If you’ve been following Josh on Twitter…and why wouldn’t you?…you’ll have seen his manifesto about DC’s relaunch unfold over the past few weeks in handy, easily-digestible tweet form. But if you’ve missed any, or just don’t want to go hunting for them, we’re presenting them here in big, one-stop-shopping blog form. (Well, two-stop. This is only the first 26.) The text has been modified just a bit to make it look more conversational and less tweet-like. Also, to include some jokes I wish I’d thought of the first time around.
Enjoy the extended insight into Josh’s world!
These are the 52 Commandments, in which Comic Critics explores the relaunched DC titles in no particular order.
1. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
I find myself surprised that I’ll be picking up the title with the WORST name of the 52: Justice League Dark.
It’s got John Constantine in it. That is its one selling point for me, but by god, its enough. I would buy a Constantine book if it was called “Justice League Peanut.” That is a candy reference, not a Charlie Brown one.
Now where was I…? Oh, right.
Of course, as much as I’d like for it to work, Justice League Dark has the potential to go so very, very wrong. While magic and darkness are up Milligan’s alley, a mainstream superhero universe as a backdrop is not. Look at Milligan’s X-Men and his parts of the ‘Return of Ra’s al Ghul’ crossover to see what Imean. Yes, X-Statix was great, but it was tongue in cheek, and played its connection the Marvel Universe fast and loose.
Another concern is the potential for characters like Constantine to become action hero-ized. There’s only so much manipulation and trickery that can be used against out-and-out super villains like the Enchantress. I love the show “Supernatural”, but I worry such a straightforward setup could too easily turn Constantine into a Sam or Dean type.
With all that in mind, and with a little optimism, I give Justice League Dark a: THOU SHALT TENTATIVELY BUY.
2. SUICIDE SQUAD
Next in our overview of the DC relaunch: Suicide Squad.
Let’s just get the most obvious thing out of the way first: OH MY GOD, Harley’s costume. HARLEY’S COSTUME, oh my God.
I GUESS it’s reminiscent of her Arkham City look? Kind of? And I know DC would love to bring gamers over to the comics, but I think it’s gonna take a little more than that, honestly.
I don’t love Deadshot’s new look either, but it won’t last long. You cannot keep his classic look down, it’s just too good.
And King Shark isn’t a hammerhead, but I say that just to seem knowledgeable, not cause I give a damn.
I’m not overly familiar with writer Adam Glass. Google says he did “Deadpool: Suicide Kings”, which I remember not loving. But it also says he wrote some episodes of “Supernatural”, which I do love. And artist Marco Rudy is solid, plus I’ve always LOVED the concept of Suicide Squad. That buys it some benefit of the doubt.
No offense to Secret Six fans, but this is easily the more marketable concept. If it can keep up 6’s quality, DC has a hit. That’s a lot of ifs, but even so, I give Suicide Squad a: THOU SHALT BUY FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST STORY ARC.
Next up is Voodoo, by Ron Marz and Sami Basri. And I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that’s all we know so far.
Now, I’ve got something slightly embarrassing to admit…I really liked Wild C.A.T.S. I mean, “had the action figures” liked. I even watched that shitty cartoon on CBS– Stop laughing at me, goddammit!
I’m just saying, I don’t feel any knee-jerk hatred or apathy towards our displaced Wildstorm brethren. That said, I don’t think I would buy a Voodoo solo book even if it was 1994 and I had a discount coupon from Wizard Magazine.
That, coupled with the creators’ reluctance to reveal anything about the series concept, makes it hard to say much of anything. Barring some mind-blowing reveal at the end of the first issue, this seems like a pretty easy pass.
Voodoo gets a: THOU SHALT NOT BUY, BUT SHALT CHECK OUT REVIEWS OF THE FIRST ISSUE OUT OF SHEER CURIOSITY.
Okay, so. Batwing.
I can’t shake the feeling that it’s going to be absolutely hilarious without intending to be. The description of this series is “the Batman of Africa”, which does not exactly fill me with hope for an enlightened take on the concept. Al Kennedy of House To Astonish put it perfectly: “Africa. It’s one big homogeneous place, and one man protects all of it.”
To be fair, that’s mainly the solicitations talking. I could take a leap of faith that the writer understands the implications of what he’s dealing with…but I’ll be honest, Judd Winick just doesn’t inspire that level of optimism in me.
That said, part of me would feel like a hypocrite if I didn’t support a DC title that features the same sort of diversity that I’m always goofing on them for not having. I’m also not usually enthused about lower-tier family titles (by which I mean Bat-family, in this case). But the good thing about such a removed setting is this won’t be forced to bend to the will of the A-tier titles.
