With only a day left to go before the next round of DC's New 52 releases hit the stands (and whatever it is they hit at Comixology, too!), I'm wrapping up my look back at last week's titles to see what really worked and not. I'm particularly struck by the fact that in the following seven were three titles (Grifter, Red Lanterns and Suicide Squad) I fully intended to dislike, and that ultimately all three of them foiled my plans, to varying degrees.
Grifter #1 - ****
Written by Nathan Edmonson; art by CAFU
One of the few WildStorm characters to get their own titles after the big merge of the DC Universe, WildStorm and the DC-owned parts of Vertigo came together this month, Grifter is a character I'd never really gotten a feel for in the past. Throughout various different iterations of WildC.A.T.S. That featured wildly differing levels of quality and lifespans, the character always struck me as simply the Batman/Wolverine of the group. His appearance was shorthand for the presence of the team in a crossover story, but in reality he was too “badass” and too much of a “lone wolf” to really play well with others.
Luckily, the version of Grifter introduced to the DC Universe is nothing like that. Is he badass? Yes. He is, in fact, one of two characters this week who, in spite of having neither immortality nor any substantial amount of invulnerability, threw himself out of a moving aircraft to take out an enemy. The other, of course, was Deathstroke, which puts Grifter in pretty solid company as far as gun-toting, masked maniacs go.
That said, Grifter's story is smarter and quieter than Deathstroke's for the most part, dealing in potential psychosis, lost time, evil aliens that only he can see and close connections to any number of characters poised to make his life harder in the coming months (a brother in the military whose job it is to take Grifter down, and a scorned lover who appears to be a cop). All of this combines with crip, crackling art from CAFU, who if solicitations are to believed won't be on the title for long. That's a shame, but the writing is strong enough to bring me back regardless.
Written by Fabian Nicieza; art by Pete Woods
Fabian Nicieza told me in a podcast interview last week that “Lost” didn't refer to just a physical location in space and time, but that it described the whole feeling of the Legionnaires who star in this book. Shunted back in time to the 21st Century from their home 1,000 years in the future, six Legion members arrive to find their time machine inoperable and the villain they came to stop already successful in spreading a deadly pathogen that alters human DNA and changes those infected into something...else.
A couple of Legionnaires appear to be infected in the early pages of the story—something that may pay off later, but which is never substantially followed up on in this first issue, which is already packed to the gills with plot.
In the apparent absence of Time Master Rip Hunter, and “The Flashpoing Breakwall” making it impossible for them to use their rings to contact the rest of the Legion at home, the team (small by Legion standards) seems all alone, strangers in a strange land, and things will only get worse once it becomes clear to the small town that just got half-blown-up and significantly infected by the plague that these characters are directly tied to the villain who did it. That promise alone is enough to keep me reading at least through the first arc, but terrific Pete Woods art seals the deal.
Written by Eric Wallace; art by Gianluca Gugliotta and Wayne Faucher
I guess I should have saved the adjective “terrific” for this book instead of Legion Lost, but I wasn't thinking. Anyway, this is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable books of the relaunch...and it's not just me saying that. Everywhere I look, readers and critics are lavishing Mister Terrific with praise, positioning what many thought would be a failure to be one of the great success stories of the New 52.
This is a smart, sexy book with a lot of potential and built-in drama as Karen (Formerly Known As Power Girl) Starr turns up in the first issue as a potential love interest for Michael Holt/Mr. Terrific, who may be the world's third-smartest man but is totally oblivious to the feelings that one of his top staffers and best friends have for him. Karen sees it, though, which should set up some interesting character dynamics when and if he makes a move on her.
And, oh yeah, he's a superhero, too. It's been ages since I could get this excited about the personal lives of the heroes, and this book reminds you why it's good when these characters have believable, accessible and interesting personal lives. It's actually Michael Holt, not Mister Terrific, who is targeted by villains in this issue—but not at all in the way you'd expect.
