As previously mentioned, I am giving the DC “New 52″ titles one issue, 20 pages, to convince me to stick around.
Given the sheer bulk of new titles coming out at the same time from one publisher, this lends itself to a somewhat interesting experiment in deconstructing the creation of a perfect first issue (or “jumping on” point) for new readers.
I suspect it will be after I do all of my reviews that I’ll post a summary of my finding. In the meantime, here are the reviews.
What I Did Not Buy
Since I purchase titles primarily based on creators (whom I either follow and/or am interested in), there are a number of books that I passed on.
- Detective Comics: I am a fan of Tony Daniel’s art, but having tried on a number of occasions to get into his writing, it just wasn’t for me. Others seem to like him, and if I start to see reviews that express his style has changed, I might revisit this title in trade or digitally.
- Justice League International
- O.M.A.C.: the interesting thing here is that I was on board, but then I read the io9 preview and it had the opposite effect on me.
- Static Shock: love the character, but I’m not convinced that the current creative team can top the original McDuffie/Leon run. Another opportunity for a creative team to prove me wrong and if the chatter is positive, I’ll reconsider.
What I Did Buy (Gold Medal Winners)
The “gold medal winners” are the books that nailed it in twenty pages and there is no question that I’m on board for the foreseeable future.
Justice League: Geoff Johns and Jim Lee have the difficult task of not telling the story of how the League was put together, but also structuring this book in a way that defines the next era of super hero comic books from DC. No pressure. Geoff does character dialogue very well, so it’s no surprise that there’s a good amount of the issue with Batman and Green Lantern (two of the most recognizable characters to new readers) talking to each other. He also uses Jim Lee to his advantage in some beautiful and lush action sequences. As co-publisher, Jim Lee is setting a pace for the other artists in the line with very dynamic and stylized page layouts (see Animal Man, Batwing and Swamp Thing). The interesting thing here is that the mistake for this book would have been to turn it into a Michael Bay explosion fest. That’s the difference between films and comic books. Films are a one time purchase. Comic books require the reader to want to know what happens next and to show up for the next issue and the one after that. By that standard, this book is following the right course and trajectory with it’s cliffhanger ending.
Action Comics: when I think of the people that know Superman. I mean really know Superman. I mean like ‘what was the address of the farm was in Smallville’ know Superman, three people come to mind; Mark Waid, Chris Roberson and Grant Morrison. There are a number of references back to the original Action Comics #1 (including when Superman saves a woman from her abusive husband) and while this Superman is a bit “naive” and maybe “darker,” we all know where this is going to end up. So really what we’re looking at is the journey of how a young man from the midwest meets the city and how it turns him into the greatest superhero of all time. And that journey doesn’t conclude on day one. It takes time. And this is the book where that happens.
RFD 1, Box 72. Kent HOUSE was on 321 Maple. Pa's store was on the 100 block of Oak St. DUH. http://pic.twitter.com/sblcXq7
Animal Man: this, and Swamp Thing, are two books where the author clearly knew exactly the tone they wanted for the title. The first page is a bit of a gimmick, but it pays off strong as the issue progresses. Lemire combines family elements with gothic horror and this is perfectly carried by Travel Foreman’s minimalistic style and beautiful page designs. Animal Man and Swamp Thing are the type of comic book that give new comic book readers a sense of the “cinematography” that an artist can achieve creating a stylized look that they would not find on television or in a film. And it’s not just about dudes in capes (though they do show up). What I also like about this title is that there’s no middle ground. You either loved it, or it’s not for you.
Batwing: full disclosure, I am friends with the author (Judd Winick) so while this might come off as a biased review, it doesn’t mean that this title isn’t fantastic. In the 20 pages of this first issue, Judd is able to clearly define how this book is different from Batman in Gotham City. He gives a sense of the place, the people, the characters and all while also providing some great opportunities for artist Ben Oliver to deliver beautifully rendered action sequences. This is the book that is going to come in under the radar and surprise people. It’s written as a straight-up action/superhero comic book, but Judd makes the characters and the setting the real focus and it’s something we’ve not seen before.
Swamp Thing: Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette are following the successful Alan Moore/Steve Bissette/Rick Veitch model for this title; specifically the tone of the early issues with the trippy late 80′s layouts and how ‘nature’ was both a setting and a character that played off of Alec Holland. This is, what I think, is resonating with most of the positive reviews online. People liked that Swamp Thing. This looks like that Swamp Thing. A+B=C. They like this title. And it would be easy for Snyder/Paquette to simply be a “cover band,” but that’s not why these guys are two of the top creators in the business. They are simply using this as a starting point to provide easy access into something that is going to be unique unto the collaboration between the two of them. Already in the first 20 pages I see an increased levels of horror (reminiscent of the Wein/Wrightson run) and a trajectory that in a few issues (or maybe even a few pages) will be referred to in the future as “the Snyder/Paquette” run and not merely a homage.
Silver Medal Winners
The following are titles I enjoyed, but am putting “on notice” that in another 20 pages, I might not stick around.
Batgirl: Gail Simone has a very difficult task to accomplish with this title. She has to bridge the gap from The Killing Joke to current day in a way that is respectful to old readers and any number of groups looking for blood. I have faith in her ability to do this, and am actually impressed that she decided not to tackle this in the first issue. She’s taking readers on a journey and hints at the timeline which I’m sure she’ll expand on in future issues. My problem with the book was the actual writing of the issue. Specifically the tone. She is applying the same type of tone she used on Secret Six; disturbing one minute, funny and quirky the next and then back again. Two problems with that tone for this book. 1) there’s a bit more emotion that is coming out of the Jim / Barbara relationship which puts another ball in the air and messes put the balance and rhythm. 2) the jokes are not funny. Not a single joke or gag in this issue landed. In fact a few were so cliche that I cringed. That’s my opinion. As far as the art, this is certainly one of the most beautiful titles of week 1, no question. I’m going to give this another shot with issue 2 to see if it can figure itself out, but this issue was simply, “OK.”
Stormwatch: if you are a science fiction novel reader, this is your title. No question. Paul Cornell writes science fiction novels and has taken that style of writing to Stormwatch. And it fits perfectly. The problem that this title had is that it references quite a bit of the DC Universe…that nobody has read yet. I’m kind of amazed that editorial chose to put this as a Week 1 book, as opposed to waiting for it to go after certain books (one of which is referenced in this issue but has yet to come out). That shouldn’t (and doesn’t) affect how I felt about this title. I think much of it had to do with so much of this issue being setup, which is why I’d like to stick around and give it another shot.
Third Place (Insert Glengary Glen Ross Speech Here)
I will not spend too much time on these titles, since I try to stay away from negative reviews. I will say that I read these titles. They were not for me.
- Green Arrow: this title is being eliminated due in large part to a personal bias I have with regard to comic books that try to cover the technology industry. I work in the industry and it’s hard for me to read about it and not analyze it more than I should.
- Hawk And Dove: my one complaint with this book had to do with a reveal on the final page and some color issues that confused the heck out of me given some new costume designs for one of the characters. I don’t know, maybe it was just me.
- Men of War: there were a number of people that I trust who loved this title. I have been spoiled by the Garth Ennis “war stories” from Dynamite (and Vertigo) and wasn’t seeing this book going in that direction. This is a title that I will keep my eye on and could revisit in trade in months to come.
…so, that’s the news folks. I. Am. Out of here…