So with the best will in the world…and I want everyone to note this new corner of maturity I’m turning…I give Batwing a: THOU SHALT CHECK OUT THE FIRST ISSUE AND MOCK IT TO DEATH IF IT BE AS BAD AS THOU FEAREST.
But let’s give the maturity thing a rest now and tackle Winick’s other book, Catwoman.
(Boob joke in 5…4…3…)
Far as I can tell, the new Catwoman has 2 things going for it (ba-dum-bum), and neither are enough to sell me on the book.
My charming misogyny aside, it doesn’t look like the wheel is being reinvented with this relaunch. She’s back to being a thief who’s obsessed with Batman, the first in a series of character resets for supporting Bat-characters.
A new Catwoman series would be a hard sell for me under the best of circumstances, and these are not them. With a different writer and less new books to choose from, I could maybe give it a shot out of curiosity.
But as things stand, Catwoman gets a: THOU SHALT NOT BUY, BUT MIGHT PERHAPS FLIP THROUGH IT IN THE STORE FOR A CHEAP THRILL.
6. DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS
Hmm, DC Universe Presents. This one really should be an easy choice. But call it optimism, call it naiveté, call it a complete psychotic break, I can’t find it in me to completely give up on Paul Jenkins.
His seemingly overnight change from great writer to absolute mess still befuddles comic scholars to this day. And I’m not just talking about “Civil War: Frontline” and “Sentry: Fallen Sun”, hated as they are. But have any of you read “Wolverine: The End”? I mean, really read it? You couldn’t have, your head would’ve exploded.
But, not unlike Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I want to believe Jenkin’s talent was merely kidnapped by aliens, and that we might get it back someday. Not that it was murdered and buried by some serial killer or whatever the hell happened on X-Files.
And this could be the perfect canvas for Jenkins to regain our faith. It’s continuity-light, it’s a character none of us REALLY care enough about to mind being changed…
Then again, I’ll probably get all the Deadman I need from “Justice League Dark With Coconut”. And anthologies (or series-of-mini-series titles) are an iffy prospect at the best of times.
I may not have completely forsaken Jenkins, but I can’t find it in me to help bankroll his potential redemption either. So DCU Presents gets: THOU SHALT NOT BUY, BUT INSTEAD OFFER A SILENT PRAYER THAT IT DOESN’T COMPLETELY SUCK.
7. SGT. ROCK AND THE MEN OF WAR
This is a curious one. Sgt. Rock and the Men of War, by Ivan Brandon and Tom Derenick.
This does not star Frank Rock, but his grandson Joe, and is set in the modern-day DCU. Which, on the face of it, seems odd. DC loves its legacy characters, but that really only works for super heroes and costumed identities. Having legacy characters for period-specific concepts like Sgt. Rock, Enemy Ace, etc, just seems a little beside the point.
Coming next year from DC: Anthro 2012! Starring Anthro’s great-great-great-great-great-grea…you know what I’m saying.
The new Sgt. Rock book is being billed…by me…as army guys versus super villains. Which is…FINE, I guess. To me, army guys in comics exist to get tossed around by super villains until the Justice League shows up, but I’m flexible.
However, what’s not working in the book’s favor is the secrecy surrounding many of the reboot titles. There definitely appears to be some big, hush-hush story planned that a lot of these new titles will stem from, according to certain solicitations. It’s keeping some writers from really getting into detail about their books, which makes it hard to generate excitement.
There could be a great impetus behind this military vs super villains book, but I don’t think we’ll know what it is until it’s out. Which isn’t always a bad thing, but with 52 new titles to choose from, not everything can be given that benefit of the doubt.
Sgt. Rock and the Men of War gets a: THOU SHALT NOT BUY UNTIL THE NATURE OF THE BOOK HATH BEEN REVEALED, THEN THOU SHALT REVISIT THE CHOICE.
8. CAPTAIN ATOM
Hey, anyone else remember Captain Atom? Me too!
Anyone remember the last time he didn’t suck? Hey, where’d you all go?
I loved the Bates/Broderick Captain Atom series. So much so, that I think it convinced me I like the character more than I actually do. Because when I think back on things, I haven’t liked much he’s appeared in since. “Justice League Europe”, yeah, but all the characters were homogenized to a degree there. So I approach any new Captain Atom appearance with an optimism that, honestly, isn’t really all that justified.
This changed with the announcement that J.T Krul will be writing the new Captain Atom book. J.T. stands for, I believe, “using dead cats as nunchucks is awesome”. I’m not sure how, but that’s what a guy told me once. Now, that may be unfair to Mr. Krul, but y’know what, fair doesn’t enter into it. That’s the perception of him. And seeing the books he’s worked on in the past and present, I don’t feel a strong urge to try and disprove it.
