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Doomsday Clock #1 [Review]

doomsday_clock_0001_supermanThat Annihilated Place

Writer: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Gary Frank & Brad Anderson (Lenticular based on existing art by Dave Gibbons)
Associate Editor: Amedeo Turturro
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: January 2018
Cover Price: $4.99 ($5.99 Lenticular variant)

It’s been a long time, offhand, since I read a comic quite so dense as Doomsday Clock #1. And I use the word dense as a good thing overall–in this age of $4.99 comics that hardly take any longer to read than a $3.99 or $2.99 comic, where everything is written to flow seamlessly as a 4 or 5 or 6-issue "graphic novel," it’s great to have a comic that just wants to be a single issue.

I was rather frustrated to learn that the image I’ve seen MOST USED in association with this issue (the Gary Frank Superman cover pictured above) is actually a VARIANT and not the "main" cover. The main cover seems to be a generic "The End is Here" cover (that leads into the issue itself as the classic Watchmen covers did!). In keeping with my usual, though, wanting the cover I’ve most seen advertised and such with an issue, I managed to get the Superman cover. Of course, then I saw a lenticular variant, one I had probably heard of/read about, but not paid attention to (again: VARIANT)…but it being lenticular, and "cover price" (albeit $1 more than the standard issue to account for the lenticular-ness) and me really getting a kick outta the design–Rorschach’s face goes from just the blobs to the symbols of "the trinity" (Superman/Batman/Woder Woman), I went ahead and got that one as well. It’s certainly no worse than having bought a Marvel lenticular, where the lenticulars were entirely different images from their "regular" covers.

I don’t know what I expected from this issue. Being that it’s an obvious follow-up to Watchmen, and apparently integrating those characters into DCU canon (if not continuity, then perhaps affecting continuity from the outside), and seems to have been "timed" to release at the 25th anniversary of Superman’s death (real-world, that is–November 17-20ish 1992), and stuff previewed or "leaked" online indicated an in-issue reference to that date…I had extremely high expectations for this issue. It’s honestly been a long time since I feel like I actually was taken in by "the hype," usually seeing the hype entirely for what it is and maybe "choosing" to "give in," say, on actually getting a variant cover, or actually getting an issue of something I don’t normally get, or diving into an event I’d intended to stay away from. Here, it’s more of an emotional hype…one that left me feeling rather let down.

As said above–this is a dense story–one that would take a long time to really summarize, and for my own reading experience, get well beyond the initial reading I tend to do for reviews. Essentially, we meet a new Rorschach, who is piecing stuff together, much as the original did, starting out the original series. We get glimpses of this current world–late 1992, about seven years after the original’s 1985 setting, as we meet various characters and are re-exposed to older/originals. We also learn that Ozymandias has a sort of countdown clock of his own going this time, but in a much different way than before. Finally, the last several pages give us a glimpse into a non-Watchmen DCU, and an extremely familiar-looking take on the Kents…which makes sense, given Frank was the artist on Superman: Secret Origin, that laid out a particular vision for the characters.

While this has a lot as a single issue, and certainly many layers with stuff that’d be picked up after a second or third or FIFTH reading, still more to be picked up on STUDYING the art beyond the words, and even more on top of that to be noticed after subsequent issues come out and shed more light on stuff…on my single-read-through I hit the end and thought "Wait…that’s IT?" and was starkly reminded of similar disappointment with Grant Morrison‘s Final Crisis.

This is not a "casual" issue, apparently. Picking it up and reading it "cold," even if you’ve read Watchmen, there doesn’t seem to be all that much to it. It’s a first issue, and world-building or re-world-building. It’s surely a strong foundation on which the rest of the issues will draw. But for me, in just picking it up, after all the months of hype, I just did not enjoy it or get much out of it. And I’m steeped in comics history, especially DC, and even more specifically Superman.

Visually, it’s a very good issue–I’m quite a fan of Gary Frank. I felt like there was a lot that was recognizable and familiar here, despite Frank not being Gibbons, and outside of not seeing a Superman costume or a Batman costume or a Wonder Woman costume–really, it felt like there was virtually nothing actually DC in this issue–I felt like this was set in the world I recalled from reading the original Watchmen all those years ago. There’s also a LOT crammed into this issue: it seems to me that the lowest panel-count on any given story-page was five…which is a far cry from the all-too-often-used "cheats" of full or DOUBLE-page splashes with barely a word to go with the art. I welcome the "grid" layouts of the pages, the actual panels and "traditional" gutters–both for squeezing in more content as well as mimicking the style of the original.

