Ah, the joys of living on an island - everything’s within walking distances, beaches, romanticism… shipping delays. Then again, one has to keep in mind the idea of news comics arriving in Malta within a couple of days of their coming out in the US of A used to be as science fiction an idea as jetpacks or flying cars. Maybe one has to be actually grateful for getting 2 weeks’ worth of comics instead?
I’m still dividing the DC New 52 into their respective weeks, just for clarity and organisation’s sake. Photos are organised on an ascending scale of interesting-ness and (lack of) taste, starting off from left to right. Now you know.
This week had a general lack of fairly interesting titles. I was also planning to get Mister Terrific, but it was sold out. Somehow.
Suicide Squad #1 (Adam Glass, Federico Dallocchio, et al)
Every superhero comic universe needs a team of supervillains turned unwilling heroes, right? And that’s all that justifies the Suicide Squad’s existence, I guess. The first issue opens with that most hoary of spy fiction cliche’s - the “flashbacks told while under torture” routine, which, if you’re wondering, ends with an obvious twist one could see from a mile away. So far, so charming.
Dallocchio’s art is fine - DC could have gotten someone from the Avatar school of comics nasties, after all - and yes there’s Suicide Girl Harley Quinn (although her portrayal gives off “damaged girl” vibes some male (OBVIOUSLY) readers get behind). But this is nasty, humourless work 11 pages of which consist of unsympathetic characters getting tortured. It might build up to something worth reading, but I won’t be sticking around.
And the less said about turning Amanda “The Wall” Waller into a waif, the better.
Batwoman #1 (J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman)
Yanick Paquette’s work on Swamp Thing #1 just found a contendor in the “best looking DC comic” stakes. Then again, the great J.H. Williams III is working on Batwoman - an issue that’s been delayed for, oh, more than a year so far. And it follows directly on the earlier Batwoman: Elegy, reboot or no reboot.
Gorgeous as this comic looks (and it’s absolutely stunning), the writing is merely so-so without Greg Rucka preparing the script, rendering the issue itself middling. If you’re interested in redhead lesbian Batwoman, then go ahead and read Elegy instead. It’s really good!
I think I’ll stick with this though, but only for the art. Yes, it does look that good.
Demon Knights #1 (Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves, et al)
DC is putting quite a bit of variety in its reboot lineup, which, of course, is a positive. Giving us titles like Demon Knights, a fantasy take on the DC universe’s dark ages starring The Demon Etrigan, Madame Xanadu (his main squeeze), Vandal Savage (a friend) and more (including Sir Ystin aka Shining Knight from Seven Soldiers and what looks like a refugee from Assassin’s Creed).
There’s also invading hordes, a demon baby and dinosaurs. Fun times, right?
Cornell serves up some sharp dialogue and the idea behind the series is rock solid, but it does suffer from the art - which is, well, painfully average. Same problem as with Cornell’s other DCnU title, Stormwatch, then!
Still, this looks fun enough for me to continue purchasing. Good job, Mr. Cornell!
Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 (Jeff Lemire, Alberto Ponticelli)
DC Frankenstein - as brought back in Grant Morrisson’s Seven Soldiers - is awesome. I’ve talked about the big guy before but in recap, it’s Mary Shelley’s most famous creation as unwilling, Milton-quoting monster fighter under the employ of the Super Human Advanced Defence Executive, the US government’s go-to for the messed up.
Lemire builds up on Morrisson’s previous work with the character (Seven Soldiers and Final Crisis) in this, and the first issue’s fantastic. Big ideas, big action, and - yes! - a new team of Creature Commandos. Pontichelli’s rough and ready artwork fits the series, and all in all the first issue is very promising.
Get into it.
A week of Strong Female Characters and - oh! - controversy!
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (Scott Lobdell, Kenneth Rocafort)
Here’s the setup: a once-dead ex-Robin (killed via reader phone-in vote) turned killer-of-villains, an even worse ex-sidekick and star of 2010’s worst superhero comic and boring alien orange cheesecake (best known for being a star in a popular children’s cartoon which has very to do with the actual comics) team up to, well, kill bad guys. A lot.
The boring orange cheesecake also proceeds to do a lot of poses aimed directly at the male gaze, before casually (if not joylessly) fucking the worst ex-sidekick even though she’s supposed to be in a relationship with the other one. Y’know, because comicbooks are not for kids any more!
The result is, inevitably, dreadful.
Actually, the dreadfulness is not inevitable. There’s potential in the above-mentioned setup, in an exploitation-cinema sort of way. Hell the idea behind Starfire’s re-writing - an alien who can hardly tell between different humans, ever mind care about their societal and cultural norms - is interesting. So yes - two knuckleheads and alien hotty fight bads AND randomly fuck each other. Could be fun! Of course, Starfire’s new portrayal also caused a fair number of (rightful) complaints, culminating with her suddenly becoming everyone’s favourite character and this editorial by Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson.
