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From the back of the bandwagon: My DC New 52 thoughts, Week #1

STORMWATCH #1

stormwatch001While I can appreciate what this is likely building toward, it just doesn’t grab me. Something about it reminds me of my experience reading SHIELD #1 a year or two back. Sure, it’s well-written, in and of itself. But as one who has never really read Stormwatch at any great lengths in any of its incarnations–this does about as well at sucking me in. I think of all the new DC books this week, this was my least favorite. Thankfully, it was a late grab (my 4th comic shop) and not something I’ll feel like I’m backing out of. I wasn’t planning on getting this to begin with, saw some comments online and decided I actually did want to check it out, but cool as the last page may be, it’s not “enough.” Art’s not bad, either (didn’t sway me one way or the other). If this title turns out to be something worth getting long-term, I can backtrack or grab a collected volume. (4/10)

STATIC SHOCK #1

staticshock001Though I wouldn’t say this is my favorite debut issue, it was relatively “fun” going through. I’m not all that familiar with Static in general–about half of what I know comes from reading a book one of my college professors wrote about the Milestone Comics line–but I knew enough to enjoy this. “But why did you need to know anything beforehand?” you ask? Because this character seems relatively established in his book. First issue, blah blah blah…we don’t see him meeting Hardware (though I gotta say, it’s totally awesome seeing Hardware in here!), or discovering his powers. And I gather from this that Dakota is now an established city in the DC Universe. Story’s not bad–has a lot of potential. Art’s good, and I like that it feels like a cross between the cartoon and the “classic” original series. (7/10)

BATGIRL #1

batgirl001This was a last-second book for me. Originally I’d figured I wasn’t even gonna bother with it. I don’t care for Babs as Batgirl–she was already Oracle (or at least, she was in a wheelchair) the first I became aware of her back in the late 1980s when I was introduced to comics. I can appreciate the character in terms of the ’60s tv series, and as a former library student myself, love the imagery when she represents librarians. But this is the first “current continuity” I’ve seen in my life of her as Batgirl, and it’s so-so. Simone’s a great writer, and I have faith that if I stick with this series long enough, she’ll likely sway me into liking this take on Babs. That the “home invasion” from The Killing Joke is kept works well, and though I prefer Oracle, this plays out as an alternate take on the permanent injuries of the continuity that just ended. Syaf and the whole art team put together a great visual product…and I far prefer Syaf‘s Batgirl to Hughes‘ cover. (7.5/10)

DETECTIVE COMICS #1

detectivecomics001This issue was one I was gonna grab pretty much whatever. *Detective Comics* #1. Of course, it now lacks any great pedigree–it goes from being “the longest comic ever published” to being just another #1, and just another title amidst so many. Still, it’s a Batman book, and it’s got Batman vs. The Joker. Yeah…just another battle. But the end of the issue leaves me “curious” as to what’s to come for the Joker, disgusting as that was. I doubt it’ll lead off to any great changes–even in this relaunch, I can’t DC letting the Joker’s image be changed all that much. The art on the issue is pretty good, and there were some panels with Batman that I really liked, and the Joker certainly carried a familiar look. All in all, far from being a horrible issue, but nothing that stands out as anything iconic or all that remarkable. (6.5/10)

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL

justiceleagueinternationalLike Batgirl, this was a last-second book for me. I dropped Booster Gold a year and a half or so ago, tired of the meandering and figuring I’d “just catch up” from bargain bins. I also got burned out from Blackest Night, and so after a couple months of trying, decided to give all the Brightest Day stuff a pass to maybe catch up in collected volumes. As such, I missed the past year of Booster Gold and virtually all of Generation Lost. And I missed Booster, so with this being his new book, I figured I’d give it a look-see. This is another title where the art’s good, but not fantastic. And the story’s almost forgettable. I certainly didn’t enjoy this as much as I’d hoped to…but I think I’ll probably be back for the next issue. (7/10)

