Saturday, September 17, 2011

Even More New DC Comics

I think the major problem with this line-wide reboot so far is that there's just so damn much of it. This thing is really not designed to pick up new readers at all. It's the same mistake Marvel made a decade ago with the Ultimate line: they want to do everything at once. Instead of starting with a smaller number of titles and reestablishing or recreating the DCU in a new direction, we've got 52 titles all coming out in the same month, all desperate to eke out their little corner of the same universe, which means there are so many characters and organizations that have to already exist in order for it to work... why keep pretending this is a reboot? It's not. It all depends on established DC history, it's just that some of the origins and character relationships have been tweaked. A little bit.


Seriously, for all of the stuff people are getting mad about (Superman has a collar now!), it's still the same old place, just with this prevailing sense of being cool and slick and badass. Otherwise, all we've seen so far that's different is that the Justice League met differently and Superman started out his career as Ultimate Superman, the wiseass kid in Metropolis. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same damn universe. And it knows it.

Anyway, my thoughts on what I read this week.

THE GOOD:

First thing first: I LOVED Demon Knights. I think the DCU needs an epic fantasy comic book, and I love the way this one is handled. It's not obsessed with continuity (yet, anyway), and it's still in prologue mode, but I like the way it introduces the characters and wants to have fun with them. I enjoy the reimagining of the Shining Knight, and it does my heart surprisingly good to see Vandal Savage as a boisterous axe-swinger enjoying the hell out of his immortality instead of being self-consciously urbane and fighting the Flash. I do miss Etrigan rhyming, but he didn't become a rhymer until much later, anyway. It's just a fun, enjoyable book; it reminds me of some of the Eclipse Comics fantasy series of the 80s. I will keep reading this book for sure. Finally, something fun in the nu-niverse!

I think I liked Batwoman, but I'm not sure I understood what the hell was going on in there. I don't really know anything about the recent incarnation of the character, and it came across to me as sort of Promethea-lite. Maybe JH Williams III is putting his experience with Alan Moore on that underrated title to good use. As much as I didn't understand it, I thought the characters were interesting (particularly Detective Sawyer) and, of course, the art was wonderful. I'm intrigued by what's going on, which is the best you can reasonably ask for from the nu-52 titles at this point. I think I'll keep reading for a while and see if I can figure it out.

Quick question, though: the Teen Titans happened? I thought the Teen Titans were something new started by Tim Drake? Seriously, DC, it's called planning.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed Green Lantern. I've always enjoyed the concept of the Green Lanterns more than the actual execution (except in cartoons), and this is absolutely 0% reboot (if you aren't at least passingly familiar with the whole concept and some of the history of the Lanterns and the Guardians, you will be lost here), but it's enjoyable. It's somewhat old-fashioned superhero writing, and it turns Hal Jordan back into the douchey hotshot he used to be. I like the concept of Sinestro being a Green Lantern again and having to redeem himself by shutting down the Sinestro Corps. The GL mythos has been over-complicated for a long time now, but this is a story I enjoyed. I'll keep reading this one until it inevitably gets stupid.

I liked Resurrection Man, but having no previous experience with the character, I'm not sure I get what's going on here. It's a fairly clean intro, though; I went into it with no preconceived notions, at least. I'm intrigued enough to read a second issue.

I also really liked Superboy. I wasn't even going to touch it at first, but I like Scott Lobdell as a writer, generally, so I changed my mind. Lots of technobabble, but I find the character much more interesting and easier to relate to than I ever have before. Thought obviously went into this book. I was a little disappointed when they teased the Teen Titans at the end, because I'm really just interested in finding out more about Superboy and why he was created. I'll keep reading this one, too.

THE BAD:

Red Lanterns feels awfully pointless. I don't know what's going on with the whole multicolored Lanterns thing, except that it keeps reminding me of the Care Bears crossed with Skittles. It's just a bad comic book, and while Atrocitus makes a great villain for the Green Lantern Corps, there's just no point in the Red Lanterns having their own comic book. This is Image Comics in 1995 stuff.

I didn't care about anything going on in Deathstroke. Yeah, yeah, Deathstroke is a badass and he kills people, who cares?

I was underwhelmed by Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE. Frankenstein was at least better represented and more fun to read than he was the last time I saw him, in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory reboot five or six years ago. But the whole thing felt derivative of Hellboy to me--there's one character they may as well have named Female Abe Sapien Analogue--and it adds a Hit Girl rip-off to make sure to hit all of the fanboy bases. I guess this sort of fell between good and bad for me; it's not a bad comic book, it just didn't grab me. I'm uncertain whether I'll keep reading it. Probably not, though.

I really hated Batman and Robin. The whole reboot situation really would've been a good time to discuss exactly how many books Batman needed to appear in every month. Every Batman so far feels like a different Batman. The Batman in Batman and Robin doesn't feel at all like the same Batman in Detective Comics and neither feel like the Batman in Justice League. Pick a Batman and stick with him.

This book particularly doesn't bode well for DC's new continuity, because it's carrying on as though it's just the new issue of Batman and Robin. Based on dialogue in this issue, not only has every past issue of the comic happened (Damien makes reference to Dick Grayson having been Batman), but the whole "Return of Bruce Wayne" story happened, too. Batman says, basically to the audience, that he's going to choose life and start honoring his parents' wedding anniversary every year instead of their murder, and that's the only attempt at a reboot we've got (along with the new, pointless lines on Batman's costume). So now we've got a DCU where the Return of Bruce Wayne happened... doesn't that sort of imply that Infinite Crisis happened, too? Or Final Crisis, or whatever? Seriously, this book is just a mess of continuity AND the degrading spectacle of Batman whining about death.

Damien says early on to Bruce, "You were a lot easier to admire when you weren't around." Amen to that.

And for the record, the only thing I liked in any Batman comic in the last five years was Dick Grayson being Batman.

Also, this Batman, Inc. stuff is utterly ridiculous to me. The Lanterns are the Care Bears and Batman is a McDonald's franchise. Great.

AND THE UNREAD:

I didn't give a shit about Suicide Squad before, and I don't now. For a character I don't even like, I'm embarrassed by Harley Quinn's new costume. Again, mid-90s Image Comics stuff. I also don't care about Grifter, so I didn't bother with that one. I'm not a fan of Mister Terrific, so I skipped that one, too, and picking up Legion Lost didn't even enter into my mind. So I skipped all of those.

What's really surprising to me is that the good outweighed the bad this week, and there was even one comic that I just loved, so that's something I wasn't expecting. When the dust settles, I think I'm going to be done with Batman and Superman, who are just being mishandled in the extreme, but there are some surprises in here that I took to. I'm going to read Demon Knights for as long as Paul Cornell keeps writing it. I'm intrigued enough to pick up second issues of Batwoman and Resurrection Man, and even Superboy is interesting to me. And I've found at least one superhero comic that was a good time in, surprisingly, Green Lantern. So, you know, at least there's something in here so far that I can read.

Interesting week.

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