ComicsAlliance Reviews Every Comic in DC’s New 52: Week 3
The third 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: Batman, Birds of Prey, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Catwoman, Deadman, Green Lantern Corps, Legion of Super-Heroes, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman. Join Andy Khouri, Chris Sims, David Uzumeri and Laura Hudson as they rate each book on a scale of 1-10 and try to gauge the success of DC’s bold new experiment.
Chris: Loved it. 9 out of 10.
David: There isn’t much to say that Chris didn’t already say in his review. Snyder’s got a clear understanding of all the characters involved and a clear idea of where he wants to take the book, mixing old-school horror with new-school Bond gadgetry. He mixes just enough of the classic formula — murder mystery, Harvey Bullock, Commissioner Gordon, Arkham Asylum — with the new elements, like Damian and Professor Pyg, introduced by Grant Morrison — to create a wonderful melange of everything that’s made Batman so damn great for the last half-decade or so. Unquestionably in the upper echelon of the New 52. 9.
Andy: Excellent first issue for any new series, so it’s very helpful as part of a line-wide initiative as ambitious as DC’s New 52. Writer Scott Snyder has balanced exposition with forward action far better than anything we’ve seen in the relaunch so far, giving new readers a version of Batman they recognize not just from the recent films but also from our cultural memory of the character. Batman iss absolutely on the ball and getting things done: beating up his entire rogues’ gallery, doing some detective work with the cops who don’t like him all that much, and jumping between his dual identities. I’m always wary of complicating Batman stories with unnecessary super technology like his mainframe contact lens or whatever it is, but its facial recognition function was a very clever way to introduce the Robins, who must be the hardest concept for new readers to get a handle on, especially if DC is ever going to push this “five years” notion we’ve talked about. The artwork by Greg Capullo and his collaborators exemplifies what I strongly suspect DC and Jim Lee have been going for, which is an invocation of the BEST qualities of the old Image Comics style. It’s a great look for a Batman story, as some might remember from Todd McFarlane and Frank Miller’s Spawn/Batman one-shot from all those years ago.
I’ve been trade-waiting on Scott Snyder’s very acclaimed run of Detective Comics, but if Batman #1 is any indication, I can see why it was so well liked by this staff. Honestly, the only problem I have with this issue is that Dick Grayson was depicted as distractingly short, which not only makes him look younger than he but made me wonder what sort of problems that caused when he was Batman. I give this a 9.
Laura: Indeed, this was a fantastic issue. I loved the contrast between Bruce Wayne and Batman, and how that dichotomy allowed Bruce to be aspirational and optimistic while still maintaining the terrifying, inexorable precision of his life as Batman. It’s nice to see him have more than one note to play — and feel. I was particularly curious about his interaction with the also-rich, also-handsome, also-powerful mayoral candidate, and while I get the sense that guy is getting set up to become the next villain, I’m hoping there’s an interesting twist in there in terms of his ability to mirror many aspects of the public Bruce. Great for all the reasons everyone else has cited, and the best of the new 52 (so far). 9.
Average score: 9.0 out of 10
BIRDS OF PREY #1
Andy: Duane Swierczynski is a great writer who knows how to put a story together. Unlike a lot of books in the New 52, Birds of Prey #1 did its job of introducing the characters and setting the story in motion in a way made sense, even if it looks to be a really slow burn. Crucially, Black Canary is recognizably herself, as opposed to Batgirl in that book’s first issue. But the look of this book doesn’t appeal to me at all. Certainly, Jesus Saiz’s figure drawing is great but the overall tone that he and his collaborators establish doesn’t seem very distinctive. It’s the same gloomy, murky look that’s shared by so many New 52 books. And Black Canary’s costume is just ridiculous. It looks like that car Homer Simpson helped design in a committee. They’ve gone so far out of their way to avoid the classic Black Canary look that they’ve just made her look like what someone might design as a parody of a New 52 Black Canary costume. It’s doubly senseless when you see that Starling is rocking a corset in a look that is not all that removed from Dinah’s proper costume. Just let Canary be Canary and everything will fall into place. I give this a 5, but expect it to get better as the series progresses.
