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Thursday, September 29, 2011

DC New 52 Picks - Week Three Reviews

I continue to review some of the new titles that I came across a week ago, and I have to say, this is a pretty successful relaunch so far, with the third with of publishing being the STRONGEST in my estimation.

Lots of good books, a few forgettable ones, and then some that caused some "controversy".

Ready? Let us begin. 

Batman #1 by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo - Ah... Mr. Snyder... again. And he hits his 3rd consecutive plus point in this whole reboot with his impressive Bat-writing which, my friends, will go down there together with Bob Kane, Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, and Grant Morrison to name a few. There I said it. Scott Snyder is one of the best Batman writers of all time. Period.

From the opening page of the book, we immediately see the dark and dangerous Gotham city and it gets even better with Snyder showing us all of the popular inmates of Arkham Asylym (and I mean everybody) going  toe to toe with the Batman. Then if that wasn't enough entertainment, Snyder throws in his ingenious plot twist, one that sees a familiar foe fight side by side with the Bat himself. And he does this marvelous opening sequence in just 7 freaking pages, which Capullo illustrates masterfully, unlike anybody I have ever seen draw a Batman action scene. 

And for those not keeping tabs at home, just a reminder: Bruce Wayne is back as Batman. So normally, former Batman Dick Grayson is back to being Nightwing, Bruce's son Damian Wayne is the current Robin, and finally, Tim Drake is Red Robin. The fun part is that Snyder uses a genius plot device that involves a newly developed face recognition gadget to introduce all of these four characters in one splash page. And speaking of gadgetry, we get to see Batman's good 'ol cave, complete with all his high tech toys... including the old school '89 Batmobile. All of this too looked great, because Capullo's great attention to detail.

The flawless execution of the story is what makes this all work, and Snyder does that by showing us both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He shows Bruce Wayne's plans for Gotham which immediately the notion that the man behind the mask is just as focused on saving the city he loves under just as he is hell bent on ridding Gotham City of evil when he wears the cowl at night. That's good stuff. Then he caps it off with some clever detective work with the GCPD, leading us to a cliffhanger that had me saying: 'the fuck!?'

When it comes to the art, I had nothing bad to say about Capullo here as you can see on the first two paragraphs. I just love how he draws Batman and his uncanny ability to illustrate exagerrated, but real facial expressions in his characters that brings a lot of emotion to each page. Case in point: Jim Gordon's splash page. 

All in all, this is the perfect Batman for the new generation. And with Snyder and Capullo teaming up for this, we can all say that the Bat-franchise is in good hands.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Wonder Woman #1 by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang - I was doubtful when I heard that crime-noir writer Brian Azzarello is gonna do Wonder Woman. You know why. But then I read this, wonderful book... and I just knew that we are going be in for a fun ride with Dian... and the crazy Greek gods.

Yes. The Gods are fucking crazy. Azzarello plants his seeds in this first issue by having Diana save a young lady named Zola from brute centaurs in bloody panels that I certainly liked. I mean, who doesn't like Wonder Woman acting like a warrior princess ala-Xena? Be it slashing and headbutting centaurs, I love this new version of Diana. Fierce, powerful, steady and... tall. And I mean, freaking tall. But at the same time, Azzarello shows us the soft side of this woman (with that scene where she checks on a bloodied Hermes), so its not like she's a blood-thirsty Red Lantern.

There's a lot of Greek mythology involved in here, and that's the stuff that I dig. Its interesting and it adds a whole new dimension to this Wonder Woman series.  I don't want to spoil anything here plot-wise, but I'm going to tell you that Zola is involved BIG time with one of these gods (if you're reading or have read Greek myth, then you'll know what I'm talking about).

I enjoyed Cliff Chiang's art, and its phenomenal in this issue. His effective paneling portrays the intense action perfectly, and his sometimes rough pencils is awesome.  He doesn't miss a beat until the end of the issue, and he does a great job making the sexy scenes work, meaning, he is able to make it look sexy without making it too gratuitous.

