Let’s Talk About the DC # 1s: 9/21/11 and 9/28/11.
So, whadya think of week four and week five?
I’ve got this BIG ASS pile of comics in front of me, so… tell you what. Reviews for the last few weeks will be by request only. If there’s a DC # 1 that wasn’t sold out at my shop and I didn’t already review that you want me to talk about tell me in the comments and I’ll whip up a review.
(Update: Aquaman reviewed. 11:17 PM CSBG time.)
(Update 2: Red Hood and the Outlaws reviewed, 12:25 AM CSBG time.)
(Update 3: Flash reviewed, 12:37 AM on Saturday morning, CSBG time.)
Links: The week two “Talk about” post is here. The week two post is here. Catwoman (and only Catwoman) discussion here. List of potential books under the cut, but anything from the last few weeks that isn’t Batman related is fair game. (Not counting “BATMAN.” I did get Batman.)
ALL STAR WESTERN, AQUAMAN, BATGIRL, BATMAN, BLUE BEETLE, BIRDS OF PREY, BLACKHAWKS, DETECTIVE COMIC, (I paid, like, six bucks for this! My shop guy got some copies from a newsstand in Cleveland after it sold out.) DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS, FLASH, FURY OF FIRESTORM, GREEN LANTERN CORPS, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS, I… VAMPIRE, JLA DARK, LEGION OF SUPERHEROES RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS, SUICIDE SQUAD, SAVAGE HAWKMAN, SUPERGIRL, SUPERMAN, TEEN TITANS, VOODOO or WONDER WOMAN.
For those of you keeping score: This means I’m only missing BATMAN AND ROBIN, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT, FRANKENSTEIN, GREEN ARROW, and NIGHTWING. I friendhitched all the way to Des Moines to get SWAMP THING, but then I lost it. *sigh*
Aquaman #1 (“The Trench Part 1″) by Geoff Johns(writer), Ivan Reis (Penciler), Joe Prann (inker), Ron Reis (colorist), Nick .I Napolitano (letterer, and that’s how its’ written in the book. Their typo. Not mine!) $2.99, 22 pgs, FC.
Premise: “Nobody’s favorite superhero” walks around the surface for a while, then decides to move. And he doesn’t talk to fish.
Review: Ehhhh. (A) I was really excited for this one. (B) It didn’t do much for me, but (C) Future issues could be great. PROBLEM ONE here is the bait and switch (PUN!) where the ending of the book (which establishes the new status quo) contradicts the story logic of the rest of the comic. Johns and Reis spends 12 pages establishing why Aquaman should not, under any circumstance live on the surface. (People make fun of him and he gets mad.) And then there’s one flashback panel and Aquaman says to his wife “Hey! Let’s go live on the surface!” And there’s absolutely no reason for it - It completely contradicts everything else the story was working towards. Anyway his wife is all “Aren’t you king of Atlantis?” and Aquaman says (not paraphrasing) “I never want the responsibility! I never asked for it!” Which continues an established pattern of behavior and leads us to
PROBLEM TWO – Aquaman just goes around throwing temper tantrums the whole damn issue. As Tom Bondurant notes the issue spends a lot of time whaling away (PUN!) at the “Aquaman sucks” strawman, but Aquaman doesn’t come off as “badass” so much as adolescent. If you want a badass Aquaman, he needs to do cool stuff. This is a lot of talking and not much doing, and the talking is… problematic.
PROBLEM THREE is panel shape. We’ve got a bunch of short and really long retangular panels, here, which don’t allow Reis to show much body language. There’s a whole scene in a (seafood) restaurant where Aquaman sits down to eat. Someone says something insulting to Aquaman “You CAN’T get fish and chips. Because you talk to fish!” and there’s a panel of Aquaman’s face (and only Aquaman’s face) looking pissed. Then someone says something else insulting, and Aquaman’s big ‘ol body-less face looks pissed. This is a personal pet peeve, but if you’re going to do conversation-based comics (which is fine) it works much better if you show their full bodies as much as possible. Show the complete, visceral, physical reactions of your action hero!
