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nU Reviews: Week 2

nU Reviews: Week 2 published on No Comments on nU Reviews: Week 2

This week, encouraged by the high average quality from the first two weeks of the DCnU I decided to pick up more books this week than before. The results were predictably mixed.

Batman an Robin (Damien) DC Reboot
I'm surprise they kept him

Legion Lost #1 is my first foray into Legion of Super-Heroes comics. This being a linewide reboot and all I figured this would be the perfect place to jump on. That was less than accurate. I have no idea who these people/monsters are and Fabian Nicieza isn’t slowing down long enough to fill me in. He does tell us why they’re here though. The Legion is chasing someone named Alastor who has a beef with humans despite looking an awful lot like one about half of the time. I don’t know if he’s an established villain, I don’t know what his beef with humanity is exactly (something about a little sister), and I don’t know what pathogen he released into present day Earth’s atmosphere. Nicieza is throwing things at the reader fast and furious and hoping to keep you interested enough to stick around for answers, which is actually fairly typical for him. I usually enjoy his stuff, with the seriously underrated odd couple book Cable & Deadpool ranking among my favorite runs ever and his recent work on Red Robin being very good. Pete Woods turns in some very solid pencils. I wasn’t blown away, but the ending caught me off guard and has me waiting for the next issue. Pretty much exactly what you want from an introductory issue.

3.5/5 Burst Bubbles

Next up, Suicide Squad #1 brings back one of my favorite team concepts and attempts to fill the void left by Secret Six as the ‘villain book’. Considering how good that book generally was that’s quite the task. I enjoyed this first issue a whole lot. We jump into the minds of Harley Quinn, El Diablo, and Deadshot of the titular Suicide Squad as they are tortured for information on their benefactor, but none of them crack. King Shark doesn’t crack either, but he doesn’t seem to have much of a mind to jump into in the DCnU. Someone does crack though and only then do they reveal the twist that most readers must have seen coming a mile away. They telegraphed that one a bit and I was severely disappointed until the last page delivered something I wasn’t expecting. Two things actually, but I’m not a huge fan of Amanda Waller’s new look. Speaking of new looks, I was one of the people who thought Harley’s was a bit much, but it turns out that wasn’t the most drastic change made to her. She seems much more deranged in the DCnU. This chick is exactly who you’d expect to fall for the Joker. On the other hand Floyd Lawton is the same old bastard we know and love, just minus one mustache. I miss the mustache, but I suppose I can live without it. Adam Glass gets the right tone and he’s moving the team in the right (completely wrong) direction. Federico Dallocchio and Ransom Getty also have the tone down right. In fact, I’m sure some will complain that this is the same as every other iteration of the Squad. New members, same old story and so forth. But if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and the Squad isn’t broken.

4.25/5 MEATS! MEATS! MEATS!

Superboy #1 is my favorite book of the week, continuing a good trend for Superman’s corner of the Universe. But, to be fair, I am a sucker for a good Tyke Bomb storyline. The Superboy is a weapon created by mixing the DNA of Superman and a certain “deeply pathological, megalomaniacal narcissist”. The majority of the issue explores the mysterious organization N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (love the ridiculous acronym) in their attempts to gain control of the Superboy. Including a VR simulation of a life in small town Kansas that guest stars a Teen Titan from the DColdU. In fact, she’s just about the last Teen Titan I expected to see in this book, but she plays a prominent role both inside and outside the VR program. I hope she sticks around because she’s awfully entertaining here. Superboy himself is pretty much a blank slate at this point and this book seems like it will be about him trying to figure out exactly who he is. The book ends with a tie in to Scott Lobdell’s other book, the aforementioned Teen Titans #1. As bad as that cover looks I’m going to be picking it up to see what’s happening to our Superboy here and Tim Drake. Lobdell does a good job of establishing characters, but some of the pseudoscience relating to his spread consciousness doesn’t really work. Then again, this is a comic book. When does the science ever work? R.B. Silva brings a real energy to every page and the squatty science goon was a nice touch that made me chuckle.

