DC Comics New 52 Week Four Reviews Part 2 - Mania.com

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DC Comics New 52 Week Four Reviews Part 2

Our next batch of DC's Relaunch titles reviewed.

By Rob Vaux     October 02, 2011


It’s a hell of a week for team titles as DC Comics wraps up its New 52 relaunch. Let’s have a look at the good, the bad and the in-between.
Title: Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Written by: Paul Jenkins
Art by: David Finch
Published by: DC Comics
Grade: C-

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Of all the comics in the New 52 release, this likely constitutes the biggest disappointment. We expect great things from the Caped Crusader, and while this isn’t the top title featuring that character, it still demands a certain level of quality. Instead we get a holding action, punctuated by interesting moments but lacking any fundamental heft. Furthermore, we’ve seen the same narrative in earlier Batman relaunches: contrasting Bruce Wayne’s social calendar with the grim realities of life as the Dark Knight.
Writer David Finch throws an interesting curve ball into the mix with a Gotham PD officer who suspects some connection between Wayne and the Batman, but drops the ball in the climax when another tedious riot at Arkham produces the silliest revelation seen in quite some time. It smacks distastefully of the worst instincts of comics: bulging muscles and a Hulk-like physique on one of the worst characters for that kind of tomfoolery. The hows and the whys matter not a bit; we’ve seen it all before and the routine way with which the comic unfolds its narrative holds no excitement or energy within it. Paul Jenkins picks up the slack with his intense artwork, but the damage has already been done. The Dark Knight arrives almost as an afterthought, blown away by lesser known titles this week and incapable of making up the difference.  It’s a poor finish for an otherwise strong showing by comicdom’s greatest vigilante.
Title: Superman #1
Written by: George Perez
Art by: Jesus Marino
Published by: DC Comics
Grade: C

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The Man of Steel does marginally better than his winged counterpart, but only just. The issue centers around a grave threat to Metropolis, arriving just as the Daily Planet undergoes a sea-change in management. Clark is bitter and angry at the move, which he considers a betrayal of the Planet’s principles. Writer George Perez finds his strongest material there, as he plays up Kal-El’s alienation and sense of detachment from those close to him. A final sequence where he overhears Lois talking about him behind his back is both touching and extremely sad.
The rest of the issue, unfortunately, is a lot of sound and noise. Perez plays the fight out with commentary from a post-action report by Kent: describing the blow-by-blows between Superman and (first) a pair of overeager terrorists and (subsequently) a strange fiery monster. It jars badly with the action, reading more like unnecessary exposition than an integral part of the storyline. The transition of the Planet is badly handled too: more dated than it would like to pretend and lacking in the wistful nostalgia it’s intended to evoke. As with The Dark Knight, the artwork makes up a lot of ground (despite Supe’s new costume, which still takes some getting used to). But after the triumph of Grant Morrison’s Action Comics #1, this just can’t help but feel like another letdown.
Title: Green Lantern: New Guardians #1
Written by: Tony Bedard
Art by: Tyler Kirkham
Published by: DC Comics
Grade: A-

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It’s up to Kyle Rayner to come to the rescue, embracing a sharp and funny mystery that elevates New Guardians to the elite in Week 4. We find him early in his tenure as Green Lantern, recently selected by the little guys on Oa and struggling a bit to fit into his new role. Hal Jordan still gets all the press, and while people are grateful for Rayner’s assistance (rendered with creativity typical of his artist background), they don’t quite understand who he is.
Then the twist arrives, as rings from the remaining six Lantern Corps mysteriously appear and claim that they are his. They’re soon followed by irate members of each respective Corps, ready to pound him flat for his impudence. It’s a marvelous cliffhanger, set-up by clever writing from Tony Bedard and solid penciling from Tyler Kirkham. They find the right amount of humor in the situation without losing the seriousness of Rayner’s dilemma. I’ve never quite cottoned to the notion of all these other Corps, but the inaugural issue here makes me a believer. It allows for all kinds of fascinating interactions, while providing a bright color palette for the artists to do their work. Placing them in Rayner’s corner makes a lot of sense, and lets him stretch his wings with some distinction instead of competing with Jordan or other Green Lanterns. The Corps hasn’t let us down during this latest reboot, and New Guardians provides a solid issue that the week most definitely needed.
Title: Teen Titans #1
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Brett Booth
Published by: DC Comics
Grade: B+

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Tim Drake and the Teen Titans acquit themselves admirably as well, borrowing heavily from the Young Justice TV series while still maintaining their own sense of identity. The issue starts with a terrific set piece, as Kid Flash arrives to help put out a blaze and instead makes things a thousand times worse. The incident reflects a growing concern among the public over “teenage metahumans,” and the threat they may represent. Drake presumably sets up the Titans to counter the perception, and while he only has time to recruit one hero (a very persnickety Wonder Girl), the task before him proves to be a lot of fun.
Writer Scott Lobdell punches up the issue with plenty of action, while letting Drake assert his personality in fully engaging ways. He’s the least brooding of all the former Robins, and his fun-loving attitude never hides the fact that he was trained by the very best. Lobdell finds engaging ways to let him outsmart the bad guys, while immediately establishing the kind of sharp rapport between him and Wonder Girl that can carry a title like this on its shoulders. They have a lot more team members to recruit, and not all of them have the cache that these two do. But the elements are in place for a first-rate bit of team storytelling, and while the “Teen” aspect of “Teen Titans” might be grating, the characters are anything but junior league. Keep an eye on this one; it may be going places.
Title: All Star Western  #1
Written by: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by: Moritat
Published by: DC Comics
Grade: D

