We’re down to the end of the number ones. Yes, I’m a bit late, but forgive me because I’ve been dreadfully sick and I’ve had a lot on my plate to deal with and scant little time to be reading the funny books. This week was a bit small and there weren’t any of the huge titles of the past two weeks to deal with, but (barring Voodoo) it was a relatively solid week of books. It gave me a bit of hope that DC is going in the right direction with this reboot.
All-Star Western #1
Written by JIMMY PALMIOTTI & JUSTIN GRAY
Art by MORITAT
Nothing says All-Star Western like a Jack the Ripper story, right? I don’t understand why they created a series that has “western” in the title, and the story takes place entirely within a very UN-western city. It makes more sense to call this book Victorian Cowboy…which after typing sounds actually amazing. The history established in Gates of Gotham is referenced, and we get to see Jonah Hex being his generally awesome, but I really feel like they missed the mark on the story. It could have been the start of a great new western series that maybe referenced Gotham, or he might’ve ended up in Gotham at the end, not take the Cowboy out of the Old West. Moritat does a fair job of making the world look gritty, if a little minimalistic. I really liked the book, but I just didn’t see anything particularly new or notable.
Rating: 8/10 (I can’t wait for them to introduce characters named Anne Chapman or Mary Jane Kelly)
Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art by IVAN REIS
Reis, of course, is right on his game. The book is drawn wonderfully. As a secondary bonus, Aquaman is interesting again! Johns, and DC in general, has been on a mission to push Arthur Curry into a more prominent role in the DCU and, in general, get people to stop making fun of him. Its really easy to make him the anal-fin of a joke (any marine-biologists might get a chuckle at that). He controls fish, but just like Martian Manhunter, people forget so easily that he’s super strong, and a hell of a fighter. I never really understood why Namor is considered a badass while Aquaman is not. Except for the flying, they’re pretty much the same guy. This issue directly addresses the problems that Aquaman faces and its clearly an intro, letting you know that its a very different attitude. It also introduces a shadowy Sleestak-y group of monsters that apparently like to eat the hell out of fishermen. Its going to be a damn good run if it keeps up this quality. Johns hasn’t started whatever long-play storyline he has planned but its a new character, so maybe it won’t be as frustrating as Green Lantern eventually became. Also, Mera has her head back…so he’s got that going for him.
Rating: 8.5/10 (For making Aquaman interesting)
Batman – The Dark Knight #1
Written by PAUL JENKINS & DAVID FINCH
Art by DAVID FINCH
First page, and I remember why I didn’t like the last Finch series. Really dark, really angry, very much from the Liefeld school of grimaces. Second page and the arms have some out-of-control proportions. The rest of the issue doesn’t get much better. Lots of deep cheekbones, oddly flat faces and ridiculous amounts of detail lines. The breakout at Arkham showed yet a third version of a lot of these Batman villains. You’d think that there would be some sort of editorial meeting where they discuss visual continuity between the books that occur in the same universe, let alone the same city. Is that singing Ronald McDonald supposed to be The Joker? Was the whore in the bunny costume absolutely necessary to make a point in this book? I hope the answer is no to both. I’m not going to read the next issue to find out.
Rating: 6/10 (One-Face Smash!)
Written by MIKE COSTA
Art by GRAHAM NOLAN
Real American heroes who regularly and emphatically kill people to death, that’s about all you need to know. Its not a new idea, and it feels like a better funded, DC version of The Losers. We get a book that does not at all depend on the rest of the DC Universe, and really feels like a Wildstorm or Image #1. Its a really disjointed idea, where you don’t know any of the characters and you struggle to find a reason to care about their plight. They’re all good fighters, fair enough. Kunoichi does a pretty cool thing with the whole crashing into soft water, and they have a garage full of what looks like F-Zero Racers and X-1 Vipers from Star Wars: Dark Empire II, and we see that wearing sunglasses indoors falls well within the encouraged Blackhawks dress code. The entire comic seems a bit superfluous (putting that college education to good use).
Rating: 5/10 (meh.)
Green Lantern – New Guardians #1
Written by RON MARZ
Art by TYLER KIRKHAM
I was very much disappointed that this book pulled nearly directly from a 20 year old comic for the first half of the story. I understand the need to establish the origin story when you feature a character that may not be entirely familiar to an audience, but the same angles were used, the same dialogue was used, etc. and it just seems a little lazy. The end of the issue was certainly an interesting sort of twist but I’m a bit bothered that I still can’t be sure exactly why the book is called “New Guardians”. Is Kyle getting all of these rings because he is super special and awesome? Is he getting the rings because he is picking the new guardians? Is he getting the rings because he really does qualify for every ring on some level? I suppose I’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Rating: 7.5/10 (A good book)
I, Vampire #1
Written by JOSHUA HALE FIALKOV
Art by ANDREA SORRENTINO
I was very prepared to dismiss this book. It was an idea that didn’t fit into the rest of the DCU and honestly, it still doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great story. Its very well written and very well drawn and I really want to read more of it. We get a great intro to Andrew and Mary, their 400 year romance-of-tumult and an unexpected level of gravity to the book without having an excess amount of gore and violence. We just see the horrible outcome of Mary’s evil. Despite all of this praise, I can’t help but feel that this book would be better served or better serve as a mini-series where Andrew is developed as a character and then introduced as a part of another book such as Justice League Dark, much like the initial run on DCU Presents with Deadman.