Written by Peter Milligan; art by Ed Benes and Rob Hunter
Not the best book of the week by a long stretch, but Milligan's thoughtful take on Atrocitus imbues the character (and therefore this title) with a sense of personality and urgency that I've found lacking throughout Geoff Johns's dealings with him in Green Lantern. That's unfair to Johns, of course, since he's only dealt with Atrocitus as a villain (and usually one of many), but anytime anyone can put one up on Johns it's worth mentioning as a real merit badge to the writer in question.
The problem with this book, really, is the pacing. While slowing it down and keeping the chaos and violence to a minimum was good for Atrocitus as a character, it seems incongruous with not only him but the entire concept of the Red Lanterns. By issue's end, they've set him up with a new mission, a new agenda and an unfamiliar problem: Teammates who see his ambivalence and may not take him as seriously as they have in the past. Will this hurt him as he sets out to hunt bad guys for fun and vengeance a la The Punisher or The Spectre? It seems that, not the pursuit of any stated agenda, will have to be the first order of business in this title.
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; art by Fernando Dagnino
For those of us who remember Mitch Shelly fondly from Abnett and Lanning's run on the character in the '90s (announed, along with Chase, to be made available in December as a single-edition collection), seeing that creative team return to their creation for the New 52 was a little bit of calm in the choppy waters of expectation. This new Resurrection Man doesn't disappoint, offering familiarity bundled with the kind of easy access that allows new readers to jump on, and suggesting that we may see one or two familiar faces from the DC Universe pop up in the book soon (along with, you know, The Body Doubles, who are going to be hunting him starting in #2).
It's a heady, high-concept romp that's unafraid to have a little fun with treating Mitch terribly. It also sets the stakes high, making it clear that those chasing Mitch down have little regard for human life and that everyone around him is expendable as long as he does what they want.
Suicide Squad #1 - ***
Written by Adam Glass; art by Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty and Scott Beatty
As a fan neither of Harley Quinn nor the recently departed Gail Simone take on the Secret Six, this new Suicide Squad was a bit of an oddity for me. I didn't go in with the grudge against it or the agenda that many new readers did, but it still had little appeal for me beyond just being another new #1. Twenty pages later, I'm still ambivalent about whether or not I'll pick the title up for more than a single arc, but there wasn't one thing I could really hang that ambivalence on. The twist at the end was one you could see coming from about three pages in if you're a fan of a certain kind of hard-boiled detective or secret-agent fiction, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with that it did take a little bit of the wind out of its own sails.
It also somewhat diminished the feeling of danger and consequences that Glass was working to build up, although that as it turned out was something that was quite real and shouldn't be ignored. King Shark was great, and even Harley got in one line (the one DC had been using on teasers for the series) that made me smirk a little, but I kept waiting for something to take this story to the next level, and it never came.
Written by Scott Lobdell; art by R.B. Silva and Rob Lean
Like many who read this admittedly enjoyable book, much of my attention and excitement was captivated not by Superboy, our angry and alienated lead who spends most of the issue in a glass tube...but by the scientist who champions his cause and fights to keep him alive when his apparent usefulness is worn out and the good people at Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. want to flush him. Her actual identity is never revealed on-panel, but Internet rumors seem to substantiate the theory I've already formulated in my head. If correct, this girl is no stranger to either Scott Lobdell...or teenagers being forced by the government to live in glass tubes until they're wanted.
At any rate, Superboy is eventually released to set up a cliffhanger that looks to pay off in Lobdell's other DC relaunch title, Teen Titans. Having that happen makes sense, but feels like too much, too soon when it would have been nice to establish Superboy as a character and his own group of supporting characters before heading off into the uncertain waters of superhero-teaminess. It seems like a lost opportunity, but one never does know what Lobdell has planned and there was more than enough good stuff here to bring me back for more.
Plus, if Superboy is in a tube numbered with a “2,” who was in #1? It's a weighty question, and one that seems like it may be answered based on the solicitation for December's Superboy #4, which says that the two foes he faces in that issue may have more in common with him than he knows. Is it too early for Match? Black Zero? Superboy-Prime?!
I'll hang around to find out who's in tube #13.