Monday, September 12, 2011

DC's New 52: Week 1

This past Wednesday witnessed the release of DC's first batch of new titles. As September drew closer I found myself getting more and more excited for this whole reboot to start. The more I read about all the new titles coming out the more I added new ones to my pull list. I figured it didn't hurt to give some of these books, many that centered around characters I've had no experience with, a shot. But the question was whether or not I would stick with them on a monthly basis. So for the rest of the month I'm going to do a quick review of the new books I picked up and then let you know which ones I'm going to continue picking up.

Detective Comics #1
Writer: Tony Daniel
Artist: Tony Daniel

This was the book I was most worried about going in to the reboot. Once DC announced that all of their titles were going to start over at issue one you started to see a considerable drop in quality in the existing books. It was clear that many of the books were turned over to second-tier talent and DC just wanted to ship them and wrap up any outstanding storylines before the big relaunch in September. This seemed to apply to everything except Detective Comics where Scott Snyder, Francesco Francavilla and Jock were crafting one of the best Batman runs of all time. With the book restarting, and a new creative team coming on, was the high quality going to continue?

The book wasn't terrible, but it didn't grab my attention the way Snyder's run had. Tony Daniel has been writing Batman for a while now and his plot is serviceable, as is his art. He isn't pulling any punches with this book and has decided to start things off with the Joker as the series first villain. Regardless, I wasn't all that impressed and it's likely I'm going to pass on Detective next month.

Batgirl #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Adrian Syaf
With Barbara Gordon returning to the cape and cowl this title had the most question marks surrounding it. I mean, she was paralyzed from the waist down last time we saw her. Was this going to be referenced? If so, how were they going to explain the fact that not only is she walking but she's leaping off of buildings and beating the crap out of Gotham's criminal element? Writer Gail Simone does makes reference to the fact that Babs was shot by the Joker and found herself wheelchair bound for about 3 years in this rebooted timeline. How she was able to recover and get back in the game has yet to be fully revealed.

Unlike Tony Daniel in Detective, Simone is starting things off with a brand new villain, The Mirror. The story was interesting enough and the art was decent. Again though, I wasn't blown away and I feel like I should be. The whole purpose for this reboot is to attract new readers. That said, a first issue should leave you wanting more. As it stands, I'm probably not sticking with this one. If I do it's only because I love Barbara Gordon as a character and Gail Simone usually doesn't disappoint with her writing.

Action Comics #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales

From what I've gathered, there are two books that are starting in the past of this updated timeline: Justice League and Action Comics With Action, Grant Morrison gives us a much younger Superman, barely in full costume. This Superman's motivations harken back to Siegel and Shuster's original depiction of a man fighting social injustice. Superman is a social activist. Plain and simple. He fights against corporate greed and corrupt politicians. This is not the Superman most of us are used to and it is a bit jarring. It's not bad. Just different. In addition to fighting society's evils, Supes is being tracked by the military with the support of a contractor, one Lex Luthor.

I didn't love this book and I didn't hate it. I think it's going to take a few issues to get used to this "new" approach to Superman. Again, the art was serviceable and I do enjoy the less is more costume. It does look like something a young kid would throw together on a whim when motivated to go out and fight evil in the community. I'm going to stick with this one just to see where it goes.

Swamp Thing
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette

Scott Snyder has been on a tear lately. He's got the Midas Touch and is easily one of comics', not just DC's, rising stars. Admittedly, he is the reason I picked this book up. That and the positive pre-release buzz surrounding it. I came into this book with almost zero experience with Swamp Thing. In fact, anything I know about Swamp Thing I learned from the movie. You can tell Snyder did his homework on this book. The book focuses on Alec Holland, a scientist whose research focuses on plant life. Throughout the issue Holland's dialogue and inner monologues are full of facts related to plants and their behavior in nature. The dialogue is smooth. You start to forget it's being written by someone with no prior knowledge of botany.

The art is in this one is gorgeous. My only familiarity with Paquette's art was the little I saw in Batman Inc., and now I wish I paid more attention to it. We only get a quick glimpse of his Swamp Thing in the final panel but I love the way he draws Superman. I'm hoping he gets to draw more of him in the future. The villain in this one was, let's say, creepy as hell. I'm not sure what it is or what it wants but I'm on board to find out. I'm sticking with this one for sure. This books succeeded where the others failed. Again, I know nothing about Swamp Thing as a character but I was engrossed. The story was interesting with a nice cliffhanger and a great final panel. Great writing, great art, what else needs to be said. Pick this one up.

Animal Man
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman

If your only familiarity with Jeff Lemire's work comes from Essex County, this book may not be what you expect, but I can assure you that it is equally outstanding. This book surprised the hell out of me. I'm not even sure what made me pick it up to be honest. Maybe it was the cover. I love Lemire's work but Animal Man is not a character I've ever been interested in. If fact, the only experience I had with this character came from his involvement in DC's weekly series 52 a few years back.

Animal Man follows the life of Buddy Baker. He's a busy man who wears many hats: Animal rights activist; costumed superhero, actor and family man. The first issue gives you some insight on how Buddy juggles his many responsibilities and you get the impression that, unlike his contemporaries, the super heroics take a back seat to his role as husband and father. This makes Buddy a character that is very easy to relate to. Although Buddy wears a costume and fights crime this not a superhero book, it's a straight-up horror comic. I was pleasantly surprised by that fact and it will be a welcome addition to the DC Universe.

I don't recall ever seeing Travel Foreman's art in the past, and I can tell that it won't be for everybody. I rather enjoyed it and I think it fits the tone of this book. I'm happy to say I'm sticking with this book going forward. Do yourself a favor and pick it up too.


Overall I was disappointed with the books I grabbed during the first week of the "The New 52." Detective and Batgirl failed to deliver in any meaningful way. They ended up feeling like more of the same. Action was different, and in that way it was intriguing enough to pick up next month, but failed to produce any "Oh sh*t" moments that I come to expect in a first issue designed to grab new readers. But where the carry-over titles disappointed the new additions of Swamp Thing and Animal Man more than made up for it. I was pleasantly surprised when I finished my stack and realized that these were the two books I enjoyed the most. But the recipe is simple: Great writing + great art + an intriguing cliffhanger = I'll be back next month.

I'm still excited about this reboot as a whole and I'm looking forward to grabbing the next batch of books this coming Wednesday. I'll be picking up: Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Green Lantern, Grifter and the Suicide Squad.

I'll be back next week with my mini-reviews.

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