MorePop: The DC New 52

I‘ve never really been a comic book reader, other than gobbling up Archie and Uncle Scrooge when I was a kid, and delving into the occasional graphic novel more recently. But I’ve been more and more intrigued by them, and kind of fascinated with the idea of weekly comic reading. Mostly what’s stopped me from getting into comics is the sheer overwhelming nature of long story arcs, high issue numbers, and the feeling that I could never catch up sufficiently. So when I heard a few weeks ago that DC was going to reboot all of their series (and start a few new ones), it piqued my interest immediately. Granted, this is kind of a publicity stunt from DC, desperate to get new readers and pull lapsed ones back in, but whatever. It’s working (and not just on me – the New 52 has been selling much better than hoped, with most of the #1 issues going into second and third printings – how long that will last is anyone’s guess).

Now that all 52 series have released their first issues, I thought I’d run down the 13 series I read this first month. Is anybody else checking out the New 52? What are your favorites so far?

Swamp Thing #1

I had absolutely no intention of buying this book. I didn’t know the character, and I had little interest in finding out about a superhero version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (my uninformed mental image of what this must be). But everybody, and I mean pretty much everybody I know who reads comics told me I had to check it out. And they were right. This is probably one of the best written books of the ones I read; it has a lot of voiceover text boxes, which I don’t always like, but in this case, the monologue is thoughtful and almost poetic – an inner voice that made me want to know about this man. The art is more than solid, too, with the introduction of the big bad done almost wordlessly in one of the most disturbing reveals of this subset of #1s. I will definitely be back for more.
Writer: Scott Snyder Artist: Yanick Paquette

Action Comics #1

I’ll confess, Superman has always been one of my least favorites of the major superheroes. I just find him kind of boring, with his eager do-gooder attitude and his essentially unbeatable powers. But this Superman isn’t boring – he starts off tearing up an office building and holding a crooked company owner over the balcony, threatening to drop him if he doesn’t answer for his mistreatment of the people of Metropolis. This Superman is young, volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous. You understand why the police want to catch him. I love that. I even love the jeans-and-Superman-t-shirt costume he’s wearing. Yeah, I’m in.
Writer: Grant Morrison Artists: Rags Morales, Rick Bryant

Batgirl #1

This one’s just fun, but with enough heart to make it matter. I’ve heard people complaining about making Barbara Gordon Batgirl for this run, acknowledging but then basically ignoring her spinal injury (“one day, it just got better!”), and I get that’s kind of a cheap storytelling device, but not knowing most of the continuity of these books and characters may be a plus for me on enjoyment. These are written with new readers in mind, so I don’t feel lost, but I feel like I can enjoy the stories as they unfold without worrying about events in other runs. And I like Batgirl’s exuberance here, coupled with her fear of not being quite ready to be back in the field – culminating in an effective ending that both furthers the big bad storyline and brings an ethical weight to Batgirl’s arc.
Writer: Gail Simone Artists: Adrian Syaf, Vincente Cifuentes

Batman #1

Batman is probably my favorite of the mainstream superheroes, and he’s got SEVERAL books devoted to him in the New 52. Detective Comics is taking a more old-school approach (as Action Comics is with Superman), this one is more current, and from what I hear, Batman: The Dark Knight is just superfluous and bad. I’m probably sticking with this one because it’s the first one I picked up and I liked it. It opens with voiceover text boxes, which can go either way for me, but these I like, musing on the possible definitions of “Gotham” while Batman fights basically all the inmates of Arkham Asylum. The art here and at the end is solid, dark, Nolan-esque stuff. It gets a little blander and more boring in the middle, when Bruce Wayne is dealing with business/society stuff, but I guess that kinda makes sense. I like Batman, I’ll keep on with this one.
Writer: Scott Snyder Artists: Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion

All-Star Western #1

I was looking forward to this one since I saw the art on the cover alone – the kind of bold-lined tan and brown grungy monochrome that just pushes my buttons. Plus being set in Gotham City a hundred years ago – yes. I love history, even of fictional places. I wasn’t sure about Jonah Hex, since my only exposure to him has been the god-awful trailer for what I presume was a god-awful movie. But he’s fine, and the (many) brawl scenes are well-drawn. But there are a few too many of them, which just gives Dr. Arkham, who’s working with Hex on a murder case, waaaaay too much time to psychoanalyze Hex, which gets old fast. This could’ve been way shorter and tighter, but I liked it well enough to keep reading it next week, when hopefully the detective work will take precedence over the psychologizing.
Writers: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti Artist: Moritat

Wonder Woman #1

After trying and failing to find this one in print, I finally caved and bought it through Comixology (I also read the #1s of Action Comics and Animal Man through the Comixology app on the iPad) so I could include it here, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s not up with my favorites of the month, but it’s a solid, fun, boldly drawn story that jumps right into the plot about a woman being hunted by centaurs. I’m aware of Wonder Woman as a commodity (and because it’s apparently impossible to make a movie about her these days), but I didn’t realize how closely her story ties in with Greek mythology. How does that work in the Justice League series, I wonder? Anyway, this gets points for the fast pace, intriguing mythology, and the awesomely gory depiction of how to make a centaur.
Writer: Brian Azzarello Artist: Cliff Chiang

