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ComicsAlliance Reviews Every Book in DC’s New 52: Week 4

The final week of new #1 DC Comics is out, and the biggest question for most fans facing racks and racks of new books is simple: Which ones should I try? The ComicsAlliance staff has gathered together to help answer that with a roundtable review of every relaunched DC book this week: All-Star Western, Aquaman, Batman: The Dark Knight, Blackhawks, Flash, Firestorm, Green Lantern: New Guardians, I, Vampire, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, Superman, Teen Titans, and Voodoo. Join Andy Khouri, Laura Hudson, Chris Sims, David Uzumeri, Let’s Be Friends Again artist Chris Haley and Reading Comics author Douglas Wolk as they rate each book on a scale of 1-10 and try to gauge the success of DC’s bold new experiment by figuring out which books are worth coming back for more.

ALL STAR WESTERN #1

Chris S: One of the biggest surprises and one of the best books of the relaunch. Really though, I probably shouldn’t be that surprised by it; I enjoyed a lot of what I read of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s work on Jonah Hex over the past five years, but I ended up quitting it because they went to rape as a plot device a LOT. With this, though, I’m willing to give them a fresh start, and fortunately they stay away from it. They do a great job building up this creepy Gotham City — which, contrary to the title, is not in the west — that works really well. Even the opening narration, which I thought was really pretentious and heavy-handed, works when you realize that it’s being delivered by the extremely pretentious Amadeus Arkham, and I really appreciated the nods to Gates of Gotham and Dark Knight, Dark City that they threw in.

The real star, though, is the art. Before this issue, I was completely unfamiliar with Moritat, but he does a bang-up job on this one. I love the way he draws Old Timey Gotham, I love the expressiveness that he gives to Hex, and I even love the ridiculously busty saloon girl, who’s also really expressive. It’s a slick package and I’m glad that one of the non-super-hero (but still decidedly DC Universe) books works this well. 8.

Douglas: Has it occurred to anyone that this isn’t actually a Western? Pretty art and everything, but HEY it’s another story where the only on-panel speaking role for a woman belongs to a prostitute who gets killed. (The other woman is Elizabeth Arkham, as a bonus for people who’ve read Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.) Plus a bit of helpful expository dialogue reveals that “the silver ring shaped like a skull indicates an affiliation with death.” Or maybe “the most powerful and wealthiest men in Gotham” are just, you know, Goths, why do you think they call it Gotham? Also it turns out Hex’s way of getting information out of people is more like Frank Miller’s Daredevil than like Rorschach. Look, just because you’re working in a genre with very strict formulas doesn’t mean you have to load 15 exhausted clichés onto every page. I have no desire to see any more of this series. 2.

Chris S: I can definitely understand where you’re coming from, Douglas, but I (obviously) completely disagree. I loved that last page reveal, especially in how good it looked as a page.

Andy: I love Douglas’s observation that the founders of Gotham were indeed a bunch of Goths. This was the first Palmiotti/Grey Jonah Hex book I’d ever read and, I think, the only Moritat comic I’ve ever read despite being a fan of his pin-up work and covers for so many years. Both parties impressed me immensely with this first issue, which seemed really dense both in terms of plot and pretty pictures. I like all the Western cliches filtered through Hex, and the team-up with Arkham is a really good idea. Moritat’s got a great style for this, a mix of European-style sophistication and American-style exaggeration. Also, lots of easter eggs for longtime Batman fans. Quibble: Gotham is not in the West. I give this an 8.

Laura: What’s difficult about this book is that, as I think everyone agrees, the art is beautiful, and the concept of Jonah Hex hunting a murderer in Gotham is a really fun one. There was a lot to like about the plot on its face, but in execution, there are a number of places where the people and events felt like tropes rather than something fresh. I could definitely have done without the hot prostitute who existed purely so that her murder could piss off Hex, which is no joke, textbook fridging. But damn, it’s still pretty — a book with a lot of potential if it could just dig a little deeper for nuance, and I don’t know, maybe some female characters who aren’t dead hookers. 6.

Andy: I get the sense that something really disturbing is coming with respect to Arkham’s mother, but I hope we get a nice run of these stories where Arkham is the biographer of Jonah Hex. It’s a cool, ultra-violent, comic-booky remix of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, maybe?

Douglas: That’s actually kind of a neat idea, Andy!

David: I actually liked All Star Western a lot. It was my favorite book of the week, to be honest with you. I’m not a Western fan, and I haven’t read the Graymiotti run on Jonah Hex, since the idea just never appealed to me. But Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham buddy-copping their way through 1800s Gotham City? Yeah, I can get down with that. Moritat’s art looks fantastic, but it’s really the Arkham/Hex chemistry (or lack thereof) that won me over. It’s got just enough little nods to Gotham history to seem relevant without it overrunning the story it’s telling, and as much as the “oh no, it’s a murderer who kills hookers!” thing is pretty rote, the execution pulls it off. It looked good, it read well, and it managed to do its own thing while also servicing my Gotham City history boner. 9.

Average rating: 6.6

AQUAMAN #1

Chris S: So instead of writing a comic that serves as an introduction to why we should care about Aquaman, Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis seem to be working from the premise of “NUH UH, AQUAMAN DOESN’T SUCK LIKE YOU THINK HE DOES.” Which is great, because why bother with a fun story when you can spend 20 pages slapping around a strawman because you want the people who are already buying Aquaman to know how wrong they are if they don’t buy Aquaman? Look! He’s bulletproof and can leap over buildings and spends almost an entire page telling a dude he doesn’t need water! Just like Superman! You like Superman, right? Seriously, this thing is so desperate to be cool that you can smell the flop sweat even on the digital version. 3.