SWAMP THING #1

swampthing001I’m not sure what initially grabbed my interest for this title–probably the Search for Swamp Thing mini-series that served as an aftermath to Brightest Day. And yet, it was the fact that I had put this issue on my pull list that I picked up Search for Swamp Thing. Chicken, meet Egg? This issue certainly didn’t blow me away or anything, but it’s got potential. There’s something to this version, to knowing this take on the character has him within the main DCU, that somehow has me enjoying it more. I’ve never really gotten into the Vertigo version of the character, however good the writers/stories may have been. Never have been opposed, but just never really got grabbed…except for the ties to Hellblazer. And with John Constantine back in the DCU as well (or a version of him, anyway), I figured this title was worth checking out. I am glad that I picked up and read Search for Swamp Thing, as this does make some vague references to it, and does seem to sort of follow on it. At the least, this does not contradict that series. I’ll be back for #2 to see how things continue playing out, though unless I really get grabbed, I don’t know if I’ll last an entire arc. Will take it an issue at a time. (6/10)

ACTION COMICS #1

actioncomics001This takes place 5 years in “the past.” Planting this square in my final semester of grad school. Which is really disconcerting when I think of it in those terms, today.  Though this is not the Earth One Superman, he feels equally unfamiliar. I’m willing to read this story, to take it for what it is, in and of itself…but especially as the character is at this point, this is far from any Superman I’ve really ever known, or cared to know…history be darned. Morrison is hit or miss for me, and I can’t quite decide which this is. Other than the “meta” significance of this being Action Comics #1 (and for the first time in 73 years, a distinction now must be made as to WHICH Action #1), this doesn’t feel like anything special…just another story with a much different take on the character. Of course…I’ll be back for #2, unless something comes up that REALLY turns me off from this series. And given my history with Superman, even if I don’t keep up with the singles as they come out…I can’t imagine I’ll be able to stay away from the title long-term, whatever develops. (6/10)

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52 Week #52 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: A Year in the Life

Booster and Rip Hunter vs. an evolved Mr. Mind for the fate of the multiverse!

52week52Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Olliffe, and Darick Robertson
Inks: Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, Drew Geraci, Darick Robertson
Colors: Alex Sinclair, David Baron and Hi-Fi
Letters: Ken Lopez
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Special Thanks to: Stephen Wacker
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost stand-alone, in a way. It tells the story of Booster, Rip, & Co. as they battle Mr. Mind, who has evolved and emerged, ready to feed on the multiverse created at the end of Infinite Crisis…a task they’ve apparently been working at for awhile. We’re shown some decent detail as to the nature of the multiverse and its origins, and while I’ve not been following any of the One Year Later books that have mentioned it in any way, it seems a good explanation of things to me, for now.

This issue employs quite the artisitic team, and while it might seem like some scramble to get extra pages in this issue, the story itself provides great contextualization and use of the multiple artists. I enjoyed the shifts in art…and the overall visual tone of this issue was on par with–if not surpassing–the usual…a fine finish that I hold no complaint with.

Story-wise, one can go a couple directions. Plenty of action, though with a fair amount of time-travel and looks to different points of plans that were set in motion previously, this issue lacked a concrete feel of being set in the final week, feeling instead like a special issue chronicling an "untold tale" of a "lost week" or some such. On the other hand, with the other core storylines having wrapped up the last couple months, this was the biggest "loose thread," and a LOT was crammed in, even with 40 pages, detailing its conclusion.

All in all, we get a number of cool moments–and an obvious if unexpected reunion of sorts–with events either tying back to the first issue of this series, or evoking some SERIOUS deja vu. It answers some questions, while leaving other newer questions (no pun intended), and provides what I consider some good, solid comic-book closure. That is, the stories conclude…but the door is in no way slammed shut on things.

Obviously, if you’ve followed the series all that far, there’s no reason NOT to get this issue (those extra pages? Same cover price, even!). And heck, even if you haven’t followed this series all that closely…there’s stuff in this issue that looks like it’ll have some solid repercussions in the months to come throughout the DCU (as well as some explanation given to the nature of the apparent multiverse that’s been brought back), so wouldn’t be a bad issue to nab as a single, even if some smaller moments/subtleties are lost for not having read the series as a whole.

A solid ending to a solid series…

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #48 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Asked and Answered

The race to find Kate Kane and rescue her is on!

