This is it, everybody! The last week of DC's New 52! And not a moment too soon! As much of a pleasure as it's been to go through all of these titles, a saddenly high number of them have been rather poor. Will that once again be the case for this final week, or will we be getting ourselves some surprising surprises? We've got ourselves some new superteams, like the questionably named Justice League Dark, some old favourites, like Aquaman and Superman, and then a whole bucket load of other stuff. Hit the jump to see how it all came together this time around!
Art and cover by MORITAT
Even when Gotham City was just a one-horse town, crime was rampant – and things only get worse when bounty hunter Jonah Hex comes to town. Can Amadeus Arkham, a pioneer in criminal psychology, enlist Hex’s special brand of justice to help the Gotham Police Department track down a vicious serial killer? Find out in this new series from HEX writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, with lush artwork by Moritat (THE SPIRIT)!
Grant: I was genuinely impressed with this opening issue from Gray, Palmiotti, and Moritat. The trope of prostitutes being killed by some mysterious murderer is about as tried as you can find, but the team manages to throw in some twists that make it feel relatively fresh.
The story is told from the perspective of Amadeus Arkham, and it ends up reading a bit like an awkward buddy cop flick. But in a good way. Amadeus is the cautious one who follows all the rules and Jonah Hex is obviously the one who does whatever the hell he wants. It makes for some funny moments, but most of all, it acts as a solid way to keep the plot moving forward. Amadeus' constant attempts to diagnose Jonah's neuroses is almost worth the price of admission alone.
The actual crime of the prostitute murderer is handled pretty well, all things considered. I found myself a little unhappy with it based mostly on all the other DC titles from this month that have treated and depicted women so poorly, but taken on its own merits, it could have been a lot worse. The story cliffhangers on a reveal that these series of grisly murders are a much bigger and wider problem than initially thought, and while this reveal is also a little cliche, it was presented well enough to pique my interest.
Moritat does some mighty fine work on art duties. The book is gritty and grimy, doing a great job imitating the atmosphere of the turn of the century Gotham that is depicted throughout. The colouring, done by Gabriel Bautista, is top notch, doing a great job of reinforcing the mood and atmosphere. Moritat really shines in the many, many fight scenes that we have in this book, as he finds a variety of ways of keeping Jonah's constant beat downs fresh and interesting. The juxtaposition of these scenes of violence with Amadeus' calculated attempts at pinning down Jonah's motivations are a nice little bonus.
Verdict - Check It. This book was pretty enjoyable. The story wasn't exactly the most innovative, but Gray and Palmiotti changed things up enough to keep the reader engaged, and Moritat provided some good looking pictures to compliment all that writing. If you're into gritty Western tales, this book is for you.
Art and cover by IVAN REIS and JOE PRADO
The superstar creators from BLACKEST NIGHT and BRIGHTEST DAY reunite to take AQUAMAN to amazing new depths!
Aquaman has renounced the throne of Atlantis – but the sea will not release Arthur Curry so easily.
Now, from a forgotten corner of the ocean emerges… The Trench! A broken race of creatures that should not exist, an unspeakable need driving them, The Trench will be the most talked-about new characters in the DC Universe!
Ken: I wasn't planning on buying this book, but the positive news on the internet made me take a look after being bummed on Superman (see below). And this was a really good surprise, because I expected the book to flounder. Huh? Huh?
Johns' gameplan this issue is to simply get all the Aquaman jokes out of his system, and to kind of address Arthur being a punching bag of the hero community and how it doesn't really bother him. Yes, the way Johns has Arthur respond is rather stupid and kind of pointlessly hostile, but it gets away with it because throughout the issue all Arthur wants to do is fit in. The book basically consists of an evil in the shadows, Aquaman stops a robbery, then tries to eat dinner at a seafood restaurant only to be gawked at by everyone. And after talking with Mera (still married I think?), they decide to just kind of chill and give up being royalty. It's a simple start but that is really all Arthur needed. One thing that kept going through my mind was that this book kind of fills the void left by the old universe Superman; Arthur and Mera act like Clark and Lois did, where they use one another as a sound board for their problems, and they love each other.