But heading back to my previous argument - the potential for fun - that is what this comic lacks. Also, quality. This is a shitty comic - and I speak as someone who loves exploitative trash, horridly written, with Kenneth Rocafort’s decent lines turned into a horrible mess by means of some jaw droppingly awful colouring. All of the internet commentary (upset over Starfire, of all characters) fails to mention the shittiness of Red Hood and the Outlaws!
Dropped, unless the 2nd issue manages to get the internet even more upset.
Supergirl #1 (Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Mahmud Asrar et al)
Hey kids! Do you know Supergirl’s origin? Would you like to reread that shit - AGAIN? Of course you do! That’s Supergirl #1 in a nutshell, basically.
Teenage female Kryptonian crashes onto Siberia, she fights a couple of robots in an act of confusion and Superman appears in the end.
She still has a kinda awful costume, though Superman’s new armour-y getup remains even worse.
Mahmoud Asrar’s work is rather nice however, with a muted colour palette that makes it look like a European comic than your standard DC fare. I might get #2 because of exactly that.
Catwoman #1 (Judd Winick, Guillem March)
The second controversial comic of the week! Well, it’s been controversial for a while - ever since the VERY CLASSY cover showing Selina Kyle pouring diamonds from what looks like a condom over her cleavage was solicited.
I can’t see why DC editorial seems to find getting a decent Catwoman comic out so difficult. Sexy lady thief in black cat-themed leathers steals stuff from bad dudes. Easy peas.
No, it’s bad enough Catwoman is introduced as a pair of tits inside red bra attached to a body (umm) and the plot involving Russian gangsters and Selina meeting her ex-Abuser, the last 4 pages consist of Catwoman jumping on Batman’s bones, just because.
Mind this is hardly the first time Batman and Catwoman did the nasty - and the comics internet seems to have forgotten Batman Inc. #1 - but those final 4 pages are all sorts of bad. Dear Comics Writers/Editors/Artists - if you’re going to portray sex, either portray it properly (naked bodies and boobs and butts and all), cut immediately to the morning after, or cut to images of rockets taking off or trains entering tunnels, Russ Meyer-style. Simple. Instead of 4 panels of necking and what looks like tweaking of the Bat-nipples while the Bat-gauntlets and the Bat-pants remain firmly on.
(Any item’s immediately more fun to write with “Bat-” as a prefix. Bat-boxers! Bat-condoms! Bat-try it out!)
Guillem March’s art is really, really good though (no there’s nothing wrong with cheesecake, really) - far too good for Winick’s lame material. Guess I’ll buy the 2nd issue just for that (the art, not the lame writing).
Batman #1 (Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, et al)
Scott Snyder delivers what everyone wants from a Batman comic - a fun, uncomplicated read moving at a zippy pace. A new Bat-gadget elegantly works as as an excuse to introduce familiar faces to new readers, there’s promises of new threats and, y’know, quality.
Greg Capullo’s artwork is surprisingly excellent too. So yes, it’s a good comic about the Man of Bats. Get it, especially if you like men. Or bats. Or both!
Wonder Woman #1 (Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang)
The final controversial Strong Female Characters comic! Y’see, originally Nu Wonder Woman was supposed to be wearing pants. Then the pants were reduced to star-spangled panties, for some reason. There’s also the matter of Diana’s first appearance in this issue, where she’s seen sleeping in the buff. No worries though, it’s all tastefully done - no less tastefully than the scenes in Batwoman #1 where Batwoman and her teenage (?) sidekick are seen changing into their uniforms, boobs and all out (no one got upset over those!).
The REAL controversy should have centered around the fact that here’s a Wonder Woman comic that’s - wait for it - shockingly good! And not just because of Cliff Chiang’s work (which is gorgeous), but this is fun and well written in general. Wisely Brian Azzarello drops any superheroics in favour of mythology-flavoured horror, and it works wonderfully (groan) well.
Wholly recommended, and the pick for the third New DC week!
BEST OF THE REST
No, I don’t only buy DC comics (gods forbid!)
The first issue of Pigs (Nate Cosby, Ben McCool, Breno Tamura) - a spy comics about a Cuban sleeper cell - opens what’s a surely promising project.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips finish off the latest Criminal story, The Last of the Innocent, where gambling debts and wife-murder meet Archie-style nostalgia for younger, simpler days.
Also concluded is Marvel’s take on depression-era pulps, Mystery Men. And what a great little read that was!
Finally there’s the third (out of four) issue of Jonathan Hickman’s latest (with Nick Pitarra on the art), The Red Wing. This time-travelling opus is possibly not as good as Hickman’s earlier work, especially Pax Romana (which also deals with time travel), but then again this is a different beast altogether. And it has a twist reminding me quite a bit of (drum roll) Morrisson’s Seven Soldiers.
I had to conclude with yet another Morrisson mention, apparently…