Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New 52: Week 4

The final 13 books; the final week of DC's relaunch. It's here and I'm tired. It's been an interesting experiment but I've actually never read this many new books in one month. Even back in 1994, when DC tried its "Zero Month", a very similar tactic with less change of creative teams, I read maybe half the books. And I was working in a comic store then.

The highs have been high (Batman, batman and Robin, Action Comics) but the lows have been even lower (Catwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Legion LOST). DC is saying is going back to press on several of these issues, with some of them going close to 200,000 copies, a rarity in today's market. And I'll be adding six or so more titles to my subscription. So DC considers the experiment incredibly successful. But how successful are this week's titles?

Voodoo #1: She's a stripper. And the whole thing takes place inside the strip club After last week, that's a huge red flag. Voodoo poles dances and gives a lap dance. The only other action is a federal agent fighting off a gang rape. What is it with DC's push into soft core porn? One book maybe, but three in a week?

Buy #2?: Absolutely not. And I used to like Ron Marz.

Superman #1:Where Grant Morrison took a bold, radical step with Action Comics, George Perez goes for a more traditional take with a story right out of 12 years ago.The Daily Planet selling out to a major communications company is one thing but no one would build a new skyscraper to a print newspaper in this day and age. The DC Universe is clearly not our own. I wish George Perez was drawing this. at times the art and copy were battling each other, like the news report of the battle running over the battle itself.

There's a lot of reboot here as well with a total erasure of the Clark/ Lois romance (much less marriage). Like Peter and Mary jane this is bound to cause problems down the road asa n accepted continuity for the entire line is established. There's also the new costume. Now that it's clearly shown in action, it doesn't work. It's too armored and inflexible, taking away from the streamlined man in flight that the audience identifies with Superman. The high collar and cape also don't work together. I expect to see this streamlined pretty quickly.

Buy #2?: DC is lucky they got me reading one Superman title again. Two is asking too much.

Dark Knight #1: David Finch's first five issues of dark Knight was by his own admission, kind of a disaster. It personified the worst of the IMAGE era; a pretty book that was constantly late and told us nothing. Now it relaunches with Paul Jenkins hand,ing the writing, placing Finch back on art.The result is a book that raises my expectations and dashes them. Gone are the wall to wall action scenes replaced by a very long exposition and a cliche Bruce Wayne fundraiser. Once Batman gets to an Arkham Asylum breakout, it's handled seriously until the dumbest twist I've seen in a Batman comic in a long time.

Buy #2?: Luckily there are two great Batman books running. I don't need this one.

Teen Titans #1:Comic writers usually get about ten good years. After that they used to become editors. Now they move on to other media or stay and get stale. Scott Lobdell is proving to be the latter as both Titans books feel like leftovers from the 90s. We get a forgettable story with IMAGE style artwork. I know it's been twenty years but do readers really want a classic IMAGE comeback? DC seems to think so. I'd like to think we've evolved.

Buy #2?: I like Red Robin's new costume. And hadn't they cancelled that book, I would have finally picked it up. But not this.

Savage Hawkman #1: Hawkman may look like a guy with wings but his real superpower is rebooting. Seriously, the guy gets a new origin every three years. I've long since given up on ever understanding the character since he's been so many. This doesn't help. DC has enough faith in Tony Daniel as a writer they've given him a second title. I don't have that same faith as this effort is as flawed as his Detective Comics three weeks ago. When you have a convoluted character as Hawkman, it's a bad idea to do the whole "who am I" plot. Which is exactly what I got. Carter Hall, I don't know who you are. And I don't care.

Buy #2?: I amy never buy another Hawkman comic again.

Aquaman #1: This book, written by Geoff Johns, has been getting the biggest push of all 13 titles. And it lives up to the push. You can see a real effort on the part of Johns here, more so than his other 2 launches this month. It's got a fantastic fight scene and the horror type villain Johns has amde a signature of his work. There is also a lot of work put into wiping out all the Aquaman jokes that have been built up over the last thirty years. Arthur comes across and strong, confident and not embarrassed to be Aquaman. Which is saying a lot.

Buy #2?: Sure. Maybe the first arc as well.

