Continuing the review of my DC Comics “New 52” experience: all the comics that I couldn’t be bothered to read and then some that I did. PART TWO of TWO:
While looking at all the initial comics from the New52 launch, I still can’t figure out why it had to go down like that. Was there ever a master plan afoot, or did some shit happen at the DC offices that required some major financial boost that only fifty-two new number one issues could provide? What was the game plan here, fellas (and gals)? It seems like the only real change that occurred was the rolling in of some familiar Vertigo characters and some elements from Wildstorm. DC could have done that without some grand spectacle. Just do another Crisis on Infinite whatevers. Say Superboy punched reality so hard, “the bleed” sorta forced its way in. Enter: Stormwatch. Enter: Gen13. Have a big event focusing on that, and I would probably read. Re-creating a universe from whole cloth after decades of dense mythology just seemed like the wrong way to go. And, unsurprisingly, it failed. Now, I am sure there are some good stories sprinkled throughout the five-year history of this experiment. I read a few. I liked a few. But, as we all know, it’s ancient history by now. Today, New52 is just a quashed pimple on the long, wrinkled face of DC comics. I’m sure everyone just wants to try and forget that embarrassing little blemish in time, but not me. I’m reading through all my comics: one by fricken one.
But, before I go and review the titles that I did read, here are some more that I did not:
These could have been good, but what do I know:
Static Shock 1-8. I remember when the Milestone comics imprint first launched with Hardware, Shadow Cabinet, Icon and all the rest. I was mildly interested in this ambitious project at the time, but opted not to follow. I guess Static was one of the more popular characters that survived this short-lived line.
Deathstroke 1-20. Could be bad-ass. Just looks silly.
Birds of Prey 1-34. I hear good things about the original series. I never read it, so I have no reason to read this version.
Blue Beetle 1-16. When Ted Kord died, I was done with the Beetle.
Captain Atom 1-12. Sounds like an interesting concept, but it ended so quickly.
DC Universe Presents 1-19. Looks like a showcase type series for new talent development.
Please convince me to try one of these:
Legion of Superheroes 1-23. Paul Levitz has been writing Legion for about as long as I’ve been alive. I’m a fan of LoSH corner of the DCU, but what more could Paul possibly bring to the table that he hasn’t already set?
Nightwing 1-30. Once Dick became Batman, I just couldn’t bring myself to see him any other way. I wish Bruce stayed dead a little longer, just to let the boy wonder have a decent turn with the cowl. This title looks like a return to some glory days that have already been put to bed.
Supergirl 1-40. There are so many problems with how Supergirl has been treated over the years. First, she dies in Crisis, then she’s back as a disaffected youth, or maybe she’s actually some kind of alien jelly? Is she Superman’s cousin again? Is she flying around with the Legion? No clue what to think or how to approach this character.
Blackhawks 1-8. I own the first issue, but haven’t bothered to read it yet. Is it any good?
Grifter 1-16. Cole Cash is a cool as hell character. He is one of Jim Lee’s best creations. Why is it that nobody can ever write good stories with this awesome character? Oh yeah…Point Blank was incredible!! Please let Brubaker write Grifter again.
Green Lantern: New Guardians 1-40. More Green Lantern stuff that I no longer care about. I’m more interested in all the other color lanterns that have been introduced. Maybe this one is good though?
I have no actual reason to hate on these comics, I just know that they are terrible:
Fury of Firestorm 1-20. Ethan Van Sciver is a very detailed artist. That does not mean that he can write worth shit.
Savage Hawkman 1-20. Once upon a time, Tim Truman did this Hawkworld thing that was pretty great. Then, Geoff Johns tried to bring Hawkman back as a cool retro-character. It never worked out.
Hawk & Dove 1-8. There is no reason for this to exist.
Red Hood and the Outlaws 1-40. A man with a red jar on his head, hot Starfire and low-rent Hawkeye hang out on an island and get horny for action. I just made that up, but it’s probably not too far off.
Oh, I’m sorry if I just smashed your precious tea set…do people like those books? That’s great.
Okay, okay…I am such an asshole. I know. All parades have been rained out. The party has been officially pooped. Why am I trashing so many books that I have never even read when I could be focusing on those that I have…and trash those instead?
Titles that I did read, but only got as far as the first issue (or so):
Action Comics 1-52. I applaud Morrison for trying to do something different with the original Superman. I really wanted to see an exciting re-invention of the “Man of Steel” as a working-class hero. Unfortunately, Grant is not so good with down-to-earth stuff and the tone in this comic just felt wrong. Grade D+.
Men of War 1-8. I guess someone decided to make an old-fashioned war comic and put it in the middle of a superhero universe reset. Also, it’s not very good. Grade E.
Animal Man 1-29. I love most of what Jeff Lemire writes, and Buddy Baker is a favorite character. Should be a winner out of the gate, right? I hear lots of people liked this series. I didn’t find the first issue remarkable at all. Must have been in a bad mood while reading it or something. Grade C.
Swamp Thing 1-40. Another one of those initially acclaimed series that I tried and dropped. What is wrong with me? I’m usually a sucker for dark enchanted tales with muck monsters and existential crises. I’m sure there was some of my resentment over DC folding in their Vertigo titles into this supposed new and improved-verse at play here. I’m probably just biased. Sweet cover, though. Grade C.