Douglas: The essential problem with this kind of superhero comics writing is that it takes for granted that the reader thinks Aquaman (or whoever) is intrinsically interesting. Wrong. Writers have to make us care about every character in every issue, and especially in a first issue, you have to show us something we haven’t seen before. And I’ve seen absolutely everything here before. The edgy new side of Aquaman is that he doesn’t actually talk to fish, he just influences them — and he EATS FISH, oooooh. And he’s bulletproof as we see in the most pro forma action scene I’ve read in at least a week, and he has lots of money because the ocean is absolutely filled with lost treasure… and, I’m sorry, I drifted off in the middle of that sentence. I get that Geoff Johns does think Aquaman’s intrinsically interesting, but I haven’t got the faintest idea why anybody else is supposed to think that; making him more of a badass doesn’t push me in that direction. 2.

Chris S: If only there were some recent, incredibly popular interpretation of Aquaman that everyone, especially kids and casual readers, really liked that they could’ve used for inspiration. If only that was the case.

Douglas: ZING

David: I’mma fight your wisdom on this, you two — I liked Aquaman. I laughed. I mean, I’m a bit of a Johns fan, so it’s not surprising, but as much as this was a one-note comic, that one note was pretty funny to me. I dunno if I can really explicate as to why, to be honest with you. I really dig the Alan Davis thing Ivan Reis is moving towards, and I honestly laughed pretty hard at the fish-and-chips thing, I’m sorry. I just like the idea of Aquaman as this superhero Charlie Brown, just stoically helping people while getting constantly sh*t on. I thought this was a solid 7.

Chris H: If nothing else I have to applaud Johns’ dogged refusal to let people think Aquaman isn’t “cool.” I don’t think this was the best way to go about it, but I appreciate him trying. And since I have to assume he’s got his pick of artists for these books, it shows something of his commitment to the character to put one of DC’s only A-List artists on it. And as formulaic as the looming baddies threat was, I’m eager to see where he goes with it all. I’d give it a 7 as well.

Laura: At its best, this the sort of big, fun super-hero comic that you’d expect from Geoff Johns, but along the way there are moments where Aquaman definitely acquires the air of someone who is trying too hard. The scene in the seafood restaurant was a whole lot of overcompensation, and the meta-argument with a blogger is a lot less convincing than the previous scene, where Aquaman actually foiled a bank robbery like a badass. Less posturing about Aquaman being a cool hero, more Aquaman actually being a cool hero! Regardless, there was enough to like that I’ll give the second issue a shot. 6.

Andy: WTF I LIKED AN AQUAMAN COMIC was the first thing I thought when I finished Aquaman #1. Johns very cleverly outdid all previous attempts to reclaim Aquaman from the hell of pop culture mockery by taking to heart that old saying, the way out is through. The majority of this comic is people trolling Aquaman and Aquaman just dealing with it, which I thought was a real surprise and just great. But the humor aside, I’m also intrigued by the Atlantean politics referenced in this issue, and I think it’d be cool if Johns had developed some deep mythology for that stuff as he has Green Lantern. I am a fan of Ivan Reis but I wonder if his style was too intense for this book, which I think had a lot more heart than people expected and actually humanized this character. He’s either been an insufferable mope or the OUTRAGEOUSly hilarious version from Batman: Brave and the Bold. Here, he’s more well-rounded. I give Aquaman a 7.

Chris S: I did think it was hilarious that the guy who thinks Aquaman sucks is a blogger. I hope he becomes a recurring character. I can really identify with him, you know?

Average score: 5.3

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1

Chris H: That opening line about fear being a cannibal that feeds on itself almost made me put it down and just say forget it. David Finch trying to draw Bruce Wayne smiling was way more terrifying than any of the deformed Arkham escapees. Who would want to read this when Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is being published? 2.

Douglas: Another totally generic, crapped-out, leftover-Image-1994-ish Batman comic, which I fully expect to come out on a schedule typical of the Image comics of 1994; all those little ink lines take a while, I guess. As for the writing: this comic contains lines of second-person narration like “An unruly tyrant armed with a bludgeon of doubt.” The way to make Two-Face, a guy with a creepily divided consciousness, scarier is not to make him look like Bane. And does David Finch know what “batty boy” means, colloquially? I don’t think he meant to say that. Minus one point for the appearance of Jaina Hudson, who has something terribly wrong with her, scale-wise. Plus one point for the apropos-of-nothing appearance of Dumb Bunny; if this series turns into a Batman/Inferior Five team book, I might keep reading it. 3

Laura: The most emblematic moment of this book is when Bruce Wayne take at the podium at a business event, makes a terrible joke, and then the audience just laaaughs and laughs at it. It’s not that it’s canned, polite laughter; it’s that you get the feeling the book itself actually thinks it is funny. This comic fails on several different levels of tone, characterization, and art, but almost earnestly, like it doesn’t know how bad it is. We also get a bizarre one-panel cameo from Dumb Bunny, a parody character meant to poke fun at cheesecake in superhero books, but from all indications is just going to be used here as actual, unironic cheesecake. Bonus points for taking the all-too-common Pointless Ass Shot and actually finding a way to attach a cottontail to it. Did I say bonus points? I meant I hate you. 2.


Chris S: Unquestionably the most hilarious last page of the entire reboot so far, although I am pretty sure that was not on purpose. I’ll admit that this book suffers from coming after Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman #1, because it’s basically the same elements stitched together in a different, and much worse way. The big fight at Arkham (but with generic bad guys), the happy Bruce Wayne speech to the rich folks of Gotham… I hope it’s just weird synchronicity, but the book definitely suffers for it. Not that it’d be particularly good anyway; there’s just nothing to this. Douglas’s “totally generic” comment is spot on, but I’d probably throw the word “nonsense” in there too. 3, only because I’m definitely going to get some use out of that panel where Batman says “Everything’s fine, Miss Hudson.”

