So, DC’s “New 52.” What a mess, eh? So much so that it got me back to comics blogging. I’ve already written some words in early reaction to the first issues’ covers, but here’s reactions to the first batch of “New 52” issues I’ve got - or rather, those that grabbed my attention. Getting the new Justice League was also in the works, but it was sold out before I managed to get a copy. So yay/boo/whatever. And there’s the haul itself:
Action Comics #1 (Grant Morrisson, Rags Morales, et al)
This is how one does a reboot. This is a comic about (a) Superman in his early days as a “Socialist Sun God” (Morrisson’s own words in Supergods), champion of the oppressed and giver of dickings to corporate assholes, in the words of my good pal Robert. It’s not perfect - and I would have preferred Morrisson to go back to All Star Superman - but it’s arguably “closer” to Siegel and Schuster’s darker depression-era vision of Superman as a super-powered vigilante.
It’s also pacey and economical with its visual storytelling with some of Rags Morales’ best work to date (even if the last couple of pages appear rushed).
Of course people will complain, since there’s no pleasing everybody. Maybe those wanting the big blue boyscout will find him in Superman #1?
There’s more one can say, of course - but Sequart has an excellent review of this first issue which says more than I can ever say.
Shall I buy issue 2? Yes, without reservation.
OMAC #1 (Dan Didio, Keith Giffen, et al)
This comic is both exhilarating and infuriating in equal measures.
How so? First off, this is an exciting, breathless comic that’s one big tribute to Jack “King” Kirby, creator of the titular OMAC. Who’s OMAC? The One Man Army Corp, mohawk-donning super warrior fighting alongside AI satellite Brother Eye! What does he fight? Craziness - from the future! Or rather, in this DCnU take, the present? As said earlier, it’s exciting - with a 2-page spread where OMAC tears a laboratory to pieces where a FRRRZZTTZZKKK-RAAACKK sound effect spreading over the 2 pages - but there’s a but.
And what a but!
There’s nothing fundamentally new here. Everything - everything - here comes from Jack Kirby’s DC output, from OMAC himself (obviously), to the setting (CADMUS labs) and the various villains of the piece, while the story itself is a simple excuse for a lot of smashing. It is fun smashing, sure, but the Jack Kirby’s original 1974 first issue had more exciting, new ideas than most current comics have in their lifetimes, while Didio and Giffen’s take has… none.
Adding on the infuriation is the fact it fails to even mention Jack Kirby as a credit. Now that is shameful.
Oh, you know who DC should have gotten to do a new OMAC comic? Paul Pope, that’s who.
Shall I buy issue 2? I’ll be giving this the 3 issue test, in the hope it improves further. Otherwise I’ll just stick to rereading the collected originals. Well, actually I’ll be doing that anyway.
Swamp Thing #1 (Scott Snyder, Yanick Paquette)
Well here is the best looking first issue from the whole launch, bar none - thanks to, of course, the stellar Yanick Paquette. The visual treats come early, with the 2nd and 3rd pages forming an amazing spread involving Superman, Batman, Aquaman and a whole plethora of dead dying critters. So, in the least, get it for the art.
Story-wise, I cant say I know - or care - much about Swamp Thing himself, but it appears to be building straight from Brightest Day, following the character’s reappearance in the main DCU (as opposed to the Vertigo ghetto). Is that fact helpful to the uninitiated? No, of course, but Scott Snyder seems to be building an intriguing mystery here just the same.
Shall I buy issue 2? Yes, in the least for the art. It looks that good.
Stormwatch #1 (Paul Cornell, Miguel Sepulveda et al)
Here’s the first result of folding the (arguably more mature and darker) Wildstorm universe into the main DCU, and it’s an interesting first issue, all considered. The art might be slightly weak, the writing suffers from the occasional infodump (of the “my name is so-and-so and my power is to do this-this-and-that!” variety), and Midnighter’s new costume remains absolutely awful, but the idea behind the series is interesting and full of potential - Stormwatch as a centuries-old secret organisation of superhumans fighting against secret otherworldly threats whose members carry a variety of non-typical super powers. The DCU’s Torchwood, if you will.
This first issue does manage to do all a team book’s first issue should do, at least - introduce a crew of interesting characters, the threat(s) they’re going to have to handle, and hints of a larger plot at play. Again, this has potential, and I’m curious to see where it goes.
Shall I buy issue 2? Oh yes.
Animal Man #1 (Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman, et al)
Now here is the New 52’s dark horse - I (and probably quite a few others) wasn’t expecting much, and ended up blown away as a result. And with good reason, too.
Lemire builds directly on the previous takes on Animal Man, aka Buddy Baker - father, activist, superhero, who’s able to tap into animal abilities to use as super powers. The book itself feels like an early Vertigo book in the best possible way, with minimalist, angular art that starts off rough (if not seemingly unfinished), before pulling all punches in a shocker of a monochrome nightmare sequence and an ending that certainly leaves one wanting for more. So yes, this is good and recommended.
Shall I buy issue 2? Gods yes.
Batwing #1 (Judd Winick, Ben Oliver, et al)
Hey, it’s the Batman of Africa! Or, in this case, Batman of a featureless wasteland, seeing how the artist refuses to put any backgrounds to his artwork. His character work is good though, with a painted look that reminds one (a bit) of Heavy Metal and its ilk.
When it comes to the writing, Batwing is… average. The concept is interesting (as lifted straight from the pages of Batman Inc.), but the titular character is seen fighting an uninspired machete-wielding villain going by the name of… Massacre. Because he kills a hell lot of people, get it? There is, however, an interesting subplot, in the shape of mentions of a now-missing African superhero team called The Kingdom, which will probably get built further on as the series progresses.
I still have my doubts on whether I’ll get the next issues, though, cliffhanger ending or not…
Men of War #1 (Ivan Brandon, Tom Derenick, et al)
Sometime back (last year!) I expressed wonderings on how come there’s no “realistic” soldier comics from the big 2 comics publishers, seeing how videogames starring soldiers are all the rage (and comics tend to go well with gaming). Well, this lack is not any more, seeing how the DCnU has Men of War, starring Sgt. Rock’s grandson!
And that’s all I can say about it, really. Actually, no, I can say a bit more. This comic is about a special unit that fights superhumans, which Sgt Rock’s grandson leads. The art is actually pretty fine, and Ivan Brandon is a serviceable writer (his Viking is amazing), but…
…this is not for me, seeing how I really don’t care about the military in any way. This issue also carries a backup on the Navy SEALS, which fails to relate with the main DCU in any way. I found it face-meltingly boring, but I’m sure there’s comics readers out there who’d get their kicks reading about brave American soldiers fighting stereotypical Muslim terrorists. Err.
Shall I buy the next issue? No.
So there you have it, the first DCnU batch. I would have been even more impressed with this lot, hadn’t these two other comics also come out on the same week…
It’s the first issue of Matt Fraction’s awesome time-bending superspy epic, Casanova, with Gabriel Ba on the amazing art (I’ve written on Casanova a number of times already) and the 6th issue of my favourite current superhero comic, Butcher Baker (the Righteous Maker), by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston. Like most of Joe Casey’s output, Butcher Baker is brilliant, timely and relevant, yet also happens to be underrated and unrepresented by most of the comics news/reviews/blogging scene.
I’ll write more about it once it’s finished, I promise.