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DC’s 52 Relaunch: Week 4 Capsule Reviews and Guidance

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The Fourth and Final Week of the New DC/ DC Nu 52 relaunch of their line of books is here and, as usual, I’m here with some capsule reviews and guidance on what you should be checking out.  Look at the capsules for the first two weeks here.  And the third week here.

Week 4 had more stinkers in it, but also had a couple pleasant surprises in it.

Recommended pick-ups.

I, Vampire #1 is probably my pick of the week.  It might be a 1a/1b situation, too.  This is a book where everyone saw the Twilight-looking cover at the book’s announcement and groaned.  Here’s the deal: ignore that cover.  I have no doubts editorial asked for a teen-looking skanky vampire cover, but just as all the Twilight references PR was dropping around Morrison’s take on Superman turned out to be naught but smoke, this cover is also very much not reflective of the interior.

I, Vampire is not the most original premise in the world.  Vampire doesn’t want to suck human blood.  His girl does.  War ensues.  It’s a relaunch of a minor early 80s series.  Your “no, sunlight doesn’t kill vampires – that’s just an urban legend” trope is even there, along with its sister trope of tweaking the vampire powers to make this post-modern, etc., etc.

The thing is, for having all the standard tropes, this was really well done.  The characters have distinct voices.   The dialogue works.  Andrea Sorrentino looks a LOT like Jae Lee with very, very moody artwork.  These vampires are monsters.  There’s a werewolf-like image that’s particularly creepy.  The Marcelo Maiolo muted color palette works into the pencils and the atmosphere.  And really, that’s what makes this book: it has atmosphere that you just don’t see very often.  Creators in sync on a vision.

When I saw Fialkov’s name attached to this, I thought there was a chance it could be good.  It is.

Two caveats:  the story structure of this issue is constantly flashing forward and backwards in time.  It isn’t announced and takes a few pages to catch on to what’s the present and what’s the past.  Someone less experienced reading comics could get a little confused about that.  Secondly, it’s made clear that this takes place in the world that Superman and the Green Lanterns inhabit.  All bets are off when (I don’t think we’re talking if) superheroes enter the book.  They might pull it off, but it could change the tone.  So far, so good.

All-Star Western #1 was the inverse of I, Vampire in my expectations.  I loved its previous incarnation as Jonah Hex, but was afraid the format change was going to mess it up.  The format isn’t quite as tweaked as I was afraid of.  Jonah Hex, the series, frequently was occasionally narrated by a secondary character.  In All-Star Western, that character is Dr. Amadeus Arkham (yes, get ready for geeky Batman references).  Hex is in Gotham City and hooks up with Dr. Arkham as the hunt a serial killer with Jack the Ripper overtones and likely stumble upon a conspiracy.

What we have, thus far, is Jonah Hex with a more erudite narration voice.  Slight tweak in that Hex is being his ornery self in the city.  Slight tweak in that this is more of a mystery with a bit of the Victorian around the edges.  A slightly larger tweak in that you’ve got all these historical Batman references floating around (Gotham City, Arkham, the Cobblepot family, etc.).  While I’m not sure the last tweak doesn’t take me out of the narrative just a hair, it ends up being a slight more sophisticated book for the trouble as it moves away from western to historical mystery with a bad ass cowboy playing detective.

The art by Moritat is lovely.  I have mixed feelings about the overly sepia-tone coloring scheme.  Yes, I get they’re going for the look of ~1880s photographs, but this was more of “a look,” than “atmosphere,” at least for me.

Still, this is fine book.

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 wasn’t to the level of I, Vampire or All-Star Western, but I think I’ll put this one just over the line from promising to worth it.  In the previous version of this series, the David Finch art was lovely, but forget about reading it.  There was some confusion about when Paul Jenkins got installed as writer and at what level his writing contributions were.  I’d say, at minimum, Jenkins has some plot input.  If he doesn’t, he’s doing an excellent job of papering over what was weak writing before.

Nothing ground breaking here.  Internal affairs looking into if Batman’s being aided by people inside the department and who’s bankrolling him.  A mysterious new potential love interest.  Another riot in Arkham Asylum. (Gee, Arkham riots in Detective and in Dark Night – both at relaunch – a little more variety from editorial, please?)

Just a nice Batman book that sets a little more in motion off the bat (pun intended) than the others.  Not having the Damien character and all the Morrison 50s retro goofiness is also a major plus in my book.

Close but not quite

There’s a lot I like about Superman #1.  There’s a whole sub-story of the Daily Planet getting bought by a larger media corporation and integrating with new media and television.  Clark Kent is in the camp of sticking with the power of print, Lois Lane is executive producer of the TV and VP of new media.  It’s a fairly well thought out subplot, and you figure with Morgan Edge having bought the Planet, it will come to the forefront in time.  This is really what’s going on in modern journalism.

There’s a device of Superman’s fight with a monster being narrated by the newspaper article about it.  I like that device, if not the execution of it.

This wasn’t a great Superman issue, but I like all the character dynamics of cast and where that’s going.

The problem was clunky dialogue.  About everything third balloon didn’t work for me and that newspaper story narrating the battle just did not flow well.  If the scripting layer can get better, this could be a good one, but the scripting needs serious work.

Oh, and I hate, hate, hate that new costume.  Too metallic.  The story about the little kid thinking Superman was a Transformer?  I see why.  Blech.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 recaps an origin for Kyle Rayner (without referencing Parallax/Hal Jordan directly… which begs some questions about whether his meltdown/possession happened).  Sets the stage for what I gather is a rainbow team for multi-colored rings.  Looks like there may be an emphasis on Kyle using his cartoonist side for ring-slinging that isn’t always there.  An alright start, but not enough to convince me to jump on.

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