4.25/5 Ravaging Ravagers

Batman and Robin #1 was a really solid book with a few interesting choices made by Peter Tomasi. Having Batman’s continuity stay so much more intact than the other characters around DCnU presents the problem of having to manufacture a split from the previous continuity that few other writers of the new 52 have to face. Tomasi gives Bats a sort of self-induced milestone in this one that does the trick. Basically, he decides to honor his parents in a less morbid way than he had been since their death. Psychologically healthy and dramatically compelling, well played Mr. Tomasi. As for the rest of this issue Damian is, nearly impossibly, more obnoxious than ever before in this issue. He spends a full third of the book ragging on Bats for being sad about his parent’s death. Yeesh. But Damian being obnoxious doesn’t mean Damian is being poorly written, kind of the opposite. It’s interesting that Damian is so much closer to Dick than Bruce at this point. He has to start over fresh as Robin if he’s going to have Bruce accept him as a partner. I could see why he’d be pissy about earning his stripes a second time. There’s a mystery bad guy who bookends this issue by offing people peripherally related to Bats. No idea why, but the last line of the book provides a clue.

3.75/5 Snide Sidekicks

Ok, so I said I’d also review Batwoman #1, Frankenstein # 1, and Demon Knights #1 too and I will review them. But not right now. I’m tired from work and going to bed early. More nU Reviews tomorrow. Promise.

nU Reviews

nU Reviews published on No Comments on nU Reviews

Rather than clog the commentary posts on the comics I thought it would be best to just give these reviews their own blog series unimaginatively titled nU Reviews. So let’s get started.

Batgirl DC Reboot
Nexty stop: Radio City Music Hall

Batgirl #1 finds Babs back on her feet with no explanation yet provided as to how, but oddly enough the main focus of the issue is our new/old Batgirl dealing with the psychological and physical aftereffects of The Killing Joke anyway. Almost taunting the expectant reader by mentioning that something happened, but not explaining what that something was. Whatever the case The Killing Joke is, as promised, very much still in continuity. Gail Simone is clearly having fun with this assignment. She has always loved Barbara and that comes through in the writing. This book was a lot of fun, right up till the end when it switched gears and became very serious, very quickly. The art by Ardian Syaf is great. And the story is engaging, but it’s not a perfect book. While I’m less annoyed with the lack of answers than I would have suspected I still wish they’d addressed how she’s up and about right out of the gate. And her new roommate is less entertaining than Simone seems to think she is. That said, it’s a very solid first comic.

4/5 Bat-Females

Detective Comics #1 is an interesting book, but it already seems to be a very ambitious undertaking. Right out of the gate Batman is chasing the Joker, but he makes some comments in his inner monologue about the Joker’s criminal past that makes me wonder how this book and the above Batgirl will work in the same continuity. I’m giving DC the benefit of the doubt on this one for the time being. Anyway, Bats and Joker do a modified version of their usual dance with Joker fairing a lot better than he usually does in a physical confrontation with the Goddamned Batman. And that’s all I’m going to say. I’m trying not to spoil anything here, because the ending legitimately surprised me. Can’t wait to see where this is going.

4.25/5 Naked Clowns

Action Comics #1 is the book of the week. To say that I was less than enthused about this particular corner of the reboot in the months leading up to this launch would be a sizable understatement, but 1 issue in and I am already sold. I LOVE Superman’s new direction. This different take on Superman, which is actually a return to his 1930’s origins, as a social crusader every bit as concerned with stopping corrupt businessmen and other societal cancers as he is with punching superbaddies is unlike just about anything else on the stands. And nU Supes is young and brash, making enemies everywhere he turns by doing the right thing the wrong way. The new take on Clark Kent is… interesting. At the very least I finally believe that people wouldn’t instantly recognize Clark and Superman as the same person (it might take them a whole 10 seconds now). Clark doesn’t get as much fleshing out as his caped alter-ego in this issue, so no judgments on that front just yet. Luthor makes his appearance and he is never more entertaining than he is when Morrison writes him. The dialogue about alien fauna destroying local wildlife is both highly entertaining and a good establishing character moment. By the end of the issue he proves that he may be more dangerous in the DCnU than ever before. Lois and Jimmy get the short end of the stick in this issue with less ‘screen time’ than Clark and Lex or even General Lane. But I’m sure they’ll get their turn in the future. Rags Morales turns in some excellent work on art and Morrison is Morrison. All in all, one of the best first issues I can remember reading.

