deadlier than he knew.
Ken: The book I was looking forward to the most did not disappoint. Scott Snyder was on fire writing Detective Comics, bringing a level of characterization you just don't see these days on top of having a creepy story and really making every issue stand on its own. So while I had (and still have) reservations about the DC relaunch, I was so glad Snyder was given the reigns of the flagship Bat-book, simply because that meant many more people will get a chance to read his work.
With Bruce back under the cowl, we get a continuation of what was hinted at in Batman & Robin last week, where Bruce is redoubling his efforts as Bruce Wayne to really clean up Gotham in the form of new buildings and investments from the old money of the city. The reasoning behind this is basically that the more light you have in the city the fewer shadows that you'll see. And in a city like Gotham, every light helps.
But there's so much more than that. We have ample time of Bruce as Batman fighting escaped convicts in Gotham, with some nice banter with Jim Gordon, a great setup piece for exposition that works for new and existing readers (probably the best iteration fo the Batcave yet), all of Bruce's sons show up, and the book rounds out with a last page reveal that we know isn't the truth, but you want to know how it sets up the culprit.
Greg Capullo's art is fantastic, and I don't say that about many artists these days. The last time I really read anything with his art in it was back when Spawn got a new costume in the mid-90's (the one with that big boot on his leg). Seeing it again, and without Todd McFarlane's inks, it's almost like his old X-Force work, only with 10% Bachalo and 10% Quitley added. Characters have their own presence, Bruce and his ilk all look different, the action scenes are clear and striking, and at the same time there is just a hint of a cartoon-like chin or cheekbone that makes you realize it's a comic that wants you to be entertained, even if there is a murderous criminal on the page.
Verdict - Must Read. This book laps Animal Man, and Animal Man is a great book on its own. And on top of everything I mentioned above, all of this was done in 24 pages of story, four pages of which were double page splashes. So not only do you get big artwork, you get other pages that use a lot of panels, meaning a lot of story for only three bucks. The book roughly has three times the dialogue Justice League #1 did, it's a fantastic value. I really can't rave about the book more than I already have, and if we had a rating system that went above "Must Read" this book would get that easily.
Ryan: Hmm, Ken sure is excited. I was definitely keen on this book, Batman interests me no doubt and I have immeasurable faith in Scott Snyder, and I have to say this issue delivers. Is it better than Animal Man, hell no, but it's certainly one of the best of the New 52.
The opening fight scene in Arkham Asylum was a whole mess of fun. Batman gets to punch most of his rogues gallery in the face, and he also takes part in a very unlikely team up in doing so. That moment captured me completely and it was a nicely played set up and twist. I'm sure the intern at Arkham will come into play later, because otherwise that scene is just a greedy excuse to pack the pages with plenty of villains without having to earn them for the story.
We then transition into Bruce's new status quo and it's nice to see Snyder using the rich playboy right alongside the scientific criminologist mastermind. The litle moments of science and character go hand-in-hand very nicely. The issue then builds to a crescendo as we follow Batman to a very dirty crime scene. It's reminiscent of Se7en and the final page reveal will guarantee your presence next month.
There's so much great about this comic and yet I also noticed a few flaws - at least in my perception. In one panel we have Bruce, Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne. They all look exactly the same except for some variation in the dimensions of their height and shoulders. It seems very nitpicky, and it is, but look at that panel and tell me if Bruce is 6 foot 8 or is Dick just 5 foot 3? Then there's the new Lincoln March - he looks just the same as well, dark hair, square jaw. One panel with his face next to Bruce's shows the men look nearly exactly the same.
Verdict - Must Read. For all my ranting, this issue stil slips into this category. It's a fine re-debut issue, everything is set up, and you are certainly left wanting more. Snyder plays extremely well in the Bat-sandbox and here he does appear to be setting up something quite large. The scope of this tale is going to be huge and this works as 1/12th of the whole shebang.
Grant: So Ken and Ryan pretty much covered anything I could have wanted to add about this issue. The fight scenes were tons of fun, the way Snyder managed to reintroduce all the characters to potential new readers was clever, and the reveal at the end had my head spinning. This is the best book DC's releasing right now, so if you haven't already picked it up, get on that.
Don’t miss the start of this hard-hitting new series from mystery novelist/comics writer Duane Swierczynski (Expiration Date, Cable).
Grant: I wasn't quite as hot on this book as Ryan, but darn if it didn't have rock solid art. As Ryan points out, it isn't necessarily the best of the best, but Jesus Saiz is consistently good throughout the whole issue. He manages to create a real sense of movement throughout the many fights, and all the character designs are iconic enough that there's no confusing one person for someone else. I also want to gush briefly about his panel layouts, because they're really fun. Again, not the fanciest, but he has a number of small touches throughout that add a lot to the book's overall look.
