Now that DC‘s latest revamp is upon us, let’s get into the Hot Comics Time Machine and check out some initial thoughts on the New 52.
Way back in the dark ages before the arrival of 13th Dimension, I would email friends about comics and we’d gas back and forth. When DC launched the New 52, I took it upon myself to read each #1 and write mini-reviews of them all.
As it turns out, I saved what was essentially a protoblog. So now that DC‘s announced their latest linewide shakeup, I thought it might be fun to revisit those mini-reviews of every first issue of the New 52 — and look back to see what changed over time.
Here are the reviews, more or less as I wrote them. (I edited some for clarity, some for tone and some for length. The opinions are unchanged.) I also gave each book a Green, Yellow or Red light. I don’t know why I picked that metaphor.
Anyway, below each review I’ll comment in italics on how I see those books now — if they even exist. And feel free to let me know your thoughts!
NEW 52 — WEEK 1 (plus Justice League, which came out the week before)
Action Comics: I was slightly disappointed but that’s not unusual for me where Grant Morrison is concerned. His too-long Batman run has been high on concept but inconsistent in execution and I fear we may see the same here. A true Golden Age Superman done today is a neat idea but the story was a little choppy. And “That ain’t Superman!” is some pretty cheesetastic dialogue. I did like how Morrison worked in references to him being Faster Than A Speeding Bullet, Only Maybe More Powerful Than A Locomotive, Able To Leap Tall Buildings In A Single Bound. Even references to Look! Up in The Sky! …. and the Smallville theme. Green light because it would take a JMS-level foulup to get me to walk away from Superman.
I quit Action a while back. Never cared for where Morrison took the book, except the issue with President Superman. I like the Pak-Kuder team but I haven’t stayed with it.
Animal Man: Best of the week from a pure storytelling standpoint. Quick set-up, gave you a real sense of Buddy Baker’s personality, I loved his relationship with his wife and a gasp-inducing final page. Creeeeeepy. Really enjoyed it. Jeff Lemire rocks. And Travel Foreman‘s art was a perfect fit — gross, bloody eyes and all. Green light all the way.
Too macabre for me. Left the book after a few issues.
Batgirl: I liked this. I even feel like I have to defend it a little, since there’s so much Oracle upset. Since I left comics for about 10 years, starting around 1992-93, I missed most of Oracle‘s heyday, so I don’t have the love for the character that others do. And as sacrilegious as this is to say, The Killing Joke always skeeved me out, from the first time I read it, when it was brand new. Barbara Gordon Batgirl was kind of my first crush and I’ve always been wistful about what happened to her. So I’m predisposed to give this book a mile of rope. That said, I think Gail Simone did a really good job setting up the new status quo. The story addresses The Killing Joke and I like the storytelling potential of having her be, pardon the phrase, gunshy. Love that Commissioner Gordon — CW: Please do a Gotham Central TV show! — is around. Don’t like that new roommate much tho. Too by-the-numbers quirky. Green light.
I think I’ve read every issue of Batgirl, even after I tired of Simone’s run. I may have skipped an issue here or there while deciding whether to keep going. Anyway, the team of Tarr-Stewart-Fletcher has been a revelation and it’s now one of my favorite books. A completely different sensibility from when this book was launched. And, hey — Gotham Central TV show reference!
Batwing: Hmm. Not sure. Art was at times very pretty. Idea is intriguing. Batwing has his own Batcave and Alfred. But I don’t get much of a sense of who the main character is yet. I agree with a review that pointed out that the book doesn’t give you a great sense of place. I’ll give almost any Batbook a solid try so I’m in for now. I don’t think the book will be around for the long haul, though. This needs to be a home run to get real attention and it’s not. Yellow light. It’ll probably take me the first arc to decide.
I left, came back when Jimmy Palmiotti and co. changed his identity to Luke Fox. Left again. I think my attitudes were borne out.
Detective: I’m not a big Tony Daniel fan. But this is probably his best work and I liked it better than I expected. I kept thinking about it after the fact. It stayed with me after I read it and that’s always a good sign. I’m most interested in what he’s doing with the Joker here. Detective is supposed to take place today yet it strongly suggests that this is the first time Batman has caught the Joker, that he’s been this elusive villain over the last six years. The implication is that this is the first time he’s been taken to Arkham. So I’m not sure if DC is simply letting the story take place and seeing how the dust settles or what. Green light, but that’s also because I’ll always read Detective.
This book has changed a lot. Daniel moved on, we’ve had other creators and I think it’s now the best it’s been in the New 52. Manapul and Buccellato have revitalized a title that often has little to do with the rest of the Batworld.
Green Arrow: Things missing in the first wave of the New 52: Wally West, Donna Troy, the JSA, Captain Marvel — and Oliver Queen‘s goatee! Best example so far of DC trying to make their characters more accessible to a wider public — the Justin Hartleyization of Green Arrow. Now, I’m not against this per se, but man what a dog this book was. Weak plot, weak side characters, really weak villains, really, really bad facial hair on the cover. The highlight? The George Perez-inked cobblestones in the two-page spread at the beginning. C’mon, guys. Don’t make Perez work so hard on this. Red light.
Justin Hartley! Wow! Anyway, I’ve been on and off this book over the last few years. Lemire and Sorrentino did it best.
