DC Zero Issues Review, Week 3, Part 1 (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Review Date: Friday, September 21, 2012
Source: Mania.com

To mark the one year anniversary of DC Comic’s New 52, September has been tabbed as Zero Month.  The New 52 titles will be getting #0 numbered issues all month featuring stand-alone stories that tell the origins of a character or team, or offer surprising new details about the New 52 Universe.  Today we’re looking at some of the heavy hitters, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern New Guardians, Captain Atom, and Blue Beetle.

Green Lantern New Guardians #0
Written By: Tony Bedard
Art by: Aaron Kuder, Andrei Bressan
Grade: B

The zero issue have allowed me to air some of my pet peeves with DC and one of those is the rainbow of colors in which Power Ring Corps now come.  But I’ll give credit to DC for at least sticking with the concept and creating stories around the various other ring factions.  You’ll want to read Green Lantern Annual #1 before this one as it is a direct continuation taking place after Hal Jordan and Sinestro battle Black Hand in a cemetery.  Star Sapphire and Kyle Rayner see news reports of the battle on TV and rush to the scene to find the cemetery overrun with Black Ring zombies.

As they try to combine the power of their two rings to battle off the horde, Kyle tells his ring to locate Hal, only to have his ring reply that Hal is dead and that his ring has already found a replacement (which refers to Green Lantern #0).  Star Sapphire is convinced the wrong as her ring is still maintaining her link to Hal.  And of course Hal and Sinestro’s fate was left a mystery in GL Annual.  

So here’s the deal while I enjoyed the story it was completely out of kilter with the rest of the zero issues.  It doesn’t do anything in terms of filling in details or telling an origin.  This is more standard GL continuity that fits in to the present not to the past.  I think Bedard might have missed the memo. 

Justice League #0
Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver
Grade: B+
Poor Billy Batson/Shazam…talk about a character whose background has taken a turn for the seriously dark in recent years and the New 52 treats him no better.  Gone is the simple, innocent, newspaper-hawking kid who stumbled into the subway to be given his powers by the kindly wizard Shazam, and in his place is a troubled street kid...a thief, a cheat, and hardly the virtuous example of pure good that Shazam is looking to bestow his powers upon.  And speaking of Dark, this Shazam is a grubby, irritable old man whose desperation brings him in contact with Billy, his last hope for stopping Black Adam.
This Shazam is much more firmly rooted in the realm of magic than ever before, which had its roots in the Day of Vengeance mini-series several years back and continued to evolve in the Trials of Shazam mini-series.  While I’m normally a traditionalist to a fault, I have to say I love the new costume design by Gary Frank.  The hooded cape fits in with the heavy magic overtones and its references to a world once ruled by wizards ties into the new Phantom Stranger #0.  Still, I’m not sure how much I care for an edgier Captain Mar…err…Shazam.  It was his pure good and innocence which made him such an intriguing character.  One thing I am sure about is that Gary Frank is one of the best artists in the business.  His work here literally crackles with magical intensity and its easily one of the best looking of any of the zero issue titles so far.  

Blue Beetle #0
Written by: Keith Giffen, Tony Bedard
Art by: Ig Guara, J.P. Mayer 
Grade: B+
Keith Giffen got the memo…Blue Beetle #0 delivers an honest to goodness origin of the latest Blue Beetle, teenage Jamie Reyes.  Yet in a bit of irony, while characters like Shazam and the Phantom Stranger are having origins rooted more in the world of magic, Blue Beetles is changed from his scarab being a magical artifact that of being a sentient weapon created by the alien race known as The Reach.  Referred to as the Khaji Da, the scarab is sent out to located an organic life form that it can bond with and control.  Its first attempt does not go so well…as it awakens the latent but dormant powers within a young alien girl.  The girl manages to expel the alien from her body and she goes onto become Lady Styx, a powerful new villain in the DCU.  So you get two origins for the price of one.  It later comes into conflict with a member of the Green Lantern Corps. 
 It’s encounters with the GL Corps and Lady Styx leave it damaged as it arrives on Earth to bond with a tribal leader during the time of the ancient Mayans and eventually, to make its journey to the present day and Jaime Reyes.  Giffen and Bedard do what good writers do…they actually make you interested in a character that you might not have cared about previously.  The Scarab’s interaction with Lady Styx and the GL Corps establish it as an ancient and very deadly weapon but one that has evolved over many centuries.  The art by Guara and Mayer is fantastic.  There’s a hell of a lot these guys having going on in this book…lots of characters and lots of background elements and it all looks wonderful.

Captain Atom #0
Written by: J.T. Krul
Art by: Freddie Williams II
Grade: C+
Damn that Alan Moore…the whole time I reading Captain Atom #0 I’m thinking of Dr. Manhattan even though Moore based Manhattan on Captain Atom…how’s that for messed up.  Captain Atom’s origin has changed slightly over the years from his early days of the 1960s at Charlton Comics to his first appearance at DC in the 1980s, to the present day.  But the basics have been the same.  Pilot Nathanial Adam (Allen Adam at Charlton) gains his abilities due to an accident that leaves him with nuclear-based powers.  In the New 52, his powers are gained during an experiment conducted by Dr. Megala who is researching M Theory.
His body’s atoms are virtually blown apart only to re-integrate a month later.  Atom is now able to tap into the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe.  His body essentially splits atoms constantly giving off incredible power.  When the realization of what he’s become sinks in it nearly drives Atom insane.
If anything, Krul has made Captain Atom more like Dr. Manhattan, incalculably powerful yet initially mentally fragile and thus extremely dangerous.  Captain Atom is an enigma…On one hand he should be the most powerful character in the DCU, easily more powerful than Superman.  Thus far he’s just learning his powers but it’d got to be difficult to write this type of character and find something that can be a challenge to him.  I wasn’t blown away by the zero issue.  It did seem a bit too derivative of Moore’s Watchmen and the art was only average,



Wonder Woman #0
Written by: Brian Azzarello
Art by: Cliff Chiang
Grade: A-
I save the best for last in this batch and believe it or not it IS Wonder Woman.  Brian Azarello’s story and Cliff Chiang’s art is done in a style that is a tribute to the golden age.  One look at the opening splash page and you will see what I am talking about as a youthful Princess Diana is ascending the peak of a mountain to steal the eggs from the nest of a mythical harpy.  The art is glorious in its simplicity.  When she succeeds in her task of returning with the egg the other Amazons pick her up shouting, “Hooray for Princess Diana!”  Pure golden age goodness there!
After a run-in with another young Amazon resulting in Diana injuring her opponent, she runs off, shaken by her actions.  While contemplating her next step she meets the Greek God War, who takes the young Amazon under his wing to train her to fight but to also channel her emotions.  Finally he presents to her a dangerous test to uncover a fabulous treasure but is this a test of her battle skills or her morals?
While Azzarello adds a bit of flavor to Wonder Woman’s background the true joy here is the nostalgic feel of the story.  In today’s comics where even our most unfaltering heroes have become darker and grittier, it’s nice to see a story that emphasizes the finer qualities of heroes like compassion and humanity (even when they are not human).  Give this one a shot.  

Mania Grade: B+