Monthly Recap: January 2012

Monthly Recap




January 2012

***SPOILERS AHEAD***
The first month in 2012 has been a somewhat hit-or-miss for DC’s ‘new 52’ titles. While previously strong titles like Action Comics and Resurrection Man suffered slight hiccups, other strong titles such as Batman and Green Lantern kept their momentum and readers’ attention.

Red Lanterns saw an interesting turn as it gave some back story to some of the lesser-known members of the Corps that feels only rage. Doing this allows for more ranged storytelling, possibly in an ‘A-story, B-Story’ style that could intertwine or connect with other Green Lantern-related books.

In Supergirl, Kara flies back to Krypton hoping to find something where there is nothing. Frustrated and confused, she is approached by a mysterious warrior calling herself Reign. After a brief fight, she reveals herself to be a living weapon of mass destruction searching for the same answer – the reason for Krypton’s destruction – as Kara. We’re left with Supergirl unconscious in the dead city of Argo floating around a dead sun.

One of the most underrated books of the ‘new 52’ is Blue Beetle. While it sometimes comes across as cheesy and/or unconvincing in terms of adolescent behavior, it provides a solid tale of a teenager coming to possess powers he can’t fully comprehend. While it’s an obvious attempt to mimic Marvel’s success with Ultimate Spider-Man (which creates an even bigger connection now that Ultimate Spidey is also Hispanic), Blue Beetle offers an integral part of DC mythology with a great multi-cultural setting. As the intergalactic legion responsible for the creation of the Blue Beetle scarab comes searching for their missing unit on Earth, they get called to join the invasion fleet heading to attack the Blue Lantern home world of Odym, a war promised to be covered starting in Green Lantern: New Guardians #10 this coming June. It’s a great one-off to a future event that promises to be a great read.

Red Hood and The Outlaws is a fun read. While not as coherent as some of the other Batman-related books (and I use this connection in the loosest sense), Jason Todd’s journey as Red Hood joined by Arsenal and Starfire is pure comic fun. Poised as DC’s “renegade” superheroes, this ‘team’ operates purely out of self-motivation and personal conflict. And while they’re sometimes targeted by outside forces, it’s usually about them. This month, the Outlaws didn’t do much, but Red Hood gets a good shot in the nuts about who he’s fighting and why.

Overall, DC had a good showing this month. With the announcement of the Second Wave of New 52 titles, I’m interested to see how their inclusion will shake things up.

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Review: Superman #5

Review




Superman #5
Written by George Perez
Pencilled by Nicola and Trevor Scott

This month’s Superman was a thinker. Not much time has passed since the end of issue four, and Supes is stuck in a cyclone made of fire and ice; a curious thing indeed. After a few minutes of controversial news coverage, the cyclone dies away, along with Superman’s previously gentle and charming manner. A new militant Superman has taken his place and begins exterminating any major threats to Metropolis.

Superman has been a point of mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I like how DC is incorporating non-DC villains into the canon, though I’m frustrated about the pace at which things are developing. It hasn’t been uncommon for writers to utilize the half-thoughts-half-article approach to Superman, allowing a more human scope in which to interpret Superman’s actions, his behavior and his very existence. Unfortunately, George Perez hasn’t really used this technique in the best way. He’s severely fragmented the storytelling flow by constantly skipping back and forth to Lois, Clark, Perry, Jimmy and others. And with this fragmentation comes a missed opportunity to really give this relaunched Superman some awesome personality.

The final pages really get things going again and definitely make me want to read the next issue, so we’ll see how things pan out next month.

Grade: C-

Review: Teen Titans #5

Review




Teen Titans #5
Written by Scott Lobdell
Artwork by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

Teen Titans has been pretty good since the ‘New 52’ relaunch. While some of the member choices are a bit questionable (I mean, Skitter instead of Beast Boy? C’mon…), Scott Lobdell has done a great job weaving the stories of each of these characters into a larger mythology within the new DC universe. Lobdell also pens Superboy, giving him ample page space to make connections, create an intricate backstory and give the DC universe a rather formidable enemy.

