November 4, 2011

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Single-Minded: DCnU Issue 1s, Part 1



Hello and welcome to the second edition of Single Minded!  In this installment, it's time to look at some of the DC New 52 titles!  Now that they are generally $2.00 a piece, I am more than willing to sample and experiment.  I have to be honest, so far I'm pleasantly surprised.

Action Comics 1.  Written by Grant Morrison, Illustrated by Rags Morales and Richard Bryant.  I have a mixed record with Grant Morrison, especially with his newer work.  I didn't care for his Batman epic, except in places, and I hated Final Crisis, which I thought was Zero Hour level bad.  But I liked what I read of Batman and Robin, so I figured this was worth a shot.

Basically, it's Superman via the Marvel Comics model of superhero angst, fear, and suspicion.  Fortunately, that doesn't meant we have the Sentry but it does mean Clark has an edge we've not seen in years and the world might just not adore him anymore based on this re-introduction.  Lex Luthor is a bit of a Hulkbuster here to Lois Lane's dad's Thunderbolt Ross, which is an interesting idea.  This is gonna take a bit of time to get used to for some people, but I liked it right off the bat.  Morales knocks the art out of the park, too, which helps a lot.

Verdict:  I'm in for at least the first story arc.  This is Morrison at his best, re-imagining without going overboard.  Props to editor Matt Idelson for getting the best out of this great comics writer.

 Batgirl 1.  Written by Gail Simone.  Illustrated by Adrian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes.  I was pretty nervous about this book, because it really took it on the chin by other reviewers.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why.  Instead of trying to just pick up Batgirl where she left of before Killing Joke, as though nothing had happened, Simone dares to show Barbara as a woman who is trying to put her life back together from a horrible crime and is not perfect as a result.  This is a Batgirl trying to get her legs back, if you'll pardon the expression, and she's going to fail.  Apparently, some want their heroes to be heroic and perfect all the time.  I am not one of those people.

As with Superman, this is a more Marvel-like take on a popular character.  I like what Simone is doing here--even if the last page might be laying it on a bit thick--and I'm glad to see her try to work with the past history while taking a new path.  While I'd prefer Oracle, this is a Batgirl that makes contextural sense, with Killing Joke still in continuity.  Not a huge fan of the art, but that's okay, if I can read Klauss Jansen comics, I can read just about anything.

Verdict:  Definitely keeping this on my virtual pull list.  Ignore the DC-fanboys/fangirls on this one.  They are dead wrong.  Simone knows what she's doing.  Trust her and start reading.

Demon Knights 1.  Written by Paul Cornell.  Illustrated by Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert.  This could be called Justice League Medieval and be a fairly accurate depiction.  Camelot has fallen, Merlin has released a Demon upon the world, and beasts of all kinds roam the land.  Can Jason Blood and new(?) flame Madame Xanadu join with a few select others to save the world long before most of DC's current heroes were even born?

This comic was seriously awesome from  start to finish.  Cornell sets up the world perfectly, giving us everything we need to know to get started without it feeling too much like an info dump.  His balance of comic timing and serious danger is impeccable here, and I can see why people love his writing.  I'm quickly becoming a big fan.  The dialog accompanying the final page is hysterical, and I'd quote it if I wasn't such a big spoiler.  Cannot wait till issue two, and I almost want to buy it at full price.  This was so good I'm even willing to forgive the lack of rhyming speech for Etrigan, and that's saying something for me.

Verdict:  The only book that I bought in a slow DC Week 2 was well worth it!

Hawk and Dove 1.  Written by Sterling Gates.  Illustrated by Rob Liefeld.  No, I am not sick or anything.  I actually voluntarily picked this one up after a casual flip in a bookstore intrigued me enough to give it a try.  I actually liked it.  This is not a complicated comic.  Gates plays it light, giving the abrasive Hawk quite a few good lines, including a kick at the most over-rated horror trope these days.  I liked his origin recap that felt extremely natural, and I really want to know who that guy at the end is.  This is yet another book with imperfect characters, and my MMMS nature makes me think that's a positive.

Liefeld's art is a lot better than I remember, and he even draws feet.  (Erica:  It's like he's showing off here after years of hearing how he can't draw them!)  He'll never be awesome, but you can tell this is a man more concerned with craft.  If he scared you off, I don't think it's a reason to stay away.

