Monday, October 03, 2011

DCnU - Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 from DC's New 52

Red Hood and the Outlaws is written by Scott Lobdell and features art by Kenneth Rocafort.

Okay... so here it is. For those of you who were worried there was edict from DC to "de-sexy" DC's comics, your answer is here. For those of you were hoping there was an edict from DC to treat female characters better... your answer is also here.

I wanted to get this out of the way right at the beginning. Clearly, editorial at DC is still okay with cheesecake, in case Catwoman didn't convince you.

Apparently Tamaraneans are very different in the New DCU. In the old continuity, Starfire was fiercely loyal, caring, and very open, if a little naive at times. Now, she isn't nearly as loyal, because she doesn't really see humans as poeple, but instead as vague collections of sights and smells.

She doesn't remember the Titans she used to hang with - not Dick, not Garth, none of them. It's not a change I am a fan of. It's an interesting concept for a character, particularly for an alien on earth. It would be terribly lonely to be surrounded by creatures that you don't really see as people, but as kind of close. There could be a lot to explore here.

Instead, Starfire deals with it by having sex. A lot. Within seconds of her introduction, as they are in a battle, Jason manages to brag about the fact that she "has been with me."

And then the moment Jason wanders off, we get Starfire confirming to Roy (Arsenal) that she doesn't remember any of the Titans, and saying that she is bored with him and offering to have sex.

They do, and Jason walks in on them lying together in the morning, walking past them non-nonchalantly to get his mask and heading off while they lie sleeping.

So, apparently, banging Starfire is a perq of being on the Outlaws? Really?

And this is a shame. Because there are some really good bits in this comic. The character called Essence who shows up is very interesting. She is somehow linked to the training that Jason underwent on the way to becoming the Red Hood, and proof that not all women are to be objectified in this comic. The way Rocafort draws here is very reminiscent to me of Tony DiTerlizzi's work on the Planescape setting for Dungeons and Dragons, and on Changeling for White Wolf. That is not faint praise. DiTerlizzi's work on Planescape was one of the best parts of a very strong setting.

In fact, overall, I really like Rocafort's art. It feel very "right" for this book. It is kind of cartoony, which may well turn some people off. A close friend commented on how ridiculous it is that the Red Hood has facial expressions with his hard mask on. I get how that bothers some people, but I'm okay with it.

To be honest, I feel like this book is almost two completely different things - one is everything to do with Starfire, and the other is kind of good. I was amused by some of the interaction between Red Hood and Arsenal when Jason was rescuing Roy right at the beginning of the book. I was intrigued by Essence and the promise of knowing more about Jason's training. I didn't overlook that when Roy was naming titans, neither Donna Troy nor Wally West came up. I'm interested in why someone in Chicago (where I think I spotted the Mysterious Lady in Red, in one of the harder to see appearances this side of Batgirl) is waiting for evidence of a Tamaranean on Earth. And I even liked that the comic was ended with "To be explained" rather than "To be continued."

The problem is, right now for me, the negative is overwhelming the positive. Not just because I don't like the changes to Starfire, but because in this form, the character is aggressively unlikable. And Roy is a douche for sleeping with her. Yes, he has always been a lady's man, but this seemed almost... taking advantage of her. Which I have never associated with him.

If they can turn Starfire around a little and make me care about the character, or at least tone down her interactions a little, I may stay past the opening story arc. Otherwise, this one is likely to drop any time.

DCnU - Nightwing #1 from DC's New 52

Nightwing is written by Kyle Higgins, with pencils by Eddy Barrows and inks by JP Mayer.

So, here we are: My favorite member of the Batman family. In many ways, I do like Dick Grayson even more than Batman himself. In the first three pages, we get the info dump: He has been living in Gotham for a year, filling in for Batman, who was "...away." And that he is thrilled to be himself again - Dick Grayson. Nightwing.

I feel like Higgins has a good grasp for the Nightwing character. He is an optimist in a dark world. But not naively so. He understands how serious what he does is. He knows lives depend on him. But if he can have a little fun while saving lives, that seems like a good deal to him.

In this issue, Dick Grayson reunites with the circus he grew up in. His upbringing in that circus has always been part of the emotional core of the character, so it is good to have it figure prominently in his first story arc. Given the prominence of the circus in the character's background, it is also appropriate that this is where we see Flashpoint's Mysterious Lady in Red observing Dick.

Then, on his way home from the circus, Dick Grayson is attacked by a costumed type, who kills two cops to get at him. He quickly changes to Nightwing and confronts him, to find that he would-be assassin is after him because "Dick Grayson is the fiercest killer in all of Gotham. And he doesn't even know it." This revelation, and the fact that the killer is even faster than Nightwing allow the mysterious figure to get the upper hand at the end of the book.

So, we have a body over in Batman #1 that has Dick Grayson's skin under it's fingernails, and here, we have a costumed assassin accusing Dick Grayson of being a killer. The plot thickens. I like the idea, but do hope this doesn't become a cross-over where you have to buy both comics.

Overall, the story was well-told and moved at a quick pace. The characters were interesting and multi-dimensional. I'm interested in who this killer is, and why he wants Nightwing dead.

I like the art, and feel it suits Nightwing very well. Much of Barrows' work is very kinetic, showing off how quick and agile Nightwing is.

Barrows also uses some unusual panel shapes - particularly diagonals to good effect. Whether it is to show the confined nature of a subway train, or to show that when you spend as much time leaping around as Nighwing, perspective is somewhat skewed, it really works well. Within the panels, he uses alot of up-looking angels as well, which again, helps to communicate Nightwing's high-flying nature.

I see from the solicits for Demeber that issue #4 has a different artist. I am not sure if that is a permanent change or not.

Overall, this book is definitely a keeper for me. I got drawn in to the mystery, and enjoyed everything around it as well.

DCnU - Legion of Super-Heroes #1 from DC's New 52

Legion of Super-Heroes was written by Paul Levitz with art by Francis Portela.

Paul Levitz has a long history with the Legion. He has written more than 8 years' worth of Legion stories.

His familiarity with the characters and setting shows through here, both in positive ways, and in negative ones.

I'll start with the negative, because there are fewer of them. This book does not seem like it would be a good jumping-on point for new readers. The Legion Espionage Squad is investigating a planet on the border of the Dominator Empire. We aren't really told much about the Dominators in this book, nor even really what the Legion is, and why they are the ones investigating. Long-time fans can probably piece it together. Hopefully it isn't too confusing for new ones.

