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.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DCnU - Stormwatch #1 from DC's New 52

Stormwatch, a significant presence in the Wildstorm Universe is brought together with the mainstream DCnU in this book written by Paul Cornell and with art by Miguel Sepulvida.

Cornell has written some Doctor Who stories, so I think it is interesting that his story starts in the bleed, and area between worlds, in much the same way as many of the Doctor's stories start on the TARDIS.

This story has a lot to communicate. Stormwatch is a covert agency trying to protect the world against alien threats. In this issue, they are dealing with the fallout of something that happens in Superman #1, which isn't out yet. That makes me sad. I wish that at least for the first month, DC could have kept time lines straight.

At the same time as that is happening, they are trying to recruit a new member in the form of Apollo, because he may be the most powerful person on earth. This said after he punches the Martian Manhunter and bounces off. I'm guessing that makes him - at best - second. Just before this interaction, we see the Lady in Red, our mysterious passenger on all of these titles, watching Apollo. Page 15, top left panel.

We also get introduced to several other characters, most of whom were around in some form in the days of Stormwatch/The Authority in the old Wildstorm Universe. Some of these characters powers differ significantly from the typical - Jack Hawksmoor who can communicate with cities, adn manipulate them, for instance. Or the Projectionist who can sense and manipulate media. Pretty important skill to a team that wants to remain secret. The full reach of what that means is barely touched on in this issue.

This comic is clearly going to be darker and edgier than a lot of the fare from the DCnU. The characters are less "goody-goody" and their isn't even really a clear-cut villain in the issue.

It's an interesting corner of the DCnU. There were a couple of flaws in the book, including the usual over-badassery of Midnighter when he first appears (he sneaks up on a telepath and a man who communicates with cities IN a city. And then he takes down the Martian Manhunter with a pressure point strike? Interesting assumption that that would work on a shape-shifting alien) that makes me less interested in the character, but overall, I will definitely at least read #2.

DCNU - Static Shock #1 from DC's New 52

Static Shock, was written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum. McDaniel also did the pencils, with inks by Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau Underwood.

I don't have much of a history with this character, but I have loved Scott McDaniel's work on street-level heroes such as Daredevil, Batman, and particularly on Nightwing. I think the early issues of Nightwing remain some of my favorite comics ever, and McDaniel's art was a strong contributor to that. He's not a photo-realistic style of artist, but he clearly communicates what is going on in a panel, and gets a real sense of motion into action sequences.

John Rozum wrote for Milestone Comics back when it was an imprint of DC. He didn't work on Static back then, but he is definitely familiar with the character.

Unlike most of the New 52, this book starts off with our hero, rather than setting the scene. And he dives right into action. Static saves some people from an energy burst being released by a S.T.A.R. Labs experiment gone wrong. He happens to be on site because he is working at S.T.A.R. as an after-school job.

He then hunts down the experiment, and fixes it. Throughout, he cracks wise, and uses his scientific knowledge to handle the situation. There is a similar tone to Spider-Man when that book is being fun.

McDaniel's art compliments the action well, and I really enjoy the way he plays with the layouts of the pages.

Static puts a stop to the experiment gone wrong, only to have the pilot of the suit killed in his hands. He uses some cool scientific know-how to try to track the shooter, but loses him.

There is an interlude, where we see the group that Static is unknowingly up against here. It is a large, well organized group who have ins to the police and the DAs office at least. They are not happy to have fun afoul of a superhero like Static, so they sic a killer named Virule on him.

We then get to see Virgil interacting with his family, and there is real affection here. It's good to see a super-hero who comes from a supporting, normal family environment. And a little creepy to see the mysterious Lady in Red watching them through their window at the top of page 15.

After this, Virgil goes to his secrect headquarters and has a chat with Hardware, another character from the Dakota setting of Milestone Comics, and Hardware is clearly Static's patron in this book.

As he heads off on patrol, Static is ambushed by Virule, in a cliffhanger ending.

I am definitely picking up Statck Shock #2. The writing was fun, the dialogue good, I love the science bits that Virgil uses to supplement his powers. And, of course, I am a fan of the art.

It's also nice to know that S.T.A.R Labs is still a player in the DCnU.

Overall, if you like traditional super-hero books, I can definitely recommend this book to you.

DCnU - OMAC #1 from DC's New 52

Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio wrote OMAC, with Giffen also handling the pencils and Scott Koblish doing the inking duties.