Reis' art is really strong, and I want to say he's moving onto a much smoother style than he has on his GL and Blackest Night run. He's almost reaching an Alan Davis level with his facial expressions, and it helps that because there isn't a mask to hide Arthur's face, allowing for greater experimentation.
Verdict - Buy It. Much like Wonder Woman, it's a strong start that has me for another issue or two. I do get a feeling Johns might go overboard with the new villains in his usual fashion, but for this issue it was one of the lighter books of the relaunch, and something I wish to see more of in this era of fearing the metahuman.
Grant: Ken's spot on with his take on this issue. It's lighthearted and gets all the criticism and jokes about its lead character out of the way in the first few pages so that the rest of the series can focus on Aquaman being heroic. It's an interesting move on Johns' part, and I think it worked really well. Aquaman's deadpan throughout the issue really sells everyone else's complete overreactions to everything that's going on, and while this will get old if it goes on any longer, it makes for a good number one.
I was also a big fan of Aquaman and Mera's interaction. I think it's a shame that DC seems to be of the opinion that couples don't make for good comics, because their back and forth was one of the highlights of this book for me. While the villains don't really seem like anything that special, but that doesn't mean that they won't be good once Aquaman starts fighting them down the line (although The Trench is quite possibly the worst name possible). At the very least, they look pretty cool, as does the rest of this book, with Ivan Reis putting in a solid effort here. Indeed, while everyone is making fun of how uncool / lame Aquaman is, Aurthur Curry spends the entire issue looking absolutely awesome. I'm won over by his depiction of Aquaman alone.
Verdict - Buy It. This comic was far more fun than I was expecting. I really appreciated that it didn't necessarily take itself too seriously, spending the time to address the many complaints about Aquaman that have built up over the years. I'm sold on the concept and I will be back to see if Johns can make good on it.
Art by DAVID FINCH and RICHARD FRIEND
The Dark Knight struggles against a deadly – yet strangely familiar – foe in this phenomenal debut issue from superstar writer/artist David Finch (BRIGHTEST DAY, ACTION COMICS)!
As a mysterious figure slinks through the halls of Arkham Asylum, Batman must fight his way through a gauntlet of psychos, and Bruce Wayne faces the unexpected legal ramifications of Batman Incorporated!
Grant: This book opens with some captions explaining that "fear is a cannibal that feeds on itself". It's a sentiment that sounds kind of nice at first glance, but if you think about it for more than half a second, you realize that it is totally meaningless. And that's pretty much the story of the writing for this issue. There's a whole bunch of things that seem kind of alright at first glance, but once you spend any amount of time examining them, it quickly becomes clear that there is absolutely zero substance behind these words. The writing is not very good.
The art fairs a bit better, which shouldn't be terribly surprising, since David Finch is an artist after all, but it's still not that great. Frankly, this book looks like any other mediocre Batman title that's come out in the last ten or twenty years. There's not much happening hear to distinguish it from the many comics that have come before. And although most of the pages look fine, there are some notable gaffs, including Jania Hudson wearing an absolutely terrible outfit and Two-Face looking like The Hulk (see also: "You can call me One-Face now." Who thought that piece of dialogue was a good idea?).
However, bad writing and passable art aside, the worst part of this book is that it doesn't do anything new. Seriously, nothing happens in this title that didn't already happen in Scott Snyder's Batman. Bruce Wayne gives a speech in front of a whole bunch of people at a gala? Scott Snyder's Batman did it. There's a jailbreak at Arkham? Scott Snyder's Batman did that too. Batman fights some villains? Yep, Scott Snyder's Batman has that one covered as well. The complaint that the market is being flooded with Bat-titles is a legitimate one, and this title proves that there's too much Batman going on right now.
Verdict - Avoid It. This book is bad. There's really no redeeming value here. The writing is lacking, the art is forgettable, and the story offers nothing new. If you're wanting a Batman book, read Scott Snyder's Batman. That's really all you need.
Welcome to a world waging a new kind of war that’s faster and more brutal than ever before. It’s fought by those who would make the innocent their targets, using computers, smart weapons and laser-guided missiles. The new enemy is hard to find – and closer to home than we think.
Between us and them stand the Blackhawks, an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles. Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.
