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Tag Archive: DC 52


Justice League Volume 2 cover

With DC Comics having wrapped it first year with the New 52, it is now releasing the second hardcover volume of its flagship title, Justice League.  If you don’t read the monthly series, now is the time to catch up on the full first year with Volumes 1 and 2 now on the shelves.  Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin reprinted Issues 1-6, and now Justice League, Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey reprints Issues 7-12, both volumes including variant covers and cover sketch art by the popular artist Jim Lee.

Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin, now available in both hardcover and trade paperback, began the entire New 52, a new DC Universe unveiled first 5 years ago, a reality which may or may not have been manipulated from the universe we’ve known all along by the red-hooded Pandora, who has managed to flit in and out of nearly every DC Comics series since the reboot in September 2011.  In Volume 1 we met the new original seven members of the League–first a comical run-in of Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who then have their own run-in with Superman (run-in meaning lots of bruises and destruction of property).  Then Barry Allen’s Flash entered the picture as probably the most interesting character in the new League.  He formed a relationship with buddy Hal Jordan which provided many of the most entertaining scenes of the series so far.  Then we met Wonder Woman, who in this incarnation of the DCU is far more Valkyrie than Amazon, and this plays nicely off of Aquaman’s entrance, whose Atlantis origins are here very much influenced by the world of Thor.  This is all tied together by a new League entrant, the young Vic Stone, transformed by happenstance into a cyborg, now known as the League member Cyborg.  And they all must come together to protect the world from being devastated by none other than classic villain Darkseid.  We reviewed the monthly series at borg.com least year here.

Justice League Volume 2

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DC Comics announced that it will be issuing a softcover trade paperback edition of the first six issues of the New 52 storyline, titled Green Arrow: The Midas Touch.  Since the new CW television series that is currently filming the pilot episode appears that the new Green Arrow may more closely follow the current storyline of Ollie balancing street fighting derring-do with running a major corporation, this is a good time to get caught up on what Oliver Queen has been up to for the past six months.  And this storyline includes its own bit of cyborg villany.

In Chapter 1, “Living a Life of Privilege,” we find Oliver Queen juggling his duties as CEO of Q-Core, apparently a subsidiary of Queen Industries, with his Green Arrow mantle as he busts an odd bunch of thieves in Paris.  He does this by taking a conference call via wireless earbud and also using Q-Core technical resources via techno-savvy assistant Naomi and ex-M.I.T. techno-gadget maker Jax.  Queen is attempting to use the Q-Core division to allow him to continue his crime-fighting life, and Naomi and Jax act as Oracle was utilized by the Birds of Prey.  This chapter echoes Green Arrow’s origins as Batman knockoff and mirrors Bruce Wayne’s past antics a lot–his attempts at using Wayne Enterprises to build him wonderful toys to use in his crime-fighting while dodging his corporate responsibilities at Wayne’s corporate offices.  The action is more “Superfriends” than other incarnations of Green Arrow–his one man march to take out a band of thieves ona  boat with no back-up, for example, is more reckless and unreal than we’ve seen past versions of the character.

In Chapter 2, “Going Viral,” a group of wanna-be twenty-something villains tap into social media and the latest retail technologies to try to “get noticed.”  Oliver and Jax’s relationship seems to match James Bond and Q, as Jax supplies more gadgetry for Queen’s missions.  The wanna-be criminals are in Seattle and have set a trap for Ollie–planning to get Green Arrow streaming live over the Internet in a death match.

This is where the story picks up in Chapter 3, “Green Arrow’s Last Stand,” the leader of the gang, named Rush, takes on Green Arrow mano a mano.  And of course this ends up not as Green Arrow’s last stand but another thwarted attempt at taking Green Arrow out of the picture.  Oliver smartly realizes the kind of headstrong fighting that he made it through in Chapter 1 may have finally caught up with him, and credit goes to writer JT Krul for not letting the early path for Oliver get too far off-track.  CEO of parent company Queen Industries “Emerson” busts Oliver’s chops for not paying attention to the business despite Queen giving a public “Jerry Maguire” speech.  Emerson either has some secret vendetta, or really just doesn’t like Queen’s apparent lack of devotion to the company that Oliver’s father founded.  One oddity is that the end of Chapter 2 foretold a visit from Black Canary in Chapter 3 that never comes to fruition.

