DC’s latest revamp is coming, so we look back at the first four weeks of the New 52 — and what’s happened since.
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. (If you missed it, here’s the Week 1 round-up. And here’s Week 2. Here’s Week 3.)
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 4
All-Star Western: I love me some Jonah Hex and I was pumped for this new incarnation. I mean, Jonah Hex in Gotham? Cool. Palmiotti and Gray do a great job of setting the scene and I enjoyed the Odd Couple pairing of Hex and Amadeus Arkham. Very cleverly done, with the writers careful to show that even though this is not Hex’s natural habitat, he could fit in well with a very ugly 19th century Gotham. And Moritat‘s art was gorgeous. Excellent job everywhere on this one. My only complaint is that it seemed to go on a little too long — which makes sense since it was longer than most of the other New 52 books. Starting next month, the story will be normal length, and we’ll be getting a back-up. This was the most confident, professional book I read this week, even if I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I was in some of the other ones I read. But I’m in for the long haul here. Green light for sure.
I stayed with this book for a good while but eventually grew tired of the Gotham angle. But did you catch that finale? Wowza.
Aquaman: Well, that was fun. There weren’t any real surprises since Geoff Johns made it pretty clear that the book was gonna confront head-on Aquaman‘s reputation as a dorky hero. And he confronted it, though I gotta say it was a little ham-fisted after awhile. But that’s OK, it’s a first issue and he wanted to drive the point home, I suppose. Fish and chips? Heh. And kinda creepy at the same time. Also, I didn’t know he could leap tall buildings in a single bound and withstand a bullet to the head. Maybe that’s new. I know in the past they’ve made a point that Aquaman would be really strong on land since he can withstand deep-sea pressures, but I’m not sure if they’ve gone this far with it before. Oh, and Ivan Reis‘ art was nice as always. His work always reminds me of Neal Adams, even though he’s not as masterful or as inventive. Anyway, this was going to have to be pretty terrible for me not to give it a chance but it earned its green light fair and square.
I liked this book more and more as time went on. It’s now one of my favorites and a real triumph of the New 52. I’ve enjoyed all the creators on the book so far and look forward to Cullen Bunn and Trevor McCarthy.
Batman: The Dark Knight: And now, the wholly unnecessary Batman book. There always seems to be one of these around. What’s worse is that this is a vanity project that was an utter catastrophe the first time. You may recall that DC signed artist David Finch with a lot of fanfare. He did a ton of covers but after a bit they announced that he was gonna write and draw his own monthly Batman book. Except there were delays and he was given a lot of help to eke out the five issues DC managed to publish before the relaunch. So now, they’re giving it another go and, like before, they’ve paired him up with DC Universe Presents: Deadman writer Paul Jenkins.
If DC really wanted a fourth Batbook, they should have gone in an entirely different direction: Small. Give us one book that captures that David Mazzucchelli sensibility, that spare, noirish look that really works well for Batman. Get Francesco Francavilla, for crying out loud. Give us a small, intimate Batstory. Otherwise, this just feels completely redundant. So, will I vote with my dollars and not pick this up again? I’m going to try. Red light. Aw screw it, who am I kidding? Green light. It’s Batman. Sigh.
I stand by this. The book is gone and I’m glad to see it replaced by more alt takes like Arkham Manor (which ultimately is a mini-series, I suppose), Gotham By Midnight, Gotham Academy, etc. The last two might not be Batman books per se, but they’re in the family.
Blackhawks: There are a number of books I’ve picked up during the New 52 that I just knew weren’t for me. This is one of them. Red.
DC‘s war book try didn’t really work out, did it.
The Flash: Francis Manapul‘s layouts make this book. I’m not entirely sold on his pencil/painterly style for the Flash but a lot of people really like it. I just liked the way the story was told, which is important, since neither Manapul nor Brian Buccellato are known as scripters. They write a good Barry Allen and this is another example that shows DC could have done the same with Batman and GL and used the New 52 as an opportunity to strip things down rather than be beholden to recent successes. Green light, this one, though I only liked it instead of loved it.
I liked this more as I read it, though some arcs seemed a little long. I’m not reading the current team. I would come back to the book at some point, though. And Manapul and Buccellato have done a nice job since moving to Detective.
The Fury of Firestorm: Oh, my God, this was terrible. It was like an Afterschool Special meets, oh, I don’t know what. This just might be the worst book of the New 52. Red, red light.
Did this book ever get a positive review?
Green Lantern: New Guardians: I read this first because I wanted to get it out of the way. Largely competently done. Holds no interest for me. Like the Batman world, I’m coming out of the New 52‘s first month thinking that GL‘s world needed to be streamlined. I understand why it wasn’t — sales, Johns still controlling the vision — but still. Red light.
I haven’t moved off this point.
