ComicsAlliance Reviews Every Comic in DC’s New 52: Week 2
The second week of new #1 DC Comics has arrived, 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 and Robin, Batwoman, Deathstroke, Demon Knights, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, Grifter, Legion Lost, Mister Terrific, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, Superboy. Join Let’s Be Friends Again writer Curt Franklin, Chris Sims, David Uzumeri 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.
Curt: Bruce Wayne and his son Damian’s interactions in this comic were a huge highlight of the week for me. Bruce’s realization that he should honor his parents’ lives rather than fret over their deaths was very welcome. Patrick Gleason’s art was beautiful, and really only rivaled by Doug Mahnke and J.H. Williams III among the so far released new 52. Writer Pete Tomasi threatens the heights of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin with this first issue. 8
Douglas: So much exposition; so little story. I understand that it’s trying to mark a change in Bruce’s attitude, but 1) that change goes against everything that drives Bruce as a character, and 2) it’s all telling-not-showing. Morrison’s B&R was all about depth and layering; this is just surface, and thin surface at that. 4.
David: I think I’m gonna be alone on this one, but I really liked Batman and Robin. It certainly was chock-full of Tomasi’s somewhat sappy character interaction, especially between Bruce and Damian, but this was interaction we haven’t gotten to see since … 2006. The character development for Batman seemed totally logical in the face of his recent tribulations and his experiences through time, and what he discovered about himself. While I hope the book goes past “DAMIAN, YOU’RE A LOOSE CANNON!” “F**K YOU, DAD!” fairly soon, as a scene-setter I was pretty impressed. It introduced the characters, introduced the status quo of Incorporated, introduced a threat, and hit the ground running. And yeah, damn, the art was nice. I didn’t love it as much as Curt, but it was a solid 7.
Chris: Batman and Robin #1 was one of the few comics that actually feels like it was directed straight at new readers. You get a nice introduction of Batman, Damian, and their relationship, as well as a nice switch-up of the status quo, with Batman wanting to celebrate his parents’ lives rather than mourn their death. It was a really interesting take that I enjoyed seeing — if we get a Batman who’s not constantly dour and miserable out of this relaunch, I’ll be perfectly fine with that — but despite that, the issue felt a little generic for me. It’s very much a here’s our heroes, there’s our villains, here’s a fight, oh no, more villains sort of approach. I kind of dig that they’re going for an issue you really could give to anyone, but the finished product is just an average super-hero comic. I’d give it a 6.
David: Yes, I’d really like to see how Damian’s evolved over the past year or so; he can’t be the same brat he was when he first appeared forever.
Average Score: 6.25 out of 10
David: I’m so glad this comic is finally out. And if you cut out the credit page and the Bones/Chase scene, I don’t think I would have been able to tell this wasn’t written by Greg Rucka. While a lot of that is due to how much artist J.H. Williams III defined the visual style of the previous Batwoman arcs Elegy and Go, a lot of it also has to do with solid plotting, sharp dialogue and thematically appropriate villains. Kate’s entire origin story is built on a missing child, so a villain who involves missing children is bound to hit home for her. This was 21st century superhero comics, and I’m so far on board I’m doing a Christ pose on the mast. 9.
Laura: I’m simply going to say the art is GORGEOUS, as gorgeous as it ever was. But Uzi, I couldn’t disagree with you more. I could absolutely tell that this was not written by Greg Rucka. I will also add that the non-Rucka-ness was particularly notable in relation to the writing of the female characters. And it is a book about a female character that is also generally full of women. 7
Douglas: This is the winner of this week’s batch by a wide margin: J.H. Williams III is really invested in this series, and it shows. (He even put his pet character Chase in it…) The story didn’t grab me the way the Greg Rucka-written Batwoman serial in Detective Comics did, but it’s got an enormous amount of style to it. I’m very happy to see Maggie Sawyer and Bette Kane (!!!) in more than cameo appearances. And the art is as spectacular as expected. I absolutely adore just about everything about this series: its look, its tone, its mood, its attitude, and how willing it is to be totally unlike every other superhero comic around. 9.
