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Friday, September 23, 2011

DC New 52 Picks - Week One Reviews

I know this is late, but I don't care. This article covers my review of some the titles from the first week of the game-changing DC Reboot.

I didn't read every DC book that went out, and basically just picked out the ones that interested me, so if you don't see any titles that you want to see I do apologize and cut me some slack. Thank you.

Let's get it on.

Justice League #1  by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee - two of the biggest superstar and writer tandems today team up to tell the story of how DC's flagship team came together, and their names alone makes for a great sales pitch. But the story itself  (though it focused more on Batman and Green Lantern bickering right from the start) and dialogue makes the book even more fun and sells the book even more. 

Set 5 years before the current continuity, JL is set at a time where costumed vigilantes are feared and hunted. The League isn't introduced fully here - no Aquaman or Wonder Woman which is a shame - but by the end of the issue, we see a certain stripe of red and blue knocking out big-mouthed Hal Jordan, and that's more than enough for me to get on board. There's also a lantern-ring theft moment featuring Batman (and his cold) grin at the middle part of the story, something that the comic book world will talk about for a long long time.

Its so good to see Jim Lee's art once more, and I feel that 90s vibe once again with his lines and exaggerated musculature, and his ability to tell a story hasn't diminished one bit.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Action Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales - I have only read a single Morrison book, and that's All-Star Superman which I really liked,  so I expected a lot of from this book that features a young Clark Kent (who works as a journalist for the Daily Star)  in his early days of vigilantism, way before he became Superman. 

And its safe to say that Morrison didn't disappoint. For one, he made this version of the hero more vulnerable and somebody who feels like a normal human being. Sure he takes on tank bullets and a high speed bullet train, but he gets wounded and weak in a degree, and is not the uber-powerful near-indestructible alien we used to know. That's refreshing. Also, I like the fact that this Superman defends the common man and deals with problems that human beings can relate to, such as scaring a corrupt official to spill out his beans. I can wrap my head around that. Its also a nice tribute to the early Siegel and Shuster stories of the 50s and 60s by the way, so a plus point.

In addition, introducted are the familiar Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen (who doesn't have any relationship with Clark at all asides from being a competitor working for the Daily Planet), and the ever bald Lex Luthor, who actually looks different here - and I meant that in a bad way. 

Morales' art isn't that impressive for me, but its passable, and he did a great job of keeping things going by having Superman running and leaping tall buildings in a single bound. I want more.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Batgirl by Gail Simone and Vicente Cifuentes - They said that if there's one writer who can write Batgirl, its Gail Simone. And yes, she made a suddenly-walking Barbara Gordon the one and only Batgirl that I have known since the classic Batgirl: Year One.

And take note, the events that happened in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke still happened (which we see via Barbara's dream) so the continuity fanboys have nothing to worry about, but still, I can't help but wonder as to how in the world Barbara healed. I don't know. Maybe it has to do with the bone section where she was hit before.

Anyway Simone captures the correct tone for the character, making her an optimistic person who is determined to bring the pieces of her life back. But at the same time, Simone includes all the guilt and trauma in the world for her to handle, all the while facing a creepy and mysterious villain that uses a damn mirror. I don't know who this new villain is, but he surely looks formidable for Babs, especially now that our heroine is a little bit disoriented with all the shebang in her present and past life. 

The art is nice and shows Babs new costume with all the seams, and the action working hand in hand with Batgirl's internal monologue is fantastic. Over all, it was great to see the original Batgirl on patrol again, and I'm looking forward to number 2. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

Click on the jump for more reviews...

Animal Man  by Jeff Lemire and Travis Foreman - Animal Man was a hero that I was looking to read on back then but for some reason I always thought that he wasn't that interesting. Boy I was wrong. With this awesome new 52 release, Buddy Baker is the titular hero who struggles to balance his life as a family man and a superhero saving people's lives at the same time, which sets up the entertaining superhero/horror read.

This book reminded me of Bravestar for some reason - maybe because of the scene where Animal Man tries to apprehend a hostage-taker using his ability to channel the powers/abilities of any animal. I was like a 12 year old kid when I read that awesome scene, and it hit me like a rhino. From that point, I know that I love this book. 

Towards the ending, the book goes into its horror aspect, and we see blood, more blood and then a beautifully executed disturbing cliffhanger that left me gasping. I loved it even more. Terrific storytelling by Lemire.

I can't really say if I liked Foreman's style of pencilling here, but he definitely knows what he is doing story-wise. I'm not a big fan of his kindergarten art-style, but then again, there's nothing I can do about it, and besides, it works for the book, so there.

