Buy It, Browse It, Burn It! DC Comics Relaunch Week Three!
Last month started DC’s rebirth into a fresh, new continuity (for a look at week one, with the conclusion of Flashpoint and Justice League #1, check out “Out With the Old, In With the New 52“; for in-depth reviews on all of week two’s #1′s, browse last week’s “Buy It, Browse It, Burn It: DC Comic’s Relaunch Week Two“; and for IA’s thoughts on the reboot, check out our Round Table, “Crisis of Infinite Do-Overs“). This is the third week of the rest of the 51 new #1′s that will be flooding comic shops near you!
To help you decide what’s worth a buy, and what’s worth a one way ticket to the trashcan, Infinite Ammo is doing a one month review of the new #1 issues each week. Here’s our thoughts on week three of DC’s New 52!
BATMAN AND ROBIN #1 (reviewed by Ed Cambro)
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
Art and cover by PATRICK GLEASON and MICK GRAY
I always look forward to Tomasi’s work because he likes to shake things up and cares more about character development than ludicrous plot twists. He’s direct without being dull, and as the former Bat-family editor, he knows these characters and their voices. The big changes he’s brought with him involve character beats. Here, Bruce isn’t as ornery as usual; as Bruce Wayne, he’s decided to allow Park Row to be demolished and rebuilt. Moreover, he’s decided to let the death of his parents go—he wants to celebrate their lives, not their deaths. This is an obvious weight off his shoulders; he actually managed to crack two decent jokes.
Patrick Gleason, Tomasi’s frequent collaborator, is one of the big unsung artists in DC Comics. The fact he could perfectly render the colorful and vibrant world of Green Lantern to the poorly lit and oppressive world of Gotham City and its denizens, make the Dick Grayson Batman and Bruce Wayne Batman actually look different, and render the simplest fist fight or a galaxy spanning free-for-all with perfect clarity and detail, shows just how versatile and under-appreciated Gleason is.
The interactions between father and son are the bread and butter of the issue, and they’re starting to see what they do and do not like about each other. Damian, not so subtly, makes it known he wished Dick was still Batman. Damian and I agree on a lot of things. The dialogue and conflict makes sense and it’s well written, but the problem is that they are too similar in character. The point of Batman and Robin was their duality: the grim Batman and the lighthearted Robin. The overly dark team of Bruce and Damian Wayne can be perfectly explained by Nigel Tufnel: “It’s like, ‘How much more black could this be?’ And the answer is ‘None.’ None more black.”
BATWOMAN #1 (reviewed by Gentleman Monster)
Written by J.H. WILLIAMS III and W. HADEN BLACKMAN
Art and cover by J.H. WILLIAMS III
Let me start by saying that J.H. Williams III’s art is incredible. His layouts are fascinating and different, but they are still easy to follow. He and colorist Dave Stewart create different moods and styles without being disorienting or causing a visual clash between the pages. The story goes from straight superhero to horror to romance, and each genre gets a distinct look. It’s remarkable.
Williams and Haden Blackman have created a solid first chapter for a multi-part Batwoman story. There’s a mysterious series of kidnappings that Batwoman needs to solve. The villain is some kind of shape-changing phantom that really lets Williams create some fantastic, ghostly scenes. It’s not quite satisfying as a single issue, but I’m happy to see Batwoman back. I’d say:
Browse It for the story, but for the art:
DEATHSTROKE #1 (reviewed by Nel Smith)
Written by KYLE HIGGINS
Art by JOE BENNETT and ART THIBERT
Cover by SIMON BISLEY
I like this guy. His body count is high and his compassion is none. Need a metahuman mercenary to take out your Nosferatu look-a-like German arms dealer? He’s your man, just don’t make him work in a team… he doesn’t like it very much.
This guy is awesome; he killed a fly by throwing a paper clip at it. I mean, who does that? And with one eye! I’m so thoroughly shocked that I actually want to read more of this story and was sad when it ended. I want to know what is in the suitcase and what his next step is going to be.
The colors and art here keep everything interesting. I’m happy that you can see the blood spray and decapitations instead of having them be suggested. I mean the book is rated Teen Plus for a reason, right?
DEMON KNIGHTS #1 (reviewed by Gentleman Monster)
Written by PAUL CORNELL
Art by DIOGENES NEVES and OCLAIR ALBERT
Cover by TONY S. DANIEL
Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves with Oclair Albert on colors create a fantastic first issue. It’s a fantasy/team book mash up that manages to introduce all the principle characters, the villains, and get the plot started without feeling rushed or bogged down with exposition. Neves and Albert create a great fantasy setting and give the cast distinct appearances so they all remain unique despite being introduced fairly quickly in a single issue.