Justice League Dark #1: DC has learned that Justice League is more than a collective of their most powerful brands. It's a brand all its own. So they're leveraging it to cover a combination of many of their magical characters. But will this succeed where Shadowpact failed? Well, it's a solid first start. peter Milligan has been missed and he brings a lot of strength here. When the book opened with a female character I got nervous we'd see more misogynistic crap the likes of Catwoman. But the female characters are handled as string, smart individuals, no lesser than say john Constantine. However, I still wonder if this was the right book for the DCU. It feels like Vertigo with the brakes on. I wonder how far this could have gone under that imprint and without the Justice League name.

Buy #2?: Like it. Will flip through the next one for sure.

Blackhawks #1:: I give DC credit. Even in this desperate sales grab of a reboot, they're not afraid to try new genres. I doubt Marvel would ever throw out a western, vampires, modern military and this, a sci-fi black ops book in the same month. And most of worked including this. It's a world away from the Sgt. Rock reboot with a G.I. Joe type team, hardware and base. There's a makeout scene and some sexual content but guess what? This time it's within a relationship and actually adds to the story! Finally.

Buy #2?: Just to see where this arc goes.

I, Vampire #1:Oh, Twilight. The bigger you get, the more you make me miss Buffy. This book is the most blatant cash-in since Chris Claremont created the Brood after a midnight showing of Alien. It's moody, goth and utterly cryptic. I can't tell which is the the flashback and which is the present day. Why is there two characters called Mary? One is four hundred years old and one just got turned into a vampire. And trying to set this in the DC Universe with a couple of superhero references just makes it more confusing. Vampires have eaten a city. Not only would the Justice League notice, they would have prevented it.

Buy #2?: I don't know who this book is for but it ain't me.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1: The cancellation of the third Green Lantern title has led to a fourth. And it's in lockstep with the other three. Kyle Rayner's the star of this book and looks to move in close contact with the other Corps. It does everything I've come to expect from the franchise with just enough surprises to keep the story moving. No rebooting here, aside from a slight tweak of Ky;e's origin which suits his character better. And the cliffhanger is enough to bring me back.

Buy #2?: Looks like I'll be buying all four Green Lantern titles for a while.

Flash #1:While fans pleaded for the return of Hal Jordan for more than a decade, no one seemed to mind Barry Allen was dead. No one but Geoff Johns who tried to make lightning strike twice with Flash: Rebirth. Fans came and didn't notice they had already left. the relaunch didn't work, leaving the artist Francis Manapul, to write it himself. And he mostly writes things he likes to draw. The action is shot from dizzying angles with the kind of kinetic energy that he brought to last year's reboot. But the story's nothing. There's a new love interest with Iris still in the wings, an "old college buddy" that's thinly drawn and a sci-fi twist that comes out of nowhere.

Buy #2?: Last year's reboot didn't work. This one works even less.

The Fury of Firestorm #1: Now this is a reboot. Taking character cues from Brightest Day, Gail Simone restarts the whole thing, putting Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch in the same high school. I'm into it but it ends too soon with half a fight scene. We also get one twist on top of another with no way to figure out the status quo yet. Ethan Van Sciver is listed as co-plotter but other than the cover, his art is nowhere to be seen, proving that DC is onto two ideas this relaunch; giving artists writer credit and t&a.

Buy #2?:Yes, but only until i figure out what's going on.

All Star Western #1:Now this is how you kick off a series. A great story that introduces a strong character to new readers and gives long time fans something they haven't seen before. Now that the movie has bombed and forgotten, Jonah Hex feels revitalized with a trip to Gotham alongside the founder of Arkham Asylum. My only complaint is the story moves a little too slowly with repetitive interrogation scenes and Arkham's profile of Hex. I would have loved a done-in-one but that would leave me free to skip the next issue.

Buy #2?: I'll flip through it. If they can wrap up this story in one more issue, I'll bite.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New 52: Week 3

And here we go. Only 12 this week which by now feels like a breeze. I might even get to Iron Man before the weekend.

Batman #1: Wow. After week one's disappointing Detective Comics I assumed last week's Batman and Robin would be the bat book I add to my pull list. It still is but it is joined by this, the best Batman book I've read since Grant Morrison's opening salvo six years ago.

