Yeah, I know this post is weeks late, and yeah, I know new comics are coming out today for several of these series I’m talking about here. I’ve been busy with other stuff and this fell by the wayside, but I don’t want to let it get too far behind, so this is a catch-up and reset post. Hopefully after this week I can get these done weekly and not fall behind. I flipped through a bunch of ones over the past few weeks just to see how they were, found some I like more than expected and had some fall down a bit in my estimation. The best remain the best, though, and looks like that’s not going to change as we’re solidly into the third issues of each series.
One thing I’ve noticed as I’m gone through to write these up is that I find myself almost never caring about the big bad or the major plotline of the arc. The parts that draw me in and keep me interested are the character interactions, the bits of dialogue between people, or the insights into the characters from their own or others points of view. I guess this means I’m not bothered by issues that other people are calling “slow” or “not enough forward action,” because usually they’re filled with the things I like. Instead, I find myself getting bored when the alien/mech big bad shows up in Action Comics or they talk about Darkseid in Justice League, or the suited men terrorize clone guy in The Flash, and I have to reread the book to remind myself what’s even going on with that. But I remember Clark chatting with his landlady or Green Lantern snarking at Batman or Barry realizing his mental potential. It’s not true across the board – Swamp Thing, Animal Man, All-Star Western, and Batwoman all have me intrigued by the big bad plot as well as the character stuff. I don’t know what that means in terms of my relationship with comics. Anyway. On the individual books. Clicking the thumbnails will bring up bigger images in lightboxes.
Justice League #1-2
I initially avoided the Justice League flagship series because I didn’t think seeing a whole bunch of established superheroes working together would be all that interesting to me, but after a few people mentioned how fun it was, I figured I’d take a peek, and gorram, were they right. What I didn’t realize is that this book starts right at the formation of the Justice League, so most of the characters are meeting each other for the first time, and those “who the heck is this guy” interactions are a whole lot of fun. First off we get Green Lantern swooping into a fight Batman’s having with a raggedy villain (while the cops chase both vigilante and villain) – “Batman? You’re REAL?” Green Lantern is pretty much an arrogant jackass, but in the most entertaining way as he mocks Batman’s lack of supernatural powers. Wait until he gets a load of Superman, though, who’s none-too-impressed with Lantern’s theatrics. The Flash shows up in #2 and has a great evading fight with Superman that lets both characters display their strengths. There’s not a lot of story so far beyond setting up these relationships (the villainous creatures are leaving mysterious boxes everywhere that explode and seem to lead to Darkseid), but it’s written with so much vigor and humor that I don’t care. Wonder Woman gets added to the mix next month, and I can’t wait to see how she’ll fit in with this testosterone-laden group.
Swamp Thing #3
Wow, I was already loving this book, and if anything, the third issue has upped the ante. We start off with a young boy in a hospital, carefully sequestered in a bubble because he’s allergic to chlorophyll – allergic to plant life itself. Meanwhile, Alec is trying to figure out what Abigail Arcane’s agenda is, and it turns out her family has close ties to the black, to the rot that would destroy the earth, a connection the boy in the hospital also has. Alec’s connection to the green (and over in Animal Man, Bud’s connection to the red, that is, animal life) are going to be needed to stop the rot from taking over. Things are building up so nicely in both these books that I don’t even care that they’re about to crossover, even though I initially said I didn’t want any crossovers. In this case, it totally makes sense. This time out art duties have been split between Yanick Paquette (who’s done the previous Swamp Thing issues in the New 52) and Victor Ibañez, with Ibañez taking care of all the parts with the boy in the hospital – drawing in bold, simple but effective lines – and Paquette continuing the dark and twisty vine-laden panels in the swamps. It works out well, and I can’t wait to see what issue #4 has in store.
Action Comics #3
This continues to be a great story, extremely well-written and balanced by Grant Morrison. The world is starting to turn on Superman as the news outlets led by Glenmorgan (the guy Supes held off a balcony in the first issue) brand him as a dangerous alien, while Clark continues to delve into tough stories. I love that Morrison is giving so much time to Clark and his struggles to be a great reporter…it’s clearly more than a cover for him – uncovering corruption and trying to alleviate suffering through his journalistic endeavors is just as important to him as the more obvious stuff he does as Superman. Here he can’t catch any breaks, though, as the police investigate his apartment for basically no provocation, Lois is right on his tail for all the good stories, and, oh, yeah, he’s having dreams about the destruction of Krypton by an entity that has Earth in its sights next. The art is suffering a little now; different panels of Clark don’t even look like the same person at times, but the writing is so solid I’ll forgive the rushed look of some of the art.