Cornell’s written an excellent British magical team prior to this on Marvel’s short lived Excalibur title, and he brings all the strengths of that book to this one. It’s fun, it’s full of adventure, and it’s bursting with great ides. As a long time DC fan, I’m very happy to see characters like Vandal Savage, Mordru, the Shining Knight, and Etrigan in the same book together, but as a reader, I’m goddamn delighted to see them in a great book together.
FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1 (reviewed by Gentleman Monster)
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by ALBERTO PONTICELLI
Cover by J.G. JONES
Jeff Lemire doesn’t hit the heights of last week’s Animal Man #1, but he gives a pretty good start. I’m a big fan of this version of Frankenstein since Grant Morrison and Doug Mahnke introduced him in Seven Soldiers way back when. Frankenstein had a very specific over the top gothic adventure tone under Morrison, and Lemire is going for a more sinister, monster-oriented special ops version. The obvious comparison is Mignola’s Hellboy, but it’s more like Mignola’s BPRD. It’s the secret Black Ops team vs. the monsters.
It’s not as enjoyable to me as Morrison’s take on Frankenstein because in this issue, his dialog isn’t as Victorian as it used to be. There is a lot of action so there isn’t enough time to be verbose. Alberto Ponticelli’s art is a little rough for my tastes, but I can see that he’s going for a certain Mahnke-like grittiness. He’s clearly trying to create a similar tone, but he’s not outright copying Mahnke. I think the book’s writing and art style may take a few issues to come together properly, but when it does, I think we’ll have a very fun, quality book on our hands.
While it will be worth a Buy soon, for now:
GREEN LANTERN #1 (reviewed by David Rodriguez)
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art by DOUG MAHNKE and CHRISTIAN ALAMY
Cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
Variant cover by GREG CAPULLO
Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps, together again, for the first time! Sorry, had to do that. Green Lantern is a bit of an oddity in the midst of this massive ‘soft-reboot.’ GL has largely been unaffected and the story is taking place right where it left off. Geoff Johns has essentially done with this introductory issue what was done on television shows like Mad Men and Sons of Anarchy; concluding a major story arc and starting fresh. Readers can pick this issue up without worrying about being lost in the midst of the Blackest Night/Brightest Day conundrum and all of the preceding stories.
Hal Jordan is ringless and his chosen replacement is the delightful, Sinestro. The guardians are enveloped in a conspiracy surrounding the ring’s choice, and readers are reintroduced to the Hal Jordan/Carol Ferris dynamic. The artwork by Doug Mahnke and company is wonderful to look at and is reminiscent of some of the best from the 1990’s era; Jurgens/Breeding on Superman came to mind.
There is not much I can find about this issue to complain about. Johns is well in his element and he is doing what he does best. The cliffhanger at the end of the issue leaves it open to go in a multitude of directions and in true Johns style, we have no idea where he will be taking the storyline. It’s a great point for new readers to become acquainted with the series and with Johns’ work. In a group of hit-or-miss #1’s, this one stands out.
GRIFTER #1 (reviewed by Nel Smith)
Written by NATHAN EDMONDSON
Art by CAFU
Cover by CAFU and BIT
He sure ain’t a super hero, but at least he is interesting. Grifter Cole Cash, is the con-man, suspected terrorist brother of a Special Forces Army sergeant, that has been abducted by demon body snatcher things. Um… cool, but I still don’t know what to think of this book. It was short, but the writer did more on a few pages than I’ve seen some others do in much longer books.
As farfetched as the story sounds I’m kind of sucked in. I actually want to know what exactly happened to Argent when he lost those 17 minutes, and from the looks of it, so does he. I’m thrilled to see that this is a man that means business and is willing to tie a dirty scarf around his face to deal with the voices in his head.
I’m curious to see how the story with his brother and the Army will play out. I’m hoping for an emotional meeting with lots of shooting going on. Am I looking forward to it enough to pay $2.99 as many times as it takes to get there? I don’t think I am. As interesting as I find the main character and the premise it feels like there is something missing from this book. Maybe the abduction wasn’t violent or interesting enough for me to form the necessary emotional attachment to a con-man. Maybe it would be there if I saw exactly what happened to him during those 17 minutes but as of right now, not so much.
LEGION LOST #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by FABIAN NICIEZA
Art and cover by PETE WOODS
I’m a big Legion fan. Most probably aren’t. I’ve followed, at different extents, each of the previous series, from the originals to the modernized Waid reboot. But for those of you who don’t know your Element Lad from your Arms-Fall-Off Boy, Legion Lost is written very well by comics legend Fabian Nicieza (writer of everything from X-Men to Cable and Deadpool) and it’s a perfect title to jump into if you’ve always wanted to try a Legion of Super-Heroes title.
