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Tuesday, 04 October 2011 19:55
Professor Brand-X in an eXpertComics Month-Long Event featuring The New 52 from DC ON THE PROFESSOR’S DESK THIS WEEK: Voodoo | Superman | Blackhawks | The Savage Hawkman G’day, devoted students and welcome back to the School for Gifted Readers for the final study of DC Universe’s New 52 all-universal reboot. Apologies for the delay, but there was a mix-up with the guards in the campus lobby here when they mistook me for a mutant super-villain instead of your benign, loving, affable and rather bald comics instructor. As always, if you’re new to this class or new to eXpertComics.com in general, please have a look at previous editions of our entire coverage of this New 52 event, which includes columns by my esteemed colleagues – Dave, Lisa and Steve (see the handy sidebar with their nifty icons to the left). Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s assignments. A quick note on my grading system: Script – plot, dialogue & characterization | Art – aesthetics, style & storytelling | Accessibility – new reader-friendliness & demand of commitment. ** Fair forewarning: some spoilers may ensue (and as always I apologize in advance for any parenthetical digressions that may occur). Voodoo #1 Title: “Keeping Secrets” Story: Ron Marz Art & Cover: Sami Barsi Originated As: Voodoo #1 (1997, by way of WildC.A.T.s #1 in 1992) As with the other Wildstorm Universe-into-New DC Universe integrations (Stormwatch in week 1 and Grifter in week 2), I feel I must preface my review of Voodoo with some historical details, as well as the same kind of uber fanboy confession that Voodoo, like most of her WS Universe brethren, is very near and dear to me. I’ve stated it before: I am the world’s hugest Wildstorm Universe fan, particularly from its modest, million-selling beginning in 1992 with WildC.A.T.s (which debuted both Voodoo and Grifter) to its peak year of 1996. 1997 was a plateau year for WS, and then 1998 started the slight decline downhill before the eventual sale and loss of identity and independence to DC Comics in 1999. Oh sure, there were great Wildstorm comics and imprints (America’s Best Comics, Cliffhanger! & Wildstorm Signature) that came out after the buy-out, but the Wildstorm Universe of original heroes never recovered in its DCU assimilation in my estimation. But I digress. The New 52 issue of Stormwatch #1 was okay and showed promise. The New 52 issue of Grifter #1 was offensive in its lack of quality, charisma and integrity (I’m good with different so long as it’s as good as the original, or better. That’s all subjective, of course). Had Voodoo turned out as bad as Grifter, I told my fellow comics gang on Twitter that I would have to have a little sit-down with Jim Lee at an undisclosed location in La Jolla, CA to talk about the fine and proper art of integrating classic WildStorm characters into the DC Universe. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to tell you that a sit-down will not be necessary regarding Voodoo, thanks to writer Ron Marz, artist Sami Barsi and the rest of their crew. Originally co-created by plotting artist Jim Lee & writer Brandon Choi like almost all of the core WSU characters, Voodoo (aka Priscilla Kitaen) started out as an exotic dancer (though not as physically exposed as in today’s racier comic) who was revealed to be a descendant of a one-half human/Kherubim hybrid (a humanoid alien race) and one-half Daemonite (a monstrous body-thieving alien race) recruited to join the WildC.A.T.s (Cover Action Team) to help fight in the dozen centuries-old Kherubim/Daemonite war on earth. Pris’ unique genetic make-up granted her a unique kind of telepathy called ‘The Sight’ that allowed her to sense Daemonites hiding in the guise of their human hosts; a valuable attribute (now apparently given to the New 52 Grifter as well). She also had the ability to separate those hidden Daemonites from their human vessels. Legendary comics storyteller Alan Moore handled the bulk of her background and further development deftly when he wrote the critically acclaimed definitive middle run of the first volume of WildC.A.T.s, as well as the Voodoo miniseries that delved deeper into her roots. The press copy for the modern edition of Voodoo says: Who is Voodoo? Is she hero, villain—or both? Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America. Discover the new DCU through her eyes, because the things she sees are not always what they seem. So as we flash-forward to now we see that Ms. Kitaen has fallen into the very capable hands of veteran scribe Ron Marz, renowned for his careful guidance of Magdalena, Withchblade (both for Top Cow/Image) and other female characters. I never had a doubt that he would employ that same kind of creative care with Voodoo. With the very capable drawing hand of Sami Barsi, the bar is raised on this book that – pretty ladies aside – is really easy on the eyes (thought the men weren’t quite as well drawn). The setup is Priscilla uses her telepathic abilities to covertly spy on various soldiers and government operatives who pass through town and the Voodoo Lounge where she works as an adult entertainer (i.e. stripper). Two government agents are sent into town to check her out due to certain suspicions. Quite typically, the male agent is interested in the Voodoo’s strip show, although his aim is to also obtain info and out her as an alien spy, while the female agent is not interested at all and is at odds with her male counterpart about it. So she leaves the scene only to find a bit of trouble in the streets, which has her kicking some ass in self-defense. Back inside, the male agent interrogates Priscilla while she performs his requested private dance. Before he can get the answers he seeks, h pays the price for asking the wrong questions. It’s not pretty. It’s the ugliest scene in what is otherwise a very nice looking comic. Maybe it’s because I'm a 38 yrs old mature adult, but I was not aroused nor offended by scantily clad comic book characters, depending on context and story purpose. Particularly in this comic, I just see it as a normal, realistic situation taking place in a realistic setting. The art is awesome. It’s a gorgeous comic. And if it happens to titillate some 14 y/o adolescent, especially a testosterone-amped teenage boy without enough healthy outlets for his pent-up frustrations (yes, I was a boy once), then who cares because it’s pretty tame compared to what can typically be found online on seedier websites, and there’s far worse said teen could be partaking in. However, if you look at the cyberspace reviews, everyone seems to have lost their minds and become offended staunch puritans apparently afraid of the human body and human sexuality (although no actual s-e-x takes place in this story and had it the tone of this review would be different). I admit you could argue that DC should maybe label this particular issue as “Suggested for Mature Readers” compared to its Teen+ rating. But here’s the thing: whether you like or agree with the ‘mature content’ or not, I would question your integrity if you could not at least acknowledge that the script is well-written and competent with great pacing, a doozy of a climax, and a twist at the end to set up future chapters, beginning with the very next one judging by its title “Strange Bedfellows”. This is a major setup issue with a touch of origin in the expository conversations providing insight into character background, motivation and likely trajectory. If you can’t at least pick up on that, well, I will assume you are daft. The controversial stripper aspect totally fits the story, so I don’t see it as gratuitous. All in all, I must say Voodoo was very well written and drawn; for me it definitely has the biggest surprise ending of all the New 52s. No sit down with Jim Lee on this particular WS integration. I still need to talk with him about Grifter, though. – Professor’s Grades: Script = B+ | Art = B+ | Accessibility = B+ Superman #1 Title: “What Price Tomorrow?” Story/Cover/Layouts: George Perez Art: Jesus Merino Originated As: Superman #1 (1939, by way of Action Comics #1 in 1938) The curious case of Superman in the New 52 DC Universe is that Action Comics #1 (written by legendary super-scribe by Grant Morrison) presents a retroactive story and take on the Man of Steel, yet despite its backwards looking-glass, that particular take on the character seems refreshed and new, even while echoing the same tone as the original Action Comics #1 from 1938 that chronicled Superman’s first-ever adventure with thirteen pages by his original creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. In contrast, the first issue of the eponymous series for ‘big blue’ written by another legend in the industry, George Perez, is oddly more of a throwback to an era perhaps some 30 years ago, at least it seems in terms of style and approach. The Superman in this comic is clearly the ‘new’ edition, yet the story and art style feels dated and stale. Naturally this criticism falls at the feet of the writer. Despite not doing the actual penciling and inking, Perez’s anachronistic art style sullies the final product for my tastes because he did