The recent news DC’s New 52-driven lead in the marketplace over chief rival Marvel Entertainment narrowed in November doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it shouldn’t detract from DC’s accomplishment with its bold publishing initiative. It’s revitalized interest in its brand and characters, and it’s proven to be a boost to the comics marketplace overall. Furthermore, I strongly suspect DC will bolster its position in that marketplace in 2012 with a second wave of New 52 debuts (either under the New 52 branding, or a new banner), coming on the heels of the inevitable cancellations of some under-performing titles. DC clearly has its promotional machine in top working order, and it will no doubt continue to capitalize on that strength next year.
In any case, it’s time to continue my overview of the New 52 titles a few months into the initiative. With the first and second parts of the feature behind us, here are my thoughts on the third and penultimate group of the New 52 stable.
Grifter: While I had little interest in the former WildC.A.T. member (whose past continuity has been undone in the New 52 relaunch), what drew my attention to this new series was the writer. Nathan Edmundson amazed with his work on Who Is Jake Ellis?, so I was keen to see what he’d do in the more familiar context of the DC Universe. I was confused by the first issue, and in some cases, that might’ve been the end of my Grifter experience. But Edmundson’s strength as a writer is how he piques the audience’s curiosity, and I found myself coming back for several more installments. I’ve ultimately decided, though, while I’m interested in the mystery and the intrigue, I don’t much care about the characters. Grifter hasn’t shaken his Kewl ’90s history, and given the tone of several other New 52 books, I’m sure there’s no intent for the creators to divest the character of that heritage.
Hawk and Dove: My only interest in the first issue of this series was to see what Sterling Gates, a writer who’d earned some acclaim for other DC projects before the New 52 launch, might have to offer. I’m not a fan of Rob Liefeld’s artwork, and I didn’t expect to continue with the book beyond the initial chapter. To my chagrin, I didn’t find much in the plot or script either. Now that Liefeld’s been announced the writer/artist for the book, unaccompanied by Gates, my interest, which was previously at zero, can only be measured with negative integers.
I, Vampire: Given the shirtless depiction of the vampire book’s hero in early promotional images, I dismissed the revival of this 1980s horror property as an effort to capitalize on Twilight, but Joshua Hale Fialkov’s script and Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork proved to be more alluring, darker and more horrific than the sparkly subject matter of Stephanie Meyer’s uber-popular vampire/werewolf fiction. I picked up the second issue of the series, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t see a lot of movement in the story. I didn’t bother picking up the third, but it’s not as though I disliked what the creators were doing. It just didn’t quite grab me to the point I felt I needed to follow the series closely. It was just on the cusp. Had I more spare time and disposable cash, I could’ve been a regular reader.
Justice League: The official flagship title of the New 52 line is a fun diversion. I’ve enjoyed the tweaks writer Geoff Johns has made to the iconic super-hero characters, but as I noted in my review of the third issue, there are problems with the execution. Jim Lee’s art is undeniably attractive but not always effective when it comes to flow. Still, I continue to read this series month after month for the fun of it. It’s like a loud, flashy, special-effects movie — fun to look at but hardly challenging cinema.
Justice League Dark: I continue to be impressed with up-and-coming artist Mikel Janin’s work on this book. His richly detailed, photorealistic style is a little stiff, but it’s also eye-catching and brings a deliciously and appropriately haunting look to the book. I was also quite impressed with writer Peter Milligan’s first issue, as he distinguished this “Justice League” from the other, more conventional incarnations, and plot elements were inventive, disturbing and even touching. Since the debut, the story has progressed at a snail’s pace, but I remain interested in the dysfunctional dynamics among these characters and the supernatural horror elements with which Milligan is playing.
Justice League International: I was a fan of the comics that gave way to this New 52 concept, but most of them stemmed from the humor era of the title team, and this version of JLI is far from a comedic book. Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti are delivering some standard super-hero fare here — a little too standard for my taste. Everything about the story and the interactions among the heroes struck me as generic. When this title was originally announced, I expected to be a regular reader, but my interest dissipated after reading the first issue.