And, okay, PROBLEM FOUR doesn’t segue anywhere and it’s kind of fanfictiony, but Aquaman fights some bank robbers. And he wins by being super strong, and bullet-proof, and he leaps tall buildings in two bounds. Which I guess is sort of original. But it all comes off a little bit superhero generic: He’s basically old school Superman here. But this is Aquaman, and i just wanted the fight scene a little less generic and a little more “mofos get eaten by giant snapping turtles.)
That said: All the scenes without Aquaman in them were excellent. The landscapes are killer - The “waves splashing on rocks” pages are particularly awesome. And that’s important for an Aquaman comic. And I don’t want to spoil the villain introductions, but da-a-a-amn that was genuinely freaky. Way better than anything from that Pirhana movie. And the fight scene – generic as it was – was superbly staged. Which is what you expect from a Geoff Johns comic.
Future Prognosis: I didn’t dig this much, but if it moves on to underwater fight scenes (with bigger panels) it might be great. It’s in my “Keep an eye on” pile.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (“I Fought the Law and Kicked It’s Butt) by Scott Lobdell (writer),Kenneth Rocafort (Artist), Blond (colorist), Carlos M. Mangual (letters.) $2.99, 20 pgs, FC.
Premise: Green Arrow’s old sidekick Speedy Red Arrow, Batman’s old sidekick Robin Red Hood, and ex-Teen Titan Starfire who used to be more than an alien fembot sex-robot kill a bunch of people, then sit around on the beach drinking red drinks with celery stalks in them.
Review: God help me, I liked this comic. Maybe not quite enough to buy the next one, but overall I enjoyed it. It starts with what‘s probably my favorite action sequence in the 43-or-so of the 52 that I’ve read. It’s journalistic in it’s efficiency. We know where (The middle east), who (a deeply moral smart-ass and a semi-psychopath with a warped sense of humor), why (’cause Speedy done got himself caught by terrorist types), how (disguises, guns, jeeps, and Starfire descending like the wrath of an angry god) and what’s in their way (snipers, dozens of armed soldiers and tanks!)
… And on top of alla that, it’s funny. I laughed. Out loud. I don’t wanna bag on Aquaman any more, but proof: Look at the body language of the characters in RED HOOD, and tell me the uproarious sight gags here don’t work much better than the tight face shots in AQUAMAN. It’s just a great, great scene all around.
The rest of the comic…. not so much with the great. Again, good backgrounds! But it’s more jabbering, unsubtly sets up future plot points and teasing past events and… well, Starfire for walks around in a bikini in blatantly eroticized poses, and then she comes on to Speedy like a freight train and they have sex. (Mercifully off panel.)
And I understand the complaints about this bein’ – well, blatant masturbation fodder for the audience. Fanservice can be done with wit and subtlety. Here, it wasn’t. I talked about this in my Catwoman review, above, so just to summarize: I don’t want comics to be classy. A little bit smutty is fine. But a little more classy then your average issue of Barely Legal would be nice.
The sex scene I have… less of a problem with.
My interpretation is this: See, this IS a # 1 issue, right? And any writer worth his salt is going to try for some character development - The heroes we see here are not who they’re going to be down the road. As with Lobdell’s Superboy (which I loved, oh, how I loved) RH&TO is going to concern itself with “What it means to be human.” Starfire’s bizarre sexuality is only one of many pieces of evidence that she’s damaged goods. I don’t think the book condones casual sex here - It offers it as evidence of being removed from the world around her. Crystal ball prediction time: The comic is going to be about Starfire discovering love as a concept, and through that her humanity.
But, sadly, the comic as it stands is pretty damn dumb. And, what’s more, it’s blatantly offensive to a huge chunk of readers, which has gotta be a nasty kick right in the corporate PR.
(And if I’m wrong and Starfire does remain submissive fanservice on two legs, then I owe all you a coke.)
Future Prognosis: If this comic is nothing but shootings and explosions it’ll probably be quite good. If not… honestly, at this point it might be best if it sinks quietly into cancellation.
Flash # 1 (“I think it’s just called “THE FLASH.” Maybe I’m stupid, but I don’t see a title.”) Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (both story, FM artist, BB colors), Sal Cipriano (letters). $2.99. 20pp. FC.
Premise: The fastest man alive (and police scientist by day) was dead for a while. Now he’s not. And he seems to be enjoying it.
