Wednesday, October 5, 2011

52 Pick Up - First Month Assessments

As we kick off the first week of the second month of the DC line-wide revamp, we at the Weekly Crisis thought it would be worthwhile to spend a bit more time looking at the just what DC managed to accomplish this September.  In that vein, we've gathered some of our thoughts on the best and worst aspects of the DCnU at this early stage, including our feelings on where this whole experiment is headed.  So hit the jump to see our latest 52 Pick Up, assessing the first month!

Top 3 Titles of the DCnU


Buddy is back and better than ever!
1. Animal Man
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman

This book was by far and away the best thing to come out of the whole DCnU. Well, it certainly was out of the titles I picked up. I'm sure there's arguments to be made perhaps for Wonder Woman or Batwoman (which is awesome to see two female headlined books rate so highly) but the new adventures of Buddy Baker was the runaway success for me.

The re/introduction to this character was handled very smoothly, as was the same with his surrounding players, environment, and powers. The issue felt like it kind of stood alone well to set up the character once more but then the end of the issue just went crazy cool. The horror divergance at the end is the best part though. Lemire, and Foreman, bring a level of creepiness that is right up my alley. The monsters are pure gonzo and the tone is chilling.

This wasn't just my favourite new issue of the DCnU, it was one of my more favourite issues of the year. I hope it can keep this level of awesome and excitment up for a long time.

2. Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Alberto Ponticelli

Wow, I did not think this book would rate this high. Looking back on it, I just really want to see what happens next. I'm pumped and excited by this new world and innovative characters. That's the sign of a good comic.

3. Batman
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo

Snyder's going for something big with this run on Batman. You can feel it in the air and while this first issue is then mostly just set up it still does so many things right. The hook at the end might not be fooling anyone but be damned if I'm not intrigued to see where it'll go.

My two major issues are: why does Capullo draw every male in the book as a dark and short haired guy with a square jaw. It looks like Gotham is infested with clones, not individual men. And, that Arkham brawl at the start better come back and mean something later. I'm sure it will but if it doesn't it just becomes a cute excuse to have Batman punch all his rogues. Only time will tell on that one.


Best Bat book around?
1. Batman
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo

It's one of the few books that succeeded in being accessible to new readers but also doing the same things that existing readers loved. Some of the other books were able to succeed by being given a clean slate, but if you can appeal to new and old at the same time you're going above and beyond the intended mission of this reboot. That and the extra page count was a nice showing of good will.

2. Animal Man
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman

Another book that succeeded in being fun for both new and old, but loses out to Batman simply because Buddy wasn't as prominent as Bruce Wayne for the past year or two. As long as the book is able to keep the family elements, being runner-up to Batman isn't really a bad thing, it's like Djokovic and Nadal or Federer and Nadal.

3. Green Lantern
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke

Much like the other two books, good for everyone. But what really made this book stand out from the others was how it took Hal's cardboard personality and used it a bit to work with the idea that the man has no idea how to live a normal life. Add to it Sinestro trying to figure out why his own Corps are being even more jerky than usual, and Mahnke's extremely clean art, this was a much needed shot in the arm for the main GL book.


1. Batman
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo

Scott Snyder picks up almost exactly where he left off on Detective Comics, telling some of the best Batman stories going nowadays.  His take on Batman is slightly more upbeat than the dark and gritty Detective run he had, which is a welcome change.  While things remain serious (and super interesting), it's nice to have some moments of levity thrown in.  Greg Capullo was a welcome addition on art, providing for some really solid visuals to go with Snyder's great writing.  This book was one of the best Batman books I've read in a good long while, and it was the best book of the relaunch, able to appeal to new and old readers alike.

She's great even without pants.
2. Wonder Woman
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang

This opening issue is one of the best interpretations of Wonder Woman that I've encountered in years, if not ever.  It was almost the perfect combination of mythology and comic books, telling a story that felt grounded in both mediums.  Azzarello writes the heck out of this book, and Cliff Chiang is right there with him, providing some of the best art from the new crop of books.  The culmination of their efforts is a Wonder Woman who is the strong and powerful Amazon that she should be and a female character that readers can look to as a role model, which is always a great thing to see.

3. Demon Knights
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert

Paul Cornell's Stormwatch was a pretty big snoozefest in my opinion, but he really brought his A-game for his work on Demon Knights.  Set in DC's medieval time period, this book features a charming combination of old and new characters alike, including my favourite interpretation of Etrigan (sans rhyming, thank goodness), a devious Madame Xanadu, and the return of fan favourite Sir Ystin.  The story is just getting rolling, but looks like it'll be a barrel of fun, and the gorgeous art on the book certainly aren't hurting things.

Best Writer of the DCnU

You write some pretty swell comics,
Mr. Lemire.
Ryan: JEFF LEMIRE, on Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Who knew this indie sensation would be the crowning jewel of the DCnU? And that he'd do it with such dark and out-there titles? I'm stoked to see Lemire take two at-bats and hit the ball with both. The two worlds he's created are very entertaining while offering up just a little more.

