What's important to remember, I think, is that as much as we may be fans of these characters, they don't belong to us. Hell, they only belong to DC in that picky legalistic sense. These characters belong to our shared culture, and if we want them to persist - and we do - then we have to accept that they're going to change as times change. If you think that the Christopher Reeve Superman is the best and only Superman out there, then stop reading comics and watch those films over and over. If you think that nothing good has come out of comic books in the last twenty years, then stop reading comics, collect those back issues, and revel in the Good Old Days.
Change is part of the medium, and it's important to accept that. Our job as readers and fans is to encourage the creators to take risks, explore new avenues and, most importantly, give them the freedom to screw up from time to time. And they will, oh trust me they will. But if they don't take those chances, then we'll just end up with the same old safe, boring storylines again and again. And no one wants that.
Okay. Off soapbox number one, onto soapbox number two. Spoilers abound....
All-Star Western by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Moritat
Gotham City has never been a nice town. Never. We all know it today as the home of a variety of gimmicky psychopaths and a slightly different psychopath who dresses like a bat to solve them, but even in its early years, Gotham was a magnet for the dark, the violent, and the deranged.
Our tale begins in the 1880s. Gotham is as prosperous as it ever was, but there is a murderer loose. This killer targets prostitutes, slaying them terribly and leaving messages in their blood - "Fear." The police are baffled as to who may have done it, so they call in Dr. Amadeus Arkham, one of the pioneers in psychoanalysis. Arkham has, in turn, turned to one of the most feared bounty hunters in the West - Jonah Hex. A man who thrives on hunting down the criminals of the wilderness must have some insight into how to catch a city killer.
Would that it were so easy, of course.
It was a difficult book to get into the first time. A lot happens, it's fairly complicated, and I'm not really fond of Moritat's artistic direction, although I certainly understand it. Gotham's an ugly city, Hex is an ugly man, so the art has a very rough quality to it. A more polished, fluid style might not work for this story, so it does make sense. I just don't like it very much. It's helped out, though, by Gabriel Bautista's colors, which are really subtle, but very effective.
Once I read it through again, though, I liked it more, and I'm looking forward to seeing where they take the story. No guarantees that I'll keep following the book - the Western isn't one of my preferred genres - but I'll give it a shot.
Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis
MAN, I liked this book.
Here's the thing: people have been picking on Aquaman for a long time now. His schtick is that he spends a lot of time in the water and he is able to command fish to do his bidding. Sure, he's strong and tough, but the very specificity of his powers means that there's not a lot he can do if he's not in the ocean. This has led people to make certain judgments about Aquaman and his suitability as a hero. My personal favorite is Seanbaby: "Don't get me wrong, if you need to find out how much your goldfish enjoys its new flakes, there's no one more qualified. But if you're trying to fight crime, breathing underwater doesn't come in very handy. I've yet to get mugged and have my attacker say, 'Give me your wallet and your shoes... UNLESS you can hold your head in this aquarium for five minutes!'"
Go read the whole thing, it's really funny.
Point is, writers have tried really hard to make Aquaman... likable. He spent a lot of time as a one-handed, bearded, long-haired warlord, which was kinda cool, but he's always gravitated back to the green and orange, and fandom has never taken him as seriously as they have other heroes.
So what does Geoff Johns do? Does he try to toughen him up, maybe give him some fancy new powers to make up for it? Does he ignore the whole thing?
No. He walks right up to the "Aquaman sucks" meme and slaps it right in the face. With a fish. No, not literally. But almost.
You get the sense that Aquaman really wants to do good, to help these people, but then along comes some stupid hipster blogger who asks, "How does it feel to be nobody's favorite super-hero?" Honestly, given that the guy just flipped an armored car a few pages ago and carries a massive pointy trident, you probably shouldn't antagonize him. Aquaman has issues with responsibility, which I can relate to, and the decision to abandon one of those responsibilities is very hard. The way we leave him, I expect that Aquaman would just as soon stop being a super-hero altogether, but then there are the horrible monsters from the deep that have decided to make a buffet out of the coastline. I expect he'll feel like he has to deal with that too.
The whole issue is beautifully drawn by Ivan Reis, and the coloring by Rod Reis is spectacular. And I know I usually leave out the inking, which I totally shouldn't, but I'm just agog at the whole package here, so bravo to you as well, Joe Prado. Half the book takes place in a restaurant booth, and it's interesting and compelling, and man, but Aquaman can scowl.