Rating: 9/10 (For unexpected goodness)
Justice League Dark #1
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by MIKEL JANIN
For all that happened in this issue, not a whole lot happened. Janin drew a beautiful book and Milligan wrote a wonderful start to a story, but that’s all it was really felt like; a start. The book shows that something bad happens that only a team of crazy magic people can solve, it shows the origins of this team (not nearly enough John Constantine, by the way) and why they’re very well suited to dealing with crazy magic problems. The team is pretty interesting, Deadman, Shade, Constantine, Zatanna, and Madame Xanadu all have their own voice and feel well established and unique and despite the vagaries where most new readers probably don’t know the June Moone/Enchantress connection, I think Milligan handled the big team really well. I feel like this could easily be the same series as Demon Knights just with less swords and dragons and more chain smoking and self-loathing. That being said, I can’t wait to read more.
Rating: 9/10 (For even a small glimpse of Constantine)
Savage Hawkman #1
Written by TONY S. DANIEL
Art by PHILIP TAN
Its got a great artist on it in Tan. It has an alright story, and a fairly interesting change to the Hawkman character. However, as I said in the comic book shop after I had read it: “I just don’t care about Hawkman.” Carter Hall is a cryptologist/archaeologist/treasure hunter…cool. The Nth metal armor and equipment are now a part of his physiology and are no longer separate from his body…also cool. He can use the armor to smash apart weird alien not-Venom monster that was under the ocean…interesting I guess. He gets his power sucked away from him by not-Venom monster…I don’t care. Daniel doesn’t deliver a story that is compelling enough to get me to give a crap about Hawkman. I’m gonna give the rest of this series a pass.
Rating: 6/10 (Very meh)
Written by GEORGE PEREZ
Art by JESUS MERINO
DC is really putting an effort into making it clear that this is a different world. They are actively distancing themselves from nearly anything that says “classic” in the DCU. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing because change is eventually needed to facilitate stories that aren’t stagnant, but in the process of doing away with these “classic” ideas like the old Daily Planet, they also seem to be keen to make every human being in the DCU adamantly anti-superhero. Yeah, a few of the books have had the people stand up for the hero, but every news and media outlet seems to have gone to the J. Jonah Jameson school of thought and majored in Lex Luthor Xenophobia. “Superman was next to the guy when he exploded, let’s not worry if our hero is ok, we’re gonna assume that he caused it!” because that’s how people think. No. That’s how crazy people think. The book was solid, I’m just really frustrated at the direction DC is taking here. Also, I’m not a fan of how they are changing Lois to be more contentious with Clark and honestly, less of a morally steady person than she always was in Superman books. As I read the last page, I literally said out loud: “Damn Lois, that’s cold blooded…”
Rating: 8.5/10 (Good, not great.)
Teen Titans #1
Written by SCOTT LOBDELL
Art by BRETT BOOTH
Third attempt for Scott Lobdell and we get the same middling kind of work. I’m starting to accept that his best work ended back when he was still writing X-Men and New Mutants. Kid Flash is an idiot, Red Robin seems irresponsibly dangerous (while still being kinda cool), Cassie is outwardly violent and distrustful, and Superboy is still crazy. Did I mention how much I dislike that there is a great deal of anti-superhero sentiment in these books where you’re theoretically supposed to be rooting for the superheroes? The costume changes don’t bother me as much as I thought they would, but what actually does bother me is the changes to the characters. Just because you’re rebooting the series and they’re all teens, doesn’t mean that every character has to be an edgy, immature bastard who just wants to punch faces and be totally awesome.
Rating: 5/10 (For missing the point.)
