Monday, October 10, 2011

DC's new 52 (part 1)

For my first review, I thought I'd look at a collection of comics. Actually, it was when I posted quick opinions about these that I first thought, "maybe I should start blogging." By now, all of the comics in the DC relaunch are out, including a few #2 issues. I'll only be looking at the first issue of the ones I've read, though, some more in-depth than others.

So, after the events of Flashpoint, the DC universe was rebooted... sort of. Most things that have happened are still canon, just not all the details... or something like that. All the Crisis events still happened, Blackest Night still happened, 52 still happened, just not exactly in the way they did before. At least, that's the impression I'm getting.

Some comics have picked up right where they left off, such as Green Lantern and Batman, which means everything that happened up until now (the war of light, Batman Inc., that sort of thing) still happened just as they were. Others have taken us back to the heroe's earlier days, such as the Superman family of comics. We see Superboy as he's created, Supergirl as she crashes to Earth, and Superman both in his early days (in Action Comics) and later on (in Superman), but still not quite as they were. For example, Clark Kent is not yet married to Lois Lane, or even dating her, which leads me to assume that either these comics are still in the past, or the later events requiring their relationship take place in the future. We also get to see the formation of several teams, particularly the Justice League and variations thereof, and the Teen Titans. The reboot also serves to integrate new comics that DC acquired into their universe, but I haven't read any of those, so I probably won't touch on them.

You probably already know that, though. In fact, I'm probably a bit late to be reviewing these, but I still want to. So let's start off with the team-ups and Superman family of comics:
Justice League

Here we have the flagship title of the relaunch. The Justice League in its earliest days, as it was founded by the heroes we all know. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Yes, Cyborg is no longer a member of the Teen Titans... I have no idea if he ever was now. Instead, he's a bona fide Justice League member, or will be, at least. However, for all the heroes we see on the cover, issue #1 only covers Batman and Green Lantern, with Superman appearing at the end. Okay, so we see Cyborg around before he becomes, well, all cybernetic, but the main focus of this comic is GL and Bats. Of course, they get to show off their skills, with Green Lantern throwing his constructs all around town, and Batman being quick enough to snatch the ring off Hal's finger, so it's not as though they're unimpressive, but it would be nice to see more.

We see in this issue that the world does not yet particularly like its superheroes. By that I mean: they have a shoot-on-sight order, or at least the impulse to do so. Of course, since this is before Final Crisis, Darkseid is still around, and it looks like he's the big bad they'll be facing first. For now, though, they're too busy fighting each other, as per the glorious comic book tradition.

As for the story itself, it's not off to the fastest start, but Geoff Johns tends to be good at setting up great stories. For a number one issue, it's not the most impressive, but I intend to look back on the entire first arc as a whole when it's completed, so more on that whenever that is. The artwork is fine, with nice attention to details, but sometimes a little too much shadow lines for my tastes; they make it look more sketch-like to me. So it's nothing mind-blowingly impressive, but good enough to take a look.
Justice League International

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the comic I've been waiting for. I'm going to tell you now, I am a huge fan of Booster Gold. I love how he appears to be this showboating glory-hound, but underneath it all he's got the heart of a hero. In his most recent run, he has to save time and space without letting anyone know - the total antithesis of the incompetent showoff he once was and has to pretend to still be. (But more on that when I review his comics.) So when I finished Justice League: Generation Lost and saw that the JLI was reforming, then later learned he'd be their leader, I was eager to see how it went. Let me tell you, this comic does not disappoint.

In spite of everything that happened in Generation Lost, this does not tie in directly to that. Like the other Justice League comic, this is the early days of the league, as it's founded by the U.N. We still have most of the cast of Generation Lost, though. Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, and Batman are there, but no Captain Atom, Blue Beetle (too busy with their own books) or Power Girl. There's also Vixen, Zhifu Fang - August General in Iron, Guy Gardner, and Godiva joining the ranks, and each brings something new to the team in their powers and personalities.