Grant: This is the book I wanted to read when I opened up Men of War earlier this month. While Men of War claimed that it would show modern day warfare in the wake of superheroes, this comic actually makes good on the promise, providing a fun and interesting look into what that could potentially look like.
The Blackhawks are reimagined as a UN-sanctioned strikeforce that deals with the worst of the worst. This issue opens with the team in the middle of trying to shutdown some meta-equipped terrorists in Kazakhstan, and it makes for an pretty darn exciting set piece. The reader gets to see a number of the starring characters do some badass stuff, like beat down bad guys and survive against impossible odds. I've compared a few of the new DC books over the course of this month to action movies, but this comic is probably the best example of that. There's a lot of action going on and just enough reason offered to mostly explain why it's happening without too much difficulty.
From this opening scene, things slow down to give a better look into who these many characters are. The characterization is a little thin (the badass girl is too badass to see the doctor and the by-the-book guy is really cautious), but it's enough. In the midst of a secret romance between two team members, there's a quick look into what will presumably be the big bad of the first arc that mostly serves to show how badass the bad guy (read: they're real badass) and the badass girl realizes that she may have developed superpowers, which is apparently a bad thing in this context.
The art goes well with the story, as the book has a loose and frenetic style that fits in pretty well with the quick storytelling. It's not really important why the action is happening; what matters is that there's enough reason given for the reader to be ready for more action.
Verdict - Check It. This book is mindless fun, which is all well and good, but I can't rationalize picking up any more issues of this series. As nice as being able to just sit back and enjoy some gunplay and explosions is, there are simply too many better series coming out from DC for me to be able to afford to fit in something like Blackhawks, which is a shame, but that's what DC gets for dropping 52 titles in four weeks.
Art and cover by FRANCIS MANAPUL
The Fastest Man Alive returns to his own monthly series from the writer/artist team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato! The Flash knows he can’t be everywhere at once, but what happens when he faces an all-new villain who really can! As if that’s not bad enough, this villain is a close friend!
Grant: This is a fine, if not great, opening to the latest Flash series. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato don't really push the envelope with this first chapter, but they do manage to tell a good, if simple, story.
Criminals try to steal MacGuffin. Flash stops them. One of them dies and happens to be an old friend of Barry. Investigating this, Barry discovers that his friend is still alive and has been cloned a whole bunch. While there's a certain complexity there, this is, admittedly, pretty run-of-the-mill for comic books, but that's perfectly fine. Although their story doesn't necessarily set the whole on fire, it does pose some interesting questions and offers enough to the reader to warrant picking up the next issue to see what's next. It also functions as a pretty decent book for someone new to comics, which is something that has been been forgotten far too often this month.
That being said, the real saving grace of this title is the art. Manapul doesn't quite outdo himself in this issue #1, but his regular art is head and shoulders above a lot of other stuff that comes out nowadays. There are a few moments throughout the issue that really hint at what's to come, including the opening two-page splash or the page of Barry trying to save the criminal's life. It's clear that Manapul is just warming up, and I cannot wait to see when he hits his full stride (Geddit? Running jokes in a Flash review? Ken's not the only one who can do this kind of thing.).
Verdict - Buy It. This book's writing isn't necessarily anything to write home about, but when you consider that it's being written by the artist and colourist, it looks pretty good compared to other artists acting as writers (*cough* Batman: The Dark Knight *cough*). Either way, the art is the reason to pick this book up. Francis Manapul is one of the best artists currently working at DC, and any book he does should be in your pull list, this one included.
Art and cover by TYLER KIRKHAM and BATT
Kyle Rayner has assembled the most powerful team in all the universe, selected from the full spectrum of corps. But can he even keep this volatile group together?
I've been asking and asking if DC really needs more than one Green Lantern series, and this one might be the closest to answering that question in the affirmative. It's by no means perfect, but this book is perhaps best placed to having a chance at being understood by new readers. The book starts with Kyle's origin being quickly retold in five or six pages, and while it is a little rushed, it would probably be pretty helpful to anyone who doesn't know who he is (such as the new readers that DC continually claims they're seeking).
