The New 52 Review Revue: Week One, Part 2

I know I said "come back tomorrow, and that it was two or three days ago, but yesterday I finally got un-evacuated and am living in my home again. This meant a lot of cleaning, and grocery shopping, and general chaos. Plus a They Might Be Giants concert.

At any rate, since the new issues come out today and you'll be hearing more from me soon, let's jump right into the last of last week's titles.

Hawk & Dove #1 - **1/2

Written by Sterling Gates; Art by Rob Liefeld and Matt Yackey

First of all: “Nobody likes zombies anymore”? That sounds like a shot across the bow of Robert Kirkman, Rob Liefeld's collaborator on Image's much-hyped The Infinite. Well played, Mr. Gates...well played.

But seriously, folks, Hawk & Dove's biggest liability isn't Rob Liefeld's art, as many would have you believe. It's that someone—either DC or Gates or both—apparently couldn't bear to part with ANYTHING from the characters' histories and so in spite of a lengthy and somewhat sloppy chunk of exposition in the middle of the issue, it seems like it would be the hardest for new readers to jump into. In one issue, they reference the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Brightest Day and baffle the reader with the question of how all of this could have happened to Hank, who appears to be much younger than previously established. This makes sense, given that Hawk & Dove is being promoted as one of DC's “Young Justice” line of titles but at the same time it makes all that history pretty daunting. Maybe we'll find that the avatar of war has a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder after having the most harrowing five years anybody's ever experienced.

Alexander Quirk, the villain who seems to be pulling all the strings in this series, is an interesting guy but seems better-suited to the Animal Man/Swamp Thing corner of the DCU than the part where all the teenagers hang out.

Oh, and just in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the bad guys (with a little help from Hawk and Dove) crash a hijacked plane into the Washington Monument.

Justice League International #1 - *****

Written by Dan Jurgens; art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan

Probably the title I personally looked the most forward to, Justice League International picks up the adventures of Booster Gold by Dan Jurgens—but quietly sweeps most of the character's recent backstory under the rug. While an interaction between Guy Gardner and Batman seems to suggest that at least some of Booster's recent adventures did occur, to the world these characters have never been a team before and Booster is “Not Green Lantern—that guy from the beer commercial.”

That's not a complaint, though; just an observation. Jurgens handles the challenges of reintroducing these characters well, hinting that some of them have some semblance of a backstory but never succumbing to the temptation to over-clarify. Did Ted Kord ever exist? Dan DiDio says no, but the comics aren't saying. Will Rip Hunter, Booster's son, still be the A #1 Time Master on the planet? Who knows?

But Guy is still angry and ranting; Batman is still a bit of a control freak and Booster is balancing the serious business of saving the world with a need to manage his image. It is what the relaunch was meant to be—not a full reboot, but a boiling down of each character to their essence, allowing them to be accessible to as wide an audience as possible and offering new storytelling possibilities along the way. “Who is Rip's mother?” has been replaced with “Will Booster hook up with Godiva?” and while I can understand the frustration some readers feel over that kind of change, I don't feel it myself.

Introducing wild cards like Godiva and the August General-In-Iron make the title unpredictable in a way that you wouldn't expect for Jurgens's second tour on a Justice League book featuring Guy, Fire, Ice and Booster. Even as a veteran writer, he's taken the relaunch and its challenges seriously and met them head-on with what feels like absolute success.

Aaron Lopresti, who blew the doors of Justice League: Generation Lost last year, turns in a capable and attractive first issue. He still doesn't appear to be firing on all cylinders in terms of some of the costume redesigns, but for the most part it isn't distracting and the fluidity of motion in his storytelling is second to very few.

All in all, probably my favorite book of the relaunch...but, yes, I'm biased.

See a conversation between myself and Dan Jurgens about this issue at The Outhouse, and check out the story I ran here this weekend talking about some of the issues surrounding the relaunch.