the breakdowns/layouts. In short, this is the kind of Superman book I've been avoiding during my 25 years of reading comics. From the press copy: The new adventures of Superman begin here! What is the Man of Steel’s startling new status quo? How does it affect Lois Lane and the Daily Planet? There’s no time for answers now, because Superman must stop a monstrous threat to Metropolis—one that he is somehow the cause of! The first few pages of Superman were a bit sleepy for me. During a time when I want to learn about the book’s main star in a first chapter, I’m instead given a run-down of the city of Metropolis and its longtime chronicle, the Daily Planet. As if that weren’t enough to put me to sleep, I’m treated to a debate about digital VS print in the newspaper industry (a good, relevant and timely debate, but perhaps an ill-fit here). It’s the tenth page before Superman takes over the book and jumps into heroic action to stop a some clown-faced, rifle-toting perpetrators who have hijacked a petro tanker. The results are rather explosive. Finally in the final third of the book our hero takes on an alien from space made up of fire (think of the Dark Phoenix at Marvel). All the while Perez uses dialogue and internal monologues to describe much of what can clearly be seen in the panels. That’s a big no-no for me as this defeats the purpose of the artist’s hard work in illustrating the script, rendering it all redundant and unnecessary. Suffice it to say, I think there’s a bit of overwriting in this script, which again is a bit of a throwback to a bygone era in comics. I prefer a balance of old & new, maintain the fast stories of the old days and the visual spectacle—large images on pages that aren’t cluttered with busy artwork--of the modern era. I remember thinking “Can George Perez cram any more images onto one page’s layout?” I know he’s a throwback to the 80s, and I know I complain a lot about decompression, but what we need in the modern age is a happy medium of compressed stories that move a little faster and also still have the larger panels and images that came into prominence in the 90s and 2000s. Let the page…let the art breath. And if you’re going to describe what’s on the page anyways, you may as well use less panels and let the words do their thing to avoid sensory overload, if nothing else. I see that Action Comics is the Superman title for new Superman readers like me (who also enjoyed All-Star Superman a few years back). I don’t feel this first issue is new-reader-friendly in comparison. – Professor’s Grade: Script = C | Art = C | Accessibility = C Blackhawks #1 Title: “Blackhawks” Writer: Mike Costa Artists: Graham Nolan (layouts) & Ken Lashley (finishes) Cover: Ken Lashley Originated As: N/A (however, the original Blackhawk character debuted in Military Comics #1 in 1941 at Quality Comics) Description from the Press Copy: Welcome to a world waging a new kind of war that’s faster and more brutal than ever before. It’s fought by those who would make the innocent their targets, using computers, smart weapons and laser-guided missiles. The new enemy is hard to find-–and closer to home than we think. Between us and them stand the Blackhawks, an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles. Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us. Well, I’m not sure where to begin on this one. I think, like Suicide Squad, this is one of those titles that is pretty sound in concept, but not well-executed. Also like Suicide Squad, the characterization leaves a great deal to be desired. As the description says, the Blackhawks are a proactive, high tech military squad (think: G.I. Joe meets Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. only nowhere near as cool as either), a squad filled with agents that you will have a hard time getting to know and care about in this first issue. Introduced this issue, according to the mission log, is Lady Blackhawk, The Irishman, Kuniochi, Attila, and Wildman. I did not really care for this comic so I won’t spend a lot of words on it. I felt the story lacked a true narrative as it simply jumped from one character or scene to another with no depth to the story (or the characters for that matter). The issue begins right in the middle of the story with high-flying action involving a fighter jet, an agent ‘hotdogging’ it, terrorists, and a guy with a bomb strapped to him. One of the orders for this mission is for the Blackhawks to remain covert in profile, but they really push the limits of that with destructive violence. I suppose the best part of the comic is in the latter half where it is revealed that who of the agents are in a fairly new relationship. It’s with these two characters that some drama develops, and by the end on character experiences something strange that will likely push this series into an unexpected direction. The end does spark interest, but as the cliffhanger it only makes you wish they creators would have introduced this reveal earlier and based the plot around that idea instead. So writer Mike Costa doesn’t really get any kudos for his script work. However, the art team of Graham Nolan on layouts and Ken Lashley on the finished art, the visual storytelling is competent despite the less-than-perfect line work. I only recommend this comic for those who prefer high-octane action featuring an ensemble cast with which you may or may not find yourself enamored, and a plot that lacks a narrative through-line that hooks you. – Professor’s Grades: Script = C+ | Art = B | Accessibility = D+ The Savage Hawkman #1 Title: “Hawkman Rising” Writer: Tony S. Daniel Art & Cover: Philip Tan Originated As: Hawkman #1 (1964, by way of Flash Comics #1 in 1940) Description from the press copy: Carter Hall’s skill at deciphering lost languages has led him to a job with an archaeologist who specializes in alien ruins – but will the doctor’s latest discovery spread an alien plague through New York City? No matter the personal cost, Carter Hall must don his wings and become the new, savage Hawkman to survive! Witness the start of a new action series from writer Tony S. Daniel and artist Philip Tan that will take Hawkman where no hero has flown before. The story begins with Carter Hall making a solitary trip up into the woods to hopefully, finally put an end to Hawkman, his superhero persona via the Nth Metal, as he says “One of us ha to die, I’m glad it was you.” Not so fast there, hombre. You might be done with being Hawkman, but being Hawkman isn’t quite finished with you. It’s that ‘the past isn’t through with you’ kind of deal, but it’s really about the present and future because when unearthed alien DNA samples at the lab morph into the big black baddie named, fittingly enough, Morphicius, ol’ Hawkman and the Nth Metal are undoubtedly still needed. As morphing black liquid, Morphicius will immediately call to mind the Venom symbiote from Marvel’s Spider-Man line of books. I have to admit I approached this book with low expectations and came away a little surprised because it was actually quite decent. Daniel’s script is very solid for a first issue, touching on the past in an efficient ‘this is all you need to know right now’ manner, and then immediately showing – like all the 52 books – the non-super-human side of the starring character as well. Also, like a few other New 52 books, I felt this issue probably ended just a tad early (DC’s standard 22 pages down to a 20-page standard makes more of a difference than you might think). But the series has promise, especially if you can acquire a tastes for Tan’s art with Sunny Cho’s (digital?) water-color painting, which is I believe on top of Tan’s pencils (meaning the art is sans traditional inking, though I’m willing admit I could be completely off the mark here). It’s not the prettiest art, but I’m stressing that it’s also not the ugliest either. Just a bit non-traditional for a superhero comic that may or may not be your thing. Granted this particular style of art might actually be a bad fit aesthetically for this series, it was still pretty effective in the storytelling department. In other words, I never thought the art took me out of the story, so that’s a good thing there. It’s a pretty simple setup, although moving forward I think the origin and nature of the enigmatic Nth Metal that grants Carter Hall his Hawkman suit/powers will certainly need to be fully disclosed, along with Hall’s past issues with being Hawkman which clearly set him on a mad path to completely abandon it before accepting its convenient return just in time to save his life. My research has uncovered quite a convoluted past for this character, so you can imagine the benefits and wonders the DCU reboot must give this character. I think I will keep a close eye on this one and recommend you do the same. – Professor’s Grades: Script = B+ | Art = B | Accessibility = B+ Well folks, that’s it, we made it through the reboot safe and sound and still engaged with our love of comics. I think the old time readers managed to emerge unscathed despite some grumblings, and many of us new citizens of the DC Universe have applied for permanent residence. Next Week: TBA. Until then, X out!   ©2011 eXpertComics.com | Professor Brand-X  Read more...