Issue five claims to present all the members of the Teen Titans together for the first time. Unfortunately, this is a lie, as Skitter is absent from the brawl and Superboy is their enemy. So…they’re kind of all there? Whatever. The issue still stands on it’s feet as a great book. I was skeptical, from the beginning, of Bunker, a new teen hero who’s Hispanic, homosexual and who’s power consists of creating purple psionic bricks. It’s a pretty weak description for a character that has actually been written well and without a whole lot of sappiness, which is difficult for comic book writers to avoid when writing multi-ethnic or homosexual characters. In this battle, Bunker is the only one – at least for a moment – who can stand up to Superboy’s own psionic powers, slowing him down enough for Red Robin to swoop in and give ol’ Kon-El the psychological beatdown he needed all along.

We’re still in a transitional place for the Titans. Superboy is their enemy. Kid Flash doesn’t have a proper costume yet, Skitter doesn’t understand her powers, Wonder Girl is anything but ‘wonderful’, and Solstice has yet to be developed beyond the ‘information dump’ girl. But this is the fifth issue, and we’re starting to see the seeds of the full team take root. Superboy starts questioning his beliefs, all the rest of them get a dose of humble pie as they’re beat to the ground one by one, and N.O.W.H.E.R.E. begins to panic as they realize that Superboy may no longer see them as allies (and still no acronym clarification). Soon, we’ll get to see the road Superboy takes to joining the Teen Titans.

While not the finest issue of the title thus far, it’s definitely one of the better ones. While both Teen Titans and Superboy have taken the scenic route in their storytelling, those scenes are starting to make more sense and things are being brought together more and more. Lobdell has the chance to build an inter-title mythology and so far, he’s succeeding.

Grade: B-

Review: Justice League #5

Review




Justice League #5
Written by Geoff Johns
Artwork by Jim Lee and Scott Williams

Fragmentation has long been the problem with the Justice League. It’s difficult to tell a chapter in a story – in 22 pages no less – that encompasses the whole range of heroes that fall under the Justice League banner. Even the core seven – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and (newly added founding member) Cyborg – present an overflow of high-profile characters that need to be represented. It’s a problem with the current status quo of single comic issues in general, but it’s more prevalent in Justice League because of the sheer amount of content Johns has to work with.

It’s a blessing, but also, in this issue five, a curse. Already in the first issue, we saw the ‘Green Lantern & Batman’ show that made it feel more like a crossover mini-series than the flagship title of DC’s ‘New 52’ relaunch.

While subsequent issues have faired better, this month’s story brings us back to Hal and Bruce kickin’ it old school. Though Darkseid is front and center in the opening pages, he quickly gets put off-panel to focus on Green Lantern and Batman talking things out. Before that, though, we get to see a good bit of fast thinking from Barry Allen as the Flash. Darkseid’s (technically still not named) Omega beams have locked onto the Flash and instead of outrunning them, he phases through a parademon to change the beam’s target. It’s a little cheesy, but aptly conveys Barry’s newly-interpreted powers as a speedster.

Johns is sticking to his guns with his interpretation of early Hal Jordan as a total dick. In this issue, he decides that only he can stop this alien menace, even though his first attempt left him with a broken arm. Next, when it’s just GL and Bats alone…again…Hal tells Batman that, if he dies, “THEN I DIE!”, a sentiment that somehow moves Bruce into unmasking himself and revealing who he is to Hal, who promptly screams that he has no idea who Bruce Wayne is.

I understand that Geoff Johns loves Green Lantern. I also understand that Batman is probably one of the most interesting characters to write, so writing them together – which hasn’t been done nearly enough – sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, this is supposed to be Justice League. This was the first issue where the entire team was gathered, yet Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman have a handful of words at best before being relegated off-panel. I know Johns and Jim Lee have high hopes for their new incarnation of Justice League, including adding a ton more members. But as it stands now, they seem to be having trouble just balancing seven.

