Sunday, October 16, 2011

The best of the new 52: October 2011

I have no idea about the number of issues that DC is going to release this month, and since I have no intention of finding out, I will still call them the "new 52". Anyway, here are my reviews:

Wonder Woman #2
My rating: 9.5 out of 10
I fell in love with this issue from page one. Azzarello clearly knows how to tell Greek mythology type of stories, and his gods are fascinating. Cliff Chiang art is just as cool. He makes those god physically intriguing, not to mention that the rest of the art consists of beautiful women, a sophisticated style and terrific compositions. Mathew Wilson also has to be mentioned. Colors are usually a given, but in this case, they really stand out and contribute to the mood.
So far, this series is a must. It's literally becoming legend--
--dary. Azzarello is making Wonder Woman's mythos bigger than life.

Action Comics #2
My rating: 9 out of 10.
I actually liked it better than the first one. In the previous issue, Lex helped the U.S. Army capture Superman, in this one, he is helping them "test" the resistance of Superman (ie, inhuman, anti-constitutional, torture). The characterization is great: Luthor's apathetic sadism steals the show; however, Superman, Lois and Sam are very interesting too. Rags Morales is doing the art (which is great as always), consequently they feel even more compelling and human. Morrison is pulling the same type of origin story Bruce Timm did in Superman: The Animated Series, in which a number of villains are tied to the first adventure of Superman. Incidentally, The Last Son of Krypton also ties Luthor, Metallo and Brainiac, only Grant is adding Sam Lane and John Henry Irons to the mix. Along with the previous issue, thi one forms a self contained story that serves as an introduction to a longer story arc; additionally, it leaves enough loose ends to leave us totally hooked.

My rating: 9 out of 10.

For whatever that's worth, it's not that hard to rank hi in this list; writers that actually complete a story in their issues get a great head start. In this case, OMAC faces a new threat and defeats it without isolating the story from the overall story arc (which seems considered quintessential to DC suits these days). Additionally, both Giffen's art and his co-writing with Dan DiDio, feel refreshingly retro without making the dialog hard to follow for modern audiences. I love the caption boxes, specially the one with the editor's note (they should do that in all of the 52).
With the previous issue I said that it feels like a cross between the Hulk and Freakazoid! That doesn't change with #2; however, the creative team added a tone that makes it feel like the Bill Bixby Hulk TV series of the 70s.
The only bit that might cloud my judgement is turning Maxwell Lord into a villain. However, maybe he'll go from villain to hero this time around, which is something that I'd love.

Frankenstein, agent of SHADE #2
My rating: 9 out of 10.
Great action , intiguing backstories and we get to a point. This customer is satisfied.
Classic Universal monsters against creatures from another dimension, how B-list is that! Frankenstain feels like a cross of Hellboy with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and something with Vin Dissel on it. Lemire is the Tarantino of comics; he knows that he can take any genre and make it cool as hell! Go buy it... Now!!

Swamp Thing #2
My rating: 9 out of 10.
Ok, the plot thickens. Basically we learn the nature of the evil that appeared in the first issue. It is an entity known as the Sethe, responsible all plagues throughout history. It is the anti-thesis of "the green", a realm that connects the minds of all plants and that created the Swamp Things precisely to fight it. I get the impression that, like Morrison in Action Comics, writer Scott Snyder is pretty good at dosing us information so that there's plenty of mystery to keep us hooked. We get a clear picture on the status quo of Dr. Alec Holland and the threat that he's facing; however, there are a couple of surprise twists that complicate things and we are still clueless about the way Swamp Thing is going to save the day.
Yanick Paquette's clean yet grotesque art fits perfectly the mood of this book. Comics are not normally good at hiding the face of  the evil being like horror movies (artists seem desperate to draw ugly monsters), but Paquette's art is as good as it gets in that sense.
The pacing is good, but it is still one of those books in which you sense that nothing really happened. I'm sure I would rate this story better as a trade.

Animal Man #2
My rating: 9 out of 9.
We explore the weird blood stains that appeared on Animal Man's body as well as the odd powers that his daughter, Maxine, showed at the end of the last issue. They both seem related to a real called 'the red', which seems like the animal kingdom's equivalent of 'the green' (see the Swamp Thing #2 review). Maxine is somehow aware of it; she recognized her father's blood stains as a map of it and took him there. Additionally, something weird is happening with the animals of the San Diego zoo (which seems related to the threat that Swamp Thing is facing).
There's great characterization in this one. I love the family drama that Lemire created here; average writers should take notes: We don't need to have rape, infidelity, murder or psychopathic behavior as the source of drama among the supporting cast, the simple fact that they live with a guy that is risking his life on a daily basis is more than enough. The great thing about Travel Foreman's art is that it is very detailed but it feels like he is not trying to make things appealing at all, which gives it a lot of character. It's clinical style it also very effective when it comes to illustrating the eerie bits. I can tell that this is going t form part of a great story; however, it doesn't really stand alone as an issue.

Justice League Dark #2
My rating: 8.5 out of 10.
There's great art and the story is really interesting. How does a couple satisfy their needs when one of them is a ghost who can possess people? However, there's too little going on. Maybe this will read a lot better as a trade.

