Wednesday, October 12, 2011
We need to talk. About you, about me...about us. This...this isn't working. I'd like to say that it isn't you, that it's me...but we both know that isn't true. It's you.
You flew into the public eye looking completely beautiful and wrapped in a pre-fabricated controversy. You were a lesbian. Good, good for you. That pissed off certain people and got others excited about a character debut that normally wouldn't be newsworthy at all. Unfortunately, that seemed to be about all you were able to bring to the table that made you worth noticing.
You were introduced in 52, and if I didn't know better, I'd almost think you were meant to die in that series as well; saved only by a last minute change of heart. Sure there's not anything to back that up, but with all the publicity you got before you even started appearing in comics, one would imagine DC would have had...well...SOMETHING lined up for you after that series ended but you got nothing at all. And by the time your star turn in DETECTIVE COMICS started, I had stopped caring all together about the pretty new toy that DC had trotted out in front of the mainstream press.
I gave your series a chance this September because I had seen some preview art and it was gorgeous...I also felt it was important to support your book for two reasons: 1.) You would be only the second LGBT character to headline a mainstream comic; and 2.) you were a woman headlining her own comic as well. Both of those ranks need swelling and if my dollar bills meant your book found success then so be it.
Your first issue was pretty...oh so pretty, and if I were one of those who was more captivated by art than story I would be buying multiple copies of your book each month so I could conversely collect it and wallpaper my rooms with it. But I'm not...and your story left a lot to be desired.
Your most vocal fans told me to go pick up "Elegy" and BATWOMAN #0 and that once I read those I would understand how wonderful BATWOMAN #1 was. It was a request that at first I took issue with; after all, shouldn't I have been able to pick up issue #1 and fully understand and appreciate it? Isn't that what the whole "New 52" was all about?
For almost a month I resisted buying these back issues. Then one day, on a whim, I picked up the MADAME XANADU: DISENCHANTED trade paper back and fell in love with the art by Amy Reeder. Someone told me that she was going to be drawing you in your second arc, and that she had illustrated part of BATWOMAN #0 previously. Based on that I acquiesced and hunted down a copy of that book to see if it would help me understand the glory that others find in you but that had since evaded my eye...and while I was buying that, I picked up those fabled four issues of DETECTIVE COMICS as well so I could read this "Elegy" storyline that so many voices have acclaimed.
And so on Sunday night last I curled up in bed, 6 comics lay beside me. The issues of "Elegy" and the issues 0 and 1 of your eponymous title. I thought for sure that when I was done I would finally 'understand'. Sadly, I don't.
I get that you have 'daddy issues'. Your father was your friend and your confidant, and then later you discovered that he lied to you. I've seen that before. I've seen it better. I'm a Polaris fan and a Scarlet Witch fan...the super heroine with father problems is old-hat to me.
You're being hunted by a cult who worships crime...every character worth holding their own title has an arch-nemesis, but this "Religion of Crime" was after you in 52 back in 2006 and is still after you today. You ask them "Why" and I find myself asking the same thing. One would think that after 4+ years we'd have some idea why they have such an obsession with "The Twice Named" (as an aside...what the hell does *that* even mean?!?)...we don't.
And then there's the immediate plot to this acclaimed Elegy story. The Religion of Crime finds Gotham to be their Holy City yet they keep trying to destroy it. Is that even supposed to make any sense? You'd think if that's the way it worked, the entire Jew vs. Muslim conflict would be over rather quickly, no?
So that brings us to the whole 'lesbian' thing. Like I said, good for you. I like lesbians, they're cool. But I'm starting to think that's the only thing you have going for you. Like...people like you because you're a lesbian, or are afraid to point out that your stories are rather, shall we say "Substance Free" because you're an LGBT character and their worried that criticizing the book will turn into and argument about perceived homophobia. But I'm beginning to think that's what people 'see' in you.
I don't say this to be rude or condescending. I don't say this to take away from the fact that only you and Marvel Comics' Daken can lay claim to being LGBT characters with their own books...and I don't say this because I want your book to fail. I say it because...well, you and I just aren't meant to be together.