Okay, enough gushing. I really like this book.
Batman: The Dark Knight by Paul Jenkins and David Finch
Well, Detective Comics was kind of a mess. Batman & Robin was interesting, and Batman was really good. Each one had elements to recommend them, some more than others.
This book seems to have taken the good parts of Batman, run them through a filter that makes them seem kind of boring and repetitive, and then gone into the grotesqueness of Detective Comics, which I didn't like very much even then. On top of that, it's got weird, rushed-looking art that looks like a mockery of what Greg Capullo did, and.... Well, this book seemed to kinda fall apart.
It starts, just like Batman with a speech fake-out. You get the speech boxes as Batman is sweeping across the skyline of Gotham, talking about fear and how bad it is. Turns out he's actually giving the speech as Bruce Wayne to a fundraising crowd. Then there's a breakout from Arkham Asylum - but not the same one as in Batman, no - a different one. This makes two major breakouts at Arkham happening one right after the other, which makes you wonder what they're using to lock the doors with over there. Perhaps pretty lace doilies and earnest promises.
In addition, we get yet another classic villain who's been disfigured. In Detective, the Joker underwent some horrible elective surgery, and at the end of this book, Two-Face shows up looking like the Hulk, and insisting on being called One-Face, even though his face hasn't changed at all.
And then there's the magical disappearing Playboy bunny.
I understand that it's not easy, having four Batman books a month, and that coordinating four different creative teams must be like herding cats, but editor Mike Marts really should have sat them down and made them compare notes. Basically, I finished this book with the feeling that I had already read most of it before, and that it had been better when it was in Batman.
Blackhawks by Mike Costa, Graham Nolan, and Ken Lashley
There's one thing I'll say for DC about this reboot - they're going for variety. Not a whole lot of it, and not in all the right directions, but they're trying to avoid just doing superhero comics.
The problem is that they can't really commit to it. Their Western title takes place in Gotham. Their fantasy title uses a bunch of established DC characters. Their war title has soldiers having to deal with metahumans. And as interesting as all that is, it sounds like the writers might not have all the freedom they want to make the books they want to make.
Or maybe they do, and this one is what it is on its own merits.
As I think I mentioned when I talked about Men of War, I'm not a big fan of the combat genre. I don't enjoy war stories very much, so if it weren't part of the reboot, I probably wouldn't have bought Blackhawks even if it was really good.
Fortunately, the decision's been made for me, because it's not really good.
The Blackhawks are an elite flying force that's been around in the DC Universe for ages. They fly all kinds of aircraft, and they do so with the kind of reckless disregard for their own safety that can only be done in comics. When they show up, they're usually awesome, and this book is not awesome.
Here's the thing - no matter what kind of comic you're writing, you have to make me care about the characters, and I really didn't care about them. Most of them were "Insert Tough Soldier of Fortune Here," except for "Irish," who is actually a Ukranian born in the USSR who got the nickname while in Spetsnatz because - wait for it - he has red hair. The Woman kicks ass and has sexytimes, and The Leader is a guy with white hair and sunglasses. That's everything I know about them.
If, for some insane reason, you decide not to make the characters interesting, then you need to make the action awesome enough that we don't care. Honestly, I found the action to be muddled and confusing and just not nearly interesting enough or well-presented enough. In fact, the more I think about this book, the less I like it. So let's move on.
The Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Thaaaat's the stuff right there.
Seriously, this comic is like an eyewash - I love just looking at Manapul's art. It has a wonderful painted style that creates a whole new atmosphere for the comic, and he really knows how to capture the constant high energy of the Flash. He also has a very good eye for pacing - the title page is an excellent example, where he interlaces the book credits with Barry Allen putting on his costume (although how exactly the ring/costume system works is a bit puzzling). An excellent choice here by DC, I must say.
And the story ain't half bad either. The Flash foils an attack by a group of terrorists, only to unmask one and discover that it's an old friend of his from his pre-Flash days. Further investigation reveals a far more unsettling secret about his friend and the group that he's working for.
It's a nice, simple story that doesn't get hung up on continuity and backstory, which is very refreshing during this relaunch. We learn pretty much everything we need to know either through drawn cues or through Barry Allen's interactions with other characters, and if there is any backstory that we need to know, it seems that we'll get it when it becomes necessary. I think a lot of the other writers working on Big Name Characters could take a cue from this book, as well as the work that Brian Azzarello did over on Wonder Woman. Let the story happen, fill in the details as we go.
