Posted by: Graeme McMillan on September 28, 2011
Tags: Action Comics, All Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, DC, DC Comics, DC Universe Presents, Deathstroke, Detective Comics, Flash, Frankenstein, Graeme, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern: New Guardians, Grifter, Hawk & Dove, I Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League International, Legion Lost, Legion of Super-Heroes, Men of War, Mister Terrific, New 52, Nightwing, OMAC, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Static Shock, Stormwatch, Suicide Squad, Superboy, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, Teen Titans, The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men, The Savage Hawkman, Voodoo, Wonder Woman
You know, before DC Comics so politely sent me the entire run of the New 52 launch issues, I don’t think that I’d ever read an entire month’s worth of a superhero universe before. I have to say, it’s kind of exhausting. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try and run down very quick capsule reviews of all 52 right here, right now, as Fatboy Slim once said many many years ago oh God I am so old.
ACTION COMICS #1: In retrospect, maybe my favorite of all 52 books, this one feels like it actually understands how to reboot a concept without overwhelming the reader with information or assuming that they already know everything; Grant Morrison’s script has some of his shorthand dialogue, but it’s dense and filled with “action” throughout, and this feels like a satisfying chunk of comics that also lays the groundwork for future stories. Very Good.
ALL STAR WESTERN #1: It’s heresy amongst the comicsinternet to admit that I’m not a massive fan of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Jonah Hex, but it’s never really done a lot for me. That said, this felt solidly Good, setting up the new status quo for the character – and offering enough introduction to the character for new readers – with some really nice art by Moritat. I’m amused by yet another “Gotham is built upon conspiracy and evil” storyline so soon after last month’s finale of Batman: Gates of Gotham, though.
ANIMAL MAN #1: Oh, this was so almost good. Jeff Lemire’s writing is… good, I think, although I feel like he stumbles on the more domestic side of things here, and I like the subtle repositioning of this series as a horror book. But the art is just not serving the writing well at all; Travel Foreman can be an interesting stylist, but he ruins scenes here, most importantly – and, I think, damningly – the final page, which is robbed of its full impact by some weird staging that basically wastes the top half of the page. Also not helping, the inks by Dan Green (which veer between too heavy and almost weightlessly light) and some very dull, flat colors by Lovern Kindzierski. Eh, then, because of the art.
AQUAMAN #1: Yes, Geoff, I get it: Aquaman isn’t a comedy punchline anymore. I would’ve preferred it if we’d had a chance to decide that for ourselves instead of suffering through the “blogger interview” midway through the book, but overall, this is a pretty Good first issue, setting out its pitch, introducing its characters and having a decent enough hook for the next few issues. That said, if you were reading Brightest Day, you pretty much know what’s in here already; this is very much a continuation of what was happening with the character in that book.
BATGIRL #1: I don’t know if this was flop sweat or something else, but this just didn’t work as well as I’d been expecting it to. Maybe because it’s so joyless, something that writer Gail Simone didn’t seem to have a problem expressing with the character in Birds of Prey, but there really is something very… rushed and filled and self-important about this issue that made it feel like you were being hurriedly brought up to speed by someone who wanted you to know how serious everything was. World’s dumbest cliffhanger, too. Eh.
BATMAN #1: Greg Capullo’s art is surprisingly nice – Yes, a little too MacFarlane for my tastes, still, but what can you do? – and Scott Snyder’s story is… I don’t know. Nice, but somewhat slight, perhaps? I’ll be coming back for a second issue, but I think that’s more down to goodwill for the creative team than anything having particularly wowed me with this debut. Okay, I guess.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #1: Now this was much more my speed, perhaps because I enjoyed this version of Batman more – One who seems to be dealing with his trauma after X number of years processing survivor guilt as Batman, instead of just burying it – than the one in Batman or Detective (And, really, I can’t believe that a linewide reboot didn’t result in a slightly more consistent portrayal of Batman. He feels like a different character everytime he appears, like Superman. That doesn’t seem like a good thing to me), or perhaps because there was more of an urgency on display here than in Snyder’s title. Either way, Good, and a much better “first issue” than the last time Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason took over the book.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1: Talking of wildly varying characterizations, this book… uh… exists. I don’t know what to say about it. If you want a generic Image-style take on Batman, complete with pouty mouths from David Finch and overdone dialogue by Paul Jenkins, this is for you, I guess. I was completely underwhelmed, and laughed out loud as the kids say at the reveal of “One-Face” at the end of the book, especially because he still has half of his face scarred. Awful, but I’m sure it’ll have its audience. Oh, and Jaina Hudson is the new Jezebel Jet.
