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DC Comics New 52 Week 3 Reviews Part 1
Our next batch of DC's Relaunch titles reviewed.
By Tim Janson
September 24, 2011
It’s week three of the big DC Comics New 52 Relaunch and this week features some of the heavy hitters of the DC Universe including Batman #1, Wonder Woman #1, and Legion of Superheroes #1. But it could be some of the minor characters that turn out to be the hits? Read our two-part coverage of week three and see!
Title: Captain Atom #1
Written by: J.T Krull
Art by: Freddie Williams II
Published by: DC Comics
DC Purchased the old Charlton Comic characters back in 1983, ostensibly so Alan Moore could use them in his Watchmen series before he decided to create his own versions of those characters. DC then folded them into their regular universe with varying degrees of success. Captain Atom has always seemed to be that one character that was the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. In theory he’s one of the most powerful superheroes but he’s seldom been portrayed as a true heavy-hitter.
Captain Atom gets another chance with a new series but once again the results are mixed. While battling a non-descript villain, Cap discovers a new ability to transmute the molecular structure of matter but also feels himself essentially fading away. Panicked by the incident he visits renowned physicist Dr. Megala to try and get answers but before any conclusions can be reached Cap has to speed off to a dual disaster of a nuclear reactor meltdown and a volcano in New York…Yeah…a volcano in New York! Ok so I like that Captain Atom is having issues with his powers. As a guy who is essentially a walking atomic reactor one can see where there might be issues. Bug Krul’s story is simply preposterous. Do we really need a nuclear reactor failure AND a volcano to throw Cap’s power’s off kilter? This is a case of going over the top to try to make a bug splash with a first issue.
Fortunately Krul was saved somewhat by the art of Freddie Williams II who gives perhaps the best rendition of Captain Atom yet. He seems to be using Dave Gibbon’s art from Watchman as his influence and of course the Watchman’s Dr. Manhattan was Alan Moore’s version of Captain Atom. A bit of a plodding start but enough good to see where the story goes.
Title: DC Universe Presents #1
Written by: Paul Jenkins
Art by: Bernard Chang
Published by: DC Comics
Let’s tell it like it is…DC Universe Presents has a strike against it right from the beginning. Anthology books just don’t seem to sell. Despite the fact that the comic book business was built on anthology titles like Action Comic, Adventure Comics, Detective Comics, All-Star Comics, etc…today’s comic readers seem to have little interest. Hopefully that can change with DCU Presents #1. There is only one story in the issue and that’s evidently how it will operate with a new character being featured as a story arc comes to an end. Look, people…if your favorite DC character somehow didn’t make the cut in the New 52 then here is your chance to perhaps get them a title of their own with a strong showing in this book.
Deadman is up first and Paul Jenkins uses the bulk of the book to relate the character’s origins as an egotistical trapeze artist named Boston Brand who is murdered by a mysterious assailant. Brands’ spirit is given a chance to atone for a wasted, selfish life by the beautiful Hindu God Rama Kushna. Brand is charged with helping others by taking over their bodies for a time and getting them through whatever problems or difficulties they are facing. As Brand gives readers a tour of the many people he’s helped through the years he becomes disconsolate as he tries to figure out where his path truly lies. Now for a comic where relatively little action takes place and much of the book is flashbacks, Jenkins had me enthralled…and it’s all because of the last page…which I’m not telling you about! But its certain to open up a new direction in Deadman’s life…errr…death…whatever.
I would have preferred an artist whose style was a bit darker and murkier and a better fit for the character and story, however. Not that Chang’s art was bad but it was too superhero-ish in a book that should be darker. Frankly I think Deadman is worthy of his own series…certainly more than several other characters and hopefully this will lead to that eventually.
Title: Green Lantern Corps #1
Written by: Peter J. Tomasi
Art by: Fernando Pasarin, Scott Hanna
Published by: DC Comics
Green Lantern Corps #1 gets off to a horrific start as two Lanterns are murdered in cold blood by an unseen attacker in Sector 3599. Meanwhile on Earth Guy Gardner and John Stewart are having their problems just trying to live normal lives. While Guy is failing in his interview to get a job as a high school football coach, Stewart is running into all sorts of bureaucratic red tape in the construction of a new building. As they head off to Oa to blow off a little steam, the discover that two other Lanterns have been killed in the same sector and lead a team to investigate.
However when they reach the water world of Nerro they find the entire planet sucked dry of its water but another even worse horror awaits the team.
Frankly I think that three Green Lantern related titles in the relaunch is one too many but I got to admit that Green Lantern Corps #1 has got me hooked. The combination of horror, action, and real life drama of Gardner and Stewart gives the title a strong edge. John and Guy might be the odd couple of the GL universe in terms of their personalities but there’s no denying the chemistry that Tomasi builds between the two. And sure the attack on the Green Lanterns is a bit manipulative but who cares…I want to see what Tomasi has in store for us. Also loved the art of Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna. The book has a strong Sci-Fi look to it and I love their shading and lighting techniques. It gives the book that deep space horror feel. While I’ve never been a huge fan of the previous Green Lantern Corps titles, recent DCU storylines have obviously put them at the forefront and this book as definite possibilities.