This book is a respectful tribute to the early days of comics, with a focus on Jack "King" Kirby's style. Kirby was the original creator of the concept of OMAC, the One Man Army Corps. The art is clearly modeled after Kirby's right down to the "Kirby krackle."

This issue contains an introduction to the supporting cast, and a fair amount of action. The issue I had was that OMAC doesn't have a lot of personality, which made it hard to identify with the lead character. I'm hoping over time this resolves itself, as Giffen has always been a writer who does a great job with characterization.

Which is also where the tribute to Kirby was a little less well-executed. When I think Kirby and DC, I think of characters who deliver speeches mid-battle. With OMAC essentially being an automaton here, there just wasn't the ability to get that kind of character-driven stuff inserted into the fight.

Unfortunately, for me, this meant that the whole comic being a battle for OMAC was still not that compelling. It was good to see the role that Cadmus plays in the DCnU, and nice to see that Dubbliex is still around.

The bookend bits - Jody Robbins and Tony Jay at the front, and Kevin Kho at the end were both pretty entertaining, and once Giffen DiDio bring that same personality to the main character, or shift the focus more to the impact OMAC has on the lives of Kevin and those around him, this will be a solid book.

Until then, this book could slide off of my pull list.

And our mysterious cloack-and-hooded Lady in Red from Flashpoint in this book? Page 6 of the digital version, bottom left of the page, in the crowd scene.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

DCnU - Men of War #1 from DC's New 52

Men of War is brought you by writer Ivan Brandon and artist Tom Derenick. It's a gritty tale of men serving in the US military in a world where there are people who are more powerful than tanks.

It starts off introducing us to Corporal Joe Rock, injured and in the middle of a battlefield. Then it takes us back to a "how we got here" view. We see Joe being recruited by Sgt. Torisi for some kind of special duty. The interview process includes a General who is present saying, "I knew your granddad, Corporal. Frank Rock was one of the best who ever wore this country's Flag. Think of the shoes you have to fill." To which Joe replies, "If it's all the same to you, I got my own shoes, sir."

Corporal Joe Rock is a career soldier. A man whose men mean more to him than orders from above. But he is a fighting man. In this first issue, right as Sgt. Torisi and his team, including Rock are jumping into a situation, a super attacks. The whole plan goes pear-shaped as their stealth mission has been disrupted by a hero, who is then attacked by another, and they devastate the location that Torisi, Rock and their squad were dropping in to.

We never even see who these super-powered beings are - they are silhouettes. We do know that at least one of them doesn't wear a cape, and must be dressed in red, as he leaves a red trail behind him as he flies. The one who tackles him leaves a blue trail. And that is all we see of them.

Torisi and Rock try to lead their men to accomplish their mission while dealing with the insurgents in the area and the fallout of the super battle taking place right in the area.

Once the action starts in this book, it is non-stop. However, I wasn't really compelled by the action. Maybe too much happens "off-screen" or maybe I wasn't attached enough to the characters. Regardless, it just didn't suck me in the way I had hoped.

It's actually the opposite of what I was expecting. I enjoyed the recruitment portion of the comic more than the action portion. We'll see if my opinion changes when I pick up issue #2.

We do see the Flashpoint Lady in Red here, at the bottom of page 17 of the digital version.

The backup story of the Navy Seals, "Human Shields" part 1 was pretty good, and had me looking forward to the next installment.

DCnU - Justice League International #1 From DC's New 52

Justice League International features writing by Dan Jurgens, pencils by Aaron Lopresti and inks by Matt Ryan.

I find Dan Jurgens to be one of the most talented comic book creators working today. His work on Superman, particularly during the Death of Superman story line was excellent, and he created Booster Gold. Not surprising, then, that Booster is one of the main characters in this title.

One of the things I liked about this book was the broad selection of characters - many of whom are B-list or C-list characters that were brought together to form this team. It's a great mix, and will be interesting to see how the personalities mesh. Not to mention how well Booster does leading a team with Batman on it.

Speaking of the personalities involved, those of you who were following the previews might have seen some changes to this cover. In the original version, the bottom left was taken by a dark-haired woman in a dark costume.

Interestingly, this image, when I downloaded it from DC's site, was called "jlifinalcover.jpg." Apparently not. As time passed and more details came out regarding the New 52 titles, there was speculation about who that character was. We were told by Aaron Lopresti that it was not Donna Troy, but we really didn't get much more. There was a lot of speculation about who is could be.

