The Nielsen ratings are in for DC’s New 52, and the results are … pretty depressing, though not surprising.
Kind of rips you apart a little, doesn’t it?
Awwww, Marvel. Why?
I started picking up this series because I adore Steve Rogers as a character, and I’d heard such great things about Brubaker’s writing of Cap. When I read that McNiven was doing the pencils, I jumped all over this like the obsessor that I am. I looooooooovvvvveee McNiven’s stuff, and to me, him and Cap are a match made in heaven. This book made me so happy.
I speak in the past tense, because apparently McNiven is no longer on this title as of issue #7. His replacement? Alan Davis.
I don’t know if this is a permanent change or if Davis is filling in for a couple of arcs; the solicitations aren’t clear, and the switch doesn’t appear to be addressed in detail anywhere. I couldn’t give less of a fig for Alan Davis. I have nothing against him personally and I’m sure he’s a gentleman; it’s just that his art does absolutely nothing for me. At ALL. I simply dislike his style, and that’s really gonna kill this book for me. It’s a shame, because I’ve really enjoyed the four issues to date.
Don’t be fooled by the odd cover (Marvel seems especially preoccupied with phallic concepts lately); what lies beneath the title page here is good stuff. Brubaker pairs together past and future in a seamless and engaging way, introducing old characters and new to propel the story forward and keep the engine humming. What makes me particularly happy with Brubaker is his track record in writing female characters—basically, he knows how to. You might laugh at that, but let’s take a look at his record—Selina Kyle, Black Widow, now Sharon Carter—it is, sadly, shockingly rare to write a string like that without some blunders along the way, but the man does it seemingly effortlessly. Yes, I’m in love with his Cap, but watching Sharon Carter spar with Baron Zemo and lay an eloquent dropkick on the guy is, let’s face it, pretty damn awesome. And having McNiven illustrate that wonderfully-constructed scene? Icing on the ass-kicking cake, my friends.
I’m not sure how long I’m going to stick around once Alan Davis comes aboard this book. A part of me wants to drop it out of principle alone; it feels like Marvel can never get their act together as far as keeping creative teams on titles for any longer than a story arc at a time, and that’s bothersome. Things shouldn’t be that difficult, and as a consumer, I’m looking for consistency. There are some exceptions—no matter how late Avengers: Children’s Crusade is, I will always buy it, and no matter how many artists come and go on Journey into Mystery, Kieron Gillen will always have my dollar—but this should remain the exception and not the rule. I wouldn’t want to be accused of enabling.
We’ll see where Cap lands in a couple of months’ time. Maybe Davis will be off before I know it, replaced with someone else’s work to lure me in against my will, but in order for me to continue buying Captain America at four bucks a pop, I’m gonna need both pieces and I demand better.
Oohhh … ouch. My pride. God. I’m so ashamed and my pride is so sore, because … because … I am LOVING THIS BOOK!
There—I said it. And I KNOW what you’re thinking … and I’m so ashamed. *Hangs head to the floor*
I just … it’s … it’s actually really good. I read the first issue and I was all begrudging about it, and then I read the second issue and I was like oh … uh oh … maybe this could go somewhere, but NO! I’M NEVER GONNA ADMIT IT! And then I read the third issue and … and … oh, Swierczynski’s won me over completely and now I’m scum. *Sobbing*
What convinced me to keep reading were the rumors that Barbara Gordon would wind up on the team. If you read my
bitter condemnation review of issue one, a huge reason why I decried this book was because the relationship between Dinah and Babs was seemingly being downplayed/ignored/retconned. But then I kept hearing such positive reviews of the title from critics whose opinions I respect, and all might not be as it seems within the next few issues. So I read #2 and #3, and … here I am, eating my words. Mr. Swierczynski, I owe you apology. Your book just kicked me in the face, and it feels so good.
And wow, Jesus Saiz … I can’t compliment him enough. His artwork is so skilled and GORGEOUS. It’s so wonderful and clear and … you know, there’s a scene in this issue with an explosion and Black Canary, Starling, Katana, and Poison Ivy are flung through the air from the force of it. And—can you believe—not a single contorted spine, not a single sleazy upskirt or shot of cleavage, not a single broken back. I … I didn’t know comics like this could actually exist! I LOVE YOU, JESUS SAIZ! Never, ever change!
