Decision Time – DC’s “New 52” edition

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KevinMLD spent a lot of time here discussing what titles were expected to be hits and misses for him this month from DC Comics’ line-wide relaunch referred to as The New 52. I’ve remained relatively quiet while considering his recommendations and spending my time talking about some of September’s Other #1s. I did sample a fair number of New 52 books as well and not surprisingly, I went with almost all super hero titles choosing to leave most of DC’s “Dark” and “Edge” stuff off of my pull list. In fact, even though I feel like I invested a lot in the New 52 this month, I bought fewer than they’re shipping in one week and it’s time to evaluate whether I’ll be back for issue #2 of any of these titles.

Kevin has agreed to join me in running down these books and his perspective as someone who’s followed DC’s publishing line closely over the years should be very different from my own as I’m relatively out of touch with it.

Action Comics
and Superman

PTB: Superman and Batman are arguably the two most recognizable comic book properties in existence and when considering DC’s relaunch their titles were at the top of my list of considerations. I really enjoyed what I read of Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman, so seeing that he was at the helm of the new Action Comics I knew this was a definite book to buy. I didn’t dislike Morrison’s Action #1, but I didn’t feel like that was a Superman I know. His brash attitude took me by surprise.

KevinMLD: As you could tell having read Superman #1, Action is following Superman’s earliest exploits. He’s basically a teenager and what teenager isn’t brash? I kind of enjoyed issue 1 but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Issue #2, however, was fantastic.

PTB: I can’t really say that I didn’t like Superman #1 either, but at the same time I don’t know that I’d want to read more of it. The conflict among his supporting cast and the print vs. digital media argument surprisingly doesn’t do much for me here even with the “ripped from the headlines” angle reflecting Rupert Murdoch’s current woes with News International.

It’s certainly a Superman/Clark Kent that’s more recognizable to me here, but that might be part of the problem too. I know I’m arguing that both takes on Superman aren’t for me, so I can only assume I just don’t care for Superman if the conditions aren’t just right. The supporting cast might be too big here and I didn’t get a sense of where things are headed with the fiery threat Superman faces here.

KevinMLD: I enjoyed Superman #1 more than I expected to, but I still wouldn’t say I thought it was a particularly good comic. Though it definitely was packed more densely with story than any other single DC or Marvel issue I’ve read in years. This could easily have been told in six issues by another writer. I thought the fiery threat was defeated and expect we’re on to our next foe for issue 2.

The Batman Family

PTB: I really believe there are too many Batman titles and I tried three of them for very different reasons. In the first week, I felt I had to at least try Detective, but I think a lot of that is simply because it’s Detective. The title has such a long history, though with all of DC’s numbering reset to 1, that’s kind of meaningless.

I certainly like Tony Daniel’s art, and this is the first I’ve read of his writing. I didn’t dislike it and of all the Bat titles I think it’s the one I’d most consider following. I’m intrigued a bit by the last page even if it’s too similar to Face Off.

KevinMLD: I’m a huge Tony Daniel-as-a-writer skeptic. Nothing in the first two issues of Detective has changed my mind. I’m a big fan of his artwork though.

PTB: I’ve heard nothing but good things about Scott Snyder’s Detective run leading into the relaunch, so I went into Batman expecting to be impressed. I liked the issue, particularly Bruce’s speech and the extended Bat-family appearing (the height differences aside). I think it really comes down to the threat, and Dick Grayson murderer is actually less appealing than the Joker in Face Off.

KevinMLD: I don’t think Dick Grayson as murderer is the threat here at all. It’s who would have the ability to frame Dick so conclusively and why would Dick be the target in the first place? Is it because the real threat knows way too many of Batman’s secrets? I’m unapologetic about my affection for this first issue. I thought it was great except for one or two panels of art.

PTB: Greg Capullo’s art looks great as you’d expect, but as I think back to the panels and pages I remember most it’s Tony Daniel and David Finch’s work that stands out for me. That said, I felt that Finch’s last Batman: The Dark Knight series was a failure and I don’t think this one will give me what I’m looking for either even with the addition of Paul Jenkins.

The book isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not the best Batman book on the shelves right now. Also, I’m a fan of books being on schedule, and honestly in the current comics climate it would be near impossible not to see some delays on a title you read. Regardless, the shipping schedule for the last series was absurd shipping in December, March and three over five weeks in July/August to get it out. Everything leading back to Arkham gets a little old too.

KevinMLD: I was really optimistic about Finch being teamed with Paul Jenkins, but they lost me completely the second One-Face showed up. Groan.

PTB: I picked up Batwoman primarily because I knew it would look beautiful. All I really know about the character is that she was reintroduced in the last few years, enjoyed a groundswell of popularity, and her series was plagued with delays. That certainly doesn’t bode well for my chances of sticking with it long term. Issue one was interesting, but I really felt like it was connected to a lot of things I didn’t understand and I didn’t get a lot of explanations here. It might actually work to draw in readers, but I’m not feeling particularly invested in the main characters. However, I couldn’t be happier in my choice to pick this up as opposed to Catwoman.

