Sometimes a man has to face unpleasant truths about himself. For
several weeks now, I have been openly mocking fellow bloggers who
have been obsessively writing about and reviewing DC Comics’s “The
New 52.” To my soul-crushing shame, today I reveal myself to be as
pathetic as the rest of you.
I’ve read four of the “New 52" books so far: Justice League, Action
Comics, Animal Man, and Batgirl. I have things I want to say about
them. A better man would keep his comments locked deep inside and
not add to the noise. Alas, I am not that man.
Justice League #1 [$3.99] was supposed to be the triumphant launch
of the new DCU. It was written by Geoff Johns, a fine writer most
of the time, and penciled by Jim Lee, who many consider one of the
best artists in comics. I found it something of a mess.
There’s no satisfying story here. It opens with Batman doing one
of his typical Batman things...fighting monsters from outer space.
Because nothing says grim and gritty street-level super-hero or
master detective like that. Sherlock Holmes would be proud of you,
Batman. Or dismiss you as a cocaine dream.
Green Lantern arrives on the scene and he’s an arrogant frat boy,
barely taking Batman seriously. Okay, I sort of get that. Still,
two members into the new Justice League and we have a Batman who’s
still a dick and an annoying Green Lantern.
The behind-the-scenes villain is Darkseid. Because the new DCU has
to get a jump on overusing Darkseid as much as the old DCU did. I
tremble with anticipation. No, wait, I’m actually passing out from
Superman shows up on the last page and my first impression is that,
he, too, is kind of a dick. Maybe it’s the way he thrusts his man-
Gentle readers, there is no story here. For your four bucks, you
have, at best, a couple scenes from a story. Apparently, giving the
readers their money’s worth every issue isn’t any more a concern of
“The New 52" than it was of the old whatever.
However, you do get a few bonus pages of Lee’s designs for various
new super-hero costumes. The ones I’ve seen so far lack the simple
elegance of the originals. They look awkward, uncomfortable, ugly.
Trying to make super-hero costumes look realistic is a mug’s game.
The fantastic has been part and parcel of the genre since day one.
That’s what people remember, that’s what draws them back to these
characters in merchandise and movies.
Justice League #1 was a poor start to “The New 52.”
Action Comics #1 [$3.99] was really good. My favorite version of
Superman was the authority-defying champion of the little guy that
we saw in the original Action Comics #1. Writer Grant Morrison did
a fine job updating that version.
I’m intrigued by the early relationships between Clark Kent, Lois
Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. I found General Sam Lane and Lex Luthor as
irritating as when they were being overused in the old DCU, but I
give credit to Luthor (and Morrison) for coming up with one heck of
The Rags Morales/Rick Bryant art is amazing. The action scenes are
powerful and, while the more human scenes are a little “big” for my
taste, I’m knocked out by how good this book looks. Were I making
buy/cut choices, Action Comics would most definitely by on my “buy”
list. An impressive relaunch.
Animal Man #1 [$2.99] didn’t work for me. The story elements that
I found most interesting - a second-banana super-hero bouncing from
career to career while putting somewhat unreasonable demands on his
family - were not the focus of Jeff Lemire’s script. Instead of a
second-banana super-hero, we got the typical gore and new age weird
of second-rate Vertigo. The art didn’t appeal to me and A-Man’s new
costume looked like the kind of generic John Byrne costumes we’ve
seen in recent decades. I’d pass on a second issue.
Batgirl #1 [$2.99] was a solid street-level super-hero comics, not
unexpected given that Gail Simone is one of the best writers in our
field. The hardest thing for me was avoiding comparing this new,
younger Barbara Gordon to Oracle. In the new DCU, though she was
crippled by the Joker, Barbara never became the super-computer whiz
of the super-hero world and never formed the Birds of Prey. That
I can tell from this issue. I’m also unsure of the nature of her
relationship with Batman.
Some quick thoughts on the issue:
A killer who murders survivors of catastrophes like the sinking of
the Titanic or being shot by a crazed super-villain isn’t a wholly
original idea, but it’s not so common as to concern me. What will
sell this character to me is why he’s doing what he’s doing, which
revelation will doubtless be made in future issues.
I truly hate the new Batgirl costume. Like most costumes in this
Jim Lee era, it lacks the elegance of the original designs. It’s
clunky and not at all inspiring.
The Brisby Killers managed to be sorta scary without being much of
a challenge for Batgirl. They served the purpose in the story, but
I think the concept could be refined to make a similar group truly
Batgirl being less than 100% and freezing up at a moment of crisis
worked for me. But she will need to get over this quickly, if only
to compensate for what DC has apparently done to some of the other
female heroes in other titles.
Batgirl is another book that would make my “buy” list. The New 52
is batting .500 with me so far.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2011 Tony Isabella