Welcome back for Week 2 of the New DC 52. Last time, I looked at the initial wave of offerings from DC’s rebooted line of comics, and found it to be fairly decent, if occasionally annoying and mostly unobjectionable. I hear tell that Hawk and Dove earned a fair share of derision for Rob Liefeld’s art, while Batgirl has caused quite a commotion for all sorts of reasons. But that was last week. This week, I picked up 10 of the 13 offerings. I skipped on Mister Terrific, Deathstroke, and Red Lanterns for various reasons. (Last week, FWIW, I skipped Green Arrow, O.M.A.C. and Swamp Thing.
This week’s offerings were just as varied as before, but there were several that stood out, for good or for bad. And without further ado, let’s get into it.
Batman and Robin (Written by Peter J. Tomasi, Art by Patrick Gleason): Presenting, for the first time ever, the team of Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Damien Wayne). See father-son bonding as never before: fighting crime in the sewers! Thrill to another return to Crime Alley! Will Robin follow orders, or is he grounded without supper? All kidding aside, it’s an interesting dynamic. We haven’t seen this particular pair together very much before, so there’s a lot of fertile ground, as Batman tries to relate to his kid, while Damien tries not to be a complete prat. I think Tomasi has the characters down, and the start of something good. Meanwhile, a mysterious new foe is apparently out to eradicate the Batman franchise, starting with some poor schmuck in Russia (dammit, now I want to know more about the Russian Batman). The bottom line: this is a nice solid comic, with dependable art, and I’m in for the foreseeable future. Yes.
Batwoman (Written by J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman, Art by J.H. Williams): Originally solicited several times before the relaunch, and held back until now, this is the much-anticipated beginning of the solo series starring Kate Kane, an socialite and ex-soldier turned vigilante. Oh, and she’s also a lesbian, which some people would suggest is the only defining feature worth mentioning. Friends, it’s not. This is an excellent comic. Much of it revolves around Kate’s personal life, getting us up to speed with her current status quo. Sadly, she’s no longer dating Renee “The Question” Montoya (who may or may not still wear that mantle in the reboot), but she has her eye on Maggie Sawyer, DC’s other lesbian cop. She’s also training her cousin, Bette “Flamebird” Kane as a sidekick. Bette, who apparently still spent time with the Teen Titans, is chafing at being pushed back to square one. While there’s a little crimefighting, it’s mostly off-screen and relegated to a few panels, even as we’re introduced to a new villain who may or may not be a local urban legend. Best of all, Williams’ earlier creation, DEO Agent Cameron Chase is back!
However, with this comic, the story may actually come in second to the abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous art. It’s subtle and evocative, inventive and dynamic. Panels go all over the place as the mood demands. Watery when dealing with the Weeping Woman, blocky when dealing with Kate’s mundane life, jagged and angular and batlike when she’s in costume. Colors fade in and out, things overlap, figures move, and the story flows. I don’t have words strong enough to suggest how much I love the artwork here, and I hope it lasts. All I can say is Yes. I’m on this one to stay.
Demon Knights (Written by Paul Cornell, Art by Diogenes Neves): The Magnificent Seven meet Conan meet Army of the Dead in this surprisingly enjoyable offering from the ever-awesome Paul Cornell. It’s “The Dark Ages” somewhere in Europe, and an evil army is on the move. In their path is a tavern. In that tavern are immortal caveman Vandal Savage, demon-in-a-human-body The Demon, unaging sorceress Madame Xanadu, and the Grant Morrison version of the Shining Knight. Throw in a few other strangers, and you have the best DC D&D questing group ever created. This is almost ludicrously entertaining, and it promises to kick ass. I’m not sure where Cornell plans to go with this, but hey, I’m good. The art is perfectly satisfactory: Vandal Savage is a fur-covered hulking brute, the Demon is a monster, Sir Ystin is girlishly wiry, and Neves is clearly up to the challenge of obeying Cornell’s mad directives. I guess I’ll stick around. Yes.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Ponticelli): Picking up on another Grant Morrison reinvention, Lemire gives us the gun-toting adventuring version of the legendary monster, joined here by the most recent iteration of the Creature Commandos. S.H.A.D.E. is one of those oddball government organizations tasked to deal with superhuman threats, and Frankie and his team are some of their top agents. Their current mission: investigate what happened to an entire town, as well as Frank’s estranged wife (a four-armed agent and kicker of butt in her own right). Look: Frankenstein fights monsters with the aid of monsters. And apparently Ray “the Atom” Palmer is working as a liaison with S.H.A.D.E., having helped to hook them up with a secret base inside a flying 3-inch globe. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that yes, this is one of the weirder offerings so far. But it’s also a lot of fun. I’m interested enough to ride it out for the time being. Yes.