Sunday, 02 October 2011 10:39
*FULL DISCLOSURE DISCLAIMER AND SPOILER ALERT ON A MASS SCALE – IN-DEPTH BREAKDOWNS AND ANALYSIS AHEAD! It has come. The time for me to stop debating the morality from my soapbox (at least temporarily) of the DC re-launch and as I promised review each book in my corner of eXpert Comics entirely on their own merits as self-contained books in a brand new Universe. I have every confidence I can do this even after my record of railing against what I consider an egregious lack of respect for history, fan and every purist’s love – an adored continuity steeped in the finest lore of the medium. I have made clear that other than work my personal spending has ended on DC. Even (sorry collectors) the #1 issues given me by my employers for work will be deleted/left at dentist’s office for sticky fingered hope to be fans. Please remember I am a professional and if these books are good I will be among the first to scream from the highest “printed” page and say so. My argument has never been with the content or technical ability of the creator’s (yet) but the principle of the move itself. So this is full disclosure and these are my reviews of my share of DCNU’s 52 titles for this week. At the end of this column you get THE DAMM VERDICT: DCNU and we can get rid of these disclaimers! This Week’s Damm List: Teen Titans/The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men/Green Lantern: The New Guardians That’s A Wrap: IN WITH JUSTICE AND OUT WITH A NUKE!! I am going to live. I am going to live through this. I am going to live through this launch of the New 52. That HAD to be Johns, DiDio and Lee’s mantra as the finale to the introduction loomed. Or I’d like to feel it mirrors my own feelings. DC has flat-out swallowed the comic Universe for a month. Despite pairings of independent and creator owned books by retailers (#comicmarket shout-out) with the #1’s and a slew of great Marvel, Image, Dynamite, Boom, IDW, Aspen, 215ink and Dark Horse books DC’s first month of its new Universe has broken sales records and stolen every thunderclap. From real controversy to over sensationalized absurdities if you read comics seriously or if you just jumped on you have been talking about DCNU. Or you are boycotting. Well it is obvious that after reading all 52 my position has changed, rotated and mutated and it was me who was "wrong about a great many things." This entire month has been a mix of  an emotional roller coaster of blood pressure raising thrills, lukewarm indifference and childhood destroying disappointments.The whole spectrum was explored. I have been right about some things too. There have been surprises and disappointments, bikinis and leg breaks there has been a lot of hard work by a lot of good people to do this. From publisher to reviewer it was enormous and I actually can’t wait to take a deep breath, blow it out and look at the whole. While if you have read my earlier writings and seen these reviews you will know that I am in quite a pickle. This Week’s Setup I am proud to say that later this week I will post my Montreal Comic Con interview with Gail Simone. I wanted to wait until both of her books were out and and reviewed. Then we can hear what SHE has to say about them. After all we (me) have done all the talking so far. Firestorm was one of the most anticipated titles of this new 52 in my circle of friends. Actually (and not coincidentally) all three of my review selections were high on my list for different reasons. I have a soft spot for Firestorm. I have a love of Scott Lobdell’s writing but the feathers were bugging me. I think Tyler Kirkham is one of the most skilled artists currently working in comics. The GLC run with New Guardians scribe Tony Bedard is some of the most exceptional work in the Green Lantern Universe in a while (Weaponer!) and I was literally waiting for the comics to drop digitally so I could start this. Unfortunately for my reading but fortunately otherwise I was otherwise detained and sat down at 10 p.m. with 23 hrs. to write this and a friend who needs moving in the morning. (Hi Sidney!) So I need to get started, The setup this week is simple – finish strong. This is the week many will remember as the last bang of the relaunch. In so many cases and on so many levels it is easy to tire and it is easy to let the enthusiasm wane. But there are some big finish books and mine are no exception. With the arrival of the Titans cover the waves of moaning started about the feathers and the tattoo. Lobdell it seems is 1 for 2 with Superboy being highly acclaimed and Red Hood and the Outlaws being panned by critics, To be fair most of the criticism was over a promiscuously perceived Firestar and less about the rest of the book. There were some honest reviews but it felt to me that no one wanted to support a potential politically incorrect firebomb. So Titans will be the tie breaker and expectations are high. Firestorm is the one guy in the DCU that has never quite had the right feel. There has been several stand out runs and everyone familiar with comics can remember his flaming head and nuclear symbol if not by name. He was a second generation Super Friend but no one really knows just how and where he fits. It was genius giving him to Simone and Van Sciver and the one letter change in the title indicates drastic change in page. Also a co plotted book by these two and art of Yilderay Cinar has to make your hands shake with anticipation just a little. New Guardians features an array of colored rings on one team led by Kyle Rayner. Bedard. Kirkham. Rings. That’s enough for me. Sign me up. TEEN TITANS #1 WRITER – Scott Lobdell PENCILS – Brett Booth INKS – Norm Rapmund COLORS – Andrew COVERS – Booth, Rapmund and Dalhouse This is the one title I never was against the idea of relaunching. You see every time Teen Titans starts over at # 1 it is awesome. The Marv Wolfman/George Perez run of Titans was a defining and fundamentally forming book to my comic sensibilities. The Lobdell X-Men are MY X-Men. While Claremont and Byrne Kirby and Lee are masters it was Lobdell who deepened the characterization of Gambit for me, yanked out Wolverine’s metal, sent them to the Age of Apocalypse and left after the Onslaught of 90’s mass exodus’ from the big 2. But then the promo art for Superboy and Titans came out and I cringed. I was horrified at the tattoo and the wings and more than a little skeptical at the new concepts. Nor was I alone. The message boards and the vitriol and the tongue-in-cheek jokes lit up the internet and sad to say I too threw a few jabs out of amazement and disbelief. But what I did not do is insult Lobdell or hurl unsubstantiated personal attacks and use his work as the ammo. It was uncalled for. In all fairness Lobdell has had a parade of successes and most of THOSE are shake ups, redefinitions and alternate timelines. So not only was it mean it was a stupid line of attack. So I asked for this book as one of the first, Expectations (mine) were high. So what would be considered a success here? Returning the Titans to that subversive feel of Perez/Wolfman would be a great start. Featuring Red Robin in the kind of intellectual and hand to hand bad ass that the newly incarnated Nightwing did back in that run. (You know what Nightwing had brand new wings too, come to think of it.) But most of all we need them to be visually complemented to the story in a perfect balancing act of teen ideals and characteristics without making them mundanely angst ridden. And one more key ingredient lots of characters infused with lots of action, Beast Boy would rock. SYNOPSIS Kid Flash is brash, annoying, inexperienced and come from out of nowhere - in other words the same as always - no one including the reader knows who this little whelp with super speed is. He is eager to help and unable to do so because of his rash and reckless nature. As a result he blows up a house fire to catastrophic proportions and endangers more people. The world of DCNU we have seen is less tolerant of metahumans. The loathing dripping with barely repressed venom in the reports on TV is a reflection of young metas all over the globe doing things of this nature. Now they are disappearing. But it seems right now only Tim Drake, former Robin current Red Robin, is the only one that has noticed. He has been monitoring teenage metahumans all over the globe and he has been trying to stop the people responsible for the kidnappings from behind the scenes in his Luthor Tower Penthouse. He alludes to the fact that either he or the Batman started this dilemma. He has been laying low and watching the disappearances beneath the perpetrators notice. Till they crash in on his penthouse to abduct him too. But this is the finest mind of the former Robins and Tim Drake comes prepared and he was trained to do. Launching out the window he extends his steel wings and jet pack and Red Robin takes flight! N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (where Superboy is being “raised”) abduction squad is led by the mysterious Thrice. Thrice is a bad man and he is in charge of Superboy...mmm that’s a bad thing. Red Robin decides he has to act. But he realizes he can’t do it alone. So he seeks out Cassie Sandsmark who he has discerned is next on the list. He arrives just in time…to meet a giant helicopter drone armed to the teeth facing down the girl still denying she is a meta. The wings are bulletproof, flexible and strong enough to deflect gunship fire and Cassie shows off her surprising powers – energy shield bracelets, star fields in her extremities, flight and super strength. She trashes the copter and didn’t even use her lasso. But now the world knows she is a meta. She joins up with Red Robin. Just DON’T call her Wonder Girl. The hooded lady lurks again (is it me or is her cloak changing colors?) Half a world away, Thrice releases Superboy. STORYTELLING Characterization is the fundamental building block of comics and after reading Teen Titans I am now convinced that this Universe is going to be a sturdy building. Scott Lobdell is now 3 out of 3 for me, and 2 out of 3 for everyone else. In what can only be called the greatest characterizations of the New 52 (Superboy and Teen Titans) Lobdell has cut a swath through the biased fans against him, the competition of the other writers who doubted him and out shined with talent and technique much beloved legends like Grant Morrison who were expected to be the star of this new U launch. He has left his critics speechless and left to focus their derision on Red Hood and the Outlaws. Lobdell builds the new team without ever actually assembling them in a traditional set up for a team book but it feels like a new phenomenon entirely.  