That done, we go into a couple of vignettes of random characters from the other Corps having their rings suddenly abandon them and head towards Sector 2814 (Earth's sector). These were actually pretty neat, and acted as a good example of the "show, don't tell" doctrine that seems to be ignored so often. For reasons not yet explained, they all head towards Kyle, and before he can figured out what's going on, a few members from the other Corps show up accusing him of stealing rings. Fighting ensues.
It's a pretty interesting idea, and one that I would be willing to follow through to the next issue if I wasn't already being inundated by other DC comic books. As it stands, I'll have to find out what happens through internet chatter, because I can't justify spending the three dollars for #2.
Verdict - Check It. If you've been looking for that fabled second good Green Lantern title, I think you'll be pleased with this one. The writing does the job and the art is also quite good. However, if you aren't looking for some multi-coloured superheroics, you can skip this title pretty easily.
Art by ANDREA SORRENTINO
For hundreds of years, vampire Andrew Stanton kept mankind safe from the horrors of the supernatural world, thanks to a truce he made with his ex-lover Mary, the Queen of the Damned. But now that truce has reached a bloody end and Andrew must do everything in his power to stop Mary and her dark forces from going on a killing spree – and she plans to start with the heroes of the DCU!
Grant: Umm, how does this fit in wider continuity, like at all? This is a book that's straight up about vampires, including one that hopes to kill off the entire human race so that vampires can reign supreme. The book opens with pretty much all of Boston having been slaughtered. I feel like something that big would have come up in one of the other books, but apart from a passing reference to Superman and Wonder Woman, there's nothing that links this to the rest of the shared universe. And to be honest, there isn't really a need for I, Vampire to take place in the wider DC world.
But let's back up a bit. The original I, Vampire was a 24 issue series that appeared in House of Mystery back in the early 80s that DC figured needed to be brought back because vampires were kind of a big deal five years ago. That being said, this first issue is actually kind of interesting. Joshua Hale Fialkov makes some good use of captions, having a conversation between Andrew and Mary last for the entirety of the book, providing a good driving force and just enough information for the reader to keep reading. It's well done, and works even better with the intense visuals by Andrea Sorrentino of the decimated Boston.
However, this again brings up the question of why this needs to fit into the world of the New 52. I feel like handcuffing this series to the rest of the DC Universe will really limit what can and can't happen. For example, while it looks like Boston didn't do too well, knowing that this is the world of Superman and Batman means that Mary has to fail in her goal to take over the world, because that just isn't in the cards. I was kind of interested in what's going on here, but the fact that this isn't a Vertigo series means that this story can only be so exciting, which I think will be a big problem for this gothic-fantasy series in the long run.
Verdict - Check It. It's not a bad opening issue, but I couldn't help being distracted by its insistence of fitting in with the world of the rest of the books coming out this month. I understand the business reason behind this, but I think it will be quite harmful to the creative possibilities, and once again, with so many other books coming out, I won't be coming back next month.
Art by MIKEL JANIN
The witch known as The Enchantress has gone mad, unleashing forces that not even the combined powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg can stop. And if those heroes can’t handle the job, who will stand against this mystical madness?
Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna and John Constantine may be our only hope – but how can we put our trust in beings whose very presence makes ordinary people break out in a cold sweat?
Grant: Once again, this solicitation is only half accurate, but I suppose my disappointment is my fault for putting any faith in the solicitation.
Anyways, this comic is actually pretty fun, if a bit slow in the getting going. There's a bunch of wacky magic going on, and it's too much for the Justice League to handle, so it falls to a ragtag band of magic users to handle. That's about as far as this comic manages to get in its twenty pages, but the journey isn't too shabby. Peter Milligan comes up with some fun situations to work through, and Mikel Janin does some really good work on art. Seriously, this is among the better looking books of the New 52 in my opinion. He even makes Zatanna's new costume not look terrible, which is saying something.
However, the book has a bit of a problem of trying to juggle a few too many balls at the same time. There's so many subplots seemingly going on that it's hard to really make any headway in any of them, which leaves us with a bunch of different stories that could be interesting but aren't yet developed enough to be a sure thing. This is obviously not a good situation to be in when competing with 51 other comic books, and it will mean that I'm getting off at the ground floor for Justice League Dark.