Based on interviews, people have been comparing the direction of the book–man comes to terms with having unlimited power–with Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan (I will cut off the replies by saying yes, the Doc was kinda based on Cap to begin with). Honestly, I don’t think the similarities will penetrate the surface. I guess if anything, Cap might act like a very young Doc might have. This direction is fine in and of itself. But do I really want to follow it now, with this character, with this writer? Nyet.
And thus I end my association with Captain Atom with a: THOU SHALT NOT BUY, BUT WILL REMAIN FRIENDS.
9. DEMON KNIGHTS
Now, this one makes me happy and sad for different reasons. Demon Knights, by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves.
I would follow Cornell anywhere. And even if that were not true, this sounds like an interesting concept; gathering together all the DC characters who were active during the time of Camelot’s fall. That’s the happy part.
The sad part is that the book will be dead inside a year. Absolutely. No question. We’re talking crib death here. Yeah, “Game of Thrones” is popular, but does anyone REALLY think that will translate into people buying a comic set in the Dark Ages?
But ignore the cold, harsh light of reality for a moment. The book sounds awesome. Etrigan the Demon leading a team with Vandal Savage, Shining Knight, and more? By Paul Cornell? SOLD!
To me. Sold to me, and maybe, like, a hundred other people.
And it doesn’t hurt that Cornell cites “Magnificent Seven”, one of my favorite movies, as an influence on the team dynamic. In a way, this series could have been titled “Justice League Dark Ages”…thank the good and kind baby Jesus that it wasn’t.
In summation: THOU SHALT BUY, AND ALSO SHALT THOU START A “SAVE Demon Knights” PETITION IMMEDIATELY.
10. TEEN TITANS
What can I say about Teen Titans by Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth that everybody else hasn’t already said?
Nothing, so I’ll just reiterate: this is what a DC relaunch should look like if it was happening in 1994.
Okay, “gimme” joke out of the way, I should say I actually have nothing against this creative team. I actually have more reservations about just having a Teen Titans book in general. The title has had some high highs and some low lows over the years, but it’s been pretty exclusively low for a looooong time. But it’s one of those books that always has to exist because it always has existed, so it never gets the rest it needs. I think the Titans could really benefit from the same vacation the JSA is going on, but fine, this is the hand we’re dealt.
Lobdell’s work has ranged from pretty good to “Holy Jesus, what did I just spend money on?!?” over the years. But I like almost everything he’s had to say in interviews about his approach to this series. Honestly, if it was anything OTHER than Teen Titans, I might have some genuine enthusiasm for it.
As it is, I think I’m going to have to give Teen Ti– Oh, shit, wait, I haven’t made fun of the costumes yet!
The Titans look like one of Terry Gilliam’s nightmares filtered through a satanic Cirque du Soleil performance on LSD. (Then again, Superboy’s taped-on cape is more of a bone than whoever designed that shitty ‘t-shirt and jeans look’ threw us.)
OK, hell with it. THOU SHALT GIVE Teen Titans ONE ISSUE, JUST ONE ISSUE, TO NOT BE A TRAIN WRECK. MAYBE DOWNLOAD IT.
And I guess we can’t really talk about Geriatric Titans without mentioning Lobdell’s other new book, Superboy.
My first thought when reading the solicits: “Oh, God, they’re gonna turn him into the ‘Young Justice’ Superboy, aren’t they?”
But it’s been confirmed that reboot Superboy has been around since the Death of Superman…which must have happened sometime in the previous five years, according to the new timeline…so now I don’t know what to think.
Other than the obvious: “Wow, y’know, I really haven’t liked Superboy since Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett were on the book.” The half-Luthor thing is being kept too, so we can only hope the lame genetic angst will be downplayed as much as can be.
On the bright side, R.B. Silva’s artwork alone is enough reason to be interested in this book. He was the artist on those recent Jimmy Olsen backup strips from Action Comics that I loved oh, so very much. Why, out of 52 titles, one of them couldn’t have been Silva and Nick Spencer on Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1, I’ll never know.
Let’s face it, I was desperate enough to want to like Superboy again to buy his last new book, so I guess I’ll do so again. Superboy gets a THOU SHALT TRY #1, AGAINST THINE EVERY INSTINCT SCREAMING “DON’T BOTHER! DISAPPOINTMENT AWAITS!”
12. SWAMP THING
Swamp Thing returns to the DC Universe proper, and he’s got a bit of an uphill struggle in front of him. Swampy inevitably makes people think of the impossible-to-live-up-to Alan Moore run…or all the nonsense that followed it.