So I humbly retract my earlier assessment of this title. It’s not quite the Birds of Prey I once knew and hoped for; it’s not the team I fell in love with. But I’m having an easier time now taking THIS team of Birds for what they are, and it’s legitimately good, enjoyable, and fun to read. With each issue, I’m learning to drop my preconceived notions and favoritism. No lie, it’s been tough. I’m all set in my comics ways and stuff, you know? But for at least the next few issues, I’m on board with this book. Please, please don’t let me down, Swierczynski.
Hello, Supergirl—it’s nice to finally meet you.
The Super family of books have always been tough sales for me. I was never one for Superman; he’s always felt flat to me, and I’d mostly steered clear of his side of the comics racks until last year when I started picking up Jeff Lemire’s Superboy (which I miss desperately). But Powergirl has never lured me, and Supergirl’s (re-)introduction in the Superman/Batman book a few years ago flew right over my head. For whatever reason, I just never cared enough to give Kara much of a chance. With the New 52, I decided I’d change that.
So I picked up the first two issues of this title, and for the most part, I really enjoyed them. A large reason for that is in thanks to the artwork—Mahmud Asrar is, if I may say, pretty incredible. I don’t think I’ve seen any of his work prior to this, but his soft, watercolory style is a pleasure that leaves my eyes wanting more at the end of every issue. It’s fluid and beautiful, and I can’t get enough.
Story-wise, this book is conflicting. On the one hand, I want to say that I’ve enjoyed each read in the moment I’m reading it; on the other hand, I take a step back to think about it and the three issues to date have been extraordinarily decompressed. I feel like “decompressed” is a word everyone likes to toss around in the comics world these days, so I generally try to avoid it, but it’s very true here. The first two issues of this title were about Kara crash landing to Earth, being confused, and fighting Superman. TWO ENTIRE ISSUES of that! Don’t you think that could have all been accomplished in just one issue? How many times must we witness Kal and Kara fight and try to “figure things out”? This aspect of the book—the redundancy and stretching out the story for no reason—bothers me. If I were a diehard Supergirl fan, I’d be extremely annoyed, because what’s happening to Kara mirrors what’s happening to Barbara over in Batgirl—which is more of the same. A seemingly unoriginal take.
Despite these criticisms, though, this title is still okay with me overall. I’m still reading. Why? Because I am a new reader of Supergirl, and although I know this story has happened before, I’ve never previously read it myself. As an experience, it’s still new to me. I’m finally getting to know a version of Supergirl, and it’s admittedly kind of exciting. I really want to like her.
So issue three opens up with some backstory regarding Krypton, and we’re finally introduced to a villain for Kara to face on Earth. I want to say this villain is a bit generic, but Green and Johnson have already managed to make me hate his guts in the span of one issue, so I guess that’s successful. While we sputter a bit here thanks to that D-word, I’m cautiously optimistic that things will pick up after the first arc. Green and Johnson always come across well in interviews, expressing enthusiasm for Kara and it sounds like they have some great ideas for this title. It’s their chance to make her shine, and it’s my chance to let them. I want to like this—I am liking this, mostly—and I’m hopeful that it only goes upward from here.
Until next week, everyone—be safe, and eat lots of turkey!
I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….
Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.
I’m sad. :(
I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.
I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.
You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.
So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.
…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.
I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.
Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.
And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.
Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.
More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.
It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.
This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.
If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.
Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.
The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.
But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.
If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.
Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.
On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.
Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.
Man. I’m really kinda hatin’ on DC right now. At some point after my post a couple of months ago about how I was going to try to be all positive and optimistic about DC, I read a bunch of crap that I didn’t like, and I’m back to being all cantankerous again. The latest thing to get me riled up into a ball of rage is the news about Wonder Woman. They’re changing (read: retconning) her origin. I was all ready to jump on the Brian Azzarello band wagon here and proclaim him Wondy’s savior until I heard this.
I think this is all part of the cause of my not reading comics lately. I’m just kind of sick of all the hype, and it’s EVERYWHERE. Running to the Marvel shelves is no different, as almost everything I see is slathered with a “Fear Itself” label. Can we come right out and admit that the story is awful? It’s not a good event, if there is such a thing. It’s just plain bad, and reeks of being haphazardly put together. The only thing tied to Fear Itself that I’m even remotely interested in is Journey into Mystery, and that’s because that book is awesome no matter what. Kieron Gillen is writing the heck out of that.
I have to think aloud and wonder if perhaps the fight against the hype is a losing battle—it’s essentially become the nature of comics, but I’m not convinced it should be. Just tell a good story, guys. That’s all anybody wants. Amirite?
No? Okay, fine, I’ll shut up. Reviews!