The story was admittedly pretty neat and exciting, but it just didn't grab me as much as I thought it would. I wanted to like this book, but while the twist at the end also took me by surprise, it didn't really make me want to see what happens next.
Verdict - Check It. Don't get me wrong, this was a pretty good book, but there are a number of others that dropped this week that I would pick up before giving Birds of Prey a look. Yet another casualty that's getting lost in the shuffle for me.
to turn this instrument of destruction into a force for good.
Matt: I really wanted to like this book, but for everything that it did right, it screwed up something else.
This is a reboot, probably the hardest one of the bunch of books I have read (though I have not read all of them, like my pal Grant). It goes back to the origin of Jaime Reyes, before he was Blue Beetle, introducing us the members of his family and friends. I'm not against updating the origin, as it was tied to the continuity heavy Infinite Crisis and added a lot of unnecessary baggage. However, some changes made to this are completely strange. Jaime's friend Paco is portrayed as a straight-up gangster here, where in the original series it was a more nuanced characterization. There's a lot more Spanish than there should be in here (and I say this as someone that knows Spanish), like Bedard was trying too hard to remind us of Jaime's ancestry. Guara's art is alright, though I was a bit disappointed by it, as he seems to be using a different style than his work on the Pet Avengers series. It's not bad, but it's not what I was expecting either. He does however do a great job in the scene of Jaime's transformation into Blue Beetle.
The comic does a good job of introducing all the familiar elements and foreshadows a lot of stuff that will be important down the road. I have to say, however, if you read the previous series, you already know a lot of what's going to happen. I understand that as a reader with previous a lot of previous knowledge and affection of the character this book wasn't exactly aimed at me. It'd be interesting to hear from someone completely new to all of it, to see what they thought of it.
Verdict - Check It. Ultimately, while not a bad comic, it lacks the cracking energy that its previous iteration had. I'll come back next month because I really like the character, but I'm not sure how long I'll stay.
Grant: I actually saw Blue Beetle #1 as a rather pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed Jaime Reyes' first go around as the Blue Beetle, but I've never been a big fan of Tony Bedard's work (knowing it primarily from his less than stellar run on Green Lantern Corps), so I was hesitant when he was announced as the series' writer. Happily, he did much better than I ever would have expected, producing an opening issue that I can call good without any reservations.
I do agree with Matt when he says that this is probably the hardest reboot, as Bedard treats the story as a complete reintroduction to the character, so over the course of twenty pages, the reader is introduced to the Reach, the Scarab, Jaime, his family, and his friends. It's easily one of the most approachable issues that I've come across thus far in all of DC's New 52, which is a nice change of pace.
But at the same time, as Matt says, if you are familiar with Jaime Reyes and his tenure as the Blue Beetle, the whole issue comes off as a weird extended déjà vu, because Bedard follows the original story quite closely. There are some superficial changes, like the manner in which Jaime becomes the Blue Beetle, but the major plot points seem to be the same at this juncture. They're even dropping hints that Brenda's aunt is bad news, a song and dance that was resolved in the initial series. To be fair, this could be Bedard playing with and subverting reader expectations, but I have my doubts on that one.
Verdict - Buy It. If you missed ou on the original run of Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle and have been wondering what all the fuss is about, this is the comic for you. While it does repeat some elements of the previous series, there is enough interesting stuff going on for readers new or old. Additionally, this is probably the closest we're going to get to a book geared towards younger readers, so there is that.
Don’t miss the start of a legend from writer J.T. Krul (GREEN ARROW, TEEN TITANS) and artist Freddie Williams II (JSA ALL-
Grant: I don't set out to be a broken record in these reviews,, but I have to reiterate that I just can't get behind J.T. Krul's writing. It seems that no matter what he does, it just doesn't quite click. Captain Atom #1 is no exception to this, as there is a lot of good going on, but it is ultimately overwhelmed by the parts of the comic that don't quite work.
One of my favourite things about this book is that Captain Atom is different from the world around him. Indeed, he is drawn and coloured in style that is completely different from the rest of the book. I'd read about this decision before reading the book, and it is an incredibly effective way to demonstrate how different Captain Atom truly is. And to be honest, the beginning of the issue reads pretty well, with Captain Atom fighting some random badguys and learning that he might have a brand new power, but then things take a bit of a turn.
