Mania Grade: B
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DC Zero Issues Review, Week 1, Part 2
September is Zero Month
By Tim Janson
September 07, 2012
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. This week we’re looking at the first wave of the Zero Month titles in three parts. This second part will focus on some of DC’s core characters, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Justice League.
Phantom Green Lantern #0
Written By: Geoff Johns
Art by: Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Mark Irwin
I’m a bit torn on Green Lantern #0. Geoff Johns is one of my most respected writers in comics today. Like me his is also a native of the Detroit area and he is half Lebanese. Green Lantern is set in Dearborn, Michigan which has among the highest populations of Arab-Americans of any city in the nation. Dearborn is two cities over from where I live and I am very familiar with it. Many of my family members still live there. That’s why I had a problem with Johns’ depiction of Dearborn as this racially charge community where Arabs are harassed and bullied. I’m not saying this hasn’t or doesn’t happen but to lead off the story with an Arab family watching the 911 attacks on TV and then the next page we see graffiti painted on a local Islamic center is heavy-handed and ultimately doesn’t have anything to do with the story other than setting up its main character, Simon Baz, as sympathetic due to racial harassment.
Oddly enough it is Baz who steals a van (to help his sister with money) and then discovers it was loaded with a bomb. So one hand we’re supposed to have sympathy for him and yet on the other hand he’s a car thief. Baz drives the car to a shutdown auto plant where it blows up. Coincidentally it’s the very same plant from which he was laid off recently. Naturally the police and Feds think he’s a terrorist and he’s whisked off to a secret location to be interrogated…and water-boarded.
Look, I love Johns’ work, I really do. But why, why, why does he have to travel down the road and make an Arab character a suspected terrorist and tie it all up in a 911 package? Why can’t he be a successful businessman? The owner of a Restaurant? A Bakery? A car dealership? An eight to fiver who works on the assembly line? At any rate. You might want to read the Green Lantern Annual before reading this issue. Despite everything, Johns knows Green Lantern and I want to see where he takes this new member of the Corps.
Detective Comics #0
Written by: Greg Hurwitz
Art by: Tony Daniel, Richard Friend
As mentioned above, the zero issues are just as much about filling in the gaps in a character’s origin as they are about telling new ones and it’s the former we get in Detective Comics #0. Honestly I still find myself constantly getting tripped up by the continuity issues of the old DCU and the new DCU. I have to remind myself that this is now all that matters. Even the profiles in the back of the zero issues list the issues of the New 52 as the character’s first appearance. In other words Barman’s first appearance was Justice League #1 in 2011 and NOT Detective Comics #27.
Years before becoming Batman, Bruce Wayne has traveled to the Himalayas to study under a legendary Zen-Buddhist monk, Shihan Matsuda. Greg Hurwitz doesn’t settle for the standard old martial arts training, but rather the key lessons that Bruce learns are life lessons that will make him the man, and the Batman. He is told the death of his parents was the best thing that could have happened as he needs to free himself from grief and affection to become more than a man. While we have seen the cold, emotionless Batman for years it’s important that we know where he came from. He essentially had to purge himself of everything that he was. In the end, in a brilliantly constructed climax, Bruce finds out the anguish that close relationships will bring him.
In just a short issue Hurwitz gives a glimpse inside the psyche of Bruce Wayne and ultimately it’s not pretty. The issue is punctuated by gloomy and atmospheric art by Daniel. His art becomes darker over the course of the issue, signifying the change in Bruce’s character. Detective #0 also features a backup feature centering on Alfred back home in Wayne Manor, hoping for Bruce’s return while he deals with greedy Wayne family members.
Action Comics #0
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Ben Oliver
After reading Action #0 I had to double check that it was actually written by Grant Morrison. Don’t get me wrong, I love Morrison’s work but I’m used to him doing edgier, darker work like Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and even Batman. But Action #0 was like an ode to the Golden Age…you know, that period of Comics that DC started but no longer exists….OK, ok, I kid Mr. Didio. I get the whole DCnU, I truly do.
There’s an innocence…a nostalgic feel to Action Comics #0, from Clark going to a store and getting two hundred blue T-shirts made up with the Superman logo, to a young boy finding Clark’s cape and using it to defend his younger brother from their abusive father, and Clark’s dramatic rescue of the boy. It’s pure Americana. The Superman of the new DCU is still little more than Superboy and I haven’t been crazy about how some artists have handled his less adult look, but Ben Oliver nails it completely. He looks like a young man both in stature and facially. He’s yet to be the bulky Superman we’re familiar with and at this point is still “leaping over tall buildings in a single bound!”
The colors by Brian Reber are done in soft tones that conjure up images of a fall afternoon. His colors galvanize Oliver’s pencils and inks and make this perhaps the best looking of the first wave of zero issues. I hope that Morrison stays on this path. I don’t want an edgy Superman. Superman should be bigger than life and have ideals that are just as big. Only real drawback was I did not care for the back-up feature. Seemed needless.
Earth 2 #0
Written by: James Robinson
Art by: Tomas Giorello
On the positive side, Earth 2 #0 is a cover-to-cover action fest…On the negative side, Earth 2 #0 is a cover-to-cover action fest. When I reviewed Earth 2 #1 several months back I noted how it was ironic that Crisis on Infinite Earths whole purpose was to clean up the DCU by eliminating their many alternate Earths and yet with the New DCU what do we get…another Earth 2. It’s just a bad concept and the wrong road for the new DCU to travel. If DC wants to give us a new Justice League title then gives us a new title. I wonder if I am going to be 70 years old and reading about a new series where DC has to clean up their universe again….sigh.
The entirety of the issue is told through a first person narrative by Terry Sloan, referred to as “Mr. 8” one of the eight heroes of Earth 2 but Terry “Sloane” was also the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, and this iteration is essentially the same super brilliant character only he’s not so terrific. As the other heroes battle against the unending hordes of invaders from Apokolips, Sloan puts into place a desperate plan to save the world but at a staggering cost.
I can’t help but read this story, see the last few panels of the megalomaniacal Sloan and think of one name…Ozymandias. That’s the vibe that came across to me…Sloan is Earth-2’s Ozymandias and the rest of the heroes are powerless to stop his plan. Earth-2 fails to capture your attention. An invasion by Apokolips? Been there done that numerous times. Robinson is a solid writer and I’m hoping he can change gears with this title quickly. In terms of art, Giorello is solid and his work bolsters the grade a bit.