Buy It, Browse It, Burn It! DC Comics Relaunch Week Five! The Last Week of DC’s New 52 #1′s!!
Last month started DC’s rebirth into a fresh, new continuity. This is the fifth and final week of that rebirth, and the last bout of DC’s new #1′s! 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 are our thoughts on this last week’s #1′s!
(For Infinite Ammo’s thoughts on the relaunch itself, check out our Round Table, “Crisis of Infinite Do-Overs“.
For a look at how DC closed shop on the old DCU and brought in the New 52, read “Out With the Old, In With the New 52“.
For a look at the last three weeks’ worth of New 52 Reviews, check out “Week Two” and “Week Three” and “Week Four“!)
ALL-STAR WESTERN #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by JUSTIN GRAY and JIMMY PALMIOTTI
Art and cover by MORITAT
All-Star Western is one of those titles you don’t know what to expect from. All you know before picking it up is it’s starring Jonah Hex in Gotham City’s wild west era. But can such a niche title like All-Star Western survive DC’s New 52?
All-Star Western actually delivers an intriguing story, introducing readers to an unlikely duo in Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham—yes, the guy who eventually founds Arkham Asylum, home of Gotham’s worst psychotic criminals, before going mad himself. Here you get your tough guy/smart guy dynamic, with Jonah Hex being your badass brawler loner bounty hunter and Dr. Arkham with a less than perfect Holmes-like propensity for psychology and deduction. Thankfully, our writers don’t attempt to turn this into a 90′s buddy cop movie, sticking true to Hex’s character, and using Dr. Arkham—our narrator—to not only analyze the case they’re trying to solve, but delve into the mind of Hex himself. This gives us a reason to see Hex as a three-dimensional character when all other fingers point to just another macho, tough guy cowboy.
This dynamic is used well, with Hex’s persona deriving the action that comes out of his foul temperment, and Arkham and Hex using their own methods to further the case. What comes out of it is an interesting conspiracy that leaves our two heroes with a David & Goliath problem when considering that they may be the only two honest people in Gotham actually looking for justice. With great art that compliments the setting and the characters, and a few cameos or mentions of Gotham socialites who tie into modern characters, this title is worth following if you don’t mind shelling out an extra dollar to learn about Gotham’s shady past through the lens of a western theme. For everyone else, it may catch their attention enough.
AQUAMAN #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
The hype Geoff Johns and DC have built around this title has made this the number one promoted DC title yet. I have no official stats to prove that, but for weeks I’ve seen ads for it, and upon it’s release I’ve seen posters and ads for Aquaman #1 on the walls of the comic shop, in comic booknewspapers and catalogues, and it’s been featured at the front of comic shops everywhere. Johns knows how hard his mission is to turn Aquaman from the most joked on of all superheroes into a serious badass. How well did he do?
Does the story open with Aquaman stopping a boat from sinking or fighting neo-pirates or something? No, it starts with him singlehandedly stopping an armed bank robbery. This is not Silver Age Aquaman helping undersea creatures at a make-shift Fish Hospital, or Superfriends Aquaman calling out tuna to attack Black Manta: this is Aquaman as Grant Morrison envisioned him in the 90′s JLA title. He stops and flips over armored trucks effortlessly, he takes high caliber rounds point blank, and he leaps buildings in a single bound. As Morrison speculated, a man who can survive the highly pressured depths of the ocean floor would be one of the most super dense men alive, making him strong and super tough. Johns in his own way capitalizes on this and shows how capable Aquaman is on the ground as he is in the water. He is half human, afterall, and so he is efficient in both realms.
But the majority of this issue is a metacommentary on Aquaman himself, with everyone from the thieves to the police to the patrons of a seafood restaurant questioning everything about him. And each time, Aquaman has to wipe away their misconceptions by word or by action. From being called Tuna Man to having the police jokingly ask Aquaman if he needed a glass of water, to people being questioning whether he can eat seafood since he “talks” to fish, to finally having a snobby prick of a blogger “interview” Aquaman. This blogger is the embodiment of everyone who talks down about Aquaman, and Johns pulls no punches with the things he throws at Aquaman, going as far as to ask “How’s it feel to be nobody’s favorite super-hero?”