Part of the reason for this is that continuity for the Legion seems to be basically unaffected by the Flashpoint. Variable Lad has just died (referenced as Oaa in the comic - that is another thing that makes the Legion a little harder to just pick up. Very few of the Legionnaires use each other's code names. Real names or nick names are much more common. This adds a feeling of reality once you know all the characters, but can be confusing when you first jump on board) and all the story lines from the pre-relaunch DCU are still in place.

But on to the good stuff. Levitz' command of the characters allows him to quickly sum each of them up, in both a summary box listing name and powers, as well as with dialogue. In a cast this big, it can be a challenge to not have any characters get lost. Levitz manages to bring a few coer characters to the forefront while still allowing many at least a small chance in the spotlight. This is truly challenging on a book with this scale, and his experience is evident.

This Legion team feels a lot like the classic one, which was tremendously successful many years ago. Interesting characters with some depth, some very powerful heroes and enemies, and internal strife which gets put aside when necessary but overall leads to strong character development. This is the stuff a good book is made of, and this is what Levitz promises to bring with this first issue.

He's got political intrigue, action, and has set up redemption story arcs and some internal mysteries. Lots to draw on here for future stories.

Portela's art is very well-suited to the book. The story is clearly told, the technology seems very natural, not taking center stage, but always being present. There are different page layouts and such used to good effect.

Overall, if you can stick with this comic even though it isn't necessarily a ready-made jump-on poing, I expect it to be rewarding. And while it may not be the perfect jumping-on point, it certainly is the beginning of a story arc.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

DCnU - Green Lantern Corps #1 from DC's New 52

Green Lantern Corps #1 is written by Peter J. Tomasi, with pencils by Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna.

This is the tale of John Stewart, Guy Gardner and a supporting cast of alien Lanterns. Although, it doesn't start off with them. It starts off with two alien Lanterns from space sector 3599 getting killed by a figure so fast it is nothing but a blur. Once both Lanterns are dead, the figure ominously says, "Where there is a force of will, there is a force of destiny."

We then cut to our two human heroes, each trying to get his life on earth back in order by finding a job. Guy is unable to get a high school football coach. The school's administrators are concerned about the fact that he could have to fly off at a moment's notice, as well as at the dangers he could bring with him, and the liability insurance they would have to carry having a publicly known Green Lantern working for them.

At the same time, John Stewart is having a conflict with some potential employers over a building he designed. Due to his insistence on higher security standards than the building code, the building looks to go over budget. The people who are building it will not budge on the money, and John will not move an inch on what he believes to be "the right thing." With the Mysterious Lady in Red looking on, he teaches the developers a lesson, and flies off.

We see a cataclysm on a water planet, in sector 3599, the same one where the Lanterns were killed at the beginning of the comic.

After that, we head back to our human Lantern heroes considering what to do, and deciding to head back to Oa. Once there, they meet up with Salaak, who is about to send a team of Lanterns to investigate sector 3599. It turns out that not only were the 2 Lanterns we saw killed, but their replacements were also killed, on the watery planet we saw in a previous cutaway.

It turns out, someone stole all the water from the water planet, killing the people living there, and leaving the two new Green Lanterns staked out.

The next issue is called "This Means War."

The story in this issue was solid - it started moving right from the start, and set the stage nicely for the coming battle.

Scott Hannah's art isn't blowing me away, but it is solid and suits the tone of the story fairly well.

DCnU - DC Universe Presents #1 from DC's New 52

DC Universe Presents is written by Paul Jenkins with art by Bernard Chang.

Everybody loves Deadman. Since he first cropped up back in 1967, he has never really gone away from the DCU. His own series, featured roles in other mystical comics, presence is several of DC's big "events." Deadman, the acrobat who died a jerk and has been trying to atone ever since as a ghost who can possess others. His costume is kind of cool, and it is an interesting idea, so he has persisted.

And now, here he is featured in the New DCU. (Aside from his appearance as Dove's boyfriend in Hawk & Dove.) We get his background here, how he was a jerk when he was alive (complete with Mysterious Lady in Red observing him back then) and how he died, then was set upon the path to redemption by the goddess Rama.

From there, we get a tour of some of the people he has helped, and the next person he will be helping. But we also see that he is becoming dissatisfied with just following the path that has been set out before him. He wants some answers, and has devised a plan to get them.

The story is very much setup. Little characterization outside of Boston Brand, the Deadman. We do see a little bit of psychic Madame Rose. But otherwise, the issue is setting up how Deadman came to be where he is today. And, right at the end, how he intends to move forward.

It's pretty well written, and the art is good, so I enjoyed the journey. Having a whole issue for setup works, because this story will be 5 issues, and there is enough content here to warrant 20% of the arc.

I'm also looking forward to learning who the next character is going to be in DC Universe Presents, and who the creative team working on him will be.

Friday, September 30, 2011

DCnU - Catwoman #1 from DC's New 52

Catwoman is written by Judd Winick with art by Guillem March.

There has been a lot of talk about the perceived sexism in this book online. It starts off with a boob shot of Catwoman, and the whole first page, she is basically running around half-undressed. And we don't see her face. That doesn't show up until page three. And there is a butt shot at the bottom of page 2 as well. To be fair, most of page 2 is taken up by the people coming to kill her.

There have been many reviews, op ed pieces, articles and blog posts taking Winick and March to task for this.

This isn't going to be one of them. I'll note this: There is cheesecake in this book. Mr. March's art is gorgeous, and he clearly enjoys drawing the female form. If you are offended by this, and see it as objectification, you will most likely not like this book. If you are tittilated by this, you'll probably love the book.

It is equally clear what is on Mr. Winick's mind, as when Catwoman's apartment is being searched, she remarks that all they will find are "bras, books, wine and cat food." I was interested by those choices. Had they all been "b" words, I would have understood starting with "bras." But does Catwoman have no other clothes? If it has been "bras, books, booze and baby food. For these babies, of course - my feline companions" I don't think it would have jumped out at me the same way.

So, going in, know that you are getting a book that is about sex. It's clearly on both writer and artist's mind. Catwoman is hypersexualized in this book. Some people will find this offputting.

With that out of the way, as already mentioned, I find March's art to be absolutely gorgeous. And sometimes disturbing. Selina goes undercover to a Russian mob party (and our Mysterious Lady in Red is there, too). There she sees someone who once shot a friend of hers. She loses it. She goes from more of the sex kitten (you should pardon the expression) stuff - in this case used to get close to her target in the men's washroom - as shown on the left into a raging fury as shown below.