Andy: I’m very forgiving of art for art’s sake so I expected to like this more than than I did. The visuals in this book are rushed and ugly, and the figures are actually grotesque in some parts. The story is just a collection of random Batmanisms thrown together to make some kind of linear sense, and of course the grand ONE FACE revelation at the end is laughably stupid. I was intrigued by the internal affairs cop who is telling truth to power with Bruce Wayne, though. I wish the book had more in common with the film of the same name, and we saw more of that kind of thing. Maybe we will later, but for now, Batman: The Dark Knight #1 gets a 2.

David: This comic was incredibly dumb. Just so dumb. There were no good ideas in this comic. The art wasn’t very good, the girlfriend introduced is way too cookie-cutter, I have NO IDEA why the cops are investigating Batman and trying to figure out his GCPD contact — why not look for the damn spotlight with the bat on it?!? It doesn’t line up with what Morrison’s doing with Incorporated, even though it’s trying to. And then there’s the Arkham escape sequence which is a crappy version of the scene that opened Batman #1, and that’s not even touching on the massively terrible interpretation of Two-Face, who is now “One-Face.” Seriously. “One-Face.” Well, guess what else gets a one? This comic.

Average score: 2.2

BLACKHAWKS #1

Chris S: All right, guys: I KIND OF LOVED this comic.

David: AMERICA, F*CK YEAH! COMIN’ ALONG TO SAVE THE MOTHERF*CKIN’ DAY, YEAH

Douglas: CHRIS WE WILL HAVE TO FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

Chris H: Chris, keeping in mind what the word “love” means, are you sure you meant to say you “loved” this comic? Are you sure you don’t mean, “I KIND OF ENJOYED this comic”?

Chris S: I mean, I don’t think it’s GOOD, but it is basically a note-for-note comic book adaptation of Megaforce, by way of crappy early ’90s Image books. It’s just so hilariously over the top in its awfulness, including the “oh these guys aren’t the stereotypes you think they are (except the Japanese girl, she’s TOTALLY that stereotype)” explanations of the characters. It’s HILARIOUS.

David: Seriously, I rewatched Team America on Tuesday night, and that’s ALL I COULD THINK OF reading this comic. It’s Team America, played seriously. Which isn’t very serious at all. Also, there’s some kind of cybervillain and a team with a wise member and a LOOSE CANNON and… dear God, this entire comic was a depressing combination of Bruckheimer cliches. Lashley’s inking murders any qualities Graham Nolan’s pencils might have had. I don’t know why this comic exists. 2.

Douglas: Crazy paramilitary force in modern times! Getting the team together! Hot-chick sharpshooter on the cover has no speaking lines in the story! (I’d especially like to know how she’s a sharpshooter, given that she has one eye and therefore has problems with depth perception.) But it’s not just a paramilitary book, because the hot chick is developing superpowers! And their HQ is “The Eyrie,” which has been updated since its Game of Thrones days! Congratulations, Mike Costa: you’ve just removed everything that was interesting about Blackhawk as a comic. I like that “The Irishman” is Russian, but other than that this thing just reads like a rejected movie pitch. 2

Laura: I do not care about this book at all, not even a little bit, to the point that I have absolutely nothing to say about it. I do kind of want to know why the Blackhawks named their headquarters after the stronghold of House Arryn, though. 3.

Chris H: I was dreading reading this, but I didn’t dislike it once I did. I didn’t really like it either, but not hating it when I thought I would has to count for something even if I’m not terribly interested in continuing on with it. 4.

Andy: Utter nonsense. A chore to read. The art was so scratchy and the story so badly told, I couldn’t tell who was injured or just hunched over and grimacing. This is among the worst re-imaginings of an old DC concept of the whole bunch. A classy, pulpy World War II fight squad remixed into an early ’90s WildStorm black ops book, which themselves were basically superhero versions of old G.I. Joe books — by Mike Costa, who wrote this. Depressing. 1.

Chris S: Seriously, I agree with all of you 100%, but I can’t say that I didn’t think this was a hoot. A dumb, awful, hoot. 5.


Average score: 3
FLASH #1

Chris S: Loved it. 8.

Douglas: Is Brian Buccellato’s credit on the cover here the first time a colorist has been credited on the cover of a DC periodical? (Well, he is the co-writer.) Good move, in any case. I don’t love this the way some of y’all do, but I do like both Francis Manapul’s work and Buccellato’s, and I love the fact that this not only has a genuine look to it but reads like it was written by someone thinking like an artist; see, for instance, that page where the Flash falls out of a building and lands in the sewer. That’s some sharp storytelling there. (It’s sharp elsewhere, too, if not quite as fancy.) The pacing’s a little weird, and there’s a lot of stuff going on in place of any kind of conceptual core, but I really liked looking at this comic, and I’m very interested to see what comes next. 7

Chris S: I was thinking last night that Buccellato must’ve figured out that the only way he was going to get a cover credit is if he wrote the damn thing too.

Laura: The best thing about this book is the art, which is saying something, because the story was strong too. Francis Manapul is an artist who really understands how to convey motion in comics, something that is often difficult in a static medium, and has a huge impact in a book where the hero is all about motion. That scene Douglas mentions where Flash falls out of the building does a fantastic job of moving the eye and the story in such a complex but effortless way. This comic actually read with the fun, energy, and accessibility of say, an episode of an animated DC comics show. I almost feel like it ended with the first commercial break. Oh, and I was actually surprised by the surprise ending. 8.

Douglas: I agree with you on the commercial break thing, but I would rather feel like it ends with the end of an episode, you know?

Laura: If we’re being literal I don’t think that’s quite true, because this comic just doesn’t contain an equivalent amount of story to a half-hour television show episode. It’s a different, shorter format, though, and probably not fair to expect that. It certainly satisfies for 20 pages. It is a delicious Snickers bar, but it is not a sandwich. We’ll have to wait for the trade for that.