No wonder Aquaman was so angry in the 90′s.
But despite all of this, Johns gives us a tempered Aquaman who tries to patiently get people to understand him, perhaps Johns’ message to readers that he will take as much time as he needs to make us understand and enjoy Aquaman and bump him up to the A-list. While most of the action is foregone to make room for this metatextual examination of Aquaman, it’s definitely necessary for Johns to address this now, and he does so with expertise. With a hint of a threat from the Trench, a plague of bloodthirsty monsters from the sea, and Aquaman stating his world is the surface, Johns’ writing and Ivan Reis’ fantastic art is a promising start for Aquaman, perhaps the best handled he’s been in years.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1 (reviewed by Ed Cambro)
Written by DAVID FINCH
Art by DAVID FINCH and RICHARD FRIEND
Cover by DAVID FINCH
Remember what a letdown the final boss fight in Batman: Arkham Asylum was? Well it’s back. But before we get to the disappointing cliffhanger, we still have twenty-one disappointing issues preceding it. There is nothing here you can’t find better in another Bat title. Hell, this is even the second title this month to feature an Arkham breakout! In the meantime we meet another new possible love interest for Bruce Wayne—I’m sure it’ll work out—and yet another femme fatale for Batman—I’m sure it’ll work out—to fawn over. David Finch has given him a girlfriend for each personality!
We also have the usually gritty narration where Batman must remind us that he’s still Batman, and this time he’s expositing on fear; a perfect topic for Batman, and it’s been covered many, many times. Yet Finch goes on and on and on—editors don’t seem to exist anymore—and I figured that the narration was serving as a thematic point or some kind of foreshadowing. Maybe the reveal of the big bad would be Scarecrow, or there’d be a cliffhanger that was truly shocking. Turned out that the topic was irrelevant, the scenes as Bruce Wayne served only to introduce characters we won’t see after this arc, and Two-Face’s “change” made such little sense that I actually believed it was a dream sequence at first.
Two-Face has always been hard to write because he’s so simple. If the coin lets him, he does something. If it doesn’t, he just stays at home and reads the paper. Say what you will about Jeph Loeb, but when he changed Two-Face back into Harvey Dent, he allowed for new stories and interesting dynamics to evolve after he left the title. Naturally, Dent wasn’t seen for two years after that, and when we finally saw him again he was almost immediately changed back to Two-Face thanks to the bottle of sulfuric acid he had in his medicine cabinet. (You didn’t read that wrong.)
Batman: The Dark Knight is a septic tank for tired Batman story contrivances. Stick to penciling, Finch.
BLACKHAWKS #1 (reviewed by Ed Cambro)
Written by MIKE COSTA
Art and cover by KEN LASHLEY
Blackhawks fills a much needed gap within the DC Universe. Usually, we’re surrounded by metahumans, gods, alien gods, powerful jewelry, billionaire misanthropes, and that Robin Hood rip-off; when we do see a regular person they’re usually in over their head: cops who are trying to shoot Brainiac with bullets or trying to arrest Mr. Freeze for killing one of their own. We haven’t seen the normal man’s perspective since the excellent GCPD series ended. Now, some of you might know Mike Costa from Transformers: All Hail Megatron. Rest assured, this issue doesn’t suck like that storyline did, nor does it have the continuity problems. Unfortunately, it isn’t all that interesting, which is sad because this is the only series DC has besides Men of War that really sticks up for the little guy.
We’re given a lot of information quickly: Blackhawks is a UN funded organization (THUNDER Agents was an analogous and all around better book); they have access to awesome technology (that we didn’t get to see); and everybody uses confusing nicknames. Now, I’ve gone on before about how difficult it must be to write the first issue of something because most of the time needs to be spent setting up the story and the characters. However, the action scene in the beginning went on too long while accomplishing too little and it took way too long to finally meet Andrew Lincoln. This issue needed to be edited better and should have gone in for another rewrite. Considering this issue was released during the last week of the relaunch and was advertised for months prior, there’s no reason why such simple problems remain.
At the same time, however, the concept is interesting enough to warrant another look. The world the characters inhabit is exciting; if done right, the series can be GI Joe meets James Bond. Consider issue #1 to just be the prologue.