Ken: SCOTT SNYDER, on Batman and Swamp Thing. The guy knows mystery, he knows horror, he knows characterization, and yet he also knows how to respect existing stories. That's not to say he pulls things out of nowhere just to be cute or clever, but they have a true meaning to the stories Snyder is trying to tell, and when you put all of that together, he's DC's best talent right now.

Grant: JEFF LEMIRE, on Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. As great as a number of the other writers were this month, I'm going to have to agree with Ryan that Jeff Lemire managed to outdo them all.  I've been raving about this work on Sweet Tooth for ages, and I'm glad to see him flourishing on two other titles that will be (presumably) read by a wider audience.  More people reading Lemire is a great thing in my mind, and I hope it continues.

Best Artist of the DCnU

I'll take most any reason to post more
 Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman.
Ryan: CLIFF CHIANG, on Wonder Woman. There's a lot of good art getting around the DCnU and yet I think Chiang's extremely clean pages take the cake. His characters express, his action runs, and he's just all around enjoyable.

Ken: GREG CAPULLO, on Batman. Art that hits all the notes the story requires, and if he's like the Capullo of old he can do this on a monthly basis and provide some stability for Snyder to tell his stories around.

Grant: J.H. WILLIAMS III, on Batwoman.  The creative team on this book has literally had months to prepare, and it's clear that none of that time went to waste.  J.H. Williams III's work on Batwoman #1 was perhaps even better than what he did on Detective Comics with Greg Rucka, which is saying a lot, because that book was absolutely stunning.  Assuming Williams can keep this up on a monthly basis (and with all that lead time, why couldn't he?), this book is going to continue to be the prettiest one on stands for quite a while.

Worst Title of the DCnU

Ryan: GRIFTER - Out of the ones I picked up this was the one to really underperform. The story kind of meandered and the art was dreadful. I want to give it one more issue, or two, but I'm worried that's a sink from which my money will never return...

Superman's got problems beyond
a high collar.
Ken: SUPERMAN. It's ok if lesser known books don't really do so well, just because of the basis of expectations, but this is one of the big guns, with a big movie on the way, one of the more marketable properties, and Superman just comes across as this whiny flying guy with armor. And it wouldn't have been such a problem if the book was simply mediocre, and the clear #2 book to Action Comics, yet this book can't even get that high up the ladder, and is well below Supergirl and Superboy in the Krypton-family of books. It's not just this particular issue, but DC in general seem to have had no idea what to do with Superman for years, but the idea of having to make Superman change to fit in with a more modern world doesn't work. So what if he's a boy scout, so what if he has a happy marriage, by changing that stuff you remove the idea that Superman is a perfect man who came from the sky and did only good. Let the man inspire instead of mope around about Lois' new boyfriend.

Grant: Do I have to pick just one?  While there were a lot of really great books that came out this month, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of books that just weren't that good.  There were way too many books that were simply mediocre, which doesn't really fly when they have to compete with 51 other titles for buyer money.  That being said, there were some real standouts when it came to bad books, and while I'm tempted to point the finger at Legion of Super-Heroes, which was an absolute failure as an introductory book, I can't help but reiterate my disappointment with Catwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Voodoo.  These books weren't terribly notable quality-wise, but they are united in their incredibly reductive depictions of women.  According to these books, women seemingly exist to provide titillation to men and to have as much sex as they possibly can, which is a really sad state of affairs for comic books being published in 2011.

Biggest Surpise of the DCnU

Ryan: That DC could still select a few seemingly crappy comics to slip through. If initiating a linewide relaunch then this is the time to thin out the herd. This is the time to make some serious change. Is Starfire's character actually just a promiscuous hard body, I don't know because I don't know the character. Is the real issue the alteration of her character, no, the real issue is the dwelling on it. Just because she was done that way before doesn't mean the DCnU should continue doing her that way, or only focus on her in that unflattering angle. DC could have only let through comics that were going to hold up, were going to last the test of time, and yet they've let some real stinkers through. Sex in comics isn't helping bring in a new audience at all. There's room for sex in comics, sure, but this just seemed like a step back when the company was actually trying so hard to propel itself forward. I'm surprised that DC didn't more completely take up this challenge.

'Cause everything else in this
section was kind of a downer.
Ken: Somewhat echoing Ryan's statement, the Catwoman and Starfire stuff just comes across as DC changing stuff just because they can, almost like a teenager trying to rebel against anything and still trying to defend their actions. Amanda Waller becoming Halle Berry, King Shark changing for no reason, Starfire losing her emotions, Selina pouncing on Batman like catnip, this all reeks of someone looking at things that weren't broken, but because it meant they wouldn't get any credit for keeping the status quo, they purposely mess with things just so someone will pay attention. And yeah, that's great for the first month, but now I have no reason to pay attention to those books or stories anymore. You didn't even get five minutes of comic fame, let alone fifteen. When all eyes were focused on DC, that they thought this would be ok to start things off with was really odd.

