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Tag: Dan Jurgens

New 52, Week One, Pt. 3: JLI, Swamp Thing, Batwing and Static Shock

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 … 

Batgirl Surprises, ‘Tec Shocks and Two New 52 Surprises

It appears that Batgirl #1 by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicent Cifuentes is the surprise hit of The New 52, becoming the first book to sell out in many stores. It’s no surprise that Simone writes a great Barbara Gordon, but I was especially impressed by the artwork. Not only was it attractive looking and nicely polished, but the coloring by Ulises Arreola really added to the tone of the book without sacrificing clarity. I keep harping on this point, but coloring has been a real weakness at both Marvel and DC in recent years and it’s nice to see DC make a concerted effort to improve the coloring in their comics. The story was very engaging, though I missed exactly how Babs got the use of her legs back. The new outfit is very cool and the book is overall just a good bit of fun. I’m not sure why this particular book is so in demand — it could just be pent-up demand for seeing Barbara back in the cape, but I think there’s more going on here and I hope the book continues to be as much fun to read as this first issue.

OMAC #1 was a book I thought had potential right from the start. This was a great concept for the character when Kirby came up with it back in the 1970s, but its original run was cut short and no one has ever quite found the right mix. But Keith Giffen, getting back into the Kirby mode he exhibited years ago on Legion of Super-Heroes, really delivers a story that gets the Kirby spirit right. Working with Dan DiDio as co-writer and Scott Koblish as inker, this is another action-packed and fun comic book that evokes the King’s work in every panel and twist and turn of the story. That it does so without seeming dated is an impressive feat that few other Kirby imitations have succeeded in doing. This is exactly the sort of book I was hoping to find in the New 52 — an unexpected surprise that delights and entertains.

Detective Comics #1. The last time we saw a Detective Comics #1 on the stand was March 1937, and this  is the title from which the company derives its name. (Yes, DC Comics does mean Detective Comics Comics, and trying to correct that lack of logic is just as pointless as trying to get people to stop saying ATM machine.) So, this is one of the titles that changed the least, with writer and penciller Tony S. Daniel moving over to ‘Tec from the same job on the just-concluded run of Batman. Daniel does raise the bar here. The storytelling is better, the color is better and the scripting is better than his recent Batman run. He’s also telling an especially intense story with a conclusion that is already getting a lot of shocked responses online. I admit that it surprised me, by being both unexpected and particularly gory for a Batman comic. But it does make me want to read more.

Green Arrow #1 is another example of the kind of book I was hoping to find in the New 52. Now, Green Arrow has never been a character I’ve been especially fond of. He is, after all, a guy with a bow and arrow. I walk my dog in Lower Arroyo Park in Pasadena, and see archers there almost every day at a public range down there. Archery just isn’t threatening to me in the same way that firearms would be, even in a safe setting like a shooting range. As a character, Green Arrow has always been a bit of a caricature, going all the way back to his role as the voice of hippiedom in superhero comics when he teamed up with that square dude Green Lantern way back in the early 1970s. This new Green Arrow keeps Oliver Queen as the hero, but updates him to be much more modern and less one-note. Gone is the goatee, and Queen is like a young Steve Jobs who runs a major tech company as a side job to playing superhero. He’s assisted by tech girl Naomi and skeptic Jax. The book is, again, heavy on the action and it plays like vintage late 1980s DC, courtesy of writer J.T. Krul, penciler Dan Jurgens and inker supreme George Perez. The art really helps sell this book, as both Jurgens and Perez are veteran superhero artists who seem to relish the opportunity to revisit a more fun take on this character. This book would have easily fit into the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunches of 1986-1989, which makes me very happy because that’s perhaps my favorite era of DC Comics.

One more post to wrap it up.

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