KevinMLD: I think you’ve nailed the number one problem with Batwoman. She’s getting by on the strength of J.H. Williams’ art and they haven’t really made the character herself compelling. Hopefully they can address that. I don’t think your concerns about delays are warranted. This book has had a year long head start on the other New 52 books and there’s a second fantastic art team led by Amy Reeder that will be trading off with Williams come the next storyline before Williams returns again. It should be a very long time before there are any delays.

DC Universe

PTB: I was expecting to see Justice League this week as we started month two of the New 52. It looks like it’s scheduled for October 19th. Do you think part of the reason it’s set in the past is that it might not ship exactly monthly?

KevinMLD: Maybe. I also think there’s an appeal to telling the definitive Justice League origin. I don’t think one has stuck that is as compelling as say Batman Year One.

PTB: Beyond Justice League, which I think I’ll continue with primarily for Jim Lee’s art, I really tried to focus on the DC mainstays. Interestingly, the only one I passed on was Flash after really enjoying Flashpoint. I don’t think that had as much to do with the character so much as my love of alternate universe stories. Your recommendation against the New 52 Flash series and its unproven writer was part of my decision to stay away.

KevinMLD: I also skipped Flash. I’m tired of DC giving writing gigs to artists. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I feel like I made a safe bet.

PTB: Much like Ms. Marvel, I want Wonder Woman to have a title that’s befits her stature as a top female hero. Brian Azzarello puts together a decent first issue for her, but I think it simply could have used more Wonder Woman. She’s actually not a character I know that much about and the thing I really missed here was anything new about her to draw me in.

KevinMLD: I thought Wonder Woman #1 was a pretty strong issue. Yes, they didn’t retell her origin, but rather threw her head first into a compelling story. I kind of think Wonder Woman may be starting her third straight decent run. I enjoyed what I read of Gail Simone’s work with the character and thought Phil Hester did the character justice when he replaced J. Michael Straczynski last year.

PTB: I followed Green Lantern more closely than any other DC character in recent years and the relaunch definitely left me concerned with where the New 52 would go with what I’ve read. Everything seems to fit, but the perspective has really shifted to a redemption story about Hal Jordan (and possibly Sinestro). I’m not sure that’s what I want from a book that was once more focused on big cosmic epics.

I also thought Doug Mahnke’s artwork in Green Lantern #1 was a lot less consistent than what I’d seen from him previously. It was generally a decent looking book, but there were some pages and panels that looked really out of place.

KevinMLD: I liked how far down Hal Jordan has been torn. I suspect we’ll be seeing this book become a space opera again very quickly.

PTB: Aquaman is a character I’ve generally never had a lot of feelings toward, but during Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi’s recent Brightest Day series, he (along with Deadman) was one of the only bright spots. Much like Wonder Woman #1 we get a good feel for the threat here, but thankfully the focus is squarely on Aquaman. Using the “meta” approach of examining the character from the way he’s typically viewed by readers really works well.

Ivan Reis’ artwork is incredible as expected, but the scenes with the creatures from the trench are spectacular. I’m intrigued by these enemies and Aquaman’s decision to move to the surface world, but the stopping of the robbery still didn’t work for me. Regardless, Aquaman is probably the best start for a solo character from the New 52 books I’ve read and it’s exactly the type of thing that would bring me back for another issue.

KevinMLD: This is my favorite Aquaman comic I’ve ever read… Which sadly isn’t saying much. But I really did enjoy it and I’m looking forward to more.

DC Dark

PTB: I’ve always been intrigued by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein primarily because of its commentary on the responsibility of science, but also the way its concepts have been interpreted over the last two hundred years. It’s interesting to see it incorporated into the DC Universe.

DC’s version of the character killed Hitler during Flashpoint from what I understand and that’s just the definition of “off the wall.” The quirky nature of this series is typified by the addition of a team modeled after other classic monsters to go along with Frankenstein. I wasn’t crazy about the art but it works for the characters. The enemies were just a little too non-descript for my tastes and I think the first issue could have used a hook to draw readers in more.

KevinMLD: Yeah I’m not a huge fan of the Creature Commandos, but I expect this book to turn into a quirky love story between Frankenstein and his bride.

I’m really glad you decided to try out so many titles. I do think that two issues into the new DCU, it really seems like you missed out on the two best books of the relaunch: Swamp Thing and Animal Man.

PTB: I couldn’t help but notice Ivan Reis’ ads in most of these books for the upcoming New York Comic Con. DC really made a good showing last year, and I’m glad to see them promoting it this way in their books. We’ll be there next week and it’s looks like the show is continuing to grow based on the guest list and panel schedule.

KevinMLD: You know who I’m fascinated by at NYCC? Tom Morello.

PTB: His name definitely caught my attention. Looks like he’s there to promote his new Dark Horse series, Orchid, but he’s also performing as part of the event. It should be interesting, but sometimes those types of bookings look much better on paper.

Read more about DC Comics’ “New 52″ on MyLatestDistraction.

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