Fans of Generation X (Lobdell’s own team of young Marvel mutants featuring Jubilee) and New Mutants from Marvel in the 90’s and 80’s respectively will drool and kick waiting for #2 because of this intense and meticulous detail in characterization. He invokes laughter, embarrassment for Kid Flash, sadness for Cassie and a new understanding of just how much of a stud Tim Drake is. The other cameos by future members and those not recruited keep the interest level up from page to page. Tim uses the Bat’s money and flaunts it living in the Luthor Tower. Then there is Superboy and the finally the perfect characterization of sympathetic tones in Superboy becomes absolutely menacing in Titans. The genius of this writing is they are the same exact ending scenes with two distinct points of view, two distinct character contentions and two distinct tones. He still made them feel like a team even though they have never met in this new Universe. Also, did I see Raven? Also again, did anyone notice who is lurking in the shadows during Kid Flash’s “debut?” Details. Nobody does story details like Lobdell – maybe Jenkins, maybe Gaiman – and even this takes a back seat to the scripting. This is among the finest dialogue of the DCNU # 1 issues. Perfectly paced with enough pause to process the preceding pages but not long enough for the reader to catch his breath. This may be the finest work I have ever seen from Brett Booth and I believe the fantastic inks of Norm Rapmund to be largely responsible for the extra clean lines and technological future feel. The pencils are done exactly the same way as the story – meticulous detail focused on characterization. No shortcuts were taken; every panel is consistent with the next. Even the fire scenes are a sight to behold as he has found a way to make them look like they are same event in the same house but each flame clearly defined makes each panel stand out and advance the speed effects and the pace. Add to this the stunning colors and the art team on Teen Titans has done a fine job. The design for the new costumes once so horrid in the concept art really works in practice and I owe everyone involved an apology for taking some early cheap shots at those wings. Now if the tattoo explanation is as good I will have to eat two slices of that not very tasty pie - crow. ANALYSIS Teen Titans is finally as subversive and hip as it was when Wolfman and Perez’ took over the book and turned a green smart-alec into a green monkey smart-alec. For the first time in years they feel real and threatened and not living in a giant T. The pace, story and art are stellar. Cast is right and new Wonder Girl (don’t hit me Cassie!) has great new look. However it seems that Beast Boy is not here. It also seems Rose “Ravager” Wilson is a major player in Superboy and Deathstroke has his own title so where is Jericho and Terra? While this book is phenomenal it is not as good as Superboy which got an A+ plus no Beast Boy so it gets an A- GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS WRITER - Tony Bedard PENCILS – Tyler Kirkham INKS – BATT COLORS – Nei Ruffino LETTERS – Dave Sharpe This is it. When DCNU was announced and I was done throwing my fit, I got pumped for this book. I was reading Green Lantern Corps: War of the lanterns and when I heard they were putting the entire emotional spectrum of rings in one book and that the team of Bedard and Kirkham is at the helm I started drooling even with my fiery indignant caution against the relaunch. It was the most torn I have ever been about a comic book. In fact it is the reason I decided to put aside my gripe and read them all, review a bunch and scope out the DCNU at all. This book, right here is entirely responsible for my modified stance on the DCNU. So I guess you could say I had higher expectations for this book than most and by far this is the one I was hanging my whole readership of DCNU on. If these guys couldn’t deliver then to me the Universe was forfeit. Now I realize it was a great decision to release it in the last week so that I was hooked by a ton of other great books all month long. (Sorry if you were waiting for Suicide Squad!) But still I was waiting until I read this book to make my decision for my pending abandonment of DC. So without further ado. SYNOPSIS On a dying world the last standing Guardian struggles to muster the collective willpower to make one more Power Ring of the green variety. Ganthet will choose this one personally. Kyle Rayner is an unemployed graphic designer in a bar with a full bladder. He walks to the alley to relieve himself and finds a little blue man with a green glowing ring and a charge to become the next Green Lantern in the wake of an insane Hal Jordan and the destruction of OA (I think. IF that is still why Ganthet was in a heaping pile of roughed up Oans,) As Ganthet abducts Kyle he learns right away how to use the ring. He becomes a Green Lantern. Flash to the current day – Sector 422, home of the Xlon Expanse is nasty territory but the Yellow Lantern slaughtering Khunds doesn’t seem to care. Until Sinestro 117 loses his ring by decommission. By decommission I mean leaving his finger to find a replacement mid-battle while surrounded by a hundred armed to the teeth very angry Khunds. A Lantern of every color in various sectors also experiences this decommissioning as well some dying some near dying in the process. But the leaders and members of the colors aren’t responsible for the ring decommissions and they want answers. Power Rings are not hard for Lanterns to track (duh) so whoever is stealing these rings is going to rue the day they pissed off a Star Sapphire once named Fatality and it doesn’t seem LOVE is on her mind. Kyle is on earth however being a hero. Most notably he is a well-liked and famous hero that builds giant burly construction workers to save a fallen crane. He is the first hero I have seen that is well liked in this Universe as far as I can tell and he stops to talk with those he is protecting and honestly doesn’t resent them for it (which isn’t the same vibe I got from GLC’s Gardner and Stewart.) He is doing very well as the Green Lantern. Then all six other colors of Power Rings show up and claim that he has been chosen. Um…Not good at all, because the pursuers of the rings are right behind and one is Bleez the Red Lantern! Who as Reds are known to do wants to kill Kyle so will stop everyone else from doing it, All the colors representatives show up and demand he return their rings. Only one problem, he has no idea what is going on. Oh and yep her cloak is changing colors, is it just faded from time travel and age? Is it Raven ala’ Teen Titans Animated? Madame Xanadu? Granny Goodness? A female Dr. Fate? STORYTELLING While I alluded to it above I will flat out say it now. The Green Lantern Universe is better when Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham are involved in it. The two can’t be separated because they are so dependent on each other. They are the best overall tandem of the DCNU because they truly seem one being. Let me see if I can explain. First I’ll go separately then try to demonstrate how they are melded of mind like some crazy Spock thing. Tony Bedard is better than any other Lantern writer at emotional connection to the characterizations in relation to powering the ring. Kyle’s constructs (while some were based on Marz’ origin too) are what will or willpower (what powers the ring) would actually look like if it was made into a physical object. Kirkham knows this like he has a hotel room in Bedard’s cranium and just looks into what Bedard is thinking. An example if Mr. Bedard said to me (were I an artist) “I want to save the guy in the crane with green ring constructs that look like construction workers, because there are people around and it is a strong but soothing image to the crowd and the panicked crane operator” I would not have known instinctively like Kirkham that these should be proud American truck commercial construction workers, who even though they are 50 feet tall do not seem to cause a panic because they are familiar and comfortable images. Then draw them solid, make every detail perfect and let the best inker in the industry (in my opinion) - BATT lash up a depth that is often missing in Lantern constructs due to the nature of energy weapons. They tend to be drawn more ephemeral than concrete but this team has an acute vision for Lanterns of every