Back at his little headquarters, we get a couple of incredibly text-heavy pages that take away all of the momentum that the book managed to build in the first part, and the story doesn't manage to get that back as Captain Atom races off to avert two separate disasters that are taking place simultaneously in New York. It all builds to our hero maybe dying, and while it written pretty well, it's hard to take it seriously because Captain Atom is obviously not going to die after the first issue of his self-titled series. A bit cynical on my part, I know, but I doubt anyone who read the issue is seriously concerned that he might not be back for issue #2.
Verdict - Skip It. On the whole, this is a clunky and onerous comic book. The story somehow manages to move too quickly and too slowly, focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time. While there are some moments of brilliance hidden in the rough, I can't really recommend picking this book up when DC is releasing so many others (many of which are far better).
GOTHAM CITY SIRENS)!
Grant: I don't even know what to say. I idly asked which Judd Winick would show up to write this series, and I'm still not certain what the answer was.
Selina Kyle's reintroduction to the DCnU is all over the place in terms of tone, genre, and style. It seems as if this book isn't quite sure what it wants to be, so instead of choosing, it's giving everything a try. Undercover sleuthing, action thrilling, and dramatic drama-ing, you name it there's some elements of it here, and while such frenetic pacing can make for good reading, it doesn't come off quite so well in Catwoman #1.
Of course, there's also the awkward Batman-Catwoman hookup at the end of the book that I'm sure you've all already heard about. While I don't necessarily have anything against superheroes getting their freak on, I really did not need that last splash page of post-fornicating Catwoman straddling Batman. It was super weird and rather voyeuristic.
Verdict - Skip It. For all Winick's insistence on how "sexy" this book was going to be, I came away from reading it feeling pretty skeazy. This is the kind of comic that I would be embarrassed to read in public, which isn't what I'm looking for in my weekly superhero fix. Your mileage may vary, but it's definitely not for me.
that Deadman helps out go straight to Hell!
Grant: Honestly, this opening issue should have been called Deadman: Year One, because it is a straight retelling of Deadman's origins. And while I'm not a Deadman expert, they seem surprisingly similar to what they were before the relaunch.
To be fair, I lauded Blue Beetle for doing a similar thing, but the difference is that DC Universe Presents #1 seems to be purely expositional. Blue Beetle had some action and conflict, but this comic is pretty much Boston Brand talking at the reader for twenty pages with some pictures thrown in for good measure. To make matters worse, his exposition is pretty boring and fails to touch on important things like how him possessing people improves their lives in any way. For all the talking, very little is actually said.
Verdict - Skip It. This comic never stops yammering, and yet never manages to say anything of particular interest. For a book about a ghostly trapeze artist, DC Universe Presents #1 is surprisingly dull.
We've got a mystery out in space that is piling up bodies like they're a salted snack, but back on earth we have Guy and John trying their best to get back into the normal swing of things, but realize maybe they should have worn masks like Hal and Kyle do. They aren't as completely inept in dealing with people, but realize that they might not be able to devote their full attention to anything other than saving the universe.
Tomasi plays it mellow, using the entrance to Oa (now much more like the movie version) as a way to jump from characterization to action and brings along notable GL's like Hannu and Isamot into what will surely be the central cast. Fernando Pasarin is back as artist, and has a much smoother style than his Emerald Warriors days. This might be the addition of Scott Hanna as his inker, but it works.
maintaining consistency throughout its run.
Grant: I asked last week why there needs to be more than one Green Latnern title, and while I wasn't terribly surprised that Red Lantern wasn't able to answer, I did expect a little more from Green Lantern Corps.
This book had been quite good under Tomasi's direction during his run. There was a lot of character development, especially when it came to less known Lanterns, and the plots often developed slowly over time. Unfortunately, neither of those things hold true in this relaunch.
Green Lantern Corps #1 is the Guy Gardiner and John Stewart show through and through, featuring the two trying to reintegrate themselves into society. In two separate, but equally tiresome, sequences, the two Earthmen decide that it isn't for them and head to Oa to blow off some steam.
At the same time, there's a new badguy who brutally kills a bunch of random characters to show how dangerous he/she is. In fact, Tomasi introduces and subsequently slaughters an entire race of aliens to show how "badass" this mysterious villain can be. Such an act could have been meaningful if the race had been introduced and developed over the course of a number of issues, but they appear for all of two pages before they're all killed. It comes off as incredibly contrived, trying to artificially build up the antagonist without actually taking any of the necessary steps to make it believable. Consequently, what's supposed to come off as epic and awesome ends up having zero resonance. And, of course, the discovery of this slaughter is the book's cliffhanger. Yawn.