It's interesting that the artists on both main Batman books were once Spawn artists. It shows but like Jim Lee's work on the character, both Tony Daniel and Greg Capullo have reined themselves in, stepped up and matured for the Dark Knight. I've been a fan of Capullo since 1992's X Force and this is his best work yet. Strong, clear storytelling with the cartoony horror he brought to Spawn. Scott Snyder's procedural serial killer tale didn't grab me on Detective but he shines on the more superhero tone of Batman. Once again Bruce Wayne is front and center as the man in the costume, a character far too many Bat writers neglect.

My only complaint is Capullo draws faces way too young. Bruce Wayne looks 25, Dick Grayson 18, Tim Drake 12 and Damien 8. Age them up about five years and they'll fit with the other books.

Buy #2?: And #3. And #4. And repeat.

Deadman #1: Deadman is a great character with a finite story. Even Neal Adams closed his story initially and struggled to reopen it for further adventures. Paul Jenkins sidesteps this with a slight reboot. Now every person Boston Brand possesses possesses him a bit. The move makes him more human and gives friction between him and the godlike Rama. The art, while overcolored, is clean and direct, even when it goes into the murky afterlife. I'm with it.

Buy #2?: Yes, at least.

Green Lantern Corps #1: The Green Lantern franchise was in the best shape of the DC Universe so there hasn't been much of a change in these books. Guy Gardner's Emerald Warriors barely lasted a year so the character and its writer have moved back to the old series. As usual, we've got horror tinged sci-fi and two Earth Green Lanterns (John Stewart taking the place of Kyle Rayner). We also get more character work and Earth setting than usual.

Buy #2?:Have been. Will continue to.

Blue Beetle #1: I read this entire book without knowing it was a reboot. The text page in the back clued me in. It felt like we were checking in with the characters after the cancellation of Jaime Reyes last run. There was no way to tell if any of these people were new or why Jaime was so upset when he put on the costume. If I had no knowledge of the character before, this would have been a good first issue. As it was, it left me confused.

Buy #2?: This issue made me like the character more, but not the book.

Nightwing #1: Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel's initial run on Nightwing was one of my favorite 90's Bat books (and the 90's was a very good time for Batman comics). This run gets back to that feel with a first person narrative, lots of leaping across rooftops and a nondescript assassin villain. Haly's circus comes back in what is sure to be a running subplot. But what happened to Dick's costume? After some garish 80's outfits he settled into a classic look in the late 90's. It only needed a tweak. So why red? Didn't Dick wear a black and red costume when he was pretending to be evil?

Buy #2?: Yes but necessarily #3. Like the story, hate the costume. And that counts.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1: I hate Jason Todd. Didn't like him as Robin (and I'm old enough to remember when he was), glad he died and felt his resurrection invalidated a great story. Since then he's been crazy, nasty and shallow. Scott Lobdell does nothing to redeem this and actually takes the complexity out of Red Arrow and Starfire to fit them together in a team that has absolutely no reason to be a team.

Buy #2?: It's going to take a lot to make my buy Jason Todd again. And this is not a lot.

Legion of Super Heroes #1: After last week's terrible Legion LOST I was hoping the main book would be the salvation for the franchise. Reading Paul Levitz' return I instantly got his respect and love for the characters. By the end of the issue, I still didn't share it. I still found it a befuddling mess of unrelatable, thinly drawn alternate reality future super heroes. The continuity, always a problem with Legion, was only an issue if you wanted to understand why any of these twenty people mattered. Fans should be pleased. Non fans should remain non fans.

Buy #2?: Oh, Legion. I keep trying but you won't let me in.

Wonder Woman #1: The most recognizable female super hero has never had an easy time selling books. Over the years she's gone from S&M to feminism to military to covert ops to fantasy in an attempt to capture an audience. Brian Azzerello goes for mythology with a touch of suspense. It works and it works really well for readers looking for something different out of the 52. I don't think it will work for casual fans but what ever has?

Buy #2?: I'm a casual fan. So probably not.

Catwoman #1: Judd Winick to me will always be the guy who got into comics through MTV. And his work has done nothing to dissuade me. Catwoman can be played for cheesecake or for intrigue and capers. Guess which this is? Besides the gratuitous boob shots, the voyeuristic and unconvincing looks into the seedy underbelly of Gotham and the hatred towards women, it's twenty two pages of hacky dialogue that ends with Batman and Catwoman having sex with their costumes on. I don't consider that a spoiler because I don't consider it actually have happened. Garbage.

Buy #2?: Catwoman deserves a monthly title. But I don't have to read it.

Captain Atom #1: Captain Atom's powers have changed. He's gone from looking like the Silver Surfer to looking like the Human Torch. But more importantly, he can transmute matter. Exactly like Firestorm can do. Why they've given one character another of their character's powers is beyond me. And it's two fight scenes and a laboratory exposition. I get no sense of how this may have affected Atom's personality, a character I really liked and read in the 80's. I get the impression this isn't him.

Buy #2?:No, but I wonder what Firestorm is supposed to do next week with Captain Atom stealing his identity.

Birds of Prey #1: The book on the fringes of the Bat universe now breaks away completely. Gone are Oracle, Huntress and Batgirl. Black Canary remains with a new character, Starling, and two women on the cover that don't even appear in the book. I'm guessing they're Poison Ivy and Katana in new costumes but they could very well be new characters. The story is fast paced, fun and action packed if not terribly original. Now that I've read Green Arrow and this, there's no mention of connection between GA and Black Canary, two characters who got married a few years ago. Have they been separated or rebooted to the point where they don't know each other? More questions I'd rather not pay $3 to answer.

Buy #2?: Nothing wrong with it but not much that compels me to return either.

Supergirl #1: I've read almost 40 of these relaunches and I'm already tired of a trend; one where the character doesn't know who they are, why they're here or what happened. As a long time reader, I know these characters. I want to know what's changed and if it's made that character stronger or weaker. These "who am I" plots give me none of that. Supergirl is the worst culprit. It's one scene. One damn fight scene. At last Superboy wandered around trying to decide who he was. Kara, a character that has seen many reboots over the years, doesn't even get that luxury, fighting some exo suits until the obligatory Superman cameo.

Buy #2?:No, but only because it stinks.

Next week: the last time I buy this many DC Comics at once.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Qwikster Isn't Qwikster

Further leaning into my theory that this new company was formed last minute to bizarrely combat customer reaction, Netflix forgot to even clear its Twitter handle. And it's owned by this guy.

This situation is a cross between the old lady who won't move out of her house for the developers and the episodes of Beavis and Butthead where nothing ever happened. If this guy had 5 more IQ points this would be a great episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I almost want to follow this guy to see what happens next.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix Isn't Netflix

Like the rest of America, I got this in my in-box today:

Dear Jonathan,

I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the and websites will not be integrated.

There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the website is up and ready.

For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

Respectfully yours,

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

So Netflix is now two companies, Netflix and Qwikster. It's an improvement over the dwindling dvd resources of Netflix; higher prices and less availability for blu-ray, impossible mobile interface for dvds and rising prices that forced me to limit my plan. Hopefully this means Netflix will step up their streaming, filling the glaring holes in their selection and keeping less titles from disappearing. And maybe Qwikster will be a return to the simplicity of classic Netflix.

But from a marketing perspective, this makes every mistake you could make. The rebrand is a bad move. Sure, you want a dedicated staff to handle the discs but why do we have to go to a separate URL? Do it in house, away from the customer and seamless. If you need a separate site for the server load, why ditch the Netflix name? Why not Qwikster says nothing about movies. I honestly thought it was a spreadsheet program.

And then there's the customer ill will. I've been a member for eight years and never had one complaint about the service until recently. If this was the plan all along (and I doubt it was) why not separate the companies first? Then a month or two later raise the price? So then I'm thinking, "Well it is two companies now and I see the extra value. Okay, I'll pay more." Instead it was "we don't have these titles on blu-ray anymore. Now we're raising prices. Now we're cutting functionality. Now we're two companies". You wouldn't keep a personal relationship with someone who jerked you around this much. And the corporate apology isn't helping.