Fuel was added to the fire when a newer version of the cover was released, this one with no character there. It has been said that the JLI team may well have frequent roster changes, so I cannot help but wonder if perhaps the woman who was there originally, whoever she was, will be turning up in a later issue.

But enough about what is not, what about this issue itself? Flatly stated, this was a hell of a comic. The opening page made me happy. The Creeper is still part of the DC Universe, as is Plastic Man. Metamorpho, too. We also see B'wana Beast and it looks like Congorilla is still around, too. I love that they used this book to help lay that groundwork in the new universe. And now I find myself very much hoping for a Creeper story arc in DC Universe Presents.

From there, we go into a character named Andre Briggs leading a meeting on assembling a super-hero team that answers to the UN. They evaluate several heroes, settling on Booster Gold as the leader, with Green Lantern Guy Gardner, Rocket Red from Russia, Godiva from Britain, Vixen from Zambesi, Ice from Norway, Fire from Brazil and August General in Iron from China. Some other heroes are suggested, but refused for various reasons, including Batman. When his name comes up, the answer is, "I thought the idea was a team we could control. No."

There is an interlude where we see a research team get swallowed by the earth in Peru. That seems bad.

And then the team arrives at the Hall of Justice. And there are protesters outside, upset that a public building of some repute is now off-limits to them, and of course, some people who are against the UN in general. Our Flashpoint Lady in Red shows up here among the protesters as well.

There is a line of dialogue in here that has caused something of a stir among comic fans. When Booster Gold remarks on the protesters, Briggs says, "Ignore them. They're nothing but a bunch of basement dwellers who spend all day whining on the 'net. Not an single open-minded one in the the bunch." A lot of fans took this to be criticism of people who were crying doom and gloom for the New 52 without ever seeing a single issue.

In an interview on, Jurgens did discuss this a little bit.
I was going to quote the salient part here, but this review is already long enough. There is other good stuff in the interview too, and I recommend following the link and giving it a read if you interested.

7 pages of story, and so far, I am excited by the characters who are mentioned to exist in the DCnU, interested by the team's makeup, and we have seen a minor internet controversy. Not a bad start.

Now, we see Guy Gardner's reaction to being on Booster Gold's team. He walks out. This is a tremendous blow for the team. Losing the power of a Green Lantern is not something to be taken lightly. On his way out, Guy runs into Batman. Batman encourages him to stay, but Guy is having none of it. Batman tells Guy he is underestimating Booster, but Guy says that personal experience tells him different, and leaves.

Here is another interesting Batman moment. He is clearly admired by some of the other heroes. Even Guy mellows when talking to him, but he is not the omniscient character he had grown into in the old DC Universe. People do not just blindly do as he tells them because he is the Batman. And he is more interesting for it.

The team takes off to find out what happened to Reasearch Team 3 in Peru, and are joined by a suprise visitor. Okay, not so much of a surprise - he is on the cover. Batman is in their jet with them. When Booster sees him, it leads to another great exchange.

Note - so far, there has been no fighting, and I am still loving this book. Despite my focus on how quick some of the other books get into the action, this one is doing such a good job with characterization and humor that I would be okay if there wasn't a single fight in the issue. But there is. The team is set upon in Peru, leading to an extended fight scene, which includes Godiva telling Batman to "sod off."

Overall, this book was excellent. It was the standout book of the first full week of the New 52 in my opinion, and Godiva may have been the standout character. Dan Jurgens writing shows his normal sense of humor, and good ear for dialogue and characterization. Lopestri and Ryan do a great job with the art.

Conflict between team members, and between Booster and Briggs, as well as the protester subplot gives lots of great room for stories and character development.

As of now, this book is definitely staying on my pull list as long as this creative team stays on board.

DCnU - Hawk and Dove #1 from DC's New 52

Hawk and Dove number one features writing by Sterling Gates and art by Rob Liefeld.

In this story, we get Hawk griping repeatedly about how much better a partner as Dove his brother was than Dawn is. His brother died in the line of duty, and fans of the old Hawk and Dove series know that Don's powers left him seconds before he actually died. I'm not sure if that is true in the current continuity, but while Dove is talking to her boyfriend, Deadman, she indicates there is something about how she became Dove that she hasn't told Hawk.