In the meantime, we have a superhero, an old friend, a chase and some lovely, lovely artwork. I'm gonna look at that again....
The Fury of Firestorm by Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone, and Yildiray Cinar
Much like with Legion of Super-Heroes, I have a long-running love of Firestorm that will probably keep me buying this book no matter what happens. I have no idea what it is, but ever since I was a kid, I thought that he was just the coolest hero out there. Two people in one body, the ability to reconfigure matter with just a thought, and fire for hair. Firestorm really struck a chord in me, and I was a loyal reader, even through the weird end of the Ostrander series when he was an emotionless, post-nuclear husk and then a fire elemental and then not, or whatever it was they did to him. The adventures of Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein were my kind of comics.
Of course, all things change - Ronnie got killed during Identity Crisis, and the job of being Firestorm was passed to Jason Rusch, which incurred a few changes in how the character works. But then Ronnie came back, which was all kinds of awkward because zombie-Firestorm kinda-sorta killed Jason's girlfriend.
Anyway, point is: Firestorm's been around for ages, he's a great character, and I'm happy to have him back in his own book.
Having said that: this book stopped making sense almost as soon as Flame-head(s) showed up.
For most of the story, we're following two tracks. The first is Jason and Ronnie seriously not getting along with each other. Ronnie is a football player, Jason is a science whiz. On top of that, Jason is black and Ronnie is white, and Ronnie is painfully blind to how race plays out in the real world. But more on that later...
The other track is Cliff Carmichael (Ron Raymond's high school foe of old, now with added Badassery Points), who is leading a team of killers and torturers to find the five Firestorm Matrices that were created by Martin Stein before his death. These high-tech bottles are revolutions in physics, allowing for things like elemental transmutation and turning people into superheroes. Stein gave one of these to Jason Rusch, mainly because Jason is supposed to be brilliant. In his words, "You know I'm smart, right? Well, double how smart you think I am, and then double that."
Although I have to call that self-assessment into question, since he's decided to keep the greatest revolution in nuclear physics since the discover of the atom in his high school locker.
In any case, Carmichael's gang arrives, starts shooting people, and Jason activates the matrix, causing him and Ronnie to each turn into a Firestorm. At which point they start beating the crap out of each other.
This book could have been a lot better if they'd given it time to grow. Jason and Ronnie don't like each other, which is great - conflict is the root of all drama, and all that. The problem is that their dislike isn't firmly grounded enough to justify the atomic slugfest they get into the moment they turn into Firestorms. There are a lot of reasons for Jason and Ronnie to not get along, and I would have liked to explore those for a while before the major brawl. There was no reason why Carmichael had to confront Jason by the end of this issue - a few issues of character-building and minor superheroics would have been great, culminating in the creation of two Firestorms, who then merge into the very Brimstone-like Fury.
The biggest point between them, and the part I found most interesting about the book, was the issue of race. Jason is very attuned to racial inequalities, as would be expected from a young black man, while Ronnie seems utterly ignorant of them, as would be expected from a young white man. When Jason calls Ronnie out, there was a real sense of shock from the character that reminded me of all those online discussions of White Privilege I read during RaceFail 2009. Ronnie suspects that he's been complicit in institutional racism, and that really bothers him (although he would never phrase it that way - instead, he creates the most awkward dinner conversation ever by asking his mother why they don't have any black friends).
It's a very challenging issue to bring up, easy to do wrong, but if it's done right it could be a wonderful topic to explore, and it'll give readers a lot to think about. All they have to do is slow the hell down and give Ronnie and Jason time to interact and test each other's boundaries. Overall, it's got a lot of interesting themes to work with, and I really like Cinar's art. He draws an adorably dumb Ronnie Raymond (who actually looks like a teenager - something the character's co-creator, Al Milgrom, never managed to pull off) and some very dynamic superheroism.
As a side note: apparently there's something about Ethan Van Sciver being a "right-wing loon," and having something of a history-crush on Joe McCarthy. That's pretty unpleasant, and I would rather not support his political lifestyle, but my desire to read this book trumps my distaste at giving him money. Kind of like giving my class Ender's Game to read. I just hope this book ends up being worth it.
Green Lantern: New Guardians by Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham
Y'know, I'd been wondering where Kyle Rayner had gone off to....