Great introduction for our new Wonder Woman. And seriously, I want more. And that's coming from somebody who hasn't read any Wonder Woman comic. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

Birds of Prey #1 by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz - This one is a shocker. Shocking because I didn't expect much from BoP, but damn, this is one of those books that mixes an ass-kicking caper story with sophisticated sexiness so well, turning this into a fun and entertaining read with female fatales in the lead.

Nothing so impressive with the writing, but Swierczynski (fuck, that name is hard to spell) manages to pull it off with some decent dialogue,  a possible darker past for Black Canary (murder references in her speech bubbles, anybody?), and a new character - the tattooed and feisty Starling - who right now is by far the winner for my "Best New Character" award in this DC reboot, even though I don't know where the hell she came from. Being mysterious works doesn't it? 

Now let's take about Jesus Saiz' art. Its no doubt, the best part of this book, hands down.  His rendition of the woman anatomy isn't perfect, but he  managed to draw it realistically. There are a couple of T&A shots here and there, but Saiz made sure that it isn't the only thing that you're going to notice, mixing it with fluid action sequences (e.g Black Canary's first kick). Balance my friends is the name of the game, and Saiz captured that perfectly.

And let us not forget: Saiz illustrates the best car crash scenes EVER. Its forceful, in-your-face, and his level of detail  when it comes to all these stuff and debris flying around is spectacular. That's probably my most favorite part in this book.

So with that said, BoP works, but I just wish that the next issue (see? I got tired writing his last name) will avoid that flashback-present-flashback formula because it gets too confusing and in my opinion, not the type of structure you would want your readers to encounter in a #1 issue. Otherwise, its a solid title, and its worth giving it a second shot.

Rating: 3.5/5

Click on the jump for more reviews...

Nightwing by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows - Okay, here we go again. Back to being Nightwing. I love Dick Grayson as the Batman - seriously - and its I believe downgrading him to this doesn't make any sense. Hell, there's Batman Incorporated and all of these countries have their own version of the Caped Crusader. Why can't Dick stay as the 2nd Batman? 

Higgins tries his best here to come up with an interesting story for Dick, but his brooding and sad internal monologue just kills me. It was okay on the first few pages where he jumps off rooftops to kick some regular thug's ass - but then it continues on and on up until the end. It doesn't sound like the confident Dick that we have always known. as far as I'm concerned. 

Dick says in the beginning that being Batman honed his skills to perfection - which was a great tone to start off with - then Higgins downplays all of that when the masked villain shows up to kill Dick and then lets two cops get brutally killed just so he can change to his Nightwing costume. At first I didn't thought of it as a problem, but then thinking back now, yeah, its kind of contradicting.

If there's anything that saved this book from being below mediocre, that's Eddy Barrows' ability to illustrate Nightwing's acrobatic skills into absolute perfection. The athleticism and graceful movement that is Dick's bread and butter was masterfully done, and because of it, the book had great Dick Grayson moments, especially the heroic/dramatic ones. 

Don't get me wrong, Nightwing isn't a very bad book at all, but it could have been better by using a more lively tone for Dick's voice. We got Batman doing the brooding stuff already, and we don't need Dick to be like that.  So here's hoping that Higgins can turn this around because this is just the beginning and plus, there's plenty of time to work something out.  

Rating: 3 out of 5

Deadman #1 by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang  - This is actually titled as DC Universe Presents #1, more of an anthology book in the akin of Action Comics and Detective Comics. But that doesn't make any difference at all because Deadman is a great character that packs a lot of potential, whatever the title is. And in this book, Paul Jenkins made me care about getting a second issue by making Deadman do what he does best - and that is -  taking over people's bodies, and helping them resolve whatever problems/issues they have in their lives.

I seriously love the concept. I'm getting giddy every time I think about it. See, Deadman (before he was Deadman) was a guy named Boston Brand - a selfish, narcissistic trapeze artist who was shot to death by an unknown gunner. His soul was given a chance atone for his sins and redeem himself for his past misdeeds by the Hindu God Rama Kushna and is given a mission: help people fix their life problems. But the true beauty of his dilemma lies in the fact that he is confused/troubled as to where the hell he is really is gonna go after years of helping different kinds of people: whether its towards the good man he must become, or forever fall below into the dark abyss. Its interesting don't you think? A former prick-now-ghost trying to help living and breathing humans?

