This week saw 13 of the 52 brand-new DC comics hit the shelves. Which ones will make the cut for monthly purchases? Which ones will I give a second chance to? Which ones didn’t measure up at all? Although there were 13 books that came out this week, I was only able to review 10, because you know, this stuff costs money. So, while I may go pick up Swamp Thing #1 later, that issue, along with Men of War #1 and O.M.A.C. #1 did not get reviewed this week.
*********Spoilers to follow: Ye have been warned.************
Action Comics #1
I must admit, there is something immensely likeable for me about this new take on Superman. Action #1 is set 6 years in DC’s past, in a world where Superman has only been active for a few months. Everyone but the people on the streets are suspicious of him, and the fact that he is sporting jeans and a t-shirt (and a cape) give him a certain lower-class street cred that helped me believe this version a bit more.
This Superman is a far cry from the “boyscout” image that has dogged the man-of-steel for the last 50 years. I couldn’t help but sense a bit of Jesus in this Kal-El (apropos if you know that Siegel and Shuster created Supes as a messianic figure). Whereas Jesus did good in a way that frustrated those in power and pointed out their hypocrisy and the blatant falsehood of Pax Romana, Superman pursues evil on the street level and (as evidenced by his holding a corrupt business man over the ledge of a skyscraper) the corporate level. The cops, Lex, and the military all want him to go down, but like Jesus, you can’t keep a good hero down.
Verdict: This is in the buy pile for sure.
Detective Comics #1
While others may not have felt that this Batman is the one they prefer, it seems that this story takes place a bit in the past. It appears that Batman is still at odds to some extent with the political machine in Gotham, the Joker is still a relatively unknown quantity for Bats, Robin is nowhere in sight, and Batman seems just the slightest bit unsure of himself.
I felt like the portrayal of the Joker in this book had a bite to it that Joker hasn’t had in a while, and if I wasn’t going to continue it anyway, the last page shocker showed me exactly what sort of risks that DC is willing to take with its characters, and made sure that I will pick up issue #2.
Verdict: I’ll give this at least one more issue to see where it goes.
Hawk and Dove #1
This was the stinker for me. And to be fair, I still enjoyed it somewhat, so that should tell you the quality that DC is putting out this month. I have never been a fan of Hawk and Dove. I have doubly never been a fan of the artist on the book, Rob Liefeld. However, this is Hawk and Dove and Liefeld at their best.
The basic premise is that the gods of war and peace grant power to their respective avatars, who are somehow stronger together than they are apart. This is what strains credulity for me. The avatar of the god of war becomes a superhero? The avatar of the god of peace gets super-strength and flight in order to support the “Hawk” who kills his enemies? War and peace are stronger together? Sorry. There is no amount of cool comicbookery that can salvage that unforgivable misunderstanding of war and peace. Also, I can’t think of a worse combination to represent war and peace than two middle class, sexy, young, white people from suburban America.
Now, I will say that there secrets introduced, particularly about how Dawn “Dove” Granger became Dove after the original Dove died, and how Hank “Hawk” Hall will react to this apparently shocking news. Also there seems to be other “avatars” out there, and I admit I am curious as to which gods these might represent. There were a few interesting plot developments and some foreshadowing of future reveals, but not enough to keep me on board.
Verdict: Nope. I am glad that Josh will probably pick up #2 so I can read it.
Green Arrow #1
This book made me a bit sad, both because of its awesome potential, and also the fact that I can’t give it a fair shake because I am comparing it too much to my ideal version of the character. Ollie (Oliver Queen, Green Arrow) is one of my favorite DC heroes. He has, for many decades now, represented the far political left of the DC universe, often serving as its goatee-clad conscience in a world of superhero privilege. Now, there isn’t more than a small hint of that here.
Ollie has ditched his tradmark goatee in favor of the Green Arrow look from TV’s Smallville series. Not a terrible look, but it will have to grow on me. And to be fair, I very much liked the addition of a few supporting cast members, both of which don’t like how GA does things, from different sides of the fence. Also, the interplay between Queen Industries and Q-Core (his world-class companies in competition with Waynetech, Lexcorp, and Holt Industries) was really believable and cool, in sort of a Iron Man/Stark Industries sort of way.
Not a bad book, but I still have enough fondness for the other versions of Green Arrow that this one will have to work hard to win me over.
Verdict: Definitely in for a few more issues.
I really, really want to like this book. And I think I like it because I want to like it. Nutshell: Batman has gone to Africa, specifically DRC, and found a local crimefighter with similar sensibilities and has equipped him to be the “Batman” of Africa. It makes sense within the DCU. However, Africa is a big place and it is almost too easy for a writer to slip into gross generalizations, stereotypes, and well meaning imperialistic simplifications of life in the 2/3 world. Winnick doesn’t do that. He has done his homework, almost to the detriment of the story.
He gets MADDDD points for addressing some of the most un-talked-about tragedies that have plagued the late 20th-early 21st centuries, such as human trafficking, child soldiers, and utter lawlessness within the backdrop of UN activity, unrestrained nature, and the vacuum created by post-colonialism.
So, while the story of the issue didn’t quite hit me on every level, the care that Winnick is taking with the subject matter and main character is worth me sticking around for a while.
Verdict: In the buy pile on principle.
