Eh – that’s about the best and worst description I can give Before Watchmen: Nite Owl at this point in it’s run. J. Michael Straczynski hasn’t penned a bad story, by any means, but it also doesn’t have the same emotional or narrative weight as Minutemen, Silk Spectre, or Doctor Manhattan, relying mostly on it’s fan-service tendencies that feature Rorschach quite a bit. Dan Dreiberg may be a bit less hard-nosed than the other members of the Watchmen, but nearly every issue of Nite Owl presents Dan as more pathetic than effective – even when he’s got his costume on, Dan comes across as skittish and nervous, which isn’t who he is. Overall, Nite Owl isn’t the weakest series in the Before Watchmen gamut, but it’s down there with Comedian and Ozymandias.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #0
As much as I love the Green Lantern character franchise as a whole, Tony Bedard’s Green Lantern: New Guardians has been testing my patience, and GL:NG #0 is no exception. First off, this issue breaks a very basic “Issue Zero” rule and doesn’t take place before the first issue, which would be acceptable if there was a reason (like the introduction of Simon Baz in Green Lantern #0). But the only real event in this issue is that Carol Ferris becomes the new Star Sapphire representative for Kyle Rayner’s fading New Guardians, and that’s not a good enough reason to bypass a Kyle Rayner origin, seeing as this series is all about him! Even beyond this hugely wasted potential, the story isn’t even all that good, and really only serves to set up “Rise of the Third Army” just a little bit more – poor form, Tony Bedard.
Another fantastic Bat Family “Issue Zero”, Nightwing #0 delves (obviously) into Dick Grayson’s past, giving readers a thorough new backstory for the original Robin, The Boy Wonder. While the death of his parent’s remains the same, Dick’s involvement with the Batman comes about in a new and different way courtesy of Tom DeFalco (scripting only) and Kyle Higgins – instead of immediately being taken in by Bruce Wayne, Dick strikes out on his own to hunt down his parent’s killer, often running into Batman who continually looks the other way. Eventually, Bruce adopts Dick as his son and begins to raise him while keeping his superhero identity a secret, only to have Dick discover it’s Bruce under the cowl after reading Batman’s body language. At first, it’s only a monitor duty gig, but in the face of death, Dick springs into action with a self-tailored Robin costume (which we get to see for the first time this issue) that brings about the first era of Batman’s sidekick – it’s a hugely satisfying issue that should be read by any Batman or Robin fan.
Of all the series Scott Lobdell is currently at helm, Red Hood and The Outlaws has been the only one I’ve enjoyed on a regular basis – for some reason, the man seems to pour all of his relatable, grounded work into this title. I’m not complaining and in fact, Red Hood and The Outlaws #0 is one of the most satisfying issues of the run, offering the origin of Jason Todd: the second Robin and eventual Red Hood, thorn in Batman’s side and anti-hero extraordinaire! It’s hard not to root for Jason, a boy whose life went from bad, to worse, to a bit better, then ends in horrifying tragedy only to be resurrected and have the whole cycle start all over again. The final four pages illustrated by Brett Booth are the most revealing of the issue, pointing to the Joker as the mastermind behind Jason’s misfortunes as a master plot to create and destroy one of Batman’s Robins – it’s sick, twisted, and utterly shocking.
Wonder Woman has already been praised up and down for it’s dramatic and groundbreaking re-envisioning of the Diana, Princess of the Amazons, and Wonder Woman #0 takes things to the next level with Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang offering up an updated tale from Wonder Woman’s adventures in the 1940s! Diana is approached by Aires (War) who wants to turn her into the greatest warrior the planet has ever seen, meeting under the full moon each month to train in the ways of battle. In the end, when forced to kill to complete her task, Diana refuses and goes from being War’s star pupil to being his greatest failure, only now she’s a fully-trained, battle-ready warrior. Wonder Woman #0 is not only one of the best issues of the series to date, it’s one of the best issues from the ‘New 52’ so far – Azzarello and Chiang hit a brilliant chord with this innovative decision, it pays off in spades, and it shows how creators can tell interesting, meaningful stories without all the intricacies and complexities that are standard protocol in today’s comic book industry (just look at the chaos that is Teen Titans and Superboy).
While the rest of the critical world lauds Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli for Spider-Men, I tend to still see it as a self-fulfilling project that didn’t meet it’s potential because it attempted to reach into too many wells at the same time, in a span of only five issues. I want to stress that for what it is, Spider-Men is great – Bendis’ writing is spot-on, and Pichelli’s artwork is perfectly suited for Ultimate Comics – but there’s just so many instances where the story falls short and misses emotional marks. There’s a lot of story that can be mined from Peter Parker travelling to a universe where his teenaged counterpart has already died, but Ultimate Nick Fury puts the kibosh on any inter-dimensional travel and no one stands up to him or questions his authority at all – um…what? Again, I stress that the missed opportunities for this 616/Ultimate crossover are so numbered, it’s really hard to accept the fleeting nature of this series as meaningful or important at all (or course, Peter looks up Miles Morales in his world on the final page to which his reaction is, “Oh my god!”)