Chris H: If our scale of 1-10 is based on just the New 52, with whichever book we liked the most being a 10, then this book gets a 10 from me. As soon as we’re done with this roundtable I’m probably going to go read it again.

David: This is exactly what I want out of a Flash book, man. Crazy sci-fi villains, gorgeous art, Barry Allen with a personality! I swear to God, this is the best Flash book since the glory days of Johns’s run with Wally. Just a huge amount of fun, and this is Manapul’s FIRST comic. I can’t wait to read his tenth. I talked to him today and he’s got a great understanding of the character and what he’s doing, a solid plan, and the art/writing synergy here really feels like a synergy, unlike many of the other New 52 books that are written by the artist that just feel like a crappy writer writing a script for a crappy artist. I was worried that this would be a gorgeous comic with a bad script, but my worries were misplaced. Probably just a 7 on its own, but the promise it holds for the book’s future is huge. It’s just… this is it, man. Out of all the writer/artists DC is trying to push like this to create the new Frank Miller or Walt Simonson, this one is easily the closest. This is the Barry Allen Flash comic I always wanted to read and never knew it. 9.

Andy: I was expecting to like this just for the art, which is great on every single page, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked this version of Barry Allen too. The book doesn’t seem to have any strong conceptual hook beyond the obvious “guy runs really fast, is always late” but there’s nothing wrong with some classically superhero stuff for its own sake, especially when it’s so pretty. Really good comicbookery is always a pleasure to see. Very impressive for first-time writers, and I think it can only get better and more sophisticated. I give Flash a 7.5.

Average score: 8.25

FIRESTORM #1

Chris S: Oof, this thing was rough. I’m one of like, sixteen living Firestorm fans — it’s another one of those books where I went back and read every issues — and I was hoping that Gail Simone’s presence would lead to a more fun story, along the lines of what she did with the Atom. Instead, this thing’s just boring, and as generic as super-hero comics get. It’s a shame, too, because Firestorm was created to be DC’s Spider-Man, a young guy with really interesting powers that could lead him to fun adventures. But this… Oh no, these evil terrorists — who I think are the rebooted versions of the Thinker and Killer Frost — are EVIL! They want this Macguffin, and thanks to manufactured racial tension, THEY JUST MIGHT GET IT! Nothing about this story rings true in any fashion, and it’s a shame, because “The Defiant Ones with Nuclear Super-Powers” is a pitch I could really get behind. 2.

Douglas: Oh jeez. Yet another opening sequence involving torture. A very earnest “mom, why don’t we have any black friends?” scene. Incredibly dubious physics treated as a major, serious plot element. Final plot twist derived from an alliterative series title some assistant editor probably had to dream up on three minutes’ notice in the late ’70s, and presented in dialogue that includes the word “sweetcheeks.” 2.

David: Hamfisted racism. Hamfisted physics. Hamfisted “bros learn to love each other.” Every since part of this book was hamfisted. Gail Simone’s Batgirl was bad, but this was worse than bad, it was BORING. Her villains are always so comically evil and over-the-top with no redeeming qualities, and that continues here. And “Why don’t we have any black friends?” was just not a good piece of writing. 1.

Andy: This book sums up beautifully — and I mean that, because Cinar is great — why Firestorm sucks so badly. His costume(s) are stupid, his powers are boring, he’s ridiculously confusing and his stories have to be forced into that tedious teen superhero formula where everything happens around the stupid lockers. Also, why don’t we have any black friends? 2.

Chris S: Andy, you are so goddamn wrong about Firestorm I could spit. Firestorm’s costume RULES.

Andy: Please do spit.

Chris S: Ptoo. Someone asked Al Milgrom why he gave him such a crazy costume, and he said it was because Ronnie was 15, so he needed to have a costume that a 15-year-old would think is cool. Poofy sleeves! Asymmetrical logo! Fire hair!

Chris H: I agree with Sims here. Firestorm is an awesome-looking character. I love (read: LOVE) Firestorm and I was really looking forward to this book, which makes how awful this was even more disappointing. I thought the art was good and I hope that future issues will get away from the ham-fisted racial tension and make the most of what could and should be a really fun character. 3.

Average score: 2

GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1

Chris S: So, that was a pretty necessary recap of Kyle Rayner’s origin story, right? I especially thought it was great how there was no caption identifying it as happening in the past, so when you got one halfway through the book that told you you were looking at “The Present Day,” it felt like it came out of nowhere. I get the feeling if I was a new reader, I’d be confused as all hell about what was going on unless I had someone explaining Emerald Twilight and the War of Light to me. So as a comic, I think it fails miserably, but as a Personal Appeal to donate to Wikipedia, it’s not half bad. 3.

David: I’m the world’s biggest Kyle Rayner fan, and this really didn’t impress me, although I do enjoy the canonization that Kyle was about to piss in an alleyway when he got his Green Lantern ring. (I always assumed he was hammered and about to puke.) It also has him hitting on chicks, which seems to maybe take the Alex fridge-ization out of continuity? I dunno? Either way, weak art and a story that introduced its central conceit of the FINAL PAGE. Badly paced, journeyman work. Not terrible, but I just expect better for the first superhero I ever related to. 4.

Douglas: “Scream like girls before you die!” Uh. Here’s a great Simone de Beauvoir quote: “Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.” Also, I understand that the New 52 initiative is supposed to bring back people who were reading this stuff 15 or 20 years ago and then drifted away, but I actually read Kyle Rayner’s origin the first time around too. Brand extension and nothing more. 3

Andy: I thought I was having some kind of fifth ink poisoning hallucination reading this book. It’s an extended remix of Kyle Rayner’s origin from the long-long-ago, with some really confusingly drawn space action thrown in. I think it’s funny that they left out the “Past” indicator because in the New 52, who the hell knows when anything happened or what still happened? I did like Kyle making an angry cartoon version of a Guardian, though. 3.