But writer Scott Snyder has been making waves lately, especially with his awesome run on Detective Comics. And his interviews state that he’s familiar with all the past Swamp Thing material, but doesn’t feel beholden to it. The fact that he’ll be exploring the Alec Holland angle indicates he’s not treating Moore’s stories as sacred cows that can’t be played with. As a fan since the Lein/Wrightson days, I’m interested to see where Swampy will go while maintaining a more mainstream sensibility.
And so, Swamp Thing gets a THOU SHALT BUY UNTIL DC PUSSES OUT AND CANCELS ANOTHER JESUS-RELATED STORY.
13. BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT
Sometimes these new books can be hard to discuss, and sometimes you’re just handed a gimme, like Batman the Dark Knight.
I mean, right off the bat (ha), it’s hilarious that this title is getting rebooted at all. As of this writing, it’s shipped THREE ISSUES since the book began in DECEMBER. At this point you might as well just let it continue on as is. The story has been so boring and generic that it could fit in pre-reboot, post-reboot, wherever you want.
So we’re already going into this thing with a thunderous “blah”. I could barely work up the energy to even mention it. Then Bleeding Cool reported that Paul Jenkins would be coming onboard to co-write, and I couldn’t talk about it fast enough.
The upside is, we’ll likely get more than three issues in eight months. The downside is…well, they’ll be issues written by Paul Jenkins. It’s like that saying about the gods punishing us by answering our prayers, except who the fuck was praying for that anyway?
It all boils down to some pretty simple math. Finch + Jenkins = writing quality of a dubious nature, to be kind.
Rather generic Batman + three other Batman books = unnecessary, to say the least.
Now we add our sums. Jenkins + unnecessary 4th Bat-book = THOU SHALT NOT BUY for Batman the Dark Knight. Isn’t math fun?
14. GREEN LANTERN
On that note, let’s talk about Green Lantern #1.
Now, I’m limited in how much detail I can go into without spoiling this week’s Green Lantern #67. But the phrase, “Oh, jesus, THIS again?” sort of immediately springs to mind. Followed by, “Gee, I wonder if this story will wrap up in time for a nice HC collection to coincide with the movie sequel?”
He said sarcastically.
Now, all the obvious jokes out of the way…it’s actually not such a bad idea. Green Lantern was always going to be one of the books that continued along unchanged by the reboot. So instead of feeling any curiosity, I was pretty much looking at the upcoming #1 as the perfect jumping-off point.
(Little-known secret about me, I’ve been less than ecstatic about all this recent Rainbow Lantern stuff. Shh, it’s a secret)
But with this turn of events, it at least feels like we’re getting something a LITTLE different. And yes, “different” in this case means something we’ve seen a dozen times already, but hey, this IS comics.
And Geoff Johns, to his credit, does write a very good Sinestro. So, like the glorified lemming of a comic fan that I am, this latest GL stunt has ensured my curiosity for a while longer.
Green Lantern gets a: THOU SHALT BUY AND THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE ME BECAUSE I KNOW HAVE PROBLEMS AND I’M WORKING ON IT, OK?
15. GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS
That hurt a little. So let’s cleanse the palate a little by saying noooooooooooooooooooooooooo to Green Lantern: New Guardians. Which is a shame, because I like writer Tony Bedard, and I love Kyle Rayner.
(Why doesn’t Bedard get a “love”? Let him save the universe a few times first and then we’ll talk)
It was the death knell of Kyle as a unique character when he was made just another Corps member. I mean yeah, he was treated fine in the book, that’s not the point. He no longer had his own setup, responsibilities, supporting cast, etc.
Setting him up as the star of this book is a step in the right direction for him, but…I just can’t. I just can’t. An entire series devoted to the lamest concept to come out of the GL universe since explaining away Hal’s grey temples? No Nuh-uh. Not a chance. I’m sorry Kyle, but I simply cannot support this one. It’ll only encourage them.
The Red Lanterns have their own book, people! There’s already a crack in the dam!!!
If we fight it, we’ve still got a chance. So to Green Lantern ROYGBIV, THOU SHALT NOT BUY. THE RESISTANCE STARTS HERE!
16. RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS
It’s tough to think of a book with more going against it than Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws.
Right off the bat, you’ve got that cast to try and get over. Red Hood? Noooo thank you. To his credit, Lobdell’s stated that he wants to develop Jason’s character outside of Batman’s orbit. Which is commendable. Maybe it’ll work and turn Jason into a character I want to read about someday, but I don’t wanna take the journey with him.
Next up is Arsenal. Nooooooooooo. No, no. Heavens, no. It may sound harsh, but I kinda want to avoid Arsenal the same way I’d avoid a violent, armed drug addict in real life.
Wait a sec, I just realized…this is a reboot. Why the fuck doesn’t DC just bring Lian back? I don’t understand the world.