Legion Lost: I’ve been a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes for decades, so I was eagerly anticipating this series. While we’ve seen a long-term storyline featuring a team of Legionnaires trapped in the past before, it featured teenage versions of heroes from the future and boasted a lighter tone. Legion Lost promised to be more intense and quite different. That proved to be true, but writer Fabian Nicieza’s script was inaccessible and the premise felt more than a little forced and contrived. I ended up reading two subsequent issues mainly due to my own forgetfulness to remove the book from my pull list, and they did nothing to change my mind about the series.
Legion of Super-Heroes: Writer and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz basically just continues the plotlines from his pre-new 52 Legion titles, neither of which had appealed to me despite my past appreciation of the property (and specifically his work with the property in the 1980s). Levitz’s work with these characters is weighed down by his familiarity with them and their expansive history, much of which he crafted. Furthermore, the artwork is unremarkable — not offensive, but not appealing either.
Men of War: DC is to be applauded for including such a title in its New 52 relaunch, as it breaks away from the super-hero genre pattern. Unfortunately, the debut issue just didn’t boast the kind of intensity and realism that serve as the hook for a good war comic. It would’ve been nice to see something of the quality of Garth Ennis’ War Story or Battlefield comics here, but instead, readers were served up tamer fare. I wanted to enjoy this book as I wanted to support more diversity of subject matter in DC’s line, but the storytelling just didn’t hold my interest.
Mister Terrific: While this title was firmly entrenched in the super-hero genre, I also looked forward to it because of its nature as an unconventional and surprisingly choice for inclusion in the New 52 lineup. Though the name of the title character makes little sense with the removal of the heroic legacy, spotlighting a character of color whose power stems from his intellect more than his physical abilities is a laudable move. Unfortunately, the distorted, exaggerated style of the series artist doesn’t suit the character well at all, and the plotting seemed to empower the title character too much, granting him a level of scientific know-how that bordered on the magical. Eric Wallace’s take on Mr. Terrific sees the hero as super-science to a level that makes even the most impossible task within his capabilities. It was just too over the top for me.
Nightwing: Though the title character is sporting a new costume, I really didn’t sense anything new about this new series we didn’t see the last time he had his own title (which ran for years). I found the layouts early in the first issue difficult to follow, and the plotting didn’t seem to strike me as anything other than ordinary. When DC gave this character his own book years ago, it distinguished it by giving him a fresh start in a new city. Here, he’s just another member of the Batman Family based in Gotham (though I understand the opening story arc takes him on the road).
O.M.A.C.: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the New 52 lineup is this book, co-written by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio. He and Giffen offer up what can only be described as a love letter to the late Jack Kirby by offering new twists on his 1970s creations for DC, but they do so in a manner that honors the King’s work as opposed to overwriting it. They’re true to the spirit of the source material, that much is clear. One of the reasons this book has proven to be such a pleasant surprise for me personally is I was never a big fan of Kirby’s 1970s creations. Maybe I’m developing a new appreciation of the concepts as I embark on my 40s, I don’t know. There’s something oddly random about the plotting, but I’m actually enjoying the chaotic and oddball qualities of the book. As long as DiDio and Giffen are guiding this new spin on O.M.A.C., I suspect I’ll be a dedicated reader.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: The real shame of the off-putting quality of writer Scott Lobdell’s gratuitously sexual and nasty story and characters is the fact artist Kenneth Rocafort had some interesting visuals to offer. Not those focusing on Starfire’s boobs and butt, mind you, but the layouts of the opening action scene struck me as unconventional and eye-catching. Whether he was able to continue to do such work in subsequent issues, I’ll never know.
Click here to read the fourth and final part in the New 52 Pick-Up series.
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