Wednesday, September 7, 2011

REVIEWS: Action Comics #1, Batgirl #1, Detective Comics #1, Static Shock #1

Comic Book Wednesday
Issue #17
Part One

Due to lack of time, this blog seems to be nothing more than another comic book review site. Not for much longer. I'm still going to do my weekly reviews, but I want to keep bringing you guys more content as well. It's rough, as I have a full plate on the freelance writing side of things, but I've got some ideas cooked up of things I want to do with this blog.

Today, however, we're all comics all the time. It's a big week for DC, as more of their New 52 titles start hitting the stands. I'm missing out on Animal Man #1, Men of War #1, Omac #1, Storm Watch #1, and Swamp Thing #1. I plan to follow Animal Man and Swamp Thing in the trades after I catch up on the classic stories by Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, respectively. The others, I'm taking a pass on until I hear reviews. I'm sure they're great books, but a freelancing check only goes so far.

In fact, I feel like reading DC's NEW 52 titles is sort of like the comics version of Survivor. Since it's hard to commit to reading so many titles monthly, a book has to either play a biiiig part in the DCU (Justice League #1) or impress me to keep me hitting the shop monthly.

Let's get to it.

Action Comics #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencils by Rags Morales
DC Comics

I've never read many comics written by Grant Morrison. I tried and gave up on his New X-Men run, but I have a collection of his trades (We3, Kill Your Boyfriend, and other) waiting to be read. Despite of how unfamiliar I am with his larger body of work, I am fascinated by him as a person. Every interview he does is gold, whether he's talking about being abducted by aliens, sigil magic, or (most relevant in this case) Superman. He's brilliant, he's captivating to listen to, and I've been hungry to give his work another try.

...And it's a good comic. I enjoyed it. It was exciting, funny in parts, and very busy with introducing the readers to the cast. In fact, so much happens in this twenty-nine page comic that it evokes the exact opposite feeling that last week's Justice League #1 from Geoff Johns did. While JL#1 felt like it lingered on one scene for the entire issue (Hal Jordan is being insufferable and Batman puts him in his place, wash, rinse, repeat), Action Comics #1 can't seem to stay still. The one moment when it does slow down, letting the reader take a breath and get to known Clark through a conversation he has with his landlord, Mrs. Nyxly, is the strongest scene in the book. While I enjoyed the feeling that the book's pace mimicks Superman himself never gets a breather, I really wanted to take a step back and get to know this new Superman for a minute.

Variant cover by Jim Lee

Grant Morrison succeeds in his promise to make Supes a bit more badass. As you must have noticed, this version of Superman wears a t-shirt, jeans, and a cape (which, it's important to note, sets this before Justice League #1 which is itself set five years before the other books in the new DCU). He is at once the everyman and the outsider. It's a cool dichotomy that Grant definitely plays up, and you can see how much fun he's having as a writer as Superman kicks the shit out of corrupt business men, turns the public to his side by saving them, and laughs as cops think they can take him down with bullets.

It's all a fun read, and its successful in updating the iconic hero for the modern age. For now, I'm sticking around to see how Grant Morrison will further develop these characters into people that I want to root for.

Batgirl #1
Written by Gail Simone
Pencils by Ardian Syaf
DC Comics

Now that's what I'm talking about.

I was so prepared to hate this book. Last week, I read the final few issues of Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl and loved it. And not casually loved it, but thought-it-was-the-best-thing-ever loved it. Stephanie Brown is an amazing character, who is light and funny but has such a colored history and a darkness that hangs over her. I know Barbara Gordon was the original Batgirl, but Stephanie Brown is too damn wonderful to lose. Even going into this book with that prejudice, though, I loved the shit out of this book.

Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, was the victim of a home invasion three years ago. The Joker rang the doorbell, shot her, and left her paralyzed from the waist down... until now. This story starts off in a time that seems to be shortly after her full recovery. She's back, she's badass, but the incident still powers every moment of her page time. She doesn't look at herself as a victim by any means, but the idea that she can lose her ability to walk again, especially considering what she does, is a big force in this book.

The issue introduces a creepy, mysterious villain. It sets up Barbara's character arc, letting us get to know her as a person without skimping out on the action and badassery. I may miss Stephanie Brown, and I hold out hope that she will show up in this new DCU, but this is such a great comic that I can't help but strap in for the ride.

Detective Comics #1
Written by Tony S. Daniel
Pencils by Tony S. Daniel
DC Comics

With this issue, Detective Comics knows just where it needs to start: with a Batman/Joker story. The relationship between these two has been iconic for years, and it's only right to start the new numbering of this classic series with the characters who define the title more than anyone else. Batman, the world's greatest detective, has been contemplating how many murders the Joker has committed and how he feels guilty for not having stopped his nemesis. Most of the issue shows Batman barely missing the Joker, before they finally have a big confrontation that sets the stage for what it seems like will be the main story arc of this title. I'm not going to give the big spoiler at the end (mostly because it's too gross to type), but the issue very much deals with the idea that it's impossible to guess what the Joker is going to do next, because one has to be truly insane to operate on his wavelength.

It's a cool first issue, kicking off the storyline better than both Justice League and Action Comics. Folks who are fans of the so-dark-you-can't-see-a-damn-thing-in-front-of-you Batman will love how quickly this book gets nasty. It's as much a horror comic as it is a detective comic, operating well in both genres. It's not an A+, but it's something worth picking up.

Static Shock #1
Written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum
Pencils by Scott McDaniel
DC Comics

I've never read a Static Shock comic before, nor did I watch the show. This was a great read, though. There was a whole bunch of sciencey and techie jargon that went right over my head, but it's written so that it doesn't matter. It's a fun, light book that offers a different tone than the other new DCU books. The story simply starts off with a killer action scene, introduces Static, shows how his family life as a normal kid named Virgil is, introduces the villain, and ends on a big cliffhanger. It's a very standard first issue, but its one of the funnest DC books I've read in a while. The banter is clever, the relationships are solid, and it left me eager to read the second installment in a series that I bought on an impulse.

The art is the best of all the New 52 books I've read so far, which helps this action packed issue flow. While I enjoyed Jim Lee and Rags Morales' work in Justice League and Action Comics respectively, both books had a few instances that I had to stop and re-read a page to follow the sequence of action. Not so with Static Shock. McDaniel's art has a great sense of movement, and it's dynamic as all hell. It may not have as much hype behind it as Action, Detective, and Batgirl, but this is not a comic to underestimate.


Unfortunately, that's it for today. A guy's gotta work, so I am off to the mines. Metaphorically. I'm not even close to manly enough to work in a mine. Jeez.

TOMORROW: Batwing #1, Green Arrow #1, Hawk and Dove #1, Justice League International #1, Mystic #2

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