See also: Justice League Dark? Is that really the best name anyone could come up with? Just use Shadowpact. People are already familiar with the name and it doesn't suck terribly. Yeesh.
Verdict - Check It. If you're into more magic-oriented books, you aren't going to find a better one than Justice League Dark. The way things are starting, I imagine a little patience will yield a pretty good payoff down the road, but I just don't have the time or money for it.
Art and cover by PHILIP TAN
Carter Hall’s skill at deciphering lost languages has led him to a job with an archaeologist who specializes in alien ruins – but will the doctor’s latest discovery spread an alien plague through New York City? No matter the personal cost, Carter Hall must don his wings and become the new, savage Hawkman to survive! Witness the start of a new action series from writer Tony S. Daniel and artist Philip Tan that will take Hawkman where no hero has flown before!
Grant: Wow. Tony Daniel really impressed me with this book. I've been very critical of his writing, but he genuinely turned in a solid comic, for the most part. While this book starts quite strong, the finish leaves a lot to be desired.
That being said, this book maybe has the best opening out of any of the titles from this month, as it opens with Carter Hall having been Hawkman for a rather long time, as he is in the process of trying to destroy the armour. Starting in medias res was an interesting and exciting choice, as it immediately grabs the reader's attention, causing them to wonder what was so bad about being Hawkman that destorying the suit was the only option. Things only get better when the armour explodes, seemingly swallowing Carter Hall in a fiery inferno. This was unlike anything I was expecting, and it was great.
From there, things slow down a little bit, focusing on the whole alien ruins deciphering aspect, as some other characters recover a sunken spaceship out of the ocean. This scene is all about moving pieces around for the rest of the story, but it fortunately doesn't last too long. We then jump back to Carter Hall's apartment, and it is slowly revealed that all is not well. He realizes that he's been out of commission for weeks and, among other things, now has a healing factor. It's kind of disconcerting, but he decides to go to work instead of worrying about it too much. Once there, it soon becomes evident that the spaceship wasn't as derelict as initially thought, as some pretty nefarious lifeform shows up and starts laying waste to the scientists.
And this is where the book takes a pretty big nose dive. The alien reveals that its name is Morphicus, which is about as bad a name as Justice League Dark, and then proceeds to start killing Hawkman. The book ends with the tagline "Next: Hawkman succumbs to Morphicus?!", which is maddening, because Hawkman will obviously not succumb to Morphicus. This book just started. This is the first issue. Hawkman doesn't die in the first issue of his self-titled series. Everyone and their grandma knows that this doesn't happen, so why do you have to pretend that it will? Seriously, there have been way too many books this month that have ended with the titular character "in grave danger". This is a tactic that hasn't been convincing for decades, so why is it happening in so many of these first issues?
Verdict - Check It. As much as I want to tell you to skip this title, it might actually be worth your while, cheap cliffhangers notwithstanding. This is by far the best I've ever seen from Tony Daniel, and if he can cut down on the cliche ricks, this could be a watershed moment for the overly complex Hawkman. It also doesn't hurt that Philip Tan absolutely kills it on art. This is a pretty good looking book.
The new adventures of Superman begin here! What is The Man of Steel’s startling new status quo? How does it affect Lois Lane and The Daily Planet? There’s no time for answers now, because Superman must stop a monstrous threat to Metropolis – one that he somehow is the cause of!
The issue basically boils down to the Daily Planet getting a new owner, Kirby creation Morgan Edge (who has pulled an Ultimate Nick Fury). Edge in this new universe is very clearly supposed to be like Rupert Murdoch expanding his news empire and caring only about the money and ratings. Comics need to learn that hand rubbing amoral evil businessmen is such a worn out concept that there has to be something else to offer. Lois Lane is now in charge of this new TV network, and Clark is whiny about this. Even though this is supposed to be an older Clark than where Morrison is going in Action Comics, it sure feels like he hasn't really matured, in both his attitude and the way he carries himself. Mopey, angry Clark Kent is not a winning combination. Lois herself kind of feels like a caricature of what she is supposed to be, really paint by the numbers. All the supporting cast feels that way, to be honest. Just because they are younger and in more modern clothing doesn't hide this fact. The connection to Stormwatch #1 was a page that was rather pointless in terms of connecting to another series, so anyone looking to find out the big reveal should just read about it online, or check out Friday's Moments of the Week. As far as action goes, there was also a fight scene with a guy made out of fire but there was so many words ruining what we could clearly see on page, I kind of lost interest. Trust the artist to do their job.
