And now...the last batch of New 52 reviews. Hard to believe that, even with everything else going on, so many of us managed to read and review 52 new comics this month...but look at it this way: most of them were pretty good! I'm probably getting about 40 this month and will do my best to write them all up.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 - ****
Written by Tony Bedard; art by Tyler Kirkham and Batt
Who would have thought that the covers featuring all the various Lantern Corps members fighting over their rings would be so literal?
Kyle Rayner, the most famous creation of Voodoo writer Ron Marz, stars in this stylish remake of the Alan Moore Superman tale “For the Man Who Has Every Ring.”
No, wait, that's not right.
Anyway, Kyle has apparently attracted the attention of one of each of the Lantern rings—even though the rings in question belong to other beings. They, predictably, are none too happy about this development, although some of them don't survive to find out that it's Kyle's fault. Well, fault might be a little strong since he doesn't know what's going on either.
The issue is beautifully drawn and well-paced, but new readers may find it a bit confusing because they spend a little time recapping Kyle's origin, but it's intercut with the tales of the rings that are taking off through space to find him, thus leaving anyone who doesn't know about GL's intact continuity to wonder how Kyle got a new costume and a comfort level with the ring by the end of a single issue. At first I thought this concern might be silly, but it was actually echoed by a real-live new reader over at Comic Book Resources.
At any rate, a strong book and one of the best, least-forced cliffhangers of the batch. I don't think a single book this month ended without a cliffhanger, so when I say you've got one of the best, that's high praise!
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov; art by Andrea Sorrentino
For a relaunch, this one seems to have kept basically all of I, Vampire's old history intact. Of course, since it's been 20 years since anybody read an I, Vampire story (other than Azzarello's fantastic Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality, of course), that probably doesn't matter much. It does make it feel a little bit like you're trying to catch a moving bus, but it's fine.
With horror stories it's important that you establish a world where the crazy stuff has already happened—and that's rarely a real barrier to understanding. After all, people can generally accept “there's a vampire war going on,” or “zombies are eating people all over the place.” The fact that we're expected to “get” that isn't anything too intimidating.
The story itself? Well, Sorrentino's art is beautiful; a bit like Jae Lee's work on Marvel's Dark Tower books, except somewhat more approachable and with cleaner, clearer lines. Fialkov is clearly just scratching the surface, informing the uninformed about who these characters are and lining up the premise that Mary's army may now find itself facing off against the superheroes—something that should pay off in spectacular fashion down the road. After all, as Fialkov said to me on the Panel Discussions podcast, Superman's heat vision is basically just concentrated solar energy—not exactly a vampire's best friend!
Written by Peter Milligan; art by Mikel Janin
I like Milligan, I love the premise, and the art of newly-DC-exclusive artist Mikel Janin was terrific here (although the superheroes looked a bit out of place in his Vertigo-inspired style)...but this was, unexpectedly, the least captivating of all of DC's “Dark” books for me. It wasn't bad by any stretch but given the high bar set by some of the Dark books, this one—ostensibly the flagship of the imprint—really disappointed with a disjointed story that felt very incomplete. Sure, almost all of the stories are “Part one of ____,” but in this case the issue just didn't feel like it was even a complete issue.
Characters on the cover of the book—like in Justice League itself—were left unintroduced, or appeared for a panel or two only to disappear. Ultimately I'm as much a supporter of the Justice League “franchise” having representatives of the main line in each book as anybody, but more pages were spent on Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg than on most of the actual members.
Written by Tony Daniel; art by Philip Tan
This is a jumping-on point for...well, for people who are aware of who Hawkman is, and who are willing to accept he's had adventures we'll never see, but who don't really know anything else much. As is kind of the status quo for the character, his backstory is kind of a mess. This time, though, it seems like it's actually kind of intentional, using his attempt at getting rid of the Nth metal as an opportunity to reintroduce Hawkman to the reader as a character with his own powers independent of his artifacts; it kind of reminds me of the Venom symbiote, actually.
That said, it's definitely a square-one story. Not necessarily an origin since, as stated, it' s been made clear that Carter has been Hawkman for a while--but a back-to-basics, everything-old-is-new approach that takes advantage of one of the tried-and-true tropes of superhero storytelling: the old "I'm done with this gig!" thing. All that's missing is the Hawkman costume in the garbage can.