Netflix is one of the only success stories of the past ten years. And they are still successful. This is not a growing pain, this is a teenage meltdown. It reminds me of how AMC is becoming a big network and is using that power to torture its talent. It's distressing that these days there are only two types of companies; ones that can't handle their success and ones that are dying.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New 52: Week 2

Another week, another 13 titles. My Marvels are getting sorely neglected.

Green Lantern #1: The creative team hasn't changed on this title so I wasn't expecting a huge change. And I didn't get one. Sure, Sinestro is now Green Lantern but that was teased in the last issue. And there's enough catch-up and Hal Jordan page time to settle new readers. Those who were introduced to Green Lantern through the movie (and there are none) and want to see Hal in action might be disappointed but it's a shot in the arm for a title that's flatlined since Blackest Night.

Buy #2?: I've been reading this title every month for six years. I won't stop now.

Red Lanterns #1: The Red Lanterns were my favorite group to come out out of the Green Lantern relaunch. They were the beserkers of the galaxy; angry, righteous and murderous. I don't know how they can be sympathetic enough to sustain a monthly book but Peter Milligan is really putting in the effort. He works to soften Atrocitus just enough to make a compelling revenge story, rather than the maniac Geoff Johns showed in his book. I'm with it.

Buy #2?: Yes, for the first story arc at least.

Batman and Robin #1: Wow. I'm really loving this. Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason had been doing a great job on Green Lantern Corps under the Geoff Johns shadow. Now they get a chance to shine on DC's most shadowy character. I hadn't noticed we've never seen Bruce Wayne with Damien, the new Robin. It really works. It's positive and fun while still being Batman. And not Batman: the Brave and the Bold. Real Batman.

Buy #2?: Yes. This might be my new favorite Batman book.

Death Stroke #1: The biggest badass of the DC Universe that's not Lobo gets another crack at a title 20 years after his last. This feels like the 80's throwback action movies we've seen lately.; The A Team, the Expendables. I hated all the supporting characters but by the end of the issue they were all dead. Gives the book a real sense of what this book is going to do.

Buy #2?: Liked it, but not enough to spend the $3 every month. Don't know why I don't get into the character as heavy as everyone else seems to.

Grifter #1: Jim Lee's most popular IMAGE creation comes to the DC Universe. And it's a lot cleaner than Stormwatch. Grifter in WILDCATS always just seemed like the Wolverine cypher. Here he's Sawyer on LOST with some Bourne Identity thrown in. I could have used more action and less intrigue but I am intrigued.

Buy #2?:Probably not but I really want to see the character show up in a Batman title.

Demon Knights: Not a Batman title. But it is a Demon title, one of my favorite Kirby characters that never really took off. Apparently there will be seven on the team but aside from the Demon I only recognized Vandal Savage and Shining Knight. And I always miss it when Etrigan doesn't rhyme.

Buy #2?: It's more of a fantasy title than a superhero title. It's still a hard sell.

Legion Lost #1: Every time DC does a reboot, Legion of Super Heroes gets screwed. Mostly because no one was reading it anyway. I never was into the book but I liked Mark Waid's take for the year or two it ran before it was erased. Fabian Ncieza accomplishes a whole new direction while failing to introduce the characters. A bunch of Legionairres are stranded in our time. They stand in bunches like 90's X-Men books looking ready for battle and being confused for 20 pages. One goes crazy and smashes up a town. Other than that I have no idea where this story is going. Despite some nice storytelling from Pete Woods, it's all premise and no plot.

Buy #2?: Not at all but I'd love to see Pete Woods on Spider-Man someday.

Batwoman#1: Five years ago, DC unveiled a new Batwoman. She had a cool costume and was a lesbian. DC loved her, no one else really cared. She had her own series which failed, then became a backup in Detective Comics. Now she's back. She's still a lesbian, she still has a giant tree in her apartment but now she hates the father who served as a mentor in the last series. The procedural works, but the character is still flat. And since this book is positioned to exist alone, the Batman cameo is a bit of a tease.

Buy #2?: Mildly interested but no more than the last few times the character was launched. And the last few times I didn't buy it.

