Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DC Comics The New 52 Week 2: Part 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!

Batman and Robin #1
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Company: DC Comics
Well first off, the question of whether or not the many trials and tribulations that have befallen Bruce Wayne over the past few years have still happened are indeed addressed.  And what's more important is that the are addressed well.  Tomasi has been one of those writers who is a bit up and down for the most part, but he hit a lot of high notes with his work on Green Lantern Corps.  This issue of Batman and Robin, an issue that really takes a look at the Father/Son relationship of Bruce and Damian more than anything definitely falls into that high note category.  There are moments that make you proud to be a Batman fan and the book has that great mixture of action, suspense, and heroics that was sorely missed in Detective.  There are still moments that feel dark and gritty, but they don't illicit that icky feeling, they feel right for the story.  My one biggest complaint is that Damian seems to have taken a step back as a character, but we'll see where that ultimately leads.  Gleason's art is fantastic looking.  He sells it all so well.  The movement of Batman and Robin leaping around on the page, the humanity of their actions, and quite simply the Batman-ness of it all just oozes off the page.  In other words, kick the tires and light the fires, people.  We got ourselves a kickass Batman book to enjoy!

Batwoman #1
Writers: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Company: DC Comics
Sensational.  I have a bit of a soft spot for the character of Batwoman. That mainly comes from the wonderful and thought provoking series that Rucka and Williams put forth not too long ago. Well, we've waited awhile for the continuation (which is what this first issue is), but it was well worth it. Williams and Blackman pack a whole hell of a lot into this one.  Anyone could pick up this issue and feel as though they know everything that they need to. The character of Batwoman is explored, her reasons for doing what she's doing are given, and there is even a neat little side-kick in training portion added to the book. That coupled with a cool new villain that ties into the kidnappings of a dozen or so children and you've got an action/suspense title that delivers.  The writers also tie it so well into the new world, revealing interesting snippets that will play a much bigger role in this new shared universe.  Then there is of course Williams' art.  I have doubts that he'll be able to keep it up every issue, but his experimental style, with its wacky panel arrangements and interchanging styles denoting different aspects of Kathy Kane's life makes the book so vibrant and unique.  Gorgeous, captivating, and downright fun...Batwoman is truly the bees knees.

Deathstroke #1
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Joe Bennett
Company: DC Comics
Wasn't sure about this one.  I have some love for Deathstroke, mainly from his 90's Terminator series, but I wasn't quite sold on a book featuring the character again.  It felt like a been there, done that, bored now sort of situation.  Let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, put your tray tables in their upright position and get ready...Deathstroke is back.  Kyle Higgins, the co-writer of Batman: Gates of Gotham, puts forth a done in one issue that puts the M back in mercenary.  Cool ideas explode off the page, as does bloodshed and humor.  The humor was surprising, and though it does run a little to the gallows side of things, it works quite well with the tone that is being set.  Bennett's artwork just snaps into place with the story.  It's a bit angular at times, especially with Slade's armor, but he sells the non-traditional action and makes the character an imposing threat of a man.  All in all, both the story and art is very up front.  What you see is what you get, and really, what I see is a book that brings a smile to my face.

Demon Knights #1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Diogenes Neves
Company: DC Comics

Imagine gathering a Dungeons and Dragons game with characters from the DCU.  Then imagine them walking into a bar.  It's the start of a joke, sure, but it's a really good joke. Demon Knights is the end result of said fantastic joke. This is a book that hits the right notes: the humor, ideas that seem so right and new and fresh, and it does it all with a hearty laugh jiggling its belly.  Cornell is that kind of writer.  He takes the notion of these characters (Madame Xanadu, Jason Blood, Etrigan, Vandal Savage, Shining Knight and a certain someone from a certain DC Island) and does the impossible:  He makes them feel full of life.  They aren't stuffy or boring, they are characters that you want to know more about and can't wait to see what they do next.  Even the villains of the piece, characters that I normally turn my nose up at, felt different and more interesting than I've seen them in years.  The art, provided by Neves, is astounding.  It crackles with a classic fantasy feel, but it feels all spiffy and new.  The updates to the characters, the action, and his attention to detail is perfect.  Consider an equal mixture of Bryan Hitch and Cary Nord and you have an idea.  In the end, "Bar Maiden, Bring Me Another Round!"

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Alberto Ponticelli
Company: DC Comics
Put quite simply, this ties for being the best of the week.  Jeff Lemire has broken the gates of awesome wide open with this opener that is equal parts action, horror, sci-fi, and downright, giddy inducing extravaganza.  He's taken the character from Morrison's run (not to mention his own very enjoyable 3 part Flashpoint tale) and expanded it so much.  S.H.A.D.E. as an entity makes sense, the way its incorporated into the DCU is so damn cool, and really, the interaction between Frank (who's very much a good man that wants nothing more than to stomp out evil and save humanity) and the rest of the team is great.  There's a scene in it as they are battling a town that has been infested by monsters of an unknown origin that literally sent goosebumps up my arm.  Lemire truly stepped up to bat and hit the ball right out of the known universe.  Ponticelli, who's work on Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths has been enormously fun, unleashes hell here.  And it is beautiful.  There's an edge to his work, a free flowing feel that elicits an almost Paul Pope quality that makes his action so dense and layered.  It is rough, but it begs you further and further into the story, and I for one, will follow Frank, Lemire and Ponticelli into the bowels of Hell itself.  A fast and fun opener, one that should be sought out!

Green Lantern #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Company: DC Comics
This is a bit of a weird one.  Having Sinestro as the main character, seems wrong in a lot of ways.  It is however a fairly ballsy thing to do, and Johns does know a thing or two about making Sinestro a character to root for, even though he is a conniving, evil son of a bitch.  This issue is pretty standard though, all things considered.  I do like that Hal Jordan isn't being completely being thrust to the side though, and I almost found ordinary Hal Jordan to be a somewhat more interesting character than we've ever seen with him wearing a ring.  Mahnke, as always, rocks it.  His characters always have a distinct feel to them and he really has a handle on selling emotion.  It's a very realistic style, one that portrays both the action and normalcy with the same verve and vigor.  Having Almay and Nguyen's thick inks adds yet another dimension to the epic space battle feel.  I believe the newness of this issue is a little less than I had hoped for, but if you've been enjoying what Johns has been doing for the past 3 or 4 years, odds are that you're going to like this issue too.

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