This comic works for a few different reasons. Whereas new readers may have felt intimidated by LoSH’s extraordinarily large cast in the past, Nicieza takes a small team of fan-favorite Legionnaires and immediately throws you into the action. He doesn’t hold your hand introducing LoSH concepts or trying to introduce you to every little facet of each character; he simply takes his time and keeps the focus on the lost Legionnaires tracking a villain through time to try and stop a deadly pathogen from being released. Being told from the beginning that the pathogen has been released and that the time bubble was malfunctioning (due to the difficulty in breaching the “Flashpoint Breakwall”) readers already know what kind of trouble the team will face and become invested in the story early on.
The pacing, the dialogue, the art, it’s all done very well and it’s certainly a great example of what a New 52 title can be that doesn’t try to throw too much at its readers, while still giving reasons to give this series a shot. If you like time travel stories, a fresh take on the Legion (Tyroc is no longer an angry black man in white pixie boots, but a awesome looking and level-headed leader), and great art, I’d say this title is worth giving a shot.
MISTER TERRIFIC #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by ERIC WALLACE
Art by ROGER ROBINSON
Cover by J.G. JONES
I was a big fan of Mr. Terrific when he was introduced as the successor to the Golden Age’s Terry Sloane. Picking this title up after reading the solicits was a bit of a letdown though; the more I read of it, the more I realized I didn’t love it (although I didn’t hate it). If anything, it’s fairly average. And that’s it’s biggest problem. This title isn’t as terrific as it should be; in fact, it should be called “Mr. Generic”.
The worst thing about this comic so far is that I can’t really place my finger on what I really don’t like about it. It gives you a good set up: Michael Holt is the third smartest man in the world, he’s a billionaire, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and he’s a superhero. But the writing suffers from being haunted by the ghost of every Silver Age amateur writer to every write a B list character. We’re given a quick, averagely written origin story that ends with a weird revelation and we’re given characters who must always think aloud. Also, throw in some random, unnecessary moments revolving around race and it feels like writer Wallace was trying to remind his readers they were reading a black character (you know, in case we forgot).
While the art is pretty good, there’s just something about the writing that bothers me. The dialogue’s pretty good but somehow I don’t feel like the writer has gotten the hang of pacing and composition. It’s not bad, like I said before, but it’s just not all that great either. With some cool concepts thrown in and a villain we don’t quite understand yet, and possibly our first glimpse at the New 52′s Power Girl (via the character Karen Starr, one of PG’s aliases in the past) this title may yet prove to be a terrific series, especially with its hero having such a focus on science and action. Perhaps I’m torn between this Silver Age set up and my Modern Age tastes, but for now I’d recommend for readers to:
RED LANTERNS #1 (reviewed by David Rodriguez)
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art and cover by ED BENES and ROB HUNTER
These are not your father’s lanterns. Willpower and elaborate constructs have given way to rage and unbridled brutality in this spin-off of the Green Lantern universe. The thought of having a series devoted solely to the Red Lanterns conjures up many thoughts in the realm of, “who gives a shit?” Surprisingly, writer Peter Milligan finds a way around this by delivering a good introductory issue. There is a mixture of balls-to-the-wall insanity with an interesting look into the history of the main character, Atrocitus. It’s a testament to Milligan as a writer that he is able to conjure some feelings of empathy and understanding from the reader for a character that is otherwise a grotesque villain. Milligan plants seeds for later issues in the form of dissension within the lanterns and Atrocitus’ latent distrust and obsessions. The artwork by Ed Benese and Rob Hunter is well done, while the action is bloody; it is easy to follow.
My first gripe was with the odd red fecal matter that can be seen surrounding the Red Lanterns in certain panels. It was distracting and only drew my attention away from the interesting character designs, not towards them. The secondary plot of a human joining the ranks of the Red Lanterns seemed phoned in and was more of a speed bump to the overall narrative; every time we were drawn into Atrocitus, we were pulled away. Atrocitus’ life before he was a Red Lantern was marred by murder and chaos; his motives are only somewhat established. It will take some time before readers can fully embrace these Red Lanterns as…whatever the hell they are supposed to be. Overall, the story is good but nothing to write home about. Atrocitus and his soliloquies throughout the book as well as the majority of the art are the only memorable aspects; unfortunately not enough to justify the buy.