Curt: A beautiful comic, an almost automatic expectation from Williams at this point. A spread near the end tries to recap what’s come before with Batwoman and feels a bit awkward, but the whole rest of the issue just delivers in character and action. Almost perfect. 9
Chris: Absolutely beautiful, but the story felt a little thin compared to the complex character work Greg Rucka was building in the Batwoman stories in Detective Comics. At the same time, that was a strong enough foundation to build on that everything hangs together very well, with a consistency that’s helped by Williams keeping the book’s signature dynamic look. It’s far and away the most polished book of the relaunch, which is to be expected since they’ve had months and months of delays, but it feels worth the wait. One thing, though: This is one of the few comics that you definitely do NOT want to pick up digitally. Williams uses a lot of double-page spreads that just do not work as well on an iPad screen. I’d give it an 8.
Average Score: 8.4 out of 10
Douglas: I hated this, but then I tend to dislike anything that’s about slaughter first and everything else second. Deathstroke is a generic badass, the twist at the end actually made me roll my eyes, and nothing about this made me care at all about what happens next. Didn’t think the murder was terribly inventive, either. Requisite positive comment: I like the chunkiness of Art Thibert’s inking here. 2
David: This one was a really, really pleasant surprise. If you have to do a testosterone-laden big-action-movie Die Hard supervillain comic, this is how to do it: it’s about a total dick who wants to prove, much like Ash Ketchum, that he’s the best that ever was. He runs around shooting people and blowing stuff up with absolutely zero remorse, Joe Bennett delivers the big action set-pieces, and while I don’t think this comic is ever going to change anyone’s life, it’ll probably make their day a little brighter if they like inventive murder. This is seriously the first comic involving Deathstroke I’ve enjoyed since… like, maybe the first arc of Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans, and that’s largely because it isn’t bagged down with him pining over his family or wishing he’d been a better father or trying to kill a boatload of teenagers. Just a dude with some swords and guns wrecking people. 7.
Curt: A comic designed to show that Deathstroke is ruthless, efficient, and the best he is at what he does in the DC universe. The only problem is most of us know that, and you could tell new readers that in far less than 21 pages. The surprise ending is entirely predictable. All in all, it’s drawn out and pointless. 4/10
David: The surprise ending actually surprised me.
Chris: Maybe the worst opening page of the relaunch: Deathstroke is a SUPER BADASS and he is going to CUT OFF YOUR DICK. Seriously. That’s page one. But once you get past that, the rest of the book was a pretty big surprise. I really liked Kyle Higgins’ work cowriting Batman: Gates of Gotham, and despite my misgivings, I think he did a pretty good job here with the story of an aging assassin who wants to claw his way back to the top. The twist at the end was genuinely surprising (although it didn’t have the impact it would’ve if I hadn’t just re-read Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s “Welcome Back Frank” last week), and did a nice job underscoring the character’s brutal amorality. Plus, the costume on the interior wasn’t nearly as much of a crazy Azrael thing as it is on Bisley’s cover. No boot spikes, for one. 6.5
Average score: 4.9 out of 10
Chris: Up there with OMAC for my favorites, and this time there WAS a “Created By Jack Kirby” credit. Cornell does a fantastic job of introducing the characters, too. I love the way he introduces Shining Knight, and her sardonic attitude makes me think that maybe she’s returned to the past. “Oh yeah, there was that one time I went a thousand years in the future and killed the Sheeda Queen, no big deal.” Even seeing Vandal Savage as a good guy (or at least a neutral guy) is a nice twist for long-time readers, and sets up some pretty great interactions. I love the plot, I love the characters, the art’s solid. Definitely on board for more. 9.
Douglas: I had fairly high hopes for this — I like the idea of a series set in the past of the DCU that could explore what led to its present — but this has a disturbingly low substance-to-style ratio. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Seven Soldiers Shining Knight in here, and to see Madame Xanadu (in the first of two different titles in the same week!); unfortunately, the story’s pretty incoherent, even on a “getting the team together” level. And anyone who writes Etrigan the Demon without bothering to make him rhyme is just signaling that they’re not trying very hard. 3.