Verdict - Skip It. This opening does nothing to grab my interest. Like many titles, it fails to act as a true introduction to the characters, reading like it's business as usual and not a brand new book. As well, the attempt as grandeur fall quite flat, leaving little reason to pick this up.
casualties in a war that could split worlds in half!
Grant: This book was a complete mess. I've read a handful of Legion of Super-Heroes books here and there in my time, but I've never really been able to get into the team. Unfortunately, this is not going to be the book to change my mind.
I've mentioned at various points in these reviews that a number of the New 52 books don't really bother rebooting at all. The Green Lantern and Batman titles come to mind quite easily. Well, I'm going to have to assume that Legion is among that group as well, because this book was impossible to follow.
This book's idea of introducing characters is placing a little caption box next to heroes when they first show up that lists their name, homeworld, and powers. I don't know about you, but that doesn't really tell me anything about who anyone is. To make matters worse, this book seems to pick up in the middle of a storyline (presumably the one that was ongoing before the reboot), and the Legion are apparently doing some important and dangerous stuff. Unfortunately, they don't really bother to explain what's going on, satisfied to drop a few names here and there, assuming that the reader knows everything they could need to know about the characters and their lives. Maybe this is a good Legion book for long-time fans, but it is an absolute failure in terms of accessibility. I can't imagine a new reader picking up this book and wanting to come back for more.
Verdict - Avoid It. The only redeeming factor in this book is the art, which is actually pretty nice. However, Paul Levitz's script is virtually impenetrable to someone who isn't already an expert. It's these kinds of books that make me wonder who's in charge of decision making at DC, because I can't imagine the hypothetical "brand new" reader coming out of this book wanting to read more.
Grant: There was nothing wrong with this book. In fact, it did a lot well. The writing was pretty good, the art was wonderful, and the whole package seemed pretty interesting. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't get past the fact that the Dick Grayson of the New 52 is nowhere near as interesting and nuanced as the one we knew before this reboot.
The book with Dick thinking back on his time in Gotham City and his time as a hero, providing the reader a look into what Kyle Higgins' interpretation of the character will be, and I must say, I wasn't won over. The main thrust of the opening monologue is that Dick never quite managed to take on the mantle of Batman and was only keeping it warm until Bruce's return. I recognize that DC needed a way to get Bruce back under the cowl, and maybe I'm being a little too much of a fanboy here, but it feels like they're really throwing Dick under the bus to get everything back to their new status quo. I've been pretty open about all the relaunching and rebooting, but this scene takes a lot away from what Grant Morrison and company had been doing with Dick as the new Batman, making him seem less competent than he was during those stories.
But, putting aside my thoughts on who Dick Grayson should be, this issue is actually pretty good as an introduction to who the "new" Dick Grayson is. As I said, Eddy Barrows kills it on art, doing some wonderful stuff with pretty much everything he's given. Seriously, the acrobatics look amazing, the fights are fast and intense, and even the standing around looks pretty sweet. And while I'm not a particular fan of Higgins' take on Dick, it is very consistent, and Higgins makes good use of repetition and symbolism to do some quick character development in these first twenty pages. I was skeptical about bringing in Hayley's Circus, but I think it worked in the end.
As well, the villain that shows up to take out Dick Grayson seems pretty cool. But at the same time, it seems like Dick is being put down to make this villain look better, as Nightwing screws up a whole bunch of times during their brief fight. Higgins seems to really be playing up the relative novice angle, which I think is a bit of a shame.
Verdict - Check It. I can't get behind this new Dick Grayson. His newfound inexperience seems like a big step back for a character who had accomplished so much recently. However, fanboysih nitpicking aside, this isn't a bad comic, and could very well add nicely to your collection. Give it a look if you're interested.
As a loner, Jason has absolutely no interest in this motley crew of outlaws. So what’s he going to do when they choose the Red Hood as their leader? Find out in this hot new series from writer Scott Lobdell (WILDC.A.T.S, Uncanny X-Men), featuring art by rising star Kenneth Rocafort (ACTION COMICS)!
Grant: Like Catwoman, I'm sure you've read elsewhere about how questionable Starfire's characterization is in this book, and I won't even try to defend it, because it is pretty bad. She's pretty blatantly a sexualized object there as eye candy for the reader, which isn't exactly the ideal, especially considering how common this type of characterization (or lack thereof) is in modern day comic books.
But, if you can look past that (and I can understand if you can't), what you get in Red Hood and the Outlaws (apart from a solid band name) is a ridiculous comic book equivalent of 80s action movies. There's a ton of sweet action scenes, some somewhat witty quips, and the aforementioned cheesecake. While I could do without the objectification of women, the rest of the book isn't half bad. There's a lot of stuff going on that is only half-explained, but the book always gives the reader just enough to be able to follow what's happening.
