The second week of the DC relaunch is here, so we’ve got quite a few reviews. To make this a bit more interesting I’m first going to list the books in order of my most anticipated to least, so everyone will have an idea of what my expectations were before I started reading. This week’s most anticipated, in descending order, were Action Comics, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Batgirl, Stormwatch, Justice League International, Static Shock, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Batwing, Hawk & Dove, Men Of War and finally Omac. Now, here are the reviews, starting with a surprising most recommended and descending in order of recommendation.
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Batgirl, aka Barbara Gordon, is one of the few female heroes that also dealt with a physical handicap and still managed to be both a compelling character and keep good sales numbers. That may not seem that impressive until you really look at how inspirational her character was, how much she evolved and how integral she became to the DCU after her accident. All that said, how does this new Batgirl title do? Simply put, it is by far my favorite title to come out from the DC relaunch up until now. Gail Simone works her magic and not only puts Barbara back in costume but also acknowledges her time in the wheelchair. Simone actually weaves the whole first issue around the infamous Killing Joke scene that initially cripples Barbara, without forcing the story to fit around that fact. Barbara is trying to balance her life as a back to the streets super heroine with trying to gain some independence and getting her life on track. The art is spectacular; Ardian Syaf actually nails every single thing in this issues, whether it’s the heavy action sequences or the quiet moments. Between Simone and Syaf the characters come to life and everything works perfectly, from the dialogue, the clothes and narration, to the facial expressions and posture. Needless to say, you should go grab this issue and enjoy it for yourself. Unfortunately it might already be sold out at many places, but don’t worry a second print has already been announced.
Animal Man #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman
Animal Man is one of those characters that falls into the category of secondary character’s with an amazing run under one or two creators, in this case I am referring to Grant Morrison’s run from the early days of Vertigo. DC knew what audience it was aiming for by choosing Jeff Lemire as the writer on this new book, and coupled with Travel Foreman it looks like we have a lot to look forward to with this book. First off we get a one page newspaper interview with Buddy Baker and this does a good job of getting rid of any exposition later on in the story and allowing us to get right into the action. What’s nice is that Buddy is a family man and that is what shows first and foremost at the moment, he does the superhero thing on the side. The family interactions are great and Foreman’s layouts, combined with the facial expressions and the simple line work really bring the Baker household alive. I won’t even get into the use of colors, perspective and general choices used during different moments, there is a bit of everything in in regards to the artwork. Lemire crafts a very well balanced story, the previously mentioned family moments, Buddy’s interactions with the community, a bit of superhero action, we really get a good look at Buddy Baker and the type of man he is. This is a another excellent first issue and a definite must read for anyone looking for some non conventional superhero stories or anyone who was a fan of the Vertigo series.
Swamp Thing #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Here is another early Vertigo character that really established themselves due to specific runs (see Animal Man review), and are there any loftier expectations than writing something Alan Moore made famous. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette really knock this one out of the park. First of all Snyder firmly establishes this book in the DCU while at the same time opening up the creepy factor as we see various animals dying out in bunches. This brings us to Alec Holland aka Swamp Thing, a man who is trying his best to forget his time as Swamp Thing and get on with his life. While going about his daily job Superman shows up to check up on Alec and try to see if he knows what caused the deaths of all those animals. We find out that Superman has previously dealt with Alec and that he may be one of the few people to know his alter ego Swamp Thing. We close out the story nature running eerily amok and Alec having nightmares about his time as Swamp Thing. Snyder’s dialogue is great but the real gem here is Yanick Paquette whose style has really evolved. Paquette channels some of the earlier greats on Swamp Thing while at the same time establishing his own style, the art flows very organically and is simply beautiful to look at. This book is a must read and as long as both Snyder and Paquette or on the book, I will be along for the ride.
Detective Comics #1
Writer: Tony Daniel
Artist: Ryan Winn
Detective Comics was one of the biggest surprises of the week, with all eyes on Scott Snyder’s Batman issue, Detective was not on most people’s radar. We get right into it with Batman chasing down the Joker after giving us a chilling description of his rap sheet. Tony Daniels introduces a Batman who is confident but still learning and a Joker who is as insane as always, screwing with people just because he can. Batman’s relationship with Commissioner Gordon seems somewhat established but we don’t know to what degree, seeing as how the rest of the police force would take him down the first chance they get. The story rolls at a very fast pace and holds no punches, it’s does a good job of not needlessly introducing stuff, as everybody with any interest in this book knows Batman, Joker, Alfred & Commissioner Gordon. Ryan Winn suits the style of the book perfectly and shows himself as more than capable of keeping up with the crazy writing. Detective is a good example of a non decompressed storytelling, a problem that so many comics have these days with the prevalence of trades. After just one week the Batman family has made a ridiculously strong showing with three books that were all great, so let’s hope that Winn can stay on pace monthly and that Daniel keeps up the solid writing and is able to build on the twist at the end,
Action Comics #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales
Superman: Year One. I’m not sure if we needed this again, but after All Star Superman most everybody is curious to see what else Grant Morrison has in mind for DC’s premier super hero. Morrison really gets to the roots of what Superman should be, somebody who sees something wrong and tries to fix it; some of his methods may not be the best but his heart is always in the right place. Superman as a man of the people is a theme that is hammered into the fabric of this story as we see Superman always putting others first; this is not Superman fighting off Doomsday, this is Superman trying to do the greater good, both as Clark Kent and the Man of Steel. We see most of the main players from the Superman mythos; Lex Luthor, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen all make more than an appearance and we even get a bit of Clark Kent. Mostly though, we see Superman doing whatever he can to help people. Morrison spends more time trying to make Superman out as Robin Hood than he does actually developing a story.