Laura: You are I are going to have to part ways, Andy, because as someone without much of an attachment to Birds of Prey or Black Canary, I liked her new costume with its the dark blue breastplate and futuristic yellow piping design, which really pops. The green cast to her fishnets gives their overt sexuality a bright, superhero feel, though i admit that the arm… fishnets? are a little overboard. These are hot lady crimefighters whose primary concern is kicking bad guys in the face, not swiveling their T&A to the camera. Thanks for the absence of pointless butt shots, Jesus Saiz? While it’s refreshing to see it’s still kind of like winning the low expectations award for basic decency, though, and I also disagree that the comic serves as a true introduction. I really wasn’t as familiar with some of these characters and the book simply expected me to be and dropped me in the middle of the action. 6.
Chris: I was actually really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. I’m not sure why; I’ve liked pretty much every comic I’ve read by Duane Swierczynski, and considering that the first thing of his I read was when he had to follow Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction on Immortal Iron Fist, a book I loved to pieces, that’s saying something. His script is another great example of just jumping right in and letting the action set the tone of the story, and while it doesn’t really do much explaining in terms of who these people are, there’s some solid characterization — like Starling’s gleeful thrillseeking — that comes through pretty well. What really struck me about this one, though, is the art by Jesus Saiz, who I’ve been a fan of since Manhunter. He draws beautiful women that are undeniably sexy without making them exploitative. When Black Canary fights, she looks like she’s fighting, not posing — the way she stands and moves would look just as appropriate as if it was, say, Nightwing. I agree with Andy about the costume (though I’ll admit I’m a fan of the fishnets), but really, the only thing “wrong” with this book was that it proved there’s no need for sh*t like Catwoman. 7.
David: I was a big fan of Duane Swierczynski’s hugely underrated run on Immortal Iron Fist, which got largely overlooked for having to follow up the classic Brubaker/Fraction run. After a roughly-paced start (which is fair since it was his first comic work ever), Cable turned into a hugely entertaining title as well. So I’m glad to see Swierczynski back into regular comics, although I have to admit following Gail Simone on Birds of Prey is not what I expected to happen. Although I’m glad it did. It’s bizarre how the antitheses of Red Hood and Catwoman in terms of treatment of gender politics are all out this week, but this is a comic about sexy women kicking the sh*t out of people who totally deserve to get sh*tkicked. Barbara Gordon appears, and it’s implied that she used to be a member, but now it’s just Black Canary and her newly-created best friend Ev (Starling), who likes to shoot people with guns. They’re being investigated by a journalist, some dudes attack, everything goes to hell from there. These are fully-realized characters who happen to be hot women doing superhero espionage in Gotham City. I approve. 7.
Average score: 6.5
BLUE BEETLE #1
Chris: This one was a massive disappointment. I love the character and I was a huge fan of the last Blue Beetle series and I even tend to enjoy Tony Bedard’s comics, but this thing was about useless. It’s a reintroduction to a character that’s only five years old that strips away everything I liked about Jaime Reyes and his supporting cast. The humor, charm and innovation are all gone and replaced with one cliche after another, from the Reach being recast as a generic Evil Alien Empire to Paco’s new status as Vibe 2.0 to dialogue that’s sub-Claremontean in how hard it beats you over the head with the fact that these characters speak Spanish. Worst of all, it’s boring. They might as well have slapped a new cover onto Keith Giffen, John Rogers and Cully Hamner’s Blue Beetle #1 from 2006 and sold that, because it still feels more new and exciting than this rehash. 3.
David: On one hand, taken on its own merit, this is probably one of the best books this week, introducing a new hero and supporting cast from a fresh start, with good art. The level of Spanish spoken in this issue is intrusive to the point of being Claremontian, however. And that’s how this review would go if I hadn’t read a better version of this exact same comic only five years ago when it was by Keith Giffen, John Rogers and Cully Hamner. This new iteration of Blue Beetle has the exact same main and supporting characters, an almost identical situation, except that it just isn’t as good. The dialogue isn’t as snappy, the characters aren’t as funny, the alien Reach who create the scarab that gives protagonist Jaime Reyes his powers are just a bunch of dudes who blow stuff up instead of the sly manipulators and infiltrators of the previous iteration. Long story short, this comic is a Radiohead song covered by Coldplay. 5.