This book starts a little confusingly - with the story of how Kyle became the last of the old corps of Green Lanterns. Decimated and dying, the only Guardian to survive the catastrophic destruction of Oa forges one last Green Lantern ring and chooses young artist Kyle Rayner as the last Green Lantern in the universe. There's a couple of pages about how to use the ring, and then we find out that the whole intro was a flashback. One which I'm pretty sure we didn't need.
Anyway, now that we're up to speed, here's Kyle's rather unique problem: Rings from the other six Corps have abandoned their bearers - sometimes fatally - to go to Kyle, who's just trying to help people out here on Earth. Even though some snot-nosed kids would rather just make fun of his costume. Now Kyle has six rings that all want his attention, and some very angry ringbearers who are not happy that this one guy seems to be trying to get a full set (like some of us already have, thankyouverymuch).
It's not a bad start to the series, and leaves us with quite a few questions to chew on before the next issue - why are these rings leaving their owners and going to Kyle, and who's behind it? Furthermore, the title seems to suggest that there will be a new Rainbow Corps involved, so their composition and purpose is something I'd like to see as well.
I just didn't think the five-page recap of Kyle's origin story was necessary. The way the rings work is pretty self-evident, or at least can be explained really easily in the context of the main story. The same goes for Kyle's character. There's really nothing we learn about him in the recap that we couldn't have learned in some other way. That's five pages that Bedard and Kirkham could have put towards building up the suspense and tension that leads to the final confrontation.
Still, I'll be buying it again next month, so well played, gentlemen. Well played.
I, Vampire by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino
The cover says it all, really. Sexy vampires. Not glittery ones, though - nasty, violent, bloodsucking ones...
This is another of DC's horror books, resurrecting a franchise that was created back in '81 and folding it into the mainstream DC Universe. It's wonderfully dark and moody, and if you like good old-fashioned vampire action, then you'll love this.
There are two kinds of vampires in the world: the ones who want to kill all humans and feast on our blood, and the ones who don't. Guess which kind is more common?
For the last four hundred years, vampires Andrew and Mary have had a truce - they stay low, leave the humans alone and try not to attract attention. For some reason, Andrew likes humans and wants to see them protected. But after all this time, Mary is tired of hiding in the shadows. She's built an army of vampires to try and take the world back for themselves, no matter how many super-heroes may try to stop them.
It's a very nice story, with clearly-drawn characters and beautiful art by Sorrentino. My only real qualm is the decision to put it in the same universe as Superman and Wonder Woman and the others. While the idea of our favorite heroes trying to fight off a legion of vampires is interesting, it brings up the question of whether every comic that DC produces absolutely must be part of the DC Universe. Yes, it offers some chances for cross-promotion and cross-pollination, but there's no real requirement that it be so. The tale of Andrew and Mary would be just as powerful and just as compelling if they lived in some other universe entirely.
Really, it's not a huge thing. Just something I wonder.
Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin
Speaking of horror.... The DC Universe has always had a place for magic and the occult in it, and some of their most interesting stories have been told in that arena. The problem is that magic and super-heroes don't mix well. So when the Justice League goes to investigate the mad Enchantress, regular heroes Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg get their asses handed to them. Who better to deal with a rogue magic-user than a bunch of other rogue magic users?
A woman named June Moone is wandering the streets, along with thirty-three other identical copies of herself. Some of them get hit by cars, some of them don't. Either way, she has no idea who she is or what she's looking for. All she knows is that the world isn't how it should be, and she needs help to change that.
Meanwhile, classic characters such as Madame Xanadu, Deadman, Zatanna, John Constantine, and Shade the Changing Man are drawn into the Enchantress' magical madness, and may be the only chance to stop her from warping the world entirely.
It's a neat book, if a little rushed. Again, it looks like they're trying to front-load a lot of information for the reader in the first issue, which kind of goes against the best way to do horror - and that is what this story's about. Horror needs time to build, to ferment, to plant its seed in the reader's mind and grow over the course of time. If you rush horror, it ceases to be horrifying, and that's kind of where this book is right now.
Commensurate with that is the characters. "Weird" characters tend to be a little more complicated and less accessible than your run-of-the-mill superhero, so it's vital that the writers allow the readers time to get to know them and what they can do. We get a very nice scene with Shade and the girlfriend he made out of thin air, but most of the rest of them get just a quick page or so of introduction that left me feeling cheated, rather than enticed. If I were a new reader who didn't already know all of these people, I think I'd be completely confused.
