Friday, September 23, 2011

NEW 52 REVIEWS: Batman #1, Birds of Prey #1, Nightwing #1, Blue Beetle #1, Legion Lost #1, Legion of Superheroes #1

Comic Book Wednesday

Issue #19

Part Two of Three

A day later than promised, but what can I say? The life of a freelancer ain't easy. I'm working on a commissioned screenplay for some talented folks and indexing a South Park book by a great writer that I respect a whole bunch... partly because he's paying me nicely, partly because he's so damn awesome. Go on Amazon and search Brian Cogan. His Encyclopedia of Punk book is fantastic.

Anyway, here are a few DC New 52 reviews. We've got some of the best outings so far in this pile, so get ready to shell out some cash for some good comics.

Batman #1

Knife Trick

Written by Scott Snyder

Pencils by Greg Capullo

DC Comics

I wasn’t sure if Batgirl #1 would ever be taken down from the number one spot of my Best of the New 52 list, but this comic managed to do just that. I loved everything about this book. It’s thematically driven and character driven; it’s about Gotham as a city, Gotham as an idea, Batman as a hero, and Batman as an idea; it’s about family, and how Batman works with Alfred, Jim Gordon, Damien, Tim Drake, and Dick Grayson; it’s about how Wayne Enterprises is working to make Gotham a better place through technological advances that help Bruce’s journey as Batman as well as public investments to make the city aspire for more; and, because it’s a detective story, it’s about a mystery that hits Bruce closer to home than he could imagine.

The writing is excellent. It’s the best of the Bat books (I loved Batman & Robin #1 and liked Detective Comics #1), without relying too heavily on action or being gritty for the sake of being gritty. And with the fantastic art of Capullo, there wasn’t a page in this book that I didn’t love. Looks like this is getting moved to the top of my reading pile in the future.

Birds of Prey #1

Let Us Prey

Written by Duane Swierczynski

Art by Jesus Saiz

DC Comics

This is my first Birds of Prey comic. I always meant to read Gail Simone’s classic run, but I haven’t had the cash to buy all the trades. It’s hard for me to say how much of a reboot this is, but Barbara Gordon makes a brief appearance here, and her time as Oracle is mentioned.

Getting on with the actual story, though, this is an action packed first issue that begins to set up what looks to be a fun arc. The team isn’t even nearly assembled by the end of this issue, though, so don’t expect an all out “the gang’s all here” bit. This installment focuses on Black Canary (who is trying to assemble a team) and Starling, who have been working together for the past few weeks. In this, they save the life of a journalist who has been spying on them for some less-than-kosher dudes. That’s only the first peg of the mystery, though, because the issue ends with a bit of an explosive twist.

All in all, it’s a fun read with great characters that gets me excited for what’s to come and even more interested in picking up the older stories.

Nightwing #1

Welcome to Gotham

Written by Kyle Higgins

Pencils by Eddy Barrows

DC Comics

Another issue I highly enjoyed. Higgins handles exposition nicely here, getting us up to date on who Dick Grayson is, who he has been, and also what he doesn’t quite know about himself yet. Fresh out of his stint as Batman, Dick is well aware of how much stronger his time as the caped crusader has made him… but he’s happy to be himself again. And this issue really gets to the heart of who Dick Grayson is, because it features the return of the travelling circus to Gotham. The folks there welcome him back, and he even does some acrobatics with them, realizing that while he was scared of Gotham twisting yet another thing he loves into something sinister, he forgot how much he missed the people and the atmosphere of Haley’s Circus.

Things take a turn for the violent, however, when an assassin with Wolverine-like claws attacks Dick, whose decision to disappear for a moment to change into his Nightwing costume ends up costing two cops their lives. What follows is a battle that sets up a mystery about Grayson while also seemingly tying into the cliffhanger of Batman #1. Higgins knows what he’s doing, and Barrows’s art is perfect for this comic. I know some folks were unsure about Dick Grayson “downgrading” to Nightwing again after being Batman, but while I enjoyed his adventures with Damian as Batman and Robin, I can’t help but agree with Dick… it’s good to see him back in the costume that he created and made famous. I am very on board with this book.