Laura: This is a book that tries painfully, painfully hard to both 1) be cool and 2) seem authentic by dropping as many Spanish phrases as possible into every dialogue bubble, but fails at both. There are some plot issues I could pick apart that make no sense, but it’s not even worth it. All the joy and excitement of Jaime Reyes as a teenage superhero is gone here, replaced with what reads like a mediocre educational comic made to teach kids Spanish 101 vocab. Adios, Blue Beetle. Que pena! 4.
Andy: I find myself having the same reaction to all these teenage hero books, which is apathy. This may be a perfectly good teen hero story and I’m aware that this version of the Blue Beetle has been extremely popular with hardcore DC fans, so I don’t mean to sound dismissive of the professional work that went into creating Blue Beetle #1 and I sincerely hope people enjoy it. But there’s a formula in these teen hero books where some everyday kid, usually bullied, gets thrown into some fantastical event completely by accident and he turns out to be this really great hero. I no longer find that entertaining after how awesome Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos’ classic Impulse series was when I was a kid. I’m also skeptical as to the coolness of the new Blue Beetle’s powers and mythology. Not that Ted Kord’s were all that either, but he was the Blue Beetle of my generation and Jaime is the Blue Beetle of someone else’s. However, the story of Jaime Reyes represents DC putting its money where its mouth is in terms of diversity, and his culture is a major component of the character work in this issue. I think that’s great. I give this a 4.
Average score: 4.0
CAPTAIN ATOM #1
Andy: This was like the worst episodes of Star Trek, where it’s nothing but technobabble. The issue begins with this totally incongruous discussion of about the nature of… nature, or something, and from there on it’s just super science stuff. I never really had a sense of who Captain Atom was before and I still don’t. Some nice moments from Freddie Williams, though. 2.
Chris: Well, that certainly was a mediocre issue of Firestorm. Can’t figure out why they kept calling him Captain Atom, though. 3.
Laura: I guess I get to be the anomaly this time who likes the book no one else likes. I thought it did a good job of introducing a hero I wasn’t terribly familiar with, and the first-person narrative really helped root me in his world and his struggles, kind of like Supergirl. Unlike Supergirl, more than three things happen in the comic, so I had more time to form that investment in both the character and the story. Some forced exposition here and there, but a solid introduction that left me wanting to know what happened next. And holy crap, J.T. Krul wrote this? My world has been flip turned upside down. 6.
David: First off, with Captain Atom’s powers now consisting of molecular manipulation and a big floating mohawk constantly zooming behind his head, this is pretty much Firestorm In The Military. However, Firestorm In The Military, for some reason, is unquestionably the best thing J.T. Krul’s ever written. The basic gist is that Nathaniel Adam is becoming less and less in tune with existence every time he loses his powers, and those powers are making him feel more and more disconnected from humanity by essentially turning him into a god. Make no mistake, this is Dr. Manhattan: The Early Years, but Freddie Williams II really elevates it by taking his already very good art to the next stylistic level. Captain Atom is portrayed entirely in inkwashes in a solidly inked world, and the effect is tremendous. This is a really, really good-looking comic. 6.
Average score: 4.25
Andy: Selina Kyle has always been an overtly sexual character — at least for an ostensibly all-ages superhero comics character. She’s also always been a criminal without being properly evil. She’s also always had a complex relationship with the Batman, not to mention other women in her life. In other words, this is a rich, well-defined character. Along those lines, I was actually okay with page 1 of this book. The cheesecake bits of her suiting up and grabbing her pets seemed totally in keeping with the long established Catwoman idiom. Even the backflip with her clothes not fully on yet seemed more an intentionally funny moment to me than anything salacious. But as I made my way through the book, it became positively debauched. Catwoman #1 is a straight up exploitation comic and in the worst sense. There’s no clever genre twist here, no Tarantino-style self-awareness. This is just sex, violence and spectacle with no soul whatsoever. The final sequence with Batman is precisely the sort of ghastly affair that the comics community used to mock fanfiction writers for, but it’s been made text. There are some very lovely pages and panels from Guillem March and his collaborators, which push this book’s score from a 1 to a 1.5.