Curt: Moore invented the rhyming dialogue for Etrigan, right?
Douglas: Yes, and actually Etrigan’s dialogue in Moore’s comics rhymes and scans as Elizabethan sonnets. Other writers have mostly been content just to make it rhyme one way or another…
David: I had high hopes for Demon Knights, and for the most part, it delivered. For one thing, Diogenes Neves is a way better artist than I’d pegged him for due to his work on Green Arrow, and he pulls off some really enjoyable acting here on top of velociraptors with knives busting up a bar. I thought most of the characters got their basic point across — except Horsewoman, who will presumably show up next issue and was silent on purpose — and I thought it did a pretty admirable job bridging the fantasy and superhero genres. I’m glad that his promise that it’d be like Game of Thrones or Dragon Age didn’t extend to ridiculous amounts of rape, too. This was probably my second-favorite this week behind Batwoman, and I’m not sure what was difficult to get about it: it basically starts like every D&D game ever, with a bunch of dudes in a tavern getting drunk and then a bunch of assholes barging in to f*ck the place up. But it also has that superhero team vibe going for it. And Cornell’s Vandal Savage was hilarious. And his Shining Knight, and I really liked the Etrigan/Xanadu romance, even though it makes Xanadu look like kind of a b*tch. Another 9, to be honest.
David: “Oh Jason Blood, you’re so handsome! We’ll be together forever!” “Oh thank God, that guy is so boring.”
Douglas: Yeah, OK, I really liked that bit.
Curt: An almost incomprehensible beginning, and that’s coming from somebody who’s a comic nerd. It comes together a bit better later when it becomes DC Dungeons and Dragons featuring every DC character you’ve heard of who was active in medieval times. 6.
Chris: I prefer Etrigan rhyming because it’s more fun to read and gives him a nice distinctive flair, but I don’t mind it when he doesn’t, especially if Cornell’s trying to get him back to his roots. Kirby didn’t have him rhyming, after all.
Average score: 6.75 out of 10
Douglas: This was the pleasant surprise of the week. It has an actual look and feel about it (Alberto Ponticelli’s artwork reminds me a bit of Alex Niño, of all people, although it’s a bit sloppier), and it’s funny and suspenseful and kept going places I didn’t expect and throwing out crazy ideas amid the mayhem (like the “mobile, 3-inch indestructible globe” that’s the acronymic secret agency’s HQ). Also, I love the idea of Father Time as a thinly disguised Hit Girl, and it’s great to see Frankenstein quoting Milton (as he does in both Mary Shelley’s novel and Final Crisis). I’ll be amazed if Jeff Lemire can keep up with writing three series a month (and drawing one of them), though. 7.
Chris: There’s a new idea every three pages in this book. Boom! We live in a snowglobe created by the Atom! Boom! Father Time is a little girl! Boom! The Bride of Frankenstein is a four-armed super-spy! Boom! The Creature Commandos are back, and Velcro the Vampire used Man-Bat serum that he modified so that he wouldn’t be terrible like Man-Bat is! It’s a fast-paced introduction with a ton of high concepts that, like OMAC, makes it feel like you’re being swept up into a big adventure along with the characters. The only problem was that the art felt rushed and more than a little muddied, especially towards the end. A solid beginning, and exactly what I wanted out of this book. 7.
Curt: This takes the bits I loved of the Seven Soldiers Frankenstein and expands on it. It was always heavily implied there and in Final Crisis that there was a whole life that Frankenstein was living that we never got to see. No more living between the lines, as this comic comes out of the gate with it’s own mythology and a great sense of action and adventure. 8.