In Chapter 4, “The Things We Do for Love and Hate,” we meet female assassin Blood Rose, who is an agent for some boss named Midas.  The bulk of the issue is a face-off between Oliver and the new villain, Blood Rose succeeding with her guns and quick moves and Ollie with his trick arrows.  This is mirrored in Chapter 5, “The Midas Touch,” when a walking “toxic dump” that is devoted to Blood Rose takes the fight directly to Oliver Queen.  Again, the issue is primarily a fight to the death, and only this time there is a winner and a loser.  Blood Rose shows up, but again, Ollie and his wireless crime-fighting back-up team of Naomi and Jax, and we readers, have been left with no answers and little clues to go on.  It is worth mentioning that JT Krul left writing duties on the Green Arrow series with Issue #3 (Chapter 3 of the new TPB) and Keith Giffen took over for the rest of the issues/chapters.

Which brings us to the final chapter of this first Green Arrow storyline in the new DCU.  Titled “Lovers & Other Dangers,” we learn what is behind the titles about love in Chapters 4 and 6.  It begins with Blood Rose shooting Oliver is the head–a surface wound only, but enough to knock him out.  The rest of the story takes us into a strange mix of beauty and the beast with a dose of borg elements.

As a complete story in 144 pages, Green Arrow: The Midas Touch is not a stand-out story.  It seems to suffer from a lack of focus that only comes together in the last three parts, and even then, leaves us uncertain as to Green Arrow’s new place in the DCU.  The only thing keeping it together as one complete work is Dan Jurgens’ art, and this would not be considered his best work.  With so many great titles making their mark in the New 52, the decison makers at DC Comics will have to carve out a niche for this character soon to avoid losing readers.  With compilations for other titles not yet announced, there are certainly other titles more worthy of a trade paperback edition.  Green Arrow: The Midas Touch will likely be a purchase only for the Green Arrow completist.

The trade edition will be published in May and is available for pre-order at online online retailers.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

   

The big news for the week in comicdom is DC Comics’ confirmation yesterday that it will cancel 6 of its 52 regular series after Issue #8, after a lot of speculation over the past several weeks that DC would trim off some of its low selling titles.  DC has offered very little by way of explanation other than low sales, and it released the names of the six titles unceremoniously at the end of its press release touting the addition of 6 replacement titles.  Unfortunately three of the exiting titles were part of DC’s effort to diversify characters and its audience.  As to the new titles, there is some good news, some indifference, and some… seriously?

The best news, of course, is that the very best of the New 52 titles are continuing, including All Star Western, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Captain Atom, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, and Wonder Woman.  And a character who I thought deserved her own regular title is now getting one.

The departing titles are:

Blackhawks - Blackhawks are an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.  Their mission: Kill the bad guys before they kill us.

Hawk and Dove - The living avatars of war and peace root out the hidden forces who look to plunge the country into a deadly civil war.  Dove made an appearance in Justice League Dark as a pretty good character.

Men of War – The attempt to bring Sergeant Rock to the 21st century just didn’t get the expected readership.

Mister Terrific – One of the departing titles featuring a black character.  Though he has no super powers, Mister Terrific has a brilliant mind and an aptitude for science which he used to create the T-Mask, which renders him invisible to technology, the T-Spheres, which have several functions including holographic projection, generating electric charges and granting limited flight.

O.M.A.C. – Kevin Kho has become an unwilling participant in a war between Checkmate and Brother Eye as he is transformed into the One Machine Army Corp known as O.M.A.C.

Static Shock – A young justice title, focusing on a black teenager who was meant to be a modern, updated Spider-man for the DC universe.

DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras stated that the characters in these titles will continue to be appear in the New 52 universe titles.

