DC Comics Relaunch: 52 Weeks Later Part Two

And we’re into week two of the reviewing all of the new DCnU titles. This week we’re focusing on four titles that were released last week: Superboy, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, and Legion Lost.

Superboy

Initial Creative Team: Scott Lobdell and R. B. Silva
Current Creative Team: Scott Lobdell and R.B. Silva 1

One of the biggest problems with the DCnU is that in a single month, everything went away with a poof. When Crisis on Infinite Earths was complete, there was one big change, the loss of many Earth-2 characters, but no active titles or characters were rebooted.2 But, last August we had one version of Superboy, and in September we had another.

The real shame of it is that I liked Connor Kent, and I appreciated how he had grown over the years. When he sacrificed his life in Final Crisis, I was actually moved and saddened at his passing. And I can’t say that the death of too many comic book characters would do that to me in the modern age.

Main Changes

  • Superboy was not created by the Cadmus Institute, but instead by an organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E.
  • Superboy did not appear in Metropolis following the death of Superman, nor has he been a member of Young Justice or the Teen Titans.

Opinion

Superboy is one of the few titles that I had not tried before this past month. Mostly because I didn’t like him being rebooted.3 So my opinion of him mostly comes from this single issue. If there are Superboy readers out there who would like to speak more about Superboy, then I’d be glad to listen.

Let’s first talk about the costume. If you presume that Superboy needed a costume instead of the black Superman t-shirt and jeans look4, then I think the outfit is pretty good. It’s a little Star Trek/superhero team like for my tastes, but if he’s coming from an organization (N.O.W.H.E.R.E.) that was brainwashing him into removing his individuality, then it kindof works. I like it, and it gives a decent sense as to who he is. I would expect that his current path towards rebellion may lead him down a direction where he looks for a new costume, unless it has some function associated with his powers.

The other thing I agree with is setting Connor back to being a teenager again. I miss him having the 18+ years of experience and memories to draw from, but he hadn’t acted like a ‘boy’ in quite some time.

I dislike his origin being specifically tied to a new organization that was created at the beginning of the DCnU. To me, that limits the actions of the character for a few years. Superboy’s exploits are going to be tied to N.O.W.H.E.R.E. for the conceivable future, and doesn’t allow him to have many new adventures and experiences outside of that plot point.

I don’t like how Cassie and Connor are being pushed together in this book or the Teen Titans book. Yes, that romance made them one of the more endearing couples in the DCU.5 But the reason they were endearing was because of the time that it took for the romance to develop, not because somehow those characters “fit”.

And Cassie is written horribly in the issue that I read. I mean the first rule of telling stories in a visual medium is to show and not tell. So, that’s the first choice. The second choice is to tell and not show. But to me the dumbest thing you can do is do both. There’s nothing like having a character say “I’m really angry” and flying off angry at the same time.

Verdict

I must admit that I liked the book more than I thought I would have. The character of Superboy and the plotting of the book are pretty decent. Unfortunately it’s Lobdell’s writing that really drags the title down, allowing for no subtlety whatsoever.6 It’s a decent enough mindless teenage superhero book, and the unfolding mystery of who Superboy is and will be is interesting. However, I would need a stronger writer of character building to get me to read this book on a consistent basis. However, I liked it enough that I’ll pick it up when the story compels me to do so.

Overall Ranking: 24 out of 52

Batman and Robin

Initial Creative Team: Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Current Creative Team: Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

This is one of the more popular titles out there right now, and I’m guessing it’s all the huge Batman push right now. Amazing that Batman can support five books (twelve if you count his allies), and that Superman can barely support two. This book is supposed to focus on the relationship between Batman and his new young protégé, the new Robin, Damain Wayne. Damian Wayne was created by Grant Morrison, and following the events of Batman R.I.P., a new title emerged with Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as Batman and Robin. After the return of Bruce Wayne, the title features the father and son team of Bruce and Damien Wayne. This title was one of the titles that was to continue into the DCnU.

Main Changes

None that I have seen.

Opinion

I’ve read about three issues of this comic, and I’ve come to the same basic conclusion: I don’t much like Damian Wayne. I know there are plenty of people who appreciate his job as a contrast and an agitator for all of the characters in the Bat Universe, and I guess I can certainly understand that as a plot device. However, I have no interest in reading a title where he is the featured character. His arrogance and defiance is not interesting to me, at all.