The sheer savagery of her attack, for me, shows a few important character details about Selina - she is, much like her namesake, mercurial. She didn't seem to get that upset when her apartment was blown up. Merely curious as to why. But when confronted with someone who hurt a friend? She tears him apart. And she does it with all the gusto of a cat. When a cat attacks something, it goes all out. Catwoman does, too. The power of these images also serves to completely tamp down any prurient thrill that came with the shot shown above.

And again, like her namesake, after this attack, Selina makes her escape from the Russians, with a smile on her face for much of it. The damage done, she returns to her more serene self.

Once she has escaped, she goes back to her hotel room, and Batman shows up. Here is the next part which many people have had issues with... She throws herself at Batman, who turns her down. But when she is a little more forceful, he gives in. She says "Every time... he protests. Then... He gives in. And he seems... angry."

Then, they have sex. Sure, we don't see the penetration or anything, but the suggestion is clear, and the images bordering on erotic. This scene bothered a lot of people. I get why people may not want sex in their comic. I also get that I am not a woman, so I may be seeing this from the wrong perspective, but to me, this scene is not bad. Catwoman is the aggressor - she starts the situation, perpetuates it, and ends up on top. She says "Usually it's because I want him. Tonight it's because I need him." She has been through a lot, and needs to feel close to another person on a day where she lost her apartment and brutally beat, perhaps killed someone from her past.

That doesn't seem a ludicrous reaction. And "between consenting adults" and all that. Even if they both dress up as animals and run around in the night.

Overall, I am certainly intrigued enough to read the second issue. If the emphasis on cheesecake remains high, I will lose interest, bur for now, the combination of Selina's risk-taking personality, her true closeness to her friends and the question of who wants her dead have me interested enough to stick around. Between that and the art, this book is definitely worth me checking out issue 2. If it is more like the middle of the book, and less like the beginning and ending, then I will be around for a while.

DCnU - Captain Atom #1 from DC's New 52

Captain Atom #1 written by J.T. Krul with art by Freddie Williams II.

As I mentioned in the preview, Captain Atom is one of my favorite characters. I also really like his expy in the form of Dr. Manhattan. Basically, I am predisposed to like this book.

Unfortunately, I was still a little disappointed. The direction that this comic is going is kind of interesting, but something about the execution felt a little lacking.

I didn't really have an emotional connection to Captain Atom at all in this story. I don't care that he is falling apart.

The art wasn't my cup of tea, either. I found there were parts of the story I had to work a little too hard to follow with the art. It wasn't terrible, and wouldn't drive me away from a book I was enjoying, but it also isn't going to keep me on a book that I am ambivalent about.

And that is how I felt about this comic... ambivalent. The mystery of why there is a volcano in New York? The rat-becomes-monster subplot? Will Captain Atom be disintegrating? None of it was heavy motivation to me.

This felt like a setup issue, so I will give it a couple more to see if it picks up, but so far, I am sad to say that Captain Atom is on the bubble.

Oh, and you can find the Mysterious Lady in Red in Manhattan, watching Cap stop the volcano.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

DCnU - Blue Beetle #1 from DC's New 52

Blue Beetle #1 is written by Tony Bedard. Ig Guara did pencis, and Ruy Jose inks.

Somewhere, out there in space, (Space Sector 2 to be precise) and long, long ago, we see a blue, armored figure ripping into an army. And winning. He destroys tanks, slashes soldiers, and brings wreckage to all who oppose him.

We learn that the warrior running roughshod over the army is one of them. He mourns after the battle, and it becomes clear that the armor is controlling him, and he has just helped to bring about the destruction of his own people. We are told that the same type of scarab that turned him into a weapon against his own people is off preparing another world. That scarab runs into a Green Lantern, and avoids destruction at his hands, but crashes to the planet it was headed to anyway, seemingly damaged but not destroyed.

Then, today, we get to know Jaime Reyes and some of his friends. Just normal high school kids at El Paso High School. One of them has birthday party coming up, and she also has an aunt who has security goons and money from a mysterious source. We then cut to Jaime being told he cannot go to her party, because it is at her aunt's place.

From there, we cut to that aunt's place, and she is in contact with Brutale, a mercenary, to recover an object. Unfortunately, the Brotherhood of Evil is already there, with Phobia, Warp and Plasmus on scene. Brutale's team attacks, and we get a short throw-down before Jaime and Paco happen upon it. Brutale's team has the upper hand, and Rompe-Huesos stops long enough to try and kill Jaime and Paco before grabbing the backpack with the scarab in it.

As Jaime grabs the backpack and runs to distract Rompe-Huesos from Paco, Brutale cuts him down with thrown knives while the Mysterious Lady in Red looks on. A knife into the backpack awakens the scarab.

We end with Jaime transformed into the Blue Beetle.

In the old DCU, Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle just didn't connect for me. In this comic, it really did work for me. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the use of Spanish. I had to have Google translator open for some of it, although not knowing the exact words being said would not have spoiled the flow of the story. That reminded me of the good old days of reading X-men comics with my father's German/English dictionary so I would know what Nightcrawler meant when he said "Unglaublich!"

The art was clean and tells the story clearly. The colors are bright and bold, suiting both the Texas sun, and sci-fi based origin of the Blue Beetle.

It's good to see the Brotherhood of Evil in the DCnU. The Doom Patrol comes and goes, but somehow The Brotherhood of Evil perseveres.

This was a fun read. I am definitely on board for at least the first story arc.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DCnU - Birds of Prey #1 from DC's New 52

Birds of Prey is written by Duane Swierczynski with art Jesus Saiz.

Like Justice League before it, you get a team here that does not have everyone in the cover inside the book.

I have to admit, it feels a little "bait-and-switch" to me.

Overall, the story was okay, as was the art.

Black Canary and Starling are the only two Birds to show up in this issue. They fight guys in costumes that give them Predator-like ability to be camouflaged. They are trying to lure the Birds out of cover, and are manipulating a reporter to do so. The Birds, on the other hand, are using the same reporter to lure the dudes in the costumes out. And the Mysterious Lady in Red is watching the Birds watch the reporter watching the Birds the first time that Canary notices the reporter.

We get a big fight, which takes up most of the issue. Interspersed among the action are flashbacks telling the story of how we got here.

Black Canary is being hunted for murder, after supposedly killing a man with a punch. Ev or Starling is wanted as well.

We see Black Canary meet with the now-mobile Barbara Gordon, who recommends adding Katana to the team, but will not be a part of the team herself.

