Monthly Archives: September 2011

A New 52 Review: DC Universe Presents #1

DC Universe Presents #1
“Twenty Questions, Part 1”
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colors: Blond
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: Ryan Sook
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I didn’t expect that.

When DC Comics announced the lineup of titles in its New 52 publishing initiative, there were a few standouts. I knew Batwoman by J.H. Williams III would be gorgeous. I knew Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang would impress with their work on Wonder Woman. And as for DC Universe Presents, well, I knew writer Paul Jenkins and artist Bernard Chang would deliver something good, something entertaining. Little did I know their Deadman would be great, a creative landmark in the property’s long history and perhaps the very best title in the entire New 52 line. Jenkins’ script achieves a wonderful balance between the blue-collar, everyman tone of the hero, and the philosophical and spiritual implications of the divine, mysterious mission with which he’s been tasked in his ghostly afterlife. Chang’s artwork achieves a balance as well, between the bright, colorful traditions of the super-hero genre to which Deadman has been linked for so long, and the haunting and diverse array of humanity that’s such an integral part of this story. It’s possible — given the generic nature of the title of this series, the plan for rotating creative teams and main characters, and Deadman’s status as a C-list character — this title will be overlooked by many. If you’re among them, I urge you to seek out this comic book. You won’t be disappointed.

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A New 52 Review: Catwoman #1

Catwoman #1
“… And Most of the Costumes Stay On …”
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist/Cover artist: Guillem March
Colors: Tomeu Morey
Letters: Sal Cipirano
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Boy, this comic book is covered all in kinds of wrong sauce, and by the end of the book, other kinds of “sauces” as well, it would seem. But then again, it’s exactly the kind of comic book the cover image suggests. No, scratch that — it’s far worse and dirtier than the cover would suggest.

This entry in the New 52 relaunch initiative and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (also released this week) have been the focus of a great deal of criticism for their gratuitous visuals and oversexualization of their female protagonists, and the negative reaction is well deserved. It seems to me Winick started out trying to tell a story about an emotionally scarred woman who’s decided to maintain an illusion of control by refusing to allow anything to get to her, but the end result is something quite different. This book is about sex, nothing else, and not in a loving, healthy way or emotionally dramatic way. It’s about teasing and titillating an immature audience receptive to this sort of thing. Honestly, after reading this comic book, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a blurb on the cover indicating it was produced by the same “creative” minds that are churning porn parodies of super-hero fare and other genre fiction.

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A New 52 Review: Captain Atom #1

Captain Atom #1
“Evolution of the Species”
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artist: Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Though created and published under the Charlton Comics banner in the 1960s, the Captain Atom property really came into its own in the 1980s with the launch of the Cary Bates-written and Pat Broderick-illustrated series of the same name from DC Comics. Bates was really ahead of his time, crafting a hero stuck in a world he doesn’t recognize and being manipulated by the military industrial complex, and the shiny, sleek redesign offered up by Broderick was quite eye-catching. With this relaunch writer J.T. Krul and artist Freddie Williams II have taken a number of cues from the Bates/Broderick interpretation of the character, but they’re also made it their own as well. This is definitely a new and different Captain Atom, but I don’t know it means it’s an improved interpretation of the character. DC really hasn’t known what to do with the title character since it did an about-face with its plan to turn him into the villain Monarch in 1991 (the secret slipped out, and DC quickly revised its “Armageddon 2001” story to make Hawk the surprise bad guy), and it still doesn’t seem as though the publisher has found any other label for Captain Atom other than “generic super-hero.”

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A New 52 Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1
“I Fought the Law and Kicked Its Butt!”
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist/Cover artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Colors: Blond
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I originally wasn’t looking forward to this comic book at all, but after reading another Scott Lobdell-penned New 52 title last week, I thought there might be a chance he’d do something worthwhile and unusual with these anti-hero characters as he did in Superboy. It turns out my first instinct was right. Lobdell delivers a low-brow, insulting and misogynist plot and script that continue to sink to lower and lower levels from page to page. There’s no logical reason provided for these characters to be connected to one another, and if that weren’t bad enough, Lobdell comes up with a new element for Red Hood’s history that isn’t at all in keeping with the tone, attitude and goals of the character. The art has its strong moments, but it’s marred by a gratuitous focus on the physical attributes of Starfire and a couple of confusing sequences later in the issue. Honestly, I have no idea why DC opted to make this comic book save for the fact it had to fill one of its 52 slots for its relaunch initiative. This comic ought to come polybagged with body wash and a loufa.