Basically, this seems like a really slow start to something, and that it was vastly overhyped, as well as being quite "confusing" as far as the covers go–once again, a major problem with doing variants AT ALL. The $4.99 cover price is rather steep, even with 30 pages of story (if a 20-page issue is $2.99, another 50% would be only $4.50!) but I suppose it’s a bit offset by some of DC‘s issues being $3.99 (the 1-per-month books) so this actually fits that rate.

I wanted more–I wanted something brighter and splashier out the gate than what I got here–but I’m still looking forward to the next issue, looking forward to see how things build, though I suspect this will be a far more impressive story in larger chunks or as a whole rather than as a single-issue-at-a-time monthly (or less-frequent) journey.

doomsday_clock_0001_blogtrailer

Legends of Tomorrow #1 [Review]

legendsoftomorrow0001Cover Art: Aaron Lopresti with Chris Sotomayor
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: May 2016
Cover Price: $7.99

I hadn’t paid attention to this originally when I saw it solicited…I noticed the “title” and chalked it up as yet another soon-to-be-failed tv-tie-in of near-zero consequence, at least to me and my following the “regular” continuity of DC stuff. I’m not sure if the tv show had premiered yet or was just about to, but I had no interest in yet another digital-first thing seeing print, and thus ignored it. Then recently there was an ad for it that caught my attention, and left me curious. I was a bit put off learning the thing would be $7.99…even for a double-length issue, being frustrated with $3.99 price points, essentially $8 seemed a bit MUCH for just one issue of something I wasn’t overly familiar with. Still, I resolved to wait and see, not swearing to avoid the book but not intending absolutely to buy it, either. When it came out last week, it was a small week for me, so the $8 wasn’t terribly steep…plus the issue’s squarebound with the title on the spine, so it can actually go on a shelf like a mini tpb, and not simply disappear into a box.

While I’d expected a “lead” story and the others to essentially be “backup” features…if I counted correctly, we have 4 20-page stories in this issue, giving the thing excellent “value” for the content, if one is interested in or doesn’t mind what’s included (vs. say, wishing it was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Lantern content).

Firestorm – United We Fall part 1
Writer: Gerry Conway
Penciller: Eduardo Pansica
Inker: Rob Hunter
Letterer: Corey Breen
Editor: Jessica Chen

I remember checking out Firestorm: The Nuclear Men title at the launch of the New 52, and it didn’t hold me enough to stick with it past a few months. I’ve never been a huge Firestorm fan, but I’d been loosely aware of the character at points–though mostly it was after the introduction of Jason as the new Firestorm and the apparent demise of Ronnie in Identity Crisis that the character was fully on my radar; and then the Deathstorm stuff around Blackest Night. Now there’s been a fair bit on the Flash tv show and Legends of Tomorrow, so this “lead” story was a good enticement for me to buy the issue.

We open on Ronnie and Jason testing their powers, with something going on with them, and then the two split, and we get a glimpse into their personal lives–individually, and at school with a mutual friend. We also have the introduction of a new/old villain, and come to see that there is something up with Jason, and with the Firestorm Matrix in general, which leads to a cliffhanger promising imminent destruction.

In addition to the above preamble, I think another draw to THIS take on Firestorm is that it’s written by the character’s co-creator, Gerry Conway…with the added element that I’ve attended a panel where he spoke several years ago, so there’s that quasi-personal-ish connection for me.

I like that the Jason/Ronnie mix has not been scrapped, and that along with both of them we also still have Professor Stein…indicating, for my limited experience with the character, a certain mix of original/classic and newer character elements and an observance of history for the characters. Yet, this also reads as a first issue, showing us bits of stuff with Firestorm and that it requires two people, and there’s this “matrix” thing that allows them to join AS (a) Firestorm; We’re “introduced to” Ronnie and Jason and see a bit about them–Ronnie’s into sports, Jason’s more into academics; We see a bit of “supporting cast” in Stein as well as the boys’ mutual friend; as well as a bit of rivalry between them. I’m familiar enough to simply enjoy the re-introduction/”confirmation” of stuff I figured I knew, and I’m interested in where this story goes.

I’m not sure if I’ve seen Pansica‘s art before or not…but I had no real expectation going into this. I was not disappointed by the art…it’s good, and worked for the story, avoiding random weirdness that’d put me off or have me wondering at anatomy and such; and I was never left trying to figure out WHAT happened or was going on. It’s a good match for the story itself.