Title: Nightwing #1
Written by: Kyle Higgins
Art by: Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer
Published by: DC Comics
The first Robin, Dick Grayson, returns to the Nightwing character after having filled in for a time as Batman. His return comes with a new, sleek red and black costume, which I have to say I really like a lot. It’s clear that Dick was never really comfortable in the guise of Batman and that point Is driven home in the first issue. Dick is out of the Wayne Mansion and in a city loft where he’s much more closer to the action of the city. For the first time since his parents were murdered, Dick returns to Haly’s traveling circus in Gotham City to visit with old friends and to even test out his acrobatic skills on the trapeze again.
However Dick’s peaceful night is interrupted by the appearance of a costumed villain who’s out to murder him. The appearance by the local police allows Dick to get into his Nightwing costume to take on the merciless villain who dispatches the two officers with his, hate to say it, Wolverine-like fist claws. But who is this new villain and why is he out to kill Dick Grayson?
Not a lot happens in Nightwing #1. There’s too much superfluous filler material. You need to hook readers in these first issus and this one comes off as pedestrian. Grayson takes down a street thug in the opening pages merely to establish his character and provide fans some fresh perspective. The art is a definite plus as Barrows and Mayer produce some fine action sequences and Nightwing’s new look is hot. Nightwing, though, is a character most people can take or leave and we’ll see if Higgins can make the title more than just Batman, Jr.
Title: Blue Beetle #1
Written by: Tony Bedard
Art by: Ig Guar, Ruy Jose
Published by: DC Comics
Wow! If you want to talk about a character with a convoluted history I proudly present Blue Beetle. First appearing in 1939, the character was first Dan Garrett, then Ted Kord, and now Jaime Reyes. Blue Beetle’s adventures have been published by four companies (Fox Comics, Holyoke, Charlton, and DC) and the characters origin and powers have been retconned numerous times. The original scarab that gave Garrett how powers was an artifact of Egyptian origin but with the creation of the Reyes character, the scarab was changed to be of alien origination.
Blue Beetle #1 is a true, first issue jumping off point for new readers. It retells the scarab’s origin as weapon The Reach, ancient enemies of the Guardians of the Universe. A Green Lantern and crashes to Earth in the distant past blasted this particular scarab. Cut to present day and we are introduced to El Paso Teenager Jamie Reyes who is on his way to a party when he’s caught in pitched battle between two groups of super-powered foes, each fighting to try and recover the scarab. However its Reyes that accidentally comes into possession of the item and with it, its enormous powers.
Big credit to Tony Bedard here…This is a book that does what its supposed to do, namely be accessible to new readers without having to have any previous knowledge of the character. I thought that’s what this relaunch was about anyway? Unfortunately it hasn’t been the case with all of the new titles. The Scarabs are natural enemies of the Green Lanterns so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Guara and Jose’s art was gorgeous. Some of the best art yet in the New 52. Very clean, great character designs, and lots of action. This team could really take this “fringe” character places!
Title: Legion of Superheroes #1
Written by: Paul Levitz
Art by: Francis Portela
Published by: DC Comics
At the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to giving new readers a good jumping off point is Legion of Superheroes #1. The first issue of the new title featuring the 31st century’s superhero team assumes you’ve been following the title and its recent events. I have not and found myself lost by some of the references to past stories, in particular the mentions of recent Legionnaires who have been killed. It also references events in Legion Lost #1 from last week so you might want to read that title before you start on this one. The team has had to promote students from the academy due to the loss of the various team members who are stuck in the 21st century (See legion Lost #1).
Two of these new members, Chemical Lad and Dragonwing, accompany a team that also includes Ultra Boy, Phantom Girl, and Chameleon Boy to the planet Panoptes, a military watchworld that is supposed to be keeping an eye on the Dominator’s empire. However when communications with the world are lost, the Legion is sent in to investigate. Meanwhile back at Legion HQ, Mon-El and Brainiac are arguing about which of them is best suited to be the team leader.
While it’s not an ideal book for a new reader, the major positive of Legion of Superheroes is that it’s written by veteran LSH scribe Paul Levitz. No one knows the Legion better than Levitz who has written well over a hundred issues of the title including its most acclaimed run during the 1980s with artist Keith Giffen. You could not ask for a better hand to lead the relaunch of the new LSH title than Levitz but I just wish Paul had eased into things a little slower. Portela’s art is only average, though. His figures look stiff and posed and too many characters have bland expressions. This is a tough book because the cast of the Legion is so large but having Levitz back at the helm will make this one a winner.