Now I really have to read Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man (which according to many, is a classic), while I'm waiting.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette - I'm gonna tell you right off the bat this is one of the most surprisingly good books from this New 52, together with Animal Man. The main character that is Swamp Thing is more on the horror aspect, and who is better to write this than the great Scott Snyder who currently, has a streak of award-winning works at his disposal. And he's just getting started.

Snyder goes directly to the point here and doesn't waste time on an origin story for Swamp Thing. He just explains how Alec Holland became the monster through a dream that just took 1 page, and that is something that other writers might like to emulate. Don't bore the reader, entertain them - and that's exactly what Snyder did through some excellent exposition in the beginning. 

Then he turns heads down the end, with that evil-mastodon-bone monster and a twisted group of flies (if you have already read this book, you see what I did there). Damn, that whole ending was one of the most disturbing, creepiest, and sort of disgusting things I have ever seen. It scared me more than Animal Man, and it isn't even close.

Another reason to love this book is Paquette's art that probably rivals some of JH Williams III's work. Believe me, this book as some exquisitely detailed art, from the city backdrops, to the fauna and flora all over Swamp Thing, up to the two-page spread of Superman, Batman, and Aquaman (yes, the make a cameo) talking to each other (with all the dead animals) - all of it, is nothing short of amazing.

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Batwing #1 by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver - All you need to know about Batwing is that he is the Batman of Africa, appointed by Bruce Wayne in Grant Morrison's Batman Inc. series. Now that we got that out of the way, let's go to the review.

Frankly, Batwing is one of those books that you will only pickup because of the art, and I have to give Oliver a round of applause here. He's got some mad skills when it comes to photorealism, and his work here is one of the most beautiful artworks I have seen. One glaring flaw in his art though is his inability to create good, detailed backdrops to go with his characters and his one-dimensional style that focuses on close-up shots.I hope he improves this as the series goes on - if it ever gets an extension.

On the other hand, Winick's story is doesn't really stand out, mainly because of his use of the reverse timeline technique. At first we have Batwing engaging in a bloody-all out war with a guy named Massacre (who is like Danny Trejo from Machete, but with a mask) and then suddenly, we shift to a flashback that sees the man behind Batwing - David Zambive - an honest and straight-up police officer in the city of Tinasha, in the Republic of Congo, who mainly joined the ranks in order to get information he needs for his Batwing operations.

From there, we are given an insight into the life of David during the day and how he utilizes his resources to rid his country of evil while adhering to his "no kill" mantra like Batman. Also, Winnick gives the impression that David is the real person and that Batwing is just the mask - an interesting take on the character.

Winnick isn't bad of a writer, but I just wish that he won't do that confusing reverse storytelling again because it removes the effectiveness of his supposed-to-be -surprising end.

I'm still on board for Batwing, mainly because I want to see more of Oliver's stunning artwork.

(Oh did I mention that Batwing has his own headquarters and his own version of Alfred?)

Rating: 3 out of 5

Detective Comics #1 by Tony Daniel (story and art) - I'm always impressed when a writer does the drawing as well. Its already hard to come up with a good story, then you got to worry about making a great story because well - its the goddamn Batman my friends - and finally you have to take care of the art department too in the best way possible so you won't piss everybody off. Well, Tony Daniel did just that.

He impressed me with his book and with a lot of reasons. First, he showcases Batman using his  over-all thought process in figuring out a certain clown, who Batman admits as to being "one without a true pattern" right from the opening sequence. This immediately sets up the word "detective" in reader's mind and thus staying true to the title of the comic.

Second, Daniel gives the idea that his story is setup from the early years of Batman, with the GCPD at odds with the Caped Crusader, Clearly, the police doesn't like him being around (except for one cop), and that gives another thing for Batman to worry about. Keep Batman busy and you do that by throwing a lot of stuff at him.

Third, the book is not without action and explosions. Joker and Batman coming face to face for the first time is a sight to behold, and their fight scenes are outstanding. Batman might be better in terms of physical strength and martial arts technique, but Joker has all the tricks up in his sleeve to surprise one of the greatest martial artists in the world.

And finally, a fantastic cliffhanger that caught me off-guard. That kind of unpredictability always works. Just when you totally figured it out, you get another thing coming right at you. Played perfectly by Daniel.

But that doesn't mean that the book is without flaws. The gripe I have is that dialogue where Batman is wondering as to what the Joker is doing without his clothes. Then there's the cheesy "I own the night". And also, hologram Alfred. I don't know where that came from.

Still, a solid work from Daniel and I look forward to more detective-style puzzles, more crime-solving, and impressive artwork featuring Batman running on top of buildings. And please, no more fucking holograms.

Rating 3.5/5

Whew. That's a lot! But there you go my friends. Let me know in the comments what you think of these titles. A healthy discussion is always welcome.

Tomorrow or maybe the next next day:  Week Two titles that includes dragons and sorcerers. Wait... what? 

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