So the biggest disappointment of the new “second wave” on New 52 titles?  A TWELFTH Bat-title: BATMAN: INCORPORATED.  Really? If you’re not keeping track, we already had Batman, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, Batwing, Batman and Robin, Batgirl, Batwoman, Knightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  No criticism intended of some of these titles (like the exceptional Batgirl and Batwoman), but there is only so many Bat-stories one can keep track of each month.   Ok, it was pretty clear Grant Morrison was going to come back with this title this year, so it isn’t a great surprise.  Still…

The cool news is a revamped classic title, WORLDS’ FINEST, known for its Batman and Superman team-ups, now with the apostrophe moved from where it was in World’s Finest, as it appears to have intentionally moved to account for the multiple Earths in the DCU.  The part we like is Huntress, just wrapping up her limited series, she will be a lead character sharing the storyline with Power Girl.  Written by Paul Levitz with shared art duties for George Perez and Kevin Maguire. DC is marketing this one as Stranded on our world from a parallel reality, Huntress and Power Girl struggle to find their way back to Earth 2.  Which brings us to the third new title:

EARTH 2.  Written by James Robinson with art by Nicola Scott.   This one could be fun, as there’s an unlimited number of change-ups that can be done with the parallel universe concept in the DCU.  The greatest heroes on a parallel Earth, the Justice Society combats threats that will set them on a collision course with other worlds.

A big surprise for me is the reboot of DIAL H.  Originally a classic series called Dial “H” for Hero, and rebooted only a few years back (2003) in a great series called just H.E.R.O., I think I have read all the back issues on this one and always liked the concept.  If it is like the original, you have a dial like the alethiometer in The Golden Compass, which is used by Joe Citizen, often changing hands, to allow you to be the hero you want to be as circumstances require.  It’s a little like Quantum Leap or Dollhouse, where you get to change everything with each new installment.  This will be written by comics newbie China Miéville with art by Mateus Santoluoco.

And the war concept must not be dead, despite killing the Men of War title, as it will be replaced with the classic title, G.I. COMBAT.   This will be a war series with three ongoing separate stories, written and drawn by three separate creative teams.

Finally the sixth new title to be added is THE RAVAGERS – Written by Howard Mackie with art by Ian Churchill. This is a Teen Titans and Superboy spinoff where four superpowered teens on the run fight against the organization that wants to turn them into supervillains.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

    

Review by C.J. Bunce

Spoilers!

All Star Western #1 was the coolest, most unexpected surprise of DC Comics’ first round of 52 issues.  But to the extent All Star Western #1 was a standout series opener, writer Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Moritat along with colorist Gabriel Bautista set the bar even higher with issues #2 and #3.

First off, the design and format of the book is unique among DC Comics’ New 52.  Chapters have an Old West style separation and font, with catchy titles like “Showdown at House Arkham,” “A practitioner of murder,” and “No news is good.”  The aura of Gothic and Old West can be found at every angle.

The foreground of landscape scenes have a nice, almost ghostly style that evokes the 1800s-1920s, using a lot of brown and sepia tones.  But the silhouette of grand manor houses and leafless trees on the landscape of an almost photo-real, painted horizon backdrop will have readers stopping in their tracks.  Two page spreads with 22 individual panels keep the action scenes moving at full force, and the would-be campy “Pow,” “Crunch,” “Crash,” and “Clop Clop Clop” fill in the necessary sound effects for a Jonah Hex-led shoot ‘em up.  We also get some nice splash pages of Hex, looking tough in his own half-faced way.

Unlike several other New 52 titles that unapologetically are going for the biggest shock they can provide to readers, the cartoonish quality of Jonah Hex’s gore serves to tame down the realism of the violence, creating the right venue for a fine good guy vs. bad guy battle to the end, with guns a’blazin’ and bodies fallin.’

The writers have kept up the momentum of the story with the most unlikely of pairings, the fragile Doctor Arkham against the stout Jonah Hex.  These two continue together to confound each other, but, for once, in issue #2, Arkham has revealed that there is a killer about even within his own timid, early-era psychiatrist reality.