THE FLASH #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by FRANCIS MANAPUL and BRIAN BUCCELLATO
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
Variant cover by IVAN REIS and TIM TOWNSEND
I’m a huge Wally West fan (check out our recent Round Table on legacy heroes) and while I still hate that we have yet to hear from him in the New 52, I can see where writers Manapul and Buccellato may have infused elements from both Wally’s and Barry’s runs to make a new Flash series that lies in the middle.
This Flash series reminds me fondly of the Flash TV Series from the early 90′s. This is Barry written with charm and youth: Barry is funny, relatable, entangled in a love triangle (surprised? Me too!) and still trying to divide his time between his personal life, his work life as a crime lab technician, and his superhero life as the Flash. What makes all of this come together well is that the cliffhanger of the issue reveals a possible antagonist who is a part of each of Barry’s lives, sure to make Barry reconsider how to approach this new threat.
Manapul pulls double duty, providing the art for the issue as well, and I must say it fits in perfectly with the story and atmosphere. I must also give Manapul a lot of credit for putting his own flair into the Flash costume redesign: fan reaction to Jim Lee’s redesigns have been mixed, especially regarding all of the armor lines he’s incorporated into the costumes, but Manapul uses this opportunity to create a glowing yellow track of energy that lights up when Barry moves, taking the speed-lines artistic visual to a whole new level. I can’t describe it as well as I wish, but if this is any indicator, the Flash is off to a good running start, and I have to say:
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by ETHAN VAN SCIVER and GAIL SIMONE
Art by YILDIRAY CINAR
Cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
Firestorm’s concept has been all over the place the last few years, what with taking the original idea and turning it into the whole “Firestorm Matrix” idea. And then it seemed there was a conflict of who to follow, since Ronnie Raymond, the original, was taken away and replaced with Jason Rusch, and then brought back, with the two sharing the title. Well this Firestorm takes all of those concepts, revamps it, and makes something genuinely interesting out of it.
We’re introduced to the character through a conspiracy of murder when some kind of black ops team begins hunting down anyone connected to Dr. Martin Stein, looking for his secrets. The firestorm matrix as it is now is something that could revolutionize the world, changing (and possibly collapsing) the global market, and someone doesn’t want that. This conflict inevitably leads us to Jason and Ronnie, who in the ensuing chaos will become Firestorm… or Firestorms? I won’t say much more than that, but almost everything done here is done well.
My biggest (little) complaints is that writers Van Sciver and Simone are trying to convince us that the book’s protagonists are so definitely different that they throw everything they can at us to prove it: one is smart, one is sort of dumb and ditzy; one is a school journalist and nerd, one is a super athelete; one is super crazy about calling the race card, one doesn’t even know what the race card is. And it’s these attempts that become a little annoying after a while, but if they end in this issue, you can forgive them and move on.
With great art, and hints at some cool ideas to come (like the firestorm matrix having been used by others… in modern day) and meeting the titular “Fury” of Firestorm at the end, I can say that I am genuinely interested in what happens next.
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1 (reviewed by David Rodriguez)
Written by TONY BEDARD
Art and cover by TYLER KIRKHAM and BATT
You know what the best part of a prologue is? You can skip it. I wish I had the power to overcome this greatly vapid first issue. I won’t knock Tony Bedard too hard; firsts of anything are not easy. You have to introduce the characters, their enemy and establish a plot. The problem is that this is just an introduction, and nothing happens that makes me care even in the most remote sense.
Kyle Rayner is the Green Lantern at the forefront of this series. The issue goes to lengths to show readers that his origin as a GL has remained the same. The rest of the book shows us one lantern from each color in the spectrum; the big mystery is that their rings are flying off their fingers one by one and flying to earth for their replacement. The aforementioned replacement being revealed at the end. This takes up the entire book.
Much of what happens can easily be referenced in Emerald Twilight/New Dawn and Blackest Night. New readers unfamiliar with Kyle and the other Lanterns may find this interesting. However, there was nothing there for those of us who were already versed in these things. Here’s to hoping that issue #2 starts the series in its intended direction. In the meantime, take #1 and see if it burns green, orange, purple, pink, red, and yellow. Oh, and the artwork is nice too.