All-Star Western #2
I picked on the first issue of All-Star Western for the interminable psychoanalytic voiceover by Dr. Arkham, and that’s thankfully gone this issue, leaving just wonderfully bold-lined action scenes with Jonah Hex taking no prisoners from the cowled assailants who threaten, and more staid but still great depictions of Gotham’s secret controllers. I don’t know how much the story was actually advanced this issue, but I love the way it looks so much, and Hex’s scowl is the perfect fit for this art style and setting, that I greatly enjoyed it. I’m hoping we’ll get more details on the secret society and their plans soon to give this gorgeous comic a bit more weight.
Animal Man #3
It took me a few issues, but I am totally on the Animal Man train now. With Bud and Maxine full enclosed in the Red, the drawing takes on almost Plympton-esque level of surrealism, which spills over into the now-staid-looking normal life panels with Ellen and Cliff as three hunters (bad guys) go after them with increasing levels of distortion. They can take human form by eating people, but can’t hold it for long, and soon they’re spreading their bizarre shapes all over. The family scenes continue to work great, with a nice page of Cliff trying futilely to get Maxine’s zombie animals to stop bugging him and Ellen joins him to play his “disgusting” video game. It’s a great dynamic, and the intrusion of the hunters is a wonderful juxtaposition. Meanwhile, in the Red we learn that Bud isn’t fully an avatar of the animal, but that Maxine will be, and she’s got to step up soon despite her youth because a rot is threatening both the Red (animal) and the Green (plant) – presumably setting up a crossover with Swamp Thing. The story is coming together nicely, and the art has now managed to win me over as well. Great stuff.
I didn’t totally love Batwoman #2, which picks up with Kate and Bette beating up some guys in an apparently random encounter – not sure what it has to do with the kidnapping ghost, who shows up for one panel, a lovely spread (once again, the book is almost completely gorgeous spreads, which I liked, but your mileage may vary), and then disappears again. One truly brilliant use of the spread style is when Sawyer deconstructs a crime scene; Williams presents lots of information density in a very concise and attractive way. Of course, Batwoman was involved in the crime scene, but it’s kind of nice to see Sawyer’s perspective on what Batwoman is doing/has done. Batman is also continuing to pursue Batwoman for membership in his worldwide league of Bat-people (something I didn’t know existed, but at least it’s introduced a little better than everything in Batwoman #1), but she’s wary. But issue #3 picked up really nicely, starting off with Batwoman held underwater by the watery ghost, plagued with visions of her sister’s death (and implying her own guilt-impelled death wish) before she escapes and returns home, insistent that cousin Bette stop being a costumed crimefighter out of concern for her safety. The art in these parts is great, with the very different styles clashing as a costumed but unmasked Kate walks into the Bette’s room. Fight scenes are done beautifully, with Williams capturing the movement like a strobe light, jagged lines using space to indicate time. The art has been privileged over the story a bit in the first two issues, but with the third, the storytelling THROUGH the art is really starting to coalesce.
This one I didn’t pick up the first month either, though it was in my second-tier of “interested if something else goes south” books, and hence I picked it up in month 2, and really enjoyed it. The first issue is basically Supergirl landing on earth in a meteor but not knowing where she is or what’s going on – she thinks it’s a dream, even as a bunch of mechanized soldiers try to capture her and she fights them off with strength she didn’t know she had. There’s a lot of great moments as she starts gaining powers, especially the panel where she starts overhearing everything, including snippets of dialogue from other DC #1s (Nightwing, Birds of Prey, Aquaman). That’s a nice touch. The second issue has Superman show up and the two basically beat each other up for the whole issue. Yeah, not a lot of plot development there, but it is FUN. The art’s a little slapdash, but I like it.