So... here's the thing. Hawk is aggressive and confrontational. But he has been partners with this Dove for two years. Given that they are both college-aged, it strikes me as odd that after two years, he still spends a lot of time comparing his partner to his deceased one. Not that I think he should necessarily be over having lost his brother, but I'd think he'd be pretty used to the dynamic of working with the new Dove.

Okay. So, having clarified that, here we go: The first page, as it has been in a lot of the New 52 so far is an info dump that introduces Alexander Quirk, who calls himself a Science Terrorist. It is revealed that he has hijacked a plane and is using it to deliver his "Monsters of Mass Destruction" into Washington D.C.

From there, we jump into a two-page spread inside the plane, of Hawk beating up on some of his men. Now, I am not a Liefeld hater, but this was not a good place to start. Maybe it's the lack of motion lines, or the straight up-and-down stance Hawk is in, but this feels very static rather than kinetic.

The fight in the plane goes on, with the Monsters of Mass Destruction - zombie-like critters - waking up and attacking Hawk & Dove. They dispatch them, and try to land the plane without taking out any of the national landmarks in the DC area on the way down.

So, here's the problem. I really like Hawk & Dove. One of the things I liked about their old series was that the fights were really well done. Now? Not so much. In 6 pages of the opening battle (counting that two-page spread), there are two punches thrown by Hawk, and one kick by Dove. One of the zombie-things also lunges at Dove and nearly gets her, but she dodges out of the way.

Then, they try to land the plane. They run into Washi Watanabe who is part of the D.C.P.D Special Crimes unit. He tells them that Captain Arsala says hi, which is a nice call back to Sal Arsala's significant role as a supporting character in the previous series. I can't help but wonder if now that he is a Captain if he still wears Hawaiian shirts all the time.

After that, we get some character development as Hank talks to his fater, and Dove patrols with Deadpman. Then, we he origin story of Hawk and Dove (Hank and Don, that is), and Dove reveals that, "If the world is going to stay safe, Hank can never know about me and Don." It's unclear if that is because Dawn somehow "stole" the power of Dove from Don, or if there is something else going on.

After that, we get the mandatory appearance of the Flashpoint woman (2nd to last page, top panel), and introduction of next issue's threat. It looks kind of like Kestrel from the last series - who I really liked - but not quite. The coming attractions on DC's site reveal that it is Condor. and that he and Swan will be coming to make Hawk & Dove's lives a little harder.

Overall, I wasn't too thrilled with this issue. My affection for the characters will definitely lead to picking up issue #2, but at this point, the comic has to work to win me over. It won't be hard - I am hoping that the problems I had with the first fight scene were due to Liefeld trying to get across the cramped quarters of fighting in a plane. I also hope that the degree of bitching about Dove from Hawk was pushed heavily because it is the first issue. Alexander Quirk has some potential as a villain, and I am looking forward to seeing Hawk & Dove square off against other avatars.

I'm also hoping that we don't see the normally considerate and good Dove, avatar of peace, crush someone's car while she is out on patrol because she is having a conversation that makes her a little uncomfortable. Particularly since she can fly, and never needs to land on someone's car. I may be alone here, but stuff like this really bugs me. This, Superman throwing a dog's ball past the horizon in the latest movie, that kind of thing. Heroes who are supposed to be good people just randomly being dicks. And Dove is definitely supposed to be good people.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

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

J.T. Krul writes with pencils by Dan Jurgens and inks by George Perez. This take on Green Arrow puts him in charge of the Apple-like Q-Core division of Queen Industries. References are made to "QPhones" and "QPads" throughout the comic. The rest of Queen Industries is treated as stodgy and a typical corporate entity. I suspect that at some point in the future, Q-Core will break away from Queen Industries, and somehow Emerson, it's CEO will end up being cast in a villainous role.

Also, we are told on the first page that the Q-Core division alone is "Scrounging around with the likes of WayneTech, Lexcorp and Holt Industries." Sounds to me like Ollie Queen is probably well and away the wealthiest man alive.

And he is also the Green Arrow. A more youthful take on the character than we have seen in the recent past. We get some insight into the character right away, him expressing his resentment of the romanticization of criminals, specifically mobsters, pirates and hit men. We are also immediately introduced to his support staff - Naomi, a computer guru and Jax, who is more mechanically inclined.