52week48Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Art: Darick Robertson
Pencils – Origin: Nicola Scott
Inker – Origin: Doug Hazlewood
Colors: David Baron, (Origin – Alex Sinclair)
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue opens with several days’ worth of action, in a rather cool way: multiple characters across multiple panels across multiple days, asking one key question to kick the main story into motion. The bulk of the issue centers on Nightwing, Montoya & co. as they seek out Mannheim and Batwoman, to foil the plans of Intergang and their crime bible. There’s a lot of action as we see the characters fighting increasingly-high-level underlings, working their way up to Mannheim himself and a dark ceremony that promises to unleash hell-on-Earth, starting with Gotham City.

The ending of the fight has a bit of surprise and bucks the norm a bit–a welcome feat in contemporary comics.

To a degree, there’s little be said about the writing. It’s good. It’s solid. It’s consistent. Same as it’s been. The story flows, and we get to see characters acting in-character and reflecting (particularly in Montoya’s case) growth from the past 11 months.

The art this week–by Darick Robertson–fit really well. There’s a sort of thick darkness about it that sets the tone without being overly bold nor overly light. No complaints here in that department.

The origin backup stars the Birds of Prey, and like the other backups, condenses years of history into just a couple pages of the bare-bones basics. Par for the course, really…gave me a clearer vision of the history, and not atrocious to look at so fills its duty; nothing stand-out astonishing or anything, though.

48 issues in…if you’re not on-board, I doubt I’ll be able to convince you; and if you’ve stuck it out this far even disliking it, you might as well finish.

I found this to be another solid issue of what’s really come to be a favorite series.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #44 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Deaths in the Family

Last issue’s bloody conclusion sets the stage for this week, as the Black Marvels face the Horsemen of the Apokalips…

52week44Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Dan Green, Rodney Ramos, Eddy Barrows
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot to be said about this issue, and it certainly marks a clear turning point both for the series, as well as the Black Marvels. What we’ve seen over the course of the last 30+ issues in particular, and series as a whole brings several plots together in a collision point that paves the way for the upcoming World War III week.

After last week’s rather sudden betrayal by Sobek and devouring of a member of the Black Marvel family, the remaining Black Marvels have it out with the Horsemen of the Apokalips. The bulk of the issue depicts this battle, with the conclusion leading back to Montoya’s story even as she spends time in Nanda Parbat, and kicks her story forward a bit, too.

Thankfully, this issue has a full complement of pages, allowing just an extra couple pages of story, rather than an origin backup.
All in all, this issue packs quite the punch, and continues to offer the payoff that was lacking in the earliest issues of the series.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the craftsmanship of the story itself at this point that’s not been said before–it’s fully solid, as has come to be standard for the book, with its core writing team. 44 issues in, there’s a consistency that just flows, and took me quickly through this issue without any pause for any visible story glitches.

Visually, the art team tackles some harsh material, and depicts some rather gory stuff, making this one of the darker, bloodier issues to date (even beginning at the cover as we see the reflection of Isis in a pool of spilled blood). To a small degree, Black Adam in particular seems just a bit "off" visually from prior appearances–that I’d notice or care says a lot about the last couple years of the character’s presence on my comic-reading-radar. While this is noticeable, it really doesn’t detract from the issue’s story–the characters are clear and fairly emotive, and other than a general lack of familiarity with the individual Horsemen, it’s not hard to tell who’s supposed to be who. The only "complaint" I really have is the visual similarity between Richard Dragon and Ralph Dibny, as I’m not particularly familiar with the former, and the latter has sported a similar appearance throughout this series.

After this issue, there are a mere 8 chapters left…it’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 months since the story kicked off, and it’s already rushing at breakneck speed toward its conclusion. While some smaller bits of continuity will almost certainly be lost on a newer reader, and there’s no real "catch-up" mechanism (such as a "last issue" or "story thus far" page), this wouldn’t be an absurd point to jump back into the series if you gave it up due to the relatively slow start. At the same time, it doesn’t seem overly likely that anyone’s going to be really pulled in this far in if one hasn’t already been following the story.

Another very good issue of what I suspect may–for me–go down as a favorite run, period.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #40 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: Man Ain’t Nothing But a Man

Steel vs. Lex Luthor (and a teaser on what’s up in Kahndaq)…

52week40Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Chris Batista
Inks: Rodney Ramos & Dan Green
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Rob Leigh
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue is almost entirely focused on Steel, and his fight with Lex Luthor. Only the final two pages deal with anything else–Kahndaq and the worsening situation there (that likely will be picked up and run with before too long as the final quarter of this series kicks into high gear).