That said, it's well-done and the "return" of Hawkman comes at that magic point in the story that would make it a great surprise if you didn't know he was Hawkman. In a movie, for instance, especially one where you went in without knowing what to expect, it would be a great moment for the music to swell--and the both Daniel and Tan really sell the moment.
Written by George P rez; art by George P rez and Jesus Merino
Yes, it's true--George P rez has written a very wordy issue. That doesn't make it slow, though, contrary to what you might have heard. Instead, I like to think that I got a lot of value for my $3 with an issue that is so filled with content. And if rumors are true, and he's to be replaced after his first arc by Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens? It's almost certain that the explicit narration won't go away, as both of those guys do it quite a bit.
At any rate, this is a huge upgrade from what came before, even if it's not perfect. Yes, the various Superman catch-phrases were clumsily forced into places where they largely didn't belong here. Yes, there was more development, on a character level, for Lois Lane and Morgan Edge than for Superman. Still, it's telling that P rez chose to show Superman for the first time as flying. the first time we see him, it's from the ground, looking up at the soles of his shoes. This is not Straczynski's Superman, walking across the country for baffling reasons.
It's also not Dan Jurgens's Superman, of course--the Man of Steel here is aloof, and his relationship with Lois is strained at best. He didn't even need his x-ray vision to see that her boyfriend was walking around her apartment half-naked.
All of this, ultimately, is good. While the Lois/Clark/Superman love triangle does nothing for me, re-establishing it (and giving Lois a role and a persona all her own and not so reliant on being the female Clark) is necessary in terms of communicating with new or lapsed readers who may want a scorched-earth reset in order to feel comfortable with a character who has a recent history not merely complex but also frankly not very good.
Written by Scott Lobdell; art by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund
So here's one of those books (and next is another) that everyone has an opinion about, whether or not they've read it or had any intent to do so. Tim Drake here is more Batman (or, as another reviewer has suggested, Ozymandias) than ever, with a James Bond twist. The government is after him, but he's got self-destructing safehouses, self-propelling gliders attached to his back and apparently a Brother Eye-like database of where all the teenage superheroes are--even the ones who are operating in secret. Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and its Superboy army may not know where Wonder Girl is--but Tim Drake does, and he leads them right to her by the end of the issue, which of course ends exactly where Superboy did.
Again, we see the red-haired girl who helps manipulate Superboy's environment and who appears to be an old friend carried over into the new universe. But the whole thing feels shallower, more posed and less creatively vital than Lobdell's work on Superboy. Yes, of course, it's better than the dreadful Red Hood & the Outlaws (which, by the way, gets worse with additional readings), but the cumulative quality of the three titles does little to dissuade me that Lobdell's doubters are completely wrong.
That said, artist Brett Booth has also taken his share of criticism from the Internet and here I find it to be unfounded. The book may read unevenly, but it looks great and frankly the new universe has gotten me to the point where I don't even notice most of the much-talked-about costume overhauls at all.
Written by Ron Marz; art by Sami Basri
Woo! Is that it? Only one more? That's all you got, DC?
Ron Marz, of course, is a terrific writer when it comes to strong women. Still, he has taken a lot of heat for this title both pre- and post-publication on the grounds that its central character is a stripper and the book is full of what appears to be gratuitous cheesecake.
I find that to be the result of readers who come in looking for something, and find it. That tends to happen. For me, the scenes in the strip club are only as scintillating as they would have been in any film or TV show you've ever seen. And it's not as though that element of the character was invented by Marz; it's an established part of Voodoo's history, and one that is not played up, particularly, here.
And, by the way, the book is dedicatedly entertaining, with beautiful, fantastic art by Basri and dialogue by Marz so good that it certainly makes this strip club sound like a better place to hang out and converse than the headquarters of Red Hood and the Outlaws.
That said, the book is entertaining but not without its contrivances. You don't learn yet why the half-alien protagonist has chosen the strip club as her vantage point, but as Ron Marz told ComicBook.com, it seems clear that she's got a specific reason.
The final plot swerve was unexpected and somewhat strange, but it's clear that we haven't seen the last of that plot thread yet and it should be fascinating to see where it goes. Certainly next month's issue will have to pick up minutes, not hours or days, after this one or else the logic breaks down a bit--but it also seems less likely that we'll get quite as much complaint about the cheesecake in Voodoo's chosen form for #2.