Yes, I guess putting Bruce Wayne into the role of real father rather than surrogate father is interesting enough. And perhaps, some readers enjoy the switch of a Robin who acts like he doesn’t need The Batman rather than The Batman who acts like he doesn’t need a Robin. I am not one of them. To me, Damian is an annoying pre-teen/teenage genius character along the lines of Wesley Crusher, or Anakin Skywalker.7

Additionally, the last two issues seem like they should have dropped the name “Batman” from the title, as they have focused completely on Robin as a character. What’s worse, is they are bringing in the character of Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, as a foil to Damian. Now, while I personally don’t know much about the DCnU version of Tim Drake, I know that I like Tim much better than Damian.

The issue for me, is that I don’t see a path of redemption for Damien. We’ve already had him have to deal with the abandonment by his mother, the death of his father, forced to team with the prodigal son (Nightwing), and experienced the joy of his father’s return. And yet, there is little to no change in the character. He’s a little less blood thirsty, but just as arrogant, deceitful, resentful, and braggadocios as he was originally.

And the really galling part, is that Grant Morrison is writing him better in Batman Incorporated.

Verdict

I think there’s a definite reason for this book, but it certainly doesn’t do it for me. I’ve read several accounts of people who enjoy the character and the book. Although, I’m a Batman fan, I think there is too much attention on Batman and the surrounding characters. That somehow some people feel like they are forced to read all the Batman titles, and treat Damien as something they have to deal with rather than experiencing a character whom they enjoy reading about. I think there is a chance to make Damien an interesting character, but I’m not sure that it’s going to happen with the current team.

Overall Ranking: 18 out of 52

Green Lantern

Initial Creative Team: Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke
Current Creative Team: Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke

Green Lantern is the title I was looking forward to reviewing the least in this column. Why? Is it because I think it’s written poorly? Is it because I don’t like the character of Green Lantern? Or don’t like the direction that Green Lantern is currently taking?

No, none of the above.

This column is about the changes that titles and characters have made since the relaunch of the DC Universe. And of all 52 books, the least happened in the Green Lantern book. The Green Lantern story didn’t reboot. The writer didn’t change. Hal Jordan’s origin didn’t change. The current storyline didn’t even seem affected by the Flashpoint reboot. The only major change seemed to be that Hal Jordan was now younger.

In the story, however, a lot has been happening. So, I guess we can focus more on that.

Main Changes

  • Hal Jordan is younger and has only been Green Lantern for about five years.

Opinion

I’m one of the few people who have not been reading the Green Lantern book. So, I’m pretty unfamiliar with the title outside of the big events, such as the Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night, and Brightest Day.

But, it seems to me like there are a lot of changes going on in the Green Lantern book, and my impression is that few of them had specifically to do with the Flashpoint reboot. But for all I know the Flashpoint reboot is what made the Guardians of the Universe turn evil.

Anyway, the current story is focused on the redemption of Hal Jordan. Not redeeming his actions as a Green Lantern or even that of Parallax, but of his redemption as a human being. There’s definitely a focus on Hal relearning what it is like to be a man, specifically a friend, a lover, and an employee. It is redemption of Hal Jordan’s arrogance, which is a very interesting take.

On the flip side, there is potential redemption in the cards for Hal’s counterpart, Sinestro. To a degree, Sinestro’s redemption is already complete for the comic book reader, as he is being presented as being sympathetic even if unlikeable. Sinestro is on an Odyssean journey where he has to witness the effect that his actions have had throughout the years. We are starting to see a humbled Sinestro, who already has had to turn to Hal Jordan for support, even providing Hal with a power ring that is connected to his own.

This seems to be the quiet year for the Green Lantern series of books, which is usually followed by a multi-series cross-over the following year, and we get hints of that being put into place. Hal is following the path of his predecessor, Abin Sur, seeking answers to a prophecy/destiny, and he is dealing with the subterfuge of the Guardians of the Universe.

It’s a very compelling story, just no need to single it out from the other DCnU titles, as it is chugging along much as before.

Guest Opinion – Grey Scherl

Man, what can I say about Green Lantern? It’s one of the books to have seen the smallest amount of change coming out of the DC relaunch, and that includes retaining its all-star creative team. The end result is one of DC’s most consistent titles on a monthly basis that is truly a top tier gem in their line. Green Lantern is one of the best superhero comics on the market, and it really does just keep getting better.