Still, it's good and dark, as the title suggests, so hopefully it'll be an outlet for some creative comic book horror in the future.
The Savage Hawkman by Tony S Daniel and Philip Tan
If you asked me to make a list of superheroes I really don't give a damn about, Hawkman would be on that list. As far as I've ever been able to tell, he's a big angry guy who flies around in a hawk costume and beats the hell out of things. And that's it.
To be fair, DC has never really known what to do with Hawkman. I think it would be a three-way tie between him, Donna Troy and Power Girl as to whose origin has been screwed around with the most over the decades. He's been an archaeologist possessed by the spirit of an ancient Egyptian king; the reincarnation of that ancient Egyptian king; an alien policeman; an alien Egyptian, I'm pretty sure he was a hal-hawk-half-human avatar of war or something, and gods know what else. At one point they had to shelve the character for a while so they could work out the kinks in his backstory, which led to the creation of the character Zauriel - an honest-to-God angel - in order to fill the "Guy with Wings" slot in the Justice League. And you know what? I liked Zauriel a whole lot more than I liked Hawkman.
Well, if I'm fed up with Hawkman, then so is he. The book begins with Carter Hall taking his mysterious Nth-Metal costume out into the woods to burn it. But the metal - or the costume, or something else - has other ideas, and isn't ready to let Carter go just yet.
Meanwhile, his archaeological colleagues have discovered an alien ship far beneath the sea and need his help figuring out what it is. In the process, they release a strange alien organism that starts killing the crew, and which causes the Hawkman armor to erupt from beneath Hall's skin. Hawkman isn't done with him yet. Of course the alien - Morphicus - is enamored of the Nth Metal, and may just have some extra killing to do.
Not a bad start, really. The "reluctant hero" angle is always interesting, and if they keep up with it then it might be worth continuing. If, however, they decide that they're just going to stick with Angry Flying Man Hits Things, then I'll probably drop this book right quick.
Superman by George Perez and Jesus Merino
Okay. Where to start with this one...?
I've been saying over and over this week about how some writers just need to slow the hell down and let the story happen. In a book like Justice League Dark or Firestorm, rushing things doesn't matter all that much to anyone but the folks who are already fans. But this is Superman. This is DC's flagship character, one of the oldest and most beloved superheroes in all creation. He's being re-introduced in this book, which needs to both satisfy longtime fans and bring in new readers.
This is not something you want to get wrong.
Now I'm not saying it's easy - on the contrary, it's frightfully difficult, which is probably why they gave it to George Perez, a man who's been handling Superman and his world for decades. He knows Superman inside and out, back to front, spit-curl to shiny red boots.
And maybe that's the problem.
This book is over-complicated and over-written, and I really, really wish that George had done the art instead of the writing. In this book we have the following:
The rebirth of the Daily Planet, under the umbrella of Galaxy Communications, which kind of echoes Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp empire. It presents an interesting character dynamic, especially between Lois and Clark. Lois is gaining power and prestige through this new Planet, which she sees as the best way to make the news better. Clark - true to his new Liberal roots - sees it as being gobbled up by a company that specializes in trashy tabloids, phone hacking and rumor mongering. The fact that some of Galaxy's biggest names in punditry don't like Superman probably doesn't help.
Now no-one's going to read a story about the death of print media, so naturally there must be a giant monster threatening to burn down the city. A strange creature of flame rises out of the new Metropolis Astrodome, and only Superman can stop it.
Of course, he can't do that until he's foiled a plot by terrorists to steal a truck full of hazardous waste.
In the meantime, there's a giant alien in the Himalayas, blowing its horn for reasons yet unknown, though it looks like we'll have to read Stormwatch to find out.
And there seems to be a media vendetta against Superman. And Clark is trying to get along with Lois, who's most definitely not interested in that way. AND, there's some sub-plot about Superman having been gone from Metropolis for the last few months.
That's a lot to take in, and most of it is given to us through awkward dialogue and text boxes which are supposed to be from Clark's article about the events of that night. On top of all that, for reasons that I cannot fathom, George Perez decided to wedge as many classic Superman lines as he could into the script, including:
- "Truth, justice, and the American Way."
- "Look, up in the sky!"
- "...leap over tall buildings."