Chris H: That “scream like girls” line really jumped out at me too. Especially considering that this is being said by a space monster. I can’t imagine why no one along the production line didn’t go, “Wait, what?” That aside, this was another one I was dreading reading, but that I didn’t really dislike once it was over. 5.

Laura: I think most people would scream before they died violently.

Andy: Not boys, Laura.

Laura: Being a man must be like fighting in the Battle of Thermopylae every day.

Douglas: EVERY DAY IS A STRUGGLE TO BE A MAN IN A MAN’S WORLD.

Average rating: 3.6

I, VAMPIRE #1

Chris S: If you can get past the cover, which looks like a beautifully drawn image accompanying someone’s “What If Witchblade Joined Team Jacob” fanfic, there’s an interesting premise here. I really, really like the idea of vampires just hating super-heroes on principle because they’re keeping all of their potential victims safe, but the story feels a little thin. It’s intriguing, but like Supergirl last week, it’s definitely a first chapter that feels like it’s going to take some time to hit its stride. 6.

Douglas: Lighten up, fangsters. This is a comic where a character claims, in all seriousness, “I’m Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Ben Franklin all in one.” It’s a nice formal gesture to have almost the entire issue be a dialogue between Andrew and Mary. Still, even though this is a visually a more sophisticated variation on the original I, Vampire thing from 30 years ago, I think the story’s considerably shallower so far. Pretty, but very very one-note. 4

Chris H: I’m not sure I knew what exactly was going on in this comic, but I’m into the premise and since this is probably going to be one of the first books to be cancelled I’m really rooting for it. 6.

David: This comic was ridiculously hyped up for me by Twitter and every creator in the history of the world saying it’s amazing, and it’s… okay, I guess? Sorrentino does a pretty great Jae Lee impression, and it’s certainly more interesting than the vampire stuff Marvel has going on, but when Mary described herself as “MLK, Malcolm X and Ben Franklin all in one” it just came across as entirely too self-aware. The references to Superman and the Green Lanterns seemed totally thrown in, too; I can’t help but wonder if this would have been a better straight-up Vertigo book. Still, not bad, and I’m at least interested in the next issue. 6.

Laura: This is a book that certainly knows its audience, and that’s cool I guess even though it’s not me. I mean, a lot of people liked Twilight for its overblown dialogue and ridiculously melodramatic vampire romance. Maybe they will like this comic. I didn’t like either one, so here we are. 4.

Andy: I, Vampire is one of the few books of the New 52 that seems to have a lot of pre-development going in. I get the impression that Fialkov and his collaborators have already worked out where this book is going and a lot of twists and turns on the way. I also like the premise of vampires saying f*ck it and going hog wild, and one of their own being the major obstacle. But the first issue has a lot in common with the other 52 in that it’s full of overwrought, tortured dialogue/monologue and not much happens, but in this case it does contribute to the grim mood of the book. The artwork was really cool and quite distinct from the other books in the line. 6.5.

Average rating: 5.4

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK

Chris S: This feels like one of those early Vertigo books, like Sandman or Doom Patrol, where they were still tying it to elements of the DC Universe to tell weird horror stories with those elements, and I mean that in the best way possible. Despite the awful title, it does a nice job introducing us to a few of the stranger characters — specifically Shade — and the stuff that’s going on with the Enchantress has a great supernatural creepiness to it that shows why this team should exist. Plus, the new PG-13 John Constantine is fudging hilarious. I’m interested, if not fully sold on it just yet. 7.

Douglas: Madame Xanadu sighting #3! This is a better Suicide Squad comic by far than Suicide Squad #1 (on the strength of the Enchantress’s appearance, references to Belle Reve, etc.). I just wish Peter Milligan seemed to have more of a grasp on what he wanted this series’ tone to be: in places he’s writing his excellent run on Shade the Changing Man again, in places he’s trying way too hard to dumb it down. (And I wouldn’t mind at all if he cut loose with the weirder side of his writing–the side he showed off in e.g. “Hewligan’s Haircut”–or if he just went ahead and wrote it as “Shade” with more superheroes in it.) That scene with Kathy realizing that she’s not what she thinks she is is really effectively creepy, though. Mikel Janin’s very solid at straightforward superhero art, but I have a feeling this series is going to call for something less “realistic” and more stylized. Fortunately, that’s where Ulises Arreola comes in — I’m delighted to see him coloring a mainstream comic, and his colors look fantastic. 6.

Laura: On the first page, that Tarot card that says The Sickness should be The Tower, which is weird because all the others on the page have their proper names. Oh, and ironically, the card later on that’s labeled The Madness should actually be called Justice.

Andy: Oh god. Goth the f*ck out, Laura.

Laura: I’m a goth now? I thought everyone had already decided I was a hipster.

Chris S: I’m also a Tarot reader!

Laura: *rimshot*

Chris H: “Superman, you’re being cut to ribbons!” That made me LOLFRIRL. As if he hadn’t noticed. Superman’s next line should have been, “HOLY SH*T, WONDER WOMAN, YOU’RE RIGHT!” If I don’t think about it too hard, I liked this book pretty well, and even if I do think about it too hard, I still liked it way more than Justice League #1. 7.

David: Wow, this ended really fast. Like, REALLY fast. And the plot seems like a facsimile of Flashpoint: Secret Seven: Enchantress is going crazy, Shade is going crazy, everyone else gets caught in the crossfire. But while this is better than Red Lanterns, this is still nowhere close to the highs I know Peter Milligan is capable of reaching. Mikel Janin’s photorealistic art also seems at odds with the subject matter, which in my mind would call for way more abstract, symbolic art, unless that juxtaposition of art and subject matter is part of Milligan’s plan. Which, on a book at a different company, it might be, but here I imagine it’s just editorially mandated and as a result it just seems off. I’m interested in what’s to come, but it still didn’t set up the overall conflict enough to really pique my interest. There’s a balance between the Justice League idea of focusing on the threat rather than the characters and this which focuses on the characters rather than the threat, and I don’t think a team book in the New 52 has found it yet. 6.