The battle ends with the Birds running off with the reporter, when Canary - who was kissed as part of the fight - starts to feel weird, the reporter's eyes start to bleed, and he explodes.

Ummm... yeah.

So, this was not one of my favorite books of the New 52. I am hoping it picks up when Katana and Poison Ivy are added over the next 2 issues.

DCnU - Batman #1 from DC's New 52

Batman #1 was written by Scott Snyder, and features pencils by Greg Capullo and inks by Jonathan Glapion.

In this comic, Scott Snyder shows us both sides of Bruce Wayne/Batman and how they help Gotham. We start off with images of Gotham, and with a speech in the background about what Gotham is. From there, we move into Arkham Asylum where Batman is putting down a breakout attempt withe the help of the Joker(?). All the while, the speech continues.

Batman meets Commissioner Gordon on the roof of Police HQ, and they talk. Gordon asks him about the fact that the closed circuit footage seems to show Batman and Joker fighting alongside each other. Batman assures him that would be ridiculous, and Gordon says, "That's what I figured... Just a simple trick of the light."

We then step into the Batcave, and get a great two-page spread of it, showcasing the different vehicles Batman keeps, as well as some of his trophies. We also see the Joker in the Batcave, talking to Batman, who has his mask off.

By now, I assume something is up, and all is revealed - it is a member of the Bat-family in disguise.

We are then treated to several more pages of Bruce Wayne giving his "What is Gotham" speech, which was present through the opening sequences. I'll be honest - this could've been a little shorter. From there, we move to Bruce hosting a party as a fundraiser for an urban revitalization project. He meets a mayoral candidate, but flakes on him because the lip-reading software in the contacts he is wearing reads that Commissioner Gordon has gotten a call to a murder that seems like something of a mystery.

When he gets there, he smells linseed oil, and uses Bullock's cigar to light it. In burning letters on the wall is the message "Bruce Wayne will die tomorrow." A message made even more unusual by the fact that the body has been there for a week. Did he know when he would be found? Is, maybe, someone watching to see when it was discovered? And who is targeting Bruce Wayne?

And in a twist, Batman scans skin tissue he finds under the victim's fingernails, and finds it to belong to Dick Grayson - Nightwing.

Overall, the writing was good on this book. As mentioned, the speech might have been a little long, but it does help to establish Bruce Wayne's character well.

I really liked the art. The fights are very kinetic, the story telling clear, and I like his take on Batman. There was one little issue I had - In this picture of Bruce and his boys, Dick Grayson looks like he still has some growing to do.

I did really like this issue. I have concerns - primarily that the twist could lead to mistrust between Batman and Nightwing. I like the idea that Bruce has a (relatively) healthy relationships with The Robins Three (Hmmm... I feel like that should be a miniseries) and feel that will help to keep him more human, and less "Batdick" as we were starting to see him almost exclusively pre-relaunch.

This is, by the way, the least interesting insertion of the Mysterious Lady in Red so far - standing around an oil drum right there on the first page.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

DCnU - Superboy #1 from DC's New 52

Superboy #1 was written by Scott Lobdell, has pencils by RB Silva, and inks by Rob Lean.

Silva and Lean's art is wonderful. Great use of traditional layouts and full-page splashes. Panels within panels, and use of white space. It is all used to direct the reader's attention to the story.

This issue is a stage-setting issue. There is a lot of exposition, but it is well-handled. Superboy has a unique perspective and it is interesting to read from his perspective. He is a clone of Superman, and some unknown human.

The people around Superboy continually underestimate him. They stick him in a virtual reality world to determine how he thinks. In the VR world, he ignores a woman burning to death in a fire to flirt with Rose Wilson. A hired killer who is, if it remains consistent with the old DCU, Deathstroke's daughter. Although in the VR, she is less cold-blooded killer and more character from Mean Girls.

The people observing him determine he doesn't have empathy for the woman. What they don't know is that Superboy's senses are not the same as ours - he knows he is in a VR because the way he takes in sensory information can instantly tell.

It is unclear if the lack of desire to help the woman stems from a lack of empathy, or from the fact that he knows she is just a program.

By the end of the comic, we understand that what Superboy really wants is to be free from his prison.

One of the leaders of N.O.W.H.E.R.E., Zaniel Templar shows up (under observation by the Mysterious Lady in Red) and orders Superboy to be released to handle a problem for him. The doctor in charge resists, but is overruled, and just like that, Superboy is ready to join the Teen Titans.

I'm guessing this is leading towards Superboy being inserted into the Titans as a double agent, then breaking free from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., who will end up being an ongoing enemy. Red, the doctor who is in charge of him will likely end up leaving with him.

In this issue, we are also introduced to the mystery of who the human DNA donor was in the Kryptonian/Human hybrid clone that is Superboy.

DCnU - Suicide Squad #1 from DC's New 52

Suicide Squad is brought to you from the dark mind of Adam Glass, and the sinister pencils of Marco Rudy.

I've been a fan of Suicide Squad since day 1, when they came into existence during the Legends event back in the 80's. I have at least some comics of each of their incarnations since then. I seem to have a soft spot for comics featuring villains.

This comic is ABSOLUTELY not for those who are easily disturbed. The first half of the comic is the main characters being tortured, in gruesome and brutal ways. It starts off with a torturer inducing rats to burrow in to Deadshot's stomach, and doesn't get much better from there. This review will touch on some of these elements, so even the review might not be for those who find no possible entertainment value in this kind of thing.

And I loved it. These characters are such hard asses that they can't even be tortured. See the panel below for one of the reasons I love Deadshot so much. (Also, note the Mysterious Lady in Red on the side of the panel, observing and unobserved in a torture chamber.)

The torturer doesn't even make Deadshot want to kill him until he mentions the one person that he cares about. Up until then, it was just business. But Deadshot is so confident that he will turn the tables that he is mentally updating his list while someone tries to intimidate him. And shoves their hand into the wound the aforementioned rats just made. With a disturbing "Qwish" noise.

This is my first introduction to the Chato Santana version of El Diablo. I have a feeling that I will start learning some Spanish following this book. To me, he was one of the standout characters of the issue.

And my favorite scene of the issue? King Shark. Wow... King Shark. Feigning unconsciousness under the impact of heat lamps drying him out, luring one of the torturers in to check for vitals. Which leads to King Shark biting his arm off, which leads to this:

Disturbing and awesome. I also love that Deadshot, Harley Quinn and El Diablo all get an introspective moment on how they came to be there, while they are being tortured. King Shark? "MEAT! MEAT! MEAT!" Sure, Black Spider and Voltaic don't get their "moments" either, and Savant breaks.