- "Faster than a speeding bullet."
- "This is a job for Superman."
I suppose we should be grateful that there were no references to mighty rivers or locomotives, arguments about birds and planes, and that he wasn't referred to as "A strange visitor from another planet." What's more, a lot of the dialogue and text boxes performed no function whatsoever - they echoed what was going on in the pictures.
This is something I had hoped that comics had grown past, honestly. Back In The Day, superheroes would constantly describe what they were doing while they were doing it, which kind of implied that their readers were morons. Either that, or the writers didn't trust the artists to draw it right. The entire fight scene in this book could have been done wordlessly, or nearly so, and it would have been much more elegant and graceful.
What's more, it seems that he's trying to remind us who Superman is and what he can do. The problem is that we don't need reminding. Unless DC is laying some new powers down on top of him, we're all pretty familiar with Kal-El's skill set. We don't need to be reminded about what is the same between this Superman and the old - we need to know what's different.
For example, there seems to be a lot more emotional bleed-over between Clark and Superman. He spends most of the issue scowling about the new Daily Planet and its overlords. As an interesting note: the company that bought the Planet is the same one that used to be run by the rich asshole Clark scared the hell out of over in Action Comics. So if you've read both, you can get a better idea as to why Superman isn't happy with this change in the status quo. But we don't really get inside his head enough in this issue to find out quite what he's thinking.
As Clark, he's much more opinionated and politically-minded, which will affect his performance as Superman. He has a history of fighting for the little guy. He probably reads Huffington Post in his downtime. He's a liberal in a time when being a liberal is maddening. Seeing as how the traditional Superman has almost always been a symbol of The Establishment, this new attitude is fascinating... and utterly glossed over in this book.
So as much as I love and respect George Perez, I think it might have been better to give this book to someone without so much Superman baggage to hold on to. Someone who really could have looked at the character with clear eyes and made sure he was re-introduced in a way that got people excited about Supes again. Honestly, I was looking for that real Superman Moment, that one panel where I would burst into a big, 12 year-old grin and say, "Wow." And it just wasn't there.
On top of that, I don't like a lot of how Merino has drawn this. Maybe he was rushed, trying to get so much artwork done in a little time, but some of the scenes are just snapshots, without any real power or depth to them, and some of the characters - Perry White in particular - look just plain wrong.
So, while I'll certainly be following Action, this one is further down my list. We'll see how it goes.
Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth
Teenagers are trouble. I should know - I teach at a high school.
Poor impulse control, a really skewed sense of risk perception, emotional instability, and a general lack of life experience, there are many ways in which a teenager can get him or herself into trouble.
Now give that teenager super-powers? That's just asking for all kinds of problems.
It starts with Kid Flash (who, judging by his eye color and attitude is probably Bart - but is he still Future-Bart Allen, 30th century grandson of Barry Allen? That'll be interesting to see play out...), who manages to turn a fairly simple house fire into a catastrophe just by being impulsive and running into a situation without knowing the risks.
Yup. Definitely Bart.
To Tim Drake, former Robin, this is just one in a series of mishaps involving teenage superheroes that is turning the tide of public opinion against kids like them. On top of that, there's a secret organization that seems to be hunting super-powered teenagers down, and Tim is resolved to figure out who they are and what they want.
It's actually a pretty good start to the series, and it seems to avoid the pacing problem that's been annoying me with the relaunch. We get a solid introduction to the good guys and the bad guys, and we see the team starting to be assembled. On top of that is a neat tie-in to the Superboy book. As much as Lobdell annoyed me with his work on Red Hood and the Outlaws, I think he has a good plan going for this series. I'll be interested to see how it plays out.
Voodoo by Ron Marz and Sami Basri
Okay, yes - this one features high levels of sexiness. Again, it's not one that I would really feel comfortable reading on the train.
But that's okay! Or at least more okay than it was in Catwoman and Red Hood, mainly because most of the story takes place in a strip club, where sexiness abounds naturally.
This is another character that was brought in from the Wildstorm universe, which means I know nothing about it. From that point of view, they've done a good job at setting up the character for first-time readers. I hope people who've known Voodoo for a while enjoyed it as much as I did.
Priscilla is a stripper - or exotic dancer, if you prefer - who performs under the name Voodoo. She's the most popular dancer in the club, but she doesn't really get along well with the other women working there. It's not that she's stuck-up or skanky - she just seems a little... different.