color. Plus, Kyle is a commercial illustrator and graphic designer. It is what he would make. Colors are flawless and bold, letters in perfect voice emulation. But what makes this team great, not just good, is that they have the same chemistry and innate understanding of every color of the emotional spectrum in relation to characterization and Kirkham is as much responsible for that as Bedard. From Kyle’s longer hair and proclivity for smiling, (does anyone else smile besides Joker in this new U?) to the Sinestro Corps vicious attack in space where terrorist turns fearful. Fatality and her saving of her dying Star Sapphire was another up front, direct but not wooden introduction to full gist in but a couple pages. In every instance with every Lantern they nailed the emotion without being quaint or cheesy. That is hard to do. Let’s talk panels. This book is structurally exquisite and it is a joy to look at before you read one word. Like always Kirkham ‘s layouts pop right off the page like springs because of the lack of borders and the willingness to go the extra mile in the illustration. It seems like every page he is attempting to set a new precedent, to do a better job than the one before it. Some are better than others but he always goes big. Batt is a fearless, meticulous inker and he knows Kirkham like Kirkham knows Bedard. He pulls every last panel to the top and lets the pencils shine while that BATT style, y’know like Klaus Janson feel to it but no corpses, is how I like to think of it, radiates smooth, seamless transitions. ANALYSIS This is cosmic superhero storytelling at its finest - Shooter and Zeck, Starlin and Perez/Lim & now Bedard and Kirkham/BATT only in an ongoing title. It is compelling; the ending is a classic superhero comic page worthy of traditional homage but sharp, sleek and wholly modern. Where GLC and Red Lantern disappointed on some level New Guardians does not, in fact it does everything it sets out to do. It draws in the faithful with brilliant characterization; it retells a classic origin in a modern way without ruining it thus enticing new readers. It has action at the same time as it sets up the team thus keeping a fun pace and exciting tone. It doesn’t tell too little or too much thus compelling the reader to come back for issue #2.  I looked high and low for a weakness in this book and there isn’t one. There are two perfect #1’s in this DCNU launch review extravaganza – I have read them all with this much scrutiny and reviewed 17 of them in this much detail – Superboy is the first and this is the second. A+ THE FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN CO-PLOTTERS – Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver ARTIST – Yildiray Cinar COLORS – Steve Buscellato LETTERS – Travis Lanham So between the New Guardians review and this Firestorm review I had some technical issues and something which has never happened - happened twice. Completely by accident at first, I saw two other reviews in the computer crash down time. Smart phones aren’t that smart. I was using Stumble Upon waiting to hear the diagnosis and landed on this review from ComicBook.com By: Nick Winstead  and I should have looked away because after reading it I was a little surprised because it was not a positive and friendly, shocked it was in fact not “firing on all cylinders” in the review. I had already read the book on Comixology once through and had a couple more to go but I found that I was feeling a tad confused. So I looked at another review to see if it was just a fluke and found another. I still don’t get it. It is the only time I have read a review before I do mine so in the interest of full disclosure…what gives? I used my regular process and well…you will see. SYNOPSIS In the city there is a ruthless band of thugs seeking a football sized object of immense scientific worth and they kill everyone and everything to possess it for their benefactor, who is a major global player – men, women, children and even entire neighborhoods. They are professional killers and they are professional accumulators. The object of their brutal hunt – exceedingly intelligent kids tied to a now deceased scientist Dr. Martin Stein (who was a Firestorm with Ronnie Raymond at one time) and an experiment of world changing potential. You see it is the physics of matter manipulation. It is a brand new science of power and weapon profiteering. Only when they exhaust all the likely subjects they are left with the unlikely and head to Walton Mills High School. High School sucks. No matter your proclivities or talents whether jock, brainiac or artistic no matter what area you pursue the factions opposite you will make your life hell. It is the very nature of coming of age. Learning how to interact with the diverse and distasteful with your own comfortable sensibilities can’t be anything but the definition of rite of passage. Just ask Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond. Two completely opposite talents and two opposite social status isn’t nearly the obstacle that their prejudices are. When Ronnie Raymond forgets about a school paper interview with Jason Rusch the two get off on a bad note. Jason is an African-American brainy nerd (is there any other kind?) working on the school paper and only at his editors insistence did he agree to interview the significantly less bright Raymond, who Jason is sure is also a racist. Ronnie takes umbrage with this but keeps his self analyzing eye on himself, open minded and willing to see. Jason seems more rigid. The tension escalates at school and it is getting ugly between them when after consulting with their culturally and socially different single parents the bickering continues the next day with frustration on both sides. We learn the Firestorm project was a weapons program and several countries have Firestorms in their employ as said weapons, but if one went rogue, if one initiated the process without the proper measures in place imagine the problems that could cause for a clandestine organization selling or developing the Firestorm weapons for sale. Oh and the entire world would probably do better with a matter changing, fire throwing flying NUCLEAR man trained or under control in some fashion. She endorses her team for acquisition. The psycho pros hunting for the object arrive at the school and Jason knows why they are there, much to Ronnie, Tonya (Jason’s editor) and the readers surprise (never saw it coming he would already know.) he suggests they run and as they do he removes the Firestorm canister out and heads for the exit the other two right behind him. They run into a friend in the hall who is summarily shot in the head and killed. This catalyst enrages Jason to the point of invoking the detonation word while holding the canister and Firestorm is born! And Firestorm! What two of them?!! Yes there are indeed (one red - one yellow) and they start fighting each other when Ronnie realizes what has been done to him. This makes them unstable. Then they explode in the air fall to the ground and there is one again. A huge, muscled hulking Firestom weapon comes out of the hole and announces “The ‘guys’ are gone forever sweetcheeks say hello to Fury!” The hooded lady is always lurking. STORYTELLING This is the only book I reviewed I think I am going to start with the art. It is sophisticated and utterly refined. Cinar is an amazing talent that is worthy of note. This issue was all about tension, and while it can be written well it can NOT be properly communicated in the art without supreme skill. Sometimes tension can come across as rage, or pout or even hate. It is often under drawn in the aspect that facial expressions become the most puzzling of shortcuts and take a detail back seat to hero effects and backgrounds. Not so here. Cinar pulled it off perfectly. There are moments of really uncomfortable contention not just from the subject matter but because the expressions on the players was illustrated really well with body positioning and mood lighting effects that could go unnoticed if not looking for them. So look. Colors seemed consistent fierce and bold energy palates with earth tone reality tones. Letters were stellar and so important to vocal context. The art in this book was on the top end of the gamut of launch books. I want to start on plot/script with what struck me as strange about the two reviews I read. I thoroughly disagree with the review on the “ It may actually do more to set the character back, as it relies on a clunky sub-plot about racial tensions to get itself jump started and doesn’t do much from there” point because this is one of the most tactful, smooth, passionate modern discussions of race in a comic I have ever seen and it is absolutely compelling to think of them merged into one being struggling with this discussion open is thrilling. It is convincing and thought provoking and it stays with you after you are done, Maybe that is why the reviewer thought it was as he stated. There are however a few plot stalls in this book in pace and the characterization on the bad guys as far feels inconsistent in spots. I believe it is the new collaborative process between Simone and Sciver. When you put two creators of this caliber together it is going to take some time. They are feeling each other’s styles out and they are making a new one for Firestorm all his own. It is obvious to me that this is a serious book with riveting things to come. Simone and Sciver will find the voice for Firestorm. But re-launches are for new ideas, and #1’s on a character with so many complex parts is