DC Comics Relaunch New 52 Omnibus Review: Week 4 (Batman, Green Lantern, Justice League & All)

Following my omnibus reviews of Week One, Week Two, and Week Three of the New 52 DC Comics Relaunch, comes my take on the final Week, number Four, and its 13 offerings. Let’s dive right in…


WEEK FOUR

All-Star Western #1: I am the first to admit that I am not a fan of Westerns. However, what intrigues me about this book is what we can learn about Gotham City in the past of this new DC Universe (DCU).

That said, I may be a convert to Westerns or perhaps Frontier Justice as writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti craft a very intriguing and accessible tale of suspense focused on the Gotham Butcher. In addition, there is a lot of solid characterization of the quirky natures of Jonah Hex, Doctor Amadeus Arkham, Mayor Cobblepot and more.

For folks that read and loved Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins’ Gates of Gotham Batman mini-series you should enjoy this book becausemost of the key players from that mini are in this book. The mystery elements of the book are also evocative of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with perhaps a splash of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Mortitat’s art really suits the moody tone established by the writers for this book. He makes Hex both handsome and grotesque, but also strong. His women are buxom and beautiful. His use of shadow and light really is masterful. Also, Gabriel Bautista’s narrow color pallet really helps complete the mood for the book.

Highly recommended. I’ll be back for issue #2.

Aquaman #1: In some previous Superman advertisements, I can’t remember if it was for one of the old movies or a comic book, there was a catch phrase that told viewers that through experiencing Superman “you’ll believe a man can fly”. Writer Geoff Johns’ Aquaman #1 will do something similar: it will make readers believe that a water-based hero can matter.

There are a lot of new aspects of Aquaman revealed in this first issue. Some demonstrate his powers, as seen in the previews that show him lift a vehicle, repel bullets, in addition in the book he definatively chooses between the surface and water worlds. Naturally, the ocean is like the mafia because it never lets you leave with a new water-based threat from the Trench. Johns also has some fun with the image of Aquaman. He’s not only disrespected in our “real world”, evidenced in Saturday Night Live skits, but also within the comic itself, which too references the SNL skits.

Johns is clearly having fun with this book. It looks like he’ll be taking some risks to see if he can make Aquaman relevant in the DCU and on comic shelves cluttered with super-hero as well as other comic book fare. Penciller Ivan Reis is his reliable self on the art side ably delivering action and emotion when needed.

I’m intrigued about where Johns and Reis will take the book, so I’ll pop by and check in on issue #2 before I decide to continue further.

Batman The Dark Knight #1: Established penciller, but fledgling writer David Finch is joined by co-writer Paul Jenkins to bring us another Batman book as part of the New 52. Naturally, the book is gorgeous. And, like with the other Bat-books, we get a fair bit of Bruce Wayne face time including a potential new Bollywood’ish love interest.

The Arkham Asylum break-out is an interesting way for us to see some of the redesigns of Batman’s rogues, although we had a similar plot point in another Batman title, “the” Batman book, written by Scott Snyder and pencilled by Greg Capullo.

While some of the plot points are a bit weak in Batman The Dark Knight, like why the focus on Two-Face at the expense of others during the search phase of the book, there are some strong scenes particularly those with Bruce Wayne.

The Batman-in-Arkham cliff-hanger, while making a bold statement, hardly feels new. The book looks great, but I’m not sure why we need so many Batman books. Again, yes, the art is great, but the story might be the weakest of all the Batman and ancillary Bat-books. I don’t think I’ll be back for issue #2, but if this book gets rave reviews I may pick up the eventual collected edition.

Blackhawks #1: Mike Costa pens a new take on Blackhawks joined by Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley on art. This books focuses on a covert United Nations sponsored team that battles technological threats. They go after the suppliers of the tech and weapons, alien or otherwise, for villains and rogue nations.

While this book doesn’t suffer from the same issues as Men of War #1, as each of the Blackhawks are well differentiated personality wise and visually unlike MOW, this book tries to enamour readers with the strength of characters and backdrop than any real overriding mission. Nolan’s layouts and Lashley’s finishes really convey the kinetic action and emotions that service Costa’s story.

It’s unfortunate that this is Lashley’s first and last issue of interior art for Blackhawks, but he will remain as cover artist for the series for the foreseeable future and he may also have a Batman project in the works. Also of note on the art side is the great logo that adorns the cover of the book. The Blackhawks logo is easily the best of all the New 52.

While this book was far better than MoW, Blackhawks felt light on story yet strong on art. For that unevenness, I will not be back for issue #2, but wish the creative team well. A “war” comic was always going to be challenge for me to enjoy as I noted in my MoW review.

Fury of Firestorm : The Nuclear Men #1: I think this book best exemplifies the New 52 DC Comics Relaunch. The book felt true to previous incarnations, but evolved for a new generation – a new and true take of Firestorm.