Starfire? She’s okay, but I wouldn’t exactly buy a book because she was in it. Certainly not one with Red Hood and Arsenal. It’s a bit weird, isn’t it? Alien princess with two street-level ex-sidekicks? What keeps drawing Kory to these odd team ups?
Then you’ve got of those teams where no one on the team thinks it’s a team. No, thank you, really, I’ve had enough.
And all set against everyone’s favorite backdrop: angst! Roy and Jason’s great, big, sopping, grownup man tears! And that’s pretty much all we have to go on, since we know nothing else about this book’s plot. Kenneth Rocafort’s art has improved from his Top Cow days, but it doesn’t blow me away. And y’know what, I’m already buying Lobdell’s other two books, so frankly, he’s got no call to get greedy.
Red Hood and the Outlaws gets a THOU SHALT NOT BUY…AND SERIOUSLY, WHY DIDST THEY NOT BRING LIAN BACK? SERIOUSLY!
17. GREEN ARROW
Next up is Green Arrow, by Dan Jurgens, George Perez, and Kryptonian war criminal Jay-Tee Krul. The easy thing to do here is just say no. And I WILL say no, but I’ll say some other stuff first.
Green Arrow has not had a particularly great past couple of years. Married by Winick, tarnished by Robinson, and then put through that dopey trial by Krul…not a lot of must-reads in there. He’s a prime candidate for a fresh new take, but the fresh new take is being written by the writer of the current series! And Dan Jurgens, for as much 90s nostalgia as he raises within me, is not a big enough draw to make me overlook the writer.
The concept of taking Queen back to his billionaire roots while keeping his liberal bent is KIND of interesting. I guess? In the sense that it’s taking two concepts we’ve seen already and playing with them concurrently, anyway. But I dunno, I’m just not into it right now. I need a Green Arrow break, I think. After I haven’t seen him or heard about him in a while, I’m sure I’ll be that much more open to his next relaunch.
So for Green Arrow, THOU SHALT NOT BUY, BUT SHALT READ THE REVIEWS IN CASE IT SOMEHOW TURNS OUT TO BE BETTER THAN IT SOUNDS.
18. THE FLASH
In honor of The Flash, I’ll make this one quick.
No, wait. I mean in honor of the last Flash series, this one is gonna go slowly and take a while.
If there’s two things that bore me to absolute tears in the DCU, it’s the Rainbow Lanterns and Barry Allen. Of the three big Silver Age resurrections (including Hal and Ollie), Barry’s is easily the most infuriating. Not so much because it negates any old stories, but because of how little it brings back to the table.
Barry’s back, so what? Where are these stories that could only have been told with him? Hal and Ollie at least had those. Older fans may have noticed a Barry Allen-shaped hole in the DCU, but they haven’t been able to describe it to me at all. And in 18 monthly issues, Geoff Johns has also been unable to convince me that there’s any reason for Allen to exist. Hell, his life and history were already rewritten PRIOR to this whole reboot. So what was the point? Johns’ plan to make readers appreciate Allen has been to push him front and center into one big crossover after another. Worked okay for Hal, but lightning has not struck twice for Barry. (Like it did for Wally and yes I’m still bitter shut up)
But now we’re losing Johns, and writing duties are being taken over by the art team, Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul. So, relatively untested writers and a character that I literally have negative interest in? Recipe for success or what? But y’know what, I’m gonna give them a shot to do what Johns couldn’t and convince me Barry is worth reading about. If they’re not trying their damndest to convince us Barry’s interesting, they might simply do something interesting with him
It’s worth a shot. I mean, what’s my other option? Organize a group to try and bring Wally back? W.E.A.T.?
Barry Allen’s gonna be around for a good long time, so the sooner we all get used to that, the less annoying it’ll be. The Flash gets a THOU SHALT TRY THE FIRST STORY ARC, BUT THOU ART PREPARED TO DROP IT AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. FLASH FACT.
19. ACTION COMICS
Okay, so when everyone said they wanted Grant Morrison on to write an ongoing Superman comic, this Action Comics relaunch is probably not what they were imagining. A back-to-the-30s approach, with a low-powered Superman as a champion of the oppressed, fighting against the establishment.
I’ll be honest, it’s not a concept that grabs me by the throat and demands my money. People seem to love recalling the days when Superman’s biggest enemies were crooked politicians and abusive husbands. But I think of them the same way I think of Batman carrying a gun: there’s a reason those interpretations didn’t last long.
Besides that, let’s not forget that we just got a year of Superman tackling social issues…poorly…in “Grounded”. I question the wisdom in following that with a Superman who still doesn’t fly, and by the way is actually wearing jeans now. This seems to be DC’s latest attempt to make Superman relatable, a concept which kills everything that lives inside my head.