Animal Man #1
“Holy Crap!” doesn’t quite do justice to the way I felt while reading this book. This one keeps you off guard the entire time you read it. At first, we are given a full page text interview with Buddy Baker, Animal Man by a popular magazine. Then, we cut to scenes between Buddy and his family, which intriguingly takes up most of the book, but in a good way. The dynamics between a superhero activist and his family is totally unexplored in comics.
We do get a fairly straightforward hero vs. villain in the middle, but even that doesn’t go how we think, as Animal Man becomes an advocate for the “villain’s” care. Without giving anything away, this is the point in the comic where things get totally freaky. Unexpected power side-effects, bizzare dreams, and an creepy-as-%$@# ending will have you begging for next month to get here quicker so you can find out what happens next. I am officially on board with this hero I have never liked before.
Verdict: HECK YES. More (just like this), please.
Static Shock #1
I love Static. I want this book to be good. It was. Transported to New York from his home city, Dakota, Static is a 16-year-old superhero who has recently landed a dream job at Star Labs. Ok, I am not “street.” I grew up with no black friends. I don’t read a lot of black authors yet. But in my surely imperialistic, patronizing way, I appreciate that Static is not a “token” character. He isn’t the Tyler-Perry good-black-guy. You know, the one “good” black guy, who except for their skin color, is exactly like a church-going corporate-suburban white guy. Static is black kid from the streets of Dakota. He got in trouble with gangs. He got in trouble. He dealt with real issues. But he was also smart. He was heroic. He did the best he could with what he had. Static is not an either/or caricature of black America. He is what an electromagnetically charged superhero looks like when it doesn’t come from “nice white” places of America.
Also, there is a cool mentor/padawan relationship with an older black hero named Hardware, which I thought was a really nice touch. This looks like it will be good.
Verdict: Safely in the buy pile for now.
I am on the fence about this one. It had some great elements to it. It feels like a Torchwood-meets-superheroes sort of thing, and with that comes a lot of x-files, conspiracy stuff. That, I liked. I also liked that this Stormwatch organization seems to stretch really far back in DC’s history. Reeeeeally far back if I understood the images correctly. Also, I liked how while they are the “good” guys, they are not comic book good guys. They are shadowy, government good guys. They interfere, intrude, and intimidate their way into accomplishing what they think is good. I don’t like them. But I think that might make me like this book more.
Martian Manhunter is also in this group, which I think was brilliant, because he finally gets to stretch out his “manhunter” credentials. He “plays” hero with the Justice League, but when he needs to get dirty, he rolls with Stormwatch. The Superman-like and Batman-like characters are the only things I don’t like here, but maybe I am just seeing superficial similarities.
Finally, this book has a scope to it that makes me feel like it is going to be important for the future of the DCU going forward, so for that reason alone, I will give it some more time.
Verdict: in the buy pile for a few issues at least.
Justice League International #1
The comparisons between this book and the old JLI (also known as the BWA-HA-HAdays) are inevitable, and I think both fair and helpful. This is clearly the Justice league of second-stringers. But is also the Star Trek of superheroes. There is a headstrong, handsome American leading the team (Booster Gold/Captain Kirk), a tech-saavy Russian (Rocket Red/Chekhov), a hot female who isn’t American (er… Fire, Ice, Godiva, Vixen/Uhura)…. Ok, so this comparison is breaking down. But what I mean is that this is a truly international team. Even the addition of Booster as the team leader is more for PR than actual American Exceptionalism. In fact, Guy Garnder (Green Lantern) calls them out on this and walks out before their first mission starts!
There are a lot of laughs in this book, plus a Batman who is not technically on the team, but follows them around to make sure they can be manipulated by him later, lol. This team, like the nations they symbolize (China, Russia, Britain, USA, Brazil, Norway, and Zambia), they can’t yet get along, and that provides the challenge for them to get past their differences in order to achieve the greater good.
One of my favorite bits is when Rocket Red approached Booster and says that he can’t work with August General in Iron (China). Booster replies that he shouldn’t worry about it, because he has seen the future, and China and Russia are best allies. Rocket Red is satisfied and walks off pondering how that could possibly happen. Whether or not Booster was telling the truth is never discussed, but I like the idea of using possibility, rather than practicality, to change motivations.
Verdict: Buy pile, unless something goes very wrong.
Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Commissioner Gordon. She was the first Batgirl. She was shot by the Joker and paralyzed. She made lemonade from lemons and became the most popular and successful disabled comic hero ever, Oracle, universally honored and respected. Now, through a “miracle,” she is back as Batgirl. Fans are understandably mixed. Some will say “Oracle wasn’t broken.” Others rightly note that Babs was the first and most recognizable Batgirl and if anyone deserves a chance in the cowl for the new DCU, its her. And they would be right as well.
Thankfully for all of us, Gail Simone is writing this new series. She had written Oracle more than anyone else in recent memory, and she does everything she can to not minimize the events that happened to her before she regains the use of her legs. Also, this Batgirl is insecure, afraid, and by her own admission, unsure of whether she is in shape enough to be a hero again. That level of characterization and respect for Babs, along with a new status quo, a few quirky supporting characters, and no Batman or Nightwing (former lover) in sight, means that this book can go anywhere. And so far, I am on board with wherever it goes.
Verdict: Buy pile, absolutely.