I wish you luck in the future, both as a super-hero and as a pioneer. But for me, you're not a ground breaking lesbian, you're just no-substance wrapped in a pretty exterior...which, I guess, makes you more like a young circuit queen gay boy.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Remember when Marvel put out their X-Men movie and then threw the comic team in black leather because they thought the film would draw people in to check out the comics? And then for Thor and Captain America they started new series so that people who loved the movie might be able to go and pick up the comics without potentially being scared off by big numbers like “Issue 636” or something like that? Whether or not you agree with those decisions, and regardless of how successful the movies were in creating new comic book readers, you have to be able to look at those shifts in the comics and say “Hey, Marvel clearly believed in those films enough to think the interest would cross over from film to comics”.
So what in the world does the current state of Green Lantern say about how much DC Comics believed in the movie they vomited out this past summer?
Look, I understand that for some inexplicable reason Green Lantern is DC’s Number One selling franchise. And likewise it’s understandable that maybe DC would want to keep their recent Green Lantern related continuity in-tact even with this massive opportunity to truly start from scratch. But still…
I read the last few issues of the War of the Green Lantern, skipped the second issue of the Aftermath of War of the Green Lanterns, and read this issue with a complete understanding of what was going on. And that’s the problem. This issue was a completely seamless transition from the last issue of the previous Green Lantern series to the first issue of the New 52 Green Lantern series. So seamless in fact that I almost suspect that Geoff Johns through a temper tantrum when he was told to restart Green Lantern at #1 and refused unless he could just pretend that nothing had changed in between June and September.
And this is where and why this entire reboot starts to fall apart.
If Green Lantern continuity hasn’t changed at all, then Cyborg Superman destroyed Coast City. We know from Swamp Thing #1 that Superman died and came back, so then it seems to follow suit that if the Death of Superman happened, and that the Cyborg Superman destroyed Coast City, that means Reign of the Supermen happened, but…over in Superboy #1 (*See Superboy #1 review), Superboy is still in a cloning tank, cloned by N.O.W.H.E.R.E., not Cadmus annnnnnnnnnnd…everything goes a little kablooey. And seriously kids, my DC Comic collection isn’t even big enough to fill one of the half-sized long boxes. My DC Knowledge is only good from about 1993-1997, and a handful of books from the last 12 months. So if I know enough to ask dangerous questions, what does that say about the success and acceptance of this reboot for people who have followed DC religiously for decades?
This would have been a fine Green Lantern #67…or 68…or whatever issue it would have been back in July if they hadn’t canceled the previous series after the end of War of the Green Lanterns story, but it’s a crappy #1 issues for a rebooted DC Universe. So much so that it takes away a lot of the fun that these new books have offered so far.
And as an aside…how the hell long has Hal been unemployed? Because that’s a huge stack of unpaid bills that were sitting there on his table. If we’re supposed to believe that his financial hardship is tied to his current situation with the Green Lantern Corps (which happened only 2 months ago in REAL TIME, and Comic Book Time is supposed to be shorter), then either this man is living way above his means, or Doug Mahnke just went a bit crazy with that scene.
(yeah yeah yeah, I KNOW that picture has nothing to do with this issue...sue me...)
So maybe there’s something to be said about going into something with dismal expectations…
Peter Milligan: X-Force/X-Statix still remains one of the best comic series I’ve ever read, but some of his other work? X-Men’s “What Lorna Saw”? from what I still gather it was “hey, that alien is the same color as my hair, I bet it’s cool!”…yeah, no. And Flaspoint: Secret Seven? What was that exactly? Does anyone know? Anyone?
Still, DC had me at “Red Lanterns”, because Red Lanterns = Dex Starr. Love the little guy, absolutely love him. Not even mildly ashamed to admit that when I read his origin story, I cried like a little kid, hugged my cat, and then a few weeks later I rescued a stray, named him Dexter, and tell him he’s a good cat every chance I get. Yeah, I friggin have a huge soft spot in my heart for Dex-Starr (as an aside, he and I are both doing fine after my foolhardy attempt to try and get him to ‘wear’ one of those Blackest Night Red Lantern Rings on his tail…). So needless to say I was glad to see that Dex ‘survived’ the reboot.
