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DC Comics: The New 52

By: KamuiX

Much like many long-time DC Comics readers, I went through a range of emotions following the announcement of DC's choice to completely reboot the universe. Anger came first, feeling as if everything I've read for the past 20 or so years was a complete waste of time, then shock at some of the crazy ideas and redesigns of classic characters, followed by mild acceptance as the titles were announced along with the level of talent involved, and finally optimism as it was announced continuity isn't completely being thrown away. I think following that announcement as well as the events of Flashpoint, time will show this to be a huge storytelling experiment and classic storylines and events will begin to seep back into the current universe. Of course, the big question here, experiment or not, is whether any of this is going to be any good. So I've decided to buy all 52 first issues and see for myself. I'm taking the angry approach here, and doing this month-long article with the mindset that things need to be proven with the first issues. So as the issues are released, I'll be writing capsule reviews, talking about the stories, the quality, and if based on the first issues alone whether or not the outlook is good or bad. If you're still pissed about this entire thing, this is written for you, as I know you're all likely to be extremely judgmental and ready to form your opinions quickly based on the first issues. So, hang with me for the next 30 days to see if a fan of the DCU for the past 20 years has to eat his words or whether we all march over to the DC offices with Professor Zoom and have him erase this hiccup in history as if it never happened.

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Justice League #1  
Justice League
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Colors by: Alex Sinclair
Color | 40 pages | $3.99

The Story: Along with Action Comics #1, Justice League #1 takes place 5 years before the rest of the re-launched books and tells the story of the Justice League’s genesis. While it’s confirmed the team will also feature Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, the bulk of this issue deals with Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan’s first encounter and their investigation into the “alien” in Metropolis.

The Verdict: There’s a hell of a lot riding on this book: it launches the “New 52” initiative, it’s positioned as the flagship title in DC’s arsenal, and it features two heavyweights in the driver’s seat: Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. As much as that duo screams “this cannot fail!”, if this is what we’re to expect out of the entire line of new books, the outlook is grim for longtime readers. DC has stressed repeatedly that while these books are designed to bring in new readers due to DC’s expansive history making it a hard nut to crack otherwise, they wouldn’t be leaving loyalists out in the cold. Sadly, that isn’t the case here. Pretty much everything that happens in this opening issue exudes a “been there, done that” vibe, and when it comes to moving the story along it feels like we’re taking baby steps. In that regard, it’s hard to even say whether it’s good or not; taken as a whole once the entire arc is out, it may very well be solid. But on its own, it feels devoid of anything truly meaty. The best way I can describe it is think back to a lot of comics from the mid-90s (especially from Image), where slick artwork was pushed hard in favor of compelling storytelling. There’s a lot of that going on here; big action scenes, some throwaway banter, and very little story advancement. Some of that was expected as I knew Johns would write some action sequences to play to Lee’s artistic strengths (which he completely delivers on), but it’s honestly nearly the entire book.

Another knock against the book is the characterizations of Batman and Jordan. Jordan is a cocky douchebag and Batman sort of just takes it; I know this is supposed to be these heroes at the beginning stages of their development, but does every new hero have to be a dick before learning that with power comes “great responsibility”? And would Batman EVER take shit from anyone? He’s an eternal hard-ass, and to get away from that would be a huge mistake. Hopefully we’re just building to Bats smacking some sense into the ‘ol flyboy, because as he is now I’m happy about his eventual downfall and Sinestro taking Sector 2814’s ring. On the flipside, in a development that absolutely no one could have predicted, the strongest portion of this issue comes via the short glimpse we get of Cyborg, who’s currently just a regular kid, a star high school football player that’s being courted by numerous colleges yet is ignored by his father who has some involvement in superhero activities. Considering a lot of readers felt like Johns was forcing Cyborg, a character I don’t think a lot of people care much for, down our collective throats, this is a nice surprise. But a few pages don’t make a great comic, and when taking into account that since this is DC’s golden boy they think it’s worth charging $3.99 for with only a couple extra pages of content, it’s not really worth the price of admission.

The Outlook: I’m optimistic, as Johns’ track record with team books is pretty damn strong, and it’s hard to argue against the chance to ogle Lee’s artwork. However for longtime readers, it might be worth sitting this one out until the origin arc is finished and we get to some content that doesn’t feel old and tired. New readers and Jim Lee fanboys should be fine with keeping this on their pull-list. Be warned though: with Lee at the drawing board, this one could very well be plagued by delays. The second issue already isn’t coming out until October 19th.