Grant: Since I've already ragged on DC for some of their missteps above, I'm going to say that the biggest surprise of the DCnU was Dan Didio, Keith Giffen, and Scott Koblish's O.M.A.C.  I thought that this would be among the worst books coming out in September and was pleasantly surprised to find it to be one of my favourites.  It had the perfect balance of comic book ridiculous mixed with present day sensibilities, all without taking itself too seriously.  I might have had more fun with this book than any other one that came out last month, and I can't wait to read more, which is something I never expected to find myself saying when it comes to a book written by Dan Didio.

Thoughts Going Forward

Ryan: This was a success. I went from buying 1 DC title to trying 8 and being intrigued by a few more. The sales certainly went up, even the quality seemed to mostly lift, and the outcome is extremely positive. I say bravo for this and I honestly kind of wish Marvel would now do this as well. Imagine 52 #1s from Marvel to spend a month going through. Just imagine that thought for one sweet moment...

Ken: This was a success but I do think that had DC just kept existing continuity, but given everything new #1s, it would have done just as well. It wasn't so much the history but the numbering and with everything starting at #1 there's no real reason for readers to be dumbfounded given a capable writer. The best books were the books that carried over existing stories, but were given extra time to shine because they weren't being lost in the sea of normality. Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Frankenstein, even Demon Knights to an extent could have been told without needing a reboot. The digital aspect is a real smash hit and the real game changer, and so far it doesn't seem to be pulling too much away from brick and mortar comic shops. If that keeps up then DC would have actually grown the market in a legitimate way, and would be the greatest comic success story in the past decade or two.

Grant: Buying, reading, and reviewing all 52 titles was a far more draining exercise than I would have expected.  To be honest, it has probably resulted in me treating some books a lot harsher than I normally would otherwise, but after reading a certain number of bad or boring books, you start to wonder why a company keeps publishing them, especially when you see all the great books that are coming out side by side.  This whole relaunch still has me scratching my head in lots of instances, such as why Scott Lobdell got to have three different books to write or why Secret Six had to be cancelled for the new and worse Suicide Squad, but at the same time, there's still a lot of good going on.  From a creative standpoint, I'm hard pressed to find a reason why this reboot was at all necessary for the stories DC is telling, but the business side of things makes the logic behind it pretty clear.  The DCnU is (at this point) a financial success, so that's a plus for DC Comics.  It's a shame that so many of the books are only so-so, but I'm glad that they managed to fit in some worthwhile books into all that moneymaking they're trying to do.

So there's a number of our thoughts regarding DC's reboot.  What did you think of it all?  Were the New 52 worth all the effort?  Were there any books that really grabbed your attention?  Or others that really left you wanting?  We've had our say, now it's your turn to have yours!

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Simon DelMonte's Escape Hatch said...

After one month, I give DC a qualified thumb's up. Most of the books I got, I liked a lot. Only a couple were outright duds, and none was abysmal. The art has been been great even in the badly written books. So I am happy and optimistic about the 14 DCNu books I plan to stick with.

But I didn't come close to reading all 52, and there are only a handful of books that I skipped and that I will track down later (as TPBs or online). It sounds like there is a lot of room for DC to sink back into the morass. The issues of sexism will hurt DC. The possibility of unstable creative teams looms large, and there are only a few top flight writers at DC now. And I think that there is nothing cohesive about the New 52, which could make for some very bad crossover events.

The big question is, as usual, "what next?" The pieces are in place for something that can make DC relevant again for years to come. They are also in place for a return to being the Other Super-Hero Company. And they are in place for the end of DC as we knew it. I would hope for the first, but I would not bet on it.

The Gaf said...

Seriously? No love for All-Star Western? A big huge quality surprise.

brandon said...

I had been getting 3 DC (proper) titles on average a month prior to the reboot. I picked up 15 for September and I am left with....3 titles.

Most of the books just didn't grab me. Demon Knights, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein all seemed like great ideas but I just couldnt get into them. On the other hand I was one of the few that seemed to like Batgirl and the un-chairing of Babs.

I'm glad I tried out such a wide array of books and don't regret testing them out one bit. Most of the books just weren't my thing.

Still it sure seems like a huge early success. A shot in the arm that the industry probably needed.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad this is a success for DC. The industry needs a shot in the arm.

As far as my own tastes go, the novelty has already worn off for month 2 and having re-read all of the #1's, I feel they're mostly a mediocre. The exceptions: Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Everything else, too few panels, too quick a read, and definitely aimed at someone other than me.

Best of luck to DC, though, as this is my jumping off point.

Kevin T. said...

No love for Flash or Francis Manapul? Running is positively electric in the #1. Manapul's paneling and storytelling makes it my favorite #1 of the new 52.

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