Andy: One of the best looking books in the whole New 52, Justice League Dark is, as expected, basically a Vertigo supergroup comic that reminds you of the original Books of Magic where lots of mysterious things start happening all over the place and these weirdos have to assemble to prevent some horrible future. Obviously, there’s more of a traditional superhero vibe to it, but the book comes with its share of classically creepy (and confounding) Vertigo moments, like the Shade’s imaginary girlfriend realizing she’s not real and Superman being sliced and diced by infinite witches’ teeth. I’m not as against the Zatanna “costume” as I thought I’d be, she’s depicted here as recognizably herself, and she remains the primary reason I will be following this book into issue #2 because as moody as this was, it was pretty light on story. 6.

Chris H: Oh man, Chris. Now I’m imagining JL: Dark drawn by Mike Allred. How great would that have been?

Douglas: OOOOH.

Chris S: If only Mike Allred was drawing an awesome supernatural comic for DC right now. If only…

Average rating: 6.4

SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1

Douglas: OK, so this is why people get excited about Philip Tan’s artwork, although if any colorist deserves a credit this week, it’s Sunny Gho. Too bad the story is such a ridiculous load of old cack, with a protagonist who’s impossible to like and blindingly stupid dialogue everywhere. “He’s ten times stronger than the others. But let’s see how well he can fight with no arms!” “I am Morphicius. You should fear my power.” “Disperse, minions. I will handle this one–” Those are all from one randomly-opened-to-page, by the way. 2

Chris S: I have always thought that there is no force on Earth that could make me care about Hawkman. I was wrong. Unfortunately, that force was Kyle Baker in Wednesday Comics, and this thing is damn near incomprehensible. 2.

David: I will say this is the best-looking Philip Tan book I’ve ever read, by, like, miles. I don’t know what happened here, but his storytelling is clear and his art is aesthetically appealing, which is more than I can say for anything else he’s ever drawn. Unfortunately, Tony Daniel does not rise to the occasion in a similar manner. Alien archaeologist turned dude who hits people with maces is really not a bad idea for an ongoing series OR a take on Hawkman, but everything about this feels like babytown frolics amateur hour, and I’m confused as to what Hawkman was before this issue. Did the Brightest Day stuff happen, and now he just has this ridiculous new outfit? Did he always have it, and now it’s embedded in his muscles or whatever, just like Iron Man? I have no idea. Nothing about this comic was especially memorable other than “wow, with the right colorist and enough time, Philip Tan isn’t terrible.” 3.

Chris H: I like Hawkman.. well, in theory, I guess since his comics are usually awful. This did nothing to help that track record. 1.

Chris S: Actually, I liked the Geoff Johns run too.

Andy: Michael Lark drew a beautiful Hawkman miniseries forever ago. But everyone’s right, Phillip Tan really stepped up with this issue and showed us a totally new side to his work. I’m not sure this style is right for Hawkman, but it was still very nice to look at. Story-wise, there are problems. All we know about Carter Hall is that he really hated being Hawkman, but now Hawkman’s armor lives inside him… or something. The backstory, where Hawkman is some kind of curse that Carter has to live with, sounds a lot more interesting than the action we’re sort of traumatically dropped into in this issue. But then again, maybe those events were depicted in some pre-boot comics I didn’t read? This is another problem inherent to some of the New 52 books, the sense that despite the fact that you’re reading a new #1 issue ostensibly designed for new readers, you’re still missing something. 2.5.

Average rating: 2.1

SUPERMAN #1

Chris S: Superman #1 was as bad as Action Comics #1 was good. There’s a clever bad guy — the thing that turns other things into fire — but it’s bogged down with this ridiculous framework that’s focused on everything EXCEPT Superman, to the point where it’s got something like five competing narrators, one of which is the worst written newspaper article ever. Also, I get that he’s trying to make Lois Lane a forward-thinking journalist who embraces the future, but maayyyyyybe talking about print being dead in your print comic that you want people to buy wasn’t the best move. 3.

David: “A Tower of Babel of incomprehensibility.” This is what George Perez thinks Pulitzer award-winning journalists write in 2011: lines like “a Tower of Babel of incomprehensibility.” George Perez is a fantastic visual storyteller, but this comic is just… look. First of all, why did the Daily Planet building blow up? It’s exploded and rebuilt at the very beginning of the comic, but we NEVER GOT TO SEE WHAT BLEW IT UP. And it isn’t even treated like a mystery; it’s just “hey, the Daily Planet blew up,” like it occurred in a comic we should have read last month. While Perez does an alright job lining up with Morrison’s Clark Kent, Journalistic Crusader, it feels like he’s stretching his story to fit Morrison’s vision, which says a lot about who’s wearing the pants in the Superman office right now. Long story short: if you’re going to write a comic that’s based on its main character writing incredible prose, you’d better get a writer who knows how to write some goddamn prose. 3.

Douglas: Value for money, I’ll give it that; George Pérez and Jesus Merino give us 25 pages of very densely packed story for three bucks. I really like that kind of hypercompressed zillions-of-panels-on-every-page look, I think Pérez is a terrific visual storyteller, and Merino manages to curb a lot of Pérez’s “no really guys let me draw EVERY little bit of rubble” excesses. But dear God did this comic book ever feel like a trip to 1989. Lots of revisions of accepted continuity, but absolutely nothing that seem fresh or modern, and also nothing that seems timeless in the way that All-Star Superman does. Also, Pérez — weirdly for a writer-artist — doesn’t know when to let the images do the work: “Wow. He just keeps getting stronger and flying higher every time I see him.” “Yeah, I remember when he couldn’t do much more than leap over tall buildings in a single bound.” You don’t say. “I know that many of you are greeting this day with mixed emotions and perhaps even some trepidation. After all, change is seldom easy. In fact, it can be downright painful.” No, really, you don’t say. 4

Chris S: As Jordan White put it on Twitter, this is a Superman #1 that doesn’t even bother to tell you that Clark Kent is Superman. Also in this comic, we see Clark complaining about journalistic integrity while interviewing himself for an article.