Still, there was a little bit of trepidation picking up this book. Obviously I’m a little sketchy on Milligan’s writing; personally I wouldn’t have picked Ed Benes, an artist known for T&A pin-up shots to draw a book full of blood drooling aliens; and finally, the mythology surrounding the origins of Atrocicus and his Red Lantern Corps relies a bit heavily on continuity to launch a new ‘reader friendly’ book. Suffice it to say, I picked up Red Lanterns #1 neither wanting, nor expecting, anything more than to get to see the ‘Rage Kitteh’ for a few panels or so.
So after reading the book? Well, ‘pleasantly surprised’ doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt when I got done with the book. Not only did Milligan deliver up a decent helping of Dex-Starr action (and c’mon, that scene of Atrocicus holding Dex? Even the angriest dude in the universe likes cats!), but he uses the lead character’s powers of Blood Prophecy to open the series in a way that actually managed to explain the rather convoluted way that the Rage Corps came into being and start the ball rolling on the tone the book will take in the future (or at least so I suspect).
And the art? Wow…I suspect that due to some book he probably drew in the 90’s, Ed Benes has gotten himself typecast as a guy who can draw sexy women and that’s pigeonholed his work since then. With only Bleez to satisfy the T&A quotient of the book (and a little bit questionably at that), Benes provides top of the line illustrations to Milligan’s story full of rich detail to city streets, alien landscapes, and space ships. My only complaint would actually be the aforementioned panel with Atrocicus holding Dex, since it gave a bit of an appearance that Rage-Kitteh’s forward appendages were actually arms, not front feet/paws.
Only time will tell whether the Red Lanterns can actually hold their own in a monthly book or if this is a limited series that may drag itself out too far. As it stands now though, I would highly recommend this book and look forward to issue #2. The only caveat is one I direct to Mr. Milligan himself: Whichever one of those U.K. boys you’re planning on giving a ring to here eventually better not mess with the first and true Red Lantern of Space Sector 2814, otherwise it’ll be *my* rage you have to worry about…
Secret Six was canceled last month to give way to this amazingly awful steaming pile of crap.
And that isn’t just me expressing bitterness over the loss of Secret Six…if that were the case, I never would have picked up Suicide Squad to begin with. I enjoyed the old Suicide Squad (the one from the late 80’s) and as much as I truly LOVED Secret Six, I’ve been reading comics long enough to know that no matter how great a series is, cancelations happen and sometimes you just need to move on (something that fans of a certain former Batgirl need to learn)…No, I’m telling you that Suicide Squad is a steaming pile of crap because I’m trying to use all-ages appropriate language.
To put it another way: If the Ostrander written Suicide Squad of the 1980's was the Original "Star Wars" and Secret Six was "Empire Strikes Back", then this book is "Attack of The Clones". It doesn't even get to be "The Phantom Menace" which is so bad it's entertaining...no, it's Attack of the Clones Padme and Anakin bad...that unwatchable, "I can't believe I just wasted time I could have spent smoking, or swimming with sharks while I have a bleeding head wound, or drinking and driving myself into a telephone pole while texting" bad.
For the most part, I’ve avoided talking about plot details because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I don’t even care when it comes to Suicide Squad. I’m not going to get into specifics, but I’ll just tell you this: what you will probably find yourself thinking might be going on in the opening scenes is *exactly* what is going on. And no, no offense, it’s not because you’re suddenly extremely intuitive and will start figuring out all sorts of neat stuff from here on out; it’s because this same exact plot has been used over, and over, and over and over, and over again in hundreds of movies and TV shows and novels and radio dramas and…you know what? There was probably a passage in the pre-King James version of the Bible that uses this plot device, and I’ll bet you even then the ancient Christians reading it took a moment to look at each other to say “I totally saw that coming” before being fed to hungry lions. Perhaps I could overlook using a totally cliché plot device to introduce the characters to readers, even that’s not done well. And I’m still amazed that in a room full of white people, writer Adam Glass managed to kill off the only minority present (even if we aren’t supposed to know that Savant was a minority in this new DC Universe).