The Flash #1
Written by FRANCIS MANAPUL & BRIAN BUCCELLATO
Art by FRANCIS MANAPUL
I actually really liked this one. This is a different Barry Allen than I’m used to seeing. He doesn’t have the Catholic-guilt that the regular Barry usually has. I don’t know why, but he always seems to be in a dour sort of mood and I could never tell why. He had a wife, he had a job that he talked about liking, but it just wasn’t enough. Was that what Flashpoint was about? I couldn’t tell with all of the terrible DC version of Age of Apocalypse stuff going on. Anymoose, Manapul is in top form here with some great sequences, and just beautiful art throughout. The story is ok, and definitely worth a read, but it didn’t blow me away, just surprised me (in a good way). I’m still not sure how I feel about the costume. I like how it comes out of the ring, but I’m not so much of a fan of the Speed Force seemingly holding it together. The mask seems to form into one piece, why can’t the rest of the suit?
Rating: 8.5/10 (Beautiful, but I just couldn’t see anything amazing)
The Fury of Firestorm – The Nuclear Men #1
Written by ETHAN VAN SCIVER & GAIL SIMONE
Art by YILDIRAY CINAR
Following the general pattern with these books, this one starts of violent as all get out. The changes to the characters are minor, from what I can tell. Ronnie and Jason are at odds with each other, that much is the same. Ronnie is a jock with a good heart, that’s pretty much the same as well. Jason is out-of-control smart and is apparently a judgemental prick, that’s new. Jason was smart in the recent books, but he was just learning advanced chemistry, never the kid entrusted with protecting the Firestorm Protocol unaided. He is definitely a proxy for Stein, who it is unclear whether is alive or dead. The book ends on an odd sort of note as there are two separate Firestorms who sciencesplode into what seems to be a Firestorm manifestation of the two (Ronnie and Jason) being at odds with one another and not cooperating: Fury. I’ll see where this one goes because it looks like it might be a really fun read.
Rating: 7.5/10 (Solid start, I hope it continues with issue two)
Written by RON MARZ
Art by SAMI BASRI.
I don’t know why I thought this would be good. Maybe I assumed that DC wouldn’t make a book where all but three pages have Voodoo actively stripping or walking around nearly naked? Maybe I assumed that Ron Marz wouldn’t take the cheapest possible route with telling her story? Maybe I assumed that this would focus on Voodoo as a character, a hero and not as whatever the hell kind of strange alien-whore that she is? I’m not sure, but this book was just awful. The story could have been told just as easily without reducing her character to what she is shown as, but it absolutely made me dislike this creative team, and the character, made even more terrible because I’ve seen Marz write well, Basri draw some beautiful stuff, and Voodoo be an interesting character in the past. Seriously, though…three pages. I wish I’d never read this book and I hope like hell that it gets canned quickly. The only thing this book accomplishes is to reduce DC Comics in my eyes.
Rating: 0/10 (I hated this book)
On the Marvel side of things I also picked up:
Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #2
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Art by ESAD RIBIC
We get a better view of who the adversaries are in the series and we see some crazy-awesome science that Hickman does so very very well. We also get an all out brawl between Ultimates Asgard and the Tomorrow Children which goes surprisingly poorly for our be-hammered heroes.
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #2
Written by BRIAN M. BENDIS
Art by SARA PICHELLI
Lots more exposition about who this new Spider-Man is exactly. We also get the nerd-savvy friend who figures out the big secret. I’m liking where this is going, I just hope Bendis doesn’t take to much longer to start the adventures, because I’ve sat through too many interview panels to put up with his storytelling for too long. While it shows the three mutants from the new X-Men, its a little bit strange that there’s no mention of the events from the Ultimates anywhere in this issue.
Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye #2
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Art by RAFA SANDOVAL
I missed this one last week, but it picks up right where the last one left off with Hawkeye and the Southeast Asia Shield base trying to recover from the massive attack by Mutants 2.0. I liked the bit where we actually get some modicum of history on Ultimates Hawkeye that I hadn’t seen in the past…y’know…ever.
Secret Avengers #17
Written by WARREN ELLIS
Art by KEV WALKER
I usually love Warren Ellis, and I was really excited about his run on Secret Avengers, but it really hasn’t been anything special. The dialogue is odd at points and the stories aren’t nearly as fantastic as I’ve come to expect from him. After Astonishing X-Men and now this, maybe he should stick to non-mainstream stuff. I’ll continue to pick this up until his run ends, but it isn’t super great.
Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Art by STEVE EPTING
Everything is coming to a head rather quickly. I don’t know if it was rushed or if Hickman just always plans things to wrap up in very short order, but its feeling rushed. Much like Secret Warriors felt rushed at the end. I love the story, it just doesn’t seem to be focusing on the spectacle of the story as much as it could or should.
Angel & Faith #2
Written by CHRISTOS GAGE
Art by REBEKAH ISSACS
Nice second issue, and its moving pretty quickly, which is good. Angel and Faith are doing their badass sort of thing in a world that is still reeling from recent events. Word of warning: do not read this book if you haven’t read all of Buffy – Season Eight yet. It references a lot of events and a lot of history that would ruin some great surprises.
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