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A New 52 Review: Wonder Woman #1

Wonder Woman #1
“The Visitation”
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist/Cover artist: Cliff Chiang
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

When DC announced the creative team for Wonder Woman, I was sold. Brian Azzarello rarely disappoints with his edgy plots and intelligent scripting, and Cliff Chiang boasts one of the most appealing and all-too-rarely seen styles in super-hero comics today. Their previous collaboration — Dr. 13: Architecture and Mortality — was one of the more inventive and entertaining stories DC has produced in recent memory, with its use of obscure characters and focus on metafiction. Wonder Woman boasts a radically different atmosphere than the irreverent tone throughout the creators’ last joint effort, though, but it’s just as engrossing and entertaining. Azzarello said in an interview in advance of the release of this comic book it was more of a horror series than a super-hero book, and he was true to his word. The best take on Wonder Woman I’ve read up to this point was George Perez’s relaunch of the character in the late 1980s, in which he embraced the mythic elements in her origin. Azzarello does the same, but in a darker and perhaps more accurate manner. Whereas Perez’s heroine was an innocent who was learning about how the world works and the wonders it contains, Azzarello’s take on the iconic character s wiser, jaded and well-versed in the dangers that lurk on the periphery of mundane life.

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A New 52 Review: Batman #1

Batman #1
“Knife Trick”
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencils/Cover artist: Greg Capullo
Inks: Jonathan Glapion
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Writer Scott Snyder’s run on the previous incarnation of Detective Comics has been hailed by critics as one of the best Batman stories to come along in some time, so I looked forward to delving into his take on Gotham and its caped crusader with this newly relaunched Batman series. Well, he definitely delivers an entertaining read that celebrates the vast array of weird characters that populate Gotham, from classic villains to modern additions to the mythos. But what was more surprising to me was how much I enjoyed Greg Capullo’s artwork here. His exaggerated style — still clearly influenced by the 1980s and ’90s excesses of artist Todd (Spawn) McFarlane’s work — suits the intense and psychotic nature of these characters. Furthermore, he’s not content to just depict these characters as they’ve traditionally been shown. Capullo adds his own twists on the visual concepts, bringing a fresh look to decades-old characters while also remembering where they come from and what made them popular in the first place. This first issue was a tremendous fun read, incorporating much of the Batman family and the lion’s share of the title character’s rogues’ gallery.

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And the Morales of the Story Is…

Ultimate Spider-Man v.2 #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colors: Justin Ponsor
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Kaare Andrews (regular)/Sara Pichelli (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Worldwide
Price: $3.99 US

When the first issue of the original incarnation of this title debuted, a number of people complained the title character didn’t really make an appearance. In fact, while Peter Parker was the star from the start, Spider-Man, in full costume, didn’t really appear until several issues later, and some argued the pace of the storytelling was too slow. I didn’t agree, viewing Bendis’ plotting choices refreshing. He took his time so he could focus on character, so he could really delve into Peter and explore who he is. It worked incredibly well, and it wasn’t long before some were calling it decompressed storytelling. The term took on a negative connotation later on, as some seemed to adopt the method to lengthen shorter stories for the collected-edition treatment. Well, Bendis keeps things fairly slow with this new title and new Spider-Man as well, and just as it did the first time, it pays off. Bendis crafts a lead character that mirrors Peter Parker in many ways, but he differs in so many as well. Of course, the strength of the writing comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve been following Bendis’ journey on Ultimate Spider-Man for more than a decade. What might surprise is the work artist Sara Pichelli delivers along with Bendis’ script. Her bright, crisp and convincing linework exhibits a lot of personality.