There’s decent art for about three-fourths of this…thing…but when the scene changes, the art changes, and so by the time trudge on through to the end, you’re not even left with feeling you just read a well drawn comic.
Seriously, the only “Wow” or “Gotcha” moment in this entire book was the change in appearance of one character, but it wasn’t so much a “Holy crap, I wasn’t expecting THAT” so much as a “Wow, they managed to change the one thing about her that made her special, now she just looks like your typical comic book chick”.
As of right now, I couldn’t care less what happens to Suicide Squad, either the book or the characters, and given that at least two of their number are carry-overs from Secret Six, that should tell you just how completely awful I found this book to be.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I bought this book in error. I legitimately thought I had picked up X-Men #17, and didn’t realize my mistake until I had driven back across town. I was mildly annoyed but I got over it. Still, Stormwatch was the last of the eight new #1’s that I read, because I had no intention of buying or reading it when I had gone to the shop Wednesday morning. This leads to my first recommendation: If you buy Stormwatch #1, read it LAST. Especially if you bought Action Comics #1.
With only one issue published, and only about a quarter of the new #1’s released I can only speculate as to the overall importance of this book, but from what I’ve read and what I suspect, Stormwatch may very well be one of those books that you’ll want to refrain from reading once and filing away in your long box. In fact, if I’m correct, you may not even want to bag and board Stormwatch, you may just want to keep it on your coffee table as a reference guide while pouring though other New 52.
Case in Point: There’s an obvious cross-reference to the forthcoming Superman #1 (it’s on the first page, you can’t miss it if you tried), and if you’re paying attention, you find out exactly what was happening behind the scenes to cause a throwaway line from Action Comics #1 that seemed out of place and went unexplained in that book. Last but not least, there’s a little montage of mental images about halfway through this book that may make you want to pick up Demon Knights #1 if you weren’t already planning on it.
Oh…and Stormwatch #1 also introduces another member of the Justice League that wasn’t even pictured in that SDCC picture that had the expanded roster.
And that’s not even mentioning the speculation that this comic may actually be the only book so far to mention/deal with/address the forthcoming threat that the Time-Trapper/Harbinger/Post-Op Waldo-Watcher from Flashpoint #5 was cryptically teasing us with.
Now maybe I’m wrong about it being a book I’ll want to reference all month long. Maybe those items right there are the only bits of explanation or hints of things to come that are present in Stormwatch #1, but let’s face it; all of that combined was exponentially more story than we got in Justice League #1, and Stormwatch cost $1 less.
Of course, none of that means anything if you’re not interested in the bigger picture of the DCnU and you’re reading this wondering if Stormwatch is worth reading on its own merits.
On its own, the plot to Stormwatch #1 stands alone nicely. Aside from the explicit cross reference to Superman #1 on the first page, none of what I’ve talked about thus far is noticeable unless you’re paying really close attention, have read some of the other books, or care enough to about them to notice what’s happening beneath the surface. If you did read Action Comics then Stormwatch makes that book a little bit more interesting. If you didn’t read Action, you can still read Stormwatch and enjoy it just fine.
The plot (or plots) are full of big grotesque monsters…or maybe the genitals of big grotesque monsters…I’m a little unclear on the specifics of that page, floating eyes, and big rock creatures appearing out of terraforming celestial bodies. All sorts of huge galaxy threatening badness that’s unbelievably goofy and at the same time serious.
As far as I know, all the members of the team are introduced in this issue, and unlike some of the other books (Swamp Thing, Batgirl, Batwing), Stormwatch is not dependent in any way, shape, or form, on events that happened prior to the end of Flashpoint. In fact, this is such a new beginning for the team that Stormwatch #1 features Midnighter and Apollo meeting each other again, for the first time. The dialogue is amusing as #$&@ in certain spots, as it’s fairly evident that while the characters take their mission and the mission of their team seriously, they don’t necessarily treat themselves or their teammates with the same relevance. The only other Paul Cornell comic I’ve read is the first issue of Captain Britain and MI13, and I can guarantee you that he wasn’t this fun on that book, otherwise I would have stuck around for CB’s second issue.