Batman #2
My rating: 8.5 out of 10.
This issue follow the patented Snyder formula: small talk about something that is familiar to the main character, a bizarre mystery, a bit of action, new faces, and the introduction of a very dark, mysterious and mean villain. In this case, gargoyles, a murder victim with tooth filling with the logo of some "court of owls" legend (that somehow the missed), Batman stopping some thieves or whatever in a train, a politician that is an orphan like Bruce, and some huge ninja with a costume that resembles a black owl and survives great damage.  It's well written, but I don't feel like I'm getting something new. When it comes to Batman, new weirdos rarely do the trick. Some of my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episodes had very new odd situations and, to everyone's surprise, the villain would end up being one of the old  guys: the Mad Hatter, the Scarecrow and Spellbinder were the kings of this (there was another planed with Hugo Strange), but it was also pulled with the Joker and Two-face a couple of times. Snyder is trying to hard to stuff the rogues gallery, why not taking the dust off of guys like the Tweedles or Sterling Silvermith?

The Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #1
My rating: 8 out of 10.
In this book, we learn about the story of the Penguin and the person he became because of that: hated by everybody but his mother he became a nasty, hateful crime boss. It feels like a decent introduction for a 5-part mini series.
Taking his cue from Joker's Asylum: The Penguin, Greg Hurwitz is doing at least part what I've always said that should be done with the Penguin: to portray him as a histrionic bastard raised by a spoiling mother. Histrionic people are self-obsessed, hyperactive, manipulative and neurotic brats, with no empathy or conscience. In other words, the Penguin is the Eric Cartman of Gotham, and, if portrayed properly, he has the same chances of protagonism. Burgess Meredith, proved that, if portrayed this way, the character can even steal the Joker's thunder.  
Where I feel this story is failing, is with the dark comedy; there are tons of darkness, but no comic tone. Why am I insisting with comedy? When one is not dealing directly with them, histrionic people can be quite funny, and charming (which is why the Penguin managed to run for mayor a couple of times in the past). That is how they become overachievers. As the art indicates, this version is just too tragic and dark. The bit with the vengeance from the guy that called him fat was a bit too much, considering how trivial the offence was. It doesn't work if we're supposed to believe that the Penguin is the top crime boss of Gotham. Turning the glasses into a monocle was a bit silly as well. 

Aquaman #2
My rating: 7.5 out of 10.
There we go. Cloying emotional scenes, nothing gets done... I had the gut feeling that this series was not going to be good enough. I don't understand how are we suposed to get impressed with Aquaman if his powers are finally portrayed right, but the dialog keeps making excuses for his lack of fame? The narrative and art is spectacular, it feels like a great blockbuster, but it also feels like we're getting a piece of that blockbuster every month, which is something I do not like. Nothing is achieved in this issue and I can't really tell if the story is going to be any good.
I don't get it, if DC wants slow and impressive pacing, they should publish more graphic novels not a bunch of issues with nothing on them!

Justice League #2
My rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Superman acts like an idiot, Green Lantern and Batman call the Flash to fight him. They come to their senses and start focusing on the mysterious boxes left by the parademons. The box they have, along with another one in Start Labs actvate and transport a buch of parademons. That's basically it. Uh, and Cyborg's origin story is shoved into that last scene. So far, we arely have a JLU teaser scene.
I don't undestand it; Lee is very slow to produce his impressive art... and Johns wastes it in a couple of issues with nothing happening?
Also, the story of Cyborg is cloying, corny and feels like a lame after school special. I'm betting that he's going to be some sort of canon Mary Sue. And let me get this, his father is a scientist at STAR labs, he has coworkers that are experts on health, and yet, he talks about fitness as obsolete? I can already imagine the Carebears ending next issue, with the JL, the Parademons and Vic's old man holding hands and chanting "We Care" to fix Cyborg.

Batgirl #2
My rating: OK.
Batgirl chases some villain who murders people who survived terrible accidents just because he did just that. He is a big and strong villain, like a bit of a lesser Batman, nothing noteworthy. I'm sure I'll forget all about him after the next adventure. However, this Barbara feels too clumsy and weak when she fights him; as if even the wheelchair-bound Babs from the previous continuity could take her. The supporting cast seems a bit cloying, the art is indifferently good. The good part is that we have the witty and practical Babs back. Now with a bit more of life experience after surviving the Joker.  

Huntress #1
My rating: Meh.
Forget about it. It's not a bad-bad story, but it's hard to care about it. Women traffic is an interesting real-life issue and yet, Paul Levitz presents it as if they were traffickin cows. How about a little back story sketch of one of those girls, like in that Liam Neeson movie? And the rest is the same Huntress is just some bimbo fighting crime (ugg, and not even a decent bimbo - they are covering all her sking again) and the "big bad" is just some Italian dude that kills any henchman that fails (great, another Black Mask wannabe). No backstory for any of them either, which means this story also fails as an introduction. Yes, it might get better the next issue, but that wouldn't make this one any less boring.

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