Writer, Editor, Author

Tag: Jonah Hex

DC New 52, 4th Wave, Pt. 1: Aquaman, Flash, Superman outshine the rest

The finish line is in sight for DC’s New 52. Look for a post that kind of sums up a take on the overall project in the next day or so. Obviously, it’s been a big hit for DC, which announced yesterday that all 52 books have sold out of their first printings and going back to press. Three titles have shipped 200,000 or more and eight more have shipped more than 100,000. That’s a huge boost for the direct market, where the 100k mark has been a tough one for any book to crack.

I still have a few books in the final batch to read, but in the meantime, here’s my thoughts on the books I’ve read so far.

There should be more books like Aquaman #1, which I found to be a very entertaining and action-packed comic book. This is another very slick entry, with some terrific artwork from Ivan Reis and Joe Prado. Writer Geoff Johns tries very hard to make Aquaman a convincing action hero and mostly succeeds. I expected that having everyone think of him as a joke would not work at all, but it turned out to be fairly amusing in the end. I also think it’s funny that the logo imitates the one invented for the fake Aquaman movie from the Entourage TV show. At the very least, this is the best Aquaman comic in a long time, if not ever. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a significant achievement or not.

Next is yet another The Flash #1, this one from co-writer and artist Francis Manapul and co-writer Brian Buccellato. This was much improved from the rather ponderous take Johns had on the character in the previous reboot, or even the previous short-lived version before that I have trouble remembering anything about at this point. I found this to be a solid, nice-looking Flash comic. It doesn’t invent the wheel, but it’s pretty much spot on for what an average issue of this title should read like. If Manapul can keep it up, will be a consistently entertaining title.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Men #1 appears to be a full reboot of the character, and is a straight-forward origin story that shows how the Firestorms got their powers and introduces a big, scary villain for them to fight in the next issue. We meet Ronnie Raymond, star high school quarterback, and Jason Rusch, student journalist. They clash and very quickly develop a dislike of each other — so of course they are bound together as the new Firestorms. The art by Yildiray Cinar has a slightly funky, retro feel to it that, combined with the very traditional origin story, makes this a bit of a throwback. It’s not bad, but nothing about this is interesting enough to make me stick around for another issue.

I’ve enjoyed the occasional issue of Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Jonah Hex series, though I was not a regular reader of that series. They continue with the re-titled All-Star Western, which brings Hex into the new local of Old West Gotham City. That means there’s folks like Amadeus Arkham around as Hex investigates a gruesome crime of a more urban nature as a kind of a proto-Batman. The art by Moritat, who drew some great issues of Elephantmen, is muddied by a dull, overwhelming color palette. To be honest, I preferred the previous take on Jonah Hex, and the changes that seem to by trying to make this more interesting to superhero fans only make it less so.

Blackhawks #1 feels like it was created about 1995 for WildStorm and somehow never saw print until now. That means it’s sometimes a confusing book, but the crazy energy and slick art carry it through the rough patches. This is a new take on the Blackhawk concept, with the team now being some kind of super-secret government strike team. The plot part is the confusing part, so I’ll just skip over it and talk about the cool art, which has Graham Nolan of 1980s Detective Comics on layouts and Ken Lashley on finishes. Beyond that, I can’t really cite any specific reasons for liking this, so maybe it’s just a bit of nostalgia for those old-time ’90s comic books. I’ll give it another shot.

I didn’t know what to expect from Green Lantern: New Guardians #1, but went in with some trepidation because the cover includes one member from all the different-colored Lantern Corps and therefore be related in some way to the confusing Blackest Night and Brightest Day storylines. That was not the case here, which is a full reboot and retelling of the origin for the Kyle Rayner version of Green Lantern. This book also is an assembling of the heroes, as we meet the other six Lantern folks who will come together to join the New Guardians. This works better as a single issue than most attempts at this type of story, but it still feels like a tertiary book in the Green Lantern franchise.

I will be very interested to see what other folks think of Superman #1, which I thought was a terrific comic book. Written and with layouts by George Perez and finishes by Jesus Merino, this is an action-packed superhero book in the best 1980s tradition. There’s a lot going on in this book, both with Superman and the world he lives in. It may not all make perfect sense, but there is an admirable economy this story as it introduces so many characters, concepts and tweaks to Superman lore while also giving some crazy old-school action. I expect some will find it overwritten and cluttered, but I prefer a comic that throws a lot at the reader and picks up the pieces that work later on to the  decompressed storytelling of recent years. I’ll definitely stick with this one.

Only six more first issues to go …

Off the Shelf: Jonah Hex: No Way Back

Jonah Hex: No Way Back (DC Comics, $19.99, 136 pages) is better than it needs to be, which I mean anyone who buys this book because they like the upcoming movie version will no doubt feel they got their money’s worth.

As a graphic novel, it’s a solid Western tale that is not without some pretty obvious rough edges.

The gist of the story by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray is that Jonah Hex discovers from his dying mother that he has a half-brother. With her death, Hex heads to meet the brother he never knew he had and lay their mother to rest. This is far and away the best part of the story, as it highlights the tragedies of Hex’s life and provides a convincing contrast to his violent nature.

Less convincing is the nominal villain of the story, a bandit named El Papagayo who wants revenge on Hex’s family. While El Papagayo provides an excuse for some good action sequences in the book, this element feels very tacked on — as if it was added solely because the book needed an action element.

Tony Dezuniga, who was known for his work on the original 1970s Jonah Hex series, does an outstanding job on the art for this series. His storytelling and compositions are relaxed, confident and clear, while the scratchy finish — assisted by John Stanisci — is a perfect fit for the genre.

Dezuniga also deserves credit for bringing some taste and class to the art. The script calls for a number of rather gruesome scenes that Dezuniga draws with just the right mix of restraint and clarity so that it’s always clear what’s happening without being gratuitous or ostentatious.

Which brings me to the one part of this book that really annoyed me, which is the use of eye dialect in writing Hex’s dialog in particular. (Eye dialog is the practice of writing a character’s dialog phonetically to convey a heavy accent. Chris Claremont used this a lot in his Uncanny X-Men run on characters like Rogue, whose lines were written like “Ah shore do, shugah!” rather than “I sure do, sugar!”) I think this is a technique where a little goes a long way — a few lines early on to establish the accent can let readers assume it continues through the book and let the writer put the emphasis more back on what’s said than how it’s said.

And in Jonah Hex: No Way Back, I found it very distracting. Other characters had distinctive speaking patterns or used terms common to dialog in the genre without going to the extent of Hex near the end saying, “Guilt ain’t sumpthin’ Ah live with. Ah figger guilt is a disease that eats yer soul.”

Maybe it’s just me, and it won’t bother anyone else. Which is fine because despite its rough edges the positives of this book clearly outshine the negatives.

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