Superboy #1: This is one of the few complete reboots. This is not Connor Kent who seemed a viable character last year. This take seems more based on the Young Justice animated series, where the Superman clone is more of a blank slate. It's deeply sci-fi and Scott Lobdell's writing has improved since his X-Men heyday (whicih I can't say about Fabian's Legion Lost). But it sets up the character without truly beginning the story.

Buy #2? I'm not lost, but I'm not moving forward.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. : Let's just linger on the title for a moment. "Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E." There's no way any story could live up to the awesomeness of that title. I'm digging the scratchiness of the artwork, which really suits the tone. But it's not just Frankenstein. Vampires, werewolves, the mummy are all here with guns and axes attacking things in a very Hellboy way.

Buy #2?: I like it but I'm already reading Hellboy.

Mister Terrific #1: Fans were saddened by the lack of a JSA title in the new 52 but the most popular member has gotten his own solo title. There's a Doctor Who shout-out right in the opening and the rest the comic works as an homage. It's science-y, quirky with a likeable lead character but with a dark procedural thrown in. It's working.

Buy #2?: I'll at least flip through it. If the story stays strong, I'll buy it.

Suicide Squad #1: Fans were more than saddened when Secret Six didn't make the reboot. They were pissed. This book takes its place, crushing the concept back down to the Ostrander model and ditching most of the characters that made that 80's run work. Deadshot is still here and Harley Quinn has been pulled over from the cancelled Gotham City Sirens. The whole thing plays out in an ugly, remorseless way that made Wanted a success and made me hate that book and movie.

Buy #2?: I never read Secret Six, and this makes me miss Secret Six.

Resurrection Man #1: According to the backup material in this book, Resurrection Man was created in the 90's. I worked in a comic store half of that decade and I don't remember him. From the first issue I gather the character is Magneto with the power in his tongue. Then he's Zan from the Wonder Twins. He's the Doctor Who regeneration of super powers. So there's even less to identify him. Great. Abnett and Lanning write a lot of mediocre books in the 90's and they're still writing them the same way.

Buy #2?: I almost quit this book six pages in. Why torture yourself?

Next week: another two days of DC launches.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The New 52: Coming Right at You!

Last week DC began the relaunch of every one of its titles. Dan Didio claimed falling sales for the move, a decision I find specious in the light of their massive 2010 hit, Blackest Night. The relaunch definitely will create a short term spike but how well the entire line will do depends on the actual quality of the books. So what is the quality of the books?

I'm doing short reviews of all 52 #1 titles this month. Partly because it gives this blog a larger purpose than the quick bites I can post on Twitter and Facebook. In this day of social networking, blogs really have to justify their existence.

The other reason is that my local comic store, Chimera's Comics had a deal where if you sign up for all 52 books, you get a free Absolute Batman: the Long Halloween, a $75 book I had my eye on for awhile. I've also been curious about sampling many of the titles so why not all?

The launch started last week with the final issue of the crossover Flashpoint, an elseworlds style mini series that could have been a Flash annual. It did little to reshape the universe and almost nothing to justify the relaunch.

It also began with :

Justice League #1: The flagship title by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. Lee's artwork took a great leap forward when he came to DC with Batman: Hush. Always a superb stylist, he tightened his storytelling skills when he approached the legendary character. Geoff Johns on the other hand is a great writer clearly showing the strain of being spread too thin. His scripts over the last year have lacked the depth and nuance of his long runs on Flash and Green Lantern. So what we have here are some really gorgeous fight scenes.

Buy # 2?: It's all the heavy hitters by two of my favorite creators. I'll stick around to see if the story deepens over the next few issues.

This week saw the release of :

Stormwatch #1: The integration of outside titles into the DCU has been problematic at best. This is a prime example, adding the Martian Manhunter into a Wildstorm title. As a new reader, I'm lost. There seems to be a lot of new characters and a lot of continuity and no clear jump on point. For a #1, this is death.

Buy # 2?: I love J'Onn J'Onzz but no.

Action Comics #1: Grant Morrison has left Batman and returned to Superman with an entirely different take than he did on All-Star Superman. And I'm loving it. The t-shirt, jeans and work boot costume channels the Golden Age stories in the way his Batman run channeled the weird 50's tales. Mark Morales has taken a leap of energy since Identity Crisis, fusing Jerry Ordway with Mark Bagley.