HUUUNNNNTTTRRREEESSSSSS. I love the Huntress. What’s not to love about her? She’s Italian, she has pretty black hair, and she’s a total badass. I was eager to get my Huntress fix when they announced this six-issue mini. Gotta admit, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go down—the frightening Guillem March cover leaves much to be desired, and I wasn’t hugely confident in Paul Levitz behind the pen despite being her creator (kinda). It was kind of a “YAAYYY HUNTREEESSSS … oh, wait. What?” reaction, which seems to be the case a lot with DC and me these days.
Anyway. I read this, and you know what? The art was AWESOME. It’s the first thing that hit me and it’s the best part of the book, hands-down. Marcus To, I had no idea who you were before this, but count me amongst the legion of fans I’m certain you’ve secured after KILLING IT on this. Helena has never looked so good. Like, literally—and I’m wicked going to be a girl here—some of the outfits To draws her in are simple and elegant and fashionable, I was like “Where can I buy that? That’s awesome.” Then he throws on her Huntress uniform and she’s another person entirely, and it brings even more of the awesome. Especially when she’s kicking some dude in the jaw. Kick it, Huntress! The choreography in one of the fight scenes is so perfectly illustrated—along with Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman #1, I would say they’re the two best fight scenes I’ve seen in a while. Top this book off with a head nod to the colorist, because the colors were beautiful and makes To look that much more talented.
So the art’s great. The story? Meh. Okay, it’s maybe a little better than “meh.” It’s actually not bad at all, it’s just not particularly ground-breaking. Huntress goes to Italy to break up a slave ring/drug ring/what-have-you. We’ve read this story before, right? So it’s really not baaaddddd, it’s just … well, it’s just what it is. I will say that the first issue lays a groundwork that’s full of potential, and the next five issues could very well turn up the heat and hit us with a surprise or two. I hope they do, because I’ll go as far as to say this was one of the New 52 I’ve actually really liked. In a sea of mediocre, I liked this. Let’s build off that, please, Mr. Levitz.
Mystic. We continue where we left off in number two, with lessons in the mystic arts and that witchy mean girl whose name I forget trying to sabotage the main character at every turn. I enjoyed the heck out of the first two issues of this, but issue three seemed to hit a lull somehow. Actually, that’s not really fair … it’s not so much a “lull” as it’s just that I can tell the story is being rushed and condensed to accommodate the fact there’s only four issues in which to tell it. The snag was bound to be somewhere, and it feels like it’s right here. When you reach the last page and realize the conclusion is coming up next, it’s kind of hard to take. There’s SO MUCH MORE we could be reading here. You can tell that G. Willow Wilson has put a lot of thought into this world and these characters, and it feels terribly unfair that we won’t get to explore any more of it as of next month.
So that makes me frown a bit. I know it’s all going to unravel too quickly as of issue four. I wish that weren’t a basis of judgment on this issue, but it is. Still, as little story as we’re getting, I’ll gladly take it over no story at all.
Not to mention there is always the saving grace that is David Lopez. I can’t get over how wonderful his stuff is here. Forget about all of the mechanics of drafting a comic book page—forget about all the transitions, the backgrounds, the panels. Let’s just talk about facial expressions, because that one skill alone is what absolutely MAKES this book. Lopez is an undisputed master of facial expressions, and as such, the emotions of each character come at you unapologetically. And it’s so, so good. You know something? If you were to take out all the speech bubbles and all the text on every page, I bet you’d still know exactly what was going on in the story. That is the mark of an excellent artist, and Mr. Lopez is at the top of his game here. I adore him for it. If the narrative of the next issue were to completely tank, I’d still love this for the artwork alone.
I’ll be sad when it’s over, but after Mystic concludes, I’d follow these two creators anywhere.
I remember reading an interview with Terry Moore that announced Rachel Rising as his newest project. In the interview, Mr. Moore discussed his desire to do a horror book—something scary and haunting, and I remember thinking to myself … really? Terry Moore doing a horror book?
I wasn’t convinced it would work. Nothing against the guy—in fact I have proclaimed my undying love for him here before—but I just couldn’t picture it based on his previous work.
I stand corrected.
This is creepy as &@%$.
Wow. Don’t get me wrong, it’s creepy in a good way. In an excellent way. Aside from one or two things (Walking Dead), I generally despise horror as a genre. But, this is Terry Moore, so of course I gravitate to it. And rightly so, because Rachel Rising, thus far, is great.