All of this rendered in an art style perfectly suited to the darkness of the comic, and that unflinchingly shows you exactly what is going on in this issue.

We also see something on the last page that I thought was interesting. I made some mentions of how I expected some characters to move closer to the more widely known media versions of themselves, and when we see Amanda Waller at the end of this comic, she is thin and beautiful. Not the short, squat version of "The Wall" that has been the interpretation since she was created. Much more Angela Bassett than Nell Carter.

This book is absolutely staying on my pull list, and may have made its way pretty darn close to the top.

DCnU - Resurrection Man #1 from DC's New 52

Resurrection Man, one of the New 52's most unusual heroes is written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning with art by Fernando Dagnino.

The comic starts off by showing us what is unique about Mitch Shelley, the Resurrection Man. The comic starts with him coming back from the dead. He rises from the dead, and finds that he has some sort of magnetic powers, and an urge to get on a flight to Portland. His powers change with each life. Each time he dies and comes back, he has a different power, and a different feeling of a task he must accomplish.

He gets on his flight, and a woman named "Sue" sits down beside him, offering her left hand to shake. Mitch notes both her attractiveness, and the oddity of her not knowing how to shake hands.

She proceeds to read the reasons of various other people on the plane for travelling to Portland, tells a bit of the future, tells Mitch his soul is overdue, rants that "they are close" and turns into a four-armed angel of death.

Yup, it's going to be that kind of ride.

The air marshall tries to stop the angel, and pays for it with his life. Mitch and Sue take their battle outside, where he uses his magnetic powers to try to hold the plane together, and to attract a lightning strike to Sue. That seems to take care of her. Unfortunately, the shockwave knocks Mitch off the plane and into the engine. He dies, and the plane goes down, just like Sue said it would.

Mitch wakes up a little later. New powers, being watched by the Mysterious Lady in Red, and turns into water and flows away from the scene of the crash.

We get a quick look at a pair of women trying to track Mitch down at the morgue he first woke up in. These would be the "Body Doubles" from his original series. Still beautiful, still placing no value on human life.

A fireman on the scene is sporting the same teardrop tatoo/marking that Sue had, and identifies himself as Suriel. One of the four Archangels, and a benevolent angel of death. He tells the "bosy upstairs" that Mitch's soul is "So bright, like it is polished by coming back so often." He also mentions that it seems the "basement office" is interested in Mitch as well.

Finally, we see Xanadu doing a reading, and the Resurrection Man keeps coming back. And this time, that means trouble.

This story is well-paced. It gives us a solid introduction to Mitch Shelley and his powers, as well as to the forces arraying against him. And I am a sucker for a well-written struggle between Heaven and Hell.

The art is dramatic, and suits the supernatural nature of the story very well.

This was a strong comic, and I'm looking forward to the second issue. The only potential downfall is that as much as I love a good struggle between the upstairs and downstairs offices, I can be a pretty harsh judge as well. It will not take a large misstep for me to drop this book. So far, all signs point to sticking around.

DCnU - Red Lanterns #1 from DC's New 52

Writer Peter Milligan and artists Ed Benes and Rob Hunter bring you this tale of rage that is Red Lantern #1.

This comic focuses on Atrocitus and his Red Lanterns. One of the new Lantern types introduced in the last couple of years, like Green Lanterns use will power to fuel their power rings, and the yellow power of the Sinestro Corps' rings comes from fear, the power of the Red Lanterns comes from rage. Atrocitus leads, by virtue of being the toughest and angriest, a group of Red Lanterns whose main emotion is anger.

I heard in another review that some folks found Green Lantern #1 hard as a jumping on point for new readers, and I see that. Since Green Lantern was carried through basically intact from the pre-relaunch DCU, people who didn't know Sinestro and the significance of him becoming a lantern could have been lost. Particularly those who saw the movie, during which he WAS a Green Lantern.

I think the same problem could be true here. The plot revolves around Atrocitus having lost some of his burning rage because Hal Jordan killed Krona. Who was a renegade Guardian of the Universe who caused the destruction of all life in Atrocitus' sector of the universe, including his family.

I wonder how well, "Why am I not as angry as I was" works as a plot line if this is the first time you have seen this character.

From my perspective, the art is gorgeous. It was perfect for the characters, from Atrocitus to his Red Lanterns, and on down to his cat.

The issue is that I didn't find the story compelling. Atrocitus risks losing leadership of his Red Lanterns because he isn't angry enough, but ends up with a revelation that he must allow the Universe's rage to be his own. In order to live up to his task, he will need his Red Lanterns, but at the same time, one of them, a female named Bleez is fomenting rebellion.

And I found that I don't care.

We also get a look at an old man murdered in the UK on Earth for some money, and his grandsons' reaction to his death. Raymond get angry, and punches his brother for not reacting as strongly. We see the Mysterious Lady In Red who has appeared in all the #1's in the background for this conversation.

I think it is clear that Raymond's rage will eventually have him embroiled with the Red Lanterns somehow.

Overall, I found this issue a visual treat, but not very compelling. I will be picking up the second one, but it won't take much for this to fall off of my pull list.

DCnU - Mister Terrific #1 from DC's New 52

Eric Wallace writes, Gianluca Gugliano provides pencils with inks by Wayne Faucher on Mister Terrific #1.

I've been a fan of Mister Terrific for a long time. I liked the one from the JSA (Terry Sloane) back in the Silver Age. I liked Michael Holt as soon as he was introduced in the pages of the Spectre.

I like that he is a thinking man's hero. Quite capable of fighting his way out of many situations, he prefers to use his mind.

I also come predisposed to like Eric Wallace's writing, although I haven't read his work on Ink or Titans. He writes for Eureka, which is a show I really enjoy. A nice, frequently character-driven show that also has super science in it. That's a strong pedigree to bring to a comic about a super-inventor. Eric's blog, The Revealing Science of Ewrote shows how he feels about science. Not to mention, he just discovered FX's Louie and was blown away, so we know he has a great sense of humor.

The story starts strong, with Mister Terrific battling a battle-suited opponent. He uses a combination of science and a good right cross to overcome his opponent while Londoners, and the Mysterious Lady in Red, look on.