I’m not sure exactly how this would rate for me as a first issue wholly on its own…though I probably would not have bought a Firestorm #1. But this was only the first quarter of the issue purchased…

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Constantine: The Hellblazer #1 [Review]

constantinethehellblazer001Going Down

Writers: Ming Doyle, James Tynion IV
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascensia
Cover: Riley Rossmo
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Assistant Editor: Amedeo Turturro
Editor: Andy Khouri
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 2015
Cover Price: $2.99

I was planning on skipping this. I don’t much care for a watered-down version of the Vertigo/Mature Readers take on the title character, gave up on Justice League Dark early-on for not “starring” Constantine, and generally figured there’s more “history” for the New 52 Constantine than I really care to spend money playing catch-up on. But…this is a #1. New creative team (far as I’m aware), and it’s “only” $2.99. So I figured I’d check it out, give it an issue or so to show me what it’ll be…might as well for the price.

We open on a naked Constantine in a store, using his abilities to “con” a fresh set of clothes out of the employee. When John’s ghost-friends cause a stir, he ultimately finds himself in the company of a female demon who he finds is arranging to have a “soul farm,” so he winds up working the situation to a fairly predictable conclusion through his usual means.

Of course, that “usual” is based on my knowledge of the character from the past, from the original Hellblazer title (that was part of the initial Vertigo line and long anchored the imprint until a couple years ago) moreso than I know of the “mainstream” New 52/DC version.

The art for this issue was a bit off-putting for me when I opened the issue…particularly as I wasn’t even sure the character on the first page was actually John Constantine or not. Granted, I’m not used to seeing the character in the Birthday Suit, and some of the blame probably could be placed on the writing as well, the issue opening as it did. Once things move along a few pages, the art grew on me a bit, to where I’ll accept it much as any other Constantine or Hellblazer artist. Though, with only this single issue, I cannot say I’m likely to count Rossmo among my favorite who’ve worked on the character. However, I can definitely say that I enjoyed a 10-panel double-page spread with a sideways layout…it was different, engaging, effective in conveying so much in that part of the story, and really stood out to me for not just being more of the same.

The story was pretty good overall, and other than the obfuscated colorful language, this really felt like it could be a Vertigo issue. Though we do get left with a cliffhanger, and join the story “in progress” in and of itself the issue does give a “complete” story: We’re introduced to Constantine, his ghost entourage, and see a bit of his personality and nature by his actions, obvious intent, narration, and characters’ commentary. We’re introduced to a particular threat/situation, see his reaction to it, and get a resolution. Then we’re given a question that (ideally) hooks us into coming back for the next issue. Or in short: this is an effective first issue, doing what I would expect of a first issue.

While a first issue is not much to go on, the fact that this issue is devoid of superheroes/superheroics (only a passing mention that they even exist) is a welcome thing. My hope with this title is that it’ll be DC‘s way to have their cake and eat it, too: a solo title featuring John Constantine, BEING John Constantine, without the superheroes’ interaction…just Constantine doing his thing in his own world of sorts. But he’s part of the “main universe,” too, and thus remains available for stories that would call for his brand of involvement. I enjoy seeing him dealing with the superhero crowd…but when I pick up a book starring him, I’m not doing so for superhero stuff.

This title’s “subtitle” of The Hellblazer seems tacked-on and like some afterthought given its size and rather obviously being “just” a font rather than a focused part of the title logo. That strikes me as being a sort of appeasement, like saying “Ok, ok, we get it, y’all want a monthly comic with Hellblazer in the title!” (Granted, I understand the title Hellblazer was only ever initially used because Hellraiser was not available).

As a first issue and not knowing how dark the title may go, how long it’ll last, whether it will cross over directly with and mingle with the superhero stuff…taken by itself I think this is as close as we’re gonna get to a return to the classic Hellblazer book. As a fan of that series, I do recommend giving this a shot. I suspect readers of the recently-ended Constantine will appreciate this as well. And overall–in this day and age of seemingly EVERYTHING being $3.99+, this is a $2.99 book for the moment, so I’d recommend getting this even just to “support” the price point if you’re a single-issue buyer.

I’ll probably be back for the second issue and go from there. For my $2.99 this time, the issue was definitely worth the purchase and read, and my buying any more issues at all will be due to this fact, as I’d had every intention of outright ignoring anything DC put out for the foreseeable future.

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