I’d typed up this whole big thing summarizing the greater parts of this issue, but then I re-read what I’d typed and couldn’t think of a way to get it across to you without ruining some of the suspense and build up. So I’m going to completely dump that and just let you judge for yourselves. Hopefully you’re picking this up. Unlike some of the stuff by the Big Two, it’s actually worth the $3.99.
The weather is changing and it’s turning to that time of year I despise—COLD. Cold means that the battles between Captain Couch and I have intensified. We’ve thrown down a lot since September and he’s just been out of control. I’m way out of shape. Dude has been beating me senseless every single night, and no amount of comics can hold him at bay. As a result, my nights lately have consisted of bad television and passing out unconscious by like eight p.m. (if I make it that far). Reading comics has fallen distressingly by the wayside. One of these days I’ll take a photo of my “to read” piles of issues and trades and post them here for your viewing horror. “Piles” probably isn’t even a fair word. More like “mountain chains.” Some people dream of climbing K2. I just dream of scaling down my comics.
Let’s get some stuff out of the way.
- Here’s what Star Sapphire looks like in the upcoming animated movie, Justice League: Doom. http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?disp=img&pid=1317735495
After the debacle a few weeks ago about Starfire, it’s good to see we’re moving forward, DC.
- On the flip side, Robot 6 has a rather humorous strip wrapping up the New 52 from the perspectives of the characters. Very fun.
- Speaking of strips, do you like web comics? Have you heard of Max Overacts? No? Well you should check it out, because it’s absolutely wonderful. The creator, Caanan Grail, is brilliant, and I’ve been addicted to this since I stumbled upon it last month. Many have compared the strip to Calvin & Hobbes—there’s definitely an echo of that there—but it’s its own thing and so much more. Start at the beginning and read through the strips; I can’t imagine you’ll be let down.
- Lastly, I hope everyone’s seen the newly-released Avengers trailer, because it’s awesome.
… And that’s all I got! Back later with some reviews.
So apparently Dan Didio said something over Facebook about how none of the Crises ever happened.
Can anyone else make any sense of this? I must be missing something. If Final Crisis never happened, then what caused Bruce to “die” and Dick to take up the mantle of Batman? That’s already been referenced in several books, and Grant Morrison’s run is still technically happening and referencing itself as it goes along, so we know it’s still canon … yet it’s not? Can anyone help me out here?
He went on to “clarify” (I use the term loosely):
Ohhhh, I get it now.
… Except that I don’t.
I would say, given that the entire initiative of the New 52 was to wipe the slate completely clean in order to erase and/or make continuity “less confusing” for new readers, the fact that now we have even MORE of a convoluted backstory to all of this, where neither reader nor editorial apparently knows what’s sticking and what isn’t, means that after only one month of the reboot, it’s already a failure story-wise. None of this makes any sense. I can’t say I really expected it to, but it’s making even less sense than I thought it would. And it’s just plain annoying. Way to make this stuff up as you go along, guys.
On the bright side, at least Gail Simone still makes me laugh.
I’m having a rough go of this DC stuff, guys. A real rough go. If I had to pick one book this week to tell you to avoid like the frigging plague, it would be Teen Titans. Don’t do it to yourself, readers. You deserve better.
While That’s E is my LCS, occasional place of employment, and all-around hub of awesome, working in Boston can make it difficult to swing by store hours during the week to pick up comics. That activity is typically reserved for the weekend when Boyfriend and I—now Fiancé, hip hip!—have the time to chat with our friends behind the counter, praise the latest works we’ve enjoyed, or talk smack about that week’s failures (at which point hilarity and raucous laughter ensue). But when Wednesday rolls around and the excitement of new comics fills the air, it can prove hard to wait those extra few days. That’s when I usually wander around Harvard Square during my lunch hour and inhabit Million Year Picnic, a quirky little hole-in-the-wall shop with cozy shelves and some super nice people running the register who clearly know their comics. And when I went in there this week, the item I immediately grabbed for a quick read-through was Aquaman #1.
Laugh at me all you want, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Aquaman. His was the first comic I’d ever read when I was a kid, secretly borrowing my brothers’ comics to read whenever they were out of the house. I can get into the myriad reasons why I love Aquaman and will defend him ‘til the end, but that’s a topic for another post (which I’ve been working on for like six months and might never see the light of review day). When DC announced this title, I was actually excited. Aquaman! What!? And not belligerent old hook-hand Aquaman either—no! This was the young, sexy blonde Aquaman that had made my tiny toddler heart skip a beat (he was so pretty!). As I flipped through the pages gawking at the beautiful artwork and reading the story, I knew immediately that this would be one of few keepers for the New 52.
