DC Comics Review: 52 Weeks Later Part Five

One of my fellow writers on Inside Pulse basically made the suggestion of why I don’t group these as similar titles. I spent a few days off and on, trying to come up with a way that it would make sense to sort these titles into thirteen groups. And no matter what there was always one group that didn’t make sense, one group where half the titles were cancelled, and one group of titles that I was totally not interested in writing about.

This week’s titles under the microscope are Justice League International, Animal Man, Dial H, and Stormwatch.

Justice League International

Initial Creative Team: Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti
Current Creative Team: Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti
Status: To be cancelled after issue #12

The Justice League International was originally created in the late 1990s as the revival of the Justice League following the Justice League Detroit years. Veteran creators, Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis, took a collection of second string characters (Mister Miracle, Martian Manhunter, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, etc. ) and characters recently added to or created for the DC Universe in the Post-Crisis years (Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Booster Gold, Power Girl, Captain Marvel, etc.) and created a very fun team book. It is fondly remembered by many comic book fans from the 1980s/1990s, primarily for being a book that tried to blend humor with super hero action.

The team has been revived a few times throughout the years, both by Giffen and Dematteis, but also by other writers who have tried to modernize the team. Recently the Generation Next bi-weekly series got many people excited for the possibility of a new Justice League International book.

So when the titles for the DCnU were announced, it wasn’t that much of a surprise that a title named Justice League International was on the list.

Opinion

All of us read bad comic books. It happens. Wrong creative team, wrong characters, wrong combination, wrong take on the characters, or just a mess of well-meaning creativity. I got over bad comic books years ago. It’s all perspective. My bad may be someone else’s good. Yes, I’ll let my opinion be heard, but I don’t take it personally.

However, I get personally offended by an uninspired comic books thrown together primarily to tap into one of my favorite comic book series from the past. Bad is one thing, but uninspired is another.

There is no reason for Justice League International to have been created for the DCnU Relaunch. The group is created as a United Nation managed superhero group as a response to the autonomous Justice League. This would be a good idea if we didn’t have to wait 7 months to learn in the pages of the Justice League that they are autonomous and won’t let in new members.

After the reasonable success of the Generation Lost and Booster Gold series, I guess someone on the marketing group determined that they needed to give them a presence in the DCnU, but this is an absolute mess. And seems like a dumping ground to keep some characters in the public eye, so we don’t think them abandoned. It’s not surprising that OMAC was pushed into this book after his own book was cancelled.

And it is written by Dan Jurgens who took over (and butchered) these characters back in the early 90s. The characters are just pure clichés with no depth whatsoever. And Jurgens takes liberties with the existing friendships and relationships between the characters, even though relationships are being rewritten all over the DCnU.

I was a huge fan of the original Justice League International, and really have only liked when they are being written by Giffen and DeMatteis. But I at least appreciated what other writers have tried to do with the characters in the past. But this is uninspired, insulting, clichéd, and boring.

I was actually rather happy that the title was being cancelled. Yes, I would have preferred just giving it to a different creative team, but I’m not sure it is salvageable as a concept.

Verdict

I thought this title was awful from the beginning, and from the recent issues I’ve read, it has not improved much. This is a title that would have been better served being launched a year later, rather than in the initial slew of 52 titles. However, the book has only has one more issue left of its run. (I can’t remember if it’s getting a 0 issue before heading into the sunset.) I can’t say that I’m sad to see it go, but hopefully some of the characters are brought back into a tighter more purpose filled book.

Overall Ranking: 36 out of 52

Animal Man

Initial Creative Team: Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
Current Creative Team: Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli
Status: Original DCnU series that has changed its penciller.

I was stunned when I saw that Animal Man was one of the titles included in the DCnU Relaunch. I mean, yes the original Grant Morrison run during the early 1990s (and later limped along as a mature title in the Vertigo line, only because they didn’t know what else to do with the book), and the character was brought to some prominence during the maxi-series, 52, following Infinite Crisis. But, there just aren’t that many people clamoring for a return of Buddy Baker to comic books, and certainly not the main superhero-oriented DC (new) Universe.

