Wednesday, September 7, 2011

REVIEWS: Batwing #1, Green Arrow #1, Hawk & Dove #1, Justice League International #1, Mystic #2

Comic Book Wednesday
Issue #17

And here's the rest of 'em!

Plus a very, very awesome second issue of the excellent new CrossGen revival series Mystic.

Batwing #1
Written by Judd Winick
Pencils by Ben Oliver
DC Comics

Batwing is a bit perplexing for a number of reasons. Looking at the name of the protagonist… DC couldn’t have not known about the popular “Batwing” joke from the movie Waiting, right? That’s just something that makes me laugh, though. The book itself was a strange read. The set-up is cool and the character has an awesome design, but for some reason it all came off as so dull. There isn’t much tension. There isn’t any humor. There isn’t any psychological terror, which the Bat books usually bring in heaps. There really isn’t much of anything that turns the interesting concept into a good comic. I wasn’t going to buy this book at first, but when I watched this fifteen minute long video of Judd Winick talking about this book and Catwoman, I decided to give it a shot. Winick comes off as funny, knowledgeable, and so so nice, so I had hoped his enthusiasm for the story would be transferred into the comic. The first issue was just not very impressive.

The art is beautiful, though. It’s a bit static, with each panel looking like a painting meant to be viewed on its own, but I have no qualms about that at all. It’s great to look at, and it makes the book readable. I’ll check out the second issue to see if Winick can take this book to the next level, but this first installment was a bit of a letdown.

Green Arrow #1
Written by J. T. Krul
Pencils by Dan Jurgens
DC Comics

I miss the moustache.

Green Arrow is a strange book. This version of the Robin Hood-esque hero is less snarky than he’s ever been, and he comes off as a less dark version of Batman. I can see why that would be good for marketing purposes, but this is not the reason why I dig Ollie Queen.

There are some technological elements in the issue that are pretty cool. Green Arrow outsmarts his adversaries by out-teching them. He’s always got another gadget up his sleeve (well, mostly in his quiver) that brings baddies down. The supporting characters are also fairly interesting, mostly because of their character design. I initially disliked the art, though, when I started the book, but I warmed to it as I read. In fact, it became one of the biggest draws for me, because the plot is pretty generic and the dialogue is just not up to par. Let’s hope J. T. Krul can pull a rabbit out of this hat and turn this into a good Green Arrow book.

Hawk and Dove #1
Written by Sterling Gates
Pencils by Rob Liefeld
DC Comics

I fully expected to love the story and hate the art. It’s become popular to hate on Rob Liefeld, but that’s lame so I’m not going to take hours of my time to create a compilation of images of why his art is lame. Thing is, there are people that like it. DC clearly does. So hey, I’ll just say it’s not my cup of tea. I do, however, dig Sterling Gates. His run on Supergirl gave that character integrity, so I hoped for the same level of storytelling here. And… well, there are seeds of it. As I was reading, I found myself having to remind myself that it was a first issue, because nothing here made me care about any of these characters one bit.

We get an awkward flashback that gives some exposition about how Hawk’s brother Don was the previous Dove… and how they got their powers. This is done through the device of Hawk telling this story to his father (who is in the know about his powers), and it just comes off as false that he would have never told this story before. Dove’s backstory remains shrouded in secrecy, and Sterling Gates seems to be building toward a big revelation that will change the relationship between these characters. It seems interesting, but maybe it’s the exaggerated facial expressions and constantly gritted teeth that make me unable to buy these characters as real people. Unfortunately, I’m left wanting to drop a book written by a writer whose books I constantly follow. I’ll give it at least another issue, because it’s Sterling Gates and I trust his sensibilities as a writer.

Justice League International #1
Written by Dan Jurgens
Pencils by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan
DC Comics

I hate that almost all of the reviews today range from “not so bad” to “mediocre,” especially considering how great yesterday’s books were. I’m a comic book writer, so I like to focus on the positive more than the negative because I know how hard it can be to please everyone. The audience for these books is so diverse and each person has their own wants and needs in a book. However, I think it’s pretty much an across-the-board desire that the reader should leave the book knowing who the characters are and that they at least have a tiny bit of an idea why any of them are doing what they’re doing. Unfortunately, besides Batman, I have no idea why any of these heroes are working with the United Nations on this Justice League International project. I don’t know who these heroes are as people (besides Batman, Booster Gold, and Guy Gardner, the latter of whom has the “I won’t take orders from such and such! Witness me storm out!” role of the group). Their interactions are all so basic and clichéd that it’s impossible to understand their motives.

Unfortunately, this book will be the first New 52 title that I’m dropping.

Mystic #2
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Pencils by David Lopez

The first issue was clearly no fluke. Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist David Lopez continue to bring the pure concentrated awesome in the second issue of Mystic. This is a big world building issue that further develops the setting of Verne, the class war that is heating to boil into a revolution, the role that the mystical substance Aether plays in the High Palace’s magic, and the divide between former best friends Giselle and Genevieve. The storytelling is as quirky, quick, and witty as the first issue, but it isn’t all fun and games this time around. After Viv has been rejected by the High Palance in favor of Giselle, she makes the decision to join the revolution, where she is able to show how powerful her magic is. Meanwhile, Giselle’s apprenticeship starts, and she develops a Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy-esque rivalry with a fellow student. Lucky for her, a fellow outcast of sorts, the pleasantly plump Ondine, takes Giselle under her wing.

The issue soars when switching back and forth between Giselle’s time spent in the High Palace and Viv’s new life with the resistance, creating a brutal dichotomy that makes me anxious to see these two meet again. One thing I was left wanting was Giselle to make more reference to the fact that her best friend was just put out on her ass to be alone. I do think that will become a plot point later on, but it felt a bit weird that she wasn’t dwelling on that. Even so, Mystic has become one of the strongest comics out there, and I’m happy that I gave it a try based on the awesome first cover.

Bring on the magic.

NEXT WEEK: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine #1, Dollhouse: Epitaphs #3, Batman and Robin #1, Green Lantern #1, Legion Lost #1, Suicide Squad #1

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