Geoff Johns loves Aquaman. He’s proclaimed as much time and again during interviews, but you don’t need to hear him say that in order to get it. Reading Aquaman #1 felt very much like Johns’ love letter to Aquaman. He cares about this character, and we see that from page one. The entire issue is devoted to building up Aquaman—first with a display of brute strength in the opening pages, followed by a glance at his reputation and insight to what’s in his heart, ultimately ending with a declaration of intent. And in between it all, it is funny as heck. I’m not sure a New 52 book has given me as much enjoyment yet as Aquaman did. I loved this, and if Geoff and Ivan Reis (whose art was ridiculously great) can keep the momentum, I’ll be hooked for the long run.
Uh, no pun intended.
I hate it when this happens. You hear so much hype about a book—it’s built up and talked about everywhere and every review you read is like “THIS IS AMAZING!” and you think, oh my, I can’t wait to be hit with the awesome. Then you get the book and … the balloon has popped. To smithereens. You’re deflated and your pieces are scattered everywhere, and you don’t feel like picking yourself back up.
That’s kind of how I felt after reading this issue. Despite how gorgeous it was for the eyes—as though anyone would expect any less from J.H. Williams on that—it left me deflated. Yet, I’m not really sure what my expectations were. Story-wise, I had none. I’m not a huge Kate Kane follower, but I liked her enough to sample this. The only thing I left the issue with, though, was a sizeable dose of confusion. I haven’t read Greg Rucka’s acclaimed run on Detective—the only Batwoman I’d read was the “zero” issue that came out last year or so—and as such, I had no frame of reference for a lot of what was happening in this book. Whatever happened to “new reader-friendly”?
Could I follow along with this? Yes. I could piece together most of what I think I needed to know by the end of the issue. But was it easy, or even rewarding? Not really … I didn’t leave it feeling as such. I’d like to blame that on the fact that J.H Williams, like many on the New 52, is artist-turned-writer. That’s not an easy transition to make. I’d also suggest that this title was never actually meant to be part of the New 52—it wasn’t written to entice new readership or be part of this comics-holy endeavor. It was just a title that kept getting delayed and kept getting delayed and eventually found its way to being a part of this. I think it’s done some harm.
I’m going to read issue two. I’ll likely stick out the entire first arc, because I think whatever nitpicks I have with this can certainly be overcome. I will say that the opening scenes in particular were incredible, and I’m looking for more of that to come. Overall, the book just didn’t hit me the way I was expecting, and so much of that I’m sure has to do with the internet hype. Drowning it out for next month.
Ugh. I really … I didn’t want to do this. I staunchly and adamantly shot down this book before it came out; very loudly voiced my hatred at the concept of a new Birds of Prey without Oracle or Huntress or Gail Simone behind the board. I was NOT going to give this a shot. But in a week where Catwoman and Starfire were degraded and exploited beyond all comprehension … suddenly, a female team book felt more alluring. And really, let’s face it—I’m a masochist. Comics fans in general are absolutely masochists. We know it’s going to be bad—we know it’s going to hurt, but damn it, we just can’t look away. We just can’t stop.
So I picked this up. And … it broke my heart.
First of all, let me get this off my chest: Dinah’s outfit is absolutely dumb. Dumbest thing ever. I will say that I’ve never minded the fishnets in her previous getup—I thought her outfit was fine, and no, I didn’t think she looked like a hooker. I thought she looked like a badass biker chick, though much of fandom had complained that the fishnets were tacky. DC’s answer to that, apparently, was to re-tool her costume and add even MORE fishnets? Up her ARMS, no less? What the hell, guys. This is the stuff that makes me want to cuss my head off. (I’m trying to tone it down—it isn’t easy.) It’s just the most senseless outfit of all the redesigns, and that’s saying a lot considering there is some genuinely BAD stuff out there. My eyes … they bleed.
Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about this book. The Birds of Prey, to me, has always been about friendship. Well, it’s about girls kicking ass too, but mostly, it’s friendship. The unfailing, strong-in-the-face-of-all-danger, love-you-no-matter-how-many-times-you-screw-up friendship between Dinah and Barbara. Then Huntress eventually came along and stirred the pot, and the book became even more amazing because the relationships built between the three women was not something that was found in any other DC book, or any other comic book period. Add Zinda Blake to the mix, and things still kept getting stronger. Four ladies, four unshakeable ties. A family. That was the Birds of Prey. And I came back for it month after month after month, because it felt like these were my girls. You find things you relate to and after so many years of a book like this, you build these immensely personal ties and attachment to it. Not having the Birds anymore—my Birds—is heartwrenching.