Animal Man was one of several titles that are to celebrate the return of the horror genre from the monopoly of the Vertigo imprint back to the main DC Universe, along with Swamp Thing, I. Vampire, Justice League Dark, Frankenstein, and Demon Knights.

Opinion

I never got into Animal Man to tell the truth. Yes, it’s the series that turned Grant Morrison into Grant Morrison back in the day. But, by the time I heard about the interesting things that were happening in the title (specifically when the character started talking to his writer), it was regulated to back issue land. So, I just stayed away, figuring that I’d pick it up at some point in time. Generally, the buzz has always been, Animal Man is an interesting character that I wish someone would write.

So I was surprised again, when I heard the following statement from early reviews, “Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man is amazing, and a must read.” I had heard of the title Sweet Tooth, but it was the first time that I had heard about Jeff Lemire. So I picked up the book, and instantly saw the appeal. Jeff Lemire’s take on Buddy Baker and his family was inspired, and had some great threads and plot lines. It was a book I never expected to be on my list of favorite titles, and yet I was drawn in.

Now, I did stop reading the book around issue #7. Basically, I felt that the book was more suited for a graphic novel/trade paperback audience rather than the individual episode treatment. So, I dropped the book, fully intending to pick up the book in trade format.

For this review, I picked up issue #11, and I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed. In three issues, not much has really happened in the lives of the Bakers. The characters are still focused on the initial plot, which is the Rot coming after Buddy Baker and his daughter being the chosen one. I’m starting to worry that Animal Man is a one trick (or one plot) pony. But it’s written well enough to keep me interested. I must admit that I miss Travel Foreman’s pencils on the book. Alberto Ponticelli does a nice job, but Foreman had a very unique distinct style that is now definitely missing from the book.

Verdict

Animal Man is a welcome return to the DC Universe, and Jeff Lemire is a wonderful young comic book writer who I am looking forward to following in all future work. The title has a lot of promise, even though it is somewhat trapped in its corner of the DC horror universe. I hope they are able to create plot lines outside of the initial conflict with The Rot, but we shall see in the months ahead.

Overall Ranking: 14 out of 52

Stormwatch

Initial Creative Team: Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda
Current Creative Team: Peter Milligan and Miguel Sepulveda
Status: Original DCnU title that has changed its writer

In 2010, DC Comics announced that the WildStorm imprint was going to be stopped and that several characters would be relaunched some time in the near future. The rumors were that DC was planning on bringing some core characters and concepts into the main DC Universe to give some new energy to it, like they did with the Charlton and Fawcett characters during and following the Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985. Then a year ago, all 52 titles of the DCnU were announced, and one of the surprises was the revival of the WildStorm comic: Stormwatch.

Stormwatch was as title that was started by WildStorm founder Jim Lee in 1993. However, the title was really brought into prominence when Warren Ellis took it over in 1996, bringing very modern concepts into the book. Eventually, Stormwatch begat highly acclaimed comic book The Authority which was published after DC Comics bought Wildstorm Productions and brought Jim Lee on board.

Opinion

Stormwatch did what it was supposed to. It took a title that I had always wanted to read (I’ll read anything that Warren Ellis has written or inspired), gave it a writer whose work I like and respect in initial series writer Paul Cornell, and relaunched it as a new title with a brand new origin as part of the DCnU. In the first month, it was one of my favorite titles that month.

And then the following months happened. It became a mess. It was a glorious mess. The best kind of comic book mess, where the creative team has tried to bring in so many ideas and concepts and characters and back story that it was really hard to follow. Then, after a few months some characters were kicked out of the group, and Cornell was replaced by Peter Milligan. I like Milligan, but it felt like that any momentum for the book was halted by the incoming creator change.