As with the other Justice League title, the general public does not seem to welcome the heroes. Or in this case, they're protesting government ownership of the Hall of Justice. I'm guessing heroes vs society is going to be an ongoing theme in this reboot.

Now let me say this: the character dynamic in this book is wonderful. We have Guy Gardner being, well, himself, and his objections to Booster Gold leading the team, while Batman adds himself to the roster and approves of his leadership (being one of the only people to know Booster's true nature). We have Rocket Red and Zhifu constantly bickering about Russian technology vs Chinese technology, and Godiva being both snarky and flirtatious, depending on who she's talking to. The issue ends with the team leaping into action, as well as a larger threat appearing at the end.

This is how a Justice League comic should be done. We've got the team, we've got their well-defined characters meshing, clashing, and contrasting, and we have a chance to show them in action while still presenting a major danger for the next chapter. The artwork is clear and colorful, the writing is great, and the character roster is fantastic. This is the comic that gets my top recommendation.
Justice League Dark

This is a comic that intrigued me, because the roster is so much different from any other JL titles. I think the only member who's had any League experience is Zatanna, although I could be wrong. We also have John Constantine, whose supernatural expertise should make this an interesting read, as well as Deadman, dead again but with much more development after the events of Brightest Day.

This comic mostly lays the groundwork for events to come. We see a threat made of magic that the Justice League can't defeat on its own, and we have characters with supernatural or magical abilities who will soon be called to action. It's setting up a mystery, while the final page shows us an ominous future. It's not exactly short on action, but the team isn't together yet, so it's mostly snapshots of the various characters who will be forming it as they're pulled together.

So this is a promising title, but not for everyone. I'm going to see where it goes, though, since it's certainly intriguing.
Teen Titans

As with Justice League, this comic shows us the formation of the team. Well, the meeting of a few members who will form the team. We have Kid Flash screwing things up with his impulsiveness (and I'm not sure if it's Wally West or Bart Allen), which leads to Red Robin (Tim Drake) seeking down other teenaged heroes, presumably to stop them from being so stupid, but also to protect them from an organization hunting down and gathering superpowered teenagers. This organization, N.O.W.H.E.R.E., is related to the Superboy comic as well, especially when they tie in at the end.

So far, the comic has introduced Red Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl (who objects to the name), closing with one page of Superboy, just like how Justice League ended with a page of Superman. But we also see brief cameos of Static Shock, Raven, Starfire, Miss Martian, and some pink guy who (going by the cover) will join the Titans. The cover also shows some half-spider lady and a girl made out of dust. I have no idea who they are, but feel free to inform me in the comments. No Beast Boy in sight, and Cyborg is too busy with the JL to be a Titan again.

So how was Teen Titans? It wasn't bad, but not too impressive either. I have no idea where in the previous continuity this can fit, if it's even meant to at all. It sets up an interesting villain, and shows off the abilities of the heroes it shows, but it's just missing something to really impress me. So far, I'm underwhelmed. (Insert Young Justice joke about being "whelmed" here.)
Birds of Prey

I'm going to be honest, although I heard wonderful things about Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey, I didn't read it. I know, I should be ashamed. But I decided to check out this new issue by Duane Swierczynski (I am so glad this is a written review, so I don't have to pronounce that last name), to see how it was.

So there's no Oracle leading this flock of Birds, but Babs does make a cameo. Looks like she's too busy being Batgirl again to sit in front of a computer again. Instead, we see Black Canary and Starling, with the promise of Katana to join in later. It's certainly action-packed, but lacks the character dynamic that draws me in to other comics. Maybe Birds of Prey just isn't my thing, since it failed to catch my attention, in spite of the fast pace and intrigue it tries to set up. Or maybe I'm just sore about Oracle, but more on that later.
Action Comics

I can now say I own a copy of Action Comics #1. Not THE Action Comics #1, but an Action Comics #1, which is worth... about $3.99, same as all the other new comics.

This comic shows Superman in his early days, before he had the tights - oh, sorry, armor. He wears Kryptonian armor instead of tights now. Anyways, before he had the armor, and instead ran around in a t-shirt and pants with a cape. At least that'll make it easier on cosplayers.