4.75/5 Big Ass Bullets

Green Arrow #1 is the first real dud I’ve picked up  in the DCnU. Ollie lost his beard, he’s back to running a major corporation, he’s operating internationally, he has a new costume (Smallville inspired I believe), and he’s hired himself a support team. These are all changes that could, and probably should, work. But they just don’t. It starts with the basics: dialogue, story, and art. Ollie delivers some really bad attempts at tough guy talk during his big fight. And later he gives a speech about why he fights the good fight that seems to be checking off every item on a superhero cliche list as quickly as they possibly can. His new bad guys are lame, which he comments on. So maybe intentional? They’re also intensely uninteresting. Probably not intentional. His new supporting cast sucks. Honestly, they felt more like a parody than a real supporting cast. I actually hope that Krul phoned this one in, I’d hate to think he really tried and it still came out this bad. And I’m just not a fan of Dan Jurgens’ art. Not really a whole lot to add to that. Finishing this comic with the others staring at me from my pile felt like a chore. How long until we can reboot this particular reboot?

1/5 Poor Ollies

DC Reboot: Mike’s Thoughts

DC Reboot: Mike’s Thoughts published on No Comments on DC Reboot: Mike’s Thoughts
DC Universe Reboot

I definitely have a love/hate relationships with reboots/remakes/revamps. On the one hand it inhibits development of characters people care about and also says to everyone who spent so much time, work, and heart making these stories “sorry not good enough let’s just completely undo all the work you did”. I specially hate how Hollywood treats original works like they’re only the first draft. But on the other hand, treating it like a first draft allows you to make the second draft better. Also being free from continuity can spur amazing creativity. Marvel’s Ultimate Universe did a fantastic job, when it started, of re-imagining characters and stories. Plus some properties do transcend their creators and take on a new status in the eyes of our cultures. There has been many retelling of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures and there will be many more. Most superheros have definitely reached that status and will live on longer than any writer, artist, director, or actor.

By far the best reboot I have seen must be Star Trek. Not only did they take an old franchise and reinvigorate it to bring in a new audience but they managed to add creative visuals, action, comedy, and emotion that I never really saw in the original series. They added something that was missing. As long as you add something to it instead of just retell the same story that makes it interesting. James made a great point about the importance on gaining a new audience. Really I have no problem with DC or Marvel cleaning house with their titles, trimming the fat to make things easier. It’s definitely not something to do lightly since this needs to last decades for them. I just don’t see how this move brings in new customers, sure you’ll have a spike in sales from curious readers ranging from old to new and whether it lasts depends more on the quality of the titles. But the problem is you won’t be getting many new readers because the only people who know about this stunt are people already in the circle of comic fans. If you tell someone outside the circle, “Hey they’re rebooting DC” it doesn’t really mean anything to them. The way to draw in new readers isn’t with stunts, or starting from square one. It’s with advertising. As long as I can remember the only time I’ve ever seen an ad for a comic book was in another comic book. If you want to get the word out about your product to new customers you can’t just spread it among your current clients you have to reach out. If they can make a commercial for books (which I find weird) you can make them for comics. Get them on tv, buy internet ads(hint, hint), run them before comic book movies. You want new people pulling off stunts that can potentially piss off you base won’t help.

