The New 52 – Week Four

Come at me, DC!

 

AQUAMAN

“Where do we go?”

“Up.”

And so it goes. We all give Aquaman crap. Robot Chicken gives him crap, I give him crap, people who just know his name and that he’s inexplicably on the Justice League give him crap. Rather than look at the mysterious women on the Justice League poster who had us all confused about their identities, some of my friends just pointed at Aquaman and said, “Him? Really?”

The DC revamp stance since Infinite Crisis seems to have been to whittle something down to the core concept that people know (with varying levels of success and failure). With Supergirl it wasn’t that she was a shapeshifting alien/angel thing, it was that she was Superman’s cousin. That’s it, so mote it be.

With Aquaman, the thing everyone knows is that he sucks, and no one knows why he’s here. The default defence would be to make him angry, savage, evil, crazy, anything like that. It’s simplistic and a really crummy reaction. It adds no depth.

I’m pleased to say that Aquaman doesn’t do that. He stops a fairly normal crime and takes crap for doing so. He goes to a fish-based café and takes flack, although we discover that his father took him here in the past. And so what if he eats fish? They’re not his brothers, they’re fish, damn it, with their tiny memories and impulses and nothing more (as he says, “dolphins on the other hand…”).

So after most of a comic of taking the public’s questions, he talks to his wife (who is doing the angry savage thing and quite fine with that, thank you). He’s abandoned being ruler of Atlantis, and despite his interactions with people, he still wants to be one of them instead of an unearthly ruler.

Thank you, DC. That’s great. That’s got shades of Man vs Self, Man vs Man AND Man vs Environment. Those are all keys of drama. He wants to fit into a world he’s seen as superfluous in, despite what he could have. Of course, this is all first impressions, in this first arc he might suddenly do a heel-turn and go all berserker, but for now I’m interested in the conflicts presented here. Oh, and ugly fish monsters, but I’m always more about the interpersonal conflicts.

 

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT

Another week, another Bat-Title. This one suffers from being the week after Scott Snyder’s much better “Batman”, which does everything this one does, but better. David Finch is a competent artist and Peter Milligan’s one of the most hit and miss writers I know (moreso than even Judd Winick).

Batman deals with a breakout at Arkham (like in Batman), he gives a speech as Bruce Wayne about revitalising the city (like in Batman). The only difference here is that instead of Jim Gordon there’s a cop who will hopefully be a good, lawful, antagonist for Batman, a new woman in Bruce’s life but we don’t see enough to gauge anything other than ‘hot’ about her. Oh, and Two-Face has apparently resolved his inner conflicts and become One-Face, a giant angry Hulk-like mass of muscles and anger. I’m sensing a theme with DC. In the 90’s a lot of villains started being mindless punch-machines and I fear we’re having the same thing happen here.

 

FIRESTORM

Batgirl was an average title in week one of the New DCU, because Gail Simone’s writing elevates a poor book just by merit of her skill with dialogue and narration boxes. This book is better than Batgirl, showing interpersonal conflicts between Jason and Ronnie (a nerd and jock, of course). Apparently this means that only some of Blackest Night and Brightest Day happens, as Jason’s girlfriend (last seen being turned into salt) is his platonic friend and no one here’s heard of Firestorm. We get a little science and it looks like Firestorm might be something weird and new compared to the two-man nuclear Captain Planet he used to be. The end is either terrible or interesting. Jason and Ronnie are attacked, both become Firestorm and proceed to beat each other up. They then combine into FURY, a (sigh) giant angry Hulklike mass of hate. I was disappointed at first, but looking at it again, my hope is that it’ll be like two people inside a monster. A mental Captain Marvel or an OMAC with some self-awareness. I look forward to issue two of this more than Batgirl, only because it raises a ton of questions.

 

FLASH

I give artists writing comic books a hard time. Admittedly a little of this is sour grapes, also disillusionment in artists who decide to write after Image Comics in the 90’s. They’re not all bad, after all, look at Keith Giffen. Francis Manapul does a very good job of continuing the look of the previous Flash run, while making it all new. It’s accessible to new readers, giving the Barry set up (minus all the dying and coming back), a love interest at his workplace, Iris West as a prominent part of his supporting cast, a friend from his youth and a mystery. Barry Allen isn’t an interesting character, so everyone else has to work double time, from the villains to the normal supporting cast members and the creative team on the book itself. Manapul takes a bunch of sequential tricks which remind of me Eisner’s lessons in how to interact with the panels, even if they look nothing like them. His use of colour and black & white help direct the eye to the action and you end up racing through the world of The Flash at a great pace.

So this one’s a recommend, it’s a Flash comic without all of the confusing continuity.

 

GREEN LANTERN: THE NEW GUARDIANS

Speaking of confusing continuity, there’s some retroactive continuity in GL: NG which raises more questions than it solves. We look at the past, where Ganthet (little Smurf alien who co-runs the Green Lantern with nameless members of his kind) gives the down-and-out Kyle Rayner a green ring and welcomes him to the Corps.

In the 90’s, there were no more Green Lanterns as Hal Jordan, the GL at the time, went mad, broke the power battery and slaughtered many Green Lanterns while the others just disbanded. Kyle was brought in to be the one Green Lantern, the bearer of the torch. Is that still the case? It didn’t sound that way. Kyle actually exhibits some personality though, which is nice.

What isn’t so great is that the majority of this issue is a montage of rings from all the multi-coloured Corps leaving their owners, often killing them. They all reach Kyle and proclaim that they have chosen him. Then a member from each Corps turns up, wanting vengeance or simply wanting that ring back. Convenient.

The mystery has some potential, but I’m not sure how long I’ll bother with this title. If it’s another bunch of heroes who aren’t really heroes as they’re a bit roguish, don’t play by the rules and fight amongst themselves, then I’ll drop the title like that body I weighed down and threw off the pier.