This, however, is not your father’s Superman, this Superman is brash and a bit rough around the edges He represents the hope that all young people have, the hope to be able to make things better and do what those in power can’t seem to. Luthor on the other hand is not a man of the people, he is a man in power with a singular focus who will step over anybody to achieve his goal; Luthor is “the man” that everyone loves to hate. Rags Morales delivers solid art, his Luthor is cold and calculating while his Superman almost invites you along for the ride as he goes around doing his thing. Overall this issue is good, maybe not up to my lofty expectations, but it’s definitely fun and worth the read. The most intriguing thing will be watching the Superman we see in this issue transform into the Superman we all know, this book is the journey and as long as you realize that you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Ben Oliver
Batwing, a characters introduced in the recent Batman Inc books, gets his own series. For one reason or another, Batwing was chosen over all the other bat people that were introduced in Inc. Does Batwing make a worthy addition to the Bat family? Yes. We get a solid introduction to Batwing, aka David Zavimbe, and a bit of his entourage. We also get the introduction of a crazy villain named Massacre, a mysterious death and some great action scenes mixed in. Judd Winick does a good job of setting up plenty of stuff while never making this issue seem crowded. Although a lot of the cast surrounding Batwing will seem familiar as he has his own Joker (Massacre), Commissioner Gordon (Kia Okunu) & Alfred (Matu Ba), each character seems like they will eventually be able to differentiate themselves and not become just an African counterpart of Batman’s cast. Ben Oliver’s art is cinematic and he uses silhouettes very effectively, the only place Oliver slips up is with his backgrounds which are really sparse. Overall though, it has beautiful art, sharp dialogue and great pacing. This really is one of the most complete first issues I’ve read in awhile.
Writer & Artist: Keith Giffen & Dan Didio
My only familiarity with OMAC is from Infinite Crisis and as noted above, this was the book I was least looking forward to because I have no previous attachment to the character. This book was as good as dropped before it even had a chance. Luckily for me, I did commit to trying all 52 books, and I must say this one surprised me because it was really entertaining. The whole story follows OMAC, who is being given orders from a mysterious voice as he makes his way through Cadmus Industries to access it’s mainframe. Keith Giffen and Dan Didio channel Kirby and set up a fun energetic story. It accomplishes what more comics should try to achieve, telling a complete story but setting up something for later. The dialogue is well suited to the story and the art just flows as we watch OMAC’s path of destruction through Cadmus. The creative team behind OMAC seems to be enjoying their job and it shows. DC has gained at least a sale on issue #2, and probably #3 on this fun new title.
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Miguel Sepulveda
Stormwatch is the first Wildstorm import into the new DCU. This is a team that may have some trouble playing nice with the rest of the DC heroes,since they’re a team that does things a bit differently from the Justice League. We kick off with a couple of members trying to recruit Apollo and it’s not going to well, while the rest of the team is off exploring in the Himalayas. That’s pretty much all that happens in this first issue, we get some cool fights and a lot of talk but nothing much goes on. The issue itself isn’t bad, but like Justice League last week, you don’t feel as though you’ve moved forward by the end of it. The art is mostly solid, but there were a couple of panels that seemed rushed with the characters being a bit too posed. Stormwatch is unlike the JL though, because it feels as though something is starting. It’s a slow boil, but there’s the potential for something interesting. I can’t tell you what direction this book will go in, but having read some other Paul Cornell books I’ll give this a couple of more issues. It’ll be interesting just to see how the character interactions play out and what the big threat is. Hopefully it will pay off.
