exciting than it had been of late. I'll miss Professor Stein though.
Will read? Yes, I think this is a better book than Simone's Batgirl.
Recommended? New and old readers really can get in on the ground floor of this saga. They seem to be playing a long game, so the first year should be interesting.

I, Vampire #1
When I saw I, Vampire solicited, I didn't register any interest. Wasn't the world overdosing on vampire stories already? But then a lot of stories by this Josh Fialkov guy cropped up and I loved them all. I, Vampire is the best I've read from him though. Supported by gorgeous art by Andrea Sorrentino. He's kept the original premise from House of Mystery fairly intact. Andrew Bennett is a vampire who makes his lover Mary immortal, but she is corrupted by evil and builds an army of vamps Bennett - who doesn't drink human blood - vows to take down. It's the same basic tale, but very well told, going back and forth between a flashback of happier times and Mary's opening salvo against humanity. The vampires can turn into wolves and even bigger creatures, setting them apart from the vamps in most contemporary fiction, high-powered shapeshifters. It's a personal love story set against all-out supernatural war. The stakes are high. The mood is deep and dark. Definitely one of the big winners of the New 52.
Don't call it a reboot: I'm afraid it is.
Upgrade? I'm sure there are a lot of fans of the original DeMatteis/Sutton series from the early 80s, but this has a sharp, modern feel that I'm gonna call an upgrade.
Will read? You bet. Without checking, I'll go and put this in my Top 5.
Recommended? Definitely. It's an awesome horror book, with dark romance and fierce action.

Justice League Dark #1
Peter Milligan took this concept out for a spin during Flashpoint with the Secret Seven, and he disappointed me. JLDark is all kinds of awesome however. I barely resent the fact that the other Justice Leaguers show up in their ugly costumes, because they get their asses handed to them by magic. The weirdness on show reminded me of Milligan, Morrison, Gaiman and Delano's work on books on the cusp of going Vertigo, and Mikel Janin's art thrives on the resulting imagery. JLDark is another team book that doesn't manage to assemble the team before the final page, but at least its (future) members actually show up! Introductions are cursory, but do the job. There's enough going on here to pique interest in another issue rather than make the reader impatient. It's more like Stormwatch than Justice League that way.
Don't call it a reboot: Hard to say, though it's probable some history was lost for each of these characters.
Upgrade? For Zatanna who's lost her solo book, probably not. Compared to the similar Shadowpact, I think it may be an upgrade. Of course, no Detective Chimp so...
Will read? Yes, Milligan used to be one of my favorite writers, but I haven't been this enthusiastic about his work since X-Statix. Plus, I wanna see where he takes Shade next.
Recommended? I recommend it for fans of high weirdness and horror, and I hope you'll get into this large cast of characters quickly. It may help that some of these have more presence on the stands. Zatanna just ended a series, John Constantine still stars in the long-running Hellblazer, Madame Xanadu's younger self is in Demon Knights, and Deadman is the focus of DC Universe Presents' first arc. Plus, there's that big "Justice League" at the top. Every little bit helps.

Voodoo #1
The positiveness ends here. I have nothing against a superhero who makes her living as a stripper in principle. And Sam Basri certainly draws pretty girls well. But his glossy art and good draftsmanship is wasted on this Ron Marz story because NOTHING HAPPENS! People have conversations, few of which are germane to the plot, while in the foreground, the sometimes-African American heroine (depends on the light) strips for the reader. Five pages are devoted to a strip show, seven more to a private lapdance, and another three take place in the dressing room, or rather the undressing room, where the club's various strippers walk around in their underwear or less. That's 15 lascivious pages out of 20! May just beat Catwoman's record! We find out that Voodoo is an alien shapeshifter, but not much else. Is she on our side or not? What about the guy who's bugging her, what's his story? Why does an alien scout have to hide as an exotic dancer anyway? Unfortunately, boobs are more important than answering those questions and the reader isn't given a reason to care.
Don't call it a reboot: Voodoo used to be in the Wildstorm universe. Now it's not. That's a reboot.
Upgrade? I never read those older series, but I can't imagine that it is.
Will read? There were words?!
Recommended? NOT SAFE FOR WORK! And further, NOT GOOD TO READ! T&A shots aplenty, but how about a story with that? Skippable in the extreme.

So there you have it, Voodoo made me end on a sour note. The rest of the crop is rather good though! I was very impressed with All Star Western, I, Vampire and JLDark, and will also continue with the Firestorms and the Blackhawks. So is it all over? Not exactly. Next week, the SBG will take a look at the entire relaunch and crunch some relevant numbers. See you then.


I think you've just sold me on I, Vampire and All-Star Western.

JLDark is good, although from solicits it looks like the team still might not be together until some time next year.
Siskoid said…
Good, because both are excellent.

I have nothing against non-team team books (7 Soldiers, Defenders, etc.) so long as the characters actually appear and advance their story, as opposed to our being forced to watch a slowly progressing decompressed assemblage story.
Matthew Turnage said…
I only got one of these.

Fury of Firestorm #1 - I enjoyed it, but I feel my love of the original Firestorm may be holding me back a bit. Originally, Ronnie Raymond was not the smartest guy on the block by any means, but he wasn't the moron he was portrayed as in Blackest Night / Brightest Day, and it seems that the dumber Ronnie is going to be on display in this series. Add the fact that Jason is a real jerk in this issue, and I'm finding it hard to really like either protagonist so far. Also, one of the things I found most appealing about the original Firestorm set up was the idea of the merged superhero. Having the smart one stuck as able to advise only while the young and reckless one was in the driver's seat is part of what made the series interesting. If Jason and Ronnie can operate as Firestorm independently, that takes away some of the magic of the original premise. Still, it's early days and I like the creators, so I'm sticking around for now.

I was really tempted to pick up All-Star Western, but my comic budget is fairly tight these days. Maybe I'll be able to slip it in next week if there are any copies left.
Siskoid said…
That may be why I'm also a little ambivalent about Firestorm. Too far from original premise?

I have a feeling All Star Western will make fine trades.
Anonymous said…
Anyone else find it funny that Justice League Dark has more members of the Justice League than the actual Justice League book?
We already know that Justice League is set up for trades. Siskoid, do you think JLDark will play out in the same way? I want to wait for the trades on a few of the new 52, rather than showing my displeasure at most #1s, as some #2s might turn me to a better mood. Still, I think All-Star Western will be trades, as I did that with the few Jonah Hex books I owned. And if JLDark plays out like 7 Soldiers, the non-team aspect, I'm sold on monthly. (If I then buy trades, I have a friend much poorer than I who can't afford comics for his teenage son.)

And so you know, I was trying to be funny in yesterday's comments re: Voodoo.
Siskoid said…
Yes well you know me, I'm pushing for trades to become industry standard INSTEAD of monthlies. At least on most series.
Joel Harley said…
I enjoyed Justice League Dark, but the script made me cringe a few times. "Superman, you're being cut to ribbons!" Quite.