David: Frankenstein being great actually didn’t surprise me at all, with the creative team behind it. Lemire absolutely kicked butt on Animal Man last week, and this really struck back to what I loved about Morrison’s take on Frankenstein: this incredibly erudite monster who just wants to help people but has ABSOLUTELY NO TOLERANCE for people’s bullsh*t. He will cut you off halfway through your sob story and shoot you in the face with an angelic shotgun, because that is just how Frankie rolls. The new version of Father Time was a brilliant idea, and Ponticelli’s art really managed to go for that Doug Mahnke ugliness without totally aping it. Jose Villarrubia on colors is always welcome — I don’t know who Lemire bribed to get Foreman/Kindzierski on one book and Ponticelli/Villarrubia on the other, but it was worth every cent. The re-use of the Ray Palmer stuff from his Atom backups in Adventure Comics was really well-done, and it makes for a supercool headquarters for the supercoolest secret agents in the DC Universe. God help me, another damn 9.
Average rating: 7.75 out of 10
David: This was another issue of Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke’s Green Lantern. I enjoy the new doofy Hal Jordan, but that was always lying under the surface of Johns’s interpretation, Here he just gets to set it loose with sitcom cliches. If it’d been published as #68, nobody would have noticed. 7.
Douglas: I have absolutely no idea what Geoff Johns is trying to do here — there’s something totally and bizarrely flat and affectless about this story, especially in the domestic scenes, which suggest a total unfamiliarity with how people talk when they’re not firing power blasts at each other, and also that he thinks Hal Jordan is an incompetent jerk who is worthless without his ring. Doug Mahnke’s artwork also droops badly when he’s not drawing crazy interstellar fight scenes. This reads like, at best, a slow-paced interlude issue of an ongoing series, not a first issue. But I’ve been reading Green Lantern on and off for decades now, and I still couldn’t find anything to make me care here. 2
Chris: I haven’t been reading Green Lantern since Hal Jordan came back, but this certainly felt like an issue that you could give to somebody who saw the movie and knew who the characters were and they’d be able to get up to speed pretty quickly. It was solid, and the scene where Hal pops the wrong question to Carol was legitimately funny, but there’s nothing that appeals to me here. I just flat-out do not care about any of this. Maybe it’s just me. 5.
Curt: This book is more down-to-earth than it has been in years, but an overly dickish Hal Jordan mars the whole thing, like Johns is trying to show new readers that having a penis for a head is Hal’s main personality trait. Sinestro back as a Green Lantern is an interesting and welcome change for a character I’ve always thought had a lot of potential. Mahnke’s artwork is great, especially the shot of Sinestro looking at his home planet through a giant, green telescope. 7.
Average rating: 5.25 out of 10
Douglas: I’ve read a ton of comics with Grifter in them before, and have never found a reason to think twice about him. This didn’t help. The non-linear chronology is baffling and adds nothing to the story, the mystery and supernatural elements are neither scary nor mysterious, and nothing inside delivers on the cover’s promise of “dude with conventional armature trying to take on ectoplasmic Lovecraftian entities.” On the bright side, Cafu and Gorder’s art is pretty and elegant; Gorder’s now responsible for maybe the only time I’ve been impressed by how much somebody’s ink line looks like Vince Colletta’s. 4.
David: It’s nice to see that Nathan Edmondson and CAFU watched and enjoyed LOST too, because this is Sawyer: The Comic Book, With Invisible Aliens. I was confused by the constant moving between 17 minutes/17 hours/17 days being the time period in which Grifter was sleeping/being operated on, but for the most part this was a fairly interesting first issue. I’m curious to see how they’ll continue merging this with the rest of the New DC Universe. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was pretty fun with a little bit of potential. 5.
Curt: This comic could’ve been written about nearly anyone. There’s nothing particularly “Grifter” about it, which, to this point, doesn’t require much. He’s a guy with a mask and guns and a cocky, 90′s badass attitude. This is a mystery-driven issue where the mystery is hard to care about. 4.
Chris: Man, this thing. Doing a remake of THEY LIVE starring Sawyer from Lost wouldn’t have worked as a movie, let alone as a comic. Clunky, incomprehensible storytelling — “I was out for 17 minutes!” “You were out for 17 days!” “I want my 17 hours back!” — that tries very unconvincingly to make us care about this guy through a series of boring set pieces, capped off with some heavy-handed symbolism of sitting in a graveyard and putting a mask on for no reason. Legitimately surprised that they didn’t go all the way and put “My old life is DEAD” in there, too. 3.