going to take some time to iron out. ANALYSIS Wow last one, kinda Limbo-ey. Firestorm is a fantastically illustrated book with sharp, insightful dialogue and a work in progress story. The appeal of the book is the social honesty and its detraction the disruptions of pace and characterization that are merely the first issue jitters. Simone and Sciver have glowing records in their new ideas and execution of them. This book was a fun read and I will buy #2 just to see what Fury is all about. B TEN FAVORITE DAMM DCNU BOOKS 10. Deathstroke 09. DCUP: Deadman 08. Batman 07. Batgirl 06. Hawk and Dove 05. Blue Beetle 04. Aquaman 03. Teen Titans 02. Green Lantern: The New Guardians 01. Superboy TEN LEAST FAVORITE DAMM DCNU BOOKS 10. Superman 09. Savage Hawkman 08. Mr. Terrific 07. Grifter 06. Justice League 05. Wonder Woman 04. Blackhawks 03. Detective 02. Action 01. Suicide Squad THE DAMM VERDICT: DCNU ALTERED STATES: A MODIFIED STANCE FOR PURISTS In the wake of the DC relaunch I railed incessantly against the morality of this move. About its unfairness to the long time loyal readers keeping the industry alive on life support every time the economy or poor business practices and giant world spanning event flops. In fact I spoke about how comics are intimate and continuity is really important to this medium. More than ANY other. I talked about how the history was Americana and pop culture and those creators had an obligation to honor the histories to the letter because it MATTERED what happened when, to who - no matter how cheesy. I argued that this would not fix Batman and Superman’s hideous current (at that time) state but that slow meticulous writing over a year or 18 months could. I insisted that no matter how good these books were I would not spend my personal money on them only company funds. In Rants of a Comic Book Purist: It’s a Personal Thing I stated NO MATTER HOW GOOD THE TALENT AND NEW STORIES IN THIS RELAUNCH IF IT DOES NOT KEEP THE CORE CHARACTERIZATIONS AND MAJOR COMPONENTS OF CONTINUITY IT WILL FAIL, OR IT WILL CEASE TO BE DC COMICS IN ESSENCE, ONLY A HISTORYLESS SHINY BAUBLE FOR THE UNEDUCATED READER AND INSTANT GRATIFICATION ERA FAN. But I am thrilled to say they did those things and it isn’t. Guess why – the DC relaunch of their entire 80 year line to all #1’s worked. No one who was closely watching and sane can deny this fact. I don’t mean the gimmick audience and the sales records for # 1’s. That was expected but still nice. I don’t mean the likelihood of #2’s not dropping off. That was not expected and still nice. No I mean they succeeded in the hard things like their claims of updating characters to the modern world and still respecting the old ones. I admit when they said  - it all did happen but it didn’t happen if you get specific -  line of perspective floored me. I could NOT get my head around it. It was genius of the editorial staff to pick and choose where to reveal what was still here and what wasn't because if it is necessary (Hawk and Dove and Batgirl) it was there but if you didn't need to know it wasn't told. I am exceedingly glad. I am glad not only because I love the industry and a failure would have been catastrophic to our industry. I don’t want the entire business damaged – it was the point of my being against -  it preventing damage. But I am glad because it is so good. I am giddy actually. The overall quality of this vast and untried till now event is stunning. It is flat out breathtaking. Out of the 52 titles I would give (if I could afford them) all # 2’s a chance on 37 of them, and only 10 or so of the bottom ones do I really dislike. I am glad that most all of these new versions very much feel like improved versions of an old skin, as long as you don’t ask any questions (I sure would like to see how Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen happened in this U when Superboy has completely different origin. But Killing Joke and Crisis on Infinite Earths are referenced as have happened in the DCNU to my glee.) In my defense though as I indicated would probably happen, I whole-heartedly believe the most egregious errors in this endeavor are with the new characterizations of the Trinity. Superman Batman and Wonder Woman are all wrong still in that the changes are so deviant from whom they really are, and have lost their light, their goodness and their heroism of heart if not deed. A specific Batman is inaccessible for young children (even young teens in some cases.) On the positive side Batgirl is actually (a tweener book) and Batman are much lighter in tone and filled with a wry dark wit that allows for some freedom from the darkness. Capullo is by far the most classic characterization Batman artist in the relaunch in my opinion. So far in this Saw or Touristas feeling Batverse – largely sadistic and vile – we have seen skinning, graphically depicted gun murder, brutal stabbing and sadistic glee from hero and villain alike . With Superman... Well, I get all twisted up inside over Superman and I lose articulation; I shake sometimes with unprocessed emotion. I can’t be rational over how violated and betrayed as a reader I am over his makeover in look and persona. It’s like they replaced Darren on Bewitched again. It is like taking a shining white sheet of unbreakable good and throwing the mud of ego all over Superman, Lois, Lex and Clark leaving an indelible stain against the Super and leaving us with uninspiring, regular, pompous man. All the hope, inspiration and American patriotism that is Superman (my Superman at least) and replaced him with the adventures of Superboy from Reign of the Supermen (which can’t have occurred and that is so wrong if true – sorry it really bothers me) even in his armored high collared “good” uniform. I am extremely connected on every reader to character level and I literally was sick after reading Action, the second worst book on my list, despite the exquisite art, because what was done to Superman far outweighed the talent. On the positive side, yep I am always looking for the good, I saw how maybe Superman could work, how you could write the current version to be … just slightly more traditional. Justice League Dark and Swamp thing were a tad closer to accurately portraying Superman to who he is. I think if more  light and some awe inspiring characterizations can be added to the styles employed in those two books even Superman could work. The Hooded Lady rolling through all 52 stories was my favorite part. I want - no -HAVE to know about her and why she is so creepily hanging round like the Watcher. Also in my position I stated this The reboot is wrong.  You can’t build anything worth keeping if the foundation is cast in moral transgression cement. No justification excuses it. There IS NO rebuttal, not business, not artist vision, not the new age of digital. Kicking someone in the groin, stealing their lunch money, ordering them to like it and then have you do it to yourself next time at knifepoint is wrong. What I am actually protesting – breach of contract. The special, personal one made with a 7 year old me. I was right then I am right now. It is just this is not one of those types of situations. So in that I was wrong – flat out. I am so grateful for Blue Beetle, The New Guardians, Teen Titans, Aquaman and especially Superboy a character that has in his whole canon never been interesting or necessary until now. I am going to get every issue I can. These re-imaginings are truly works of art for #1's. I have made a new contract with DC to stay around for the ride because they delivered up front this time. I will not be boycotting anything. I am not reading any Superman titles (ugh)  save Supergirl oh I guess Superboy is technically a Superman book. (I always think of it as a Titans book or sidekick book)  I am ot reading any Bat titles except the two mentioned above as is my prerogative like any reader. But I miss the old U. I miss the Marvel Family. The concept of multiple Batmen in a corporation is still the stupidest concept in the history of Batman. Superman is still not Superman and I am going to cherish what he was and ignore these bastardized versions until I see one glimmer of the Superman that existed before. I will even take the version from just after 52. My sorrow over Superman is real but not enough to throw the rest of this brilliantly compelling new U out with it. I need certain events to have happened the way it happened in the old U to hold my interest. I still feel betrayed. But I am now willing to find out if I actually was. I realize it is going to be an ongoing adjustment like a bad breakup and the new girlfriend. There are issues. In time with some work and adjustment on both ends I hope they resolve themselves. Until such time as DC starts this all over again and erase THIS history. Hopefully I will be long gone by then and kids will be reading them everywhere. They will arise continually and I will react passionately and vocally but I will know that is all right too. In other words comics are still the same. All in All I am Lucky DAMM "Heroism feels and never reasons, and therefore is always right.”.... Ralph Waldo Emerson eXpect eXcellence. eXForceColumns on eXpertComics Read more...
Thursday, 22 September 2011 19:19
Normally, I am not one for spoilers, but these reviews are ripe with them. You have been warned. Also, this is my all girl review it seems! Catwoman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman! Please note that I may go on a little bit about Catwoman. She is my favorite character of all time. ALL TIME. Read more...
