Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Comic Book Wednesday – DC’s New 52: Quarterly Evaluation

I was going to wait until each of the New 52 titles I am reading had completed their first story arcs before doing this, but I think I already have a good idea of what I’m keeping and dropping. Which is good, because I want to go ahead and tell the comic shop which titles I’m not going to be picking up after their sixth issues so they don’t get stuck with extra inventory. I suggest you do the same. It’s a lot easier for those guys to track down extra copies if something miraculously gets better and you decide to keep it than to get stuck with books that will never sell.

So far it looks like DC’s relaunch has been a success. The sales didn’t just maintain after the second issues came out, they improved, breaking Marvel’s nose with a hobnailed boot; as it were. Seriously – the guys in the Marvel offices have to be shitting their pants about now. From what I understand comic shop patrons are cancelling Marvel books left and right and picking up DC or, worse (for Marvel) indie books. The last thing Marvel wants is a second major competitor.
For the purposes of this article I am working off of my original New 52 list. I’m leaving it in the format of which books I thought were sure-shots and which ones I wasn’t too sure about., with an addition at the end for books I ended up getting even though I hadn’t planned to.
Let’s see how everybody’s doing.
  1. Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee – Blech. While the art is beautiful (although nobody other than Batman seems to actually have facial expressions), the story is garbage. It’s like a twelve-year-old whose only knowledge of the Justice League comes from vague ideas of the characters presented by the media. The characters are all dicks. I believe the big mistake here was not establishing them as a team before telling this story. It would actually be a lot more entertaining if we had gotten through an arc where we already saw them working as a team with a successful dynamic. Verdict – Dropping it
  2. Suicide Squad by Adam Glass and Marco Rudy – I know this is on the internet’s Hate List, but I’m enjoying this one just fine. Floyd needs his mustache and Waller needs her fat, but otherwise I’ve enjoyed the story and the interactions between the characters. Everybody is all pissed about Harley Quinn supposedly being kind of trampy. Guys, she just got out of a long-term relationship. If she wants to test the waters, I don’t see a problem with that. If it was a dude nobody would care. I’m really getting sick of all these quasi-feminist bloggers with their weird double-standard ideals. Exactly how do you people determine the difference between a “strong, self-aware” woman and a slut? I suspect it has something to do with the number of hits an article gets. Verdict – Keeper
  3. Action Comics by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales – I am thoroughly enjoying Morrison’s interpretation of the Man of Steel and Lex Luthor, but I really hated some of the art in issue #3. This is one of the flagship titles of the relaunch and DC needs to be on top of it. As in, have some top-notch talent lined up if the regular artist falls off one month. Verdict – On the fence
  4. Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo – Just as great as I knew it would be. The Council of Owls story is fantastic. I want Owl masks for all the Hooligans at Dragon*Con this year. Verdict – Keeper
  5. Batgirl by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes – If I had picked one title to be the sure-fire, can’t miss book of the whole entire New 52 relaunch, it would’ve been Gail Simone’s Batgirl. And I would have been so wrong. While I do like the art on this book, I can’t stand the storytelling. As I’ve mentioned before, Simone is writing Barbara Gordon like she’s Stephanie Brown, only with less confidence and skill. There’s a ridiculous amount of inner monologue that is often redundant when taken with the dialogue. Honestly, the book is just a mess and I am sorely disappointed that I feel that way. But I have so much goodwill towards Gail Simone that I’m giving this one a whole year. Verdict – Still trying to like it
  6. Batwoman by J.H. Williams III, Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder – Excellent. I have barely noticed Greg Rucka’s absence, and that’s no knock on him. It’s a compliment to the current team. Verdict – Keeper, and one of the best of the New 52
  7. Batman And Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason – It is absolutely no fun watching Bruce and Damian be dicks to each other. I don’t understand why Damian’s evolution has been seemingly reset. Yes, he should still be cocky and arrogant, but now he’s once again acting like he did five years ago. You know, before people started liking him. I have to admit, though, that this book has improved since the first issue. Verdict – On the fence
  8. Green Lantern by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy – How can Geoff Johns come across like such a hack on one title and still be rock solid on this one? I am enjoying the heck out of watching Hal Jordan squirm under Sinestro’s thumb. This is a great read and Doug Mahnke’s art is, as always, great. Verdict – Keeper
  9. Green Lantern Corps by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna – This I don’t like as much. It just seems really generic to me. But I am curious to see what the deal is with these guys who are impervious to the effects of the green rings. And Isamot Kol is a badass. Verdict – Keeper – for now
  10. Red Lanterns by Peter Milligan, Ed Benes and Rob Hunter – I’m not even waiting for issue #6 to drop this one. It’s just boring. Verdict – Dropped it
  11. Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang – Absolutely fantastic and my favorite of the New 52. Azzarello is writing what I always thought Wonder Woman stories would be – gods, monsters, and Amazonians duking it out. Cliff Chiang’s art is wonderful to look at. I spend more time scrutinizing the pages of this book than anything else I buy. I feel badly for whoever has to follow him. Verdict – Keeper
  12. Fury Of Firestorm by Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver and Yildiray Cinar – I passed on this one. I had intended to buy it, but got realistic and realized I just do not give a shit about Firestorm. Verdict – Never even tried
  13. Stormwatch by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda – And not even Paul Cornell could make me buy this one. I just didn’t pick it up. I buy too much already. Verdict – Never even tried
  14. Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette – More excellence from Snyder. The story is compelling, the premise is solid – Alec Holland has to voluntarily bond with the Swamp Thing to save all of reality (or something). The art is really good, but I’m hoping Francesco Francavilla is still on tap to provide art for the second arc. Snyder and Francavilla together on Swamp Thing is almost as satisfying to me as that scene in American Horror Story where young Moira is scrubbing the floor. But not quite. Verdict – Keeper and another of the best of the New 52
  15. Demon Knights by Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert – Just a great big, fun book. A blast to read. Never before have I actually liked Vandal Savage. Well, except for in the recent Lex Luthor Action Comics. Which were also by Cornell. Verdict – Keeper

