Let’s launch into it.
Yes. After two weeks of terrible (Detective) and, I don’t know, just… off (Batman & Robin) Bat-centric titles, now it’s the good one.
It has a noirish narrative with a big mystery (which I won’t spoil). Often when a writer sticks to a very specific hook, especially something like, “how people define Gotham City in one word”, it can feel laboured. Here, luckily, it doesn’t. The narration proves that Batman is Gotham and Gotham is Batman. His every move shows his certainty in this setting, especially now he’s been around the world and owned that, too. Of course, things will go wrong, especially as Bruce Wayne’s taking a proactive stand for improving the city. Something the author, Scott Snyder, has said about this has been that Gotham may not be so keen on Batman.
The art is very nice. I didn’t expect a former Spawn artist to do great work, but he’s very expressive with each face without going over the top. The bodies of characters are wildly different from each other, I feel that Amanda Waller would do well in Greg Capullo’s world. Batman is always in shadows. We get introduced to the city, the villains, the sidekicks, his relationship to GCPD, the secret identity, Gotham City AND we get a mystery.
This is a perfect issue one which neither contradicts recent runs, or George Lucases the characters we’ve loved from the past. And yes, I am going to use “George Lucas” as a verb now.
BIRDS OF PREY
A title I’d not have bought if not for my store’s discount. Partly out of bitterness that this wasn’t Gail Simone’s Birds, and partly because I had no idea who half the cast were.
It’s a quick first issue, almost too quick for good judgement.
The comics’ better than I thought it would be. The women aren’t exploited, the action’s quick and airy. There are references to the past Birds possibly having happened, and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) turns up as Black Canary’s BFF. This is mainly Black Canary’s show, though, giving her a sidekick and a lot of space to kick butt. It’s a shame her costume’s so painfully bland.
There are stealth-suited villains, a dude in distress, a sleeper agent and mention of more of the team being hired soon. Overall, it’s harmless enough.
With Tony Bedard writing we have a good glimpse at the cosmic DC-verse, including a Green Lantern fighting a blue alien in a suit like Blue Beetle’s. This helps to tie the different alien concepts together, although The Reach (the Blue Beetle aliens) killed with kindness instead of yelling and murdering in the Old DCU.
I loved the original Blue Beetle series and this feels quite unnecessary as the origin only happened recently (in comic terms). Jaime Reyes is a Mexican kid who is involved in an attack by super-heroes and a blue scarab burrows into him. He screams and turns into Blue Beetle. That’s all the beetling we get for this issue. Until then it’s him, Paco and Brenda, his entourage from the old run, and a couple of other characters. I hope that it proves different enough to validate this complete reboot of his origin. And that The Reach aren’t just shouty, punchy aliens. We have too many of those.
Looking at my initial notes, it fared better with me than with the internet and comic fans as a whole. I don’t know if I’m just desensitised, or the comparison with Miller’s All Star Batman made this look tame compared.
For the majority of this issue, it’s gorgeously drawn and extremely Bayonetta-esque. At least, that’s how I took it. There’s some espionage, fighting, an explosion and so on. She’s evidently having fun doing what she’s doing.
There was a moment where I froze, when a flashback showed her tear-stained eyes and I swear, my first instinct was to put it down and say, “No. Not another rapey origin for a female superheroine.” It happens way too much and luckily I jumped the gun. So far, she’s not yet another heroine defined by having been ráped. That is a lazy writing tool these days.
Then it gets to the bit which caused the internet to explode. Batman turns up, in the hope of becoming the Wolverine of the new DCU as far as ubiquity goes. Then Selina doesn’t realise that “no means no”, and they have sex once Batman’s done protesting. This is poorly handled. Steamy romance novel bad.
My initial thoughts (until the sex scene) were that at least she’s not defining herself by the men around her, like so many, “strong female characters” end up doing. Something I didn’t take into account, which another reviewer pointed out, was that the male she was playing to, was us. The audience. I say US, really I mean the Jim Balent Catwoman fan of the 1990’s, or the age category a lot of these new DC titles seem to play to, which is for the ages of 13 to 14 1/2. Which is a shame. You can skew young, or at least all ages, and not have to pander.
