Monday, September 12, 2011

DC Comics' New 52 - Week 2

Now, first off....I am not buying all the "New 52" number one issues. I can't afford it, and, frankly, I have little interest in many of the titles. Long ago, I made a vow that I would not buy comics just because "I should," or "I need to." This is why, with most crossover events, I'll only buy the core series, period. DC's recent Flashpoint being a good example.

Of course, that series was rendered almost incomprehensible unless you read the 14 (Yes, FOURTEEN) limited series that tied into the story. It's ridiculous, annoying and alienating to new readers, so can we stop that crap right now? Please?

So, I buy what I like...I also, long ago, realized that no comic published after 1985 is ever going to be worth any sort of spectacular amount of money. So, the "collectability factor" is nil for me, other than in the "I've followed this character for years, and enjoy the stories" sense.

So, DC marketing, no matter what you do, I won't be buying all this stuff. I will buy what's interesting. I will buy the new versions of the series I was already following, and...that's it. So, last week, DC released fifteen titles, and of those fifteen, I bought three.

Action Comics #1 $3.99

Variant cover by JIM LEE and SCOTT WILLIAMS

The one and only Grant Morrison (ALL-STAR SUPERMAN) returns to Superman, joined by sensational artist Rags Morales (IDENTITY CRISIS), to bring you tales of The Man of Steel unlike any you've ever read! This extra-sized debut issue is the cornerstone of the entire DC Universe!

This was a book that the reboot actually did inspire me to pick up. I've never been a huge Superman fan, but I want to be. I want someone to write truly inspiring and interesting stories for the greatest of all comic book icons. The sad fact is, outside of a few shining moments, no one has been able to consistently do that for years. It's a crime.

I have to admit, Grant Morrison is very, very hit-or-miss with me. Like any other writer, he has strong material, and poor material. The problem with Morrison is that, when he misses, the whole thing becomes pretty much incomprehensible (See: Final Crisis). I was not as enamored with his All-Star Superman as the rest of the known universe seemed to be, and, frankly, what I did like about that book, the sheer silver-age whimsy of it, isn't on display here.

What Grant is obviously doing is heading straight for the golden age origins of Superman, and, hell, that's appropriate, it is a reboot, after all. this is another of the books that takes place "five years ago" (or thereabouts), but I don;t think Morrison, or the editors, actually tell us that at any point here. That's annoying. One of the major indicated goals here was to make DC comics new-reader-friendly, and when you have a "contemporary" Superman title coming out within weeks, and the character is sporting completely different outfits in each book....You should maybe point that out. Geoff Johns did so in Justice League #1.

The core of Morrison's hook for Superman, here, is...back to the golden age roots as a social crusader and force against the status quo of financial and status inequality. It's supported by Simon and Schuster's original books, and it certainly plays to current events in America. It's a completely valid and rather smart way to try to re-assess and reset the character. The trouble is, I felt it was a bit too self-aware.

Comic books certainly aren't supposed to be subtle forms of art, but I feel like Morrison could've dialed it back a notch. When Superman is holding an investment banker over his head, threatening to toss him off a building, railing about his privileged lifestyle, and forcing him to admit his exploitation, I was taken out of the story a bit. It is in character, but it's also just rather "throw the whole can of paint at the wall" relevance. We get it, Grant, we really do. You don't have to spell it out.

That aside, what we have here is a highly energized Superman story that's surprising in how it re-casts the usual suspects. Clark works at a rival newspaper from Lois and Jimmy, the costume (obviously) is evolving. I'm certain by the end of this first arc, we'll have Clark working at the Daily Planet, in some sort of romantic tension with Lois, and generally much closer to the status quo, as we knew it. So, I guess my worry is that this first arc may end up feeling like some kind of long-form Elseworlds tale.

Detective Comics #1 $2.99
Written by TONY S. DANIEL

DC's flagship title is relaunched for the first time ever, with new Batman adventures from acclaimed writer/ artist Tony S. Daniel!

A killer called The Gotham Ripper is on the loose on Batman's home turf – leading The Dark Knight on a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Unlike Action Comics, the Batman titles have really changed very, very little. They, like the Green Lantern titles, apparently received a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" pass from DC editorial. The only signifigant change was bringing Bruce Wayne back to the status as the one-and-only Batman. Which, I have to admit, I prefer.

Tony Daniel was on Batman before the restart, and now he's on Detective Comics. I know a lot of people were not fond of Daniel on Batman, but I felt like he was cranking out solid, if not remarkable, Batman tales, and doing it on deadline. You could rely on Daniel's Batman getting to you in a timely manner.

Well, he certainly upped the stakes with this Detective relaunch. The story is downright disturbing and, at times, gross. It's also got a hell of a cliffhanger that may mean a drastically different status quo for the Joker. Now, if that will stick, or not, is up in the air.

Daniel will likely be over shadowed by Scott Snyder, who was writing Detective Comics, but is now on Batman. Frankly, Snyder's last Detective arc, exploring Commissioner Gordon's psychopathic son, was one of the best Batman stories I've read in a long while. Daniel just hasn't shown us that kind of work, yet.

It's clean, solid storytelling, neither fantastic or awful. Sometimes that's fine.

Men of War #1 $3.99

On the ground and on the front lines, a young, headstrong soldier known as Joe Rock assumes command of Easy Company – a team of ex-military men turned contractors. Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCU's Super-Villains? Find out in this explosive new series from Ivan Brandon (Viking, DOC SAVAGE) and Tom Derenick (JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA)!

I love it when one of the majors really comes out swinging with a non-superhero book.  One of my most anticipated "New 52" titles is All-Star Western, and not just because it's carrying on from my now-cancelled, beloved Jonah Hex, which was the most consistently good book DC had (Same writers, so...I am expecting the quality to continue).

I'm also a fan of the old WWII-era war comic Sgt. Rock. Well, the lead feature in Men of War is about Joseph Rock, Sgt. Frank Rock's grandson, and (bit of a spoiler, here) Joseph is a Sergeant by the end of this issue. I had hoped for a pure military comic, but this title is firmly within the DC Universe, and super-powered beings are part and parcel of what this unit deals with.

I was on the fence about this one, until I spoke with a few people who thought it was very good, so I thought I'd throw my $4 out there, and take a chance. I'm glad I did.

I think this could develop into a really solid "average joe" viewpoint on the world of DC. We have soldiers trying to hold it together as, hell...GODS fly over their heads, smashing the ground into gravel. I was also really happy to see that this title will apparently feature back-up military stories. The first issue featured a Navy Seal team trying to deal with adversaries using human shields. I think back-up stores really need to make a come-back...but I'd also like to see this title kept to $2.99, rather than $3.99.  So, po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Also...what a striking cover. Clean, simple, but also very evocative. Well done.

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