Action Comics #1  
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Rags Morales & Rick Bryant
Colors by: Brad Anderson
Color | 40 pages | $3.99

The Story: An alien with immense power, dubbed “Superman” by reporters, has emerged in Metropolis within the past year without explanation. While the citizens of the city are gradually realizing he’s on their side, the police and military are of the opinion that he’s nothing more than a menace. With Lex Luthor as an advisor, General Sam Lane is orchestrating set-ups that endanger the population of the city in an attempt to lure Superman into their clutches.

The Verdict: While I’m neither a huge Superman fan nor a Grant Morrison junkie (I don’t think he’s done much of note since Seven Soldiers), I was looking forward to Action Comics simply because Superman most clicks for me when he’s still coming to grips with his powers. It’s why I’m such a fan of the 90s animated series; he wasn’t quite as all-powerful as he was in the comics. However, having read a handful of origin stories for the Man of Steel over the years, I was worried this would be treading familiar ground. I’m pretty damn happy to say it doesn’t whatsoever. Here, Supes is already in Metropolis, already fairly comfortable with his powers (although the confidence isn’t fully there yet, and neither are his skills at their peak), and already doing what he can to save the Average Joe. What’s truly original about this introductory issue, and likely the first story arc, is that the focus is much more on the citizens of Metropolis and those in power, such as the police, military, and so on. Think about how frightening it would be if one day a guy showed up in your town that looked like you but could fly, hear things down to the tiniest pin drop, and shoot lasers out of his eyes. It’d certainly cause chaos and this initial issue captures that perfectly. To my knowledge, this is something that’s never really been explored in a Superman origin story before, which is a definite plus for new and old readers alike.

All of that pushed aside, the real revelation here is Grant Morrison’s writing. Over the past 5-6 years I’ve really fallen out of love with the guy, who seemed intent on infusing as much weirdness as possible into everything he wrote as well as only looking at the bigger picture, leaving monthly readers scratching their heads for months on end until he decided to clue everyone in during the final issue of a particular story arc; his issues of Batman make absolute no sense unless you read them all, and while I respect intricate storytelling like that in films, novels and television series, it doesn’t translate well whatsoever in a monthly tale told over 3 years that you’re expected to shell out $2.99 for every four weeks. Mr. Morrison’s checked his overactive imagination at the door for Action Comics, and has told a very down-to-earth, human tale that’s just as enjoyable on its own as hopefully it will be when it’s all said and done. Unlike when I was following Batman, I’m not throwing the issue across the room in frustration upon the last page and telling myself to wait for the trade when it’ll (hopefully) make sense. No, with Action Comics, I read the last page, looked at the time, and started counting down how long it’ll be until the next issue hits. That’s how you construct a monthly comic, and I hope this is a sign that Grant Morrison is returning to the guy I loved in the 90s. And one more positive: this one’s actually worth the premium $3.99 price tag with 30 pages worth of story.

The Outlook: Throw in Rags Morales’ nice artwork, and Action Comics looks to be a winner whether you’re new to the universe or a longtime Superman fan; even for an origin story that’s been told at least 5 times over the years, this is refreshing. As long as Morrison can drone that voice out that’s in the back of his head telling him to introduce an evil Superman from another universe that dopes up the real Superman and makes him think he’s dead and then when he realizes he’s still alive he’s morphed into a psychotic maniac with a deformed, chibi Superman that tells him things in his ear until he really dies, but he’s actually not dead since he just got shot through a wormhole and now has to live as his ancestors throughout time before he can come back to the present, we’ll all be alright. And if he does resort to that, hop me up on the same shit so maybe I can make some freakin’ sense of it.

Detective Comics #1  
Written by: Tony S. Daniel
Art by: Tony S. Daniel & Ryan Winn
Colors by: Tomeu Morey
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: After months of elusiveness, the Joker has started to develop a pattern and Batman and Gotham City PD are hot on his trail. But are they all just playing into another of Joker’s twisted games?

The Verdict: While a lot of people have talked negatively about Tony S. Daniel’s work on Batman over the past couple of years, I personally enjoyed the back-to-basics approach after years of Grant Morrison written ridiculousness. With Detective Comics, Daniel continues his tried and true formula, traipsing familiar ground for the most part but injecting just enough originality to keep you interested. I know for some that may not be enough, especially with guys like Scott Snyder and Peter Tomasi tackling the Caped Crusader in coming weeks, but if you prefer your Bat tales to be dark and gritty, this will be right up your alley.