Green Lantern (Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Doug Mahnke): Picking up after the events of the War of the Green Lanterns pre-reboot, this maintains a set-up where Sinestro is a Green Lantern, while Hal Jordan is a hopeless mess. Seriously: he’s broke, his credit score is shot, he’s about to be homeless, he’s unemployable. Apparently Hal Jordan’s forgotten how to cope with life when he’s not a Green Lantern. Meanwhile, no one wants Sinestro to be a GL, not even Sinestro himself. You know this isn’t going to end well for anyone. The problem here is that while some parts of the DCU are being rebuilt from the ground up, it looks as though the GL franchise really was untouched. New reader friendly? Not so much. Good story? Sure. I’ve been a GL fan for a long time, and I’m eager to see where this goes and if Hal Jordan gets his act together. Yes.
Grifter (Written by Nathan Edmondson, Art by CAFU): Originally, Grifter was part of the Wildstorm universe, a mainstay of the WildC.A.T.s, specializing in… um… shooting things? Looking cool? Having vaguely undefined psychic powers he never ever used? Anyway, this time around he’s a special forces operative turned con man, who’s abducted by… something, and who escapes before they can finish doing stuff to. Now he hears voices, people are trying to kill him, and he’s wanted as a terrorist. And I’m just going “erm?” It’s an adventure/spy/paranoia-laced thriller story, and I’m really not sure if it’s satisfying me. CAFU’s art is splendid and entertaining, but that’s not enough to keep me from putting this on the For Now list. I’ll stick out the first arc but then we’ll take another look at things.
Legion Lost (Written by Fabian Nicieza, Art by Pete Woods): So a group of super-powered teenagers from the future come back to the present, chasing a bad guy. First things first, they reference something called the “Flashpoint Breakwall”. Interesting that they’re invoking something that basically links the pre- and post-reboot DCU. This batch of Legionnaires is an eclectic group, including Tellus, Gates, Tyroc, Dawnstar, Timber Wolf, Wildfire, and Chameleon Girl. Already, you know we’re dealing with their B-Team. Unfortunately, it looks like several of them don’t even survive the first issue (which leaves them all stranded in the modern era, of course.) I’d be more upset about the horrible random deaths if it wasn’t the Legion, who tend to get rebooted or alt-universed more often than any other team alive. I’m a little dubious, but my fondness for Nicieza’s work and my love of the Legion grants this series a definite For Now, while they lay down the groundwork in the first arc.
Resurrection Man: (Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Art by Fernando Dagnino): He’s a superhero who comes back from the dead with a new power every time. In a slight change from the first series, it looks like this time he also has a “mission” when he comes back to life, a compulsion to go somewhere and do something. With the original writers back on this version of the title, it looks to be a rock-solid, intriguing story. For the moment, our hero’s got magnetic powers and the need to go to Portland by air. Unfortunately, an attack by otherworldly forces on board the plane suggests someone has serious plans for him. What do Heaven and Hell want with the Resurrection Man? And what do the curvaceous bounty hunters known as the Body Doubles want with him? I guess we’ll find out. I must say, I like the art, for the most part. Dagnino manages to convey both beautiful and gritty images, but his women tend to adopt some interesting poses, not always what I’d consider anatomically comfortable. But that quibble aside, I’m giving this series a Yes.