Wonder Woman 1-52. I really wanted to like this title. Above all other titles that came out of the strangely devised New52, the exploits of Diana of Themyscira was right up on the top of my attention span. I have followed her exploits for decades and Brian Azzarello is usually an interesting, if not great storyteller. But…I only read the first issue. I maybe read the second and third issue as well. I forgot. Whatever number of issues I read, the sum of it all was underwhelming. Sad. Grade C.
Voodoo 1-12. This was a blatant attempt to roll the Wildstorm Universe into DCU and it was a spectacular failure. This is one that I did get through the first couple of issues, so I really did try to give it a fair chance. The story started off a bit rough and quickly went off the tracks from there. Voodoo is an alien who is trying to hide by being a stripper and then some cops try to bust her but she kills them or assumes their identities but then Voodoo is not actually the real Voodoo and who-do, where-do, what the cock-a-fucking-doodle-do is happening and why should I care? This is one of the worst comics I have ever read. I have no other words. It’s just terrible. Grade F.
And now, the moment you have been wading through so much shit for…
Some comics that I did read and enjoyed:
I, Vampire 1-19. Written by Joshua Fialkov and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino, this is a story about a good little vampire boy who falls in love with a bad girl bent on human genocide. It is a dark and tragic epic about love and war with buckets of blood and teams of undead. With gorgeous art by Sorrentino (seemingly channeling the best of Jae Lee’s style) I, Vampire feels like it should be a straight Vertigo horror title. This being the “New52”, massive vampire battles and journeys through the souls’ underbelly occasionally intersect with the likes of Batman and such. Overall, a great gory and heart-wrenching tale. I could do without the super-heroics. Grade A.
Justice League Dark 1-40. The first six issues, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Mikel Janin, is your standard tale of unlikely kooky characters drawn together to take out some high stakes world-ending threat. In the world of magic, where Superman and Batman are ineffectual, it takes the combined forces of Deadman, Zatanna, Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, and John Constantine to make things right. I enjoyed the first story mostly due to the banter and interaction between the weirdo group members while pacing through a well-trodden story device. The artwork was excellent and served the story well. Look out for the tooth-nadooo!!
Issues seven and eight, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Daniel Sampere, are contributions to a nice crossover with I, Vampire. Cain, the original sinner (yah, the one who killed Able, but not the same Cain and Able as are in the House of Mystery, but oh yah it’s New52 and I’m so confused) is back among the living and is going to fuck everyone up if not for good little I, Vampire and his Justice League Dark crew. It’s good fun. Grade B+.
Red Lanterns 1-40. Here we go! Finally, some other-than-green lanterns! Issues 1-14 are written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Ed Benes, Andres Guinaldo and Miguel Sepulveda. This is the ongoing saga of a big red angry dude named Atrocitus, and his team of mindless, rage-filled minions. Sounds super-cheery, right? Just think of Atrocitus as like “red hulk in space”. His anger is eternal. He spits napalm out of his mouth and fashions his team out of a lake of blood. Joy to the world. Milligan writes a fine turn on the character by focusing on his faults, self-doubt and struggles to retain the power from which his rage was forged. The supporting cast of Red Lanterns provide an interesting balance between thoughtful introspection and mindless action. Grade B.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 1-16. Frankenstein, written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Alberto Ponticelli, is unlike any monster mash story I have ever read. It starts out with the titular character, commissioned by some secret agency, hidden in a miniature city inside a floating bubble, to fight the biggest threats to the multiverse. Our hero teams up with a mummy, a vampire and a wolfman to go fight a planet in another dimension, full to the brim with all manner of murderous monsters. Next up: Frankenstein battles Omac! It’s pure wall-to-wall carnage in the best possible way. I love this comic to sword-chopping bits! Grade A+.
Batwoman 1-40. Written and drawn by the incomparable JH Williams, is as much a visual experience as it is a cool detective story. Kate Kane is Batwoman. She first appeared in the old 2006 series “52” as a replacement for Bruce Wayne’s character while he was out re-discovering himself or something. JH Williams provides a visual treat in the initial issues, as Batwoman confronts an ethereal creature bent on stealing Gotham’s children. It’s creepy and wonderful and amazing to read. There is no other book like this one. Grade A.
All Star Western 1-34. Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and drawn by Moritat. I guess if you are going to kick off a superhero universe with an old-fashioned war comic (see: the bad Men of War), you might as well do an old-fashioned western as well. And if you are going to do western, you gotta have some Jonah Hex in it. Justin and Jimmy shoot straight with this title, hitting all the marks with their guns blazing, ugly mug grinning hero of the wild west. Oh, wait…it takes place in Gotham? That’s on the east coast, right? So, a western on the eastern? Oh, hell if I can figure out this new 52! Good comic, though. Grade B.
So, that’s all the DCU I can handle for now. Obviously, from the grumpy tone I have developed since New52, I’ve gotten burnt out by the super-folks and those who write them. I’m sure there are some very fine DC comics that have been produced over the past few years. I just don’t know if I really want to go hunt them down, never mind read them. It’s about time for a change, I think. Yes, I believe I shall be doing something a little bit different in the coming months…I wonder what the future will have in store…hmmm…
Until then, here’s the…
November and December reading:
Secret Six (2015) #9-14
Batman Incorporated (2011) #1-8
Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes #1
Batman Inc. (2012) #0-13
Batman Inc. Special #1
Detective Comics #854-863
Batwoman (2010) #0
Batwoman (2011) #1-24
Did I say that I was tired of Batman...? Yah, I’m not done with Batman yet.
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Issue # 959