Grant: Once again, I feel like Ken is spot on here. This book had nothing Super in it at all. It was way too wordy and rather boring. It failed miserably in its attempt to be "edgy" and ended up with a bunch of wooden and forced characterizations of characters that everyone knows and loves. I can't really see any argument that shows why this interpretation was worth throwing away everything that had come before. Finally, why the heck is Lois sleeping with the sleazeball newscaster? She was one of DC's strongest female characters, and now she is reduced to an object of desire for Clark Kent. Classy, DC. Real classy.
Verdict - Avoid It. DC does yet another disservice to themselves, offering one of the worst interpretations of their marquee character that I've encountered in years. I know that some people seem to struggle with making Superman interesting, but why would you give the ongoing title to one of them? Sigh.
Art and cover by BRETT BOOTH and NORM RAPMUND
Tim Drake, Batman’s former sidekick, is back in action when an international organization seeks to capture, kill or co-opt super-powered teenagers.
As Red Robin, he’s going to have to team up with the mysterious and belligerent powerhouse thief known as Wonder Girl and the hyperactive speedster calling himself Kid Flash to stand any chance at all against a living, breathing weapon with roots in another world! They – along with a few other tortured teen heroes – will be the Teen Titans in this new series from writer Scott Lobdell (WILDC.A.T.S, Uncanny X-Men) and artist Brett Booth (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!
Grant: Despite the bad press this series got based mostly around the rather awful costume designs for pretty much everyone on this team, this title isn't nearly as bad as you would expect. Unfortunately, it still isn't really good enough to warrant buying on a monthly basis.
We have yet another title that suffers from not actually featuring everyone featured on the cover, as this comic only has three of the characters you see here - and only two of them actually meet each other. The book opens with Kid Flash trying to help some firefighters fight a fire, but due to his inexperience, he actually makes things worse. It's kind of an interesting idea, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. The dialogue isn't all that great and the whole sequence frankly takes too much time for what it ends up accomplishing.
The book then jumps to Tim Drake who seems to be completely on his own and for some reason based in Lex Towers, a fact that isn't even addressed in the comic's text. He expands on the idea that teen heroes aren't trained and are often doing more harm than good, but before he can go anywhere with this, he's attacked by a clandestine organization that is abducting teen heroes that he knew was coming to get him. It seems like Lobdell was trying to go for a "Batman, the victory is in the preparation" moment, but it isn't explained enough to really make sense. Also, it seems like Tim might have just murdered some bad guys, which hardly seems ideal.
From there, Tim tries to recruit the new Wonder Girl and ultimately convinces her that teaming up probably isn't that bad of an idea. This sequence is probably the strongest part of the issue, and the comic likely would have benefited from spending more time developing these two characters. Unfortunately, spending too much time with something enjoyable isn't in the cards, and the comic quickly moves to the bad guy from earlier telling another character to "Release the Superboy" in a sequence that really only makes sense if you read Superboy #1 earlier this month.
Despite the fidgety narrative, the art on this book was pretty good. I don't really know Brett Booth's work, but he manages a fine superhero book. The panel layout and character work looks quite nice, and he even manages to make Red Robin's atrocious costume look semi-decent, which is saying a lot.
Verdict - Check It. Lobdell got three tries this month, and Teen Titans is by far his best effort. Unfortunately, it still has some big pacing issues, as the book spends way too much time on uninteresting stuff, and not nearly enough time with the good parts. However, I could actually see this book going somewhere interesting, in spite of these early missteps. If there weren't so many other, better books being released by DC, I might pick up Teen Titans #2. As it is, I'm going to have to call it quits on what could be a decent book.
Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond. These two high school students are worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super-science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control. The dark secrets of the murderous Dog Team and its Firestorm Protocol force them to put aside their differences to confront a threat so terrifying that it may lead to a new Cold War! Welcome to a major new vision of nuclear terror from writers Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone with astonishing art by Yildiray Cinar!