These are the titles I was curious about but was going to wait to find out more before I committed.

  1. Nightwing by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows – Aside from a bumpy start where Dick Grayson straight-up let two cops get murdered, this is a great read. I love that the circus is back and mystery is afoot. I don’t know exactly what Kyle Higgins’ relation is to Scott Snyder, but the two clearly have similar view on the Bat-verse. This is a quality book that carries the Dick Grayson we got to know in Batman, Inc. and Detective Comics on to new adventures. Verdict – Keeper
  2. Green Lanterns: New Guardians by Tony Bedard, Tyler Kirkham and Batt – I passed. Verdict – Never even tried
  3. Animal Man by Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Dan Green – I had to go back and buy this one after everybody talked about how good it was. And they were right. The story is excellent, with Jeff Lemire threatening to become another favorite writer. I didn’t care for the art at first – I’m still not crazy about it – but Travel Foreman is uniquely qualified to be drawing weird shit like this:
So I’m good with it for the time being. Verdict – Keeper and among the best
  1. Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli – This one is almost like the modern equivalent of Demon Knights, in that it features a bunch of monstrous characters doing crazy things. As in, they are currently in an alternate dimension trying to destroy entire planets full of monsters. Nice. Verdict – Keeper
  2. Justice League International by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti – Passed. Verdict – Never even tried
  3. Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin – It took me a couple of issues to get into this one, but I’m appreciating it now. Verdict – Maybe not totally sold, but giving the first arc a chance
  4. DC Comics Presents by various creative types – A great take on Deadman so far. The art is fantastic and the story has been interesting and funny so far. Boston Brand is recognizable as the dick he was back in the seventies.

And now for the stuff that I had no intention of buying, but did anyway:
  1. Catwoman by Judd Winick and Guillem March – I had to at least check it out after everybody’s vaginas got all sanded. And once again, I fail to see what the big deal is. Maybe I’m just an ignorant male pig, but there was nothing in that first issue that seemed out of character for Selina Kyle. And keep in mind, I do not generally like Judd Winick. The next two issues were solid too, and I love the fact that March is actually a competent storyteller. Look at the way this guy does facial expressions! He’s great! Verdict – Keeper
  2. Huntress by Paul Levitz and Marcus To – I didn’t even know this one was coming out and it was only by chance that I picked it up. I know the name Paul Levitz, as he’s synonymous with DC Comics, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you why. I think there wasn’t a lot of stuff in my box the week Huntress came out and I grabbed it just to feel like I had more books or something. Anyway, this is a great superhero book. It feels like an old-school Batman book and I really like it. The art is very good and Marcus To is an excellent visual storyteller – none of the confusing chopped-up panels or anything. My only complaint is that this is just a miniseries. Verdict – Keeper
  3. Red Hood and the Outlaws by Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort – This is another book that got on the feminist pant-wringer’s naughty list. While I enjoy the book and its high aspirations – Red Hood, Red Arrow, and Starfire are currently battling some sort of mystic demons – I do question the way Starfire is being used. I like the character as she is portrayed as independent and sexually aggressive. I think it is an interesting take that she is an alien and does not share our Terran ideas of morality. The problem I have is that they did this with a character best known from a children’s show. Some would argue that the Teen Titans cartoon is over five years old. But that is a stupid argument because it is still shown all the time on Boomerang, the Tiny Titans comic is still in publication, and all-new Teen Titans shorts will soon be airing on Cartoon Network. So maybe a character that little girls don’t love and identify with so much would have been a better choice. But I still do like this book. Verdict – Keeper
  4. Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth – Speaking of Teen Titans, here they are! I liked the first issue okay and forgot to tell the comic shop to add it to my pull list. So I haven’t read the next two issues. But I want to. I loathed Red Robin’s new costume when I saw it, but I kind of like it now except for the wings. Verdict – Giving it a fair shot

Until next time, stay creepy

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