Chris: Garbage. I think we’ve beaten this thing to death over the past few days, but I’m still weirded out by the Catwoman’s whole “every time he protests… then… gives in” line. It might as well be followed up with “sure he says no, but c’mon, you go out in a cape like that and you’re asking for it.” Did nobody stop to think about that for a second and realize how creepy it is, and how much of a dumb teenage fantasy it is? Seriously, it’s not the sex that’s the problem, or even that it’s super-heroes having sex. I’m a guy who thinks Small Favors and Chester 5000 are truly great comics, I love Adam Warren’s Empowered, and there’s even a scene of Batman and Catwoman having sex in Batman Inc. #1 that’s fantastic. The problem is that Judd Winick writes it with absolutely no skill, craft, or understanding of the characters, which is no surprise since that’s his entire career writing super-hero comics in a nutshell. As for the art, I’d like it a lot more if Guillem March wasn’t constantly pointing us at t*ts and asses, but that’s not really something this script asks him to do, is it? There’s a lot to it that I like, though, and I’d really like to see what he does with a script that isn’t fanfic written during a middle school algebra class. 1
David: Man, I have no idea what to say about this that hasn’t been said 400 times on this site already, but this is a new #1 with a female character where it reveals a history of sexual assault, a penchant for basically raping Batman, and basically every other box on the STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER Bingo Card. The antagonists are, as far as I can tell, a bunch of Russian mobsters or something. I’m not onboard the Bash Judd Winick train — I’ve liked a lot of his stuff before — but this was just a total misfire, and I’m not even sure I can call it a well-intentioned one. Guillem March has talent, but the stuff he’s drawing here is just so, well, porny, that it comes off as crass. 2.
Laura: The content gets a zero from me, but you know what? I really liked the cover. Granted, the breasts are pretty much the same uniformly absurd melons that come prepackaged with every superheroine costume, but dial down that cup size and you’ve got a really sexy pic of the Selina luxuriating in her own criminality. I wish this was the aesthetic we’d seen in the actual book; it could have been a winner. As it is, it gets a 1, and absolutely none of that is for anything inside the comic.
Average score: 1.4
Chris: This new season of Quantum Leap is weird. 4.
Andy: I kind of loved this. Paul Jenkins is an old pro and I’m not surprised at all that created a story that absolutely defines this character and his function and his desires, nor am I surprised that Bernard Chang drew the hell out of it. I was surprised I cared so much about Boston Brand and his situation — I think it’s because he’s always played as so cavalier, but this is a cool way to demonstrate how frustrating it would be to be in that situation and what kind of life lessons the person would learn. I was also struck by the Rama’s explanation of Deadman’s mission, how Boston and the man he used to be would keep walking toward each other until the scale of karma was balanced. I don’t know if that’s an old image from the character’s long history, but I really dug it. Great comic in the classic DC style. High 8.
Laura: Yeah, I don’t know why Chris is hating. There’s some strong writing and characterization here, and the scene in the afterlife in particular not only offers a really beautiful visual metaphor (below) for Boston Brand coming to terms with the imbalance of his dissipate life, but also serves as its own narrative fulcrum between the douchebag he used to be and the hero he needs to become. This issue covers so much ground both in Brand’s lives and the lives of so many other people he touches as Deadman, and it totally sold me. 8.
David: This one was actually a pleasant surprise. Good Paul Jenkins and Bad Paul Jenkins are two different people sharing a body, and for the first time in a while, this book’s by the former. It’s a new take on Boston Brand, the ghost who possesses, as he’s being asked increasingly more to help people whose problems are more existential. How will a formerly self-centered trapeze artist inspire people who are losing their will to live? I have no idea, but I’m interested to find out. Bernard Chang’s art is top-notch, too. 7.
Average score: 6.75
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
Andy: My praise and criticisms of the Green Lantern franchise remain the same: I am totally down with the ultra space violence and am totally over anything happening on Earth. That said, I suppose it was sensible to depict exactly why being Green Lanterns has made civilian life on Earth difficult for John Stewart and Guy Gardner, whose experiences as superheroes have made them incompatible with the mundane realities of an Earthbound existence. The dull Earth scenes also demonstrate the differences between them: John is a brain, Guy is a jock. But you see both of them perk up incredibly when they find a dangerous mission to volunteer for, because they are of course fearless space heroes. Some space murders, someone stealing oceans and wiping out whole worlds — that’s what I want from my space opera comics. I also like the heavily rendered art by Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna and their colorist Gabe Eltaeb. Despite being a dark and violent Green Lantern book, this issue was one of the brighter and crisper looking comics in all of the New 52. I give it a 7.