Verdict

Green Lantern is a title well-worth following, and is doing quite well in the new DCnU. The entire Green Lantern family now consists of four titles, which is pretty impressive. Keeping the team of Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke has only helped to further the momentum.

Overall Ranking: 3 out of 52

Legion Lost

Initial Creative Team: Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods
Current Creative Team: Tom DeFalco and Pete Woods

When the list of the new 52 DC Comics came out last summer, you could divide the titles into the following categories: expected titles, surprising revivals, interesting ideas, and what the hell were they thinking.8 Legion Lost definitely fit into the latter category.

Now, truth be told, I’m not a Legion of Superheroes fan. Nothing against it, but the concept does not draw me in. I’ll read it from time to time, to see if I’m missing something. But that’s pretty much it.

And I’m certainly not suggesting that just because I’m not a fan, that the Legion should not have a second title. But realistically, the Legion of Superheroes has a niche fan base, and maybe that fan base has enough readers to support two titles in the current economy. But to me, if you’re going to have a second Legion book, it should flow out of a storyline. This is just grab a group of Legionnaires and have fun with time travel, sending them back to modern times.

I mean there is an appeal for Legion stories. But as a casual reader, I’m more apt to read the main Legion series, than this book. This book sounded like Exiles but in reverse.

Main Changes

  • None that I’m aware of.

Opinion

I read Legion Lost issue #1, and I had high hopes for it and the series, despite my lack of Legion knowledge. There was one simple reason for that, Fabian Nicieza. There are very few writers who can write team books better than him. In the past, he has made me care about characters who normally I would not be interested in. New Warriors, X-Force, and Thunderbolts are all titles that I have enjoyed due to his writing.

However, I read the first issue and frankly, it was a mess. The creative team assumed I knew all of the characters in the story, or wrongfully assumed I would be able to immediately pick up on their powers and personalities. And then to top it off, they decided to kill off two of these characters9 who I didn’t care about in the first end of issue cliffhanger. I didn’t pick up issue #2 after that.

Then I learned that Tom DeFalco has taken over the title from Fabian Nicieza. Not necessarily a decision that would make me read the title again.

After reading issue #10, I must admit that the title is better than what I saw in the initial issue. But it was still a bit of a jumbled mess, filled with clichéd stereotypes instead of real characters. The plot didn’t really draw me in, but I can see where it’s going, and perhaps this is more of a positive direction.

But I’m not sure that grouping Legion Lost with the Teen Titans books for The Culling crossover was really a smart move. If Legion Lost hopes to exist and thrive, then it needs to establish the characters on its own.

Guest Opinion – Grey Scherl

Legion Lost wasn’t sold to me because of my nostalgia for the DNA classic, because really, you can’t do that. The name is awesome, but there’s no real way to do a follow up, just the same basic concept. Fabian Nicieza is what sold me on following the book, but it was just a wash of nothing happening. Then, sooner than he arrived, Fabian was gone and this book was just sucked into the mess that was the Culling. Tom DeFalco is on it now, and I want to like it, and it is slowly getting better, but it’s going to be a while before the stench of the Culling gets washed away. I hope it does, I do like this grouping of characters, and I do like the premise of them being stuck in the present. Plus, I’d like at least one Legion book that’s readable.

Verdict

This is a title that isn’t pulling me in, and I don’t think it would pull in too many new readers. Maybe there are people who like Legion of Superheroes, who find the backstory and history of the Legion too complicated to become long time readers. But, I think this book is far from finding its place in the DCnU

Overall Ranking: 47 out of 52

Footnotes

1 – In August, Tom DeFalco takes over writing duties for this title.

2 – Lots of major reconning, a few retirements of semi-active characters, but no reboots.

3 – Also because I had enough of Scott Lobdell’s writing style in the 90s.

4 – I don’t, but I do understand that Connor doesn’t have enough of a signature look for marketing purposes.

5 – Providing one of the few sex scenes in comics that was actually romantic and meant something outside of the act itself.

6 – And adding Tom DeFalco as writer doesn’t make that better for me.

7 – Who I actually like much more than Damian.

8 – Although, Hawk and Dove was both a surprising revival AND the what the hell were they thinking, especially when adding Rob Liefield to the mix

9 – I think they revived both characters already.

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