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While seemingly everyone got upset over tits, asses and sexy times in DC’s comics, noone got too upset about the graphic beheadings and people getting sliced in two in Green Lantern Corps #1.
I’d rather have my kids read comics where people fuck (which is a fun, healthy thing to do) rather than getting chopped into their component pieces (not very healthy - nor fun!) but maybe that’s just me.
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…
If the men behind DC knew what they were doing (do they?!) they would hire Mike Maihack to do an all ages Supergirl-Batgirl comic asap.
A little 6-panel SUPERGIRL/BATGIRL comic. For fun. And because I love the characters. And Because Nate Cosby wouldn’t stop bugging me until I drew one.
You can read waaaay too much thinking into this HERE.
World’s Finest! I wonder how long it will take to have a Babs/Kara team-up in the new 52? Though it will be hard top Steph and Kara hunting Draculas …
These are all good comics I would buy if, you know, DC let Jon Morris and his mates run its comics. But they don’t, so too bad…
DC Fifty-TOO sure had an awesome first month of fake solicitations though!
Fact: DC is in the metaphorical shitter. It’s losing market share to Marvel, and it needs to do something to improve sales, fast. Keep in mind that the sales data here comes from Diamond and pertains only to the Direct Market— and thus, single issue sales— mainly across the USA (and wherever comics stores demand comics from Diamond).
What’s DC to do? One would maybe suggest quitting the direct market in favour of distributing comics anywhere outside the traditional comics shops. Get comics everywhere! Groceries, stationeries, record stores, you name it. Couple that with a proper digital strategy and a handful of welcoming new titles, and you’ll have a winner, right?
Maybe I’m not cut to run DC’s economic strategy after all, as the company decided to stick to Diamond, mess up its digital strategy (no one will buy a digital comic for the same price as a physical pamphlet, mark my words), and, biggest of all, reboot, refresh and relaunch a whole mess of series and properties. 52 of them, in fact, to hit the racks sometime this September. I’ll be going through which of these titles hit my attention in some way or another, and maybe give a few opinions on the way, with particular attention to the slew of redesigned costumes which appear to be an obligatory part of such an “event”. Ready? Ready.
MEN WHO HAPPEN TO BE SUPER
Action Comics #1
The God of All Comics himself, Grant Morrisson, will be on Action Comics duty, writing Superman! Exciting stuff, seeing how All Star Superman is some of his best work (and some of the best Superman comics in general, but that goes without saying). Plus, the dependable Rags Morales is on the pencils, so it should look pretty good, too. Just hope Morrisson channels that All Star magic on this, eh?
As to why Superman’s rocking a mini cloak on his Hot Topic “S” t-shirt, I’ve no idea. Maybe it acts as a towel to gather up sweat caused by grimly moving too many large and heavy rocks around.
One would think that it would be daft to redesign your most iconic character’s costume just before a major reboot— yet that’s what DC’s just done with this (clearly) Jim Lee designed number. And I’ll just ask, why? Worthy of note are the armoured boots, the overuse of piping detail, lack of red trunks (still has them, mind you, they’re just blue), and the collar (it’s there, look closely) and a “nice” red belt. Also, he’s angry. Look at him be angry! Grr!
Supergirl’s a character who’s never been lucky when it comes to costumes (just like most women right? Right? I’m outta here). This number is kind of okay, in that it hits the right colours (blue, red) and fails at showing too much of skin— with the exception of the boots, which appear to have a bare patch right at the knee. Or is it flesh coloured kneepads? Still, it’s not only weird, it’s also distracting, colour wise.
MEN WHO ARE VENGEANCE, THE NIGHT, AND BATS
Not much to report on the Batman front, other than that unsurprisingly Grant Morrisson’s changes to the character (and his little patch of DCU) have been rebooted to make way to things going back to being exactly the same as they always used to be. Gee, where/when has that happened before? Dick Grayson’s been demoted back to Nightwing, while, hilariously, Batman now appears in five titles. Five of them! That will be Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, Justice League and Justice League International. Oh, and Batman Inc. (so make that six titles) will go on until 2011’s end, which is when it will also get rebooted to #1. Hmm.
DC shows itself to be typically American by lumping the entire African continent— a landmass bigger than the United States and Europe combined— into a single “country” of sorts with the Batman of Africa, a Grant Morrisson creation from the pages of Batman Inc. Admittedly this could be interesting (although I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Judd Winick). I also wonder if the other African heroes (who appeared in, well, 3 panels in Batman Inc. #6) will show up in this?
Fact: If Africa can get its own Batman, Continental Europe should have its Batman too! (the UK has Knight & Squire and The Hood so it doesn’t count).
Fact: If not a Batman of Europe then at least The Nightrunner (the Batman of France!) should have his own title. Fair’s fair.
This is a tricky one. On one hand, Barbara Gordon is back to being Batgirl! Celebrate! On the other hand the DC Universe lost its only disabled character! The whole issue with Barbara Gordon/Oracle is a weird, tricky one, especially since this is a character residing in a world where superheroes are very real, one of whom is Cyborg—a dude who is basically a robot. Not to mention all the magic using characters, and the alien technology, and time travellers… you catch my drift. I should write about the subject of unfairness in comics universes sometime in the future, it real bugs me.
Costume wise, here’s another Jim Lee number, covered in pointless piping and detail shit for some reason. On the plus side, it’s an Adam Hughes cover, so it’s all awesome and Babs is all smiling and happy. Yay!