So all that being said, am I going to buy this? OF COURSE I’m going to, are you nuts? I can’t WAIT. And if you didn’t see that coming right from the start, then you just haven’t been paying close enough attention.
Now, some may accuse me of being willing to blindly accept any premise just because it’s Morrison writing Superman. And that is absolutely correct.
THAT is the kind of faith you earn when you write something like “All-Star Superman”, okay? Grant Morrison could carve “Smallville” fanfic into the side of my car with a rock, and I would pay to read it.
Hell, “All-Star” is just icing. Anyone should be excited about Morrison on Superman based on “JLA” alone. And Rags Morales on art? *Mwah!* Magnifique! This thing’s gonna be as much a joy to look at as to read, at least for the 2.5 issues a year he actually manages to complete.
It’s one of only two reboot books set in the past, detailing Superman’s early days as the first public super hero. So that mean I’ll need to update the “Man of Steel” paperback again, but Superman as the first super hero still pleases me. This has understandably ticked off fans of the Justice Society, who aren’t seeing much representation in the reboot. I have my own thoughts about that, but this isn’t the time for them. Suffice to say for now, I’m not as broken up about it.
Morrison has stated that he has long-term plans for this book similar to his Batman run, which should only excite everyone. It’s one thing to play around in the Silver Age sandbox, but we may end up seeing Morrison recreate it for the 21st century. And while some familiar ground will undoubtedly be tread, I can’t wait to see what new stuff might get added along the way.
So that’s Action Comics. THOU SHALT BUY THE HELL OUT OF IT. YOU’RE MUCH STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE. TRUST ME.
Next up: Batman, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. It isn’t quite as mouth-watering a creative team as Morrison/Morales on Action Comics, but for my money, it’s pretty close. Snyder has already been kicking ass with Batman, and I’m real excited to see what Capullo will do on this book.
I admit with only a little shame that I was a big Spawn fan the first few years, and Capullo was on art most of that time. Perhaps working a bit too much in the McFarlane mold, but that was simply the thing to do at Image at the time. I admit with perhaps an equal amount of shame that I was also a big fan of X-Force during the Capullo/Nicieza run. Point is, I’m honestly eager to see how his style has evolved since those days, having lost track of him for a few years.
Past the creative team, there’s not much more to say that’s new. Batman’s universe is one of the most unchanged following this reboot, so it’s not a big surprise what we’ll be getting. Except, of course, that Dick Grayson isn’t a Batman anymore, but we’ll get into that more later.
If you’ve been liking Bruce since his return from the dead, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re going to continue to. The Batman Inc. story takes a bit of a backseat until Morrison can address it himself, so this is back-to-basics Batman. There are 4 ongoing Batman books post-reboot, and nobody needs that many. But if you only buy one, this should be it.
Batman, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. THOU SHALT BUY. That is all. Dismissed.
I’m not the first one to compare the new Blackhawks to G.I. Joe. Or the second, or third. And I won’t be the last. Seriously, the solicit sounds like it was written by Hasbro. “This September, fighting for freedom wherever there’s trouble….”
Like Sgt. Rock, this is another period concept reimagined as a modern-day team of mercenaries/soldiers/what have you. And also like Sgt. Rock, I’m not entirely sure why it exists. Or, rather, why it’s called what it’s called. The concept is an interesting one: policing the tech of the DCU. But surely this is more Checkmate? Why call it Blackhawks? The Blackhawks are a well-loved nostalgic staple, but they’re not exactly a popularity juggernaut. Why court such a relatively minor fanbase who will take one look and realize this only barely resembles the thing they like? It just seems an odd choice to me. And by “odd” I mean “painfully obvious attempt to maintain the health of the trademark”.
What IS actually odd is that these don’t seem to be legacy characters. I think they’re meant to be the originals. Does this mean there were no Blackhawks flying in WWII? Too early to tell anything, of course, but that would be a shame.
If it sounds like I’m down on the book, I’m really not. “G.I. Joe in the DCU” is actually a pitch that hits me where I live. I wanna see the DC Joes going up against Intergang, the League of Assassins, and of course, Koooooobraaaaaaa! My enthusiasm for this would go through the roof if Mattel was capable of producing a half-decent toy line in the 4″ scale.
I know Mike Costa primarily from IDW’s “Transformers” comic, where he is serviceable, but tends to drag things out a bit. The artist is Ken Lashley…or, as of issue #2, Graham Norton. I’ll be happy enough with either one.
Speaking of issue #2, check out that solicit. Lends some credence to the theory I put forth during the “Sgt. Rock” review. Since Blackhawks has a much clearer concept than “Men of War”, it’s a lot easier to make the choice to try it out. Frankly, I think a series like this, especially since it’s helmed by Costa, will read better in the trade. But I’m willing to give it a chance to impress me out of the gate. This seems like the perfect test for same-day download.