It’s sort of up in the air where this story takes place; things feel like they haven’t skipped a beat, yet it’s totally accessible to those that may only know Gotham from movies and cartoons. While Batman may make the comment that he’s been on the Joker’s trail “for months” everything else here feels the same as it always has. Daniel’s artwork is nice as always (although there’s a panel or two where Batman looks a little stunted height-wise), and the 20 pages of Batman and Joker playing cat and mouse is an entertaining, if commonplace ride. There are also a few grand-standing, comic-booky moments of dialogue that may make those sensitive to that sort of thing cringe; having been reading comics since the mid-80s myself, it’s not much of an issue. However, everything gets turned on its head with the final page; it’s likely going to cause some controversy, but it’s a hell of a shocking cliffhanger that shows DC is fully prepared to break the status quo, even when a lot of us long time readers thought that’s exactly where this reboot was going to take us.

The Outlook: I pretty much defy anyone to read this first issue to the end and not continue; there’s no way you can’t be interested in seeing where this is going after turning to the last page. If the rest of this arc delivers on that final shot, this may turn out to be one of the darkest Bat tales in recent memory. And considering that’s exactly how I like my Dark Knight, I’m sticking this one out.

Swamp Thing #1  
The Dark
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Yanick Paquette
Colors by: Nathan Fairbairn
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: Alec Holland is currently living a bizarre life. A famed scientist developing a bio-restorative formula, an explosion at his lab takes his life…until he wakes up, alive and whole again in a swamp. He’s changed however, as he has memories of being a creature called Swamp Thing and being one with the soul of nature called The Green. As much as he’s ready to forget all this weirdness and take his life back, a twisted threat looms and The Green may need his help, willing or not.

The Verdict: I was extremely excited about the prospect of Swamp Thing’s return to the DC Universe. The character captivated me as a child, thanks to the movie and TV show, and over the years I’ve read every single book Swampy has been involved in. So it’s not lightly when I saw this is probably the best written Swamp Thing I’ve read since Alan Moore’s legendary, groundbreaking run. This is not only a kick-ass jumping on point for new readers, but a phenomenal ode to fans that love the character. First off, the idea of Alec Holland still being human and just having Swamp Thing’s memories is a unique twist on the elemental. It’s basically just a flip of Swamp Thing having Alec’s memories, but it allows the tale to be told in a fresh way. Scott Snyder totally knocks it out of the park (seriously man, you’re outdoing yourself here) with incredible dialogue and the type of internal exposition that works only in the hands of a skilled writer. You’ll immediately feel like you know Alec and everything he’s internally struggling with. It’s honestly pretty amazing how much content is delivered in 22 pages, as I haven’t even touched on the bizarre happenings in an Arizona desert nor the pretty epic final few pages. Yanick Paquette’s artwork is also phenomenal, and he really shows off his ability at conveying facial expressions and emotion. These two working together is a real treat.

While this is definitely rebooted in a sense, one has to wonder how reset things actually are. For one, Alec mentions his memories of “the white-haired girl”, which is obviously Swamp Thing's wife Abby. Clearly a lot of stuff has gone on before this issue. There’s a curious moment involving Superman as well where, while talking to Alec, he mentions that he knows what its like “coming back” and how “strange” your old life can feel. Is this a nod to when Superman was killed by Doomsday? Or is this foreshadowing a new death for Supes in the current universe? Also for those with a keen eye, you may notice that the weird hooded woman that merges the timelines in the final issue of Flashpoint is in the background on page five; she’s actually in Action Comics as well (and maybe Detective Comics, but it’s not as clear). As usual, it looks like DC has something grand up their sleeves. But even if they didn’t, this new Swamp Thing is grand all on its own.

The Outlook: So bright you should put on sunglasses. This is likely a book that isn’t going to sell huge, but I hope Scott Snyder’s name alone can help this one build steam, as the potential is immense. If you haven’t bought this yet, go buy one. Hell, buy two and give one to a buddy. If they weren’t your best friend before, they will be after reading this piece of comic gold.

Justice League International #1  
Justice League
Written by: Dan Jurgens
Art by: Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: Due to the failing confidence in government around the world, the United Nations proposes creating their own Justice League, one that will operate under the watchful eye of the UN and investigate various threats around the world. Led by Booster Gold, a ragtag team of international superheroes, including August General in Iron from China, Rocket Red from Russia, Vixen from Africa, Fire from Brazil, Ice from Norway and Godiva from the UK, is formed and sent to look into the disappearance of four UN research teams. They’re a bit shorthanded due to Guy Gardner refusing to be on a team led by Booster, but that’s where good old Batman comes in.

