Reviews: Another Round of the New 52
Lots to talk about this week, and lots of changes happening the DCU. I’ve been torn between what books to try and what to leave on the shelf, and have had to pick and choose what I think might be
good enough to mock enjoyable. I haven’t picked up the latest stuff from this past Wednesday yet, although I am looking forward to Batwoman. I’ve heard some horrible things this week—namely about Superboy and Suicide Squad (and this about Amanda Waller, which honestly disappoints me to no end), not to mention the latest fuss over the new Birds of Prey, and that flat out makes me want to cry. I’m trying not to cry, but it might happen. I’m all cantankerous ‘n’ stuff. I’ll try to make this quick:
Well now. Who’d have thought I’d ever pick up this book? I’m not a Superman fan, and I’m not really a big Grant Morrison fan either, so it was kind of startling to find myself actually interested in giving this a shot. But then, how could you not be interested? After all the controversy of rebooting this title, winding back the clock on Superman, and turning him into a “Bruce Springsteen” version of himself (creator’s words, not mine), it was kind of impossible to shy away.
So I read it. And … it was weird. And I don’t really know what to think, other than it feels like I was reading Batman. Superman comes off extremely belligerent, and it’s just so strange compared to the image of him I have in my head. I mean, what’s THIS about?
Right? Huh? I don’t know. I get what’s happening, and I get what Morrison is trying to do, and I fully understand that this is meant to be a “different” Superman or whatever, but I’m not sure it works for me. I’d give you a plot synopsis, except that I’m on the fence right now as to how much more I’m going to read, so I’ll just say this: if you’ve been following along in the solicitations and previews, the plot is pretty much what you’d gather. Mostly. There are one or two interesting changes I didn’t anticipate, but I’ll leave them for you to discover.
Really undecided here … at the moment I’m leaning toward sticking around to see how it plays out. I wonder how the standard Superman title will fare in comparison.
The only reason I had even a remote interest in this was because I had read a four-page preview quite a while ago that sounded very well-written. I liked Jeff Lemire’s Superboy a lot, and once I’d heard some praise for this issue after it hit the stands, I grabbed a copy. I’m glad I did, because this may easily be one of the sleeper hits of the New 52. I didn’t know squat about Animal Man before picking this up, but Jeff Lemire can apparently write the heck out of an intro issue to a book, so it easily passes the “new-reader friendly” test.
Flat out: I loved this. It’s the one and only thing I unsparingly love so far from the new batch of DC. It’s heartfelt, creative, intelligently written, dark, intriguing, and a host of other things. Right away, you think to yourself—okay. It’s a guy who can call upon the characteristics of any animal—that’s neat. But then you read it and, as a newbie, you realize it’s going to be about so much more than that. His powers are almost completely secondary. I don’t want to say any more than that.
Please go pick this up. Just go buy it. It’s so freaking cool.
Oh man. This … this was tough for me. I can’t believe what I’m about to say, but I was actually disappointed by this first issue. I never thought I’d have reason to utter that about a Gail Simone-penned book, but … I guess there’s a first time for everything. Ouch.
The thing is, I’m not sure I can even explain to you what it is about this that’s disappointed me. It hasn’t particularly failed in anything. It hasn’t really done anything wrong. It’s actually a very good set up issue, and both Gail and artist Ardian Syaf do a lot of things RIGHT. So why do I still come off it feeling so lukewarm?
I guess it’s a problem of the lead-up to the book having set up some very high expectations. I think Gail was put in an impossibly difficult position in being responsible to appease all the fans who are heartbroken over what we perceive to be the loss of the Oracle persona. But speaking only for myself, I definitely went into this expecting—nay, demanding, answers. I wanted all the information right off the bat (no pun intended) as far as why/how she’s Batgirl again, how she was healed, was she ever with the Birds of Prey, and whether or not she ever actually was Oracle in this new continuity (supposedly the answer is yes, but we haven’t found out for sure yet). So when I read through this issue and received basically none of those answers, it was pretty deflating. That’s not say that Barbara’s past won’t be addressed—I give Gail way more credit than to think she’d brush it all off, and knowing her writing style, she’s going to take her time setting us up. We’ll get there, sure, but I’m having a hard time being patient.
That disappointment aside, I will say there were definitely things I loved here. I love the fact that Gail Simone is writing Barbara as a sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, thereby acknowledging her accident and fleshing out the reaction time between what has happened from then until now. I love the new villain she has created for Barbara, who comes across seriously dark and awesome. I loved the artwork, and let’s face it—it’s pretty damn cool to see Barbara Gordon swinging around in the Gotham night again. I have a few reservations about one of the plot choices—Barbara and her new college roommate—but that’s nothing I can’t get past. So I’m keeping my head down and I’m chugging along with this at least for the remainder of the first story arc, if not more, but I still feel a little twinge of sadness for the Oracle that I knew and miss. I suspect that will always be there, regardless of how good this title winds up being.
We’ll see what happens next. I’ll try to abate my sadness in the meantime.
… BWAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAAA. Next.
Swamp Thing. Another surprise for me. I’m a fan of Alan Moore and have always intended to go back and read his Swamp Thing, but it’s a little low on the priority reading list at the moment. When this title was announced, I figured it would be a good introduction of the character for me, and I have a certain level of faith in Scott Snyder’s writing abilities. I’m please to say he didn’t disappoint here. The story opens up in a captivating way, and even a new reader can tell that there’s a history to this character. I have to wonder how much I am actually missing out on by not reading any previous stories, but at the same time, I’m getting enough information here where I don’t NEED to read the earlier stuff. I don’t need to, but the urge is certainly there. This is comics done right—this is the way to pick up those “new readers.” You needn’t ditch years of that “scary” and “intimidating” continuity, because a book like this is what makes you want to go back and learn and read everything you can get your hands on. It’s really a shame more comics aren’t written in this manner.
The talented Yanick Paquette was clearly made for a book like this. I was a little disappointed to learn that he’ll be utilizing some fill-in artists in between story arcs, but I’m hoping it won’t detract too much from the book. Paquette’s style is definitely suited to this book—while his Superman cameo came off kind of weird-looking to me, his version of Swamp Thing is awesome. Looking forward to issue two.
Okay, kids, that’s all I have for today. Be thankful that that crazy Comic Junkie is out of his mind enough to be reading and analyzing every issue of the New 52 over at his blog. Really, we ought to be thanking him for sparing us some of the torture.
One final thing before I go—don’t forget the Craig Thompson signing is this week at the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square. If you’re interested, get your ticket early, and be sure to say hello to me if you’re going to be there.
Until next week!