DC Comics Relaunch: 52 Weeks Later Part Three

Hi everyone, and welcome to part three of 52 Weeks Later. This week, we are looking at four titles from the DCnU reboot: Wonder Woman, Blue Beetle, DC Universe Presents, and Nightwing.

Special thanks to my fellow Comic Nexus mates, Grey Scherl and John Babos, for allowing me to include their guest opinions on these books.

Wonder Woman

Initial Creative Team: Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang
Current Creative Team: Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang

You know, part of me thinks that the reason for the DCnU reboot completely hinges on what was done to Wonder Woman in the post Final Crisis days. That the powers that be looked at the mess that JMS made with Wonder Woman, as well as the continuity mess that has been Wonder Woman since post Crisis on Infinite Earths, and they just said the heck with it, let’s reboot the whole darn thing!

Probably not true. But it certainly showed that Wonder Woman needed some fresh blood, and that maybe the DC Universe in general needed a kick in the pants.

And Brian Azzarello has certainly done that.

Major Changes

  • Wonder Woman’s origin has changed. She learned that she was not forged from clay as previously thought, but instead is the offspring of her mother Hippolyta and the god Zeus.
  • A minor costume change for Diana (Several other changes to Wonder Woman’s history have been revealed in Geoff John and Jim Lee’s Justice League)

Opinion

Wonder Woman is a definite conundrum for comic book fans. Comic book fans like Wonder Woman and respect her place in the comic book pantheon. DC fans certainly point to the fact that Wonder Woman has no equal in the Marvel Universe in terms of prominence and recognition. (Though at this point, I certainly concede that Storm may actually be more popular to female fans) But, the real question for comic book readers is “Why do I want to read Wonder Woman?”

She doesn’t have a great rogues gallery. The Steve Trevor issue is a complicated mess both as a character and as a relationship. As a writer, do you concentrate on her being an Amazon? Do you concentrate on her being the epitome of being a woman? Do you concentrate on her being an ambassador? Do you concentrate on her being a warrior? Or do you focus on her dealings with the Greek gods? Do you concentrate on her being the most powerful woman in the world? Most writers try to tackle all of these issues, instead of concentrating on a single one.

Brian Azzarello has taken an interesting tact. He has taken the Greek Gods portion of the Wonder Woman mythos and given it horror undertones. The combination does work, and he has made Wonder Woman into a truly interesting character and a fascinating book.

My one ‘concern’ is that the changes to the origin of Wonder Woman and the new focus of the book are almost outside of the DC Reboot. Put another way, I don’t feel that the changes that Azzarello has made have anything to do with the reboot. This direction for Diana could have happened 2 years ago, and the title would have moved on smoothly.

Brian Azzarello is a lone wolf and beats to his own drummer. And my one concern is that these changes are only temporary, and that when Azzarello moves on, Diana will revert to being directionless. But for now, Wonder Woman is in my pull list, and I highly recommend it for everyone else as well. Enjoy the ride.

Guest Opinion – Gray Scherl

Wonder Woman did something I had long since deemed to be impossible: it made me buy Wonder Woman for more than three issues in a row. I’ve tried to get on board with Wonder Woman countless times under countless writers and creative shifts, and it never lasts. I get bored after an issue or three and give up on it, because, frankly, I’m not a Wonder Woman fan.

So Brian Azzarello getting his name attached convinced me that they were going to go with something nonconventional, which really made it a crap shoot. The end result has been a must read book for me, and while I can’t fully place my finger on the why, I just know that the book is a ridiculous amount of fun and that Diana is finally being portrayed as a character I want to read more about.

Guest Opinion – John Babos

I really didn’t expect to like Wonder Woman. The art was so different from the beloved George Perez relaunch of the 1980s. So, I tasted the first 3 issues and dropped it. The reimagining of the gods and the art were too jarring for me. Then a few months later, I realized I was reading all of the main Justice League character solo titles offered (no Cyborg series BTW) except for Wonder Woman and Flash. So, I decided to give both another try

In my second look at the title, I realized that Wonder Woman is just a well written book by Brian Azzarello. What I once found was a jarring reinterpretation of the Olympian gods is now just creativity unleashed and a breath of fresh air for the Wonder Woman franchise. It stands on its own and is blazing a new trail. The art of Cliff Chiang is well suited for the tone of the book: overall moody art to depict the world around our heroine and a softness with a hard / grounded center to his depiction of Wonder Woman. This is one of my must read books monthly now.

However, I understand why long-time Wonder Woman fans may not appreciate it as it very much a departure from the character as she has been portrayed since the Golden Age. If you get past the fact that it’s “different” and assess it as a comic book narrative, you’ll realize Wonder Woman has never been a stronger character inside and out.

Verdict

I think Wonder Woman is one of the best comic books out there right now, but I think that the reboot has little to do with it. Azzarello has a clear unique vision for the character that is refreshing and exciting. It’s also very female-positive without being preachy to us men-folk. Diana is a fully formed superhero woman who does not need to define herself through male relationships. And that is fun to read, when it is done well.