Hawk and Dove: Whenever Young Dan Greenfield leafed through a stack of ’60s DC goodness, he’d always stop on the Hawk and Dove house ads. Was it the Steve Ditko art? The awesome outfits? The unsettling nature of the brother against brother conflict? Whatever it was, Young Dan liked it when Hawk and Dove showed up in Teen Titans and, later, in Brave and the Bold. And Not-as-Young Dan Greenfield thought it was a casting masterstroke to have Fred Savage and Jason Hervey voice them (reversing their Wonder Years roles!) in Justice League Unlimited. So it’s fair to say that Middle-Aged Dan Greenfield has a soft spot for these characters, even if the original Dove, Don Hall, is long dead. Except this was a pretty lousy comic book. I’ll still go along for little awhile for the kitsch value but this isn’t the type of stuff DC needs to be putting out right now. Yellow, but that’s the nostalgia talking.
I didn’t stay around long and neither did the book. I have picked up all the original ’60s issues since then, though.
Justice League: I’m of the mind that the Justice League is a better idea than a story device. Their routine stories lack a certain drama: They are far too powerful for most threats and writers can’t substantially alter the status quo of the major players like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. So I rarely get fired up about the League. But obviously Jim Lee and Geoff Johns are huge guns and so I’m hopeful this becomes a go-to book. Still, I didn’t expect the world and I didn’t get it. It was a solid start, but not great. Best part was assy Green Lantern referring to himself in the third person. Green light, of course.
Haven’t missed an issue. Haven’t even considered dropping it. I like it every issue. This is probably the longest I’ve ever stayed with a Justice League book, not counting the heyday of Justice League International in the ’80s. Speaking of …
Justice League International: Oh, come on I really wanted to like this. I really did. And Dan Jurgens did throw a lot into the first issue but boy it just shows how difficult it is to recapture the silly magic of the original ’80s book. So tip of the cap to Judd Winick for his recent work with the team. This is one of those review-proof books for me. Going in, I knew I was going to give it a run. Please, please be good. Please. But an ugly Yellow, for now.
Nope, never got better. I was out quickly.
Men of War: Boy, this was a tough one. I really like that DC is diversifying and I want books like this to find their audience but it really isn’t me. The dialogue was stilted in both pieces. And it’s clear they’re threading needles on politics. They don’t even say where these stories take place. Yellow light.
Didn’t stick with it and neither did DC.
OMAC: One of those books I have little grounding in. But, again, with this whole new-reader concept, that shouldn’t matter. And it kinda doesn’t here. We get a basic set-up and familiar faces if you know a little about Jack Kirby’s DC catalogue (Hello, Dubbilex). I like that artist Keith Giffen is doing his best Kirby impression on the art and I appreciate the energy that he and DC poobah Dan DiDio are bringing to this. But this book isn’t for me. It’s just not my thing and it was going to have to blow me away to get me on board. Red light.
I maybe read one more issue.
Static Shock: Didn’t like it. At all. First clear-cut Red light book I read. Could barely get through it. It wanted to be Spider-Man. Virgil’s sciencespeak internal monologue was brutal. (In fact, it would be nice if not every other comic were narrated. The lead story in Men of War really shouldn’t have had narration.) I was too old for the Static Shock cartoon mini-phenomenon so I have no nostalgia here to give it another try.
This book has a long and well-chronicled problematic backstory. It’s no wonder it didn’t succeed. Doesn’t seem like anyone was on the same page.
Stormwatch: From the man who brought you Grodd‘s awesome combat spoon … a Killer Moon! I have no grounding in the Wildstorm universe whatsoever — its heyday was during my Great Hiatus — so this was one book that I was wary of from the start. And I’d heard rumblings a few weeks ago that this book was in trouble, creatively speaking. But boy it was fun. I’m not even sure why because I had no idea what was going on half the time. It zipped from scene to scene, featuring characters I don’t know. Maybe it’s because Paul Cornell knows how to bring the goofy. And I dug the Miguel Sepulveda art. Go check out Martian Manhunter‘s fancy new head grooves. He looked just like Alan Rickman in Galaxy Quest! Green light because I’m interested enough to find out what the hell is going on. There’s also been some speculation that some “important” stuff will be developing here, so I want to keep an eye on things, at least for now.
Didn’t stay with it. Neither did Paul Cornell or DC. DC‘s still trying though, what with Midnighter getting time in Grayson and, as part of the new revamp, his own book.
Swamp Thing: I had to read this twice. The first time I was so sleepy that I found it confusing and the next day I barely remembered what happened, feeling like it took a lot of work to get there. So, OK, here’s the deal here: I’m not a Swamp Thing guy. Never have been. Just not my thing. Now, I know for some that’s utter heresy but so be it. Now, I do like Scott Snyder. And in rereading it, the book was easier to navigate. But this is the first of the New 52 books I read that really made me feel like I was missing something, that there was backstory I needed to know to fully appreciate or even understand what was going on. The least new-reader friendly book of the bunch, aside from Stormwatch. So, it’s a Yellow book for me. I’ll try again because A) 50 million Swamp Thing fans can’t be wrong, B) I like Scott Snyder and think he’s a real talent, and C) Yanick Paquette‘s a terrific artist.
Just never warmed to the whole green and red and whatever. I just think I’m not cut out for the swamp life.
So there you have it. Next up: Week 2, natch.