Grant: I'm really sad to tell you this, but this comic was pretty disappointing. Yildiray Cinar provided some pretty good art, but Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone didn't really hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to the issue's writing.
The book opens with a three page with some generic bad guys threatening a Turkish family in Istanbul in the hopes of finding some unnamed device. This whole sequence, while perhaps helpful for explaining some of what comes later in the issue, is really brutal. Like, the bad guys murder a boy's father before his eyes, which includes a bloody and slumping silhouette for the reader to enjoy, and then they proceed to murder the rest of the family just because. Considering that the book then spends the rest of the story following some high school students and that this book could have easily been marketed towards younger readers, this whole sequence seems pretty unnecessary in my mind.
Regardless, once we're done with that blood and gore, we get a rather by the numbers introduction to Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond in what is a pretty hard reboot of Firestorm. The two are attending the same high school, with Ronnie playing the part of the dumb but, good intentioned, jock and Jason playing the smart, and slightly self-righteous, nerd. It's nothing revolutionary, but it's serviceable, at least until the two finally meet each other. Jason goes to interview Ronnie for the school paper and the two get into an incredibly forced argument that eventually devolves into Jason pulling the racism card, claiming that Ronnie is a white bigot. I-it's not terribly convincing.
Anyways, the generic bad guys are revealed to be on the trail of the Firestorm Protocol, an item of near-infinite power that Jason has in his high school locker for some reason. Cornered by the bad guys, Jason unleashes the power and he and Ronnie both become Firestorm. As in, they are both Firestorm separately from each other. This was actually kind of interesting choice, to separate the two characters in such a literal manner, but this choice is quickly thrown away as the two fight and merge into the seemingly evil and crazy powerful Fury. I can understand what the creative team was trying to do, upping the ante early on to increase reader interest, but I was mostly disappointed that they threw all their cards on the table so early on. Now that the big bad has seemingly reared its head by the end of the first issue, where do we go from here?
Verdict - Skip It. This issue had some interesting ideas going on, but none of them were explored with any kind of depth, and the writing was surprisingly clunky. Seriously, the racial tension between Jason and Ronnie was really tacky and poorly done. I was expecting some big things, since Gail Simone was one of the driving creators behind this title, but this book was a pretty big disappointment. I won't be back too see what comes next.
Who is Voodoo? Is she hero, villain – or both? Learn the truth about Priscilla Kitaen as she leaves a trail of violence across America. Discover the new DCU through her eyes, because the things she sees are not always what they seem…
Grant: Ugh. DC, why do you keep doing this to us? On its own, Ron Marz's story about an alien-stripper (or whatever Voodoo is) isn't that bad. The plot is serviceable and the mystery is kind of interesting. However, when taken in the context of a month of comics that have pretty much failed at any and all depictions of women that could be defined as "acceptable", Voodoo is yet another offensive and disgusting comic from DC.
This entire issue is replete with women in various states of undress and titillating poses, and it's completely unacceptable. There's really on reason to warrant Voodoo being a stripper, aside from that being what Voodoo was in the original WildStorm book. Unfortunately, that's not a good enough reason to keep it in the reboot, and the whole thing comes off as gratuitous and sleazy.
The biggest shame of this is that Sami Basri is waste on this book. He did some stunning work on Power Girl with Judd Winick, but now instead of drawing some awesome superhero action, his talent is squandered drawing a bunch of scantily clad women posing like pinup girls.
Verdict - Byrne It. This comic, along with the Catwomans and Red Hoods of the month, is the proof that the New 52 is business as usual. DC had the chance to really change up their practices and gain new readers, but instead they completely bomb any and all depictions of women, immediately alienating at least half the population. Wonder Woman proved that it doesn't have to be this way, so how come none of the other books managed to do things right?
So there we have it. DC barely manages to make it past the finish line at month's end, and the New 52 goes out with a whimper, not a bang. What do you guys at home think? Are we being too harsh? Have we simply been driven mad by the sheer volume of new works this month, or was this week as disappointing as we present it to be? As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!