I, VAMPIRE #1 (reviewed by Nel Smith)
Written by JOSHUA HALE FIALKOV
Art by ANDREA SORRENTINO
Cover by JENNY FRISON
The very first thing that came to my mind when I opened this book was “Gritty, like vampires should be.” I love everything vampire (except for Twilight—they don’t count), and this book did not disappoint me in any way. It is so refreshing to see vampires the way they were in the old movies that I watched as a kid. People nowadays don’t know that some vampires can turn into wolves (making them by far better than werewolves), and when I saw that in I, Vampire I literally SQUEELED, I was so excited.
Yes, vampires are better, stronger, and faster than humans, and by the laws of nature we lose. Andrew doesn’t believe that this should be the case but Mary shows him that she knows best and goes on a rampage. LOVE IT! Of course we have the conversation that I’ve seen all too often when there is more than one vamp on a page; “We can live among the humans, we don’t have to eat them;” “They are cattle, we eat them, the end.” What was different about that conversation here is that Mary put her money where her mouth is, literally.
However, this story doesn’t take itself too seriously—there are moments of levity. I was so sucked in that I was sad when it was over. I also totally forgot that this takes place within the constructs of the DC Universe, until Andrew reminded Mary that her actions will attract the attention of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Green Lanterns. That pulled me out of the story for a moment, but I think it was necessary in order to remind the reader the world in which they are in.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1 (reviewed by Nel Smith)
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by MIKEL JANIN
Cover by RYAN SOOK
This book was such a relief. I’m lost, but not in the way I have been with some of the other new 52—like I’d come into the middle of a story. This time, I am confused because I’m at the very beginning and no one knows what’s really going on yet. Justice League Dark is written the way I expected the other new books I’ve read to be written in—noob language.
The characters that seem as if they are going to be the forefront of this story are ones I’ve never heard of before since my head has always been buried so deep in the Marvel universe, but they are interesting, and well introduced.
The “Dark” in the title is well deserved if only for the facts that (1) it is sick and twisted to attack Superman with rotten teeth, and (2) I’m going to have that “There was a Crooked Man” nursery rhyme stuck in my head for days now. The story and characters at present are dark enough to clearly distinguish this from the other “Justice League” titles, but at the same time it’s not being dark and mysterious for the sake of being dark and mysterious.
I’m intrigued in a way I haven’t been with some of the other titles, and I honestly think that this could be a great ride.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1 (reviewed by Chaos Mechanica)
Written by TONY S. DANIEL
Art and cover by PHILIP TAN
When it comes to unpopular heroes, I think Hawkman has had the same “some like me, some don’t” quality that Aquaman has had, which comes with bad writing and a lack of “coolness”. Where Aquaman has been seen as a guy who “talks to fish”, at least he’s had some kind of notoriety (even bad press is good press, you get the idea). But Hawkman is one of those heroes who falls off the radar every so often because he’s just “that guy with the wings”. Hawkman #1 changes that, at least a little.
With Hawkman’s backstory having been a matter of contention in the past (so much that DC decided not to touch the character for years) this title smartly skips right over that, and, similar to this week’s Aquaman#1, has a vaguely metatextual moment right in the beginning of the issue when Carter Hall drives into the middle of nowhere, declares he wants nothing to do with the Hawkman role, and shoots and buries his mask, his wings, and the mysterious Nth Metal that powers it all. But as Carter walks away from this older, used, hated Hawkman role, the Nth metal and wings come together as a fiery entity that engulf Carter in its flames, as if declaring right back that Hawkman is here to stay.
What follows is a story that—with Philip Tan’s incredibly creepy, dark art—gives us an alien plague that threatens the members of a crew Carter is working with. This conflict unleashes the power of the Nth metal in Carter, so we can see how different this Hawkman is. Now Carter can inexplicably call forth the armor and wings of his Hawkman persona like some kind of magical aegis. Think Hawkman meets Power Rangers.
I give DC and Daniels a lot of credit for radically changing the nature of Hawkman’s shtick after about 60′s years of history, but the mediocre story won’t impress, and neither will the lame villain revealed at the end (complete with a lame, unimaginative name). While I can encourage this new direction, I can’t encourage anyone to buy this title yet.