As he is being thanked for saving people, the first mention of race that Wallace brings in to the comic comes up. I'm glad to see it. I am glad that DC is including more diversity among their leading characters, and it is good to see an intelligent black man, writing about an even MORE intelligent black man, and that he isn't going to avoid the social impact of race.

As the comic continues, we get insight into Michael Holt the man. He is damaged by the loss of his wife, with whom he had an idyllic relationship. They were well-matched, and she was everything he could have wanted. She died, pregnant with their son in a car accident.

At that point, Michael lost his faith, as well as much of his will to live. It was only by a visitation from that lost son that he found the strength to carry on with his wife's final wish: Not to stop educating the world, like he had done for her and would have done for their son.

We get introductions to Mister Terrific's supporting cast in this book as well. Karen Starr, who was Power Girl pre-relaunch shows up as a friend (seemingly with benefits) who runs her own software company, StarrWare. No evidence in this comic if she is still super-powered. She has a discussion with a woman named Aleeka, who seems to work for Michael, and also have romantic designs on him. Here again, we see race come up as an issue between the two women. And lastly, Jamaal, who is barely sixteen, but has an IQ of 192. And is trying to scam champagne.

The characters fit together very organically. The story progresses well, and we are introduced to a phenomenon that bears Michael's investigation. An average guy on the street suddenly becomes brilliant, and acts without morals. He, for no apparent reason, turns his savage intellect on his waitress, reducing her to a sobbing mess, and then kills a homeless man for being a drain on society. He follows this up by writing out equations that Michael says would "give Stephen Hawking a headache."

All of this, and a surprise twist ending make this a very strong story. If Wallace can continue along this vein, I think this can be a very successful comic. Intelligent stories, a willingness to examine race issues, and other social issues from a mature stance. This could be a great comic. I was also a fan of Michael Holt taking an "issues rather than party" stance when it comes to politics. Too much in today's political world is one side automatically gainsaying the other. I love that Michael is willing to throw his support behind a candidate based on issues rather than whether he wears an elephant or a donkey on his lapel.

The only downside to this book is the art. I find it inconsistent. Some panels are good, even great. Others, much less so. One of the main problems I had was with the way Gugliano draws faces. They are sufficiently inconsistent that it can be hard to recognize a character from panel to panel. See below for an example.

All 4 of those shots are of Michael Holt. The definition to his widow's peak, the width of his nose, the broadness of his jaw, and pointiness of chin, all of these things change within these four pictures of the man.

I find Gugliano's work to be okay, but would actually like to see different artist on this book, in the hopes that it could really reach the audience I think it deserves. To that end, I am quite interested in checking out issue #3, where it seems that Scott Clark, an artist with a very different style from Gugliano will be guesting for an issue.

DCnU - Legion Lost #1 from DC's New 52

Legion Lost is written by Fabian Nicieza, with art by Pete Woods.

Seven Legionnaires arrive in the current time, barely getting through the "Flashpoint Breakwall" and damaging their time bubble on the way through.

They are back here to stop someone named Alastar, who we have seen decree that all humans deserve to die, and then transform into monster and stomp through a town called Red Falls. The Mysterious Lady in Red also has watched him do his Hulk impression, which came to an end when he came across a small girl looking for her sister.

The seven Legionnaires are Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Tyroc, Gates, Yera (Chameleon Lass), Tellus and Dawnstar.

The Legionnaires are dealing with problems with their technology. Their "transuits" are not filtering the atmosphere properly, which has a serious effect on Dawnstar with her enhanced senses.

The effect is much less on Timber Wolf, who leaps off to find Alastar. The others go to follow him and discover that their Legion flight rings are also on the fritz.

Each of the Legionnaires gets a chance to use their powers here, to show off what they can do. All in the service of trying to prevent or mitigate the release of a pathogen in their past - our present.

Nicieza's story moves at a brisk pace, and is exciting despite their not really being a fight in this comic. Which is too bad, because I love to see Timber Wolf kicking ass.

Woods' art suits the young heroes to a "T." He does a great job with the characters. They all look great, and the story is easy to follow. Alaster's monster form is cool, and the little girl who stops his rampage is as cute as anything in a Pixar film.

This book clearly expects you to pick up the next issue. It is definitely a stage setter, but it worked for me. This creative team, combined with a few of my favorite Legionnaires, well, I'm hoping Nicieza has his next New Warriors on his hands.

DCnU - Grifter #1 from DC's New 52

Grifter is brought to us by writer Nathan Edmondson with art by CAFU.

Grifter, like most of Stormwatch, is an import from the Wildstorm Universe. I was never that in to the Wildstorm Universe. I have a few issues of Authority around, and maybe a crossover or two with the Wildcats. I didn't even really know his powers, other than the fact that he was good with guns, and was a little older than he looked. Because of all of that, I came into this comic with virtually no expectations.

There are spoilers below, I guess. I give away a lot of the plot of the book, but this comic isn't about a clever plot, nor about any twists, at least not the way I see it. Giving away the plot to this comic doesn't seem so bad to me, as it much more about how the story is told than the story itself.

In some ways, the plot of Grifter #1 is the kind of thing that could appear in a quick couple of page "origin of" recap, but it works very well as the main story of this issue.

The comic leads off with Cole - Grifter's real name - on a plane, where he is hearing voices. The normal-looking woman beside him seems to be the source of the voices, and when he says so, she extracts a weapon from inside her hand. He turns the weapon back on her, and kills her, only to realize there is another source of the mysterious voices only he can hear on board. He then grapples with a flight attendant, who also issues the mysterious voice. They tumble out the door to the plane, and as they plummet towards the water...

We see how Grifter's story begins - appropriately enough, grifting someone. Someone who thinks he is getting the better of Cole. So we know he is good at what he does, and smart. Then, while he is making arrangements to meet with his partner, he is yanked into an alley. He wakes up strapped to a table with some weird alien creature in a tube next to him, and goes to make a run for it. This alien doesn't look like most of the portrayals of Daemonites in the old Wildstorm Universe, but like them seems to posses humans.

He makes a run for it, and on the way, realizes he can "hear" a strange voice. On the way out of the place he woke up, he is confronted by someone who "speaks" with the weird voice, and beats him down, killing him. I love that his reaction is to say "Oh God. Oh God. I just murdered someone." It seems like a very human reaction - he did what he had to do, but what he had to do was kill an unarmed man.

We go on to learn that while he thought he was out for 17 minutes (the name of the story), it was actually 17 days according to his accomplice in the grift he was running. And that Cole, who threatened to blow up the plane he was on (pretending a small bottle of alcohol was a dead man's switch for a bomb) in order to get the door opened so he could jump out, is wanted as a terrorist.