Overall Ranking: 6 out of 52

Blue Beetle

Initial Creative Team: Tony Bedard and Ig Guara
Current Creative Team: Tony Bedard and Ig Guara

Since the death of Ted Kord, Blue Beetle has seemed like a token book. Yes, having a young protagonist always works better than an approaching middle aged protagonist (as he was depicted in Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey title). But it felt like they were trying too hard to tap into the young market and also get some good press by having a Hispanic character as Blue Beetle.

But, just because you can’t come up with a subtle way of doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it at all. From my Caucasian perspective, anytime that an ethnic character would take on a role that has traditionally been white, I would probably think it was being blatant. So, probably best to shove it down my throat and let me get used to it. (Just don’t expect me to EVER get over the death of Ted Kord… no reason why he couldn’t be retired and advising young Jaime Reyes)

So, I haven’t read too much of the new Blue Beetle since he was introduced a few years ago, but I was certainly happy to see him have a place in the DCnU.

Major Changes

  • In the new DCnU, there does not seem to be a connection between Jaime Reyes and Ted Kord or even Dan Garrett.
  • Jaime gets the powers of the Blue Beetle at the start of his series in the DCnU, and not during Infinite Crisis.

Opinion

Normally, I know what to expect when I read a new title. Some titles are going to try and tap into the nostalgia factor. Others are going to try to be young or hip or edgy or cool or deep or complicated. Blue Beetle was definitely a mystery when I picked up this book last week to include in the column. I never read the pre-DCnU series, and had only a passing knowledge from other series where Jaime made his presence felt.

So I read the book last week, and I was totally shocked with how fun it is. Tony Bedard has done a very nice thing with creating a very realistic but naïve Jaime Reyes. I thought that Director Bones was handled poorly, but that’s a different matter.

I think giving Jaime a clean slate and starting his life with the new DCnU was a good move. He didn’t have enough history with the existing DC Universe to be damaged by it. Yes, Blue Beetle loses a sense of legacy just like Flash, Hawkman, and Atom, but I don’t think this seriously takes away from him as a hero.

In the latest issue, the alien bounty hunter from the previous issue connects Blue Beetle to an alien force known as The Reach, wearing a uniform of a Scarab Soldier who apparently demolishes planets. (Admittedly the bounty hunter might have reasons to lie to Bones and the DEO)

I also like the connection to Jaime’s family. They seem very realistic and not a cliché. I love that the father is very reluctant to call Jaime’s grandmother, because she’s a pain in the butt.

Verdict

I wish I had more to say about this comic book, but I’ve only read the one issue. But I will definitely rectify that in the near future. This is a very good comic, and I definitely plan to read more. I don’t know whether Jaime Reyes has benefitted from the DCnU reboot, but I certainly am glad that he has a chance to shine in it.

Overall Ranking: 22 out of 52

DC Universe Presents

Initial Creative Team: Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang
Current Creative Team: James Robinson and Bernard Chang

Reviewing the DC Universe Present title presents a very unique challenge, as it is a book that rotates the spotlight on different characters in the DCnU as well as changing the creative team after every story arc.

Regardless, I think that a spotlight title is a great idea. Not every character needs a full series, and not every character can pull enough readers into a mini-series on their own.

Major Changes

  • Deadman now is forced by the goddess Rama Kushna to possess people to set their lives right in order to avoid serving time in hell.
  • Vandal Savage has a daughter named Kassidy “Kass” Sage who works for the FBI.

Opinion

A spotlight series is only as good as the creators it gets to contribute and the characters that they choose to write about. So far the DC Universe Team has chosen the following:

  • Deadman
  • Challengers of the Unknown
  • Vandal Savage and his daughter Kassidy Sage

It’s been a pretty good run so far. Deadman is always a good character for a short mini-series, and I thought that series was very well written and really established the origin of Deadman for a modern audience (even if it did remind me too much of Quantum Leap) Boston Brand has a definite story to tell and a specific take on the whole thing. And Paul Jenkins is a solid writer who brought very good work to the table.

Challengers of the Unknown is one of those properties that is a favorite of comic book writers, but not as much of comic book readers. That’s not to say that you can’t write a good story or get readers to read and enjoy the series, but they have not appeared in a monthly title since the 70s. I didn’t get around to reading this story as I was trimming my comic book budget those months. Reviews for this story arc are tepid at best.

The current story arc is called Savage, as we are introduced to a new player in the DCnU, Kass Sage. She is an FBI Agent who brings in her estranged father, Vandal Savage, to help her stop a killer who is copying Savage’s techniques and possibly his motivations. The story gives a pretty good insight into the head of one of the classic DC villains. I don’t know whether this current story removes the character of Scandal Savage from the DCnU, or not. It’s a pretty good read.

The one nice bit of consistency has been that Bernard Chang has been the penciller for both the Deadman and Savage story arcs. His art has been very good. I think it would be fun to have a standard artistic team that worked with a rotation of comic book writers.

Verdict

Spotlight series are always a mixed bag, which is why you rarely get someone who is a fan who read them every month. But, as I, personally have liked two out of three series, I think that this is a pretty decent title and is one that all DC fans should keep an eye on.

Overall Ranking: 27 out of 52

Nightwing

Initial Creative Team: Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows
Current Creative Team: Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows

After the first few whispers of the reboot hit the comic book community, there were several questions that immediately came to mind for comic book fans. One of them was very simple, “Is Dick Grayson going to go back to being Nightwing again?”

Not to anyone’s real surprise the answer was “Yes”. Dick Grayson has now been Nightwing for over 25 years, and it is too good of a name and persona to leave on the shelf. And no matter what, if Bruce Wayne is back in the DC Universe, he will be seen as Batman and not Dick Grayson.

I never thought that Dick should have been Batman in the first place. The main reason for this was that I thought it would be awkward for Dick to return to being Nightwing after Bruce inevitably took the mantle of the Bat back. (Basically sending the message to everyone that Dick isn’t good enough to play for the varsity team).

And when I heard that incoming writer, Kyle Higgins, would be returning Dick to Haly’s Circus to explore his origins, I just groaned in embarrassment. This felt like several steps backwards for Dick Grayson (who is probably my favorite comic book character of all time) who through the years had established his leadership skills (through the Titans), his independence (by moving to Bludhaven), and his ability to think and act globally (gathering the heroes in Infinite Crisis and taking over for Batman). This seemed to put Dick back to the basics of post-adolescent hero looking to find himself.

You know, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

Major Changes

  • Dick Grayson was trained through Haly’s Circus to be a Talon, an assassin for the Court of Owls who rule Gotham City from behind the scenes. This is due to Dick’s great grandfather being a Talon.
  • Dick Grayson had two friends who worked at Haly’s Circus: Raymond, who supposedly died, and Raya. Raymond became the villain known as Saiko.
  • Dick is given ownership of Haly’s Circus after the death of former owner, C.C. Haly.

Opinion

I’ll come out and say it; I think that Kyle Higgins might be the best writer for the Nightwing monthly title. He captures the essence of Dick Grayson perfectly. He makes Dick Grayson a part of Gotham City, but makes sure that he never feels like Bruce Wayne Jr. (or Batman Jr. for that matter).

Now, I didn’t care for the return of Haly’s Circus, and really didn’t like the introduction of a new person from Dick’s past who happens to have turned into an assassin who came back from the dead. But this book really gives a solid voice for Dick Grayson and a unique purpose in Gotham City.

The problem with Dick in the past has been that the writers want to keep Dick out of Gotham City to remove the comparisons to Batman and to enforce the idea that Dick is his own person. But usually it makes Dick look weak by comparison. They have to keep kick in the newly created suburb of Gotham City, Bludhaven (the Brooklyn to Gotham City), instead of letting him thrive in a major city.

Higgins does a nice job of letting us in on the prodigal son aspect of Dick Grayson. First, he was an acrobat sensation, and son of the Flying Graysons. Second, he was tagged to become a Talon, who is the assassin for the Court of Owls. Third, he was the adopted son of Bruce Wayne, essentially the heir to the throne. And finally, he was the next in line for succession of Batman, even putting on the famous cowl for a period of time.

Guest Opinion – John Babos

Kyle Higgins & Eddy Barrows’ Nightwing has been the top book of the Batverse alongside Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman IMHO. Many fans were wondering what would happen to Nightwing after his successful run as Batman while Bruce Wayne was lost in the time stream (see the Return of Bruce Wayne TPB). Higgins has been able to shatter myths about Nightwing being Batman lite if he is also situated in Gotham City.

The way Snyder has made Gotham City an integral part of the Batman book, Higgins has done the same for Haly’s Circus in Nightwing. This was the Circus Dick and his parents performed at as the Flying Graysons up to the death of the senior Graysons and Dick becoming the ward of the Bat.

I just can’t say enough good things about Higgins’ Nightwing. The art has been a bit choppy with Eddy Barrows needing some assists now and then, but overall Nightwing is one of the most dynamic and important books of the DC Comics Relaunch. In fact, the Court of Owls arc in Batman spilled over into Nightwing with the reveal about Dick Grayson being an intended Talon while Haly’s Circus was a recruitment vehicle for the Court of Owls. I can’t wait for year two of Nightwing. Higgins is by far in the Top 10 of DC’s writing corps.

Verdict

Nightwing has quickly become one of my favorite books on the market right now. I think most of the changes that have happened to Dick could have happened before the reboot (as we all know that the Bat-books were to be relatively untouched by Flashpoint), but I think the reboot allowed for a fresh take and a rebirth to take place. In taking a step back, Dick Grayson has now taken a full step forward, and is one of the most exciting super heroes in the DCnU.

Overall Ranking: 9 out of 52

Rankings

Rankings are a combination of my own personal rankings of titles, sales, industry buzz, and popularity of the creative talent.

03.     Green Lantern
04.     Action Comics
06.     Wonder Woman
07.     Detective Comics
09.     Nightwing
18.     Batman and Robin
22.     Blue Beetle
22.5     G.I. Combat
24.     Superboy
27.     DC Universe Presents
33.     Green Arrow
47.     Legion Lost
50.     Men of War

 

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