Laura: I, on the other hand, am not a big fan of the space ultra-violence. A book about space heroes with magic rings that can make anything they imagine real should be about creativity and cosmic grandeur, not dismemberment. Once we get past that introductory scene of slicing and dicing, though, there’s a lot to like, as Guy Gardner attempts to hang out in the non-superhero world, get an actual real-person job, and has long conversations with his buddy John Stewart about feeling like he can’t fit in with regular people anymore. That sort of jazz is basically my favorite thing in superhero comics, and it was really great to see the emphasis on these characters as people before they flew off into space to fight the Big Mysterious Threat. Keep feeding me these “heroes hanging in the everyday world” scenes, and I’ll keep reading. 7.
Chris: Well, if anyone was worried that the new DC Universe would be doing away with the old policy of constant dismemberment, they can rest easy now that Green Lantern Corps is out. As I’ve said elsewhere, the Green Lantern franchise does absolutely nothing for me these days, and this one was no exception. I like that Tomasi found a way to introduce these characters to the audience, although having someone sitting around going “But you’re Guy Gardner and here is a list of facts about you!” was maybe not as subtle as it could’ve been, nor is the fact that Guy Gardner now has a dumber version of John Cena’s haircut. Still, it’s got some space action, some John Stewart sticking up for the little guy, and people making glowing green objects with their power rings. There’s nothing wrong with it, but for me, there was nothing particularly right with it either. 5.
David: Unlike Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern, this actually does feel like the first issue of a new title, as Peter J. Tomasi moves his pet character Guy Gardner over from the now-cancelled Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors to reintegrate with the main Green Lanterns and his new partner John Stewart. All the characters are introduced, alongside a new threat; Pasarin’s art is as solid as it was on Emerald Warriors, and Tomasi’s characterization of Guy is, as always, totally on point. At the end of the day, though, this doesn’t feel that much like a reboot at all, which I guess is to be expected with a Green Lantern title. 7.
Average score: 6.5
Chris: So like… They told Paul Levitz there was going to be a reboot, right? Like, he knew this was going to be #1, and not the third part of a six-part story? They didn’t accidentally leave him off the email they sent out? Because this is seriously the most inaccessible first issue I have ever read. I mean, I’m a huge Legion fan — I’ve got all 12 archives sitting on a bookshelf three feet away and I’ve read and loved every single panel of ’em — and I’m lost. It’s a direct continuation of what they were doing before the reboot, and while I don’t particularly want to see Lightning Lad, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl saving RJ Brande from the Dominators for the 18th time, but maybe some kind of fresh start would’ve been warranted for this one. It’s not impossible to do, either; Mark Waid rebooted this book with a clean slate twice, and he did it in a completely different way both times. This, meanwhile, was like running headfirst into a brick wall of continuity. 2.
Laura: What the heck just happened here? For a story that does almost nothing but introduce a very long string of characters, it left me feeling like I still had no idea who they were and what they were doing. Impenetrable. 3.
Andy: I’m sorry to say I didn’t get this at all. As someone who’s only read a small handful of Legion stories, I was looking forward to the new #1 issue. But like Green Lantern #1, which I liked, this seems to just be the next issue of Paul Levitz’s previous Legion of Super-Heroes series, which I’d never read. I’ve written before about how DC is rolling the dice on alienating existing readers with the rebooted characters of the New 52, but there’s an inverse effect too. In this case, I was a new reader and I couldn’t penetrate this story or get a handle on any of the characters. But I suspect existing Legion readers will dig it. I suppose it’s no wonder that my favorite Legion story is that Final Crisis tie-in where Superboy-Prime just kills every version of the team for four or five issues? Anyway, I give Legion #1 a 3.