Suicide Squad (Written by Adam Glass, Art by Federico Dallocchio): The premise is simple: The U.S. government uses imprisoned supervillains to take care of dirty business, with the subtle understanding that they don’t have to come back alive. This concept was brilliantly executed by John Ostrander back in the ’80s and ’90s, before the team was relegated, for the most part, to guest appearances and the occasional mini-series. Some of the old regulars went on to greater things, such as Deadshot’s time with the Secret Six (where the Squad often popped up.) Well, they’re back, written by relative newcomer Adam Glass, and this simply isn’t what I was hoping for.
The current team consists of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, King Shark, Black Spider, El Diablo, Savant, and some guy named Voltaic. Mostly familiar names. Except that Deadshot doesn’t seem to have spent time in the Secret Six. King Shark is a hammerhead instead of a regular shark. Harley Quinn is all tarted up and extra-psychotic. El Diablo is a Hispanic pyrokinetic crimelord or something. And Savant is a coward and a wimp. There’s absolutely no sign of any of the brilliant character development Deadshot, Savant and King Shark enjoyed under Gail Simone’s control. There’s no sense of delusional sweetness or whimsy to this Harley Quinn. She’s full-blown over the edge crazy-bad.
The story starts out with them being horribly tortured, with electric clamps to the cheeks, and rats gnawing through chests, and ants crawling all over, and holy crap, what IS this, Saw 7? Glass, who also wrote the remarkably mean-spirited and bloody Legion of Doom Flashpoint mini, seems to have gotten the wrong memo. Your comic should NOT start out as torture porn. It should not take characters with depth and nuance, and turn them into one-note villains. And, for the love of all that’s holy, you shouldn’t turn Amanda Waller, one of the strongest, most forceful, most resourceful, black female characters in creation, into a cleavage-wielding hottie. That’s not her style! She was large and in charge, a full-figured, mature, experienced, highly capable figure who once stared down Batman. This new Amanda Waller is younger, prettier, skinnier, and boobtastic, and it’s just not her.
Hmmm. Next issue promises a Squad casualty. I wonder if it’ll be Voltaic, the guy who, as far as I can tell, has never appeared before in any capacity. Guess what? I don’t care. Because this iteration of the Suicide Squad is so very, very unpleasant, distasteful, and wrong. Just looking at it taints my memories of the characters. Just owning this issue puts a blight on my copies of the previous series. Congratulations, guys. For somehow being the worst possible way to relaunch a title I loved with characters I liked, this version of the Suicide Squad gets the dubious honor of being my first immediate drop. Not just a No, but a Oh Hell No. Wake me if DC comes to its senses and gives the title back to John Ostrander.
Superboy (Written by Scott Lobdell, Art by R.B. Silva): And here we have Superboy. He’s been rebooted right back to his starting days as a clone in a tank, in a place called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. He’s only half-conscious, studying them while they run him through various virtual simulations. With a revamped Rose Wilson (formerly the newest Ravager) performing double duty on the outside and the inside, and a mysterious scientist we know only as Red trying to help him, Superboy’s a lot more distant, alien, and removed from the world. He may be a product of human/Kryptonian genesplicing or whatever, but no one knows who the human donor is. Yet. I have to say, I really do miss the old Superboy. He started off as a product of the ’90s, but really grew into his own, right up to the end. Nevertheless, I’m interested enough in whatever’s going on here to stick around for the first arc. We know he’s going to be dealing with the revamped Teen Titans, and that should be good for a few laughs, right? The art is pretty, and it serves its purpose. I’d almost call it generic, as far as a DC house style goes. Then again, unless it’s very good or very bad, the art tends to come second after the story for me. But let’s give this a For Now and see if it continues to entertain and interest me.
And there we have it. Halfway through the first month of DC’s New 52, and only one comic thus far as caused me to pray for a swift and merciful death, or a convenient meteor. Will another comic take Suicide Squad’s place on my pull list? It could happen…. And remember, I do welcome comments, criticisms, dissenting opinions, and candy.
(And yes, I know, I did post the cover to the classic, unforgettably awesome, far superior, why no I’m not biased at all, did you know the first 8 issues are available as a trade paperback, version of the Suicide Squad. Call it my form of coping.)