Batwoman #1

I’m a bit torn on this one. First off, I didn’t even know there WAS a Batwoman character until now, so all of her backstory is totally lost to me, which is a bit of a problem because this book throws about four story lines in all at once – the main arc of this run, with a spirit woman stealing children, a potential romance between Kate Kane and the policewoman on the case, the partnership between Kate and Bette, who used to be Firebird but isn’t now, and a bunch of hurried exposition about Kate’s sister Beth. Those last two things were not written well enough for a newbie like me to grasp on to them, and the transitions between the story sections are incredibly abrupt and jarring. But the art is magnificent. A lot of full-page spreads, which some people I know dislike a lot, but I loved almost all of them. I seriously reread this book like three times not because I thought the story would make more sense to me (it didn’t), but because I wanted to stare at the art some more. So I’ll stick with it for a bit longer and hope the writing is able to draw me in a bit more, because the art certainly has.
Writers: W. Haden Blackman, J.H. Williams III Artist: J.H. Williams III

Animal Man #1

Another character I hadn’t heard of before and bought on the strength of friends’ reviews. This one has a really unique art style, very simple and quick-looking for most of the book, but then it goes into surreal dreamworld and gets pretty awesome. The story in this first issue is pretty basic, detailing Animal Man’s homelife and family trouble, with a brief excursus as he goes to deal with a superhero problem. But the bigger problems remain at home, and the themes and plot elements introduced here are solid and disturbing, even if the book does feel quite short. I’m not sure I’ll keep reading this one for the whole run, but I’m intrigued enough for another few weeks at least.
Writer: Jeff Lemire Artists: Travel Foreman, Dan Green

Aquaman #1

Totally hadn’t planned on getting this, but did on a whim, and ended up enjoying it more than I expected to. It’s pretty shallow, but with a pretty great action scene (with an understanding of space and movement that I wish more film directors had) and a good dollop of humor. Not top of my list if I start running low on time or funds, but an enjoyable read that I wouldn’t mind continuing. And I will say the big bad is drawn with a level of darkness that offsets the bright airiness of the rest of the first issue, which could create some nice contrasts in the future.
Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado

The Flash #1

Kind of similar situation here as Aquaman…I enjoyed it well enough, but it didn’t grab me as anything too special, with the exception of the one panel of The Flash dropping into a gridded city – I love that panel. Beyond that, airy and fun, but insubstantial, and after a pretty fast-paced opening, it gets fairly boring by the end. I honestly had more fun with Aquaman, though I’d put them about on par for quality. The hook for the next issue is intriguing, but it took like four pages of self-motivational twiddle-twaddle voiceover to build up to it, and by then I almost didn’t care anymore.
Writers: Brian Buccellato, Francis Manapul Artist: Francis Manapul

Superman #1

I figured I’d try the more modern take on Superman, just to compare with Action Comics, but my gut feeling that I wouldn’t care for this one as much was right. I liked Action Comics waaaay more. This is pretty standard, boring Superman. Some of the ideas are nice, like Clark being upset that the Daily Planet is being subsumed into a media conglomerate, and the people of Metropolis becoming increasingly uneasy with Superman’s otherworldliness, but there are just so many boring things here, not to mention some absolutely cringe-worthy dialogue. I didn’t hate it, but I really only want to do one book per superhero, and Action Comics is so much better than this, it’s not even funny.
Writer: George Perez Artist: Jesús Merino

Voodoo #1

This was my major excursion into the sexier side of the DC reboot, although Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws have taken more heat for their depiction of women; in this one, Voodoo is a stripper, and a bunch of the book is set at the strip club as a pair of agents keep an eye on her – in more ways than one. I did like the female agent beating up on the hoods outside, and the bloody, shapeshifting ending is a nice hook, but with a fairly bland art style throughout and not much story to go along with its artfully-posed near-nudes, I’m not sure I’ll be back.
Writer: Ron Marz Artist: Sami Basri

I, Vampire #1

I bought this one against my better judgment based on the art style and the hope that post-Twilight vampires could still have some interest. The good news – the art style is gorgeous. All suggestive, flowy lines evoking rather than flat-out depicting the action. It maybe got a little same-y by the end, but I definitely dug it. The bad news – that action I was talking about? There isn’t any. This book is SO BORING. Like two things happen, but even then, they’re subsumed by a never-ending angsty voiceover as two vampires, Andrew and Mary, argue about their hundreds-of-years relationship and whether to take over humanity or not. It’s setting up a vampire vs. Justice League war, and I can’t say I’m that interested, especially if these two age-old vampires are gonna drone on like emo teenagers all the time.
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

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Travis McClain (@TravisSMcClain)
Guest

We’ve discussed all this quite a bit elsewhere, so I’ll merely add that I think it’s terrific you’ve become interested in comics. The longevity of the medium I’ve loved since childhood depends on connecting with readers like you. I’ve only managed four issues so far and you’ve reviewed three of them here (Action Comics, Batgirl and Batwoman).