This? If they had called Duane Swierczynski’s version anything else—anything at all other than “Birds of Prey,” I might have actually been able to swallow this. But I can’t. I keep looking at this book hoping that it’s what it was—what I want it to be, but it’s not, and I’m not MEANT to look at it that way. We’re supposed to look at it as something new. It’s its own thing. DC is asking us not to compare it to what came before. But that’s really unfair, and it’s just not something I can do. DC built this attachment of mine; they gave me a security blanket that I loved and loved, and they can’t expect me to throw it away for some new toy.
I’m genuinely sorry about it, too, because the artwork on this was flawless. One issue and I am already a huge Jesus Saiz fan. And as much as I wasn’t crazy about Swierczynski coming on board, I have to give credit where credit is due—he writes a pretty damn good Black Canary. Maybe even second best to Gail. Unfortunately, I won’t be sticking around to see what he can do. He screwed that up for me the moment he introduced Barbara Gordon in this issue for no apparent reason whatsoever outside of raising a million continuity questions that he doesn’t proceed to answer. I can’t look at this with the new eyes that it needs. Maybe some day … but for right now, looks like I’m out.
Yeeaaahhh … I have to say, I was really on the fence about this one. I had no idea what to expect until a few weeks back when I watched this hysterical interview with Brian Azzarello about his run on the book. He has such utter disdain for the interviewer in it and he’s so frank with his responses that I couldn’t help but be oddly endeared. Suddenly, any worries I had about the title just kind of fell away.
Despite being turned off by the idea of yet another revamp for Wonder Woman, after over a year of horrible, pedantic, pointless WW issues during the “Odyssey” story arc of Straczynski’s ill-conceived run, I was suddenly DESPERATE for a title re-launch. Time to kick the lame pants and jacket, adolescent writing, and cheesecake artwork to the curb. Cliff Chiang on art duties? GODSEND. Brian Azzarello writing? Er … I hadn’t read the guy. There was a 50/50 chance this could work.
I liked this issue. It took me two reads, but I liked it. The first read through was a little rough—Azzarello wasn’t lying when he said he wanted to introduce a “horror” element to Wonder Woman, and at first, it just seemed like a whole bunch of violence and gore. But on the second read through, the issue took a much better shape, and I caught things I didn’t catch the first time around. The tone was different, and I actually liked it. It was hard, but in a good way. Azzarello re-introduces some of the Greek gods, and for the first time in a long time—maybe ever—they actually come across really cool, powerful, and scary. When was the last time the gods were actually scary? They SHOULD be scary. It’s refreshing to see. Especially interesting is the fact that this doesn’t feel as “mythological” as it actually is. You’re not watching the gods walk around in togas and hang out on Olympus the way you did during Greg Rucka’s run (which I loved as well). It’s not in-your-face ancient mythology. It’s modern day, and it WORKS. So much so that I’m surprised.
The story involves a human girl named Zola who has unknowingly gotten herself mixed up in godly affairs—literally—and it’s up to Wonder Woman to protect her from the wrath of who we presume to be Hera and Apollo. I was very concerned with how Wonder Woman would come across under Azzarello’s pen. Would she just be a violent Amazonian? Would she retain any of her compassion? Would she wear pants? (Just kidding.) My favorite renditions of Wonder Woman have always been the loving, empathetic ones—Simone’s and Rucka’s. An overly violent Wonder Woman goes against the grain of everything the character represents.
That said, she isn’t afraid to kick ass when ass needs kicking. She isn’t afraid to kill if it’s what must be done (see Maxwell Lord). And in this issue, Wonder Woman kicks a lot of ass in what is one of the most well-choreographed, beautifully drawn fight scenes I’ve read in ages. Cliff Chiang kills on this book, illustrating a Wonder Woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, but can also show concern where it’s called for.
Did this completely fire on all cylinders for me? Not entirely. I have a few nitpicks, to be sure—for example, this being her own title book, it felt oddly as though Wonder Woman somehow wasn’t in it very much. I also wasn’t crazy about the use of her lasso in one scene, and I feel like some of the dialogue can be tweaked as we move forward. But overall, this is a HUGE improvement over the garbage Wonder Woman fans have had to suffer through over the past year. I am most definitely on board here, and the creative team has set my expectations high. For the first time in a long time, I can’t wait for the next issue of Wonder Woman.