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A New 52 Review: Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
“War of the Monsters, Pt. 1: Monster Town, USA!”
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Colors: Jose Villarrubia
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artist: J.G. Jones
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I really didn’t know what to expect from this new series. Writer Jeff Lemire was responsible for the much-praised Animal Man, which has definitely earned its reputation as the critical darling of the New 52 thus far. However, he also penned the three-part Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos mini-series, which turned out to be little more than standard genre storytelling fare — competent but ultimately forgettable. Lemire has made it clear he’s a strong writer with many projects, not just Animal Man, but this new series features the same characters as his contribution to the Flashpoint event brand. I’m pleased to say this is stronger than what he had to offer with his previous Frankenstein limited series, but it’s not nearly as compelling and experimental as Animal Man. Agent of S.H.A.D.E. isn’t a home run, but it’s a decent base hit. There are some fun ideas scattered about this story, and Alberto Ponticelli’s style was a great choice for the macabre, surreal science-fiction elements that come together to construct the weird world in which Frankenstein and his allies exist.

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A New 52 Review: Grifter #1

Grifter #1
“17 Minutes”
Writer: Nathan Edmondson
Pencils/Cover artist: CAFU
Inks: Jason Gorder
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Wes Abbott
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Normally, I wouldn’t have been all that keen to read a comic book starring a character from Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s, a series that was symbolic of the sort of Kewl storytelling of the early 1990s, a property that was all about how it looked and not at all about any real substance. But I was quite interested in Grifter because it’s written by Nathan Edmondson, the same man responsible for the compelling, novel plotting in Who Is Jake Ellis?. That espionage series with superhuman elements was one of the best limited series of the year, and the title character on this New 52 book seemed like it’d be a good fit for the writer’s sensibilities. That’s true to a certain extent, but after reading this inaugural issue, I felt more confused than entertained. I honestly have no idea if this is a new origin story, if it’s set after the title character’s time with the WildC.A.T.s or something else altogether. There are elements I find interesting, but the lack of clarity in the script serves as an obstacle.

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A New 52 Review: Demon Knights #1

Demon Knights #1
“Seven Against the Dark”
Writer: Paul Cornell
Pencils: Diogenes Neves
Inks: Oclair Albert
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artist: Tony Daniel
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Before I decided on reviewing every first issue in DC’s New 52 publishing strategy, I was going to pass on this title. I’ve never been a big fan of Etrigan the Demon, I’d been lukewarm to Paul Cornell’s writing and the sword-and-sorcery genre has never really been my cup of tea. So I was quite surprised to find one of the most entertaining reads of the new 52 thus far. Not much happens in this first issue — it’s a standard introductory episode of a team book, featuring the initial gathering of the heroes. But what wins the reader over the power of all the personality that’s been poured into this comic book. From the bombastic, incredible characters to the crisp, bright and richly detailed artwork, there’s a real sense of magic (in a couple senses of the word) in the storytelling here. When this title was originally announced, I was puzzled as to why DC opted to include this new team concept when it had so many other more prominent and obscure ideas from which to choose. Now I know why it made the cut.

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A New 52 Review: Batman and Robin #1

Batman and Robin #1
“Born to Kill”
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils: Patrick Gleason
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: John Kalisz
Letters: Patrick Brosseau
Cover artists: Gleason & Gray
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While the previous incarnation of this title was at its strongest when written by Grant Morrison, the creative teams that followed him did a good job of maintaining an edge and inventive tone he established from the start. So while this comic book appears to be the start of a new series, it’s really just a continuation of the previous one, and I fully expected to remain a fan. But there is something different with this new first issue, and it’s the central dynamic between the title characters. While the names remain the same, one of the characters is a different man, and that completely changes the tone of the book — and not for the better. The art remains interesting, preserving the same intense tone we’ve come to expect from this series, and given my affection for the previous incarnation of Batman and Robin, I’ll likely continue to read this title for another issue or two. But Tomasi needs to realize soon the Batman/Robin relationship works best when it’s one of contrast rather than stereophonic grumbling.