David: This is just the next issue of Levitz’s Legion of Super-Heroes. Basically nothing’s changed, other than a few new costumes and the introduction of characters from his Legion Academy storyline in the now-cancelled Adventure Comics. Overall, it’s a gigantic cast and everyone only had a sliver of personality; that’s not to say that they’re only defined by that sliver, but that’s all Levitz could ft into a twenty-page first issue. Portela’s art was workmanlike. Not as confusing as Legion Lost, but still not a very good #1. For fans of Levitz’s Legion already, I guess. 4.
Average score: 3
David: A nice companion book to Batman, this suitably portrays a slightly younger Dick Grayson back in the Nightwing saddle, protecting Gotham in that costume for the first time in a number of years. While the villain is a bit stereotypically badass, it’s a strong first issue that does everything it should — introduce the main character, his supporting cast, a new villain with a mystery and a connection to the protagonist — almost to a Dixonesque formulaic T. But I’ll take that over the next joint. 7.5
Laura: One of the most joyful moments for me in DC Comics this week was the introductory double page splash, where Dick Grayson leaps into the night in his costume while the caption shouts NIGHTWING! While I would usually whine about story time getting wasted on a splash, it’s worth it here; it makes you want to put your fist in the air and say “Yeah! Superheroes!” This book does a great job of defining Dick’s time with Batman — and as Batman — but also how different he is from Bruce Wayne and how that allows him to offer something different as a hero. I could have done without the incredibly tired “superhero gets mugged in his civilian identity so he can show how unexpectedly kick-ass he is” trope, but Dick’s return to the traveling circus where his parents were murdered and the revelation that he’s apparently being framed for murder gave this issue some great hooks. One of the highlights of the week. 8.
Andy: Writer Kyle Higgins is a dedicated fan of Dick Grayson, so it was no surprise that the character appeared in this new #1 issue completely recognizable as the hero we all remember. My biggest fear for this book was that Dick would be remixed into some silly version of himself like we saw with Barbara Gordon in Batgirl #1, but I’m pleased that Nightwing #1 is a proper Dick Grayson story. It’s also quite a traditional #1 issue, spending a lot of time setting up the character’s new status quo, base of operations and mission. I was also pleased to see that Higgins and Barrows stuck to the tradition of having Nightwing flying through the air at basically all times. He’s not Batman, he doesn’t hide in the shadows. Unfortunately, like a lot of the New 52, the first-person narration was a bit overwrought and the issue just sort of stops without establishing a real big hook for the series in terms of story or concept. But when I was a kid, that Nightwing was the first Robin grown up was enough of a hook for me, and I became a lifelong fan. I expect good things from this series and creative team, even if Nightwing #1 wasn’t the home run that Batman was. I give it a 6.
Chris: With this issue, Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows are basically doing the opposite of what happened with Legion of Super-Heroes. Everything that was there before the reboot is still in place — Dick Grayson used to be Robin, Nightwing and Batman — but it’s all presented in a pretty accessible fashion that leads to a highly enjoyable story. It’s not perfect — Dick Grayson letting the cops die is going to be a sticking point for a lot of readers, even if he acknowledges it in the text itself — but there’s some nice action, some nice character work casting Dick as a friendlier version of Batman, and even some great comedy worked in when he visits the circus. Surprising no one, I’m a pretty big Nightwing fan, and with Higgins doing such a great job with the recent Batman: Gates of Gotham, I’m fully on board for this. Plus, his costume’s probably the least overdesigned of the entire reboot, although the red logo (an attempt to Terry McGinnis him up, I suspect) makes it look like he was Batwoman’s sidekick instead of Batman’s. Then again, that’s just nitpicking. 7.
Average score: 7.1
Chris: Inexplicable nonsense. This thing makes me want to go back and re-adjust every other comic I gave a zero, because they’ve cracked right through the basement and found a new low. -1.
David: Red Hood and the Outlaws #1: I was kind of looking forward to this comic initially as the Trailer Park Boys of the DC Universe, but it ended up having absolutely zero of that show’s heart. Rocafort’s art is attractive at first glance, but… well, the Starfire Sequence. And… and everything else about the comic, really. The action sequences are drawn well, and I like Red Hood’s new mask allowing for more facial acting, but I wanted a self-consciously bad ’80s road
movie and what I got was an unself-consciously bad ’90s porno. 3.