RESURRECTION MAN #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by DAN ABNETT and ANDY LANNING
Art by FERNANDO DAGNINO
Cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
Written by legendary comics duo and original creators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (or DnA by fans), Resurrection Man is a good read. This comic starts with titular character Mitch Shelley doing what he does best: resurrecting. We aren’t given any idea why he was previously dead and neither is it important: we are living life through Mitch’s vagrant eyes, and for him this is just a part of his everyday life.
Drifting from place to place, Mitch is driven by compulsions (that may come from each new resurrection) which take him in a direction for unknown reasons. One of these compulsions draws him onto a plane where we’re introduced to a new character named Sue, and from there Mitch’s life takes a turn for the worse when the plane is put in danger. In the course of this issue, DnA reintroduces us to their other creation, the Body Doubles, and popular DC “dark” character Madame Xanadu, for what seems to be a dark, dangerous road for Mitch in the upcoming issues.
The plot promises conspiracy, danger, action, but at the same time is written with a graceful poetry that lends itself well to the way the story progresses. Along with some very moody, grounded art from Fernando Dagnino, this title is already giving readers a lot to look forward to and could very quickly be one of the best New 52 titles yet if the story continues to deliver.
I’ve never had the pleasure to read the critically acclaimed original series, but this title intrigues me, and makes me hope DC releases the original series in graphic novel format soon. I’d definitely say that you should:
SUICIDE SQUAD #1 (reviewed by Ed Cambro)
Written by ADAM GLASS
Art by MARCO RUDY
Cover by RYAN BENJAMIN
There is very little new to read here. There’s very little to read here that you can’t read in a better form someplace else (Secret Six by Gail Simone, for instance). The art is uneven, the characters are gruesome or uninteresting, the plot is thin and predictable. For the sake of doing my job, I’ll go into some detail, I guess.
The Suicide Squad is made up of death row criminals who are given a second chance by the government. They’re working deep black ops and this entire issue takes place during a training session. You’d think that I gave away a spoiler but you’d figure it out for yourself after turning the first page.
The only characters of note here are Amanda Waller (she’s hot now), Harley Quinn (terribly re-imagined), and Deadshot (actually interesting and in character). I’ll go into more detail on Harley. She’s still Joker’s former girlfriend, but the manic dark camp that Paul Dini and Arleen Sorkin infused her with is gone. She’s crazier, meaner, not funny or charming; she’s a psychotic with no redeeming qualities.
So as not to sound too mean, I’ll say that it’s hard to start a new series. First issues, pilots, whatever, are hard to write and it’s difficult to judge something after such a short first attempt. The cliffhanger, which involves the SS (Suicide Squad not the Schutzstaffel) being ordered to kill a stadium full of people is a great hook.
Important life lessons: Grant Morrison is no David Lynch; Adam Glass is no Tony Daniel. Yeah, I went there.
SUPERBOY #1 (reviewed by Ed Cambro)
Written by SCOTT LOBDELL
Art by RB SILVA and ROB LEAN
Cover by ERIC CANETE
The last time Superboy was interesting he was dead. Yes, that was altered/stolen from Infinite Crisis, but it’s the truth. Superboy’s resurrection was terrible and he remained pretty much worthless until this reboot, which finds him (again) as a godless conflagration of science run amuck. What’s different this time around is the fact that he doesn’t truly understand who he is or where he came from. He doesn’t know who Superman is, he was never raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, he’s had no real human connection outside of Doctor Red. (Question: What medical school do all these hot women go to?)
Superboy borrows story and character cues from the recent Young Justice series (something you all should watch), which has Superboy as this bastard of science; he’s more distant, afraid, and angry. The mystery surrounding N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (a thematic designation if ever I saw one) and questions surrounding his creation are the great building blocks of a serialized mythology. Where the Superman family stories have always straddled the fence between science fiction and fantasy—remember the 60s? REMEMBER?!—Superboy is a very modern science fiction tale, dealing with the issues of playing god, sentience and creation; and where Superman as a protagonist essentially details the best of the human spirit and gives us something to strive to be, Superboy is about our mistakes, our responsibility/culpability, and when our ambitions cloud our morality. This is dark science fiction straight from the bottle. Neat. No ice.
While Superboy has managed to cull something of a report with Red (she showed him kindness once), his disappointment in her for not letting him remain free is telling. This is going to be a long, ugly road for him. Life is going to continually let him down, and we’re certainly reading something that goes against the grain. Were it not for the broad color palate employed in the issue, I’d have to call it ‘bleak.’
Superboy, if it manages to continue and exceed this level of quality, can be one of DC’s flagship titles, and take a stand outside the long shadow of Superman.
And as a fair warning to old school fans: this isn’t Connor Kent at all.