I still really enjoyed this issue, despite all my whining. It was filled with action from Darkseid, Flash, Green Lantern and Batman with a great last page of the whole team heading out to take down their first villain as a team.

Grade: C+

Analysis: Superman/Superboy/Supergirl: The First New 52 Crossover

Analysis




Superman/Superboy/Supergirl: DC’s first New 52 Crossover


A few days ago, DC editor Matt Idelson announced the New 52’s first crossover event. Citing hints in Action Comics and Superman in upcoming months, Idelson explained that this crossover would deal with the Superman family of characters. He continued on to say that Superman hasn’t yet met Superboy in this reality, and that the Man of Steel’s relationship with Supergirl hasn’t been the most pleasant thus far. Seeing how these characters interact will be the main focus of the crossover, concluded Idelson in his comments.

In June, it will have only been 10 months since the New 52 relaunch with six titles already cancelled and replaced with six new books. Obviously, DC isn’t looking to drag anything out, and letting sleeping dogs lie is not on the itinerary; unpopular books should be axed, a crossover would be neat, and new titles need to be introduced to keep attention on the New 52.

But is there a real need for a crossover event so early on? Reading reviews from several other sites has yielded a common desire from many journalists: more cohesiveness between titles. The main reason given – a good reason – is that this new DC universe has started to feel fractured, like no events in one book truly affect those in another. And while various titles have somewhat produced said cohesion (see Justice League Dark and I, Vampire), it’s a far cry from the tightly-knit world that once existed.

But to be fair, isn’t that one of the reasons DC decided to re-launch it’s entire line in the first place? Part of what made it difficult to dive into comic books (as a new reader) was the sheer amount of history littered throughout regular narratives. Hardcore fans loved the winks, nods and hat tips to previous events, new audiences found it near-impossible to break the think ice of continuity. Re-launching 52 titles was an effort to clear up the muck of historical cohesion that drove away potential new readers. It feels almost like a step backwards to introduce a major crossover event so soon into the life of the New 52, some titles of which will only be two months old when the event starts.

Though, the idea behind a crossover event to establish the Superman family is a good one. In the past, DC had the time to slowly introduce Supergirl (multiple times over the decades) before eventually getting around to Superboy, which also took a long time. Since all four titles (including Action Comics) that will be included in the event premiered at the same time, DC needed a way to bring these three characters, who all share the same insignia, together to be the surrogate family each one of them needs. This event could go very well. If DC sticks to only including Superman-related books in it’s ‘tie-in’ scope, as well as keeping it simple and fun, it will be success. If they expect me to buy Justice League Dark or Catwoman, it will be a disaster.

Readers who jumped in when the relaunch started in September have decided which books they read. It’s not unreasonable to ask said readers to pick up Superman-related titles if they’d like to understand the relationship between Superman-related characters. And honestly, most people who are reading Superman and Action Comics are probably reading Superboy and Supergirl anyway. These new audiences are in a fragile spot right about now. Justice League #5, arguably the most popular title of the relaunch, was the first of the New 52 titles to be delayed, something that may not sit well with new buyers. And if, come summer, they’re asked to pick up issues not on their list at the local comic shop, they won’t. It’s as simple as that. Comic books are a luxury many cannot afford (especially in this economy) and buying extra books for a possible single-panel shout out to the real event isn’t something many people are likely to do. And, some might feel alienated by the prospect of having to buy other books to understand what’s going on in Superman, a book they actually read.

So, DC, you have a chance to do things right this time around. Please, please don’t screw this up.

Review: Green Lantern – New Guardians #5

Review




Green Lantern: New Guardians #5
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Tyler Kirkham and Batt

This title is all sorts of a mess. First of all, it’s called New Guardians, which would imply that they are similar, in at least some respect, to the current Guardians of the Universe. This is not so. Second, with five issues under his belt, Tony Bedard still can’t make up his mind about the direction of the title. And lastly, it feels nearly like a chore to read through the pages and pages of nothing but dialogue.