David: Yeah, Clark has ZERO journalistic integrity. It’s amazing when everyone is all “how the hell did Clark get the story?” and Perry’s like “apparently he was already there!” Clark is literally stealing jobs by saving people and then WRITING ABOUT HIMSELF SAVING PEOPLE. WHAT A DOUCHEBAG.

Andy: I liked just about everything about this issue except Superman himself. I enjoyed the obvious meta stuff, like Lois’ remarks about the death of print and how Edge’s deal was the only way to survive and the new ugly Superman hovering over the question “What price tomorrow?” while the Daily Planet building older fans remember is demolished. Perez’s pacing and story made this comic feel like the opening 25 minutes of a really solid action film to me, where we’re introduced to all the major players and the status quo without any lulls. Outside of some of the overwritten captions and dialogue the others have referenced, nothing seemed fake or undramatic to me — nothing except Superman/Clark himself, who seems completely out of character in this angsty, bitchy mode. When I first heard about sickbro super c**kblocker Jonathan Carroll, I was thrilled to see an end to that fruitless marriage and a return of the central tension between Lois/Clark/Superman. But the way Superman/Clark behaves in this comic makes me think he doesn’t even deserve to be with Lois anyway. So that’s two new Superman #1 issues where Superman is basically unrecognizable, but at least this one had lovely George Perez artwork. 6.

Chris S: Do dudes ever hang out at their girlfriend’s places not wearing shirts and just wandering over going, “Who’s at the door, baby?” Because it happens a LOT in bad movies, and now Superman. Does that happen? Has that EVER actually happened?

Andy: Yes, if there’s a dude at the door.

Chris S: I am now laughing my ass off at the thought of Andy furiously trying to get out of his shirt as soon as possible whenever the doorbell rings.

Chris H: I never wear a shirt unless Curt and I are at a con. Curt and I just walk around the LBFA Inc. offices morning, noon, and night shirtless.

Average rating: 4

TEEN TITANS #1

Andy: The best thing about this comic was the Xavier school burning down, and then Kid Flash accidentally blowing it to hell. Other than that, this is basically the original Gen13 with DC characters in place of WildStorm ones, although they did manage to get actual Caitlin Fairchild in there (but I guess she’s grown up and was never exposed to genetic super science that caused her to transform into the huge chested amazon we loved so much as kids). Despite being a complete throwback, I found this the least tedious of all the teen books of the New 52, possibly only because Tim Drake is such a great character and I enjoy the idea of him trying to save/recruit other teenage heroes from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. a.k.a. The Man. The look of this book is the most Image-y of maybe the entire New 52, but in the bad way (as opposed to the Batman #1 way). 3.5.

Douglas: OK, so Scott Lobdell is explicitly tying this in with his Superboy; well played, although I now can’t imagine that his N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is the same as the one from Doom Patrol. Also well played: the X-Mansion being burned down on the first page. I like the ego-crazed new Kid Flash, too. But I think it’s a reasonable ground rule for getting-the-team-together first issues that all the characters on the cover have to appear on the inside. Lobdell and Booth had 20 pages, and we get four out of seven. Docked for not actually offering what it says on the cover. 3

David: I can’t even review this in a standard format. Who the Hell went “yeah, you know who DC comics needs? Scott Lobdell and Bobbie Chase.”

Laura: Teen Titans: Not as bad as I was expecting from the initial art. But I have to know, when Wonder Girl gets pulled over by the cop, why does she cup her hands and hold them up to the officer like she’s begging for bread? It looks creepy. All in all, a mediocre, inoffensive comic that I didn’t find it hard to finish, I suppose. 4.

Chris H: I will give it to Perez though that this issue definitely felt like I got a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end though, and I thought the art was perfectly acceptable. 7.

Chris S: Do you guys think that Scott Lobdell wrote the uproariously bad Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 just so his mediocre Teen Titans comics would look better by comparison? It’s a pretty shrewd move. I’ll admit that I do like Robin using that Bruce Wayne money to put together a team of troubled youths (who wants to bet on how long it’ll be before someone gets Teen Pregnant?), but the execution was so… well, ’90s. This is like the same comic as Gen13 #1, only a little more self-aware. As for the art, I’m already familiar with Brett Booth’s work (of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter “fame”), and I can confirm that this is better than average for him, but still not what I’d call good. Seriously not sure why this book exists, other than to keep the name in circulation. 3.

David: I… man. This comic just did nothing for me, and has so much unexplained weird stuff. Who the Hell is Kid Flash? Why is Tim Drake staying in a Lexcorp tower? Who the hell is NOWHERE and why are we supposed to care about them? My review of Superboy pretty much applies to Teen Titans since it’s almost the exact same damn comic. I don’t get the appeal, and I don’t get what made editorial think this take would have appeal. I will say that new Wonder Girl is more interesting than old Wonder Girl purely by virtue of not being old Wonder girl, I guess. I just don’t really have that much interest in reading about young superheroes who are AMAZINGLY BAD at their jobs and shrug off civilian casualties. I… man. I dunno. I wanted to like this comic and go “Wow, Scott Lobdell really grew up with the times!” but Sims is right, this entire book was just so… ’90s. In a bad way. 3.

Chris H: I’m not making a dig at Brett Booth’s art here, but who thought he was the right guy for this book? Also, why is this book called Teen Titans instead of Young Justice like the currently airing show that is watched by millions as opposed to the thousands that buy comics?

Average score: 3.3

VOODOO #1

Laura: And Voodoo is next.