Ollie, who is in France, shuts off his call with his CEO to jump into battle on a yacht with three super-powered villains, who are new as far as I know. Supercharge, Dynamix and Doppleganger. They don't pose much of a threat to Ollie, though. In his own way, he is as competent and self-assured as Batman. He uses high-tech arrows and gadgets, and also uses lower-tech, including punching one of the villains, after using some fairly low-tech arrows on him. We also get a look at what our mysterious lady in red from Flashpoint wears under that cloak during this battle, when she shows up on page 8 right at the beginning of the fight as Ollie uses one of his non-arrow gadgets.

We then get a couple of pages of character development, as Ollie continues to indicate a distaste for corporate life, and speaks to his motivation for fighting the evils of the world, in broad terms.

After that, we see a set up for an even bigger show down with more new villains next issue, with a promise that they will be showing the online world the death of the Green Arrow.

I saw good and bad in this comic. I like the fresh start. I like the new villains, and that Green Arrow is a globe-trotting hero. I appreciate the incorporation of the reality tv/everyone wants to be famous angle, which helps modernize the story.

I love the art in this book,as well. It suits superheroics perfectly.

But the dialogue. Not that the dialogue itself is poorly written, but there is a LOT of it. The panel above is a pretty good example. That's a lot to say while throwing a disc. Of course, some of that happens in all super-hero comics. But with all the world-building and setting stuff that gets communicated through expository dialogue in this one as well, it starts to feel a little heavy.

It might have been worse because it is a #1, and there is a lot of information about who the character is to be communicated. And it certainly wasn't so bad that it'll stop me from picking up #2, but it is a little lower on my pull list than it would be if it didn't have that issue.

As a final note, according to DC's website, the cover which previously was shared as #1 is actually going to be used for #2.

DCnu - Detective Comics #1 from DC's New 52

Here's a review I never would have thought I'd be writing. Detective Comics #1.

Tony S. Daniel handled both writing and pencil duties on this one. And Tony S. Daniel has a great feel for the Batman. And the Joker.

Daniel's Batman comes off as hyper-competent, but yet not the "BatGod" you sometimes see people complain about, who has a contingency for everything, and can never be surprised.

He does his homework, is in peak human condition, is smart and quick, but can still make mistakes. This is Batman the way I like to read him.

Daniel's Joker is... well... crazy, for one. But brilliant. And physically, he may not be Batman's equal, but his unpredictability still makes him dangerous. He is nearly impossible to track down, also due to his brilliance and unpredictability.

The first confrontation between the two in the DCnU was excellent. The pacing of the story and the action were spot on. Daniel gave us some insight into Batman's character (protecting the innocent is more important than punishing the guilty), showed us some of his relationship with Alfred and with Jim Gordon, and used narration boxes to show us how Batman's mind works.

In fact, it is interesting to compare and contrast these with Batgirl and Batwing, also both out in the first week. Batgirl thinks about more - there are more words, and definitely more doubt and questions in her internal monologue. Batwing, on the other had is more telling the story of what has happened. Part of that is necessity - while all of these are #1's, Batwing is the only truly new title. And it is set somewhere that most readers are not familiar with, with different customs and cultural mores. His narration helps those who don't know anything about where he is from understand a little better.

There is no uncertainty in Batman's narration. Even when he does err, he just vows "Never again. Never. Again." and moves on. No self-doubt. Only acknowledgement that he missed something and moving on. Batman is the confident, competent character he should be. And seeing him at a point where much of the police force is actively hunting him is fun.

And the ending of this book... well... let's just say, I am very curious to know what is going to be happening next. Several of the books this week have had real cliffhanger endings, and in most cases, it is accomplishing exactly what it is supposed to. I'll definitely be picking up the next issue of Detective Comics.

Oh, and our Lady in Red from Flashpoint #5? She shows up here as well, at the bottom of page 15 of the digital version, in the crowd shot. I still don't know what her purpose is in-story, but am having fun picking her out in all of these books.

Friday, September 16, 2011

DCnU - Batwing #1 from DC's New 52

Batwing, the African Batman. Written by Judd Winick with art by Ben Oliver.

I said in my preview entries that I thought this would be a good book, but also that I didn't have high hopes for it continuing to sell, since it was set outside of the USA.

If the quality of this book keeps up to the standard set by this issue, I can see it lasting quit a while. The story was strong, the villain, Massacre, is menacing and bad ass, and the art is absolutely beautiful.

Winick tends to take on social issues, and a book set in Africa is a wonderful place to do that. I also love that he sets up the fact that Batwing isn't the first hero Africa has had.