The Verdict: For the hardcore Booster Gold fans out there that were upset that he didn’t have his own title in the re-launch, rest easy as even though this is a team book, this is Booster’s show without a doubt. If you enjoyed Dan Jurgens’ time with “The Greatest Superhero You've Never Heard Of”, you’re going to find a lot to enjoy in Justice League International. As big a Booster fan as I am, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed though as outside of Guy Gardner, whose personality is perfectly captured in our brief time with him, every other character on the team feels like background fodder and are virtually undistinguished. I’m a big proponent of offbeat team books, ones where B-list characters make a name for themselves, and this could surely be one of them, but Jurgens’ love affair with Booster could come into conflict with that actually happening. Of course, this is just the first issue, so I’m hoping for the best. Characters like Rocket Red and August General in Iron are criminally underused, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed they can be developed here to their full potential.

For those wondering how this plays with Justice League: Generation Lost, a book that featured many of the same characters, it doesn’t. This is the first JLI to exist in the new universe, so anything you were hoping for that may carry over from that title, at this point it doesn’t look like its happening. The main strife at play in the book is pretty bizarre, whether we’re talking about the public being pissed off that the UN has chosen the Justice Hall as JLI headquarters (the reason for which really isn’t addressed at all here), or the threat we discover at the end of the book. But with so many colorful characters on the good side of things, I was expecting some offbeat villains for them to face off with. I was also pleasantly surprised with Batman’s role here. DC isn’t above throwing their top-selling characters on multiple teams just for the hell of it, but he looks to have a purpose here, as an ambassador between Leagues as well as a mentor to the upstart team. And who’d have ever thought he’d actually believe in Booster being a leader? Boy, times really have changed! Oh, and Aaron Lopresti’s artwork is damn impressive.

The Outlook: While not the greatest first issue, the amount of diverse characters on this team has a lot of potential. Let’s just hope they’re utilized and this doesn’t become a Booster Gold and “the other guys” book.

Batgirl #1  
Written by: Gail Simone
Art by: Adrian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
Colors by: Ulises Arreola
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: Having recently made a miraculous recovery after being confined to a wheelchair for three years thanks to a bullet in the spine courtesy of the Joker, Barbara Gordon resumes her post as Batgirl on the streets of Gotham. And just in time too, as there’s a new maniac on the streets that has a checklist of victims he’s quickly snuffing out. But there are looming questions about whether or not Barbara’s physically and mentally ready to start another crusade against Gotham’s criminal underworld.

The Verdict: Of all the hubbub over the changes made for the DC reboot, the return of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl may very well have been the most hotly debated. While some loved the idea, others had completely embraced her as Oracle and didn’t want to see her go. There was also the problem of Stephanie Brown, the Batgirl before the re-launch, who had become quite a fan-favorite. With Gail Simone behind the writer’s desk, I felt confident that regardless of your personal feelings, this would be a good book, and it is. It’s really, really good in fact. Simone has crafted a tale that is all-encompassing, to new and old readers alike. The book is rich with history; Alan Moore’s legendary Joker tale is still a huge part of the new continuity. Her characterization of Barbara is pitch-perfect. This is the Barbara Gordon we remember before a spine injury made her Oracle. Her internal conflict over whether she’s ready to be back on the streets of Gotham feels incredibly real. This is not hyperbole: if I had to lose Gail’s masterpiece Secret Six to this reboot, this is a damn fine replacement.

There’s also a very interesting tale to be told from the three years when Barbara was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t walk, and I for one hope it’s eventually told. For one, we’re not yet clued in on how she regained the use of her legs. This has to be touched on before long, otherwise it’s going to be the only flaw in an otherwise perfect opening chapter. It’ll also be interesting to find out whether anyone else took up the Batgirl mantle during those three years; Stephanie Brown fans, there’s a glimmer of hope! And the perfect cherry on top is the incredible artwork courtesy of Adrian Syaf. This may very well be his best work to date, and even if the story sucked it’d be worth flipping through just to see his artwork. Thankfully that isn’t the case, and instead we have one of the strongest books thus far in the reboot.

The Outlook: This one needs to go high on your pull-list. Even if you were against the choice for who would be behind the Batgirl mask, the talent at work on this book cannot be ignored. It’s a great read, and the final pages set up what should be a very interesting story arc.

Animal Man #1  
The Dark
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Travel Foreman & Dan Green
Colors by: Lovern Kindzierski
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: After years of patrolling the streets as Animal Man, Buddy Baker has relegated his superhero duties to part-time only, choosing to focus instead on animal rights issues as well as a bit of acting. His wife thinks he should suit up more, as while she may have complained about him being around less, when he was off-duty he seemed a lot happier. When a crazed man takes a hospital full of sick children hostage, Buddy figures it’s as good a time as any to put his powers to work. What he doesn’t realize is this is just the opening salvo in his life turning into a living nightmare.