David: It’s amazing how many books I’ve responded to your ” is next” with “aw jesus” with. This was an awful week for the New 52.

Chris S: This was a letdown. I was hoping for something that would be as hilariously, offensively wretched as Red Hood, but instead it’s just a bland, stupid, cliche-filled comic about a stripper who is maybe also a monster. Absolutely worthless, and the fact that it exists is one of the great mysteries of our times. 1.

Douglas: I refer y’all to that Simone de Beauvoir quote again. I think one aspect of the problem that I’m seeing with a lot of the DC relaunches is that they reflexively imagine an audience who understand the men in these stories as objects of identification and the women as the Mysterious Other. And I’m now so sick of that that I can’t get any pleasure at all out of it. I need something other than “look at the pretty ladies!/But I’m CRITIQUING you looking at the pretty ladies so it’s OK!/SURPRISE VAGINA DENTATA,” you know? What a waste of Sami Basri. 2.

Chris H: I have no idea why they made this comic.

David: Guys, we are redefining “ending on a low note” here. Almost as low as how low Voodoo gets. [cranks some Ludacris] [or some Lil Jon, I'm not picky]

Laura: Here’s the thing. The art on this book is actually very pretty. These are very good drawings of attractive women. Sami Basri should do pinups, if he doesn’t already. But it’s still (to my knowledge) the first DC ongoing book starring a black woman as a title character, and the entire first issue is about her stripping. I would feel a lot better about it if this was separated out as some sort of MAX title that was specifically categorized as T&A, because the problem is that when you constantly mix up your sexploitation and your superhero storytelling, they bleed into each other in weird ways. This is why a lot of people feel like superhero comics are nothing but spandex softcore for guys, and frankly why I feel that way sometimes too.

I’m not joking: I would totally support DC launching a cheesecake imprint to serve that audience, especially if it meant the regular DC Universe books would get more normal. It also reads like stripper fanfiction by someone who has never met a stripper, notably when she exposits her real name and entire personal history to a customer in the middle of a lap dance, and when she keeps stripping after he reveals that he is there to hunt her down because… more stripping? Then when she’s basically simulating sex with him he threatens to slice her open in some sort of alien autopsy, which is a suuuuuuuper creepy juxtaposition. Guys, when a women is in a position where you could potentially penetrate her, that is the time to talk about how you want to cut her open with knives. 2, and only for the art.

Andy: This might be the biggest WTF of the whole New 52 for me. I do admire the slow burn fake-out structure Marz used; I think that’s pretty gutsy, but after 99% straight, no-nonsense stripper stuff, is this now a book about a shape-shifting alien on the run, or is she/it going to go from strip club to strip club learning about humanity? I get that the life story she’s telling her customer is a cover, but why is she continuing to private dance for him while he speaks plainly about his intentions to capture and dissect her? I appreciate the “strong woman” scene where the secret agent lady single-handedly kicks a bunch of rapists’ asses, but it definitely loses something if the vast majority of the book is just seedy strip club fiction.

Basri and his colorist have created a visually beautiful book, though. As Laura said, Basri draws lovely ladies, And while I don’t think I’ve read many comics about pole-dancing or lap-dances, I know this comic did a very good job depicting those things in this static medium. There are actually some very clever storytelling choices with that stuff; I’m genuinely impressed. I don’t have a problem with strip clubs or sexy exploitation stories in and of themselves, but as was the case with Catwoman, which was also a straight exploitation book, the context of a shared superhero universe and this big marketing push of the New 52 makes the sexualization choices made here seem very weird. I give this book a 4 for the artwork alone.

Laura: I gotta say, though, that “strong woman” scene was totally forced, and so cliched. Nightwing used that same scene just last week. Dear comics, please stop trying to prove how badass your characters are by having them randomly attacked by street toughs for no reason. This is not Double Dragon.

Chris H: I didn’t dislike what I think the idea for the story was, but it was hard to tell between all the stripping for stripping’s sake. 4.

David: Badass secret agent lady who beats up rapists with her badass karate skills, stripper who turns into an alien and eats people, why is Voodoo actually from space now? Awful attempt at critique, blah blah blah. This comic read like a stripper revenge fantasy written by someone who not only is not a stripper, but has never been to a strip club. Like, am I getting the vibe they’re jettisoning the idea that Priscilla Kitaen was a real woman who got screwed up with Kherubite/Daemonite DNA, and instead just making her an invading alien? 2.

Chris S: Something’s invading all right. AW YEAH. (high fives the bros) (Does not high five Laura)

Laura: :(

Average rating: 2.5


Overall average ratings, highest to lowest:

Flash: 8.25
All Star Western: 6.6
Justice League Dark: 6.4
I, Vampire: 5.4
Aquaman: 5.3
Superman: 4
Green Lantern New Guardians: 3.6
Teen Titans: 3.3
Blackhawks: 3
Voodoo: 2.5
Savage Hawkman: 2.1
Batman: The Dark Knight: 2.2
Firestorm: 2

WHAT BOOKS ARE WORTH COMING BACK FOR MORE?

Now that all of the #1 issues have been released, the six roundtable participants (Caleb Goellner, Chris Haley, Laura Hudson, Andy Khouri, Chris Sims, David Uzumeri, Douglas Wolk) have picked out all the books that have compelled at least two of them to head back to the comic shop for the second issue:

6 votes: Animal Man, Batman
5 votes: Action Comics, Batwoman, Flash, Frankenstein, Justice League, Nightwing, Swamp Thing
4 votes: Demon Knights, All Star Western, Wonder Woman
3 votes: Aquaman, Batman and Robin, Birds of Prey, Justice League Dark, OMAC, Stormwatch
2 votes: Green Lantern, I Vampire, Supergirl

What do you think of the DC Comics relaunch now that it’s over? Was it successful? What books will have you coming back for more

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