By the end of issue #3 we have a better look at the villainy coming in future issues, a “cult of crime” based on the story of Cain and Abel.  Arkham serves to sleuth out the story while Hex is there to destroy those who get in the way and leave a body count. In issue #3 we also see the duo forming their first potential ally, by saving a city leader named Cromwell.  Yet, no one lives long in early Gotham City.

The story has a vibe reminiscent of a short-lived series published a few years ago starting on Free Comics’ Day called The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty (one of the best titles ever), an eight-issue series from Image Comics, by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne, that hinted at the potential it was ultimately unable to fulfill—a “Gothic Western” that immersed the reader in the Old West.  All Star Western is far better, but it does show there are limitless Gothic Western stories that can be told, not just with Jonah Hex and not just in Gotham City.

    

As an added feature to All Star Western, these issues #2 and #3 have an ongoing mini-series about the character El Diablo. This add-on bonus is full of quick stories in limited panels, but adds to the Saturday serial mystique of a Western series like this.  If you like the character El Diablo, I’d suggest Jai Nitz’s very cool El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman graphic novel, drawn by Phil Hester and Ande Parks.  And as for another book with a similar Gothic vibe, check out Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, by Brian Augustyn, with a powerhouse art match-up of Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell.

   

Review by C.J. Bunce

Spoilers!

Justice League is the biggest enigma of the main DC Comics New 52 storylines, now readying for its fourth issue to be published next week (Dec. 21).  On the one hand the story is a typical “Avengers Assemble” type story—Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are giving us a new origin story of the main characters in the DCU—Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman.  It is both incredibly simple—we have a major common foe, the superheroes are being confused by the public as somehow the cause of the problem, and the characters are meeting for the first time, even though they have heard of each other–and requires a good deal of coordination, as each character’s personality must come through with first meetings and first impressions laying the groundwork for months of new stories.

As with his work on Aquaman, reviewed here yesterday, Geoff Johns continues his universe building in a literal sense, and at the micro level his characters’ interactions are funny and entertaining.  What is not obvious to the casual reader is where all this plays into the individual issues of Batman (or the several related Batman titles), Superman (or the related Superman family titles), or Green Lantern (or the several Green Lantern titles), or Flash, Wonder Woman or Aquaman.  With a Green Lantern title focused on Sinestro…from where did Hal Jordan emerge in the new reboot cycle?  The reader is left to ask:  how do these stories tie together?

In Justice League issue #2, Batman and Green Lantern are fending off Superman in Metropolis, who believes a “Pandora’s Box” of sorts that Batman possesses links the two superheroes to the evil plaguing the world via flying, large-toothed aliens, who keep uttering the name Darkseid.  Green Lantern gets the great idea to invite an ally, Barry Gordon aka The Flash, to come and whip around and ultimately wear down Superman.  Barry is a cop, and Barry and Hal know each other’s secret identities.  They finally all calm down enough to discuss what is happening when the Pandora’s Box turns into more of a Trojan Horse, wreaking further havoc by letting into the world even more alien beasties.

In Justice League issue #3, Wonder Woman enters the fold, taken in by the Pentagon in Washington, DC, she wanders out into the street searching for harpies, and instead stumbles upon the wonders of…street vendor ice cream.  (Johns is a quirky fellow).  The same aliens that are attacking Superman and Batman and Company in Metropolis are now attacking DC.  We flash to Metropolis again and Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash are still under attack.  Then Wonder Woman enters the picture, sword slicing, speaking in a stilted manner like Xena, Warrior Princess (Don’t you think DC needs to license some rights to the other famous Amazon for this new DCU?).  It’s a strange transition.  Did Wonder Woman walk from DC to Metropolis?  How close are these cities?  Maybe I am having too many thoughts here.

