The DC Comics 52 Re-Launch: Week 3 Capsule Reviews
The third week of DC’s “All New” 52 relaunch/reboot continues the trend of these first issues mostly being prologues and the reader left without a clear idea where the direction is going, with a suitable introduction for new readers being entirely optional. (The round-up for the first two weeks of relaunch reviews is here.)
There’s a clear “if you get one book this week” winner in week three and that winner is Wonder Woman #1.
I’m not going to lie, I had a bad case of cognitive dissonance when I first read that Brian Azzarello was taking over Wonder Woman and figured it was either going to be great or very, very wrong. Turns out it was great (and very, very wrong was saved for Catwoman #1). What we have here, isn’t so much a full-on horror take, as Azzarello was saying in interviews, but more a nice dark fantasy. There’s a conspiracy amongst the Gods. A mortal pawn is in play. Diana (that would be Wonder Woman to the initiated) is thrust into the middle of the fray. You’ve got just enough going on to get a sense of where it’s going and still be in the middle of the action.
As an aside, I’d also venture to say this isn’t as radical a departure from Wonder Woman as it’s been made out to be. Games of the Gods has always been a theme of Wonder Woman and was a key focus for the two runs I’ve especially liked: The Perez reboot and the more recent Rucka run on the title. Rucka also went a little dark for part of his run. This is a tweaked Wonder Woman, but I’m not seeing anything out of bounds from previous takes on the character. The biggest difference is a bit more of a frenetic pacing… at least for the first issue.
Your next best book, and the only one I’m put above the “eh… it was there” category is Batman #1. This is Scott Snyder moving over from Detective and joining Greg Capullo. Capullo, as you might guess, fits in. Alas, this is really just an introduction to the cast. There does seem to be an effort across the Batman books to lighten Batman up a little, in terms of being more hopeful for the future, but that’s about all a longtime reader is going to get out of this. Good for a new reader, though.
Going down to the “OK, it’s there, it’s decent, but I’m not moved” category.
DC Universe Presents #1 (which is Deadman) is another issue that mostly introduces you to the slight tweaks to the Deadman character. It ends up feeling more than a bit like Quantum Leap as now Boston Brand is sent to possess people and guide them through problems in their lives. I’m sure this has NOTHING to do with Deadman being developed for television. It has promise, but I would commit before seeing where issue 2 takes it.
Supergirl #1 is little more than one big fight scene and an internal monologue. It’s done well enough, but all set up as Supergirl arrives on Earth and is immediately attacked. Call me when the plot and direction emerge.
Blue Beetle #1 is a really unnecessary comic. It’s by no means a bad comic, but this is just a retelling of the not-that-old previous reboot of Blue Beetle with the references to the older incarnations of Blue Beetle removed and the scarab established as a menace from the get-go. The first series told the same story better, so go to your library (the ALA regarded the last version highly, so you can probably get copies), read the last series and come back after the origin is over to re-assess.
Captain Atom #1 is probably a triumph for JT Krul, in that it’s sort of OK. It doesn’t strike me as a Captain Atom comic, though. You’ve heard the Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen losing his humanity buzz about it. Yeah, that’s there, but I didn’t find it quite so pronounced. I did, on the other hand, think this read a lot more like a Firestorm comic, minus the second personality in Firestorm’s head. And it’s too bad. I frequently like Captain Atom comics.
Birds of Prey #1 gives a very quick set-up, with the newly walking Batgirl leaving. I have ZERO idea why the Black Canary is accused of murder. (Was this from the old series or is this new?) I have no idea who this Starling character is. We just know why Babs Gordon left. And then we jump headfirst into a new plot. Probably not the first issue for a new reader. It’s OK and moves fast, but didn’t leave a strong impression on me.
Legion of Super Heroes #1 isn’t a great jumping on point. This is one of the books that was barely touched by Flashpoint – mostly they’re just having trouble travelling through time because of Flashpoint. Yeah. Something in the past just changed the past. Thank you, editorial mandate. That makes very little sense.
Anyway, it isn’t completely clear what’s going on with why some of the Legionnaires are off in the Legion Lost book, but this is picking up where the old Legion of Superheroes left off. If you want to jump on Legion, you really want to go back and start with the beginning of the Levitz run, not here. I do like Legion of Super Heroes, but there’s no reason this should be a #1. If you were reading it before Flashpoint, it’s mostly the same.
Green Lantern Corps #1 is another book that’s mostly the same as before. Guy Gardner and John Stewart are contemplating whether or not they really have lives outside the Corps. There’s a murderous alien causing trouble. Another book that’s a bit more graphic in its violence than you might expect (this is bordering on a trope for the relaunch), but that’s a matter of taste. Competent book, didn’t wow me, but also didn’t disappoint me.
And then there are a couple books that might just offend you.
I went into detail about the rape fantasy aspects of Catwoman #1 on a separate page. This is a “mature” book (insert joke here) that flaunts sexuality and violence. Winnick is going straight back to the ex-prostitute model Frank Miller established in Batman Year One and running with it. Catwoman is clearly a thief in this take, and one prone to fits of violent rage as she encounters what I gather was her former pimp. This book could have been a lot better if they hadn’t tried to go for maximum shock value with a “keep the masks” on sex scene with Batman that just really didn’t work with the Batman character. On the other hand, it looks like sex with Batman is supposed to be the whole point of the first arc. The first issue is named after the… encounter. The next issue is supposed to be called “The Morning After.” They’re pretty up front about what they’re doing. Shock value is the name of the game here, as it also was in Detective Comics and with our last entry for the week.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 feels like they’re trying to give the cast of an 80s R-rated teen-demographic comedy (say, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or maybe Bachelor Party) and put superheroes in it. This is energy blasts and dick jokes. If you want super heroes and dick jokes, I think you’d be much better off with The Boys over at Dynamite, though that series has a more serious core. If you’re a big fan of Two and a Half Men, you might be the target demographic for this. It is what it is.
Unfortunately, instead of creating a new super heroine to be the Space Bimbo, they rebooted (yes, that’s a pun) Starfire from New Teens Titans. The new Starfire really can’t tell humans apart. Yes, the old “all <random ethnicity> look alike to me> line. She doesn’t have much by way of a long term memory, so she doesn’t remember her time with the Titans or dating Nightwing. She likes to have sex and with whoever’s handy, since she has no emotional attachment. So when I say Space Bimbo, I really mean Space Bimbo.
If you were a fan of the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get mad about this book. It’s a real hatchet-job on the character and it seems to only be there for shock effect. If there’s a compelling reason to use Starfire and not creative a new character to fit this very specific role, I haven’t heard it.
As a low-brow comedy in roughly the Two and a Half vein, there are a couple jokes that work and a couple that don’t. It’s vaguely alright for what it is, but be aware what it is when you pick it up. This wasn’t advertised as a comedy and that’s what it’s trying to be.
Three weeks into the reboot, I’d say DC has raised the floor. While I haven’t been knocked out by very many books, there are less absolute clunkers, and as offensive as they may have been with a couple books this week, *for what they were trying to be*, Catwoman and Red Hood weren’t poorly crafted. Feel free to question the editorial judgement all you want, though.