Review: Not to drop the f-word this early in the review, but I’m pro fun. That’s what I look for in superhero comics. I’d rather read a comic that the creators clearly enjoyed working on rather than some technically brilliant, unapproachable diamond. (Note that this is also the first sentence in my “Why WATCHMEN is not one of my ten favorite Alan Moore works” review.”)
The cool thing about FLASH (well, one of many) is that not only is there an overriding sense of “Yay! I like my job!” but the technical side of the drawing is really, really good. Here’s a page with something cool happening! And HERE’S a page with something cool! And over there… Cool! Cool! Cool!! This is mostly due to the thought the creative team have given to mastering “comics time” – Y’can tell that Manapul has really sat down and thought about how to draw a guy who’s basically in seventeen different places at once. In the most breaktaking sequence in the book, he does this by using smaller panels are used to split apart one full image, as theFlash is falling off a building and saves himself by speed based ricochet, (“This is…gonnna….hurt”) ending up smashing right through the street and kerplunking into the sewer. Basically, it’s this super-technical series of events which would take your average creative team in this decompressed age four of five pages to communicate, but here it’s (A) one page, and (B) completely clear and easy to follow due to some nifty coloring. (I’m now 100% pro comic colorists also being the writer.) All the super speed scenes are great, but even the Flash-walks-around-his-apartment sequences are damned interesting. (There are these small panels of a whistling teakettle, a ringing cell phone, and an Ipod that indicate the movement of time within a static image. So cool.) And as much as I like all this running around, my favorite sequence is the one where the Flash stops moving. He’s standing, thinking, blood red against an impressionist cityscape and with all the (appropriate) motion and hurry it’s nice to see the creators slow time down for a bit and and. just. breathe.
Writing-wise the comic is… not epic, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. There’s a bit of a laid back-vibe, which contrasts with the Kirby-inspired WORLD’S MAY LIVE! WORLD’S MAY DIE! THE FATE OF EVERYTHING HANGS IN THE BALANCE vibe of, say, Green Lantern or Fantastic Four. While Barry “Flash” Allen and his supporting cast are decently well introduced and realized, the stakes in the action sequences don’t seem particularly high – This is a book about a normalish guy doing his job, punchin’ the superhero time clock. Which is different, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing.
Future Prognosis: Fun, optimistic, and formally brilliant. This is basically everything I want in a superhero comic, and I’m buying it for a while. But I wouldn’t mind a bit more focus on “exciting” down the line.
Supergirl # 1 (“Supergirl in Last DAUGHTER of Krypton”) Micheal Green and Mike Johnson (bwriters), Mahimad Asrar (penciler), Dan Green with Asrar (inker), Dave McCaig(colorist), John J. Hill (letterer.) 20 pg. FC.
Premise: Rocketed from space from the doomed planet Krypton, fights for truth, justice, American way, faster than a speeding building and so on and so forth. Also: Is girl.
Review: ? I liked it, but there wasn’t a lot of there there. This is the most deeply decompressed, part-of-a-trade-paperback-esque of the New 52 that I’ve read so far. If you’re major criteria in comic buying is value indicated by time needed to read it… You’re going to be one pissed off parakeet.
But in the what there was of it of it all, there were some neat ideas floating around. Basically, the whole issue is one big action sequence, wherein Supergirl, completely new to earth, crash-lands and gets shot at. The interesting part is the contrast between the big, noisy action sequence and Supergirl’s reaction to it. She’s dazed, and kind of muzzy in the head, and it takes her eight pages to decide she’s not dreaming. Still, even when she’s confused, disoriented, unsure of her powers and a little bit scared, she still comes off as scary badass, fighting almost reflexively and stopping the giant robots that are after her for… some reason with her eyes and her voice.
And it has to be said: Asrar’s more-abstract style manages to convey “hot chick” without the blatant pandering we’ve seen in… other….. titles.
And I did like the continuity nod where Supergirl’s hearing power kicks in and she hears dialog from AQUAMAN, BIRDS OF PREY, and… who’s the fiercest killer in all of Gotham?
Future Prognosis: Theoretically I like Supergirl, but there have been precious few Supergirl comics that have done much for me. Hopefully this will read really, really well in trade.