Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DC Comics The New 52: Week 1

Well, the wait is finally over!  The New DCU is upon us, and whether you're ready or not, this week sees the release of 13 all new series.  It's strange, exciting, and truly a great time to be a fan of the medium of comics.  Now, on the review side, I'm trying to be as spoiler free as possible with these reviews, mainly due to the fact that experiencing them yourself is paramount.  I'm also going to try to do full reviews for a lot of these new series, though time constraints and my current sanity level will prevent me from doing all of them.  That said, in these The New 52 Articles, I'll give you a quick rundown of what was good, what was not so good, and what are the books to seek out.  So without further ado, TO THE BOOKS!

Batwing #1
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Ben Oliver
Company: DC Comics
With a Winick book, it's true, you never know quite exactly what you're going to get.  He's one of those writers who's work is all over the place, ranging from bad to really, really good.  Typically, the books that have edged to the side of awesome on that scale have had to do with Batman.  There's just something about the character that pushes him to do his best.  With Batwing though, it doesn't quite reach those heights.  There's nothing terrible at play here, as the notion of exploring another region, this time out Africa, allows for some ideas and issues that we don't normally see addressed in Batman to be covered.  That's cool and refreshing.  The murder mystery at this issues core is also well done, splashed with a healthy bit of bloodshed that Winick is occasionally known for.  What doesn't work out so well is the actual character of David Zavimbe (Batwing).  He's a little flat and though there are morsels that elude to more, he's not to most compelling of heroes in his first outing.  I imagine that will change.  There is quite a bit of action here though, characters leaping off of cars and the ever so important machete duel, all drawn rather distinctly by the always talented Ben (Losers/Alpha Flight) Oliver.  He's using a more painted style for it, but the normal stiffness that you'd expect isn't there.  It works are reminds me of a more refined Ariel Olivetti.  At the end of the day, Batwing is a bit of a up and down roller-coaster, but it's got a great setup, solid action, and the promise of more with a twist ending.  I'm certainly interested to see where it goes.

Detective Comics #1
Writer: Tony Daniel
Artist: Tony Daniel
Company: DC Comics
With a chance for a new number one on one of the longest running comics, you'd think you'd step up your game and go for the fences.  Why, oh why, is Tony Daniel the writer on this?  He gets the recipe right with this one at least, Batman versus Joker, but the execution is so heavy handed and clunky, so mired in violence and bloodshed that it has an off-putting effect to some extent.  It also doesn't explore a sense of newness, which with a new number one and a new start you might expect it to, it merely revisits things that we've already seen in Daniel's run on Batman.  That's the biggest mistake of the issue.  The art on the other hand, is a bit of a different story.  Daniel has continued to improve over the years with his style.  It's more fleshed out and with Ryan Winn providing inks, the result is fairly competent looking.  His Joker is very lithe and menacing and moves with psychotic grace.  Seeing him and Batman tussle, though there are a few moments where Batman's new duds seem to be clunky, is exciting and Daniel handles the action well.  Still, art alone can't mend every wound that this book has, and boy does it have a few.  The first big disappointment of DC's new relaunch.

Hawk & Dove #1
Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist: Rob Liefeld
Company: DC Comics
So, before we get into the whole Rob Liefeld section of the review, let's start with what writer Sterling Gates brings to the table.  Gates, the man behind things like Supergirl and co-writer for the Superman: War of the Supermen storyline, is an extremely competent writer, one who brings a sense of fun to his tales.  With Hawk & Dove, he brings that same feel.  It doesn't seem that the characters have drastically changed that much.  Hank Hall is still the brash, ego-centric, unstoppable machine that he always has been, while Dawn Granger (Dove) is the more passionate one.  He explores the characters and their back stories quite well in this opening issue, revealing a complex web that connects the characters to each other and to the rest of the new DCU.  He also writes a decent plot that deals with a terrorist organization bent on world destruction.  It's standard fare, but it works well enough.  Liefeld's art is...Well, Liefeld's art.  Love or hate him, his style hasn't changed in the past few decades, and really, I don't think it ever will.  All of the characters have a weird line to them, their ankles are wonky, but there aren't any pouches to be seen, which was kind of disappointing.  Really though, despite the art, Hawk & Dove did the unexpected, it surprised me.  I'll be back for the next issue.