BATWING #1: The first of the “This was much better than I expected” books of the 52, I found myself drawn into this more than I’d thought I would. Maybe it was Judd Winick’s take on the character and his secret identity (A cop working outside of the system, because the system is so corrupt), or perhaps it was Ben Oliver’s lovely, weirdly hazily dream-like artwork, but this convinced me to try the second issue, which I really wouldn’t have thought would’ve been the case. A low Good, perhaps, but I have to say: This feels much more like a mini-series than an ongoing, already.
BATWOMAN #1: This, however, was a letdown. Not because it wasn’t Good, because it was. But I’d been expecting more, spoiled by Greg Rucka’s run on Detective. The writing here – by artist JH Williams and co-writer Hayden Blackman – was fine, and hit all the right notes, but didn’t surprise me or have the emotional depth that Rucka’s had, and the art, while beautiful, also lacked the impact or purpose of the original run. Even though I’ll be back for future issues, and even though I enjoyed this, I found myself disappointed nonetheless. That’s what I get for having high expectations.
BIRDS OF PREY #1: I’m not sure why, but this felt like it had too much space in it, if that makes any sense. What’s here is fine, it’s a perfectly Okay comic book, but it feels too empty for some reason, like something is missing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something isn’t quite right, like it’s only half of the intended story or something.
BLACKHAWKS #1: I love Mike Costa’s Cobra series for IDW, which is why it depressed me so much to realize how much I didn’t like this first issue (The art by Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley didn’t help; it’s overly busy and not quirky enough to make me want to keep paying attention). You can’t fault him for throwing the reader in as everything’s already happening, but I didn’t find any character particularly interesting, mysterious or even distinctive enough to care about, and as a result, the whole thing left me cold. Awful, sadly.
BLUE BEETLE #1: On the podcast, I said this was like the Blue Beetle we had before, but less so. Tony Bedard and Ig Guara make all the right moves, but it lacks the heart or originality to make me want to come back for issue 2. Eh.
CAPTAIN ATOM #1: Hey, everyone who’s always wished that there was a Doctor Manhattan solo title spinning out from Watchmen, now you have your dream book. Sadly, it’s written by JT Krul – who ruins the goodwill he’d built up from an Okay first issue by ending with a stupid “Is Captain Atom about to die?” cliffhanger (It’s his first issue, so I think that question answers itself) – but, on the plus side, the art by Freddie Williams II is very nice indeed. If it gets smarter in future issues, it could end up being worth checking back in with in future, I suspect.
CATWOMAN #1: Oh, man, haven’t I said enough about this already? Cheesecakey pandering with a depressingly unsexy tone and annoyingly passive lead character. Awful.
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS: DEADMAN #1: I swear to God, this is like a black hole in my brain. I have read this book multiple times, and it really refuses to stay in there. Pretty much the definition of Eh for me, although I’ll say that Bernard Chang never really gets the credit for his work that he deserves. I’d love to see him paired with less garish colorists sometime.
DEATHSTROKE #1: Fun last-minute twist aside, there’s little in this book that appeals: I don’t care about the character or the machismo on display, and Joe Bennett has always been hit-or-miss (with an emphasis on the latter) for me. Eh.
DEMON KNIGHTS #1: Punny title aside, Paul Cornell pretty much won me over with the sense of humor on display in this one, much like Jon Rogers did the same in IDW’s Dungeons and Dragons book (which this is oddly reminiscent of, it has to be said). Weirdly parochial, but all the better for it. Very Good.
DETECTIVE COMICS #1: Tony “Salvador” Daniel – Has he ever used his middle name before? – aims high and doesn’t quite make it, but oh man, can you see him try. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but there’s nothing particularly right, either; it all feels familiar, and more workmanlike than previous attempts. Having Daniel be writer/artist on a Batbook when you also have David Finch doing the same elsewhere in the same franchise feels a bit weird to me, for some reason; I feel like Daniel comes off worse, even though he’s better at deadlines and arguably better as a writer, too. Eh, and that’s only because I wasn’t as appalled by the final page as many were.
THE FLASH #1: After the disappointment of the last Flash run, color me shocked to have enjoyed this as much as I did. Francis Manapul’s art is just great – that opening double page splash! The page of Barry in his apartment! – and it turns out that his writing (along with Brian Buccellato) is much faster-paced and more fun than Geoff Johns’ on this book. I like the new Barry Allen, and love his relationship to Iris in this new continuity. More of this, please. Very Good.
FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1: Another frustratingly “almost” effort from Jeff Lemire – I know where he’s going! I just wish he’d made it there! – with equally frustrating art from Alberto Ponticelli, which is just a little too scratchy for its own good (and, like Travel Foreman in Animal Man, a little off in the framing when it really counts). There’s a lot to like here, so I’m tempted to put this down to first issue nerves and hope that this book ends up sorting itself out down the line. That said, this is Okay, and I think that the just-finished Xombi played in the same sandbox in a much more entertaining and original way…
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM THE NUCLEAR MEN #1: Of the two Gail Simone books this month, this is the more enjoyable, but it has almost as much crammed into it as Batgirl, leading to a weirdly claustrophobic feeling. That said, I like the new spin on the concept (and the title), and wonder where, exactly, we’re going from the end of this issue. Is this going to be DC’s second attempt at doing a Hulk book? Yildiray Cinar’s art is weirdly reminiscent of Francis Manipul’s as far as the inks go, but I’m not sure if it fits here just yet… All in all, an Okay start, but with the potential for either greatness or creative dead-ending within the year.
GREEN ARROW #1: It’s as if JT Krul, Dan Jurgens and George Perez set out to create the most generic, boring superhero book imaginable… and succeeded. Crap.
GREEN LANTERN #1: Considering how self-important (and self-conscious) this title had become before the relaunch, it’s surprising that Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke manage to essentially play this first issue for laughs and get away with it. Good, although I found myself wishing that the last page had been held back for a few months, if only because I really enjoyed seeing dick Hal Jordan so much.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1: I was always going to be a sucker for this book; John Stewart and Guy Gardner are my favorite Green Lanterns, Peter Tomasi’s previous run on the title was something I really enjoyed, and there’s no Hal Jordan or Kyle Rayner to harsh my buzz. Sure enough, I really dug this; uberviolent opening aside, I appreciated the “this is where our leads are” intros before the mystery was revealed, and the final page felt weighty and dramatic enough to bring me back next issue. Sure, Fernando Pasarin’s art feels like a little bit of a letdown after that Doug Mahnke cover, but it’s still pretty great in a “Bryan Hitch but more approachable” way. Very Good, for me.
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1: And then there’s this. This is just a bit of mess, whether it’s the loss of the “some time ago” caption at the opener explaining that the book opens with a flashback, or the failure to really explain who all the different Lantern characters are, it seems sloppy and at odds with the other Lantern books, and Tyler Kirkham’s art doesn’t necessarily help, either. Awful.
GRIFTER #1: Finally answering that eternal fanboy question “What do you get if you cross Sawyer from Lost with ROM, Space Knight,” this is Okay for those of you who enjoy this kind of thing; Nathan Edmonson’s script is a bit light on explaining things, but I suspect that’s intentional, and CAFU’s art seems too polite for the story being told for my tastes. I don’t know; there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s also nothing that feels especially compelling about it, either, if that makes sense. I think Fringe probably does this kind of thing better, really.
HAWK & DOVE #1: I wanted to like this book so much, and then Rob Liefeld couldn’t stop himself reminding me that he’s a terrible, terrible artist. Everything happens at crazy angles! People’s mouths change size without explanation! Everyone looks permanently in pain because of all the scratches on their bodies! It’s a shame, because you get the feeling that Sterling Gates is really trying to work with Liefeld’s energy, but he’s overwhelmed by it on this issue. Truly, unhappily Awful.
I, VAMPIRE #1: On the plus side, Andrea Sorrentino could pass as fake Jae Lee if the position ever opens up. On the minus side, this is worryingly murky in terms of story (and storytelling; it’s not just Joshua Hale Fialkov’s script here, the art really does it no favors), and reads like someone’s idea of doomed romance a la Twilight, but even more melodramatic. I’m sure there is a massive audience for this, but I found it pretty Eh at best.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #1: Hey, remember when everyone was talking about this book? Well, not much has changed since then. I like it, for what it is; I like dick Hal Jordan, I think there’s a reasonably strong mystery introduced and I don’t care that the entire team isn’t in there despite the cover. But I’d be lying if I said I thought it was more than just Good; there were other books that the relaunch could have led with that seem better suited for all-new readers and a heavy media blitz.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1: It’s not quite Shade Peter Milligan – or, for that matter, Secret Seven Milligan – but there’s the potential for getting there with this opener (I really liked the perversity of the Kathy reveal), and Mikel Janin’s art is lovely. Slightly underwhelming, I’ve got a lot of faith that this Good first issue will turn out to be a very good series.
JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1: Potentially Green Arrow‘s main competitor in the “most generic superhero comic” race – And Dan Jurgens is involved with this one, as well! Clearly, this is karma for killing Superman twenty years ago – this just feels like a subpar fill-in to a comic from some point in the 1980s, complete with inexplicable Margaret Thatcher cameo appearance. Considering the potential for a JLI series spinning out of the surprisingly strong Generation Lost mini, this is a tiny bit heartbreaking. Awful.
LEGION LOST #1: The good: Pete Woods’ art is just amazing here, really, really great stuff. The bad: Unless you’re a Legion fan already, this is likely entirely impenetrable stuff. I love the Legion, and this almost made no sense to me whatsoever. It doesn’t help that important things happen off-panel (So, Timber Wolf just picked up the bad guy and no-one tried to stop him?), the characters have no real introduction and just way too much happens to let the reader have any time to make sense of it on first, second or even third reading, because there’s not enough space in the book for everything. What it ends up as, then, is a good-looking mess. That’s what we call Awful round these here parts.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1: I’ve really, really tried to convince myself that New Levitz Legion is just like Old Levitz Legion, but I think this is the issue when I realized I couldn’t keep it up. I’m unsure whether it’s Levitz or his circumstance, but everything feels so jumpy and fractured that there’s no chance – or, it seems, space – to build up the long running soap operatics that I loved the first time around, with everything ending up sacrificed for whatever big storyline that I find myself uninterested in. Eh as much as I wish it were otherwise.
MEN OF WAR #1: Someone, somewhere, found this to be more than some generic “Are you really a man?” cliches wrapped around a superhero mystery, but it wasn’t me. Awful, and the back-up strip was even worse.
MISTER TERRIFIC #1: Another book that I really, really wanted to like – Although that’s almost entirely down to the original release info containing the hilariously melodramatic line about him fighting “science gone bad!” – and the actual book… kind of lived up to my expectations, perhaps? There’s a lot to like here (The new origin, with a time travel mystery replacing the Spectre’s telling him “Hey, that white guy? You should rip him off,” for example), but it doesn’t come together properly, and ends with a cliffhanger that just makes no sense in a first issue (“Is this character acting weird? How would you know! You’ve just met him. Tune in next month to find out if he is or not!”). But… Again, maybe it’s goodwill, but even though this was just Okay, I’m holding out hope for better soon.
NIGHTWING #1: I came to really like Dick Grayson when he was Batman, so why do I find almost everything in his new title feeling like it’s a step backwards? Whether it’s Dick visiting the circus again, or telling us how good it is to feel like himself, all of it feels more forced and less genuine than it should. Eh, and most of my fondness for the character disappears entirely as he disappears behind a pile of dialogue and sentiment we’ve heard before.
OMAC #1: If it wasn’t for Superboy, this might have been the best surprise of all 52 books. Somehow, Keith Giffen and Dan Didio manage to channel Kirby’s sense of fun, if not his sense of originality – This is a reboot of an existing concept, after all – by smooshing together Office Space, the Hulk and the original OMAC to come up with something that feels like it owes as much to Giffen’s own Ambush Bug as it does Kirby, and it… weirdly… works. It’s very much not for everyone, but I think that’s true of the original OMAC as well. It’s an odd feeling to think that Dan Didio came up with one of the most individual and arguably the most fun of all of the New 52 books, but there you go. Very Good, and long may it stick around.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1: I think we can also file under “Things I’ve said too much about,” but short version: Not for me even before we hit the “Starfire is an amnesiac bimbo nymphomanic” thing. Crap.
RED LANTERNS #1: If Ed Benes wasn’t drawing this book, I have the strangest feeling I would have actually liked it, because Peter Milligan’s script – or, more properly, his narration – is weirdly compelling here, and feels oddly subversive to all the Geoff Johnserisms in the scenes surrounding it. If he ends up carrying that further in future issues, I could see this becoming a sleeper hit for the the cool kids who are perfectly okay with women who can twist their bodies to simultaneously show off their butts and their breasts at the same time. Eh, with chances for better later.
RESURRECTION MAN #1: Clearly, it’s books dealing with life after death that I have a problem with. Like the Deadman book, this one also barely registers after multiple re-reads. Eh, then.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1: For everyone who ever thought “What would make Hawkman awesome would be if his armor and wings came out through his pores like Warren Ellis’ Iron Man!” then this is apparently the book for you. For the rest of us, this is a book where Hawkman tries to burn his costume for some unknown reason, then gets attacked by it, and then it turns out it’s living inside him or something. It really is as bad as it sounds, although Philip Tan’s watercolor art is rather nice in places. Awful, though.
STATIC SHOCK #1: It’s modern Spider-Man, with the rest of the Milestone universe seemingly playing the supporting cast. It’s surprising just how ready I was for that book, without ever realizing it. Good, although I’m already worried about it, now that we know that John Rozum is off the book by #4.
STORMWATCH #1: Like Batgirl, it’s possible that this book fails because the writer was far too aware of what they had to do; there’s too much empty exposition in this issue, and it’s an issue that needed useful exposition. Paul Cornell doesn’t quite catch the tone of Warren Ellis’ characters, and the disconnect is obvious in a way that isn’t obvious; no-one sounds quite right, and everything feels off-kilter as a result. It’s a book that simultaneously feels dense and sparse, and Miguel Sepulveda’s art, static and heavy, doesn’t help with that feeling. A low Eh, and it should be much better.
SUICIDE SQUAD #1: Forget skinny Amanda Waller; this book has way bigger problems. You know, things like an awkward structure (Not helped by multiple artists working on the same issue), a ridiculous set-up and thoroughly flat characterization throughout. Disappointingly Awful.
SUPERBOY #1: I was genuinely surprised by how much this book feels like science-fiction instead of a superhero book, at least in this first issue, and how there’s an interesting lack of moral certainty at show just yet (I’m sure that’ll change in time). With RB Silva’s clean art and Scott Lobdell’s strongest script for the relaunch by far, this is Good stuff.
SUPERGIRL #1: This is also surprisingly Good. A complete reboot for the character, and a chance to start from a personality closer to Sterling Gates’ work with the character – Probably the character’s most recent high point – instead of the wishy-washiness of the origins of the previous version, this issue isn’t showy in the slightest, but gets the job done nonetheless.
SUPERMAN #1: Oh, oh, oh. Oh, Superman. I guess, if nothing else, this issue does provide an alternative to Action Comics, mainly in that Action was really good, and this isn’t. Where to start? The confusing opening (Is the new Daily Planet built? It would appear so on page 2, but I’m still not sure if that was meant to be a glimpse into the future or not. If it had been rebuilt, would the previous site still have the remains of the old one?), the hilarious scenes of Lois et al discussing journalism (“Print is dying!“), Clark being bitter and mean to Lois, the genuinely horrible examples of Clark’s journalism… There is so much wrong with this issue, but primarily I think the underlying structure is the biggest problem: Too much is, again, forced into too small a space, and this time, it’s combined with a super brawl that is neither exciting or even interesting, leaving the impression that Superman’s life is dull, full of sniping arguments and a ham-fisted idea of how journalism works. It’s a mess, and one not saved by Jesus Merino’s sterling attempts on art. Awful, and maybe the biggest disappontment of the bunch.
SWAMP THING #1: Talking of wordy, this is another overly-verbose book that could’ve easily dialed back the exposition to sensible levels and become infinitely better as a result (The whole Superman scene in particular felt unnecessary). That said, like Animal Man, the horror tone works and there’s definite potential here. Okay, but greedily, I wanted more.
TEEN TITANS #1: It’s a slow start, true, but I’ll admit to being sucked in to Scott Lobdell’s plan of essentially running one story between this and Superboy – although that final scene in both books has different dialogue and staging in some parts, which seems a completely avoidable mistake to me – and enjoyed this much more than I was expecting from early previews. A high Okay – I still have my issues with Brett Booth’s art, I’m sorry – and I might even keep going on this, at least until the entire team is together.
VOODOO #1: You know, deep within this book, there’s an interesting idea about an alien invasion happening in plain sight, with the alien as the central character. But getting there in this case means working through a lot of gender politics that’s trying to have its cake and eat it at the same time (“Yeah, this is cheesecake, but look, the strippers are real women with class and babysitter problems and shit! But here’s some more T&A anyway!”), and… I’m just not interested, ultimately. Awful.
WONDER WOMAN #1: Holy crap, it’s the last book. I was beginning to think this would never end. And it’s ending on a high note, too; sure, Brian Azzarello’s script is sharp and fast-paced (if a little short on explanations, but there’s time for those later), but this is entirely Cliff Chiang’s show, and he doesn’t even vaguely fail to deliver. This is a wonderful looking book – Matt Wilson’s colors help considerably – and all the moreso because there’s nothing else like it on the DC stands right now. The mythical quality of the story seems on a different scale to all the other New 52 books as well, and the strong individuality of the book makes it feel more like an event… and that’s a nice feeling for a Wonder Woman book to have. Very Good, and one of the best books of the line so far.
Now, as the saying goes: What did you think?