Anyway, without sounding too much like an infomercial non-paid spokesperson: I bought Stormwatch #1 by mistake, but the real mistake would have been NOT picking this up. It’s definitely a keeper.
Swamp Thing #1
This is what I knew about Swamp Thing going into this book: 1.) He’s a DC character; 2.) He had his own series (that I never read); 3.) He either has, or had, his own Vertigo series (that I do not read/have not read); 4.) He was brought back to the DC Universe proper in the Brightest Day series (That I did not read); 5.) There was a miniseries about a smoking guy searching for him that just ended (That I didn’t read); 6.) Despite looking a lot like Man-Thing, it’s a lot harder to make inappropriate and juvenile Swamp-Thing jokes.
This is what I know about Swamp Thing after reading Swamp Thing #1: He apparently is NOT the dude named Alec Holland that most of this comic book focuses on.
I picked this up because it was getting good pre-release buzz that I can only assume was from fans of the character or friends and family of the creative team.
The art is barely serviceable. In scenes where you just have characters standing around, it’s just bland. In scenes where there’s action, I couldn’t tell what the hell was happening.
The story itself references things that have happened before (presumably in that minseries I didn’t read), and the overall plot seems like it’s a horror story, but the quick flashes of set-up mixed with confusing art makes that more of a guess than a statement. About the only thing I can really say that I got out of this comic is acknowledgement that the “Death of Superman” story apparently happened in the new DC Universe as Superman makes mention of dying and coming back.
Three months ago, if I had seen the buzz that this book was getting and picked it up, maybe…MAYBE I would have come back for issue #2 just to see if it got better, but with 52 new books vying for my cash this month alone, I have to say that Swamp Thing failed in capturing my interest or my desire to spend another $3 30 days down the road to see where it’s going.
Justice League International #1
It’s probably not entirely fair to compare this book to the ‘flagship’/’centerpiece’ Justice League book that came out the other week, but c’mon, they both have the words “Justice League” in the title, and they’re both #1’s…and theoretically they both serve the same purpose: to introduce readers (old and new) to not only the characters, but why they’re together as a team and what their place in this new DC Universe.
To be completely honest, there’s not one character in this book that I would really say I’m passionate about. Not Batman (Sacrilege, I know…), not Booster Gold, nor Vixen, nor Fire or Ice, nor any of them (regardless of who the woman in the lower left hand of the cover is or was). This book made my pull list based on the merits of the creators involved. Dan Jurgens is one of the few writers who has been around for almost as long as I’ve been reading comics and one of the only such writers who has actually been able to hold his own alongside the new breed of Johns and Bendis and their ilk, and artist Aaron Lopresti’s work caught my eye with his run on Marvel’s now canceled Ms. Marvel volume 2. So yeah, based on those two names alone I decided to give this book a chance.
Going back to last week’s Justice League, that book’s roster is made up of heroes that Monks in Tibet are aware of: Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Flash…and Cyborg...conversely, Justice League International has Batman and a Green Lantern, but that Lantern isn’t one that the general populace would be aware of. The rest of the cast are familiar to long time comic book readers, but to your everyman on the street, they’re complete unknowns. This gives Jurgens a harder sell than Geoff Johns has on his Justice League book. Jurgens needs to not only introduce this team, but the characters themselves to any new readers coming on board with this issue. I’m happy to say that he pulls this off admirably, giving introduction to the members of the team, their supporting cast, the reason for the team’s formation, and managing to work in a satisfying amount of conflict (both internal and external).
I’ll get to the books big flaw in a minute, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Lopresti’s pencils. Sure he’s not a superstar on the level of Jim Lee, but he’s definitely one of the best *comic book artists* out there today. He has mastered sequential art and the panels and pages flow well, allowing the reader to follow along with the story. When I found myself pausing to gaze at a particular panel, it was because I wanted to soak them in or give them a second look…not because I couldn’t figure out what was going on, or how in the world the story managed to get between two different panels because they were so disjointed.