Average rating: 4 out of 10
Douglas: This is the most forced, rushed-looking work I’ve ever seen either Fabian Nicieza or Pete Woods do — Woods was so on point on his Action run. I have a very big soft spot for a lot of these characters, and still got tired of seeing them here. What this story needed was some kind of setup, some way to understand who these folks are (this was maybe the most new-reader-unfriendly of this week’s bunch), and what the Legion is, and why it matters that they’ve been displaced in time other than to revive another trademark. As it is, they’re just a bunch of costumed types blowing stuff up. Enough of those. An extra point off for the Teddy Bear as All-Purpose Symbol of Innocent, Threatened Childhood (one of two this week!). 2.
David: Okay. I’ve read every issue of Legion since Mark Waid came on, and I have almost no idea what’s going on in this comic. It’s a completely jumbled mess, with almost zero character introduction. It certainly wasn’t decompressed, but I don’t think I would have been able to figure out what was going on if I hadn’t read a bunch of interviews with Nicieza beforehand. Pete Woods does a nice job on the art, but he’s not George Perez, and it just looks jumbled on every single page. I’m really surprised, since I thought this would be a really well-done, workmanlike superhero comic by two talented creators, but it’s just a total mess. I have no idea what happened. 2.
Curt: I don’t have the most thorough Legion background, and this didn’t help. If this is DC’s answer to those who were afraid the new 52 would completely abandon all of the old stuff, then, maybe it’s just not for me. As it is, I have no idea what’s going half the time, not much of an idea of what anyone is talking about, and no desire to read a second issue. This was not for me. 2
Chris: All right, look: I have read every Legion of Super-Heroes comic from 1958 to 2005, and this is STILL a confusing mess of an issue. I honestly can’t imagine coming to this as a new reader and being able to get anything out of it. I’m all for jumping straight to the action and filling in the details as we go, but the filling in never happens, and the whole thing just feels like we missed the first half of the movie. It’s pretty important when you’re dealing with a large cast of characters to make it clear who they are and what they do, but there’s nothing in here that does that. Even a set of captions would’ve helped, but instead they just keep on stomping through, killing off a couple characters for cheap drama even though the audience has NO IDEA who they are or why this would matter. Plus, there’s plenty of “grife!” and “sprock!” future slang, which meant that a friend of mine had trouble figuring out of “Tyroc” was a dude’s name or just space-cussin’. 1
Average rating: 1.75 out of 10
Douglas: This might be the most obviously doomed of the New 52 series: Some variation of this character has been around for close to 70 years and I don’t think he’s even had a solo story of his own, much less anyone calling for him to get an ongoing title. Still, it gets a decent start — casting him as a bitter, near-suicidal Tony Stark type is a nice move, and there’s a lot of plot packed in here. (Plus: Karen Starr as just plain Karen Starr, not Power Girl! Plus actual class consciousness!) Then it all falls apart at the end, with weak figure drawing, dull writing (“You’re a hypocrite, senator!”) and a very boring cliffhanger. It has to be difficult writing a character who’s “the third-smartest person in the world” (for the same reason it’s hard to write a brilliant poet, etc.), but Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s Amadeus Cho fits that position a lot better than Wallace’s Mister Terrific. 5
Chris: This one was a big surprise for me as well — I love the setup of Michael Holt being the technological James Bond of the DC Universe, going around fighting SCIENCE CRIMES! Even the stuff from the solicitations about how he’s an eligible bachelor, which seemed crazy at first since his entire origin revolves around his wife dying — was handled in a better way than I thought. It’s a little awkward, especially the son-from-the-future origin and the fact that I guess he’s sleeping with Power Girl, who I didn’t think existed anymore, but I enjoyed the attitude and execution well enough to be curious about where it goes from here. 6.
