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.