Since this title lacks the names ‘Darwyn Cooke’ and ‘Ed Brubaker’ on the cover, it absolutely fails to pique my interest. Sorry, Judd Winick and Gulliem March! Thankfully the Darwyn Cooke designed costume remains unchanged, and here’s a nice enough cover, if one with some worrying subtext— Selina all fuck-me eyes pouring a condom’s contents (it’s diamonds, right?) on her bare cleavage? Really? I’ll admit, though, that Catwoman’s not a character I have any particularly strong feelings about, but here’s an article by comics blogger Laura Sneddon with a feminist perspective on the character which is well worth a read.
IT’S THE SUPER FRIENDS, DAMNIT
Wonder Woman #1
Another character/title I have no feelings (negative or otherwise) for, but I like (no, love) Cliff Chiang’s artwork, so this will go to my pull list. Brian Azzarello’s on writing duties, whose work tends to be something of a mixed bag BUT his last collaboration with Chiang was the brilliant Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality. Meaning my expectations will be kept at a relatively “excited” level.
The Savage Hawkman #1
WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT? Do look at him all going GRRR! EXTREME!
Yes, “The Edge”. Which is where all the Wildstorm properties have been sent (presumably to die), alongside “edgier” titles and the like.
Isn’t “the Edge” also the second most obnoxious dude from U2?
While WildCATS' Grifter getting his own title, Stormwatch (previously notable for a realpolitik-based run by Warren Ellis, before turning into The Authority) gets the reboot treatment. On the cover, Martian Manhunter (he had to find a job somewhere) together with Apollo (in a decent redesigned costume) and… Midnighter, all ready for a night of Rollerball. Check out all those spikes, man! He’s even got a chin spike! How very… edgy. (slowclap, exeunt, fin).
The real question: are Apollo and Midnighter still gay? One assumes homosexuality (one would say sexuality in general, but more on that later!) does not sit well with DC’s target audience of sexually insecure teenage/20-something males. Thus, until confirmation, I’ll be assuming the two characters have also gone through the gay-be-gone treatment.
Suicide Squad #1
Right, that Harley Quinn redesign. Talk about quality character design! I’ll admit I lack in particularly strong feelings for the character, but this stripper getup leaves me absolutely cold, never mind the extreme attitude. I’d only read a comic starring such a character (in such an outfit) if Josh Lesnick would draw it, following his own proposal down below:
Yep, pair her with a dude clad in split miniskirt and have them rob banks. With sex! However, while the Big Two comics companies are more than eager to flash tons of tits and ass around in their books, their far less comfortable when it comes to the actual sex— not unless there’s some “tragic” rape element (read “violence against women”) involved. Which handily crystallises a generally hypocritical attitude towards women and sexuality in a supposedly “liberal” society.
Fact: I’d pay top dollar for Josh Lesnick’s take on Power Girl
Fact: I have no knowledge (never mind opinions) on the Street Shark and that dude from Dead Space behind Harley Quinn
All Star Western #1
Fact: Keeping Justin Gray and Jerry Palmiotti on a Jonah Hex title is a wise idea
This also goes on the pull list. Gray and Palmiotti are a proven team, while Moritat is a solid artist I’ve been following since the first issues of Elephantmen (a not too easy gig, seeing how it involved following on work by Ladronn). Carry on with the good work, sirs.
JUSTICE THAT IS… YOUNG!
Teen Titans #1
It might be the year 2011, but right here is the most 90s comicbook drawing ever. Where can one even begin with this mess? What about Superman, in his black tank top, barcode-S tattoo, biker gloves and what looks like a micro cape taped to his back? Or whatever bug girl on the lower left even is? Robin, now with added wings (‘cos they’re awesome, right)? Wondergirl’s so extreme her lasso’s made of thorns, while the other female character is both naked and seemingly made of smoke. Wonderful.
What we have here is the nadir, a distillation of everything that’s wrong in the American superhero comics industry.
Hawk and Dove #1
ROB LIEFELD? ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?
Clearly not. Next!
THE DARK. ARE YOU… whatever
Yes, a comics line named “The Dark”. Seriously. It appears to cover, well, darker supernatural-themed stories, akin to early Vertigo, with Swamp Thing, John Constantine and Madame Xanadu showing up in a couple of titles. Still, couple of interesting titles here.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
I haven’t read anything by Jeff Lemire (who’s penning this very series) other than his take on Ultra the Multi-Alien in Vertigo’s Strange Adventures, but the concept of DC’s Frankenstein (not to be confused with, umm, Frankenstein’s monster) teaming up with other monsters to deal with threats from the unknown sounds pretty enticing. So yes, I suppose it’ll go on the pull list.
Sweet J.G. Jones cover, too.
Demon Knights #1
Horrid name (Demon Knights!), neat concept— Etrigan and Madame Xanadu forming a team of heroes in a mediaeval DC universe. Plus it’s written by Paul Cornell, so it should be (near) guaranteed to being a fun read. Pull list material, unless the art happens to be shit or something.
Will DC attract to hoards to the comics stores with this reboot? I somewhat doubt. The selection is middling - some decent titles, some real trash, a lot of the stuff of the kind we’re long used to. And, it appears, that’s basically that. As it remains, DC’s character stable seems to have a history of treated more kindly by other media, particularly animation…
The more things change, the more they remain the same.