I, Vampire: See, now, this was what I was saying about the art on Dark Knight. You could give a Batbook to Andrea Sorrentino, whom I was entirely unfamiliar with until now. Moody, atmospheric, nice work on the buildings. Really nice to see DC going with another style here. Story? Pretty good. Definitely has that Vertigo feel but clearly this is gonna become not just a vampire story but a Vampires vs. the DCU story. I liked the way it was told though the voice boxes were a little too confusing at times. All that said, this falls under that Not For Me banner. Red light.
I should have supported this book but I just wasn’t interested enough.
Justice League Dark: Interesting. And I do mean that. Interesting idea. Yeah, mystical teams have been done before but this one seems to have some heft to it, which makes sense given Peter Milligan‘s reputation with this type of material. Good, creepy scene with Shade and his imaginary girlfriend and good, gross job of showing right off the bat why a magic JL is needed — that the regular JL can’t solve everything with power and tactics. Kinda dopey name though. Red light, simply because it’s not my kind of thing. But I can see where it might find an audience.
I’m not a huge fan of occult books. So this falls under that it’s-me-not-you category. Seems to have its following.
The Savage Hawkman: Reading comics, for me, is at least in part an exercise in nostalgia. Every time I open a book, Young Dan Greenfield gets to come out and play and, hopefully, the comic will provide some semblance of the excitement and wonder of the books I read when I was 10, 12, even 14 years old. Now, I was never a major Hawkman fan but when I saw he was getting his own book, I was surprised by how glad I was. He’s one of those characters that was so much a part of the fabric of my childhood. I fondly recall those 1960s house ads, not to mention his appearances in JLA and Brave and the Bold. I even wrote to Mego asking that they produce a Hawkman figure. And he’s been such a mess since Crisis 25 years ago that I was particularly excited by this opportunity to set things right. The only problem was that he was given a creative team I don’t particularly love.
But get this: This comic was good. Maybe even very good. Maybe even my favorite this week.
Writer Tony Daniel had indicated that he was going to start from scratch, which is the best possible approach to Hawkman. And this felt very fresh indeed. I especially loved how he tackled the biggest elephant in the room: Hawkman‘s outfit, which, historically speaking, has been one of the sillier ones in the world of superheroes. I mean, where does dude hide his wings when he’s not using them? Now we know. And it’s a very simple solution that obviously also offers story potential. And the art, even though it was occasionally confusing, worked well with the material. But would it have been so bad to base him in Midway City? Green.
In the end, they still didn’t get it right. I really want a Hawkman book. I really do.
Superman: I stalled awhile before I sat down to write this one because I was having a hard time articulating how I felt about it. Then DC goes and announces that, for all intents and purposes, George Perez will be off the book in any major capacity as of Issue 7. That doesn’t appear to be planned given that Mr. Fix-It Keith Giffen, along with Dan Jurgens, has been called in from the bullpen. This seems to suggest they know they have a problem on their hands but here’s the thing: It should never have come to this.
Let me back up a second: This book was not very good. It was not terrible. It had a couple of glimmers of promise, though perhaps I’m being kind.
But imagine if Marvel launched a New 52. Do you think that they would allow Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 be anything other than one of the best two or three books of the line? Seriously. This is Superman. This is the Number One Guy.
I’ll pick up Issue 2 because perhaps there’ll be some improvement, though that seems doubtful given the looming track change. Otherwise, I may stick with Action for my Superman fix until DC gets the rest of its Superhouse in order. Green for one more. But, jeez, what an incredibly wasted opportunity.
I’ve already stated my frustrations with the current Superman output. I’ll just reiterate that I’m really looking forward to Gene Luen Yang‘s run.
Teen Titans: Solid start to a book I’ve been leery of. Teen Titans has been mishandled for so long that I was worried that DC was gonna drop the ball again, especially with Scott “Starfire controversy” Lobdell at the helm. He’s also making it easier for me to accept the continued existence of Tim Drake, despite his ludicrously busy new outfit. Good sense of humor and solid job introducing the villain of the piece and why the team would come together. I also liked how they basically aped the end scene of Superboy to bring the two books together. It was seamless (unsurprising given Lobdell writes both) but it made it clear to me that I need not read Superboy to enjoy this book. Which is good because I really didn’t want to have to pick Superboy up on a regular basis. Green light.
I stayed for awhile, but didn’t hold on. Then came back for the trial of Kid Flash, for what that was worth. I started the second run of the book but it hasn’t kept me going. I’m a longtime, ardent fan of the Titans but I just cannot warm up to what DC‘s been doing.
Voodoo: Hubba hubba. That Sami Basri sure knows how to draw the ladies. Oh, and ew, that big scaly monster! Anyway, I doubt I’ll pick this up again. Red light.