Men of War #1 - ***

Written by Ivan Brandon and Jonathan Vankin; art by Tom Derenick and Phil Winslade

While I can appreciate the craft of this book and respect what they're trying to do, this was probably my personal least-favorite read of the week, in terms of sheer entertainment value. That might serve to pigeonhole me as too much of a superhero fan, but we all have our crosses to bear.

Revolving around the grandson of the Sgt. Rock we all know and love, he's a guy who's more comfortable as a face in the crowd than he would be as an officer, and so he's self-destructive. It's a fascinating psychology to explore, and one that's particularly interesting given that mostly what you see in militar families (the way they're depicted in the media, not necessarily in life) is that they're profoundly driven for the next promotion.

Due to the events of this issue, though, we won't get much of a chance to explore that aspect of his psychology—or if we do, it'll be buried in other issues.

The solicitations seem to suggest that Easy Company is a group of ex-military men working under contract, presumably like a less evil Blackwater-type firm. There's really nothing to support that in the narrative, though, as it seems to jump right from his C.O. saying, “I've got a proposal for you...” to the chopper.

The issue plods along for me, with the only real bright spot being the inspired decision to provide a key to the slang for the non-weapons-savvy and the backup feature really steals the spotlight with some truly terrific art from Phil Winslade. If the features were reversed I actually might have more of an attraction to this book, but as it stands I just think I'm not the target demographic.

OMAC #1 - ***1/2

Written by Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen; Art by Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish

Considering all the talk of looking to the future, OMAC is certainly the most self-consciously backward-facing title of the lot. Dan DiDio, champion of the relaunch and the new DCU, has assembled a comic here that's a pretty conscious homage to Jack Kirby's '70s work for DC. But does it work?

Not as well as Kirby's own work, certainly—but better than about 90% of the people who try to reproduce his sensibilities. It had an element of danger, an element of the fantastic and something about the way Giffen rendered the characters made creatures like Dubbilex and OMAC (played here as a high-tech Hulk, basically, complete with a semiconscious alter-ego who wakes after the damage is done) seem somehow less silly. It's not a classic, but it's a winner.

Static Shock #1 - ****

Written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum; art by Scott McDaniel, Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau L. Underwood

If you were paying by the word, this book would be the most expensive title o the week, instead of Men of War and Action Comics. With pages that look like something out of a Giffen/DeMatteis title, Static Shock needs to deliver a lot of exposition in the first issue. Much like Hawk & Dove, there's a lot people don't know and that exposition doesn't always “sing.” Static himself seems like kind of a jerk from his arrogant narration, which makes for an odd first impression.

Unlike Hawk & Dove, though, it's not backstory that feels like it's loaded with history and implications. This title feels like a fresh start and the backstory serves mostly to set the stage for a new title, instead of performing cleanup. I was surprised a bit by how much I liked this book, and am looking forward to seeing where the character and the concepts go. I've always liked McDaniel's fluid, energetic layouts and, like on Nightwing, his style serves this character well.

Swamp Thing #1 - ****

Written by Scott Snyder; art by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbarin

The only thing keeping this from being a five-star review is the fact that it's a lot of setup and not a lot of focus on telling a self-contained story within the first issue. Like some of the others above, Swamp Thing has had a tough go of it in terms of trying to establish the character for the new title and presumably new readers, but a cameo from Superman doesn't lend very much to the title and you don't actually see the title character until the final page. The issue follows Alec Holland, and is a fascinating study of who he is and where he is now...but the conflict itself seems like something more connected to “The Red”--someting that should belong in Animal Man—than The Green. And given that Holland was hard to find and hesitant to help, one wonders why Superman wouldn't have just gone to Animal Man, who is easy to find and has a publicly-known secret identity.

Still, the art is terrific (Superman's armor looks good here, albeit less armor-like) and the pacing and scripting make for a great read. My only real question is the logic, and I guess you can't get too hung up on that in superhero comics.