Superman sans trunks
It's not that hard to replace the trunks

My major concern with this particular reboot is that it just seems… unnecessary. Sure doing a full reboot allows the company to paint a specific creative path for the universe as a whole and can give all creators better direction. The thing is, if you want to portray Superman younger, then just portray him younger. No one says you have to draw him like he’s pushing 40 or write him like he’s going through a mid life crisis. You don’t want him in trunks? Then just change it to a belt (though their new belt is god awful). You think having two Batmen is too confusing?  Then have Dick decide to be Nightwing again. You don’t want Wonder Woman to be in star spangle panties? Just put pants on her. The point is nothing here needs a reboot to happen, hell most of it doesn’t even need that much of an explanation. This all just feels like a drastic step to fix simple problems.

None of this would really bother me that much if it wasn’t for the news of Barbra Gordon walking again. I have no problem with letting the character get up from that wheelchair, but having it happen as a do-over cheapens what has been done. I was never fond of Batgirl because she never really had any real reason to be a superhero other than “why not” and really she was just for the most part: female-Robin. As Oracle she not only became infinitely more interesting she also became useful and unique. Masked crime fighters are a dime a dozen in DC but her talents had her helping more people and leaving a bigger mark for herself than anything she could have in tights. Plus she was Batgirl for 22 years guess how many she was Oracle? Yep 22 years, she’s been Oracle for just as long and is a huge part of her identity. The story of a woman being cripple and metaphorically getting back up is beyond great and makes her more of a hero than any other crime fighter. But as I said I have no problem with her standing on her own two feet as long as it’s done with meaning. Instead of rebooting a whole universe you can tell the story of a new surgery, a difficult rehabilitation, and a triumphant return which is a story that not only can be told, but should be told. If this is covered in the first few arcs of Batgirl I will not consider this reboot a failure, if they just pretend it never happened I will be… perturbed…

Though the more I think about it the more pointless it seems to get vocal about it. Because the decision has been made and no one from DC will ever read this. But on the off chance one of them do I would like to offer some advice because rebooting the world isn’t enough, you must ensure the world you create is a lasting one:

1. Keep Stories Small – One trend you see in all on-going storytelling is escalation, you hero must be challenged by stronger and stronger opponents. The problem is eventually you will hit a ceiling. Once Batman takes down Darkseid and traverse time itself, fighting some goons in an alley isn’t going to seem like a challenge and gets boring. You must keep the villains and threats proportionally small and make the stories more intimate and involving. If you don’t constantly up the ante you won’t have to constantly think of stronger threats. This is most important for Superman.

2. Keep Heroes Separate – I love the idea of a shared universe but these days they seem too shared. Besides team books I don’t want to see heroes crossing over every other week. Bat family book should try to stay in the bat family. Every character has a great supporting cast that could really use some development. Plus the more often they meet the less special it becomes.

3. Don’t change the Status Quo! – This is something that caused me to get turned off to Marvel. It seems like every two years (if even that) Marvel has an event that “changes the status quo forever) Which usually, the new status quo is great a very interesting direction for the universe. The problem is each one is rushed, they don’t take advantage of it, and the next event doesn’t bring it to a good closure just simply creates a new status to replace the current. You’re doing a hell of a lot setting up this status quo so you need to take full advantage of it for as long as you can.

I'm Batman
Then again nothing ever really changes

4. Pull back the Events – James had brought it up, it’s annoying to have an event book happen so often and have it effect every title. I shouldn’t have to read Green Lantern to get what’s going on in Batman. Tie ins can be fun but they should never be necessary to understand another book. Also apply tip #1 here, your last few events have dealt with a universe wide zombie attack and with the very fabric of reality there’s really no where to go but down. Keep you event small in scoop and small in cast. Then once in several years you can pull of a company wide event and have it be awesome. I would like to see something with Aquaman and a war with Atlantis.

5. DON’T KILL GOOD CHARACTERS!!! – If you’re just going to bring them back then don’t kill them! Dead is dead, the more we see a character die the less we’ll care, death is now meaningless. This is so obvious to me it’s painful.

But this is just details an editor tells the writers which brings me back to my main point. No matter what they change: Superman will be Superman, Batman will be Batman, and Wonder Woman will be Wonder Woman. They make look a little different their histories might change but their core will remain faithful.

So it’s just… unnecessary.

For James’ Thoughts.

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