Buy # 2?:I rarely read Superman but this is one run I will.

OMAC #1: Keith Giffen doing Kirby. That's all that recommends it.

Buy # 2?: Sorry I bought #1.

Batgirl #1: When I heard Barbra Gordon would be leaving her wheelchair and donning the batgirl costume again, I was skeptical. Gail Simone knew that and made the change the mystery of the piece. She hasn't ignored continuity, she's using it to keep the story moving forward. And some well paced flashbacks keep a new reader in the game. Well paced action keeps them coming back.

Buy # 2?: Oh, yes. And as a lifelong Batman fan, I've never picked up a Batgirl monthly.

Swamp Thing #1:

Alec Holland is Swamp Thing. And he's not. That's the mystery posed in the first issue. Swamp Thing is a character that has had several different takes. Wein and Wrightson went for pure classic horror. Moore sought to challenge the limitations of the genre. Scott Snyder seems straight forward creepy superhero. I'm fine with it but I don't know if the journey will be worth $3 a month.

Buy # 2?: If it's a slow week.

Detective Comics #1: I usually steer clear of artists turned writers. For every John Byrne or Walt Simonson, you get an IMAGE comic. I read Tony Daniel's first try Battle for the Cowl. It was terrible and I've avoided him for the past three years. He's gotten better but still not great. This is fairly standard Joker fare with a little less characterization and a lot more gore.

Buy # 2?: No, but my expectations for Snyder and Capullo's Batman #1 have raised.

Green Arrow #1: I've always liked the world weary character of Green Arrow. He always seemed a little harder and older than the other DC heroes. So old that in the 90's his grown son take over. That's all erased with this take, along with the bald spot, the goatee and Black Canary. In its place we have a Smallville look, an Oracle stand-in and a pedestrian action scene.

Buy # 2?: It's always hard to keep a Green arrow title going. This one won't be any easier.

Static Shock #1: Despite some great art by Scott McDaniel, I had the same problem here as I did with Stormwatch. I never read the Milestone series or watched the animated show so I don't get the significance of most of these characters or how they may have changed. I'm still on the outside looking in. I wonder if Grifter will fall into the same problems.

Buy # 2?:Wish I could. Can't so I won't.

Animal Man #1: I always root for Animal Man. He seems more grounded than other heroes and Grant Morrison did some really terrific work with him in the 80's and in 52. This issue has a lot going for it and really creepy twist ending but it takes too long to start moving. I also hate the new costume.

Buy # 2?: I won't even browse it. Not unless something amazing happens on the cover.

Hawk and Dove #1: Remember when I said Jim Lee upped his game when he came to DC? Rob Liefeld didn't. This feels like a book from 1991 with hard pinched faces, glamour shots and shading that makes it feel like Hawk is two different characters. Reading this book is like seeing a hair metal band tour again. It's fun as long as you ignore the fact that you've grown out of it.

Buy # 2?: N.O.

Batwing #1: A Judd Winick series about an African Batman in the congo fighting genocide with photo realistic style artwork? It's just as leaden as you'll think it will be.

Buy # 2?: Why bother? It will be cancelled within the year.

Justice League International #1: Dark Knight Returns brought me to DC in the 80's but JLI kept me there. There have been a few relaunches of this idea, mostly mini-series with the original creative team. This has none of them with a slightly more serious take on the line-up, minus Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Dr. Fate and most of the characters I wanted to see here. Still it has some of the that series trademark humor and I like both Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti (although why Jurgens is writing one series and drawing a different one is beyond me. He could easily be carrying this book solo) and teases us with Batman and Guy Gardner so it's a pleasant if pedestrian read.

Buy # 2?: The next few anyway.

Men of War #1: Why is this a DCU title? This Sgt. Rock re-imagining is a straight up military title with a hint of supernatural, the kind of thing Vertigo can do very well. Did they need one more series to make up the 52? Did DC want a bigger spotlight for a non superhero book? Plus it's the only title that costs a dollar more. So this odd duck also bites you on the wrist. It's good, it just doesn't belong here.

Buy # 2?: I don't know why I bought #1.

Next week: 12 more.