The New 52 Spotlight: The First 4 Weeks
I, like so many people, used to collect comics rabidly right up to my early 20s. I fell out of it in recent years, only keeping up with a couple books in trade paperback form (Invincible and Powers). Then I heard about DC Comics’ The New 52, which is turning out to be an odd, not-quite-reboot-but-almost that has brought me and tons of other people back to buying monthly comics. I’m going to follow a few of the books pretty closely for the next few months at least. I’ll be doing a New 52 update every week, but for this first edition I thought I’d catch us up on the first 4 weeks of the DC New Universe.
Justice League # 1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams
Justice League was a solid, if not ideal, jumping off point for new readers of DC’s main team. Set five years in the past, we are introduced to a world that is not used to and even fears super heroes. Oddly, though, the book focuses on Green Lantern and Batman, the only two characters with continuity that is to remain unchanged (or not, it’s very confusing). However, we get to see a younger, brasher Lantern and a Batman with a sense of humor, albeit a slight one. As I understand it, the first story arc of Justice League is supposed to be longer than your usual comic storyline, and so this issue sets the pace for a slower burn of a plot. Even so, a book titled “Justice League” that is being pitched as a perfect jumping on point for new readers does itself and the audience a disservice by not giving at least a page to each member of the team. We get a little bit of Cyborg before he gets the Locutus treatment, as well as a little bit of Superman. Not a bad start at all, but I was hoping for more.
This applies to the art, as well. Jim Lee has been my artistic idol since I cracked open that copy of X-Men # 1 when I was 11. To say I’m a fan would be a gross understatement. But I’ll be the first to admit that there are two Jim Lees; there’s the Jim Lee that drew X-Men and Batman: Hush, and then there’s the over-worked, gotta-get-this-done-yesterday Jim Lee. I’m sad to say that, for the most part, the art in Justice League is the latter Jim Lee. There’s some moments where my idol steps to the forefront (that splash page on pages 2-3 is amazing), but he plays it safe here, for sure. And judging by what I’ve seen from the covers of JL 2 and 3, it looks like Mr. Lee is going to be in “plan B” mode for a while. I’m pretty sure it’s been some time since he has drawn a monthly book though, so I’m willing to give him time to get back into the swing of things.
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ardian Syaf and Vincente Cifuentes
For week 2, I went to the comic book store to pick up Action Comics and Detective Comics, just like everyone else. I picked up Batgirl purely on a whim, and it ended up being my favorite book of the New 52 so far. Even casual fans probably know that Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, has been in a wheelchair for the past 20 years. She’s been featured in some of the animated movies, the Arkham Asylum video game, and even got her own ill-fated WB show based on Birds of Prey. So putting her back in the half-cape and cowl is quite an event. We’re not privy to exactly how Barbara is able to walk after all this time; she gets tantalizingly close to telling us, but it’s something we’ll have to wait for. This issue is all about how Babs is able to adjust to getting back into the vigilante game, and it’s pulled off with aplomb. This issue also introduces us to a new villain named The Mirror, who may actually have a chance of becoming a good addition to the Gotham City rogues gallery. And, while the ending of Batgirl #1 may not be as shocking as that final page of Detective Comics #1, I think it was far more effective from a character development point. I added Batgirl to my subscription file as soon as I could, and I recommend it to anyone checking out The New 52.
Artist Ardian Syaf is someone that I’m unfamiliar with, but for the most part, he pulls off Batgirl’s return. The first shot of her swinging through Gotham is a great reminder that, yes, Barbara Gordon is back, and better than ever. The Batgirl costume has been given an upgrade similar to Batman’s, and it looks great. Syaf handles the flashback to “The Killing Joke” well, and his work on The Mirror sold me on the character. Looking forward to seeing more.
Green Lantern #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy
Now, just because I haven’t been buying monthly comics for a long time doesn’t mean that I’ve been completely in the dark. Before the Green Lantern movie came out, I borrowed a ton of GL trades from a good friend of mine. I read the new origin of Hal Jordan, the new Green Lantern Corps, and I went all the way through the Sinestro Corps Wars up to Blackest Night. With that being said, I went into Green Lantern #1 feeling confident that I would know what was going on. Sadly, I was mistaken. I don’t know why Hal Jordan isn’t a Green Lantern anymore, and I don’t know what Sinestro has done to be chosen to rejoin the GL Corps. I can only imagine what a new reader, maybe one who was interested after the underappreciated movie, would think about this book. There’s almost no context for anything that happens here, and things like the Sinestro Corps and the Star Sapphires are mentioned with no explanation for new readers. I feel like I need to pick up a few more trades from the “old” DCU, and that’s not a good feeling to have for a book that’s supposed to get new readers on board.
Doug Mahnke is again someone who I am unfamiliar with, and I’d like to stay that way. His panels are clean, and he tells a story well enough, but I really don’t care for his art. There’s a couple panels where Hal looks positively creepy, and there’s just a lack of emotion across the board.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Kenneth Rocafort
Okay, so everyone is talking about Catwoman #1 this week, and with good reason—it’s awesome. Go and pick it up right away. But I wanted to shine the spotlight on a dark horse this week, and that is definitely Red Hood and the Outlaws. Jason Todd holds a special place in my heart, because the first superhero comic I ever read was Batman: A Death in the Family. I’m not up to date on the goings on in Gotham the past couple years, but I did know that Jason had returned as the new Red Hood. In this new team book, Jason hooks up with Speedy and Starfire, but to what end is unknown at this time. With that being said, this is a very entertaining book, with some punchy dialogue and an edge to it that I’m unaccustomed to with DC comics. It reminds me of a grown up version of Young Justice, which is my all-time favorite DC book, so I will definitely be hanging on to this series for a while.
It helps that Kenneth Rocafort hits one out of the ballpark with the art. His characters are full of personality and detail, with Starfire stealing the show. 38s, indeed. I really dig Rocafort’s panels; they have energy and tell a story very well. Again, this is an artist that I’m not familiar with, but I’m looking forward to seeing more work from him.
It’s an exciting time to be reading comics! This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I’ll be highlighting an issue each week. What are you liking, or not liking, about The New 52?