Curt: This opened really well, but got bogged down by it’s own desire to explain Mr. Terrific’s relatively simple background. Once it got back to what was happening in the now, it picked up again. Not excellent, but a good enough start to a character that always seemed to deserve a chance at the spotlight. 7
David: This book was kind of dumb. And by that I mean totally dumb. I get that it’s trying to show this supercool, supercompetent, superawesome black dude in the same way Superman is also superawesome or whatever, but you have to be really smart to write the 3rd smartest man in the world, and man, Wallace just doesn’t fit that description. Convoluted doesn’t equal intelligence. The Gordian Knot is a thing for a reason. And Power Girl being rebooted as normal ol’ Karen Starr would be interesting if she wasn’t in the middle of a love triangle between him and his assistant. This was weak, weak, weak comics. 2.
Chris: SCIENCE CRIME.
Average rating: 5 out of 10
Douglas: The Red Lanterns are supporting characters. They’re one-dimensional by design. They are led by a guy called Atrocitus, for crying out loud. Their powers involve vomiting blood. You cannot hang a story on them, and trying to do that plays to neither Peter Milligan’s nor Ed Benes’ considerable strengths. That said, I would pay money for a monthly Dex-Starr series. 2.
David: Ed Benes’ considerable strengths? Doug, what are you on? This one definitely wins the week’s Unintentionally Hilarious prize, although with Milligan on board, the hilarity could have been completely intentional. That doesn’t stop the book from being a total mess, because it’s half Atrocitus somehow making anger the gayest thing ever (I mean that literally — the way he talks about how jealous he is of Hal for killing Krona first is hilarious) and half a totally unrelated and boring story about two regular people that I don’t even remember. Also, while this might be the best book Ed Benes has ever drawn, it’s still a comic drawn by Ed Benes, so you’re going to see lots of things that don’t even remotely resemble their real-life counterparts, like cats. This was basically a total misfire. I’m really going high and low here, but 2.
Chris: I don’t understand it. I don’t understand what happened, or who these people are, or why it exists. The only thing I know about it is that there’s some dumb space cat that everyone thought was hilarious until it turned out that its origin involved rapemurders. I seriously can’t get my head around it at all, and the fact that I don’t care about Green Lantern himself is a pretty good indication that a spin-off series isn’t for me. 2
Curt: A comic with a very fun beginning that trails off somewhere near the middle. It’s meant as an introduction and to flesh out Atrocitus, (“What are you doing to my cat?”) a character who doesn’t have any right to actually have depth (his name is Atrocitus) which I guess is part of the point of the issue. I liked where he went with Atrocitus, I just don’t know if the rest of the Red Lanterns can provide anything interesting. 5.
Laura: At least watching an angry blood-vomiting cat f*ck up bad guys in space is pretty entertaining. I wish this entire book were about Dex-Starr. And drawn by Katie Cook.
David: I can’t wait for the Dex-Starr Valentine’s Day Special next year. That’s how I felt about this comic.
Laura: Yes. I think more superheroes should have pets that fight crime with them. I want them to have a vast network of pet relationships and pet vendettas against each other. There could be a whole subset of books just about the pets. It would be like the Puppy Bowl of comics.
Douglas: I think a Legion of Super-Pets series would be a vastly better idea than Legion Lost, frankly.
Average rating: 2.75 out of 10
Douglas: A perfectly decent issue of a moderately OK series that ran for a couple of years in the ’90s. (And this week’s second Madame Xanadu appearance.) I have no idea why anyone thought it needed a revival, though. 4
David: I actually had way higher hopes for Resurrection Man, and it didn’t deliver at all. Abnett and Lanning have been doing great work at Marvel, but their Flashpoint minis were pretty lame. Fernando Dagnino’s an alright artist. I really liked Resurrection Man in DC ONE MILLION. There was really nothing here that got me super-excited to come back, though, and I can’t pin on why. It’s a cool idea, but the execution just didn’t pull me in. The villains were pretty lame, too, especially the supermodel hitwomen. Competently executed, but just not very compelling. 4.