This has been penciller-turned-writer Ethan Van Sciver’s baby. He convinced fan fave Gail Simone to co-write the book with him. FoF is a ground zero origin issue packed with teen angst, drama, action and suspense. This was a very satisfying, action-packed, intriguing read. The book is well paced, with the appropriate balance between super-heroics and the secret identity / human moments of our protagonists, plus a cliff-hanger that really has me wanting issue #2 out next week.

The art of Yildiray Cinar is just amazing and services the story so well. The pastel-like coloring of Steve Buccellato (the brother of Brian Buccellato the co-writer of the new Flash title) deserves a mention as it really enhances the book’s feel.

For my full review of this book click here. I’m definitely here for issue #2. This was the best book of Week Four and likely all of the New 52.

Flash #1: I really wanted to like the Flash. I really did. The art and colors by the co-writers, yes Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato do it all, were as expected: impeccable. The story on the other hand was less than engaging for me. Perhaps the book suffers too much from “new issue syndrome” as much of it focuses on explaining Barry’s new status quo as well as Iris West and the others, but also from trying to make readers care about a childhood friend of Barry’s none of us have ever heard of (well, I hadn’t anyway).

I think Flash is very much geared towards new readers as I’m not sure there is anything here story-wise that Flash fans of the last generation, us Wally West fans, can sink our teeth into. Even long-standing Barry Allen fans are met with a jarring new status quo.

Solid art alone will not compel me to look over the weakness in story and the twinges of cliché I got at several points throughout the book. If it’s any consolation to the current creative team, this book is as entertaining as Geoff Johns’ recent Flash series focused on Barry. So, if you liked Johns’ recent run, you may like this new series. If you didn’t, well, you’re still looking for a Flash book to call your own, likely anchored by the neglected Wally West. I’m not sure THAT book is on the horizon though.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1: Tony Bedard greets fandom with the best written and best premised Green Lantern title of the New 52. The book revolves around Kyle Rayner, a much beloved Green Lantern from the 1990s and for a time the only GL after Hal Jordan was possessed by Parallax and destroyed the Corps. The book opens with a retelling of Kyle’s origin; a necessity since with the reboot of the Captain Atom franchise, the villain Major Force has yet to debut, so we can’t possibly have his rivalry with Kyle take place in the new DC. The origin is essentially the same, with some tweaks including a move to the East Coast, and a wholesale removal of the infamous refrigerator incident where, pre-Flashpoint, Major Force snuffed our Kyle’s girlfriend and stored her in Kyle’s… fridge… for him to find.

Once that story necessity is done, we have rings from across the multi-colored Corps descend on Kyle followed by representatives after they alleged ring thief. It certainly is an interesting ending with much more action expected in issue #2.

The pencils of Tyler Kirkman are great as is Bedard’s characterization. There’s humor in this book, a bit of history, and small doses of action and suspense. I expect this slow build to explode in issue #2 after the book’s cliff-hanger. Highly recommended. Can’t wait for issue #2.

Who would have thought that Green Lantern: New Guardians would have a faster-paced and focused retelling of an origin than the preceding book reviewed called “the Flash”.

The Savage Hawkman #1: Tony Daniel takes on his second book of the New 52. He’s writing and drawing Detective Comics, while also writing the new Hawkman book with Philip Tan on art.

I really enjoyed this book and I didn’t expect to. I was initially perplexed by DC Comics’ choice of continuing with the Golden Age’s Carter Hall as Hawkman instead of the Silver Age’s Katar Hol in the New 52, but it seems to have worked out. We see a veteran hero in Carter Hall fed up with being Hawkman and decides to literally bury his heroic trappings wings-and-all. However, the alien Nth Metal that imbues his costume and its wearer with powers won’t let Carter go and we see a very new and interesting evolution of Carter Hall as Hawkman.

A new villain emerges that not only could have easily in my view defeated the old Hawkman, but is on the cusp of overtaking this new more powerful and evolved Hawkman. I enjoyed the action in the book as well as the moments with Carter Hall as cryptologist. I really appreciate the effort Tony Daniel made in this book, and many of the New 52 creators have done in theirs, to focus on making the alter egos of their heroes as well rounded as their super-hero counterparts.

Philip Tan’s art is on the darker side in this book and fits like a glove with Daniel’s story. He delivers dynamic action and the thoughtful emotional moments required throughout the book.

I’m definitely back for October’s issue #2.

Justice League Dark #1: I know a lot of folks at the Comics Nexus are cooing lovingly about Justice League Dark, but I just don’t understand why. Like with all the all of DC’s “The Dark” books with the exception of Demon Knights and maybe Resurrection Man, I just don’t get these kinds of books. Its not that I don’t appreciate the different voices and tones DC wants to imbue the New 52 with, I just don’t like stories focused on witchcraft, insanity-as-reality, or vampire stories. I’m not saying their isn’t an audience for these kinds of books, but Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin’s Justice League Vertigo, as its lovingly being called by its many fans at the Nexus, is not for me.