Published in DC Comics
Friday, 09 September 2011 20:33
Professor Brand-X in an eXpertComics Month-Long Event featuring The New 52 from DC Comics ON THE PROFESSOR’S DESK THIS WEEK: Action Comics | Stormwatch | Static Shock | Men of War G’day, class. This week your friendly neighborhood comic book Professor, Brandon “Brand-X” Rucker, is going to take you to school on DC’s New 52. Honestly, I’m a virtual novice when it comes to the greater DC Universe, so this will be educational to me as well. We will learn about this exciting new comics universe together during this historic re-launch event. As noted elsewhere on this website, my esteemed eXpertComics columnist colleagues – the irrepressible Steve of 777 DAMM, the cuddly Dave of Full Page Bleed (FPB), and the self-described “spazzy” Lisa of ComixBook Gurl – are also covering The New 52 with their specific assignments, so be sure to check those out as well. Me, I’m covering Action Comics #1, Stormwatch #1, Static Shock #1 and Men of War #1 this week. But first, an introductory summary follows. The story so far… As stated previously in my origin issue PBX #0 a few weeks back, I am not a DC Universe enthusiast (at least not yet). My past forays into the DCU have been peripheral at best with fringe DCU series such as Starman (the Jack Knight version created by James Robinson and Tony Harris in 1994) and Hitman (the character spun out of the Bloodlines event storyline in 1996, created by Garth Ennis and John McCrea). And even though Starman mined as well as established some history of the DCU, and Hitman was set in Gotham City, they were fringe enough that I could never claim to be versed in any DC Universe lore. Even the other various DCU books I read or scanned as a youngster in the 80s, I was such a Marvel zombie at the time that none of that DCU stuff had a snowball’s chance in Hades of having a strong, lasting impression on me – at least not a positive one. To me, their heroes and the universe they inhabited was too bright and cheesy for my tastes as a mildly angst-y youngster. Marvel was grounded more in the “real world” and based in New York City, rather than some made-up, unknown city. Historically it’s been established that DC’s superhero books focused more on the idealized superhero as, well, a superhero, and that Marvel’s superhero books dealt largely with “real” and less idealized people who have become less idealized heroes. In other words, Marvel’s stories dealt more with the humanity of the hero than the super of the hero. Marvel was (and still is) more about pathos, whereas DC historically was more about mythos. Thankfully, from what I’ve observed and read a little here and there, DC has become about pathos just as much as mythos in the last two decades. Also from what I’ve read of the new iteration of the DC Universe, this balance continues. Yet why did DC really need to re-imagine, re-invent, reconfigure, reboot, and ultimately re-launch their entire comics line, timeline and universe? Well, that’s a very complicated (not to mention controversial) answer. I will try to be brief and simple with my explanation (but no promises). Firstly, DC, owned by the Time Warner corporation, is one of the “Big Two” publishers in comics along with Marvel as both companies historically go back to the 1930s (DC was first founded as National Allied Publications and five years later Marvel was first founded as Timely Comics). But DC has been #2 to Marvel’s #1 in market share for so long that they’re a perpetual underdog. Well, quite frankly DC and its parent Warner are tired of that. But that’s only one part of this equation. Another part is readership (i.e. actual paying customers) in the comic book industry has been declining precipitously for any number of quantifiable reasons. In a down market, the #2 publisher feels that recession more painfully than #1. DC has also acknowledge that perhaps things have gotten a little dated and stale with their characters and stories overall (obviously an argument can be made for the more successful and critically lauded Batman & Green Lantern franchises). They believe a refresh initiative as well as a creators’ shakeup is in order to help create new dynamics and excitement for the entire line. As an industry observer and DCU outsider, I can’t really argue against that. There’s also the fact that after creating a muddled, convoluted continuity with multi-verse integrations and previous timeline-fixing reboots, etc., it’s simply time to say CUT! and reshoot this picture from a logical start point. Hence, this new beginning of which we now find ourselves at the start. Everyone can now start at ground zero; a virtual clean slate. This is candy for new comics readers (perhaps and hopefully some of you), or even lapsed comics readers who are anxious to make a return. Maybe even the disgruntled long-time reader who is ready for major change. Also the Marvel zombie, like me, who previously had no interest in becoming a big DC enthusiast. Not everyone agrees with it or even sees the larger picture here, but it’s a given that perspectives vary. Some who even understand it ask: why roll out 52 titles all at once, why not roll them out a few at a time over the course of months or a year? That answer is simple: as a commercial publishing company DC can’t afford to just cut their commercial output by 90%, then 80%, then 70% and so on and so forth for any length of time. That’s financial suicide, and it also leaves comic creators devoid of monthly income. The other easy answer is: to get the needed media and public response needed to drum-up interest in not only their comics but comics in general, DC had to do something radical. Obviously, re-imagining, re-inventing, reconfiguring, rebooting and re-launching their entire line of DC Universe titles accomplishes exactly that. Now let’s proceed to the New 52. Forewarning: some spoilers may ensue. Action Comics #1 (featuring Superman) Title: “Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow” Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Rags Morales w/ Rick Bryant Cover by: Rags Morales w/ Brad Anderson Variant Cover by: Jim Lee w/ Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair Originated as: Action Comics (1938) First, let me say that I am thrilled to be able to witness the release of an all-new #1 issue of such an historic title. The original Action Comics #1 was an anthology title (as virtually all comic books were at the time) released on April 18th of 1938 (with a June cover date) and featured, among other stories, the first ever Superman story by two co-creators of Jewish descent, writer Jerome “Jerry” Siegel and artist Joseph “Joe” Shuster. The story, simply called “Superman” was a 13-page lead feature originally intended to be a newspaper strip a few years prior. There’s so much more to the origin of this landmark, milestone, watershed publication that simply won’t fit here. Suffice it to say: Action Comics Vol. 1, No. 1 as well as Superman the character were the first-of-a-kind and ushered in the Golden Age of a new cultural art form devoted to 4-color icons, a medium we all know and love some 73 years later. Obviously one of the primary targets of the reboot and re-launch initiative was Superman. The custodians most in charge of DCs library of characters, co-publishers Dan Didio & Jim Lee, believe that Superman had gotten a bit weathered and old as a character and concept, to state it simply. As a result of their “get younger, get more relatable” initiative for the blue Boy Scout, we now have a younger and less experienced Superman in this new iteration of Action Comics. Also, award-winning best-selling writer Grant Morrison (he who previously re-imagined Superman in the best-selling, critically acclaimed All-Star Superman series a few years back) has stated that he would like to get Superman back to his core essence as an alien from another world, and re-imagine him for the 21st century. As the story begins it’s apparent that collective mission is definitely accomplished. We find our caped intrepid in a modern-day setting, straddling the line between public enemy number one and crusader of the oppressed. The general public – especially law enforcement – does not understand his nature, are wary of his presence and intentions, yet those he plays hero to are grateful of his intervention. Many of them refer to him as “it”. Yeah, definitely the alien-not-of-this-world-and-not-like-us treatment. As expected, Superman will not stand for any thuggish, roguish behavior from perpetrators, especially when it affects the innocent citizens of Metropolis. Of course that’s the job of the local police who are trying to arrest our hero. He retorts a great line: “How about you and your boys deal with the real criminal scum in this city, and then you won’t need me to do it for you.” I like the realistic cockiness of this Superman. I mean, if you were as super as he you’d have a certain confidence and badass attitude about you. However, before anyone cries foul, I think, like Thor, Superman will eventually learn humility as he becomes more of an Earthling than just a displaced alien from Krypton with otherworldly powers that clearly set him apart from humanity. We soon learn that classic primary Superman foe, Lex Luthor, is working as a consultant to the U.S. military, specifically to General Lane, father of fledgling Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. General Lane is so hell-bent on apprehending Superman that he literally sends in the tanks and helicopters. There’s plenty more action and heroics in this issue than what I’ve described. We also meet the Clark Kent alter ego, Jimmy Olsen, the aforementined Ms. Lane and Kent’s landlord Mrs. Nyxly. Rags Morales’ pencils and Rick Bryant’s inks give the book a smooth look that is, like the story, one-part throwback to the Silver Age and one part contemporary. The overall layouts and action sequences are really dynamic and truly display some fine storytelling with pictures. Accompanied by Morrison’s rollicking yet razor sharp and super-focused script, the overall package of this oversized issue is truly impressive. Bravo, DC! Mission accomplished. This is the best Superman-starring comic I’ve read since All-Star Superman #1 & 2. – Professor’s Grades: Script = A- | Art = B+ | Accessibility = A- Stormwatch #1 Title: “The Dark Side” Writer: Paul Cornell Artist: Miguel Sepulveda Cover by: Miguel Sepulveda w/ Nathan Eyring Originated as: StormWatch (1993) Unlike most of the New 52 titles, I have history with Stormwatch. Deep, rich and