The only non-DC book this time around (though I’m still working my way through the American Vampire trade – hopefully will have that finished before I do the next one of these). This series by John Layman and Rob Guillory and published by Image Comics is up to issue #27 or so, which came out a couple of weeks ago and the preview on Comixology intrigued me. A lot of times they have the first issue of a series for free or severely discounted, so I got #1 to check it out. Tony Chu is a police detective with a special psychic ability – he get psychic impressions from whatever he eats. So he’s mostly vegetarian to avoid seeing, like, the slaughter of the cow in the cheeseburger he’s eating. Anyway, on a routine case (in a non-routine place – apparently chicken is outlawed here and there are chicken speakeasies), he eats some soup and realizes the cook, who sliced a sliver of finger into the soup, is a serial killer. The book is quite macabre, but also really funny thanks to Chu’s smartass character. I liked it a lot, and if I get a chance at some cheap collected editions or something, I’ll definitely check out more.
Demon Knights #3
This continues to just be flat-out medieval fun. Less battle action in this one, more preparation for a coming attack, with Xanadu (who I just realized is the same character as in Justice League Dark) giving all her strength and many years of her life to create a magical shield over the village, and all the other disparate characters trying to figure out how to work together to get ready for the coming of the hordes. Lots of individual character moments here, two-on-two or two-on-three interactions that are mostly well-written, and drawn with a great level of detail. I love the varied color work here, as a lot of panels have slighlty different tints depending on where they are and which characters are foremost. There’s not a lot of depth, but it’s fast-paced and exciting to read, and sometimes that’s all I need.
The Flash #2
I was a little hard on The Flash #1 because I thought the writing was a little weak, especially toward the end, and it just didn’t hit me anything very special. This issue was a big step up for me, though. I’m still not totally on board with the cloning plot or whatever is going on there, which I assume actually going to become the big bad, but the part of the story that focused on Barry increasing his mental abilities to catch up with his physical speed was tremendous. Loved every second, every panel of it. And I also liked the flashback panels more this time around, with their watercolor-looking evocation of Barry’s past with Manuel, which should also tie into the main villain story before long. There’s a lot of promise here, and this issue realized it a lot more than the first one did as far as I’m concerned.
Justice League Dark #1-2
I skipped over this one initially for the same reason I skipped over the main Justice League title, but I figured I’d check it out this time, and it’s pretty solid. There’s a pretty great fight with big bad Sorceress overcoming the main Justice League heroes with her otherworldly magic – a step beyond the supernatural powers they have – hence requiring the formation of Justice League Dark, made up of more esoteric characters whose powers are a little more, well, weird. Deadman is here, with his ability to possess other people, and John Constantine with his demon summoning, and Shade with his reality-warping powers, plus magician Xatanna and fortune teller Madame Xanadu (though I’m not entirely sure whose side she’s on, even if she is doing most of the narrating). Interestingly, the second issue drops a lot of the mysterious tone of the first one and focuses on Deadman’s relationship with Dove (of Hawk and Dove, yeah, another crossover/backstory thing I’m not gonna get) – I actually quite liked the domestic break, though I’m sure things will get crazy again in the next issue. I just wish I knew a little bit more about what Sorceress is up to.
Wonder Woman #2
I’m still not sure how I feel about Wonder Woman, to be honest. I know people who love it, and there are certainly elements I like a lot – I like the bold drawing on the fight scenes, but the looser style on the more relaxed panels isn’t grabbing me. It looks a little unfinished/unpolished to me, and I haven’t decided whether I like that yet or not. The mythology continues to intrigue me, even as I have to readjust some of the things I know about Greek mythology to fit into DC Greek mythology. :) The modern girl thrown into the mix gets some of the best dialogue, but I also liked Wonder Woman’s clear intention to protect her rather than side with either Zeus or Hera in the feud they’re about to have over her. Little things like that are starting to reveal Diana’s character to me, and I like it. The whole thing just feels a little…light-weight to me somehow, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the art or the writing. I’m obviously still enjoying it, but we’ll see if it starts coming together for me a little more cohesively in upcoming months.