The fourth I’ve read is Detective Comics and I was struck by something you said in your review of Batman; that you were going to stick with it because it was the first Bat-book you’ve picked up. Back in 1989, Tim Burton’s movie blew my mind (like it did for pretty much my entire generation) and that was enough to make me start wanting to read Batman comic books. I’ll never forget my first ever Batman comic purchase was Detective Comics #603, purchased at a gas station. I still have it. I hadn’t given much thought to it until now, but I wonder if that’s why I made a point to buy Detective Comics #1 out of The New 52.

I actually passed on it initially, but they still had some copies when I came back the next week. By then there were two Bat-books on the shelves; I passed on Batman and Robin and picked up Tec. I’m glad I did, because I liked it quite a lot. It seems to be the first chapter of Batman and the Silence of the Lambs, to use a shorthand. Looking forward to the continuation of this story arc.

rot (@mike_rot)
Guest

Travis, I like the way you think.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Show of hands for those reading comic electronically? ipad/laptop/othertabletdevice?

I think I have Sandman in a massive sized .pdf somewheres around…

Ed Howard
Guest

It’s so great that you’re reading and writing about these, Jandy.

Batwoman is one of my favorite titles from the relaunch, but it’s a title that hasn’t really been rebooted in the same sense as most of the others. The writer/artist here, JH Williams, was the artist for a run of Detective Comics a couple years ago (written by Greg Rucka) which was the first in-depth story about this character. The plan all along was to continue that story in a Batwoman solo series, and that’s basically what’s happening here. This book was going to exist in more or less this same form with or without the relaunch so it’s not necessarily too friendly to new readers. You should REALLY go back and read the Rucka/Williams stories (which have all been collected in one paperback called Batwoman: Elegy) in order to get the most out of the new series. Williams’ art is amazing, and this is also a really interesting, rich character in her own right. And there’s not as much backstory as you probably think, just that one collection which will catch you up to date.

Scott Snyder’s Batman is definitely the best Batman title in the relaunch. I was on the fence about Detective Comics #1, and the recently released #2 made me decide to drop it. #1 showed some promise but the second issue was terrible.

In the same way, Action Comics is the definitive relaunch Superman title. If you haven’t read Grant Morrison’s previous take on the character in All-Star Superman, it’s really excellent, and will provide some interesting contrast because in Action Comics he’s trying to craft a very different vision of Superman from what’s he done with the character in the past.

Animal Man was already my favorite reboot title by far, but #2 made it even better. Along with Batwoman, it’s one of the most formally and aesthetically ambitious of the New 52 titles. Plus, just as I’ll look at anything that JH Williams draws, I’ll read anything that Jeff Lemire writes.

Ed Howard
Guest

Nice! I hope you like it, that Rucka/Williams Batwoman is one of my favorite recent superhero comic runs. The new Batwoman #1 attempts to quickly summarize some of what happened there, but I’d imagine it’s more than a little confusing for those who didn’t read it.

If you like Snyder’s Batman, he also has a good run on Detective Comics (issues 871-881) from just before the relaunch, which centered on Dick Grayson and the Gordon family. I think a collection of that is coming out later this year. Snyder also writes American Vampire, a really fun, pulpy Western/vampire mash-up.

And Morrison’s one of my favorites and one of the most important writers in mainstream comics, so almost anything he’s done is well worth checking out. One of his earliest successes was the series that first put Animal Man on the map as a character worth taking seriously.

I’ll still be talking about the DC series that I’m continuing with week to week. I’m going to be doing a “weekly comics” post with short reviews of everything I read each week, from DC as well as other publishers.

Matt Brown
Admin

Kudos, you seem to have hit all the big contenders. Supergirl was an enjoyable read, but pretty airy. Green Lantern (which was not, technically, rebooted) was a big disappointment.

I did, however, enjoy the living shit out of the one that started it all, Justice League. It’s just a teaser for a longer story, but I read it three times cover to cover just for the sheer eyefucking fun of it.

And to answer Kurt’s question – I am reading Wonder Woman and Justice League in print, and formally slipping my toe into the digital water with everything else. My first digital comics. Swamp Thing, particularly, looked exceptional on the iPad.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I’m toying with the idea of taking up something (in small doses) via the wife’s iPad. It might just be Swamp Thing, a title I’ve always liked, and think it made a pretty good movie back in the early 1980s, too.

Marina
Guest

I read comics on both the iPad and paper form and I find I generally like the paper form better but for price point, I find the electronic versions generally chaper on a weekly basis. I don’t read DC (or Marvel for that matter) – I’m more of a Top Cow girl, but I am curious about Action Comics #1 and Swamp Thing.

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