 

I, VAMPIRE

The art looks like Jae Lee, who I’ve not heard anything from in years, since a terrible X-Men vs Random New Pointy People video game which tanked. It’s nice for the style of the book, and I’m curious how it’ll look when proper DC characters turn up. I gather this is vaguely related to something in the past, but I’m not sure what.

We have the longest passive-aggressive break up in history. As all the press blurb said about this title, a guy became a vampire and was normal, he made his girlfriend a vampire and it unleashed some evil hidden within her (or in all women, am I right, fellas? Fellas?) And over the many, many years, they’ve been making up and breaking up. There is a problem of red narration boxes talking to slightly darker red narration boxes. I had to turn my light up (oh yes, I have a dimmer switch, ladies) to get the dialogue straight in my head.

Apparently in a world of super-heroes everywhere, vampires are a secret, but it looks like they’re aiming on not being True Blood style homosexual metaphors so much as fanged terrorists. I’m curious about where all of this is going and why DC thought to put this book out.

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK

I like Grant Morrison comics. This isn’t one, but I thought I’d mention that as proof that I’m fine with confusing stories. There are flying teeth, bored power stations and a women appearing everywhere, only to keep dying.

The actual Justice League appear (is this their first proper appearance) and of course have trouble with magic. Superman’s still vulnerable to it, and most of them are probably confused enough by what’s going on to phone in sick. Zatanna, apparently one of the team or at least a mate of Batman’s, says that this is her purview. We get glimpses of most of the cast who are all suitably abstract.

I’m curious about how they’ll tie them together and who can act as the ‘straight man’ to a team full of rogues and wild cards. I realised that I just said the same kind of words which put me off of New Guardians (and Outlaws, and later in this review, Teen Titans) but here it feels presented better. They’re wild cards because they can’t even control themselves. They’re not posturing, they’re mentally ill.

My only concern is that Zatanna looks more like a young Hot Topic fan than her classical magician garb. Yes, that included fishnets, but she also had a top hat, and exuded some class. If we’re reducing people to their base concepts, then isn’t there a slight debt to the iconic images of Zatanna, Black Canary, Superman, and so on? Maybe these looks will grow, but most people who know of these characters only have that classic style in their head. If this was going to be the new normal for Zatanna, couldn’t her outfit in Young Justice also look this way?

 

SAVAGE HAWKMAN

Like a lesser Animal Man or Swamp Thing, Carter Hall is a conflicted character whose powers are a bit strange right now. Unlike Animal Man, he’s a lost person. He has no Hawkgirl/woman in his life, he’s drinking and attacked by some sort of Venom-looking thing. It bleeds on him and gives him funky new armour. That’s about it. There’s not much interesting going on here, I wasn’t a fan of Hawkman and this didn’t win me over.

 

SUPERMAN

Please don’t be bad, please don’t be bad.

[reads comic]

IT DIDN’T SUCK! Woo! Yeah! It didn’t suck!

There’s a ton of action and exposition, making it a meaty read, and almost classical in its style. I’ve not read anything artist (again) George Perez has written before. I missed out on meeting Perez when he popped into my comic shop once. It wasn’t a proper appearance, but my co-worker, Gordon, got him to sign New Teen Titans #1 for himself and the Heroes Return Avengers #1 for me. That was awesome.

Anecdote aside, he seems to be good with packing a lot in little time, almost aiming for the opposite of his art style which is great for big panels and grandiose shots of a million heroes.

The Daily Planet’s been bought up by a big media company, wrecking the old building and getting a new, fancy one. Lois Lane is the head of New Media, securing her job, and Clark’s still fairly low-level in the company.

He fights a fire monster, showing that he’s got all his proper powers by this point in his continuity, five years after Action Comics #1. He’s not as hot-tempered as his young self and not an angry, punchy 90’s style character. I hate that I kind of expect that these days. And by these days I mean this month with DC Comics.

There’s the much advertised love triangle with Clark, Lois and [insert guy no one cares about].

 

TEEN TITANS

Another week, another clandestine organisation. As the comic went on I realised that it was NOWHERE from Superboy, so we’ve only got eighty million new, weird organisations in the New DC Universe. Fairchild appears again, and this feels more like the place she could exist comfortably.

Like Green Lantern: The New Guardians, we get another montage of our heroes, but these are longer scenes which give us more of the characters. Tim Drake’s smart, got a lot of tech and may have led to the death of goons by blowing up his home with them in it. Cassie Sandsmark’s a liar, a thief and upset at being called Wonder Girl. She seems like a better rendition of the character than I could have hoped after last week’s Starfire débâcle. Then we have Superboy, who we’ve been told is probably the villain of this year.

Brett Booth’s art isn’t great, but it’s not exploitative compared to most former Image artists and that’s where my gauge is now. This has risen in my expectations thanks to Red Hood and the Outlaws.

 

VOODOO

Again, my expectations were low going in. I expected this to be at least a Starfire appearance level of terribleness. It turned out to be the most boring comic about a stripper that I’ve seen. She poses while a male and female agent from New DC Shadowy Organisation #314 give mysterious exposition. Almost nothing happens until she becomes a freaky alien Species thing and kills the agent. The agents, the only real people we see in here are a pervert and a generic tough woman archetype, although she doesn’t at least say she’s as good as any man.

“In this place, ‘very nice’ gets you a five, slutty gets you a twenty.” There, that’s DC’s new policy, apparently.

This isn’t a great title, but it falls into being uninteresting more than anything else. That’s a shame as Ron Marz is a good writer and all I’d read of Voodoo was Alan Moore’s run, which was (of course) fantastic.

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