We then get a quick aside that tells us that Cole is former Delta Force, and his brother still works special forces. His brother is sent to bring him in.

Which brings us back to Cole, hiding out in a graveyard, getting ready to take the battle to these aliens that only he knows are among us, possessing people.

And an unfortunate mistake. So, the story is called 17 minutes, because that is how long Cole thought he was out, but we find out it was actually 17 days and 17 minutes. So, as Cole gets ready to go after these aliens, he says, "I want my seventeen hours back you bastards."

Still, even with that error, the ending of the book is authentically badass, and I have always liked the look of Grifter's mask.

Grifter surprised me. I found some of the Wildcats stuff hard to follow before because it was so enmeshed in the Kherubim/Daemonite war, and I didn't get into that on the ground level, and found the required knowledge to be a barrier to entry.

I was worried that this version was going to head down the same path, but it didn't. For a story about people being possessed by aliens, this was a very human story. I liked Cole, and I was caught up in his story every step of the way. Edmonds and CAFU did a great job on this book, and it will remain near the top of my pull list.

We also learn a little something about the Mysterious Lady in Red in this one - we learned in Demon Knights that time was no barrier to her. Here we learn that she can ignore the laws of gravity, as we see her floating in the air over Cole looking down at one point.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

DCnU - Green Lantern #1 from DC's New 52

Green Lantern is written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Doug Mahnke, with inks by Christian Alamy with Tom Nguyen.

This comic pretty much grabbed me from page 1. What? Sinestro a Green Lantern again? Okay, there was a little bit of my mind blown right there.

And then we see Hal Jordan trying to adjust to real life, without a ring. And doing so poorly.

Sinestro taking on a member of the corps named after him? And destroying a yellow power ring? Awesome.

Johns does some good work here. People sometimes complain that he is too kind to his favorite characters. Hal Jordan has some pretty good sad sack moments in this one.

Mahnke's art is excellent for this series. The feel of the light constructs is good, and there were some cool aliens shown as part of the Sinestro Corps group that was enslaving Korugar, Sinestro's home planet.

I'm very pleased that DC fooled me. I knew something was up with the "teaser" cover they released, but I don't mind admitting when I am wrong: In talking about the previews, I said, "They are not even committing at this point to this being Hal Jordan. But there will be a Green Lantern book. Geoff Johns will be writing with Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy handling the art. I believe it will be Hal, and I think that will come out shortly. One of the most consistent parts of this launch is that Green Lantern's continuity since Rebirth will be held to." So, they fooled me. It wasn't Hal at all, but Sinestro. Sure, Hal is featured in the comic. And I feel like he will have his ring back within the first six issues (heck, the Mysterious Lady in Red is even watching him and Carol while she is bailing Hal out rather than Sinestro). But they got me with the first one, at least, and it is surprises like that that make reading comics so much fun.

DCnU - Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E #1 from DC's New 52

Jeff Lemire, who also wrote Animal Man did the writing duties on this one, with Alberto Ponticelli on art.

This issue struck me as being... full of potential. The first few pages were too info-dump heavy for me. All those boxes of the computer files on where we were, what the things there were, etc. followed by exposition-heavy dialogue and, well... ugh.

Both of Lemire's entries into the New 52 have started with a "what you need to know" kind of set up. Animal Man used that interview page, and Frankenstein used a lot of computer and character exposition.

I have to admit, I preferred the interview.

Once the real action started on this book, it definitely picked up. I am a fan of Universal's classic horror films, so it was, of course, fun to see them all represented here, with the Creature from the Black Lagoon in the form of Nina Mazursky, the Wolfman as Warren Griffith, Dracula as Vincent Velcoro, and the Mummy represented by Khalis.

Unfortunately, Ponticelli's art isn't really to my taste. It isn't bad, and it tells the story just fine, but it isn't a style that I prefer. He did a nice job of slipping the Mysterious Lady in Red in during the battle, though.

If the pace of the second issue picks up, and this book starts to feel a little more like it is part of a coherent universe, I will stay on board for a while, but Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is currently on the bubble with me.

DCnU - Demon Knights #1 from DC's New 52

Demon Knights #1 is written by Paul Cornell. It features art by Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert. This issue has a cover by Tony S. Daniel.

At first pass, I didn't really like this comic. But then medieval comics have never really been my thing. However, in re-reading it to write this review, I saw it from a different perspective. Maybe I was tired the first time around?

Amusingly, this comic is the start of many Dungeons & Dragons adventures. "So, you all meet in an inn." Circumstances lead several people to an inn in the town of Little Spring, where the Horde of the Questing Queen is about to arrive.

Paul Cornell, who also wrote Stormwatch, clearly knows the DCU pretty well. The people who show up in this comic have ties to the mainstream DCU in the future. Mordru, who has been a villain for the Justice Society of America in the "present" (pre-relaunch) and to the Legion of Super Heroes in the future is working for the Questing Queen, helping to direct her Horde. On the Demon's side are Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, an Amazon, Sir Ystin who is Grant Morrison's Shining Knight. Additionally, of course, is Jason Blood, the Demon's human host. Rounding out the team is Al Jabr, a Arab.

The comic sets up the story, and ends with a cliffhanger ending, with our heroes being attacked by what looks like overwhelming force.

The comic is a solid set-up piece. It isn't among my favorite books of the New 52, but if you enjoy swords-and-sorcery books, it could be yours. There is a great deal of potential for interesting character interaction here, and it will be good to see how it works out.

In this book, we also learn that time is no barrier to our Mysterious Lady in Red. She is there in the Dark Ages, watching the Questing Queen's Horde.

DCnU - Deathsroke #1 from the DC's New 52

Deathstroke is written by Kyle Higgs and has art by Joe Bennett and Art Thiebert. Simon Bisely did the cover.

Deathstroke is DC's number one mercenary. He is a hard case among hard cases. Enhanced reflexes, speed, strength, higher brain functions. Master of many weapons, and master strategist.

This comic starts off telling us all of this, as an overlay that has him on a mission to Moscow where he casually takes out a man who has at least 8 heavily-armed guards. This little jaunt also features the appearance of the mysterious Lady in Red as well - right on the first page.

It turns out, the narration about what a bad ass Deathstroke is is actually coming from his agent, who is trying to convince him to take a job. Deathstroke agrees, but will be working with some young up-and-comers who are either called the "Alpha Dawgs" or "HarmArmory" or something like that. And no, I'm not being dismissive. These guys haven't decided what to call themselves yet for sure.