Of course, it might help that she's a shapeshifting alien. That type is always hard to read.
Police detectives Evans and Fallon are at the club to find out more about her and why she's there, which doesn't end well for one of them...
And that's pretty much it. Voodoo is an alien who likes to be an exotic dancer, but once her cover is blown she has to get on to her real work, whatever that is. The story progresses at a nice leisurely pace, gives us a good look at the characters involved, and manages a good solid ending that'll have me coming back next month. The art is clean and gorgeous, with some excellent coloring by Jessica Kholinne, and aside from not feeling comfortable reading it in public, I really don't have a lot negative to say about this book.
I do wonder, though, if Marz and Basri managed to convince DC comics to pay for visits to strip clubs for "research." An interesting detail - the chair in the private room in which Voodoo and Detective Evans have their little chat has loops attached to the arms. This is presumably to help with the "Don't touch" rule. Is this common in strip clubs? I have no idea, but I reckon Marz and Basri tried really hard to be accurate.
As I mentioned at the top, there is something separating the sexiness of this from the awfulness of last week. Mainly it's that the sexiness of Voodoo - and she is sexy - is in the right context. She looks the way she does because that's what she thinks an exotic dancer is supposed to look like. What's more, when we see her and the other dancers in the dressing room, they're all quite human in their near-nakedness. It's made clear that they have lives outside the club, and that they have concerns beyond how to scratch their itch or make men happy. When compared to Catwoman or Starfire, the ladies of this lounge have much more depth and humanity to them.
In contrast is Detective Fallon, who is a short-tempered ass-kicker. She dominates a group of teenagers who try to get into the club and shows them that they should never underestimate a woman.
So there we go. Some good female characters to balance out the caricatures of last week. Well done, even if Voodoo isn't technically female. Maybe.
Our last round of sightings of the Reboot Mystery Lady! Have we found out who she is? No. Do we know what she wants? No. Is she going to keep popping up like Waldo for the foreseeable future? I have no idea. But here she is, folks...
So, to wrap things up: The reboot has been interesting in many ways, frustrating in others. Overall, I think that it wasn't quite as daring and radical a change as it was made out to be, at least not yet. A lot of the characters we knew and loved are pretty similar to what they were before, just with more complicated costumes. With the inclusion of characters from Wildstorm, Milestone and Vertigo, however, the DC Universe has expanded a bit and offers some more variety in storytelling, which I look forward to exploring.
On the whole, though, I think DC stayed pretty conservative with the reboot, especially when contrasted with the world they'd created for Flashpoint, which was radically different. I can certainly understand, though. As I noted above, comic book fans don't generally handle change well, and altering the status quo too far could have rebounded pretty harshly on them in terms of sales.
It must be remembered, of course, that this is only the first month. Even for the crappy titles, there's a chance they could pull through, and if they don't, well, they get dropped. New writers will come in and new artists will join, and the characters and world will continue to evolve as they always have. And I'll be here to see it, no doubt. The plan so far is this: I'll follow all of these titles through their first major story arc, and then decide what to cut out. Hey, some people spend their disposable income on nice clothes or expensive food of having "a life" and "friends." This is my vice, dammit...
I will not, however, be doing these full reviews every week. It takes forever, to be honest, and I have enough on my plate as it is. So if anything really exciting happens, I'll chime in on it, but otherwise this is the last complete rundown for the New 52.
And I must say, it's been made a hell of a lot easier with the same-day digital decision. That was easily, hands-down the best thing DC did with this relaunch. Reading comics on my iPad is great, even if Comixology gets kind of persnickety about how many comics I should be keeping on board. For those of us who are several thousand miles away from our local comic book store, I must say Thank you.
Here's my final judgment of the first month, in convenient list form (which may be altered based on my whims):
I'm going to follow these because they look really good:
DC Universe Presents
I'm going to follow these out of a sense of deep-seated nostalgia:
The Fury of Firestorm
Justice League International
Green Lantern Corps
Green Lantern: New Guardians
Legion of Super-Heroes
I'm really interested to see where these are going:
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
Birds of Prey
Justice League Dark
I can take 'em or leave 'em:
Batman and Robin
Probably not going to make it:
Batman: The Dark Knight
Hawk and Dove
Men of War
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Oh, HELL no:
And that's it! Thanks for sticking around for the first month of the Reboot, and happy reading....