The Verdict: Hands up if you remember the days when books like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, the original run of Animal Man, Morrison’s Doom Patrol, Hellblazer and Shade the Changing Man were all a part of the main DC Universe. Keep your hands up if you were upset that once they were all moved to Vertigo, pretty much anything bizarre and on the fringe disappeared from the DCU. If you still have your hand up, Animal Man is for you. This is without a doubt a Vertigo book in DC-branded clothing, and I for one could not be happier. I’ve always been fond of the dark corners of the DCU, and I loved it back in the 80s and early 90s when these sinister elements used to occasionally mingle with mainstream superheroes. That’s the opportunity “The Dark” line of books reintroduces, and we’ve already seen it with Superman showing up in Swamp Thing. And while none of that occurs here in the first issue of Animal Man, all I can say is if any members of the Justice League ever wander into Buddy Baker’s world, they’re not going to be sleeping for nights because they’ve just walked into the most disturbing book DC’s published since creating the Vertigo label.

But before I get to that, I want to give a standing ovation to Jeff Lemire for some of the best familial interaction I’ve read in a comic in a long time. Buddy’s scenes with his family are incredibly sincere and I wouldn’t be surprised if numerous people read this book and say “that’s MY family” to themselves…well, without the whole part about a dad that can assume the ability of any animal on the planet. And that’s what makes the second half of the issue all the more effective. This is an average guy, with a normal life, and his world is about to become a waking nightmare. “The Red” sequence and the introduction of The Hunters Three is brilliant, and the final page of this book is like a sledgehammer hit to the face; I can’t remember the last time a comic gave me the chills, but the first issue of Animal Man did just that. I actually lingered on that final page for a good minute as it dawned on me that this is being promoted right alongside Action Comics and Justice League as a big name title for DC. That’s amazing. And with Travel Foreman’s delirious artwork, of all 14 books that have been released thus far in the re-launch, Animal Man is officially my favorite.

The Outlook: I think the review speaks for itself. While we still have 38 books to go, it’s going to be damn hard to top what Lemire and Foreman have done within 22 pages of Animal Man. Please, buy this book. All DC reboot politics aside, this book deserves your attention.

Men of War #1  
The Edge
Written by: Ivan Brandon / Jonathan Vankin (back-up story)
Art by: Tom Derenick / Paul Winslade (back-up story)
Colors by: Matt Wilson / Thomas Chu (back-up story)
Color | 40 pages | $3.99

The Story: Corporal Joseph Rock (grandson of the famous Frank Rock) lives for the battlefield; it’s why he’s consistently done things to sabotage himself from being promoted to Sergeant. He wants only the action. But Sergeant Torisi realizes all of the blemishes on his record are intentional, and that Rock is far better than the paperwork says. He recruits him to be second in command for a mission to rescue a missing senator in an area that they don’t know; they need to get in and get out as if they’re invisible. But before they even hit the ground the shit hits the fan: there’s a meta-human laying waste to everything in its path.

The Verdict: Men of War is an odd book; it really doesn’t do anything new when it comes to war comics. We have a lot of grand-standing, fist pumping and order barking, and very little actually happens in the book. It really does feel like a grab at Call of Duty fans. The thing is, just because millions of kids buy the games doesn’t mean they want to read about war too. But then there’s the twist of throwing a superhero into things. It seems to be Superman with the red blur we’re shown, but it probably isn’t; why would he be tearing up cities and putting civilians in danger? That's almost enough mystery to string you along so you’re interested in the next issue, but the urgency of finding out, at least for me, isn't very strong. I’ve always thought Ivan Brandon showed potential, but he's always played it a little too safe, and that’s exactly what’s going on here. Tom Derenick’s artwork is solid and suitably gritty, but unless you’re a huge war comic junkie or have to know who that superhero is that’s causing all of this battlefield chaos, you’re likely not going to be coming back.

Not advertised on the cover, there’s a back-up story included from writer Jonathan Vankin and artist Phil Winslade. Once again, the artwork outdoes the story, which is actually even more pedestrian than the main attraction. The dialogue is nothing more than what you hear in the background as you’re running through a map of Call of Duty, and considering no one plays COD for the story, that’s really not a positive.

The Outlook: Not good. Unless Ivan Brandon finally goes out of his comfort zone, nothing’s going to happen here that you probably haven’t seen before. Throw in the fact that DC is charging $3.99 for this book, and I’ll be surprised if it’s still around this time next year.