Deathstroke fights some soldiers infused with Clayface DNA on a plane. The scene is reminiscent of the fight in Hawk and Dove, but more kinetic. And it leads to a Pulp Fiction moment. Deathstroke is faced with a briefcase.
And again, later after Deathstroke is back from the mission, the briefcase figures prominently again.

Unlike many of the series from the New 52, this one doesn't end with a cliffhanger, but there is the mystery of the briefcase, and also a clear story of Deathstroke taking back his reputation, after people think he has gone soft.

There is a great twist in the book with Deathstroke's relationship with the Alpha Dawgs/HarmArmory I don't want to spoil it, but there is a page in the book that gave me a strong reaction.

This is one of the gorier books from the New 52, definitely not child-friendly. But for a more mature reader, it was a good ride, well told both through writing and visually.

DCnU - Batwoman #1 from DC's New 52

Batwoman #1 written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. J.H. Williams III is also the artist on the book.

This book was mentioned by some as being one of the less new-reader-friendly books from the New 52.

I don't think I agree. There is a lot of information in this book, but I think it brings a reader up to speed nicely. Sure, you won't have every single detail that you will if you had read Batwoman: Elegy, but you will have enough information understand where we are now, and how we got here.

Williams' art here is excellent. It suits the character and the story. Bold layout choices, flowing spreads, it helps the book to really be immersive. He has a great handle on expressions as well, which suits the emotional tone of the book.

He also slips in a little bit of cheesecake, as the ladies change in and out of their costumes. I don't feel that it was excessive, nor that it objectified the characters, but it is present.

The story is strong - an urban legend come to life stealing children. Those children who have turned up are found drowned. All from the same predominantly-Latin neighborhood. In that neighborhood, there are legends of "The Weeping Lady" who is the one behind this horrible spree.

The story connects on a visceral level. You absolutely feel the loss of these characters. It is well-written. As are some of the somewhat more light-hearted moments between Kate Kane (Batwoman) and Bette Kane (Flamebird, Batwoman's cousin and sidekick who is currently in the much plainer identity of "Plebe").

The mystery of the issue brought me right in, and the quality writing kept me there. This is a series I will definitely be picking up.

DCnU - Batman and Robin from DC's New 52

Okay, so here I am, late at starting week 2's reviews. The first book from week 2 of DC's New 52 is Batman and Robin. With Bruce Wayne wearing the cowl, and his son Damian as Robin. Peter J. Tomasi writes the story, with art by Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray.

I expected to rather enjoy this book, but I found it middling. I just don't like Damian. The character doesn't intrigue or capture me.

The bookends to the story - someone taking out Moscow's Batman, Inc. representative and saying he was coming for Bruce Wayne was more compelling for me than the main story.

The main story was Damian thinking he was awesome, and leading to mistakes that led to mistakes that led to him killing people, and him not seeing that he isn't perfect. I get that is his character, but it will quickly start to get into the same realm that Scully was on the X-Files for me for quite a while - how long could she continue to be a skeptic given what they had seen. By the same token, how long can Damian continue to think he is getting it all right when his actions lead to some of bad guys getting to make a break for it (although he did stop them) and having to be assisted by Batman when caught in an explosion that would likely not have happened had they used the element of surprise.

Overall, it was still an enjoyable story. Batman's method of dealing with the fuel rods was awesome and classic Batman. And I like the direction Tomasi is taking Batman that may be the path to make him less obsessively dark, and more just naturally dark.

Gleason's art style suits Batman very well. The lines are clean, the equipment looks functional and pragmatic. Damian's haughtiness is evident in the character's bearing. Gleason slips the Lady in Red in this book at the pool, just before Batman drains it.

My only complaint about Gleason is sometimes the way he does hands. There is something weird about some of the images that have hands in them. For instance, there is something wrong with the way Damian grabs Bruce's hand in this image. At the very least, this image looks like their hands are the same size. That kind of thing usually doesn't bother me, but since this is Damain's introduction in the New DCU, it was a little jarring.

Overall, this book is so far the bottom of my list of Batman books, but I will not be ditching it right away. My continued enjoyment and buying of this book is directly tied to Damian's character development. We'll see how that works out.

DCnU - Swamp Thing #1 from DC's New 52

Swamp Thing written by Scott Snyder and with art by Yanick Paquette.

Okay, so I have never been a fan of Swamp Thing. I've never disliked the character, but he has never been one that I have bought a lot of comics of. I have some friends who have absolutely loved his previous incarnations, though.

In fact, you'll see as a trend through these reviews that I didn't typically follow too many of the more mystical comics. Hopefully, this relaunch helps me get over some of the reasons for that.

Swamp Thing is a good start in the right direction.

Swamp Thing #1 was a solid book. It introduces you to a pretty complicated character in the form of Swamp Thing, by introducing you to the man who was bonded with the plant elemental, Alec Holland.

Most of this comic is exposition. Typically, I am not a fan of comics that are mostly exposition. Scott Snyder's writing is good enough that you barely notice. He manages to give you insight into Alec Holland, make you wonder about what is going to come next for him, and solidly ground this series in the DC Universe by having Superman show up.

We see Alec Holland's connection to plant life - to The Green as it was frequently referred before the relaunch - that predates his time as Swamp Thing. Snyder either has done his research or has some botany in his background, whether as a hobbyist, or what have you.

All of this, plus introducing a weird undead-thing that kills by sending flies into your ear which then snap your neck around 180 degrees. Yeah, you read that right.

Paquette's art is really good in this issue as well. It clearly conveys the story (a theme which I have hit on the importance of a few times in these reviews) while still being able to portray the "weirdness" of some parts of this comic.
Like a director of a movie who wants to make you feel a little uncomfortable, Paquette varies up how he uses the medium to communicate ideas clearly. When there are people interacting, you get a nice, squarely broken up page. As soon as the forces of nature, or of the undead killer fly thing, get involved things change. The borders between panel go from square to something less... rigid. I particularly love the page where he makes the transition partway through, moving from paleontologists having a conversation to the undead thing coming, and the panels change accordingly. It's an effective technique, and a great touch.

Overall, I recommend this book pretty highly. If you are looking for standard super-hero fare, this won't be your cup of tea, but the story promises to be interesting, well-written and well-drawn. I'm definitely along for the ride on this one.

Oh, and the Lady in Red? She shows up behind the truck while Holland is talking to his co-worker.