This issue kind of has three movements – one in which Batgirl tries to stop Mirror from blowing up a train with a bravado play that doesn’t quite work, one with police activity and Barbara talking with her father, and one where Batgirl and Nightwing alternately talk and beat each other up. I still really like Barbara Gordon’s narration, the most self-aware and jokey of the New 52 without ever losing sight of her very real trauma, but it starts to go off the rails a bit toward the end. The whole sequence with Nightwing doesn’t do much except establish back story that I’m not sure really matters and provide an opportunity for Barbara to have mood swings that will induce whiplash. But there are panels earlier where her self-doubting persona works really well, especially when she’s talking with her father and gives two versions of how the conversation could go. I love that stuff. More of that, please, and less of other superheroes popping in for no good reason.
I won’t say I was necessarily disappointed in the second issue of Batman, though it’s going to seem that way since it’s so much lower on my list than the first issue was – I still quite liked it, and Scott Snyder is quickly becoming one of my favorite comic writers. But I’m kind of getting distracted by the samey drawing, especially in the Bruce Wayne parts where all the male characters look the exact same. And some of the panels didn’t make sense to me spatially (especially when he was falling in the middle section). I do very much like the continued VO probing of Gotham itself and its nature, and the holographic link Batman has to the autopsy room is pretty cool. The end seemed really abrupt to me, though, and didn’t so much leave me wanting more as going “huh, where did that come from?” Hopefully we’ll find out next issue.
Birds of Prey #1-2
I’d heard conflicting reports on this one – both that it was breezy fun and really boring. I vote “breezy fun.” My only exposure to Birds of Prey is the short-lived TV series WB mounted in the early 2000s, which I remember enjoying and my comic-book-nerd friends hating. Heh. Anyway, in this take, Barbara Gordon is on the periphery but not really involved (she’s shown wheelchair-less and Dinah mentions her being Batgirl again, so there’s consistency with the New 52 Batgirl); the main characters are Dinah/Canary and Ev/Starling, and they add a third, Katana, in the second issue. Yeah, this is just fun. Not overwhelmingly good writing or art, but it’s fast-paced and the dynamic between the girls is enjoyable and mostly witty.
I hadn’t intended to pick up another Batman subsidiary, but I kind of went crazy checking out random stuff this week, and it turns out Dick Grayson’s post-Robin character intrigued me the most out of the Bat-books I looked at. I know next to nothing about this character except the old Batman TV show, which doesn’t go into any of Grayson’s back story at all in the episodes I’ve seen. Like the fact that he grew up in a circus as a trapeze artist. Circus stuff is cool. The art in this comic is cool. Grayson’s pretty cool. So I might keep reading this one full-time, even if the “Seiko Killer” pun on the cover of #2 was pretty painful. That’s pretty much the worst thing in these first two issues, so I think I can overlook it. Oh, also, I didn’t know that Grayson took over from Wayne as Batman for a time, which is mentioned early in the first issue. Someone should catch me up on that sometime.
I know, I said I wan’t going to keep reading this one. And I still may not, but I figured I’d check out the second issue just to see, and you know what, I liked it a good bit better. Still not as much as Action Comics, I think, but at least it didn’t alternately bore me and piss me off like the first issue did. Here Superman/Clark is a bit down in the dumps thanks to his perceived failures in the first issue, both in terms of public acceptance of his superhero help and Lois’s romantic interest. Then he gets attacked by something he can’t see, but it turns out everyone else can, and that fight scene, with Superman at first unable to see his assailant and then helped thanks to Lois’s crew’s video coverage, is pretty awesome. I also liked seeing a bit more of Clark and Lois’s relationship.
I didn’t care for this month’s Aquaman quite as much as last month’s, even though it definitely has its moments. Most of it is a big, not particularly coherent or visually interesting fight scene with the Trench monsters (who are still pretty scary-looking). What I did find interesting is that Aquaman apparently doesn’t bother keeping his identity a secret – when the police guy looks for him, he just answers the door in his state of undress and seems utterly unconcerned about admitting his identity, and he and his girlfriend call each other by name during the fight. I also quite enjoyed their dynamic, of a committed but unusual couple that avoids the awkward flirtiness or outright sexuality of some of the other titles.
Batman & Robin #1-3
Yes, another Batman title. Don’t blame me, it’s DC going for maximum overload on their hottest superhero. This one has an intriguing dynamic between Batman and the current Robin, who happens to be Batman’s son Damien. I didn’t know Batman had a son until I started reading the New 52, but apparently he does, and he’s an amoral killing machine. It’s actually getting better as the series goes on, I think, with issue #3 having some really nice moments with Damien and Alfred and some great fighting panels with Damien doing his worst. I might actually add this one to my normal rotation.