Batwing #1  
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Ben Oliver
Colors by: Brian Reber
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: The city of Tinasha, in the country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is rife with terrorism and criminal activities. Drug running, murder, and pure barbarism are rampant. The police force is full of corruption, many willing to take bribes from criminal kingpins rather than do their job. But Officer David Zavimbe wants to make a difference, and he knows that just being an officer of the law in such a crooked system isn’t going to cut it. With the help of a man named Batman though, he might have a chance…as Batwing.

The Verdict: Surprise, surprise, another Batman-family book! Next to the Green Lantern titles, they’re DC’s hottest monthly sellers, so this is far from shocking. What is though is the approach: a Batman for Africa. A Batman that deals with politically driven conflicts and corrupt government rather than costumed psychopaths. And for the most part, Batwing delivers. I can’t help but think it does feel a bit familiar, having read comics over the past few years such as Vertigo’s Unknown Soldier and even the One Year Later story-arc from Judd Winick’s own Outsiders, but I have confidence that once the discontent of the region this is taking place in is established, things could become rather unique. While we still don’t see just how Zavimbe met Batman and became Batwing (and we didn’t in Batman Inc. either, so I’m sure we will eventually in this solo title), this does set up his first major conflict nicely and like the ending of Detective Comics, it’s pretty brutal and in your face.

This feels through and through like a Winick book, fast paced with decent dialogue, so if you’re one of the people that aren’t a big fan of his work, there’s probably not much here to sway you into reading it. Well actually, there is one thing: Ben Oliver’s killer artwork. He brings Batwing and the rebels of Tinasha to life, and the action literally pops off the page. This guy is one to watch as he just keeps getting better and better. There’s also a bit in here about a group of African superheroes called The Kingdom that have disappeared, and I hope their time before their disappearance is explored sometime in the future. It seems like a very cool idea. What also piqued my curiosity is that a comment is made that The Kingdom formed when the superheroes were first appearing all around the world and that they were in action for five years until their disappearance. Sounds as if superheroes haven't been around too long in this new DCU, and that could make for some rather interesting stories across the board.

The Outlook: Fairly decent. If you’re a Batman fan or a fan of Winick, you’re pretty safe picking this up. Ben Oliver’s artwork deserves to be slobbered over as well. My only gripe is that Winick’s writing reads at such a fast past, it’s sometimes better to wait for trades so you actually feel fulfilled. Reading monthly, they’re over so damn fast. Unlike my issues with Justice League though, this does have some meat on its bones.

Hawk and Dove #1  
Young Justice
Written by: Sterling Gates
Art by: Rob Liefeld
Colors by: Matt Yackey
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: Hawk (Hank Hall) and Dove (Dawn Granger), physical manifestations of war (Hawk) and peace (Dove), are a bit at odds with one another even though they’re destined to be a team and work together. The original Dove was Hawk’s brother, who was killed in battle, so he’s not too pleased that some random chick he’s never met before has taken up his brother’s mantle and is now fighting alongside him. He needs to get over that pretty fast, as a political nutjob is assembling an army of zombies, monsters and radicals to further his political aspirations.

The Verdict: Oh, Hawk and Dove…you’re beloved by a small sect of DC faithful and have all the potential in the world, but outside of a few brilliant flourishes over the decades, you’re always given the short end of the stick. Sadly, this reboot really doesn’t change that bit of status quo. On the plus side, the story really isn’t bad, it’s just kind of inconsequential; I can appreciate a book that doesn’t have a strong sense of urgency about some world altering event, but it still has to have something to hook me in. And outside of the mystery of why Dawn was chosen to take up the power of Dove and her connection to Hank Hall’s brother (and my appreciation of seeing more of Deadman, Dove’s love interest), there’s nothing here to keep you hooked. The story feels like pure 90s fluff, something you could put down for months, pick up a random issue of down the line, and still make sense of it. And don’t get me started on what a dick Hawk is; sure, his brother died and that sucks and all, but he’s way over the top here. Check your 90s teen angst at the door, bro!

But the bigger story here is the art by Rob Liefeld. The guy is loathed by much of the comic’s community, and if you’re one of those people, this isn’t going to change your opinion. While there aren’t a lot of pockets or pouches adorning every character int he book, his artwork still feels stilted, complete with everyone talking through clenched teeth and their accompanying weird anatomy. I think he only knows two different facial expressions: teeth-gritting pissed or “I just saw my mom naked” surprised. And no joke, Hawk always looks the latter and Dove the former. I’m all for nostalgia, but of all the artists I dug when I was 10, Liefeld’s work has not aged well whatsoever and his skills haven’t improved one iota.