Blue Beetle #1

Metamorphosis – Part One

Written by Tony Bedard

Pencils by Ig Guara

I was expecting to like Blue Beetle a lot more than I did. I never followed his title, but his guest appearances always intrigued me enough that, when the new ongoing series was announced, I figured I would give it a shot. Unfortunately, the teen drama is of the cliché “aw ma, why can’t I go to party” variety (though with a sort of foreboding twist that doesn’t do much to save it) and the sci-fi action, while interesting, is impossible to follow because of the chaotic art. This is true of every action scene in the book, though it’s particularly off in the scene where villains are trying to steal the scarab form of the blue beetle. I was completely lost, unable to follow Guara’s action from panel to panel.

It wasn’t a terrible book, as it had a few great lines (most of which were delivered by Paco, an older character who hangs around with the high schoolers). The character design is mostly good as well. It’s hard to say if I’ll return to this title next month, because there is potential for an awesome story in here… judging by the first issue, though, it could be a while before this book hits its stride.

Legion Lost #1

Run From Tomorrow- Part One: Present Tense

Written by Fabian Nicieza

Art by Pete Woods

DC Comics

This was a bit of a mess. An intriguing mess that gives us a group of cool characters in an interesting situation, yes, but a mess nonetheless. To call this new reader friendly is hilarious, because the entire huge team of characters is introduced to us as once. No backstory. Not a bit of exposition (which I generally don’t mind). Completely in medias res. I was able to get an idea of the plot and the threat through the dialogue, but it’s hard to say that I know exactly what is at stake for this team and the world. There is a lot of vague talk about stuff getting bad because of something infectious being released (and a nod to Flashpoint and this being a “time of uncertainty,” which I really liked), but… I need a bit more to latch onto as a reader.

I’ll come back to this issue next month, because the relationships between the characters are intriguing as hell and the art is great. However, I hope that the pace slows down a bit in the next few installments so I can get a better idea of who these people really are and what’s going on with them.

The Legion of Superheroes #1

Renegade World

Written by Paul Levitz

Art by Francis Portela

DC Comics

Man, and I thought Legion Lost was a busy comic. Jeez. While the main story of a mission by a few of members of the Legion is a lot easier to follow than anything in the last book, every few pages switches to a different scene… and each of these many, many scenes introduces many, many new characters. I kept flipping back and forth to see who was who and what they could do because, thankfully, writer Paul Levitz seems to be aware of how much he’s throwing at new readers because of the captions he uses to introduce each character. He gives us their legion name, their real name, their home world, and their powers. It’s helpful, but the amount of characters introduced is so unbelievable that it would be impossible to simply read this through and walk away with a decent understanding of what the book is about. While the main storyline is fun, following the supporting characters is a bit more of a chore than I would like.

I didn’t follow the last Legion series, so I was glad that a lot of references were made to what was happening right before this. I wish, however, that instead of seeming to be dependent on the pre-reboot arc, this series would follow from those events without being so woven into them. My review for Joss Whedon and Christos Gage’s Angel & Faith #1 commented on how, while the story flows naturally from and is influenced by Buffy: Season Eight, it tells its own story that is independent of that tale. I wish the same were true for this, because the dependency on the older stories and the constant in depth references alienates new readers. Which is weird for a first issue.

What’s cool, though, besides all of the awesome characters that I wish I had actual page time to get to know, is how Flashpoint looms over this series. It’s a big influence, and the Legion members are all aware of it… because it cuts them off to the past. They can no longer travel there because of what happened at the end of Flashpoint, and that’s intriguing… and sort of tells me that the new status quo of the DCU might not be as permanent as it seems.

I’ll continue following this series, because under all of the confusion, I am intrigued. I can’t say that this first issue has me feeling confident that I’ll be able to understand what is going on any time soon, but I will at least give this until the end of the first arc.

NEXT ENTRY: Wonder Woman #1, Catwoman #1, and DC Universe Presents #1. Less than 24 hours...

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