Justice League International #1
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
Justice League International is a book that brings up many happy memories for comic fans, as it was lighthearted and humorous while still telling great stories. The expectations on this book are a bit higher, it should really be their pure adventure book that can capture a wide audience with its diverse characters. Just like any team book, the first issue shows the team coming together. Whats nice is we quickly get that out of the way as we’re introduced to Andre Briggs, the head of UN intelligence, who convinces the UN that they need a super team. Right away we know something is wrong as Andre is a man with a vision and maybe some ulterior motives; he has some detractors and Dan Jurgens uses this opportunity to take a small jab at a segment of the comic audience. Andre convinces Booster Gold to lead the newly formed JLI, and after brief introductions they head out on a mission right away to find some missing UN Researchers. JLI is a nice book, it introduces it’s characters quickly and gets right into the story, feeling as if we’re going through the learning experiences with the team. The art is solid by Lopresti and suits this book perfectly. He captures all the different facial expressions very well, something that most JLI fans expect considering Maguire was known for that specifically. My biggest complaint would be that, aside from the various accents, the characters all seem to talk with the same voice. It feels like no one was given a specific personality, though hopefully this will change as the series keeps going. My other small complaint is that I think the character’s super powers should’ve been explained, even though its mentioned specifically how Booster Golds didn’t learn his teammate’s capabilities before assigning them tasks, I still think it would’ve been useful for new readers.
Static Shock #1
Writer: Scott McDaniel & John Rozum
Artist: Scott McDaniel
Here’s a book that really left me confused I enjoyed the few episodes of TV series I’ve seen but never really bothered reading any of the comics released. I just picked up this book and hoped for the best, unfortunately by the end I still don’t know where I stand. Static Shock aka Virgil Hawkins, is a young man who uses his electromagnetic powers to fight crime, he goes to school and works for STAR Labs part time. Virgil is smart and that is one of the key things when he uses his powers as he always has creative ways to get out of any jams. Static/Virgil are both interesting, seeing him fight villains and figure out ways to defeat them while also dealing with regular life and family, but this first issue didn’t hook me. Everything seemed too familiar, Virgil getting a job at Star Labs, getting hooked up by someone who works there and also doubles as his mentor, keeping his identity secret, the move to New York. Overall Scott McDaniel tells a decent story but by the end I didn’t really care about the conflicts Static faces as both a superhero and in his personal life. Maybe it’s because I want to like this, but I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll grab the second issue, unless you are a fan of the character I would probably suggest not bothering with the first issue.
Men of War #1
Writer: Ivan Brandon & Jonathan Vankin (Backup)
Artist: Tom Derenick & Phil Winslade (Backup)
Sergeant Rock is a character who everyone has heard of, but in this day and age does he have a place? We open with Rock getting interrogated by his superiors on why he hasn’t moved up, when he clearly has the abilities to be something more. From there we see that Rock has been recruited for a special mission, eventually being made second in command just before the teams jump out of a plane. While parachuting down, however, Rock sees a man flying around and wreaking havoc. This story introduces Sergeant Rock into a modern DC world, inhabited by superheroes. This is only the first issue and I’m still not sure if it will work. While an interesting concept, I’m not sure it’s what Sergent Rock needed. There is an audience for war stories, it’s not huge but it does exist, and it may have been better to just cater to them. The story itself tries to convey the chaos of war and manages at times, but overall I was never committed to anything that was happening. The art is okay, the characters look off for a reason I can’t exactly explain, and all I know is that I felt indifferent by the end of the story. On the other hand I must say the backup was really good, it was very reminiscent of the old war stories that would come out, both the art and the writing were solid. Unfortunately an eight page backup will not be enough to make me spend four dollars on the next issue, but if the backups are ever collected I might be interested enough to grab them.
Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist: Rob Liefeld
So we get right into the story here: a small cargo plane is hijacked and headed for the Washington Monument, Hawk & Dove are aboard and they are trying to regain control. We get some action as Hawk is taking care of the bad guys, including a zombie, while Dove is trying to take charge of the plane. There seems to be a lot of tension between Hawk and Dove and the teamwork is not where it should be, but it isn’t until later in the story that we start to find out why. This issue was pretty weak overall, there is a bit of set up for things to come and a twist at the end, but overall there was nothing to keep me interested. Overall the art was disappointing, Liefeld draws very stiff awkward characters and a couple of the layouts were a bit confusing. There is a rotation of about three or four facial expressions that don’t always convey what the should. The writing is right on par with the art, most of the dialogue sounds ridiculous and really just seems over the top. Simply put I will not be grabbing the next issue, as there is nothing in this issue that intrigues me enough to cough up another $3.
Green Arrow #1
Writer: JT Krul
Artist: Dan Jurgens
Green Arrow is a pretty straightforward character, he has a lot of potential but it’s not often realized. He tends to work better in team books, but has had a few interesting runs while flying solo, this is not one of them. Green Arrow is the textbook example of how not to relaunch a book, especially with all the talk of modernizing the DCU and attracting new audiences, this Green Arrow takes a step back and a big one. Green Arrow fights bad guys using weapons from his company Q-Core, with the aid of Naomi and Jax he takes out lame villains, while spitting out horrible one liners, that’s the story in a nutshell. The artwork gets the job done, but the character designs are stereotypical and from an comic age best forgotten. Most lines uttered throughout this book are also best forgotten. I don’t see DC canceling this book as Green Arrow has been able to support his own series for the last few years, but unless they go in a new direction quickly they may not have a choice. This book was so bad I’m wondering if it’s not a parody, I can’t justify buying the second issue of this series and if possible I will probably sell or give away the first.