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I had such high hopes for All Star Western, featuring the enticing image of Jonah Hex riding into a 19th Century Gotham on the cover. Turns out, he doesn’t have anywhere interesting to go; just a Ripper-eqsue murder mystery complete with dead prostitutes, sinister Masonic organizations and a blustering police force too incompetent to do their jobs. Hex soon joins forces with Amadeus Arkham in a rickety odd couple pairing intended to increase our rooting interest in both. It doesn’t work. The fish-out-of water cowboy does nothing but thrash a few bar patrons and rub some aristocrats the wrong way, while Arkham trails behind him and psychoanalyses him in some of the most tedious voice-over narration this reboot has yet seen.
Moritat’s excessively blocky artwork doesn’t help matters; neither does the coloring which renders the entire issue a sandy brown mess. Within that, the thick lines distinguishing each character from the morass around them become necessary to avoid complete visual collapse. That doesn’t mean they’re welcome, or that they bring anything interesting to the table.
Bad artwork can be forgiven with a good story (and vice versa), but All Star Western is so attached to interminable cliché that the chances of pulling something interesting out of it drop with each passing page. This should be a home run: the chance to let a great figure like Hex explore a little-seen era in Gotham’s history. Instead, it all falls apart almost as soon as we open the cover: dropping this third-tier title to the ranks of forgettable also-rans.
Title: Justice League Dark #1
Written by: Peter Milligan
Art by: Mikel Janin
Published by: DC Comics
Grade: B-

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We close our coverage with a grand question mark: a title examining the murky underbelly of the DC Universe with some welcome but still far from assured guides. The Enchantress goes berserk, having apparently lost her mortal alter ego and throwing members of the regular Justice League for an ugly loop.
In response, Zatanna Zatara heads out to deal with the situation, after preventing Batman from accompanying her. Her banter with the Caped Crusader constitutes an issue high point. Batman and Zatanna have a unqiue relationship and their discussion about how to handle the Enchantress speaks to their mutual selflessness, as well as an understanding about how much (and how little) the two can deliver to the cause.
The rest of the issue, sadly, is a bit of a hash. Other interesting characters crop up – including John Constantine and Deadman – but we don’t yet see the role they will play in this ongoing story, and thus their appearance feels wildly disjointed. The framing device features Madam Xanadu foreseeing a bloody future. It’s trite and cliché-ridden, but it helps ground the narrative in something we can hold onto, and leads us towards more intriguing developments in the future.
That means we have to wait to see whether or not this title will make good on its potential or not. The right elements are there, but they don’t quite gel in this first outing the way they should. Justice League Dark has further opportunities to get it right; here’s hoping they find that rhythm soon.


Showing items 1 - 7 of 7
cheekymonkey 10/2/2011 7:11:36 PM

Always enjoyed Tim Drake, whether as Robin or Red Robin (shakes and fries).  I'd rather he have a solo book, but who knows, most of the 'new 52' will make it about a year before we get a new new 25 or some other new

boxker 10/3/2011 3:27:23 AM

kind of funny too see different reviews from diiferent sites on the same books.

karas1 10/3/2011 6:10:30 AM

I read Justice League Dark and wasn't impressed.  It seemed to spend most of the issue spinning it's wheels and not getting much accomplished.  The Enchantress is dangerous and Zatanna will need to gather a bunch of magical types together to deal with her.  Ho hum.  They needed a whole issue to set that up? 

jedibanner 10/3/2011 8:49:47 AM

I did like the art of the JLD, that's what pushed me to pick up most of these books. I missed out on the Teen Titans, Bret Booth is a great artist and has had always a love/hate relationship with comics so it's nice to see him back on a regular title.

alienstatue 10/3/2011 11:08:08 AM

man, I would have at least gave Supes #1 a B. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I enjoyed the story a little better than Action Comics, and that's not hating on Morrisson. Even the post-battle commentary in the panels. It wasn't cheesy in my opinion. I'll give it a few more issues to really hook me though.

FerretJohn 10/3/2011 11:37:45 AM

Drake really should have been made into THE Robin.  Not only because I'm not a fan Damian Wayne but because "Red Robin" is a gourmet burger restaurant.  Every time the bad guys go "It's Red Robin!" I expect somebody else to sing out "Yummmm!"

Inferno 10/3/2011 2:41:10 PM

I liked Superman #1 also, alienstatue. Opinions will vary. I think DC universe presents got a A on this site and I didn't like it at all, so...




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