Monday, 12 September 2011

Issue #1.1: More reviews from the first batch of DC's 52!

Hey there!  I've been smashing through the first round of releases for DC's 52 to wrap up reviews and get ready for more due this week. There have already been some highs and lows amongst this batch of titles, so read on to see what I at least thought.

Batgirl #1   I went into this one knowing the now no longer crippled Barbera Gordon is Batgirl again, pissing off wheelchair bound and able bodied comic fans alike, enough to warrant an article in the Herald-Sun. While referenced, her recovery is not explained but simply called “a miracle”. An opportunity lost for a decent re-origin story in favour of a mystery involving a pretty spooky villain named Mirror. Pencilled by Adrian Syaf, probably best known for his work on Green Lantern, the art is rich and colourful. Why Batgirl appears on the cover smiling like a 1950s housewife selling dishwashing detergent is perplexing though – this character is scarred and angry. There's not enough gelling with this one for me. I'll pass.

Detective Comics #1   My introduction to the work of Tony S. Daniel was way back when he did a short stint on Spawn. I can still see similarities with that work and what he's doing with Batman here. Pencilling and writing must afford tremendous creative control, and he doesn't waste it. The book looks amazing, the gritty, grimy feel of Gotham is palpable enough to taste. The content is violent and it's cliffhanger will turn your stomach. Beginning with Batman hunting The Joker, there's plenty of classic Batman boxes ticked, including the always amusing Batman-silently-pisses-off-somewhere-halfway-through-a-conversation gag. Detective Comics just won a place in my hold drawer for the forseeable future.

Green Arrow # 1   My familiarity with this character being low, I dived into Green Arrow #1 with open mindedness. The art style reminded me of late nineties work, and a little research revealed penciller Dan Jurgens worked on two stories from that time I was familiar with: Death Of Superman and Superman Vs. Aliens. It's a little basic, particularly with backgrounds, but the nostalgic reader won't mind. There's plenty of action throughout, and a hint of conflict to be fleshed out later. Green Arrow's costume looks a little more designed for hand-to-hand combat, dispelling my perception of this character being a rooftop sniper. He also has Batman style gadgets which seem pretty nifty. Not brilliant, but not bad, and might get better.

Hawk & Dove #1   Rob Liefeld has had a long career in the comics spotlight, often for the wrong reasons (read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Liefeld ), but his talent is undeniable and style immediately recognisable. Considering Hawk & Dove was one of his earliest projects, how fitting he be able to work on it's reboot now. While there seems to be almost a formula for the 52 being splash pages 2 & 3, and begin with high action, Hawk & Dove actually makes it work well for itself. The initial save the day scenario ends less than perfectly. There's secrets and conflict between the two heroes. But there is also a humour that sets this apart from the other titles so far that gives this book a fresh edge. The art's great. The writing's sharp and flows nicely. These guys work well together, and I'm going to collect it.

Justice League International #1   Dan Jurgens works on this title too, though on writing duties, and lays strong foundations for future issues. The U.N. assembles it's own Justice League based on an ideal of control, placing Booster Gold in the leader's chair for little reason other than they consider him a malleable puppet. There's plenty of banter and jibes between the team members as they find their feet with one another, and the book is not afraid to take the piss out of itself. “Batman. Why?” comments Booster Gold. I thought the same thing, as someone at DC HQ saw fit to jam Bats into as many of the 52 as possible, as if all these titles need their hand held by someone with some box office clout to get them running. It's a shame, because ironically this is where the book failed for me. He's not a member of the team, he goes against what the U.N. clearly state about their intentions for the team, and doesn't really do anything except appear. With Batman, Batman And Robin, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight and the real Justice League all on the roster for this relaunch his inclusion here seems clumsy and an obvious appeal to the masses, and he should be left to his own books. Still, the setups are clear and for those not afraid to add something second-tier to their list, Justice League International could turn out to be a nice gamble.

Men Of War #1   Why would DC, a publisher that owns the two most famous super heroes in the world, include a military comic amongst it's list of new titles? Men Of War is actually not what you might think. I was expecting something along the lines of Call Of Duty when I saw the cover for this, but so far it's not really that at all (it's accompanying story Navy Seals: Human Shields covers those bases), but a well drawn and well written story that also employs the theme introduced in Justice League: that super-powered humans are new and not fully understood. I have a pretty good idea which character is doing all the damage, but I'll keep my thoughts under wraps for now (hint: It's not Batman!). I appreciated the explanations of all the military acronyms, and the script is pretty good. I'll give another issue a go and see where it's leading.

OMAC #1   OMAC treads the kind of weird creature / science fiction comic style that was popular in the 1980s, which was never exactly my cup of Twinings English breakfast tea. OMAC is big, blue, covered in flashy lights and is on a mostly mindless rampage. I was thinking about this review while reading this title and already condemning it to the “no thanks” pile until my interest piqued on the final page. No spoilers here, but the story concludes with a banner announcing, “Next issue things get really weird!”. I like weird. I like things that make me curious. Issue #2 please.

Static Shock #1   WARNING! SPOILERS!   If you've read this far you might be thinking I have too many positive things to say about all these books. Well I just read Static Shock and I hated it. Firstly, Virgil Hawkins is a cocky little shit and his own biggest fan. If they ever make a Static movie (and they fucking better not) they would cast Will Smith's kid in it – that's how unappealing he is. He spouts technobabble during combat so boring you'll scream, and he flies on a hovering board of arranged hexagonal something so far into wtf territory the only option is to kill yourself. Or him. Or maybe the lame fish man or the fucking Power Ranger like villains that are after him. At the end this turd of a character gets his arm blown off, and not that I'll ever read the second issue, but you know what? I'll bet he just uses his lame ass electrical powers to just sew it back on again. This was crap.

Stormwatch #1   SMALL SPOILER AHEAD!   Alright, the sci-fi comic thing done with a seemingly more modern edge, or maybe it's just the influence of the artwork. This one is a little confusing because what's going on actually originates in Superman #1, which isn't out until the end of the month. Given that this relaunch resets more than a few details, we see Apollo and Midnighter meet for the “first” time, pre-relationship. There's some freaky strange stuff happening on the moon, and I like that a true threat is already emerging here, where some titles are content to stick with super-powered street fights. I'm sticking with Stormwatch for now.

Swamp Thing #1   This one's already generating positive buzz and rightly so. It juggles a mystery / horror narrative well and cliffhangs nicely. The cover is great too, with a classic B-Movie style logo above the character and a foreground of flora that looks like something printed on curtains from the 70s. It may be a bit of an acquired taste for some but I suggest to anyone picking up a few DC titles this month that you throw a copy of Swamp Thing in with your other titles.

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