The Outlook: Unless you’re a massive Hawk and Dove fan or one of those odd people whose childhood nostalgia causes you to still look at Liefeld’s artwork through rose-colored glasses, move along. I can stomach it if the writing is killer, but that’s not the case here.

Green Arrow #1  
Justice League
Written by: J.T. Krul
Art by: Dan Jurgens & George Pérez
Colors by: David Baron
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: By day, Oliver Queen is head of Q-Core, a new upstart company under the Queen Industries umbrella focusing on new wave technology. By night, he’s Green Arrow, keeping the streets clean of their seedier elements by any means necessary. Equipped with cutting edge tools and illegal intel from some behind the scenes friends, Ollie is ready to for any situation…at least, he thinks he is.

The Verdict: There was a time when Green Arrow was my third favorite mainstream superhero from DC’s roster, behind only Batman and Green Lantern. As a kid I started reading Mike Grell’s run on the character and I loved every bit of it. Fast forward nearly 20 years, and Green Arrow has seen better days, to the point where I honestly don’t care about him anymore. J.T. Krul’s run on the character has not been good, and wouldn’t you know of all of the shake-ups in the reboot, one of the few that got to hang onto their books was Krul. Needless to say, I wasn’t really excited. So with no expectations, this book was actually tolerable. It was way too safe and I’m pretty indifferent about continuing it, but it wasn’t quite as cringe inducing as some of the other Green Arrow stories I’ve read over the past few years. Although I have to say I think they made a massive mistake not rebooting this character; if anyone could have benefit greatly from it, it would have been Arrow. But instead, we get business as usual, a #1 that could have just as easily been the next story arc in the series before the re-launch.

The only really new aspect at work here is a woman named Naomi, who feeds Green Arrow intel as he’s on the case. Basically, she looks to be DC’s replacement for Oracle. This also introduces an entire new cast of villains for Arrow…at least, I think they’re new. I know I don’t recognize any of them, and if they’re villains from the past, they must have been picked out of the jar below the one that contains baddies like Crazy Quilt and Doctor Spectro. Jurgens’ artwork is nice, but if you’re looking for modern style artistic flourishes in any way, you’ll be disappointed. This is classic comic-booky artwork through and through. If you had no issues with him in Booster Gold, you’ll have no issues here.

The Outlook: Unless Krul can spice things up, I don’t think many are going to stay interested in this for very long. As a first issue it plays things very safe and pedestrian. Hopefully there’s something in the cards, because Oliver Queen deserves way better.

Stormwatch #1  
The Edge
Written by: Paul Cornell
Art by: Miguel Sepulveda
Colors by: Allen Passalaqua
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: A centuries old covert organization that protects Earth from intergalactic threads, the members of Stormwatch currently have a lot on their plate. One group, led by Adam One, is investigating a disturbance in the Himalayas; Harry Tanner, The “Eminence of Blades”, is in outer space looking into possible hostilities on the moon; and a third contingent consisting of Martian Manhunter, Jack Hawksmoor, and The Projectionist are in Moscow attempting to recruit a Superman-level meta-human named Apollo for the team. And you thought your job was hard.

The Verdict: Remember when I complained that Justice League #1 was pretty much a hollow shell of a book with little actual content? Well, the complete opposite is true in the first issue of Stormwatch. I really feel for new readers on this one; even us longtime fans of Stormwatch, The Authority, and the Wildstorm universe have a handful of new characters to process, but those going in blind have even more, and that’s not even taking into consideration their centuries old history, their home-base being in a place called the Bleed that exists between dimensions so they can travel between two points instantly (that’s not even brought up; I probably just confused you more), and the crazy galaxy-spanning threats they deal with on a daily basis. I’m a Wildstorm/Stormwatch vet, and I had to read this through twice for it all to digest. And while this is probably stuffed to the gills with far too much information for one issue, the seeds are planted here for something big. Paul Cornell is a hell of a writer, and I have faith that everything he’s doing here is with a purpose for the future. If you feel alienated by this issue, I hope you’ll at least give it a few more issues as I sincerely think you’ll be rewarded.

The book is already looking to integrate itself pretty deeply in the DCU proper, with connections to the upcoming Demon Knights (could they have been the original Stormwatch centuries ago?), to a battle that’s occurred earlier between Apollo and Superman, as well as the threat in the Himalayas being hinted at being cleared up in the upcoming Superman #1. There’s also a mention of the organization taking their orders from a “Shadow Cabinet”. I realize that’s a broad term used in government, but I know more than a few people that wish DC would use characters other than Static from the Milestone universe will perk up a bit at that. And for those thinking this will be tamed down from its Wildstorm incarnations, outside of the language being scaled back, you should be pleasantly surprised. All of the over-the-top threats (I seriously think we’re getting hints that they may eventually fight the Moon….THE MOON!) and extremely quirky characters are present, and the stage is set for tons of big action pieces. My only gripe: Midnighter’s costume. For a team that mentions a few times that they don’t wear capes and aren’t superheroes, Midnighter sure as looks like one…and a bad one, at that. Hopefully that will change, as he’s not actually a part of the team yet.