While it’s really more Milligan’s story that doesn’t grab me, including why this must be called a “Justice League” book, it’s the art of Janin that really tests my traditional notion to not read a book like this. Janin conveys the impossible insanity of many moments in the book with a real depth and his version of Superman and Wonder Woman are the best I have seen in this relaunch so far (sorry Jim Lee).

However, art alone can not pull me into reading a story that doesn’t connect with me. So, sadly, I won’t be around for issue #2, but I hope all of this book’s fans enjoy this run and I hope it lasts long. DC should be applauded for publishing a book like this even if it’s not my cup of tea.

I, Vampire #1: Please see my general comments in my Justice League Dark review about the “Dark” corner of the DC New 52. The dark art, pun intended, of Andrea Sorrentino in I. Vampire really channels Jae Lee and suits the tone trying to be set by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov. While I am intrigued by the cliff-hanger of this book and its broader implications on the DC Universe, its preeminent super-heroes, even its super-villains, I am not attracted to vampire stories and won’t be back for issue #2.

Superman #1: George Perez writes and provides the covers for the Man of Steel’s new #1. Unlike Action Comics, this book takes place in the present in the new DCU. And, unlike all the books I have read in the new 52, this book really feels like a done-in-one story right down to the in-issue defeat of a fire-based villain. The end of the book, not really a cliff-hanger, was revealed by DC Comics a while ago and shows Lois with her new beau with a sulking lonely Clark Kent leaving her apartment.

It would appear that both Superman, a feared alien by many in this new xenophobic DCU, and Clark Kent his alter ego are not nearly as perfect or happy as they were pre-Flashpoint. It certainly helps readers relate to a man that can move mountains, but can’t find love.

We also get a fair bit of attention to Clark Kent as journalist in this book and have his backstory with Lois Lane revealed. Lois now works as an executive for a 24-hour News Network that also runs the Daily Planet. Morgan Edge, its owner, is now an African American a change from his pre-Flashpoint Caucasian roots.

The book’s journalistic backdrop feels more contemporary than it has in years with Lois actually saying what many of have thought for years: “You’ve seen the reports! You’ve seen the figures! Print is dying! We need to survive this!” To which Clark responds: “At what price, Lois? Our integrity? Our souls?” I couldn’t help but imagine the discussion DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio must have had about the need to do the DC Comics Relaunch. I wonder if the discussion with DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson went the same way as Lois and Clark’s discussion. 🙂

I’m intrigued by this new status quo, so I’ll be here for issue #2 and this first arc.

Teen Titans #1: Writer Scott Lobdell’s debut issue of the Teen Titans introduces us to the four pillars of the franchise and they are very much at the beginning of their careers save for Tim Drake. It also mixes humor, action, drama and suspense in an interesting brew that has me wondering what’s next.

The books ends with a cliff-hanger akin to what Lobdell’s Superboy #1 ended with, which was wholly expected. However, to give Lobdell his due, you really don’t need to read Superboy #1 to “get” the end to TT #1.

Brett Booth’s pencils just rock in this title. His art is fluid and fun fitting well with the tone being set by Lobdell.

I’m definitely back for issue #2. For my full review of this book click here.

Voodoo #1: Ron Marz writes and Sami Basri draws the adventures of a shape-shifting alien stripper. The art fits with the book since Basri draws beautiful women exceptionally well, but the story didn’t pull me in at all. There was no vulgarity in this issue, but there wasn’t anything that intrigued me enough to come back for issue #2.


THE TALLY: DC New 52 Week 2

ALL-STAR WESTERN #1 – Continue
AQUAMAN #1 – Continue
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1 – Pass
BLACKHAWKS #1 – Pass
THE FLASH #1 – Pass
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1 – Continue
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1 – Continue
I, VAMPIRE #1 – Pass
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #1 – Pass
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1 – Continue
SUPERMAN #1 – Continue
TEEN TITANS #1- Continue
VOODOO #1- Pass

So, I’ll be continuing with 7 of 13 Week 4 offerings by DC into October at least. That’s a 54% success rate for DC – with me anyway for this final launch week. I’m exhausted, but excited, after all the activity in September.

Luckily, my reading will be focused on the books that intrigued me, not all of the New 52, but I’m still reading a lot more DC than I was pre-relaunch. Plus, I have a few new mini-series coming my way from DC Comics in October. I imagine my list will be paired down even more after October. Stay tuned!

So, what do you think about the new 52 reviewed thus far?


STAYING CONNECTED

(1) I am now on twitter and can be found at BabosScribe.

(2) I am also on Facebook and can be found at BabosScribe.

Cheers!

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