This my friends, is classic DC storytelling. And add to that the BEST cliffhanger in this whole reboot, lying in the last pages of this book. Its shocking, clever and utter genius of Paul Jenkins to come up with something like that. Totally out of the blue. 

Chang's art was good, but I prefer a more dark, gritty and realistic approach. This is a book who has a ghost as its main character, and we're seeing real people with real problems here, so in my opinion, that could have been a more better choice, rather than the conventional superheroe-y style that Chang brought to the table. 

(Ryan Sook's cover is BRILLIANT though. My best cover in that week. Could be the defining "Deadman image" for years to come.)

But other than that small complaint, I'm good on following Deadman where ever he hell he is going.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Green Lantern Corps #1 by Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna - Mysterious intergalactic space murders. That's how this book starts and frankly, I liked it. Invisible Green Lantern killer/killers who brutally decapitates their victims? Now that's a GL villain that I dig. Time to give these powerful space cops something formidable to deal with.

Now that's not the only thing that Tomasi tackles here, and if you are a GL reader you know that GL is not about Oa, space and galaxies. We always go back to God's green Earth, where Tomasi shows two out of the three human GL's not-named-Hal Jordan (namely Guy Gardner and John Stewart) trying to keep in touch with their normal lives (and to some extent their humanity), but because of their designation as Green Lanterns (which Earthlings are aware of), it hinders them from achieving what they want. 

Its depressing and at the same time beautiful for these characters because it gives them that emotional stress/problem that they would have to deal with as part of becoming a Lantern.: its both a gift and a curse. Also, seeing these two guys together was good and its evident that they have the chemistry needed for this book.

Add to that the discovery of the mysterious killer, prompting Guy and John to investigate a certain planet thousands of light years away. There Tomasi drops the bomb, turning this into space-horror genre type of story.

Hanna and Pasarin did a great job of illustrating, utilizing beautiful coloring and the nice shading techniques to make the GL universe alive and capture that space-horror feel that I spoke about.

This GL book has a whole lot of potential, and I cannot wait what Tomasi has in store.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort - Here we go. This is one of those books that drew ire from feminists and plenty of comic book fans. Why? Because in it, Starfire - who is an alien by the way - is wearing sexy bikinis, showing off his incredible (and almost impossible to be true) body, and apparently is a free-willing, take-charge woman who knows what she wants, and is having a casual sex with two guys in the book - Red Hood (Jason Todd) and Arsenal - as implied by her dialogues.

Clearly, this is a book that doesn't take itself seriously. Its a buddy book that has 3 superheroes in it, doing their own thing and they answer to nobody but themselves. From the start, we see Red Hood save Arsenal from his abductors via a disguise that nobody saw coming: a pretty cool scene that like taken out from a not so serious Hollywood action movie, then Starfire comes in, shows off her destructive powers, and we got tanks getting blown to pieces.

From that point on, the book maintains its so-so but incredibly light and fun storytelling, all of it from  RH and Arsenal's funny dialogue about Starfire (that will piss feminists), the nice T&A scenes of the orange alien, the chiseled musculature of Jason and Arsenal while sipping some juice on the beach, to the gun fighting and explosions - illustrated nicely by Rocafort. But his style of putting too much lines on the face together with the sketchy pencils makes his art annoying sometimes. He does know how to make cheesecake though.

And did any of you notice that thunderclap thighs red hood had in the first splash page? Yeah that's ugly.

To sum this up, its not a really awesome book by any stretch: the writing is not that impressive, but I liked its "let's have some good time, shall we" approach, and the fact that the writer doesn't care about what the reaction to his story will be - as long as he gets to convey his ideas and make a couple of people enjoy their precious reading time. And that is something that I respect.

Am I going to get the second issue? Hell yes. Red Hood is a take-no-prisoners guy and looks like DC's version of Punisher, and the idea of an alien teaming up (and sleeping) with Jason and Arsenal in this round-the-world-trip thing is not a bad idea at all.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Catwoman #1 by Judd Winick and Guillem March - I'm not going to take the "controversy" behind this anymore - you can look at my article about that here.