I'm unfamiliar with Kenneth Rocafort's previous work, but I thought he did a great job on art. His character designs were solid and his layouts were actually pretty exciting. He tried a couple of things that I haven't seen before, and while it wasn't all a complete success, I admire his willingness to experiment.
Verdict - Check It. Again, there are some major problems with this book, and it's definitely not going to make you think terribly hard, but there is an enjoyable action romp to be found if you're willing to look past some egregious faults.
Grant: This book was a lot better than I ever would have expected. It's actually an incredibly fun introduction to Supergirl as we follow her ship crash landing in Russia and the subsequent Earth reaction to her appearance.
This book really shows off the fear and mistrust the world has for metahumans, as the men and women that respond are very much of a shoot first and ask questions later philosophy. This makes for a pretty enjoyable sequence where Kara has no idea what's going on, and assumes that everything is a dream. As the fight progresses, she slowly gains her different Kryptonian powers, unleashing them on her would-be attackers.
The action is fast and furious, and Mahmud Asrar does a great job keeping up and keeping things clear. No matter what's happening on the page, the images remain clear and crisp, making for a really entertaining read. My main complaint is that because this issue is so fighting-heavy and has less dialogue than a comic normally would, it ends rather quickly. But for all that, it's a pretty fun ride.
Verdict - Check It. Despite my initial misgivings, there's some real promise in this book. Unfortunately, there is the real possibility that it will be lost among the mass of other titles coming out right now, because it's hard to take a chance on a book that might be good when there are so many that prove themselves right out of the gate. I'll be interested to see how Supergirl does in the long run.
and powerful forces. But is she one of us – or one of them?
Ken: I had no interest in this book, or in Wonder Woman. No matter what has been done with the book it's never really interested me, and I liked Diana at most in JLA stories. And while many link Brian Azzarello to 100 Bullets, I know him more for his terrible For Tomorrow story in Superman. But because of all the buzz around this book since it was released, I figured why not give it a shot. And I enjoyed what I read.
What we have here is almost a story that could have carried over from before the reboot. The Greek gods take a much more contemporary appearance here, and the general idea of using Diana as a protagonist who doesn't really have to talk to the reader is a nice idea, and refreshing. Stuff is going down, presumably with magic and monsters, she'll take care of it. No origin or trying to understand why she does what she does, all you know is she's good at what she does. Zola also works as point of view character to allow an understanding of this world of gods and magic.
Chiang's art really works in both the action and character scenes, and he draws a Diana who is athletic and tall over buxom and pinup. She's beautiful but not bursting out of her chestpiece, and because of this you take her more seriously when she's throwing a sword and beating up centaurs.
Verdict - Buy It. A good issue that should be the template for how to introduce readers to a hero who has had trouble in maintaining interest or readership. It checks the boxes needed, but does so in a way that doesn't feel like it's going through the motions. Add to it some lovely art and a book I had no interest in reading has caught my eye for another issue or two.
Grant: I actually agree almost entirely with Ken's assessment of Wonder Woman. Azzarello and Chiang combined for one of the best Wonder Woman issues I've ever read (and I have read quite a bit of Diana's past exploits). Seriously, I was getting goosebumps going through this book, because it was genuinely exciting, and there was a sense of anything being possible.
I am sometimes hesitant when gods show up in superhero comics, but I like Azarrello's take of them being relatively modern and having modern sensibilities. I recognize that this isn't the most innovative decision (having been done innumerable times, but perhaps best in Neil Gaiman's American Gods), but it is the right decision, as it really helps the story.
Cliff Chiang's art is off the hook (do people still say that?). It's the type of bold visuals that Wonder Woman so richly deserves. And as Ken pointed out, Chiang does a phenomenal job of making Wonder Woman seem strong and heroic instead of objectified. Yes she's a woman - a very attractive woman at that - but she is also a superhero that will save you from things like centaurs. It's a small thing, but it makes a huge difference.
Verdict - Must Read. I give this book such a high mark because I really enjoyed it, but also because I imagine that a lot of people gave Wonder Woman a pass, since her books haven't always been the cream of the crop. Well if that was you, you've made a dear mistake. Snyder and Capullo's Batman may be better than this, but it isn't by much. I think some great things are ahead for this run of Wonder Woman, so you should try to get in on the ground floor.
This week had some of best books that DC has released thus far, but there were also quite a few duds spread amongst them. How did you make out this time around? Do you have a favourite new title? Or are you waiting for the final week before you make that decision? As always, feel free to share your thoughts down below!