The Outlook: While this is a daunting issue for new and old readers alike, the wheels have been set in motion for some big things, and as long as Cornell delivers (and I think he will given his past track record), this book should be one to keep an eye on.

O.M.A.C. #1  
O.M.A.C. #1
The Edge
Written by: Dan DiDio & Keith Giffen
Art by: Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish
Colors by: Hi-Fi
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: The workers of Cadmus Industries have a bit of a problem: they’re under siege by a giant robotic entity that calls himself O.M.A.C. They also don’t realize the company is just a cover for all sorts of weird genetic experiments going on right underneath them in the sub-levels of the building. That’s where O.M.A.C. is headed, and he’s willing to tear the entire building down to get there. And just who is under that robotic armor?

The Verdict: I honestly had zero interest in this book; while I dig Keith Giffen, I've never read anything penned by Dan DiDio that amounted to much, and all modern O.M.A.C. tales where they attempted to strongly bond the idea to one character have been downright awful. But wouldn’t you know it, this barely resembles the modern version; this is Jack Kirby’s vision of O.M.A.C., infused with some “Hulk Smash!” for good measure. It’s weird, colorful, and a hell of a lot of fun. This is the type of escapist comic book I dig. It takes me back to the good old days of childhood where there was always an equal amount of books on the stands that weren’t about earth-shattering events and were more concerned about entertaining you in exchange for the $1 you just spent. Most mainstream books these days either have tons of events going on month after month (which really isn’t a bad thing) or are so safe and run-of-the-mill you feel like you’ve read it before a hundred times over. O.M.A.C. isn’t afraid to break the current comic book status-quo and revel in its medium, and that’s a very good thing.

Kudos should go to Keith Giffen for the Kirby art-style he evokes here; it’s nearly perfect. In fact, I was initially under the impression this was penciled by Dan McDaid of the criminally underrated and overlooked Jersey Gods. I hope Giffen is in this one for the long haul, because if this sells well enough to continue for a few years, it’s going to lose a big part of its charm without him.

The Outlook: Give this one a chance, even if you had zero interest in it like I did. Go to your comic shop and flip through it. I bet you’ll end up buying it. This sort of old-school fun doesn’t come along often when it comes to the “big two”.

Static Shock #1  
Young Justice
Written by: Scott McDaniel & John Rozum
Art by: Scott McDaniel, Jonathan Glapion & Le Beau Underwood
Colors by: Guy Major
Color | 32 pages | $2.99

The Story: Having moved from Dakota and now patrolling the streets of New York City as well as working part-time at S.T.A.R. Labs, Virgil Hawkins is having a blast using his powers as Static. Although more times than not, he ends up making the citizens he’s trying to protect angry with him rather than cheer him on thanks to his overzealousness. He better get his stuff together though; an underground criminal syndicate with meta-humans on their side thought NYC was ripe for the pickings, and they aren’t happy about Static moving in on their turf.

The Verdict: Can’t say I’m a big Static fan (I personally thought most of the other Milestone characters were a lot more interesting, although DC apparently doesn’t agree), but even if I was, I don’t think I’d be flipping out over his new solo series. Even though writer John Rozum knows his way around Milestone characters, there’s not much to differentiate this book from other books that feature teenagers coming to grips with their powers. A lot of the standard struggling with their powers stuff goes on and heaps of out-loud exposition make up most of the book. Do all teenage superheroes have to talk to themselves while they’re out doing their thing? Scott McDaniel’s artwork is okay, but I thought it looked a little sloppy and rushed in spots. This just didn’t look as pleasant as his work on Robin did.

There is one cool thing going on here that I didn’t expect though: he’s guided by Hardware. Yes, the Hardware of the Milestone universe. Fans, rejoice! He serves as a mentor to Static, telling him what he’s doing right and where he’s going wrong, and hooking him up with all sorts of technologically advanced gadgets. This was an unexpected surprise, and while he does sort of feel like Microchip from The Punisher (or Oracle to a lesser extent), I’m glad to see him here.

The Outlook: Another one that’s not bad, but does little to distinguish itself in the story department. I think DC’s going to have to bank on more than the character’s popularity (and all 3 of us Hardware fans) if they want this book to last.

Continue to week three reviews!

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