SUPERMAN #1 (reviewed by David Rodriguez)
Written by GEORGE PEREZ
Breakdowns and cover by GEORGE PEREZ
Art by JESUS MERINO
Action Comics #1 and Justice League #1 introduced readers to the earlier days of Superman in the new 52. Superman #1 is the first contemporary story and luckily, this issue is not a bomb. The issue focuses on the demolition and reconstruction of the ‘New’ Daily Planet by Morgan Edge, the relationship (or lack there-of) between Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and an enemy that may or may not have Kryptonian ties.
The writing by George Perez is driven by the characters and the narrative within the subtext, making for a very entertaining read. The internal dialogue is some of the best, especially when it shifts from Superman speaking to a narration of events in the form of Clark Kent’s Planet article; amazing. Aside from this, Perez focuses primarily on Superman’s supporting characters; Superman himself barely says or thinks anything outright. Lois Lane is the head of the Planet’s new TV division and is dating a scumbag; Jimmy Olsen is…still Jimmy Olsen; and Perry White is still the boss, but now he has a boss. The action of the issue is well-placed, and is balanced with everything else.
The allure of Jesus Merino’s artwork is lost in disarray. It seemed like Perez was trying to pack as much as he could into this first story, but went a tad overboard. Each page is overwhelmed by dozens of panels, text-boxes, and speech bubbles. A notable example is a reference to Stormwatch #1 and a possible foreshadowing of things to come; it seemed more shoehorned in than it was useful. The nuance between each panel is close to non-existent.
Despite Superman’s more reserved tone and the clutter, I enjoyed the issue. Perez and Merino pulled out all the stops with this first issue. The artwork by Merino and the focus on characters by Perez simply outweighs the conundrum of some of the pages. Hopefully this means that Superman can only go up from here.
TEEN TITANS #1 (reviewed by Ed Cambro)
Written by SCOTT LOBDELL
Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
The Teen Titans are reunited and it feels so good. Mostly. Tim Drake is given a character overhaul, focusing more on his badass tactician side and less on his Boo-hoo-my-best-friend-my-mentor-and-my-girlfriend-are-all-dead side. In the meantime, the Titans themselves aren’t a team yet/anymore (depending on who you’re thinking about), and the young metahumans that Drake is spying on are now working on their own and causing problems for the world at large, garnering the attention of Project NOWHERE and officially connecting Teen Titans to Lobdell’s other series, Superboy.
The issue is spent establishing Drake/Red Robin as a kind of behind the scenes type, trying to create/reunite (damn you, vague continuity!) a Teen Titans that does not exist as a training camp for the Justice League’s youngins, but as a sort of Black Ops group.
Drake meets up with an angrier Wonder Girl/Cassandra Sandsmark who is prone to violent outbursts and refuses even the simplest kindnesses or help from men. They do, however, have a fun dynamic. The issue itself moves rather slowly and builds to a cliffhanger obvious to anyone who reads DC interviews or comic solicitations. Lobdell has taken advantage of the new DCU that fears and mistrusts its heroes, and he’s doing it far better than Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns.
VOODOO #1 (reviewed by Nel Smith)
Written by RON MARZ
Art and cover by SAMI BASRI
If you want to read the world’s most predictable story, read Voodoo.
It has everything from the lecherous know-it-all cop type, to the hard-nosed female cop type. There is a representation of every reason why people think women become strippers. The brown girl doesn’t know who her father is (I think they threw in that she was mixed-race to make her seem more interesting, but it didn’t work). The same girl, Priscilla, kind of acts like an alien, and guess what? She is one.
Not only is she an alien but she is one with an obvious objective. Snore. If you’re going to have a boring, seemingly straight forward story about an alien made to look like a woman so that she can steal information from men’s minds, don’t make her so boring looking in alien form. You’ve gotta give me something.
I, as a reader, shouldn’t be able to predict how a story should turn out from page two.
This concludes Infinite Ammo’s month-long review of DC’s New 52! Come back soon to see our impression of DC’s first month and whether it was a successful move or an unnecessary gamble.