Justice League International #1
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
Company: DC Comics
For me, Justice League International was my iteration of the Justice League.  I loved the humor and the characters, the way that they interacted and joked with one another.  It felt like a group of good friends that got together a lot and occasionally battled a big bad and stomped him into the ground, but mostly cracked jokes and beat each other up. This new version, sadly, doesn't have that same feel.  Sure, it's hard to be too critical, as this is a relaunch and a new status quo, but what Jurgens brings to the table feels a little stiff.  In this first issue, we learn that the JLI is a government run Justice League.  Beyond that, we get a formation of the team riff, peppered with some in-fighting and some questions raised about Booster Gold's leadership abilities.  The biggest high note that's reached, besides a cool scene with Batman and Guy Gardner, is Aaron Lopresti's crisp art.  He's able to come to close to matching Kevin Maguire's knack for character expression, but he what really excels at is his ability to give each character great moments that look cool.  A decent start, even though the pacing is a bit slow.

Men of War #1
Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artist: Tom Derenick
Company: DC Comics
One of the few $3.99 titles, Men Of War has a strong opening.  Ivan Brandon is not typically a writer that is on my go to list.  With books like Viking and Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape, his track record is a bit spotty.  Still, Men of War works on several levels.  The biggest exclamation point of cool is that this is a war comic, straight up Tom Clancy / Modern Warfare style, set in the DC Universe.  That sets it apart from a lot of other war comics, as there's a neatness to seeing soldiers go toe to toe against villains.  The meat of this book comes in the form of Corporal Rock, Sgt. Rock's grandson.  He's a dedicated solider, a man among men, but he has some doubts about the way his life is going.  Brandon's story is heavy on the action and military jargon, which is cool, as we see Rock's story begin.  It isn't all as readable as you'd like, as there are a few moments that aren't easy to discern what exactly is happening.  I can attribute some of that to just the general chaos of war, but there were a few times where major stuff is happening that should be clear and it wasn't.  Perhaps that was more Derenick's fault, but in general the art is actually a cut above the rest.  It's gritty and intense and exudes a great military soul that translates well on the page.  A solid start to the main issue and the back up, which takes a look at a SEAL team in action is just as enjoyable.

Static Shock #1
Writers: Scott McDaniel & John Rozum
Artist: Scott McDaniel
Company: DC Comics
Truth be told, my knowledge of Static is a little less than it should be.  I read a few issues of Dwayne McDuffie's comic and watched many episodes of the television show.  What I read and watched, I liked.  This opening issue falls into that same category.  McDaniel and Rozum toss the reader into the deep end a little without giving you much to go on other than what the characters are doing on the page.  Still, you quickly get that Static is a hero out to do good, and you know, have fun.  They write him as a very likable character, one who is inventive with his power set, and has to deal with a normal day to day existence in the same way that Peter Parker does.  Things are revealed as the issue goes on though, and there are even a few surprise visits from other Milestone characters, which was just cool to see.  McDaniel's artwork, though rough at times, really exudes a youthful exuberance.  Lightning bolts and plasma bursts lash out at you at high speed as Static blasts across the sky.  His setting, a very pop and colorful place, has a great feel too.  This one is worth your time and money, especially if you have any love for the character, though I don't think you need to.  In the end, Rozum and McDaniel cover all the bases.

Swamp Thing #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Company: DC Comics
Whether or not you read Swamp Thing during Alan Moore's long and critically acclaimed run, it seems that Scott Snyder is taking a few story beats from it.  I will say outright that this is going to be a book that moves at a slower pace, one that treads quietly, but is savage in its horror.  This relaunch is a character study, as we see Alec Holland separated from the Swamp Thing entity and trying to live some semblance of a life.  Snyder is the perfect writer for this kind of story, especially if his work on American Vampire is any evidence.  It's a little strange to see this stark horror story take place in the modern DCU, with guest stars by all the heroes that you would typically see, but there's also a neatness to that too.  Drawing this horror infused tale is Yancik (Batman Incorporated) Paquette.  He is the perfect choice, really.  His style is very flashy, his line heavy and dense, but he also knows how to turn the creep factor to ELEVEN.  You'll know what I'm talking about when you see it, trust me.  Really, I imagine this one will be a bit of a slow burn, but it seems that it's going to be worth it, so take a seat, kick up your feet, and grab something to drink.  It should be fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment