The New 52 Reviews – Week One, Part Two

THE NEW 52, WEEK ONE: PART TWO

BATWING #1

I only bought this book because my local comic shop was doing the New 52 at a cut price. I’m pleased I did. Judd Winick’s a very hit and miss writer and that always makes me cautious in trying a new series.

Batwing is the “Batman of Africa” which means he’s covering a lot of ground. He has a high-tech suit, and Batman mentoring him. That means he has to cultivate his legend as a badass in a continent which has had far more problems than Gotham City.

It starts with Batwing fighting a man named Massacre who jams a machete into one of his high-tech wings, then flashes back to him with Batman. A former superhero has been murdered. Africa attempted to have a super-team five years ago, but it didn’t work out and now someone’s killing them.

Batwing in his civilian identity is a cop, working in a crappy police station with comrades who don’t care and a girl cop who’s good, but jaded by her experiences. Their dynamic’s pretty good, and with a low-level career, we see that again, Batwing’s got a lot of work cut out for him. After some research, Batwing returns to his civilian identity, only to find that Massacre has murdered the whole police station (hopefully not the girl Batwing had the good dialogue with). He then stabs Batwing in the chest.

It’s quite bloody and the backgrounds are sadly lacking, but the art is possibly the best out of these titles, and the writing’s been good, too. A high-stakes, low-resources Batman. Nice. The low resource Batman idea does make me want a Man-of-Bats series to see print at some point.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1

I loved Action Comics, but sadly our first look at Batman isn’t as good. Tony Daniel writes and draws this comic, and it’s not great. He took over the core Batman title briefly in recent years and that title fell apart, too.

This is a fairly standard Batman vs Joker chase. There are a couple of nice parts to it, such as the Gotham City Police Department’s treatment of Batman and how he tries to save a little girl and make sure the GCPD don’t hurt her, either.

The shock at the end with whatever the hell the Joker’s up to now is the only real part of any interest, but this is so painfully generic that it’s a shame this is our first look at present day Batman, instead of a ropey filler issue. It’s got one more issue to shape up and then I’m dropping it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL #1

Dan Jurgens is someone I didn’t like when I was younger, but Justice League International was one of the most fun DC titles of the past. So I went into this in two minds.

This is the opposite of the new Justice League in execution and while it feels a little bland in places, it still accomplishes a lot with what it’s got.

Andre, a businessman who wants to capitalise on the whole hero thing, has decided to provide the public a superhero team they can trust. He’s both good and self-interested, which makes him an intriguing character. He gets the UN to agree to the project and hires a bunch of international superheroes.

The leader, the American Booster Gold, is a fame-hound who will advertise everything (apart from adult nappies, apparently) and seems to have still been time travelling, like in the old DC continuity.

August General in Iron (China) and Rocket Red (Russia) are rivals which gives them some banter, and hopefully there’ll be more to them both than that. Fire (Brazil), Ice (Norway), Vixen (Africa) and Lady Godiva (UK) don’t get much to do. There’s talk of getting Blue Beetle (Mexico) but he’s a rookie, and a Green Lantern called Guy Gardner (Space?) who is too hot-headed to work with Booster. Batman invites himself onto the team because he’s The Goddamn Batman, but still wants Booster to lead.

They head out to Peru and are attacked by a GIANT ROBOT!

So it’s fairly a standard issue one and feels like it’s all been done before, but it’s still enjoyable.

O.M.A.C #1

This is a difficult one. It’s enjoyable in some ways, but definitely not a title to recommend to brand new readers.

The One Man Army Corps is pretty much The Hulk meets a Sentinel. He’s a giant blue thing with a mohawk and very little dialogue unless you count hitting things.

When the issue starts, Cadmus Labs are being attacked by OMAC and the girlfriend of an OCD-suffering worker there, one Kevin Kho, gives enough exposition that we can already tell he’s OMAC. He’s obeying a voice in his head/on his workstation’s monitor to smash up the secret labs underneath. There’s Dubbilex, an old Superboy supporting cast member, and Mokkari, who is something to do with Darkseid. That means that this may link with Justice League’s whole Darkseid thing (although that’s five years earlier) and reads like a love letter to the big crazy of yesteryear. OMAC and the whole Darkseid/New Gods thing were all Jack Kirby creations, and I wonder if that’ll be the link for everything in this title. I’m uncertain if I’ll keep this one up or not.

STORMWATCH #1

Paul Cornell is a great writer who worked on Doctor Who and a great Lex Luthor run on Action Comics until recently. His take on Stormwatch has be in two minds. It’s written a bit out of his style, closer to the jaded scripts of Warren Ellis, who closed down Stormwatch and turned them into The Authority.

This story begins with some huge ideas. Stormwatch look over the Earth and protect it. Apparently they always have, long before these “superheroes” started doing it in a far more garish fashion. A few of them, including the Martian Manhunter, Jack Hawksmoor, who talks to cities, and… (I forget her name) who can see and manipulate media, try to recruit Apollo. Apparently he’s fought Superman, is of a similar power level to him, and hates superheroes.

At the same time the moon is growing into a giant claw, threatening the Earth, and the Eminence of Blades’ investigation uncovers The Scourge of Worlds who wants to make Earth stronger, and not in a good way. We can only assume by taking the, “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” adage a bit too far.

It’s very busy with concepts and time might be needed to get used to this new authorial voice from Paul Cornell, but it looks okay and the ideas are interesting enough. Like Simone, I expect better from him and hopefully that’s what we’ll get soon enough.

SWAMP THING #1

I’ve heard so many good things about Scott Snyder, but not read any of his books. When his Detective Comics run comes out in a softcover collected edition, I have to get it. His Batman pitch sounded very good, so I thought I’d pick up his Swamp Thing.

This is a character with a convoluted past, so while we get some exposition and many surprise DC appearances (Batman, Aquaman, Superman & Lois Lane), we still get enough of a story to be interesting. Alec Holland died and Swamp Thing rose, thinking it was him. It wasn’t, not really. When Brightest Day happened in the past year, Alec came back to life. He’s not been Swamp Thing, but has his memories, so like a reverse version of the past Swamp Thing (I think). But now, something weird’s going on. It looks like Alec might become Swamp Thing after all, and something’s making people twist their own heads around and become zombie servants. It’s freaky and would seem cartoonish if this wasn’t evidently a horror book. It feels almost EC-like, or akin to the nastier Doctor Who villains.

This is a definite keeper, if only because it’s so damn weird that it’s fun.

WHERE’S WALLY?

I did not notice this in my first read of Justice League, so the internet told me, and now it’s happening in every title.

Flashpoint #5 had the DC Comics universe merge with the Vertigo and Wildstorm universes. A woman in a purple hood explained that they had always been together, but were split apart. Something’s coming and they need to be put back as one. That’s the plot reason for the New 52. Hopefully when whatever threat happens, we won’t get a reference to the old universe, as that’d feel a bit like a cop out.

Since then, she’s appeared in the background of every single comic the New 52’s had to offer. It’s been a fun little game, and a good benchmark of if a comic’s interesting or not. If I’m too into the story, I won’t actively look for her the first time I read it.

I’d heard there wouldn’t be a big DC event in the first year of the New 52, so I’m curious about who this woman is and why she’s showing up. Is she like the bald men in Fringe and the RTD-era Doctor Who clues (Bad Wolf, Torchwood and so on) or will this be directly dealt with in one of the books. Either way it’s a nice little easter egg for us.

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