Now what do I think of this book? I like it. Judd Winick has a good voice for Catwoman and Selina Kyle, and his idea of taking this to the extreme in terms of sexiness and brutality is a good move in my opinion. It brings out the distinct characteristics of Catwoman, and I believe his portrayal of a thief wearing a tight-fitting suit who will just do and use anything to her advantage in order to achieve her goals is spot on. Yes, everything - including her irresistible allure. For me, that's how you portray a femme fatale like Catwoman.

Winick isn't the best writer, but his story is good enough for me to follow it up until the end, and yes, admittedly, his sexual approach contributed to the books "pull" on me. There is nothing wrong with that. This is  Catwoman, and she is supposed to be sexy - but that's not the only side of her that's shown. Catwoman's fierceness, cunning and her lighter-side was also included in this book - making her a rounded character - and that is something that many critics fail to appreciate and notice.

Then there's Guillem March. I don't know anything about this guy and this was the first time I saw his art, and I have to say he is damn good! Not only because he draws nice tits and ass shots and uber-sexy scenes that will rival anything I have read similar before, but because of his drawing technique, detailed backdrops, his ability to convey the right emotion for a scene, combining sexiness with fluid action and scary agressiveness  (case in point: the part where Selina murders the Russian in the bathroom), and most especially - the way he draws... CATS.

You're damn right CATS. I'm going to go on a limb right here and say that Guillem March is one of the best artists to ever draw these animals only rivaled by Frank Quitely. When that full page of Catwoman holding her beloved cat-cage showed up, I immediately noticed these feline faces with different ranges of expressions and I can't help but smile and get cuddly because they're just too CUTE. And I can't even believe that I'm appreciating March's ability to illustrate cats. You know you're good if you can make something usually unnoticeable - noticeable 10x over.

Overall, Catwoman is a breezy fun book that could be too extreme for some people, and based on this, let it be known to you dear reader that this is a comic book NOT INTENDED FOR EVERYBODY. If you're conservative, then this might offend you a lot, but if you're somebody with an open mind - then I suggest you pick this up because its good entertainment.

And one more thing, just to help you enjoy this book more...


Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Supergirl #1 by Michael Green & Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar -
Welcome back, Kara Zor-El!

This book gets Supergirl. The writer clearly knows what they are doing here and knows how to introduce Supergirl to the new generation. Supergirl is always a hero that's overshadowed by her more popular Kryptonian cousin, but Green & Johnson proves with this book that Kara is a superhero that can stand on her own and deserves more credit than what she's getting from people.

The choice of Kara's crash site is interesting but it makes a whole lot of sense, and Kara's internal monologue is fantastic. It immediately tells the reader this is a Supergirl as we have never seen her before: she's completely confused and she isn't used to the Earth's harsh and hostile realities. Kara also explains the reason why and how he got her Kryptonian suit, which pretty much explains Superman's new costume as well. Her dialogue isn't boring and it felt organic and very natural. Great job by the writers here.

Then fter the good exposition, the book quickly turns into a fast-paced action movie mode with Supergirl beating the hell out of some Gundam-like robots.
Enter Mahmud Asrar. His talent is on full display here with his dynamic action sequences, his incredible splash page of Supergirl ripping off robot arms and all, his  rendition of Siberia and its cold world, and finally, his impeccable artistic storytelling. Just look at the scene where Kara first sees the Earth's sunrise and then just goes ballistic with fiery-eyes and tell me that's not one of the best comic panels you have seen in a while. Asrar - simply put - killed it.

Full of mystery and great art, Supergirl #1 is one of the best titles in this reboot and is the kind of book you want to give to anybody who wants to start reading comics. Superman's teenage cousin has never been this super.

Rating: 4 out of 5

That's it for week three. Stay tuned for my week four reviews - the final week for this DC New 52 reboot.

Next up: Tuna-man, vampires, Superman vs a kryptonian human torch, the weird world of Justice League Dark, and more!

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