John Irons–Steel–arrives at the LexCorp building to confront Luthor over his role in the New Year deaths of thousands, as well as to rescue his neice from the evil businessman’s clutches. He’s got some help, though they split off to deal with various threats, ultimately paving the way for Steel’s personal confrontation with Luthor.

At face value, this is just one big fight-scene, though there are a few moments scattered throughout for characterization–particularly via characters’ interactions. This fight has been building for months…since the beginning of the series, really.

I for one really enjoyed this issue. I’m pretty sure the last time (in-continuity) that I really saw Steel in action–the John Henry Irons Steel, that is–was the end of the Superman: Man of Steel series or the Superman vs. Darkseid: Apokalips Now 4-5 years ago. I only recall seeing him become a literal "man of steel" in the earlier issues of this series, not actually using the armor he created for himself. As such, seeing the character suit up and dive into battle here was very, very welcome.

The writing’s about normal for this series…being a big fight-scene, there don’t seem to be any deep or nuanced bits of dialogue to dissect, just two men throwing down after building hard feelings over a course of the last 10 months or so.

However, whether intentional or just my reading too much into it, I’m reminded of one of the closing chapters of The Return of Superman where the characters are battling their way into the heart of Engine City to confront the Cyborg and have to face their own individual battles en route, while fighting for the larger single goal.

The art for this issue is quite good–I have no complaints with it, and actually enjoyed it. There’s a full-page shot of Steel that would make a great poster, and is the best I recall seeing the character since some of his earliest appearances in the 90s. I don’t recall offhand if I knew Batista‘s art prior to this series, but the name sticks now, and I certainly enjoy his art.

This issue’s story takes the full allotment of pages, leaving no room for an origin backup, which is more than fine by me. In that sense, we get a full "normal" issue’s-length on the Steel/Luthor story, with the Kahndaq sequence replacing the backup, keeping this issue as a whole from being "just" some wrongly-titled issue of Steel.

If you’ve not been along for much of the ride, not much to sell you on here; if you’re a fan of Steel, though, this is a great issue, if only to see him in-armor and in action. Otherwise, this is an issue for those in for the long haul with the singles.

We’re well past the half-way point, squeaking past the 3/4 point…and I’m strapping in for the final section of this particular roller-coaster ride.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

52 Week #36 [Review]

Quick Rating: Very Good
Story Title: How to Win a War in Space

The space heroes confront Lady Styx, Montoya’s spurred to action, and Supernova’s in a spot of trouble…

52week36Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Jamal Igle
Inks: Keith Champagne
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s a lot going on in this issue. We pick up with Lobo delivering the space-heroes to Lady Styx, and betrayal mounts. As the heroes face the threat posed by Styx, one of them falls, delivering on the expected death. On earth, Montoya comes to a decision on what to do about her friend, rather than sit around waiting for him to die without his dignity in the Gotham hospital. Finally, as promised on the cover’s ticker, we get to see Rip Hunter’s ‘secret location’ as well as glean a bit more information on Supernova.

I remember with earlier reviews of this series, talking about the slow build and hoping there’d be payoff later on; that establishment of a foundation was a necessary evil (well, they may not have been my exact words then, but they are now.) We get a fair amount of payoff in this issue, as well as some forward movement (if not outright teasing) of what’s to come in the near future.

I for one have quit looking for individual voices in scenes, content to know that the writers are all contributing in one form or another, maintaining a consistency from issue-to-issue. On that note of consistency, we get to see a logical progression of Lobo’s character, maintaining both what has been established of him in this series over the last 4 months or so as well as much earlier in the character’s existence, with a nice nod to a couple specials, even. There even seems to be some room to question some translation–I for one derived a bit of twisted amusement contemplating the authenticity versus some other motivation.

Montoya’s scene seems to straddle a nice line between the real and the fiction that is comic books–her frustration/desperation and sadness at what seems to be a foregone conclusion is blended with the supernatural that is commonplace in the comic book world, allowing a glimmer of hope that may not be realistic in terms of our real world…but it seems to fit very well into the universe we know of through this series.