Now, onto the bad news: The failing of Justice League International has nothing to do with this book itself, nor does it fall at the feet of either Jurgens or Lopresti. The problem with this book is that a lot of what seems to have motivated the formation of this team is dependent on the actions of the main Justice League. They’re referred to in JLI as “effective but independent” and “Helpful”. There’s a Hall of Justice, and in fact more members of the Justice League appear (albeit very briefly) in this book than in Justice League #1. However, if you’ve ‘read’ Justice League #1 (and yeah, I use the word ‘read’ loosely), you know that there is no Justice League to speak of. You don’t know how they’ve gone from being hunted down like Marvel Mutants to being the ‘major league’ of super-heroes, championed by the people. And there won’t be any answers to that for about six months, until the drawn out origin story in that book is complete. I suppose it’s possible that I’m the only person out there who sees this as a failing, but by making these two books connected and allowing the dependent book move ahead briskly while the parent book progresses at a glacial pace, DC has made an otherwise excellent book needlessly confusing and further highlights the flaws of a really bad one.
Bottom line: This book should appeal to fans of the original JLI book as well as old school Avengers fans (I’m talking about old school from the days of Henry Peter Gyrich and the Hawkeye/Captain America conflict). I’d even feel okay recommending this book to a true comic book/genre virgin, and I definitely hold this book up as the ‘right’ way to introduce a team book to its audience. It’s not a done-in-one origin + adventure story, but there’s enough information and adventure packed into this book to make you feel like you actually bought an entire comic and not just a 7-Page preview that got stretched out to 24 pages.
Hawk and Dove #1
Can I tell you a secret? Will you promise not to judge me?
I…well…this is kind of hard to say…
I Love Rob Liefeld.
Please, stop laughing. I really honestly and truly mean it. Not so much his art (though I don’t hate it near as much as most people), but the man himself. How many people do you know or know of who constantly get kicked and beaten down, drug through the mud, and create ire and hate simply by attaching their name to an endeavor only to keep coming back for more? Furthermore, how many people do you know who do that and are actually excited when they come back for more? Hell, even John Byrne seems to have given up, but not Rob. Sure you may laugh at his crazy anatomy and scratch your head over the inexplicable number of lines on every character’s face, but if you actually gave Rob Liefeld the man a moment of deep consideration, you’d have to admire him at the least.
I wonder how many people would have bought Hawk and Dove #1 if ANY other artist would have been assigned to the project? I wonder how many people didn’t buy Hawk and Dove #1 because Rob Liefeld drew it? Well believe it or not, the art isn’t the problem with this book.
The problem with Hawk and Dove #1 is bad timing. It was released in-between the Earthquake in Virginia that damaged the Washington Monument and the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. To be fair, the first one was just a rotten coincidence that DC couldn’t have planned for, but the second…well, someone wasn’t thinking too much when they allowed a book featuring a plane hitting a national landmark to be released when it was. It’s not the centerpiece of the book by any means, but reading it while on the radio and television, Internet, and billboards, you’re surrounded by reminders of what happened a decade ago, it’s awkward…the kind of awkward that sticks with you for the rest of the book. It was a bad call; not because it was in bad taste per-se, but because even when getting past that part of the book and reading the conversations between Hank and his dad, or Dawn and Deadman, I still found myself thinking “Was that in bad taste?” I read comics to escape from reality, not to be reminded of it.
Aside from that though, Hawk and Dove #1 is…well…it’s dull. Dawn/Dove is dating Deadman; Hank/Hawk misses his brother and apparently hates having Dawn as the new Dove. There’s an attempt to create an intriguing subplot by hinting at some hidden secret origin for Dawn that no one, not even Hank, knows…and then some villain shows up on the last page.
The best reason I can give for reading Hawk and Dove #1 is to check out the artwork. You can laugh about it, you can point out how Liefled has improved since his X-Force days, you can count the number of feet that are obscured in by boxes or fog and compare them to the number of feet that actually look like feet…but outside of that, I’m fairly certain that you have another use for that $3 and change. Regardless, I personally won’t be back for Hawk and Dove #2, but that’s because of writer Sterling Gates, not Rob Liefled.