Andy: I don’t understand why this book exists. If you told me Jason Todd and Roy Harper, the two worst former sidekicks ever and arguably the two worst DCU characters operating today, were going to start in a book together in which they owned up to their awfulness in a superhero version of Spies Like Us, I’d say that was brilliant. If you told me Starfire would star in a trashy/pulpy space adventure book where she’s traded to her people’s worst enemy in a kind of New Godsian pact for peace, raised as a slave and eventually defeats grand armies and escapes to freedom, I’d say that was brilliant. But instead we have this pointless, blathering mash-up where Red Hood and Arsenal are up to some kind of nebulous jetsetting, paramilitary adventure and Starfire is the slutty naked alien in the middle of it for no reason at all. Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely be in favor of an outrageously gorgeous naked alien character running around in a superhero book if there were some level of innocence or even charm to it. Starfire had that in the Teen Titans days, where it was almost like she had no idea what she looked like and our puritanical Earth culture couldn’t deal with her wild alien free love thing. It was cute. But as Laura very eloquently explained in her recent editorial, this is something else entirely. I also find it distinctly gross that she actually goes out of her way to say “I NEED TO GET F*CKED! NO STRINGS ATTACHED!”, making her the perfect partner for The Situation and the rest of the cast of Jersey Shore. Seriously, this comic makes even the tackiest and most salacious moments of the original Gen13 read like Scott Pilgrim.
The book has two redeemable qualities. One is the moment where the little kid grabs a Twitpic of Starfire on his phone and says OH THANK YOU GOD. I love that sort of thing, it’s very Dragon Ball. The other is the awesome Kenneth Rocafort artwork. I liked his and his collaborators’ art so much, I’m pushing this book’s score to a 2.
Laura: Zero. Point. Zero zero zero.
Average score: 1.0
David: The first few pages of this issue are clever and wonderful, with Supergirl crashing through Kansas into Siberia and having an internal monologue about the dreamlike nature of her surroundings (being from Krypton). The rest of it is a fairly unnecessary big dumb fight sequence that does nothing to drive the plot forward other than show that Kara is now experiencing her powers for the very first time. Hopefully further issues will be more of the first part and not the second, but I still enjoyed this comic a lot, largely due to the efforts of Mahmud Asrar, Dan Green and Dave McCaig, who come up with a very well-illustrated comic. Not a knockout first issue, but it contains way more promise than many of its contemporaries. 8.
Laura: Since my Starfire/Catwoman critique a lot of people have asked me what I thought of the other female-centric books like Birds of Prey and Supergirl, but as much as I wish there was a counterpoint I could lift on my shoulders, nothing was as good as those two books were bad. Supergirl was ok in several ways; solid characterization of a lady hero, and beautiful art that never gets creepy on the main character. Gold star for doing what every comic should do? But really, the biggest problem here is the decompression. Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman origin is legendary at this point for its brevity, and while that’s a bit extreme, this is just attenuated to the point where it devalues the book. This is a 20-page comic, and it takes 5 pages for Supergirl to fall from the sky to the ground. The other 14 pages are Supergirl fighting robots for reasons I don’t understand, and on the last page Superman shows up. That’s all that happens, and it’s not like execution adds layers of depth that aren’t covered by that summary. They could have compressed the entire plot of this comic into 5 pages, easy, and spent the other 15 pages telling us… more of the story. I wish they had, because I liked what I saw, it just wasn’t enough to really hook me. 5.
Chris: I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I was going to. There’s some great action, there’s some good exposition that makes a nice introduction to the character and her sudden super-powers, and when Superman shows up, he’s actually helping someone and not just smarming at them like he did in JLA. The only problem is that it’s a super-fast read. It takes no time at all to read, and while that’s not entirely unexpected given the frenetic pace of what happens in it, there could’ve been a lot more done with this issue. It reads like Michael Green and Mike Johnson knew that they wanted the last page to be Superman showing up, and he had to make a ten-page encounter with the armored troops last for an entire issue. Still, I’m interested in finding out more about this Supergirl, which is something I haven’t really been able to say since Superman: The Animated Series went off the air. I’ve been a fan of Mahmoud Asrar for a while, too, and he certainly makes a good use of the page, especially when Supergirl starts smashing up the armor. I really don’t care for the costume, but he does a good job with it, and again, he stays away from oversexualizing her, which has been a huge problem for the character since her most recent return. It’s actually a Supergirl comic I feel like you could give to a kid, and that in itself is an accomplishment compared to what it’s up against. Even with the thin plot, that puts it up to a 7.
