New 52 Week Two Predictions: How’d I Do?

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Last Wednesday, in recognition of the second full week of DC Comics’ New 52 promotion, I recommended the five new DC titles that I thought were most likely to be worthy of your attention and your money sight unseen. Now that we’ve had a week to digest them, the question is how did I do? I think it’s safe to characterize the entire promotion as a monster success for DC at least in terms of PR for month one: tons of sellouts, reprints and series being ordered in the six figures. Overall, I can honestly say the quality of the actual product has been stronger than I was expecting. The books I personally recommended for week two in order of expected quality were as follows: Batwoman, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, Batman and Robin, Deathstroke, and Superboy. So how were they in reality?

Batwoman #1 – J.H. Williams absolutely delivered a stunning looking book that was worth the long wait it took to reach shelves. I’m going to offer up something that seems to be an unpopular opinion with comic book fans: I really didn’t enjoy Greg Rucka’s writing on the Batwoman character over the years including his lauded run on Detective Comics. I think Rucka is a talented guy, but this wasn’t among his best output in my opinion. Detective Comics was all about J.H. Williams and as such Rucka’s absence here isn’t nearly damaging as I had feared. The books biggest weak spot was a double page spread designed to catch readers up on what happened during the Detective run. I think we could have lived without it for now and I suspect it would have been a challenging page to make sense of for new readers. I’m also not sold on Flamebird being part of the title. However, this book was definitely a solid read and I can’t wait for issue 2.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 – The premier issue saw writer Jeff Lemire introduce readers to the New 52 DC Universe version of Frankenstein’s monster and his world. We’re also introduced to his team of Creature Commando’s who have made the jump from Frankenstein’s Flashpoint title. I liked this issue but it wasn’t nearly as good as I was hoping after reading Lemire’s Animal Man. I still think it’s ultimately going to be a fun book featuring lots of monsters fighting monsters.

Green Lantern #1 – This was an interesting issue. I’m not 100 percent sold on the whole Sinestro as a Green Lantern angle, we’ll see where it goes. I did enjoy Hal Jordan’s subplot, which really hammered home that he is a guy who has never had any idea of how regular adult humans live. Facing life without a ring, he struggles to adjust to his new normal from dating to paying bills. I think there is a ton of story potential here as it’s an idea that just makes so much sense. I fear Hal’s new status quo will be extremely short-lived, however, as the issue ends with Sinestro launching a plot to help Hal get back his ring.

Batman and Robin #1 – Sadly, I know enjoyed this title when I read it. But trying to think back on it the only thing I remember about it was that Bruce made a huge point out of the fact that he was going to stop focusing on his parents’s deaths including the anniversary of their murder. Instead, Bruce declared he would focus on celebrating their lives. I hate this idea. Not because it’s a bad one. But because it’s a major step forward for the character that history tells us no other writer at DC will run with. DC’s writers just love their Batman to be a psychopath. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I just don’t see this concept ever being referenced in Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics or David Finch’s The Dark Knight. I particularly enjoyed the tension between Damian and Bruce in this issue. Damian grew to respect Dick and it seems like being assigned as Robin to Bruce has kind of pulled the rug out from under him. Good stuff. I predict this will be a consistent, but not great title.

Deathstroke #1 – I feel like DC has no idea what to do with Deathstroke. They can’t decide if they want him to be a deadly assassin with a strict moral code or a man obsessed with his family or a psychotic villain or what. His return in Teen Titans #1 a few years ago was a shocking return to villainy at a level we hadn’t seen in decades, but it turned out he was possessed. Later in Identity Crisis, we saw him take down most of the Justice League. However, since then he’s formed two teams of Titans based on some misguided rationale that it would benefit his family. This issue completely ignored his family, so that may be a step in the right direction. One of my major hopes for the book was that DC would resurrect Deathstroke’s longtime supporting character Wintergreen as part of the reboot. Wintergreen in a lot of ways was Deathstroke’s Alfred and gave him a supporting character with which to interact. Alas, Wintergreen did not appear in issue 1. Overall this book was fine as a first issue – stupid, giant sword and all – but I’m still not convinced that there’s a clear vision for the character yet and as such I’m not totally sold on the title.

Superboy #1 – I seriously bought this issue and planned to buy Teen Titans #1 because I was convinced they were going to be a complete disaster. Just horrendous comics on such a tremendous level that if I didn’t read them I’d feel like a truly missed out on an iconic moment in DC Comics history. I’m utterly stunned to report, however, that I genuinely enjoyed this mostly unnecessary, complete reboot of the Superboy character. I kind of hope that when we inevitably get to see Superboy meet Superman in this series that they import some of Superman’s uncomfortability with the concept that he’s been cloned that we’ve seen recently on the television series Young Justice. I think that is a novel approach to the character and it is kind of interesting when Batman appears to be less of a jerk than Superman. Also, I wish Rose Wilson didn’t feel so old in this book. I’m going to miss the old DC’s Ravager. I particularly enjoyed the scientists’ struggle to understand Superboy’s behavior in light of their not knowing that his DNA comes from a combination of that of Superman and Lex Luthor. Anyway, to make a long story short, this is a title I unexpectedly recommend.

So overall I think four of the six titles I recommended were pretty strong and none were actually bad. That’s a pretty good week as far as I’m concerned. In addition to the titles discussed above, I also checked out Red Lanterns and Demon Knights and while neither title blew me away, I’ll probably pick up the second issues of each next month, which seems to be the general consensus for me for the entire relaunch. While I haven’t read every New 52 title, the only book out of the entire relaunch that I genuinely disliked so far was Static Shock and I’m not someone who just hands out praise freely. To me that speaks to the tremendous step up in the quality of DC’s output that has accompanied this soft reboot. Could the quality be higher still? I think it probably could. I think one of the best ways to improve the percentage of strong books that the company is producing is to simply cut back on their total output. There really isn’t a need to release 52 issues each month in my opinion and I suspect there isn’t a market for them either. Though maybe DC is proving me wrong.

This coming week is a big one for the New 52 with the launch of my most anticipated title, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, as well as Brian Azzarello’s “horror” relaunch of Wonder Woman. Check back tomorrow to see what we’re recommending for September 21.

Read more about DC Comics’ “New 52″ on MyLatestDistraction
and keep up with each week’s picks for September:

Week Two / Week Three (coming September 21st)

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