Supernova and Rip Hunter are shown briefly–and for the moment weigh as the weakest part of the series for me at present. While I expect some cool payoff later on, right now I find that I’m just not that interested in Supernova as a character–I don’t feel anything’s really known about him, and other than "teases" as to identity (and I for one have not picked up on clues that apparently have been dropped here and there, nor "gotten" any that I’ve spotted) there seems to be very little TO the character as yet. It certainly doesn’t help when so few pages have been afforded the character thus far.

The art stays fairly subtle–it’s there, but doesn’t overstep its bounds; it serves the story without offending the eye. My one gripe visually would be the panel when Lady Styx first strikes Lobo–I can figure it out based on context, but without context it’s hard to clearly make out exactly what is happening there. Still, the complaint’s one panel of many, and may just be my own eyes.

Overall, this is another very good issue of the series, and reminds me that I do indeed enjoy the story and format, and look forward to next week’s issue.

The Origin of Power Girl
Writer: Mark Waid
Art & Color: Adam Hughes
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Michael Siglain

Another standard-ish origin. Pretty much a simplified version of the telling of what I’d already figured out from pre/during Infinite Crisis stories. Still not a big fan of these, though that DOES seem to be tempered in part on whether or not I’m (personally) familiar with the character. Visually, may be a treat for certain folks, but doesn’t appeal to me. Still, it’s two pages…hardly enough to "break" an issue…and it certainly beats the pages being used for ads.

Ratings:

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

52 Week #32 [Review]

Quick Rating: Good
Story Title: Seven Days in Nanda Parbat

Ralph and snow don’t necessarily mix; Black Adam Junior and Sobek meet the Teen Titans; and the space heroes buckle down.

52week32Writer: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid
Art Breakdowns: Keith Giffen
Pencils: Pat Olliffe
Inks: Drew Geraci
Colors: David Baron
Letters: Travis Lanham
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editor: Stephen Wacker & Michael Siglain
Cover Art: J.G. Jones & Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue doesn’t bring anything new to the table format-wise. It’s like a prime-time TV series…you get some intro, you check in on various characters in their present situations, the credits roll, and you’re off. If you’ve been following the series, this should be quite familiar to you; if you’ve not been following the series, you’re probably not gonna find anything here to change your mind.

At this point–six weeks over the "hump" with 20 left to go, I think it’s a safe bet that most anyone who’s going to follow the series in its serialized nature is onboard for the run, while those who aren’t going to jump in haven’t and won’t. So reading this, you’re in for the long haul, whether an issue/"episode" is slow OR fast-paced.

The familiar elements of the book are here: for this reader at least, the names in the credits are all recognizable, be it from earlier issues of this series or just seeing them as credits for other series. The cover dress is normal, the style of the credits is normal, the few pages here and there to "check in" on some subplots while one or another gets the most pages is there.

Is it GOOD, though? Yeah–Though I’m not familiar with Nanda Parbat, Rama Kushna, and so on, aside from seeing the names mentioned in the past, and any prior appearance of ’em in this series.

We get–as the focus of this issue–more development of the Ralph storyline as he and the helmet of Fate spend some time in Nanda Parbat, and Ralph seems to find some information he’s been seeking. We get to see the first(?) meeting of Black Adam Junior and Sobek with the Teen Titans, which in itself seems to further solidify the characters into the DCU as a whole and see that prior actions–"sins of the father," if you will–indeed have consequences. We also get to check in on the space heroes as they continue to realize the seriousness of their situation and what they’re going to have to face.

So the story advances on at least these three long-running plotlines, and by the series’ format, the whole story moves forward as a result.

Visually, I can’t complain about the art. I’m not terribly familiar with Olliffe or Geraci, though I’m sure I’ve seen the names before. Regardless, the art seems solid; everyone looks consistent and the visuals enhance the story.

As a whole, the whole package comes together as another solid issue of this title; nothing to spur one to drop it in itself, but nothing to convince a new reader to jump on based on this issue alone.

The Origin of Blue Beetle
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Asst. Ed.: Harvey Richards
Assoc. Ed.: Jeanine Schaefer
Editors: Wacker & Siglain

I actually learned some new information from this 2-pager. In and of itself, the art’s fine, and the writing’s fine. I’d still rather get a couple extra pages of story, but that’s a personal preference. Though BB’s not playing any major role in this series, this origin seems to sum up the main points of what I assume is the unfolding story in the character’s own new title, which ever so slightly piques the interest in this reader.

Ratings:

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

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