Delayed slightly by a short-lived, mildly annoying illness and tons of work and baby duties, here, now, are some thoughts on the last batch of releases in the first full week of DC’s The New 52.
Swamp Thing #1 is a very tough comic to do, because no matter how good the book is it always has to live in the shadow of great runs by Alan Moore and the original run by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Also, after nearly 20 years as a Vertigo property, I find it somehow incongruous to see Swamp Thing appear alongside Superman and other mainstream superheroes. None of which has anything to do with this particular story by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. I”ll start with the art, which I found to very good and atmospheric and, appropriately, lush. I had to double check the credits because I was sure those distinctively-inked faces meant Kevin Nowlan was working on this issue, but it is all Paquette. Snyder’s story does a decent job of resetting the character and his Alec Holland alter ego in the DC Universe, but still failed to really sell the idea as a good one. The horror elements were good. But I don’t think this version of Swamp Thing is distinctive enough to work as a Swamp Thing comic for established fans, while this is easily, I think, the most confusing first issue for neophytes.
I was surprised in a good way to see Justice League International among The New 52. I am, as regular readers of this blog will know, a fan of the Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis run on the title from the late 1980s. Those writers haven’t returned for this version, which is written by Dan Jurgens with Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan on art — all solid superhero creators. The key to this seems to be Booster Gold, who Jurgens created a long time ago and whose series he was writing and drawing before it ended with Flashpoint. The supporting cast includes JLI stalwarts Guy Gardner, Batman, Rocket Red, Ice, Fire and Batman, along with Vixen, a Chinese hero named August General in Iron and a cheeky brit chick named Godiva. The premise is a little odd, as the United Nations agrees to form its own Justice League that it can control, under the leadership of U.N. Intelligence Chief Andre Briggs. So the JLI has no relation to the other Justice League, even though Batman’s in both. The story itself is decent but not spectacular. It has a plot that it clearly tells, with a couple of character moments that old fogeys like me will be familiar with but may appeal to the newbies. There’s foreshadowing of conflicts, a cliff-hanger ending, some mid-level superhero action and it all looks very clean if average. All of this makes it hard to recommend one way or the other — it’s far from bad, but it’s nothing special enough to go out of your way for unless you already like these characters and this concept.
Static Shock #1 is perhaps the most standard first issue of the bunch, running through the standard story points of introducing the hero, his supporting cast, the premise and giving him a first villain to fight. I admit to not having read really anything about this character after about the first year of the original Static series from Milestone in 1993-94. I know there was a cartoon, and I know this was a signature character for the late Dwayne McDuffie. But this doesn’t match up with anything I remember liking about those original comics, which to me evoked Steve Ditko’s early Spider-Man work. This is a just a lot more generic. The story is by Scott McDaniel (who also does the art) and John Rozum, with Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau Underwood on inks. I really wish this book was better, but I fear this will be one of the first on the block for cancelation.
The last book on the list is Batwing #1, by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver. This is another book I was hoping would be a surprise simply because it’s new. And it’s a bit of a mixed bag, mostly because it didn’t grab me the way I expected it to. This is a new character, sort of spun out of the idea of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated idea, about David Zavimbe, who is, essentially, the Batman of Africa. His secret identity is as a police officer in the city of Tinasha in the Congo. The city is corrupt, there is plenty of rather ghastly crime and no one to fight it except Batwing. The first issue sees Batwing fight his new nemesis, Massacre, and establishes the setting, etc. It reads OK and looks very nice, but I think the reason this didn’t grab me is it just feels like old DC. Most of the new books seem to have attempted to put in more plot and tell the stories clearly — this feels sparse and slow. It also doesn’t show much of Africa itself, which I would have thought to be a major source of cool imagery and therefore a selling point for the book. I’m not sure it’s future looks much better than that of Static Shock, but the concept is one that I think could work well with a more energetic take on the material.
And that’s it for week one! Plenty more to come next week …