Let’s start with the ‘Guardians’ part. I don’t know if DC just couldn’t decide on a better name, or if there will eventually be some crazy awesome connection to the original Guardians, but right now, there doesn’t seem to be any discernable reason why the book should be called New Guardians. Others might see this as a trifle and simply move past it to analyze the content inside. I feel like the title is a misdirect, and one that keeps me from fully understanding the characters’ actions.

The ‘story’ thus far in New Guardians has been that everyone attacks Kyle Rayner, then they all go to Oa (only to get kicked off), then they go out in space a bit before running into a solar-system sized spaceship. It’s an alliteration that might sound cool, but in effect looks like a universal mobile. And in this fifth issue, we’re introduced to the (apparent) villain, Invictus. As some sort of ‘sun god’, Invictus literally wakes up from sleeping in the sun to come bring some pain to those who bear the Mark of the Beast. Turns out the beast is…Larfleeze? And these people are pissed because little ol’ Glomulus is puttering about? Seriously? I just don’t know where Bedard is going and it’s becoming a little frustrating trying to guess.

While this books should be awesome, showcasing huge battles involving all the different Corps members, we’re instead treated to Kyle & Friends Wax Poetic about Life, Power Rings and Bein’ Gangsta. The different plot elements seem placed simply to allow the characters to go on and on about their problems, plans or insults. It’s all pretty boring.

One good thing about this issue was the banter between Kyle and Glomulus, one of Larfleeze’s more popular constructs and possibly the cutest villain in DC history. Glommy and Kyle start getting into conversation and Glomulus’ very nature – as simply a construct or a living, thinking being – comes into question.

I want to like this book. I love Green Lantern and Kyle is my all-time favorite GL, so I keep reading, sticking it out hoping that things will get better. Fortunately, this month’s Blue Beetle promised a pretty awesome new arc starting with issue #10. Here’s hoping things get better by June.

Grade: C-

Review: Aquaman #5

Review




Aquaman #5
Written by Geoff Johns
Artwork by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

Geoff Johns really loves Aquaman. For a character who’s traditionally been one of the least popular and least nurtured in DC history, Johns has been consistently delivering dynamite material for Atlantis’ lost son. One of the main problems with Arthur Curry is that no writer tried (much) to delve into his characterization beyond the surface anger. Instead of becoming a more well-rounded hero through the years like Batman, Green Lantern (not including the forever-thick Hal Jordan), and Superman, Aquaman has always had a case of arrested development. It’s for all of these reasons that I’ve loved the ‘New 52’ Aquaman so very, very much.

Issue five begins the second story arc for Aquaman since the relaunch. After the events of “The Trench”, which stands by itself as an amazing story, the first page shows three panels of Arthur falling through the sky only to land in a desert. It’s a perfect use of panel space because the reader immediately knows something isn’t right and wants to know what happened, all without any dialogue. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado have been bringing their A-game since issue one and this month is no exception.

Flashing back to 12 hours earlier, we find out that Arthur has been called in by Commander Clay, the de-facto military persona who gave Aquaman grief during the events of “The Trench”, because the navy done gone and started poking at something shiny. Aquaman arrives and quickly identifies the piece as Atlantean, though it was ancient, even by their standards. Arthur realizes that it came from a time before Atlantis was sank. The artifact becomes the main point of conflict between the Navy and a mysterious new enemy as the issue continues.

This issue has solidified Aquaman as one of the premier titles of the ‘New 52.’ Letting the first four issues set up Aquaman’s world before diving into the origins of Atlantis was a fantastic strategy and it’s allowed for Arthur Curry to develop at a pace more fitting in this new era of comic books. Where once readers needed only a few pages and a narrative exposition to give them characterization, it now takes whole arcs to flesh out characters, as well it should. Johns understands the craftsmanship behind developing a character beyond their most prevalent elements. Of course Superman can fly, but how does he feel about the national debt crisis? Wonder Woman flies an invisible jet, so does she have a license? These anecdotes might seem trite, but they serve as examples for the kind of ideas Johns is using to create a deeper, richer character experience. And Aquaman is all the better for it.

Grade: A+