THOU SHALT DOWNLOAD THE FIRST ISSUE OF Blackhawks AND DETERMINE HOW AND IF IT BE WORTH CONTINUING.
I’m of two minds about Nightwing, by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows.
On the one hand, it’s hard not to view this as just another in a number of character resets for Batman’s supporting cast. Y’know, like a prominent female Bat-character. Whatsername…Catwoman. Wait, not her. Well, her too, but also someone else.
On the other hand, having Dick be Batman, while a step up for him, denied the DCU a great, unique character in Nightwing. So you want to support the character while not wanting to support DC’s almost knee-jerk tendency to reverse every change.
This is the problem with being a reasonable, thoughtful, dashing comic fan like myself, who can see both sides of the issue.
I’m not overly familiar with Higgins’ work, but he’s saying all the right things. His take on Nightwing is: “better than Batman”. Which is the kind of attitude I like seeing brought to the party. Higgins’ interviews paint a picture of a true Nightwing fan, who is aware of just what makes the character special.
Then again, we have seen this kind of enthusiasm before, and it didn’t necessarily result in the best stories.
*Cough!* Devin Grayson! *Cough!*
Speaking of, how does nobody at DC realize that Nightwing’s new red costume makes him look like he’s become Renegade again? It’d be like Spider-Man switching to a predominantly black costume and it having nothing to do with the alien symbiote. Going from blue to red is such a contrast, I keep instinctively thinking he’s an alternate-reality Bizarro Nightwing.
The first story sees the return of Haley’s Circus, which right off the bat does not get me salivating over the plot. Haley’s Circus is like Nightwing’s version of the Joker, I swear to God. Way overused.
This time, though, instead of Dick just solving another circus crime, Haley’s provides an excuse for him to do some globetrotting. Which, again, is a good use of Nightwing, who’s a very sociable hero with friends and contacts all over the world. It sounds like it’s worth a look, and Eddy Barrows is a great artist. But I’m keeping this book on a short leash. I’m a fan, but I can survive quite easily without a Nightwing series, as the last few years of his previous book taught me.
Nightwing gets a THOU SHALT BUY, BUT KEEPEST THAT CROWBAR CLOSE AND THAT 900-NUMBER ON SPEED DIAL.
23: BATMAN AND ROBIN
For my money, Batman and Robin has exactly one thing that makes it a must-buy. Can you guess what it is?
No, it’s not Batman. He has three other comics plus appears in two Justice League books.
No, it’s not writer Peter Tomasi. He’s good, but not without some clunkers to his name. (Emerald Warriors, anyone?)
And it’s not artist Patrick Gleason, who is also good, but not exactly my first choice for a Batman book.
Who does that leave? Yep, you guessed it.
Damian Wayne, the sensational character find of 2006! Or possibly 1987, depending how anal you are. Yes, I will be buying because this is the one place post-reboot where I can get my monthly dose of Damian.
Now, I don’t know if the Bruce/Damian team can ever be as great as the Dick/Damian team was. Having a grim, brooding Robin and a lighthearted, daredevil Batman was absolutely brilliant. With Bruce and Damian, you’re basically dealing with different shades of grim. Which sort of brings to mind Jason Todd. (The Jason Todd everyone thinks they remember, not the one that ever actually existed. But that’s a rant for another day.)
But while we lose that interplay, we gain the first regular, extended period of time where Bruce interacts with his own son. Damian is a shithead, and Bruce doesn’t take any shit. That’s what makes us love them both. So who’s gonna crack first? The last thing anyone wants is for Bruce to suddenly go soft or Damian to immediately become a kinder, gentler sociopath. That’ll be the fine line to walk here; keeping both characters true to themselves while still interacting believably.
Personally, I can’t wait. I figure I can justify two Batman books a month (always have), and this is the easy choice for #2. Batman and Robin gets a THOU SHALT BUY, BUT KEEPEST A WEATHER EYE OUT FOR THE POSSIBLE PUSSIFICATION OF DAMIAN.
24. BIRDS OF PREY
I don’t have a lot to say about Birds of Prey. Like, on a lot of levels.
In any of its various incarnations, the book was never at the top of my read pile each month. Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone are the only ones to make me care about the concept, and even they didn’t always pull it off. So DC wants to completely change things up, that’s fine, but I hope they aren’t banking on the name alone to tempt me along.
Jesus Saiz, I like a lot. I mostly know Duane Swierczynski from his run on “Cable”, which was interminable. As for the cast, I like most of them, but enough to follow a series to? Not particularly. I just don’t see me doing it. Black Canary is on the run for a murder she didn’t commit. Do I REALLY give a damn? I look into my heart and know I don’t.