nostalgic history that runs back to early 1993 when it debuted as the second team book created by Jim Lee and his childhood friend Brandon Choi for their WildStorm imprint at Image Comics. This is prior to the sale of WildStorm to DC/Time Warner back in 1999 and the eventual dissolution of the imprint and its titles in December of 2010. Back when characters such as Battalion, Weatherman, Synergy, Winter, Fuji, Hellstrike, Fahrenheit, Strafe, Diva and Backlash debuted. Back when shortly an up-and-coming American scribe named Ron Marz took the reins. Or a little later, when an on-the-rise British writer by the name of Warren Ellis came along to really put his unique stamp on superhero comics, progressively insisting that StormWatch “Change or Die” before ending that original volume at a hearty 50 issues (strong for a B-list independent title), re-launching it for another 11 issues and then morphing it into The Authority, which became A-list and truly helped put Ellis on the map, as they say. After a couple of other incarnations of the title, we now arrive to this all-new reincarnation, sans its WildStorm universe ties altogether. This Stormwatch is fully ensconced in the DC Universe – at least behind the scenes – and plays a major role in the shadowy depths of this new-ish universe. My intent is to not focus on the past with any of these New 52 books, and that’s easy to do for me given that I’ve read so little of the originals, but in the case of the now-integrated WildStorm characters, the temptation to do so is great. The original Stormwatch concept centered on a United Nations emergency response team of Seedlings – those with latent superpowers granted as a result of a comet that passed by Earth in the 1970s. The comet’s special radiation bestowed certain individuals with dormant powers. Most of these superhumans-in-waiting were activated by Christine Trelane (aka Synergy), one of the few activators on Earth. Stormwatch covertly dealt with global superhuman threats that government militaries could not. Later as Stormwatch became The Authority, that identity was traded for a more proactive approach, whereas Stormwatch was more reactive. I am not surprised that this incarnation of Stormwatch has no need for Ms. Trelane’s abilities, nor any of the original members I mentioned above (at least so far). The new Stormwatch organization is more similar to The Authority as they are proactive and have been, according to Jack Hawksmoor (a later addition to the original SW team), “protecting the world from alien threats for centuries.” Martian Manhunter, an alien on the side of humans, is a member of the cast and he steps in to do what his namesake says, help hunt down a particular man. Stormwatch is trying to recruit Apollo (another later addition) who is one of the most powerful super-humans on Earth, perhaps only rivaled in power by Superman. The recruiting doesn’t go so well. After a monstrous display, Martian Manhunter says that Apollo needs to stop solving just small crises and instead join Stormwatch to help save the world. And just before negotiations can continue, a certain black-garbed badass named the Midnighter shows up to, um, offer his two pence and that’s that. Next issue: “The Last Survivor of the Big Bang”. That title and this issues setup leaves me truly intrigued. Perhaps it will dig at the origin of either Stormwatch as an entity or one of the cast members. Judging by this issue, it’s quite obvious that a date with a certain alien called Superman is in the near future of this title as well, and that could be in the form of either a simple title-to-title crossover, or perhaps a major DC event down the line. I trust in writer Paul Cornell to weave a very entertaining tale. And although Miguel Sepulveda’s art is not great from an aesthetics point of view, it’s competent enough and inoffensive enough to tolerate for the story. He inks himself here, so perhaps another seasoned inker to go over his pencils would be more to my liking? Merely a matter of taste, many others probably are not as nitpicky as I (and even I tend to not be that bad). Like Action Comics, I’m along for the ride here, at least for the first story arc. – Professor’s Grades: Script: B+ | Art: B- | Accessibility: A- Static Shock #1 Title: “Recharged” Writers: Scott McDaniel & John Rozum Artist: Scott McDaniel w/ Jonathan Glapion & LeBeau Underwood Cover: Scott McDaniel w/ Guy Major Originated as: Static (1993) Created by the late great Dwayne McDuffie with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle, the original Static character and title debuted in 1993 as part of a multi-cultural publishing imprint of DC Comics called Milestone Comics. The character has been integrated into the DCU proper even prior to this post-Flashpoint New DCU, even recently serving time as one of the Teen Titans. So, my take on this new 52 issue? This, dear readers, is a very fun and robust comic book, despite its standard size. It covers everything a first issue should cover and delivers the goods in such a balanced way that it truly is a well-rounded read, which is a great way to kick off a new series. Here’s a rundown of the contents: smart, witty dialogue with a nice touch of humor – check! A relatable teenage character who’s easy to like and care for – check! High-flying, electricity-crackling action amid skyscrapers – check! Quiet character moments that touch on the mundane and human aspects of the superhero’s alter-ego – check! A secret headquarters – check! A band of villains out to thwart and ultimately “kill” our hero – check! A balance of vibrant colors to match our hero’s optimism, and darker colors to match the prevailing danger – check! A great cliffhanger ending – yes, check! This one’s got it all, folks, and I came in to it cold without much reference and was pleasantly surprised ; this book overachieved on mutliple levels. A brief history lesson informs us that Static aka Virgil Hawkins is a 16-year old kid from Dakota City where at age 15 he was bullied and tormented pretty bad, and decided – to quote a song by the late great James Brown – to get some payback. Well, this landed the young fella into some trouble. Recently, Virgil and his mother, father and sister have relocated to the great city of New York for certain reasons. The character’s recent and distant past is referenced in an in-story way that does not come off as forced or as an info-dump. No one’s intelligence is insulted here at all, be it new or old fan. I am going to assume that writer/artist Scott McDaniel has approached this character with great care and respect for its history and that his original creators, particularly the late comics and animation visionary Dwayne McDuffie. Yes, McDaniel’s art is a little raw, perhaps lacks consistency here and there (though that may be due to the two different inkers), and is in a style that may not have mainstream appeal, but it rarely ever distracts from the story due to its great effectiveness in the storytelling, or urban mood-setting for that matter. The page and panel layouts are truly spectacular with very dynamic and eye-grabbing visuals. I highly recommend this title for any fan of books like Spider Man and Daredevil from Marvel, Invincible from Image, and even DC’s former teen series Impulse. – Professor’s Grades: Script = A | Art = B | Accessibility = A Men of War #1 Cover: Viktor Kalvachev Lead Feature Title: “Joseph Rock” Writer: Ivan Brandon Artist: Tom Derenick Backup Feature Title: “Navy SEALs: Human Shields” Writer: Jonathan Vankin Artist: Phil Winslade Originated as: All-American Men of War (1952) One of the most unique offerings of DC’s New 52 is this double-feature title aptly named as it features, well, men at war. The first story uses a flashback to officially introduce us to a hard-nosed and revered-by-his-peers infantryman by the name of Corporal Joseph Rock who will eventually become a Sergeant Rock in his own right (like his grandfather, the original legendary Sgt. Frank Rock of World War II lore), that is if Sergeant Torsi has his say in the matter. During this flashback Corporal Rock is being grilled as to why he chooses to remain merely an enlisted foot soldier when he’s clearly smarter than the men who command him and destined for higher stature in the military. A promotion was certainly in his future, but during this scene Rock resists buying into that line of thinking because he’s just a humble soldier who is not done fighting. Although his grandfather’s legacy certainly rest on his shoulders, he is not eager to fill those shoes. A cushy post as an off-the-field commissioned officer is nothing close to the lifestyle he has in mind. He says: “A wolf don’t wanna be a fox.” Flash forward to modern day and we find a promoted Sgt. Rock in the field with his fellow men of war on a mission concerning an abducted senator, a mission that unit commander Sgt. Torsi is not optimistic about at all. He’s right as the sky turns bad for the parachuting infantrymen due to – could it be? – metahuman activity? On the ground the situation is much worse and this story ends with yet another grim DC New 52 cliffhanger. The second story featured is a bit less interesting, focusing on a team of Navy SEALs on a traditional hostage rescue mission. In contrast this story struggled to hold my interest as it naturally pales in comparison to the lead feature. In many ways Men of War is an important book as an alternative to straight-up super-heroics. If you care about diversity in the industry as a whole, you hope a book like this finds a minimum amount of success to justify its existence and perhaps shepherd the existence of similar fringe books in the future. Plus, just for good measure, it appears there will be an actual connection to the DCU and its superheroes and villains, just shown through an atypical perspective. Though I’m not its target audience, I have great hope for this series and support its inclusion within the New 52. – Professor’s Grades: Story = B+/C+ | Art: B+/C+ | Accessibility: B+/B Next Week: More DC The New 52 titles will hit the Professor’s desk, so be here for reviews of Grifter #1, Deathstroke #1, Resurrection Man #1 and Suicide Squad #1. Until then, X out! ©2011 eXpertComics.com | Professor Brand-X Read more...
Published in Comic Book Reviews
Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:39
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Published in DC Comics
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Published in Let's Talk Comics
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