The art’s forgivable as is the cheesecake, as someone who’s way too used to the works of people like Frank Cho, Ed Benes and Greg Land, but the final pages seem a bit too blatant. Rather than go into post modern feminism, which I’m sure we’re all aware of, I will use this comic in a future article about the misappropriation of the term, “mature audience” in the popular culture.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS
Speak of the devil, this will also be a feature of that article. Mostly, this is a good title. It’s certainly a better use of the #1 than Green Lantern was. We’re introduced to Guy Gardner and John Stewart, who are publicly known as Green Lanterns, something we’ve not seen anything about in recent history. So we see their problems with being ‘celebity heroes’ and adjusting to hanging out on Earth after a billion issues of just space. Guy, bored with questions, tells us/an audience in the book, about the Green Lanterns, what he can do and what a space sector actually is (I had no idea about this, so that was good to know).
The familiar thing which I’d hoped had changed, is that every single Green Lantern who’s not a human (and a select few others) will die if they appear in the comic. There are brutal deaths at the start of the book, which look horrible and could have made this all ages with tactful shadows, cutting away or anything like that. We seem dependent on being shown every gory/sexy thing around. There’s no use for subtlety in these books any more, or in the popular culture as a whole.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
Legion misses a trick, by forgetting that it’s an issue one. It does a little to remedy that, but not enough. Legion of Super-Heroes is less ‘busy’ than Legion Lost was, but still too much.
We’re introduced to a ton of different Legionnaires, a lot of whom roam around in disguises for the issue. The scenes shift and change telling a bunch of different stories all in this issue.
What should have been done is that we could have seen this ONLY from the new Legionnaires’ view, possibly only from one. There are new members who graduated from Legion Academy and they would have been a great “in”. Legion’s done this before with Timber Wolf’s introduction in The Legion, and the LSH annual when Chuck Taine, their engineer (aka Bouncing Boy depending on the continuity) was wandering through the headquarters. It’s a common television pilot entry method and could have been a great way of seeing the vast, confusing world of the Legion.
The plot is… I’m not sure, I’ve forgotten and barely care any more, but a Daxamite turns up at the end, they’re like facist Supermen. As a friend who recently got into the title said, “Ugh, not them AGAIN.”
Eschewing the alleged “women must wear trousers” rule, Supergirl crash lands on Earth (a fourth new origin since the 1990’s). Like Birds of Prey, the pacing’s really fast, not much happens. She arrives on Earth, thinks she’s dreaming, guys in giant suits attack her and when the sun rises, she gets powers. The way her powers are dealt with are good, and Superman turns up at the end, so hopefully we’ll get some talking next issue.
This is a nice, dark book. It oozes with mythology (both Greek and WW’s) but without excluding the audience. It’s not an origin issue but doesn’t need to be. We get two cold opens, one with Apollo being sinister, the other with a girl, Zola, being attacked by centaurs. Evil, evil centaurs.
What I said about Green Lantern Corps doesn’t actually apply here as the horror of the moment’s necessary, unlike the gore in that book which seems like it’s there for the hell of it.
Wonder Woman is GIANT, she’s professional and right in on the action, without faffing or falling into any, “Strong Female Character” problems. I feared that Brian Azzarello, known for crime fiction, would work, but he definitely does here.
A GOOD BOOK FOR EACH OF THE TRINITY
Wow, looking at this, Batman, Wonder Woman and Action Comics are definite, “buy” comics. One for each of the core trinity. I’m pleased about this, it shows that all three are being represented in this new era of vastly differing quality.
Later this week will be Marvel and The New 52, and next week will be my final reviews, along with my future pull list for DC.
ADDITIONAL… RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS
I wrote and posted this article, then realised there was one more comic. This is a bad sign.
I started reading the comic and for the first eight pages was surprised about how I enjoyed Red Hood & Arsenal’s banter. These are two characters I could not give a toss about. Still, there was some fun action and the back & forth was entertaining.
Then Starfire turned up.
Oh my god. See my responses to Catwoman and Green Lantern Corps. This feels totally like pandering to the 13-14 1/2 year old demographic. Even then it feels cheap. I admit I’m not a Teen Titans fan, but I’ve read 52, I’ve seen the popularity of the character amongst kids thanks to the cartoon. I know when something’s being cheapened and this is a new level of cheap. The, “hot alien girl sex object” thing is a terrible trope. Something fun like Rumiko Takahashi’s “Lum: Urusei Yatsura” shows you how to do this right, if you have to do it at all. The concept of a hot alien who’ll have sex with anyone as long as it’s emotionless is really low. Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose low.