This book was tightly paced, with some good action scenes, and lots of good character stuff. I like that Batwing's secret identity of Officer David Zavimbe is one of the few good cops in Tinasha, a fictional city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Striving to get the system working by day, and working outside it by night, trying to accomplish good however he can. His admiration for the Batman is plain. And Batman shows him respect in the flashback appearances he has in the book.

Batwing's supporting cast is interesting. Officer Kia Okuru is a clean-ish cop in a place so dirty that "clean-ish" is the best you can expect. She sees the progress that has been made to clean up corruption in Tinasha and sees it as good, whereas David comes off as just as extreme as Batman himself on this issue. When a case is let to drop, David asserts it is because there were no bribes to be had. Kia says "It is better than it was," to which he replies, "That means nothing. Tinasha is one of the most crime-ridden cities in all of Africa. We need to do more than just 'better.'" This is nice bit of exposition that reveals both soething about the character, and about where he finds himself. Batwing also has an equivalent to Alfred in the form of Matu Ba. And the relationship is very different. As opposed to Alfred's hiding his caring for Bruce behind upper-class snark and disapproval, Matu Ba is unabashedly supportive of David.

Good hero, an engaging mystery, strong villain, supporting cast that draw your attention, and a shocking ending to the story, all beautifully rendered? This book is definitely staying high on my pull list.

DCnU - Batgirl #1 from DC's New 52

Batgirl #1 - the return of Barbara Gordon to the role of Batgirl.

This was one of the most talked-about relaunches of the New 52. Getting Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair was a big move on DC's part. It had it's fans, and it had people opposed to it. There was a very poignant post called "Oracle is Stronger than Batgirl Will Ever Be," on Newsarama from Jill Pantozzi, a red-headed woman who is in a wheelchair due to Muscular Dystrophy, and who has a blog called "Has Boobs, Reads Comics."

Gail Simone has always been sensitive to all groups, and understood the weight of the decision that was made to have Babs walking again. She also did an interview with Jill months ago, and answered as many of her questions as honestly as she could.

Jill's post and Gail's interview show the emotionally-charged nature of this change. And it was made clear that "The Killing Joke," the story where Barbara Gordon was paralyzed, still happened.

Which wasn't at all ignored in this issue.

As usual, Gail's knack for characterization shines through. Even before her stint as Oracle, Barbara was among the most cerebral heroes. Here, her internal monologue shows it. She is always analyzing. In some ways, that is like Batman, but in others, it is pretty far removed - she is not only analyzing her surroundings and her opponents, but also herself, and her feelings.

The book starts off with a new villain who kills a man, in a rather unusual way - using a syringe-type device to drown him - and then crosses his name off a list. A list we see the name Barbara Gordon on.

We go right from that into a several-page action sequence. Well written, and beautiful to look at, we see Batgirl in action, and see that she might be a little rusty, but still very capable. There is also a line which nods to the fact that there are now two redheaded Bat-females running around Gotham, as the folks she saves say "Bless you, bless you Batwoman."

Some more quality character stuff, with Barbara telling her father that it is time for her to move out, and meeting her new room mate, who promises to be an interesting supporting character. The art is as great in these scenes as it is in the action scenes. I love the way that Ulises Arreola used such a completely different palette for these scenes as well, really helping delineate the Barbara vs. Batgirl worlds.

However, Barbara's "getting to know the roomie" time is interrupted. She gets a text that was sent to her father, and heads off to stop the Mirror, the new villain of the issue, at a hospital, where he has headed to kill another person. We get a little more insight into the motives of the Mirror here, and it seems that he is killing people who had incidents that should have killed them.

Batgirl heads over on her motorcycle for a confrontation that did not go the way I expected. Once again, Gail manages to wrap character and action together very well, and leaves us with a "Holy crap" moment that also leaves Batgirl very firmly on my pull list.

I also love the fun that Adrian Syaf has with the bat-symbol in this issue. Even the tire tread of Batgirl's motorcycle is done in that motif, as well as the tops of her boots (quite evident when she is kneeing one of the home invaders).

He also did a nice job showing some armoring on Batgirl's costume, which I think is a nice touch.

Oh, and the mysterious character in red who has been showing up everywhere? This book is the hardest to spot the character in yet. So where is Waldo? Second to last page, bottom panel, there is a reflection in the window.

Oh, and one last thing: I don't intend to be a shill for Newsarama, but Jill Pantozzi does share her thoughts on this book in the "Hey, That's My Cape!" entry for week one.