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A New 52 Review: Resurrection Man #1

Resurrection Man #1
“Pronounced Dead”
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Artist: Fernando Dagnino
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Rob Leigh
Cover artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
Editors: Eddie Berganza & Rex Ogle
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

When DC was unveiling its New 52 lineup a couple of months, I was thrilled to find Resurrection Man on the list of books. I was a fan of the original title in the 1990s, and the fact the same writers are handling this, ahem, resurrected series (I wonder how many people have made the same joke in writing about this comic) made me even more eager to read it. As strong as the book was back in the ’90s, I think this new start might be even better, mixing elements from multiple genres — super-hero, science-fiction, the supernatural, conspiracy-themed drama — to arrive at a compelling, fun entertainment experience. The premise pretty much remains the same, but it’s been tweaked ever so slightly in a manner that made me think this would make a great weekly TV series. The writers have wisely crafted a script that’s accessible to the many readers who would be unaware of or had no access to the original series, and they’re joined by a new artist whose style works incredibly well with dark, weird and macabre atmosphere inherent in the story. This is another creative success for DC’s New 52, and I hope the interest in the line as a whole gets more eyes on these pages.

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A New 52 Review: Red Lanterns #1

Red Lanterns #1
“With Blood and Rage”
Writer: Peter Milligan
Pencils: Ed Benes
Inks: Rob Hunter
Colors: Nathan Eyring
Letters: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover artists: Benes & Hunter
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Like Batwoman, this title was in the works some time before DC announced its New 52 initiative, and it’s been folded into the lineup of new titles this month that’s proven to be such a success for the publisher. While most of those new titles are about fresh starts for the properties, Red Lanterns picks up where Blackest Night and “The War of the Green Lanterns” left off. Writer Peter Milligan faces the enviable task here of transforming a group of Green Lantern villains into a collection of heroes, and he heads down the only avenue available to him: the path of the anti-hero. Atrocitus undergoes a shift here to make him a protagonist in the vein of the Punisher or Lobo, I suppose. Now, I’m a big fan of the idea of introducing Lantern Corps of many colors; I thought it was a simple concept that helped to revitalize the Green Lantern property. But these Red Lanterns aren’t characters I want to follow outside of that larger Rainbow Lanterns idea. This title might appeal to fans of violent, murderous anti-heroes, but I don’t fall into that particular demographic.

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A New 52 Review: Batwoman #1

Batwoman #1
“Hydrology, Part 1: Leaching”
Writers: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Artist/Cover artist: Williams
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

Finally. Forget the New 52. Forget “Batman Inc.” Forget it all. Batwoman has been waiting in DC’s wings for too long, and we J.H. Williams III fans have been patient, confident the title would be worth tolerating the delays. And we were right. It’s hard to imagine any other DC comic published this month would be more beautiful thank this one, but hey, we knew Williams would offer some pretty and compelling visuals. No, the really good news is he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman have crafted a story worthy of the hauntingly beautiful artwork. I was surprised to find a supernatural element was included in this inaugural story arc, but it definitely helps to set this new story apart from previous tales featuring the title character. But the more interesting conflicts don’t stem from the mystery or the drama of missing children. Instead, what makes this such an engrossing read are the subplots, the character-driven moments that bring Kate Kane down to earth while also illustrating the extreme circumstances she’s had to overcome to arrive at this moment in her life.

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A New 52 Review: Mister Terrific #1

Mister Terrific #1
“Software Update”
Writer: Eric Wallace
Pencils: Gianluca Gugliotta
Inks: Wayne Faucher
Colors: Mike Atiyeh
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: J.G. Jones
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I was thrilled when DC announced this as one of the New 52 titles as part of its revitalized line of super-hero comics. I’ve always been a fan of this incarnation of Mr. Terrific. I love the notion of a hero whose super-power is really his intellect. I’m also a fan of the Justice Society and DC’s “generational” heroes, but that connection to a heroic legacy seems to be the one element that’s been removed from the character in the relaunch. Nevertheless, I thought Terrific was an unconventional but good choice in DC’s effort to offer a more diverse array of characters starring in their own titles. After reading this debut issue, I see potential in the storytelling, and I like the shift in the title character as a solo player rather than a member of a team. But some unfortunate plotting choices and exaggerated artwork ultimately led to a disappointing reading experience. Despite my affection for the character, I don’t expect I’ll be reading Mister Terrific beyond this opening installment.

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