It's a callback to the earlier versions of Superman. Here his powers aren't fully developed. He's still bulletproof, but he can't fly (he can leap tall buildings in a single bound, though), and isn't quite as powerful as a locomotive yet. He actually spends as much time fighting corruption as he does any sort of villain. In fact, the comic opens with him threatening a corrupt businessman on the edge of a building. It's interesting to see Superman going back to his roots, but as a friend of mine has said, the way he's doing it is more Batman's style than Superman's, and it's as though Grant Morrison has written Batman for so long that it's affecting how he writes other comics.

We still see Lex Luthor, in all his cruel brilliance, as well as Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and General Lane. Clark Kent isn't a writer for the Daily Planet yet, though, instead working for some unnamed "rival newspaper."

I'm honestly not too sure what to make of this one. I'm torn between enjoying the callback to his roots and the knowledge that the world doesn't work like it did when he acted like that. It's a decent read, though, and possibly worth a purchase just for future bragging rights.

This is more like the Superman we know and love. He flies in, he fights a villain, he saves the day. Yet this comic also mixes up the status quo, bringing in new scenes and changing around character dynamic. Clark and Lois aren't together yet, which means we'll have to deal with the Clark-Lois-Superman love triangle... with some Jonathan Carroll guy thrown in to the mix, for whatever reason.

The villain in this comic is a little underwhelming, but it seems to be setting up for something interesting. No Lex this time around, but we've got plenty of him in Action Comics. This comic manages to do quite a lot in as many pages as all the others, making good use of the spaces they've got, at the occasional risk of becoming too dense. The artwork is fine, nothing I can see worth complaining about. All in all, it was a fine comic, although not one I'm likely to follow.

Ah yes, Supergirl. There have been quite a few Supergirls over time. There was the original Supergirl, who was killed and erased from existence during Crisis on Infinite Earths, but her alternate-universe version remained as Power Girl. Then there was Matrix!Supergirl, and Linda Danvers, and a fake Supergirl who was Superman's daughter from a future that never actually happened and stopped existing... comics are weird like that, okay? The most recent Supergirl was introduced in the Superman/Batman comics, Kara Zor-El, who was sent to Earth when Kandor was stolen and bottled up by Brainiac. This is also her... sort of.

As with the other comics, it reintroduces Supergirl as she first crashes to Earth, and immediately gets attacked by an armored team that wants to bring her in for being super-powered. She immediately beats the crap out of them, while wondering where she was and if she was still dreaming. Any attempts at communication are affected by the fact that she can't speak English. Good thing Superman can speak Kryptonian.

That's about it, really. Not too much happens, we just get to see Supergirl as she discovers her powers (which are the same as Superman's, naturally), and gets confused. Okay, so there's a little about her confusion, and a nice scene where her super-hearing kicks in and we hear bits of dialogue from other new comics, plus it does a nice job of showing her disorientation upon landing. If you're a fan of Supergirl, you might like it, but there's also the chance you'll dislike it for changing her character, it's hard to say. Browse through it first before deciding if you want to buy it.

This version of Superboy seems to be drawing less from the original comic book version of Superboy, and more from the Young Justice version. It's mostly from his POV, showing us him learning as he's being grown in the laboratory, with a few shifts to help build the world around him.

This comic is set up from the beginning to tie into the new Teen Titans comic, with N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and a few of the same characters. It also has a cameo from Rose Wilson (she's got both her eyes so far), and a few hints dropped about where his human DNA comes from. Spoiler: it's most likely Lex Luthor, just like in the previous comics.

I was interested by this one, but not quite enough to buy it. I might flip through issue 2 and see where it goes, since it has potential, although right now it seems to be struggling to find a right balance for the character that will satisfy the fans of the original Superboy and the Young Justice version.
Okay, that covers those. Next I'll give my opinions on the Bat-family series of comics and the other various comics. I hope you've enjoyed my reviews up until now, stick around for more.

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