Curt: I’ve never read a single issue of Resurrection Man before, so I came into this blind, and, other than seeing that a guy gets new powers every time he dies I don’t see how this has enough appeal to continue for very long. It was readable, which isn’t high praise, but I don’t know if it did enough for me to even remember the plot of this one by the time the second issue is out. 4
Chris: No mention of Resurrection Man being from South Carolina. 0/10
Chris: Nah, not really, though I was definitely hoping that Mitch Shelley would start ending sentences with “y’all” and telling people that he was going to do stuff “right quick.” I had high hopes for this one based on how much I like Abnett and Lanning on other stuff — particularly Legion of Super-Heroes and their cosmic stuff at Marvel — but it felt a little choppy, and didn’t really do a great job of illustrating the strength of the character, in that his constant, ever-changing super-powers make for an interesting visual dynamic and storytelling tool. I did like the scene with the Body Doubles, though, even if they were a little Joker-lite. 5/10
Douglas: I really like Abnett and Lanning’s cosmic Marvel things, and their ability to synchronize what’s going on in multiple titles. So why take another crack at their early-career training-wheels series with absolutely no substantive changes?
Average rating: 3.25 out of 10
Laura: Everybody take a deep breath. It’s time for…
Douglas: This is atrocious. The ’80s-’90s Suicide Squad series was a brilliantly designed ensemble thriller about very bad people forced to do things they didn’t want to do, and a few good people trying to punish themselves. This incarnation, though, reads as if Adam Glass looked briefly at that series and misapprehended absolutely everything that made it interesting. (The “sexy skinny Amanda Waller” business on the final page is symptomatic of a lot of other things that are wrong here: the essence of Amanda Waller is that she has no power or privilege at all except for what her rage has earned her.) The story is 18 pages of torture–literally–followed by a plot twist that V for Vendetta earned and this hasn’t. The artwork is generic and ugly. Not only do I not want to read future issues of this series, I’m not sure I want to talk to anyone who does. 0
David: Amanda Waller could have been drawn built like a brick sh*thouse, and this comic would still be garbage. It somehow manages to take a bunch of popular, likeable villains and make them utterly cookie-cutter and boring. The art was lame, and I have to wonder why they took the way more talented Marco Rudy off this title. Did he not draw Harley Quinn sexy enough? Did he refuse to draw club girl Amanda Waller? I’ve got no idea, but I’m glad they did, because Rudy is way too talented to draw this piece of crap. I will give this book credit for, unlike Legion Lost, having an ending that made me at least morbidly curious as to what was going to happen in the next issue. For the most part, though, this book was astonishingly, impressively joyless. But that doesn’t put it above a 1. And I’m highballing with that 1.
Chris: Zero. Point. Zero.
Laura: I’m trying to focus on the positive, so my review of this book is as follows:
Curt: It’s hard to make presumptions about the knowledge of a writer, but it seems like Adam Glass was given a one-sentence summation of each character and told to go nuts. Harley likes the Joker and says Puddin. Deadshot is good with guns. King Shark is a shark. Any other depth or quality given to these character from other, better writers like Gail Simone and Paul Dini is totally missing here. It’s just not fun, it’s not funny.I’m amazed he didn’t have them all commit suicide at the end given his often literal interpretations of things. 1/10
Laura: I hope that’s what it said in the character summary: “King Shark: A Shark”
Average rating: 0.5 out of 10
David: Superboy was… well, it was a pretty crappy Superboy story, to be honest. People read about Superboy to read about a teenage version of Superman, be it Conner or Clark Kent; this is just a story about some clone dude who’s being used to kill people and Deathstroke’s daughter and Caitlin Fairchild are around for no reason I can really discern. I guess this could have been an okay #1 about another character, but absolutely nothing about this really feels like a solid take on Superboy to me, since he’s almost devoid of personality or motivations in this first issue. Compare with his escape from Cadmus back in Reign of the Supermen where he immediately had attitude and a bad leather jacket and it’s clear why this take is just lackluster. The book could go somewhere, but it’ll clearly take a while. RB Silva’s art is nice, though, and it’s a masterpiece in comparison to some of the other books this week. 5.
