Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DC Comics The New 52 Week 3: 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 #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Company: DC Comics
Not the greatest, not the worst. It was better than Detective by a wide margin, for sure. It also has a few more nuances than Batman and Robin going for it, but it wasn't without its problems either. Snyder's script is a bit meandering, as it sees Batman and Bruce Wayne deal with an Arkham Asylum breakout, deal with familial issues, and a cocktail party graciously hosted by Wayne outlining his view on how to make Gotham City a better place. There are some fun uses of technology and a few great one liners and captions (one in particular about Alfred, which I liked a lot), but where the book really loses some ground is the artwork. Much has been said about Greg (Spawn) Capullo, and truthfully, his work has seen a lot of improvement and become much more than a run of the mill McFarlene clone. There are still aspects of that style however, much to my dismay, and the breakout of Arkham featuring most of Batman's rogues gallery feels too loose and messy to have much of an impact. There are panels, however, that are quite striking. I like the way that he draws Batman. The more angular look to his cowl gives it a more unique and striking persona that worked quite well. His Gordon though, kind of stringy and reminiscent of characters from Sam & Twitch, had a great quality to him as well. So yes, sort of run of the mill, but Snyder's known for laying down some groundwork and then the twist comes. I hope that same thing happens with this one.

Birds of Prey #1
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Jesus Saiz
Company: DC Comics
A solid, action packed bonanza of entertainment and cool. This one came out of nowhere as Swierczynksi, for me at least, is a very unproven comics writer. His Cable always felt cold and uninteresting, and bordered on being...Well, kind of boring. His version of Birds of Prey, which let's get the fact that this is a very different animal than what we're used to seeing from this book, is nothing of the sort. There's a sense of fun to the book, one seen in over the top spy/action set pieces that all hit the mark they set. In fact, there are actually a lot of similarities to this and what Dixon was doing during his run on the book  This first issue, which introduces a reporter who's investigating a group of renegade and on the run femme fatales, has a great sense of mystery and Black Canary and new character Ev Crawford are each given a really solid introduction (through action and a quick flashback or two). This coupled with the fact that Jesus Saiz slams down some phat artistic beats, beats that are not limited to beautifully choreographed and slick looking martial arts action and honest to god car chases, and you get a first issue worth your time and hard earned money.

Blue Beetle #1
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Ig Guara
Company: DC Comics
Well, while I found this to be a decent enough issue on its own, there is one glaring problem that shines like a supernova. That problem is this: Why are you retelling this character's origin when you already had a perfectly, near flawlessly done version, written by the great writing duo of Keith Giffen and Jon Rogers? Bedard is a decent enough writer, case in point his work on Exiles, but this retelling of Jamie Reyes origin feels flat and lifeless compared to what we've seen before. There is a more DCU entrenched feel to the whole Scarab creature, but it doesn't feel different enough to warrant going this particular route. There's also the problem with Bedard's characters, which feel almost like caricatures running around on the page trying to feel authentic and never quite hitting it.  In short, it's almost like the original story was gone through and little edits or changes were made that take a lot of the fun out of the proceedings.  Ig Guara's artwork saves the book a bit with a youthful and very approachable style.  It's flashy, fun, and his characters do exude a great sense of movement and life. All in all though, while I love that this character is sticking around in the DCU, the execution on this one was disappointing.

Captain Atom #1
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Company: DC Comics
While J.T. Krul has certainly written some less than desirable stories, there was some light at the end of the tunnel with his new take on Green Arrow.  Yes, it was a little old school in feel, but it  actually was enjoyable to a certain degree.  His first issue of Captain Atom however regresses a bit and brings to the table a less than exciting tale about a character that has historically been a bit of a bore. That simple fact hasn't changed, sadly.  Krul's take on the character and the situation that he finds himself in is a bit mopey, a little too slapdash, and his dialogue has the personality of a cardboard cutout. Adding a set of secondary characters, in this respect a doctor who is helping Atom figure out his newly changed body, is a good idea to make things work, but none of them are very likeable or interesting. Williams' art on the other hand is a vibrant affair. His makeover of Atom resembles Firestorm a bit, which is a tad distracting, but the energy that he imbues in each character and the way that he's able to handle the visuals of the character's powers is rather nice.  All things considered, Captain Atom as a lead will always be a hard sell.  He works much better in a group.  This comic proves that.

DC Universe Presents #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Bernard Chang
Company: DC Comics
Wow, this one was rough. The best Deadman story for me is a small story in Teddy Kristiansen's issue of the sensational series Solo. It encapsulated everything that was cool about the character, from the cocky attitude to the guy who simply wants to help people get to where their supposed to go in the afterlife. Even the character appearance on the Brave and the Bold animated series, which covered a chunk of his origin, found a way to be fun and apporachable. Enter Paul Jenkins. Lately, Jenkins is really hitting the emotional heartstrings with a hammer the size of a blue whale. He wants you to know when you're supposed to feel something on the page, which makes the contents of this book feel extremely forced. He does cover Deadman's origin, his relationship to the god Rama Kushna, and why he is the way he is, but it's done in almost text book type fashion. There's no life in these pages, at least story wise. Bernard Chang's art is a different story. Chang has been around the comics industry for almost two decades at this point, and he continually puts up solid work. It seems very traditional at times, but it has that classic comic book style that is appealing. Here, while I do think his anatomy at times feels a little stretched, that aspect works for Deadman. The art can't do all the work though, and Jenkins' story about Deadman becoming other people in order to become the best version of himself just didn't cut it.

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