I dropped the title for comic book budgetary reasons. I liked the title well enough, but as a reader and a reviewer, I liked other titles better and I needed to keep up with other titles for my reviewing job.

I picked up the latest issue for this review, and it is a little better. I don’t have as clear of an idea of upcoming mysteries and plot lines for the title, but there were plenty of threads that had me intrigued for the near future.

Verdict

Stormwatch is a good title, but not a very good one. If you like maxi-hero stories, that focus on a greater picture than an immediate threat. And it’s interesting to have a hero title where the motivations of the characters is somewhat questionable. The characters in the book, especially Midnighter and Apollo, act like they are only in the book because the story tells them they should be in the book. Yet, it is one of the more unique comic books in the DCnU.

Overall Ranking: 26 out of 52

Dial H

Initial Creative Team: China Miéville and Mateus Santoluoco
Current Creative Team: China Miéville and Mateus Santoluoco
Status: Second Wave Replacement Title currently on issue #3

Dial H is one of those concepts that gets dusted off every so often for the DC Universe. It was originally known as Dial H for Hero in the 1960s in the pages of House of Mystery, where the concept was that teenager Robby Reed finds a dial with letters on it, that allowed him to temporarily become a superhero. In the early 1980s this was dusted off in the pages of Adventure Comics, where DC Comics actually requested that readers send in submissions for characters and costumes. The characters from those books, Chris King and Victoria Grant were used throughout the 80s and 90s as heroes and villains. More recently, the Dial H concept was brought back in a title in 2003. This title only lasted 22 issues and followed the adult Robby Reed trying to reclaim the lost dial.

When this was announced as a DCnU Second Wave replacement, it was certainly a curious choice, as most people were expecting a title that introduced classic DCU characters into the DCnU (like Atom or Shazam) rather than a concept that seemed rooted in the goofiness of the Silver Age. The title has only had three issues, so we may not have a clear picture of this title, yet.

Opinion

Before starting the 52 weeks later column, I had read 46 of the 58 DCnU titles at some point in time during the past year. I read 26 of them initially, and then read an additional 20 during the rest of the year either for curiosity, buzz, or to review the comic. Of the remaining 12, most of them I just hadn’t gotten around to yet. Such is the case with Dial H. I wanted to read the first issue, but I had already slated Worlds’ Finest and Earth 2 for the same week, and didn’t want to add another second wave title to the week.

So, I read issue #3 this week, knowing very little about this comic. And WOW is it a trip! I’m not a fan of confusing comic books, especially in superhero titles. There’s a place for them in this world, but not as much for me. But I loved this comic book.

The basic plot is that an out-of-shape slacker named Nelson Jent has had a series of bad breaks, losing his girlfriend and his job. And to save his friend, he goes into a telephone booth, and dials numbers at random, and he is turned into a superhero, similar to the characters in the previous Dial H. But, first you can tell that Nelson is getting addicted to the power. And then there is the character of the female hero, who has similar powers.

China Miéville is a great find here. He’s writing a very interesting comic book. And I like that they are allowed to have some weirdness in the DCnU. It’s a great series debut. And the art by Mateus Santoluoco is very interesting, and even when it is over the top and cartoony, it actually works in this series.

Verdict

This is a fun, dark, and mysterious comic book with secret diaries, conspiracies, merged personalities, and a lizard creature who talks with human clichés. This is a very cool book, and I think I will be back for more. Everyone should check this out and see if it is for them. A very pleasant surprise with the new DCnU.

Overall Ranking: 22.5 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
12.     Superman
14.     Animal Man
17.     All Star Western
18.     Batman and Robin
22.     Blue Beetle
22.5     G.I. Combat
23.5    Dial H
24.     Superboy
25.     Flash
26.     Stormwatch
27.     DC Universe Presents
33.     Green Arrow
36.     Justice League International
42.     The Savage Hawkman
47.     Legion Lost
50.     Men of War

 

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