Douglas: Another pleasant surprise: yet another reboot of Superboy (with a distinct lack of Siegel-and-Shuster-style “Superman when he was a boy”), yet another “Kryptonian clone in a tank” story (immediately after “Project: Superman”?!”)–but this one pretty much clicks, especially the business about his bizarre amorality. Well-handled supporting cast, too. The mysterious redhead with big glasses works nicely even if you recognize her as Fairchild, ditto the white-haired chick whether or not you recognize her as Ravager. And N.O.W.H.E.R.E., of all things? As in Morrison’s Doom Patrol? Thumbs up. Also, after Jimmy Olsen and this, a wise comic publisher would be signing up R.B. Silva to an exclusive contract pronto, if they haven’t already. Not great, but promising. 7.
Curt: Superboy seems to get a major revision every 5-10 years, and this one tries to take some of the most interesting parts of past-Superboys – the small town schooling, the clone, the fragile mental state – and have it all together. It works as the beginning of a new Superboy, but as a fan of the old Superboy it was hard to swallow at times. Good enough to keep following. Also: keep in mind my favorite Superboy is the one with the leather jacket and the Dwayne Wayne-ish glasses. I’m crazy. 7
Chris: I’ll say this for Superboy: It wasn’t boring. Scott Lobdell’s script crammed a lot of stuff into his 20 pages, to the point where I ended up going back and counting to make sure that’s all there was. The problem is that all that stuff that’s crammed in there isn’t really all that interesting or compelling. “Superboy is a clone that’s being studied in a lab” is an idea that could’ve been conveyed in half this space, with other stuff cut out or condensed to allow him to actually have some action that didn’t take place inside the Matrix. Again, I just don’t see how this is meant to hook anyone into reading more. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t realize that was Caitlin Fairchild until Uzumeri pointed it out, and that’s an interesting way to incorporate the Wildstorm stuff into the universe. Then again, if Fairchild’s the most interesting take in your comic about Superboy, there might be a problem there. 4
Average rating: 5.75 out of 10
Laura: Overall thoughts on the week, and the entire relaunch now that we’re halfway through?
Curt: It seems like they didn’t have much of a plan when deciding which books needed explanations for new readers and which didn’t. Titles like Green Lantern, which should be one of your most recognizable properties, suffered from too much hand-holding, while books like Legion Lost, which should’ve come with a 26 volume Encyclopedia set, have almost none.
Douglas: There are way, way too many titles that were clearly rushed out to bring the number up to 52; I hope they don’t end up dragging down the less-obvious titles that are good but being tossed onto the field along with everything else. Every one of these relaunches should feel like an event, rather than 1/52 of an event.
Chris: It’s starting to get really easy to pick out which books were rushed out as fast as possible and which have been in the works for a while, but this week had a few more highlights and interesting takes on old ideas thank last week. Frankenstein and Demon Knights were exactly the sort of books I wanted to see, and I hope the boost of being part of the new line gets some attention for them that they wouldn’t have gotten without the reboot.
Douglas: My favorite test for things like this is to look at the first page of each comic and see whether it gets across some kind of aesthetic/sets the tone for the series. By that metric, Mister Terrific, Resurrection Man and Batwoman are pretty solid; others are a lot shakier.
David: It’s been about what I expected; 3 or 4 decent books a week, which is still an improvement over the last batch. I wish there was a higher signal to noise ratio, but it’s still better than the one the last DC Universe had.
Laura: David, are you saying the DC Universe is better now than it was before?
David: Yeah, I think it is, at least so far.
FINAL SCORES, Highest to Lowest:
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: 7.75
Demon Knights: 6.75
Batman and Robin: 6.25
Green Lantern: 5.25
Mister Terrific: 5
Resurrection Man: 4.25
Red Lanterns: 2.75
Legion Lost: 1.75
Suicide Squad: 0.5