Andy: This book was another one of the new reader vs. old reader gambles, and another one that lost as far as I’m concerned. Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle spent years building Supergirl into a proper character distinct from others in the DC Universe, and the New 52 initiative has reimagined her as, well, I guess we don’t really know yet because this whole issue was nothing but a big fight scene that ended when Superman rescued her. There’s really nothing else to say about Supergirl except kudos for being a female-starring book that’s nothing like Catwoman or Red Hood and the Outlaws. I give Supergirl #1 a 3.
Average score: 5.75
Andy: Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang throw you right into the action with this first issue, which features a vision of Wonder Woman very different than that which I’m mainly familiar with, the one from the Justice League cartoons. I really like her here: strong, unconfused, purposeful, fierce, and really freaking tall. There’s a lot to take in here story-wise, and I suspect I’ll have to bone up on some mythology if I want to appreciate everything Azzarello is putting into this book. I don’t know how new readers will react to Wonder Woman’s complete lack of sweetness, though. I think of her as a warrior, certainly, but also quite maternal like her Justice League Unlimited incarnation. In any event, I’m looking forward to more of this from Azzarello and Chiang, even if the costume is still wrong. Scoring this an 8.
Chris: Everyone else seems to have liked this a heck of a lot more than I did, but I was probably expecting something different out of it. I don’t really care for Wonder Woman, and I’m not a huge fan of Brian Azzarello, but I love Cliff Chiang’s artwork and the last time he and Azzarello did a book together, it was the truly amazing Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality. Wonder Woman isn’t even close to being anything like that story in any way other than that they were both held together with staples, so I’ll admit that my own expectations threw me on this one. That said, it’s pretty enjoyable, if only because this is a Wonder Woman that I actually like. Azzarello has some really nice, humanizing character bits right when we first see her, and the way that she jumps right into the action, headbutting monsters and throwing swords with a smile is really appealing, and while the use of mythological elements weren’t quite my speed, they were certainly interesting. Chiang’s art is, of course, phenomenal as always. I’m sticking with it, but I was slightly underwhelmed. 6.
David: I’m pretty sure it’ll come as no surprise to anybody that I enjoyed the hell out of this comic. It’s everything I loved about Greg Rucka’s take on the character, with a fresh start — Diana’s kind, the gods are dicks, she’s pretty badass fighting some monsters… and man, with all due respect to Drew Johnson, Rags Morales and Cliff Richards (the artists on Rucka’s run), Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson blow them completely out of the water. This is a fantastic-looking comic in almost every way, and as nice as what Brian Azzarello’s revealing of his plan is, that’s what elevates this up to being a very solid 9.
Laura: More than anything, I’m so excited to see Cliff Chiang’s work on this book, which is bright, clean, beautiful and kinetic. His cover where Diana launches herself into a hail of arrows mid-war cry is so fierce, and she’s never seemed more like a warrior. The idea of a relaunch promised a fresh start, but artistically has largely delivered “the new boss, same as the old boss” — or worse, throwbacks to the ’90s. If I have any regrets about the art in Wonder Woman, it’s that it seems so anomalous compared to the other new 52 books. I’ve finally decided that the bare legs look better (and make more sense) than the pants, and the rest of the costume really comes together. Diana looks sexy, but — hold the phone — her breasts are actually kind of a normal size, which is, again, refreshing. That said, the story doesn’t quite come together for me as a debut issue or an introduction to the character; we don’t even see Diana until ten pages into the comic, which means we spend way too much time with the side plots before we even meet the person the book is about. I’ll be back, but I’ll be expecting more. 7.5
Average score: 7.6
FINAL SCORES, Highest to Lowest:
Wonder Woman: 7.6
DC Comics Presents Deadman: 6.75
Green Lantern Corps: 6.5
Birds of Prey: 6.25
Captain Atom: 4.25
Blue Beetle: 4.0
Legion of Super-Heroes: 3.0
Red Hood and the Outlaws: 1.0