Verdict:  Not a must-read if I had to cut something out, but I liked it.  I'll read at least an arc.

 Justice League International 1.  Written by Dan Jurgens.  Illustrated by Aaron Lopresti and Matthew Ryan.  Dan Jurgens brings back the international team of heroes, with an emphasis on making the name real.  They're still potential patsies for a bigger conspiracy, which I liked, because it shows a bridge between the eras of this team.  Jurgens tries to fit everyone in, which was a bit of a stretch, but his character interactions are gold, especially recognizing that Batman sees things in Booster that others cannot.  This is an old-school team book, and makes no apologies for it.  Lopresti's style fits the tone well, and it's nice to see that people with strong drawing styles are getting work in the DCnU.

Verdict:  I almost got this one at $3.  I'm in for at least as long as Jurgens is writing, as he's one of my favorites.  It's not Bwa-ha-ha, but it's quite good.

 OMAC 1.  Written by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen.  Illustrated by Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish.  OMAC might be my favorite DC project that Kirby did for them, which I know is rather scandalous to say but it's true.  I was really worried about how they might fit him in here, but the answer is to just basically mash up the old OMAC with Kirby's Cadmus and watch the whole thing explode, Kirby homage-style.

I am totally okay with that, but you may not be.  This is a strange book that I don't see lasting very long, but it should be fun while it does.  Kinda like the original, come to think of it.  Didio did a better job on Metal Men for Wednesday Comics than I expected, and I'm not sure who gets more credit here, him or Giffen.  Either way, this was an unexpected hit for me, not unlike Hawk and Dove.

Verdict:  I think I could probably say I'm in for the length of the series, because I don't see it going past twelve issues, even with Didio writing it.

Static Shock 1. Written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum.  Illustrated by Scott McDaniel, Jonathan Glapion, and Le Beau L. Underwood.  I know DC is trying to get new people involved in the creative process of their comics, but this was one example where I think it was a mistake.  Static Shock is not a big-name character, and it needs big-name quality.  McDaniel tries his best here, but he's trying too hard.  This comic screams "Like me, I'm a hip nerd teen with powers!" from just about every over-written page.  Unlike the other comics, I felt like this one tripped over itself trying to make people want to read it by over-explaining to a new reader.

I left Static Shock disappointed.  It's trying to be like Ultimate Spider-Man, but it feels more like an Image clone book, in the worst sense of the term.  Also, as an aside, why is the Joker in one panel on page 12?

Verdict:  Not sticking around for issue two, unless someone makes a compelling case to me.

 Stormwatch 1.  Written by Paul Cornell.  Illustrated by Miguel Sepulveda and Al Barrionuevo.  How the heck do you write Superman and Batman analogs into the DC Universe?  Quite cleverly.  Cornell takes up the thankless task of trying to integrate Stormwatch into the new continuity, and I have to say, he does it quite well.  Rather than just play them off as another Justice League, the story here is that Stormwatch (or its equivalent) has operated behind the scenes for years, not unlike the backstory of one of the crossover heroes, Martian Manhunter.

Because he has to work so hard, there's a lot of set-up in this issue.  It might be a bit too much for some readers, but I thought Cornell managed the balance pretty well, all things considered.  Anyone who starts off using J'ohnn's powers in a kick-ass way that shows he's an equal to Superman is doing it right, in my book.  Plus, Midnighter's first appearance is spot-on for the character.

Verdict:  I'm two for two on Paul Cornell books.  I love a good team comic, and this looks like it's going to fit the bill.  Definitely in for more.

 Swamp Thing 1.  Written by Scott Snyder.  Illustrated by Yanick Paquette.  Alec Holland is back, I guess?  There are multiple Swamp Things, I guess?  All of this would make sense if I was already reading prior DC comics, I guess?

I really wanted to like this book, but it requires you to know just what has been going on with Swamp Thing, which in my opinion is about the worst thing you can do if you are DC right now.  It's why I skipped all the Green Lantern books.  Don't call it a new universe if I have to have intimate knowledge of the old universe.

Verdict:  I was confused from the word go.  It's well-written, if you know the backstory.  Pass.

So there's my first group of DCnU comics.  Can anyone give me a reason to stick on Static Shock or Swamp Thing?  Or perhaps tell me why I should be reading Detective Comics or Batwing?  Let me know!