Posted by Don MacPherson on December 6th, 2011
The New 52 Review Project — which ran on Eye on Comics through September and into October — proved to be one of the more popular periods for the site in some time. The endeavor saw me reviewing all of the first issues of DC’s New 52 line, and even as I approached the end of the project, I was getting a number of requests for readers to share my thoughts on subsequent issues — even for the entire line again. That wasn’t feasible. The project was a short-term undertaking, made possible by sponsorship and a temporary night-desk schedule at work. Still, in the time, I’ve continued to read some New 52 titles, while others I cast aside as soon as I was finished with the first issue. With three months of these comics behind us and the fourth about to begin, I thought it might be interesting to share with readers which titles I stuck with, which ones I’ve ignored since their debuts and which ones I’ve dropped in the wake of any initial enthusiasm.
Action Comics: Grant Morrison’s dramatic and ambitious overhaul of the early days of the Man of Steel continue to stand out as particularly inventive, intelligent and entertaining. It’s definitely one of the standouts of the entire line, and creatively and symbolically, it’s really the flagship of the line rather than Justice League. I’ve been disappointed in the higher price charged for the book, but I suspect that’ll fade now that Action will feature backup features penned by Sholly Fisch. A preview of Fisch and artist Brad Walker’s first contribution to the book has been excited about their work. As long as the writing remains as strong as it has been, I expect I’ll be reading this book for some time.
All Star Western: Jonah Hex writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray don’t disappoint fans of their Western storytelling with this new series, still featuring the same hero but set on the American East Coast in the late 1800s. The blend of Western genre elements, serial-killer fiction and Hex’s attitude makes for a fun combination, and Moritat’s artwork enhances the experience even more. The arrival of a backup feature after the first issue further made it clear this book would still boast the same kind of flair and edge readers enjoyed in Jonah Hex, even if the writers have introduced supernatural elements. This one’s a keeper.
Animal Man: A wonderfully unconventional and surreal venture in the super-hero genre, writer Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man has justifiably earned its reputation as the critical darling of the New 52 line. Despite the weird elements in the plot, Lemire has developed a thoroughly accessible story with its nuclear-family cast of characters. Travel Foreman’s artwork matches the bizarre nature of the plotting. If the storytelling remains as strong as it has been in the first three issues, I expect I’m in for the long haul.
Aquaman: Geoff Johns has done a solid job of rejuvenating the title character. While the violence in this series is a bit too over the top and gratuitous, I’m definitely enjoying Johns’ spin on the aquatic super-hero. The third issue hinted at interesting new elements in Aquaman’s backstory, and I can’t for the writer to explore those elements. Ivan Reis has generally been a solid, reliable super-hero artist, and that holds true with this latest project. I have no plans to drop this title. This is the smartest take on Aquaman to come along since writer Peter David played with the property years ago.
Batgirl: I’ve been a fan of Gail Simone’s writing since before she started working in comics professionally, and I was particularly taken with a lot of her work guiding Barbara Gordon (as Oracle) through her life in the pre-New 52 DC Universe. So I’m quite surprised I’m on the fence when it comes to this title. While I like the villain the opening arc, I’m not as taken with this interpretation of Barbara Gordon. Though more mobile than she used to be, she’s not as strong, and I’m just not as interested anymore. My reaction to the fourth issue, slated for release later this month, will be the deciding factor if I stick with the series any longer or not.
Batman: This relaunched title proved to be one of the pleasant surprises in the New 52 line. While I expected a strong story from writer Scott Snyder, who won acclaim for his work on Detective Comics v.1, I didn’t expect to so enjoy artist Greg Capullo’s exaggerated, angular style take on the title character and Gotham City. I was never all that enthralled with his Spawn work, dismissing him as a McFarlane knockoff, but he’s brought a lot of energy and flair to the Darknight Detective. Snyder’s tale of a long-running conspiracy in Gotham is quite entertaining, and while I’m leery of the word the “Court of Owls” premise will cross over into other Batman family titles, I’m quite pleased to have Batman on my regular pull list.
Batman and Robin: My reaction to the first issue was lukewarm, as I felt the loss of the light-and-dark dynamic of Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne, replaced with the dark-and-dark team of the original Batman and his son, was a misstep. But writer Peter J. Tomasi has softened the Batman in subsequent issues, presenting him as a hopeful presence in contrast with Damien’s frustrated, conflicted personality. The villain of the opening arc, NoBody, hasn’t really grabbed my attention, but he has served the story well as a catalyst for Damien’s potential conversion to the dark side. I’m hanging around for a while yet.
Batman: The Dark Knight: Adding writer Paul Jenkins to the mix definitely improved the quality of writer/artist David Finch’s work with the iconic super-hero, but not enough to sustain my interest beyond the first issue.
Batwing: Another pleasant surprise from the New 52. When the various titles of the line were announced, this was among those that interested me the least, but writer Judd Winick’s construction of a dark but fun super-hero-genre mystery really has me hooked. Ben Oliver’s style suits the dark tone of the plot and characters pretty well, and there’s a strong sense in the script and art of the cultural backdrop. This isn’t just a black Batman in another part of the world. While Batwing mirrors his inspiration in many ways, Winick has also distinguished him and other characters through their African heritage and socio-economic circumstances.
Batwoman: As I’ve noted already, the New 52 has offered a number of surprises. Batwoman hasn’t been among those surprises, but that’s just because we had a taste of what J.H. Williams III had in store for us before the linewide relaunch. He’s crafted a hauntingly beautiful series with a strong character arc, not to mention the return and retooling of an obscure but fascinating character (Cameron Chase). This title’s not to be missed.
Birds of Prey: I expected to enjoy this series. I read most of the comics featuring the previous incarnations of this property. I love artist Jesus Saiz’s style. And Duane Swierczynski’s slightly darker, crime-genre approach seemed like a good fit. But after reading two issues, I really had no idea what the book was meant to be about, why these heroines were teaming up or why the title characters were on the run from the law. I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the series by the time the third issue hit stands.
Blackhawks: This title has no connection to previous incarnations of DC’s Blackhawks property, so much so I’m at a loss as to why DC called it that. Nevertheless, the first issue made it seem as though this book would feature the DC Universe version of G.I. Joe (hiring an IDW G.I. Joe writer to pen the series certainly reinforced that impression). The premise didn’t do anything for me, but I can see why DC hoped it might connect with a segment of its readership. Unfortunately, since its marketing efforts were focused on the New 52 line as a whole, DC did almost no promotion for this series. And since it was a completely new, unknown premise, it really needed a stronger push. I only read the first issue, but I don’t think anybody’s going to be reading this title long-term.
Blue Beetle: I haven’t given this series a second look or a second thought (until now) since I read the middling first issue.
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