The only other thing we know is that this will be a covert ops teayaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn.
It really feels like we’re getting a LOT of that sort of thing with the reboot, y’know? And I simply can’t buy them all. Not Swierczynski’s fault, but y’know what, the others just did a better job of distinguishing themselves in interviews. I’d like to see the Birds of Prey run into the Blackhawks, Frankenstein and SHADE, Stormwatch, Sgt. Rock, Deathstroke, Suicide Squad, and Red Hood and the Outlaws all accidentally on the same mission. And the Legion Lost too, screw it.
All these teams trying to keep secret, thank God Oracle’s no longer around to sniff them out, huh? Huh? Huh?
Given Swierczynski’s slow burn style of writing, I won’t even be paying attention to the reviews of the monthly issues. When the first trade comes out, then I’ll give a listen and see if I’ve been missing out on something good. Until then, Birds of Prey gets a THOU SHALT NOT BUY…BUT DO PLEASE GIVE US A RING WHEN JESUS SAIZ IS FREE AGAIN.
25. ALL-STAR WESTERN
So here’s something I’m wholly unqualified to talk about: All-Star Western.
Now, I like westerns. I’ve just never really warmed to them in my comics, y’know? In principle, I think it’s pretty cool that DC is including this and not going 100% superhero. Marissa will be thrilled. And I even appreciate the little touches that set it firmly in the DCU. Let’s just face it. I’m sure this will be good, in its way, but it’s just not for me. Maybe I’ll check out the trades someday, but with 52 new titles to choose from, I can’t afford to be too adventurous.
Look, I’m buying Blackhawks, get off my back, okay? I can’t buddy up to all the non-superhero books all at once. THOU SHALT BUY All-Star Western IF THOU DOST LIKE WESTERNS. NOT SO MUCH A COMMANDMENT AS A SUGGESTION, REALLY.
26. HAWK AND DOVE
Okay, we’re halfway through this thing. So you knew it had to come eventually. Hawk and Dove.
Let’s ease our way into this. Dip one body part in the water, let it acclimate to the temperature, and wade in a bit deeper. Here are the positives. I like Hawk and Dove. Been a fan ever since I read the miniseries by the Kesels. I even liked the art. Mind you, I think I was 6, but still, I’ll take the hit. It was different than what I was used to. I thought what happened to them in “Armageddon 2001” was a real waste. (Though I was glad it didn’t happen to Captain Atom) So under different circumstances, I would be a lot more excited about this relaunch.
I don’t blame Sterling Gates for “War of the Supermen”. That was quite obviously James Robinson’s train to wreck. And I didn’t read much of his “Supergirl”, but what I did read was not bad. That may sound like faint praise, but “not bad” is a damn huge increase from what that book had previously been, so bravo. That level of writing combined with characters I don’t automatically dislike (Supergirl) could make for damn good comics.
But then there’s the other side of the creative team coin. And I know what you’re thinking, you say, “Jesus, he’s not going to attack Rob Liefeld again, is he?”
YES HE IS. HE’S GOING TO ATTACK ROB LIEFELD AGAIN.
There are some people who get on me for that. They think that criticizing or goofing on Liefeld is an old, irrelevant bit. These people are idiots. Because it’s 2011 and he’s STILL GETTING WORK. It’s not beating a dead horse if the fucking horse is still running in the goddamn race!
Rob Liefeld’s books sell well. It’s one of those things about mankind that is horrifying but true, like racism. How can I, in good conscience, be a part of that? You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem, right? This is quite the ethical pickle I find myself in. I want to support the characters and only one half of the creative team. If I could, I’d like to just pay DC to email me a synopsis each month, but that’s not part of their new distribution plan.
In the end, I think I have to let cold, Coluan logic rule the day. My $2.99 could help Gates a lot more than its absence could ever hurt Liefeld.
(Because he’s filthy rich, you see. And I’m supposed to just let that go and not comment on him cause it’s “old”. EAT ME.)
And let’s be practical, how can I not look at the thing that every comic fan will be referencing for the next few months? The quintessential Liefeld masterpiece, “Captain America with boobs”, might be replaced at any moment with Hawk pecs!
Who am I kidding. I could never not buy this. Maybe if I was a normal citizen, but I’m not. I am…a critic. I have a responsibility to expose myself to the very worst that the comics industry has to offer. And God help me, there’s a very real possibility that this will literally be that.
Hawk and Dove. THOU SHALT NOT BUY, BUT I WILL, BECAUSE I HAVE NO OTHER MARKETABLE SKILL.
(Be sure to follow Josh (@JoshCritic) as he tweets about the other 26 titles, counting down to the release of the new DCU in September!)