The New 52 Review Revue: October's #2s, Part One

This month is a bit different from last month in that I'm only covering here comics which I've actually read. Last month, of course, I bought and read 52 new DC #1 issues but in October I only bought the books that appealed to me while I stood there at the comics shop. Since I set the stage for my expectations last month, I'll also keep the reviews relatively short, but here's my rundown of opinions on the second month of DC's ambitious line-wide relaunch.

For the sake of flexibility and information, I've also switched the way I grade comics in these reviews. It's self-explanatory enough to require no explanation, but that will head up each paragraph.

Is this representative of the entire line? Of course not; these are the issues I felt were strong enough last month to warrant ongoing reading and so most of the genuinely lower grades have been weeded out. Still, there are some surprises in terms of which stories got dramatically better or worse between issues.

Action Comics #2 - Writing 9/10, Art 8.5/10; overall 8.75/10

The Superman titles were more impressive this month than they were last, and this issue set the pace. Seeing John Henry Irons built into the Superman mythology from early on is an interesting choice, and it'll be fascinating to see where they go with the character given that the Death and Return of Superman story (which introduced Irons as Steel years after he left government defense contracting and returned to civilian life) is something that's been cited by DC as still having "happened," even though the team that battled Doomsday wasn't the Justice League at the time and apparently Blue Beetle II didn't even exist.

Animal Man #2 - Writing 9.5/10, Art 8/10; overall 8.75/10

Jeff Lemire's big ideas continue to impress both here and in his other monthly titles, but Travel Foreman's stylized art takes on a life of its own in this issue in a way that doesn't really fit the script in the way it did in #1. The overall plot is intriguing, with Buddy and his daughter seeking out the heart of The Red; it'll be interesting to see how this ties into Scott Snyder's similarly-ambitious Swamp Thing, which seems to be independently pursuing many of the same ideas in The Green.

Green Arrow #2 - Writing 6/10, Art 9/10; overall 7.5/10

This was a big step up from last month's #1, with more characterization and villains that seemed more fleshed out and less generic. It also felt quite a lot like the kind of plot the writers of Smallville might have put Queen's character into during that show's run--which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Remember that the millions of viewers that show had on a week-in, week-out basis is more than would buy Green Arrow's title (at least pre-New 52) in a year. Still, this isn't the kind of breakneck excitement that's promised by the strong premise of turning Ollie Queen into a mix of Weapons Master and James Bond.

Justice League International #2 - Writing 9/10, Art 8.5/10; overall 8.75/10

Dan Jurgens is a consummate storyteller whose work with many of these characters in the past informs but does not overwhelm the sense of "new and different" they're trying to establish with the New 52. Artist Aaron Lopresti seems much more at home this issue, with fewer "pin-up poses" and a more organic sense of visual storytelling. This will be an interesting playground for the readers looking to see whether there's any chance of a return to the Old Days, though, as Booster Gold and the newly-revealed Skeets are, along with Barry Allen, the only people whose actual, physical bodies have been the same ever since the old DCU.

O.M.A.C. #2 - writing 9/10, Art 8/10; overall 8.5/10

Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen have surprised everyone by making an obscure character co-written by DiDio (whose Outsiders run didn't exactly set the world on fire and whose reputation with fans may be more of a liability than an asset to the titles he writes) into a fun, exciting and can't-miss new title. The second issue picks up the pace after a first issue that felt a lot like a great issue of The Incredible Hulk but explained very little. This time around, we get more action, more explanations, a cool opponent for O.M.A.C. and a big last-page reveal that will delight some fans, enrage some others and be a game-changer all the way around.

Stormwatch #2 - Writing 8/10, Art 9/10; overall 8.5/10

With some of the biggest ideas and best concepts of any book on the shelves, Stormwatch has been a fun and fascinating read so far--complete with hidden connections to Superman, Justice League and Demon Knights. That said, Paul Cornell's execution of the single issues has been lackluster. Like Green Arrow, the concept is bigger than the story and a perfectly good book ends up feeling a little disjointed and disappointing. That said, it looks great and the stories Cornell is setting up are the kind of things that just are begging for more.

Swamp Thing #2 - Writing 9/10, Art 8.5/10; overall 8.75/10

This is a fantastic book, no doubt. It's moving slowly, though, and the fact that we finally got to see Swamp Thing for the first time after two issues indicates that it's being written for the trade. Entertaining? Yes. Incredibly well-rendered by Yanick Paquette? You bet. But is it what DC promised from the relaunch? I'm not sure. Luckily, it's so good it's hard to care.

Batwoman #2 - Writing 9/10, Art 9/10; overall 9/10

A fantastic-looking book, J.H. Williams III's Batwoman is one of those titles I really didn't expect myself to fall in love with, but I did. I can't wait to see how Cameron Chase and her friends at the DEO play into this story, as she's a criminally underused character in the DC Universe.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #2 - Writing 9.5/10, Art 8.5/10; overall 9/10

With The DEO, Checkmate and S.H.A.D.E., one has to wonder how many government organizations to police the super-types is too many, but God knows I hope this title isn't one that suffers as a result. Insanely creative, fun and smart, this book has action, horror and comedy all wrapped up nicely and fastened together with bolts. Arguably my favorite title of the DC relaunch, and certainly my favorite of the titles where I wasn't already invested in the characters.

The Shade #1 - Writing 9/10, art 9/10; overall 9/10

Is it James Robinson's Starman? Well, no, not yet. And the presence of Deathstroke has to make one wonder whether it will ever reach that lofty height. Still, it's nice to see these characters back in circulation and I would like nothing more than to see either Shade or "Starman Blue" get an ongoing out of this story. Whether it takes place on Earth Two or not is an interesting question, of course, given that they seem to be acknowledging events that are unlikely to have happened in the new DC Universe so far, and that Jack Knight has a long history with the Justice Society.

Green Lantern #2 - Writing 8/10, art 8/10; overall 8/10

This issue seemed a bit disjointed from the first issue; there was really no sense (at least for me) that the meeting at the end of last issue would lead into a big, dramatic fight in this issue. It derailed the overall story a bit and while I'm certain many fans were glad for the action break after an issue (plus the War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath stories) of a bunch of superheroes standing around talking, Hal's reactions seemed juvenile and unnecessary. I came out of the issue, ironically, wondering whether Sinestro may be a good Green Lantern for the longer term.