Detective Comics #1-3
I chose Batman over this of the straight Bat-books, and I still think that was the right decision, but I gotta say after checking this one out, there’s some pretty gruesome and macabre stuff in here, in a good way. The Dollmaker character is f-ed up, and I’m actually pretty curious to see where that plot goes (one of the few villains that really intrigues me out of the whole New 52, to be honest). I actually wish it were just him and not Joker…just about every Bat-thing I’ve seen as a casual fan has had Joker, and even though he’s extra psychotic here, I don’t care that much. I was pretty back and forth on issue #3, as well – the Dollmaker is still scary, but some of the dialogue is really bad, and Batman just running around being ineffective only goes so far. A few of the plot elements are still intriguing, but a lot of is just “gotcha” shocks.
Resurrection Man #3
Picking up right from the end of the previous issue, our hitwomen wonder why Resurrection Man isn’t resurrecting immediately, but it turns out he’s chatting with a shadowy demon thing in an empty void of eternity, who reveals there’s some kind of battle over his soul going on between heaven and hell – his constant resurrecting is throwing off their rhythm. He fights off the demon and resurrects, only to have to fight the hit girls again, showing off various new powers as he dies and resurrects yet again. There are still elements of this book I like, mostly the basic idea, though. In execution, it’s getting a little old, and this issue ends with a WTF panel that pretty much makes me ready to give up on it. Might give it one more issue, we’ll see.
DC Universe Presents: Deadman #1-2
DC Universe Presents is going to be a catch-all title for lesser DC characters to cycle through instead of getting their own books. The first miniseries is Deadman, an arrogant trapeze artist who dies but ends up cursed to jump from body to body until he can redeem himself from the bad things he did in this life. The “bad things” seem to be stuff like “behaved arrogantly” and “looked down on others”, but whatever. This purgatory is run by a blue alien goddess person, but what exactly her agenda is and how long Deadman is going to have to go before escaping her realm is unclear, which is not a good thing about the book. Some of the individual scenes are fun, like when he works his way from person to person in a crowded nightclub, trying not be detected by paranormal-aware bouncers. Aside from that, I prefer Deadman’s more mature portrayal (as in, not an angsty origin story) in Justice League Dark.
Flipped through the second issue of this just out of curiosity, and still probably won’t be reading it for real. At the end of the last issue, Voodoo had killed the male cop and taken his form – she goes straight from there to sleeping with the cop’s partner, which is awkward. There’s a nice fight scene with the partner figures it out and goes in after Voodoo all angry, but the art continues to be bland, and the ending is essentially the same as the end of the first book. Not terrible, but not great.
I, Vampire #2
Another “can it possibly be as bad as the first issue” flip-through, and the answer is no, it isn’t as bad, but that’s still not enough. This one is from Mary’s point of view, and has a bit more of the vampire rebellion in it, which cuts down on some of the emo-ness, and the art is still quite lovely, but this book is just…boring. Possibly the worst of all sins in a line-up of 52 competitors.
Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1-2
I’d heard some good things about this other book by Jeff Lemire (who also writes Animal Man), but I just don’t see it. Frankenstein’s monster is the head of a secret organization of superheroes made up of old monster movie characters like The Mummy and others that are made-up but in a similar vein, and they go to stop an invasion by thousands of giant monsters from another dimension. A flashback story to one character’s human life before transforming herself into a black lagoon-like creature is well-done, but most everything else just seems really messy, in both storytelling and art style. Could just be me – after all, the Animal Man art style is taking me some time to get used to, also, but I don’t like the story or character set-up here nearly enough to put up with it.
The Savage Hawkman #1-2
I had high hopes for a story about a superhero whose alter ego is a forensic archaeologist. How cool does that sound!? It’s not actually cool at all, the book I mean, which is probably the worst written of all the ones I’ve read. After a good opening when Hawkman drives out into the country to burn his costume and try to eschew his superhero identity, it just devolves into silliness and repetitiveness and…horrible writing. I gave it the second issue chance, and it’s just as bad. It’s a double shame because there’s some nice art in here, a painterly style that I haven’t seen in the other books.