They pursue the alien menace to seaside, to Aquaman, coming out of the water. “They were in the water, too,” he says, and we see a creature strikingly like the ones he is fighting in the Aquaman series.  This brings up the obvious question: Are these the same alien beings Aquaman and Mera are pursuing into the oceanic place called The Trench, as told in the Aquaman series?

I’ve no complaints with the story or art in Justice League issues #1-3–Justice League is simply a fun ride, as it has always been (although with the “of America” in the title).  As the cornerstone of the DCU going forward, I do wish there was some continuity explanation in these books, in a way that you don’t have to seek out explanations via interviews with writers and other reviews.  From that we learn the Justice League story is five years in the past, so presumably none of this inter-relates, at least yet.

I did leave a big piece out of my review above of issues #2 and #3.  It’s what I think of as the Will Robinson/Wesley Crusher character—the kid in a major sci-fi franchise that becomes the access point for kids to the adult real world in stories like Justice League—the excuse to explain the techno-babble of what is happening for the viewing audience despite the fact that everyone on-screen should be savvy enough to know what is happening.  Presumably this is a potential narrator, or at least a vantage point for kids, in future stories.  I usually found this role in stories irritating when I was a kid.  For whatever reason, as a storytelling device, writers still employ this.  That said, in the context of the traditionally kid focused comic book medium, it may at least be an appropriate place for it.

In Detroit there is a kid named Victor Stone.  He’s a football player.  A teenager.  His father is a doctor doing super-human research at S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit.  In the study of the Pandora’s Box mentioned above, Victor is nearly killed in an explosion.  Panicking (or quick thinking?) Dr. Stone takes all of the nano-technology currently within his reach, even if untested, and applies it to his son, to create a new character to be fleshed out in future issues… this is the beginning, the origin story of the character seen in past DCU stories called Cyborg.

Of course, even with a Will Robinson/Wesley Crusher-role of the DCU, we like cyborgs at borg.com, so we’ll be watching his growth as a character closely.  This cyborg has cybernetic implants, including an eye piece similar to Seven of Nine’s in Star Trek Voyager.  DCU’s cyborg was created in 1980, so he’s a recent hero and a strange choice for a newly-founded Justice League team.  Geoff Johns has been quoted as saying of the new Cyborg, “He represents all of us in a lot of ways.  If we have a cellphone and we’re texting on it, we are a cyborg — that’s what a cyborg is, using technology as an extension of ourselves.”  I think that is a bit of a stretch, but I like the spirit of that philosophy.

  

Review by C.J. Bunce

With three issues out we’ve had enough time to get a feel for the DC Comics’ New 52.  Some of the DC titles have found their own niche in the giant volume of books available, considering the severl hundred books published by DC, Marvel and all the independents.

I am pretty pleased with the overall picture in the Aquaman series.  On the one hand, the story is very simple so far.  On the other hand, what is there is full of snappy dialogue, nostalgic quick references, and inside jokes, from the pen of writer Geoff Johns.  As far as the art is concerned, initially I was hoping an Aspen comics-esque, ex-Fathom series artist would draw the Aquaman series or that the current artist would take on Fathom’s dreamy waterworld stylings.  Yet Ivan Reis’s view of a world existing side by side Atlantis is superb.  And his seafaring underworld aliens are still the best villains in the DC universe right now.  Kudos are owed to Reis for his consistent, relevant, striking covers, too.

What struck me reading issues #2 and #3 is that this story is written as if Aquaman was existing in the Marvel Universe.  Folk on the street chide and lambast Captain America and X-Men in the ordinary course of the day.  Here, Aquaman walks in the room and there is no awe in the eyes of those he meets.  He might as well not be there, from the perspective of the regular townspeople.  Now this has been done in the DCU before and happens all the time in various contexts but this superhero in the real world concept is very overt here and Geoff Johns’ approach is working so far.  The fact that someone can show up at Aquaman’s door and basically say that he was looking for Aquaman and heard he lived around here…maybe it is simple, but it works.

As story arc is concerned, we are seeing more of the calm before the storm in this story than the actual storm, yet we see pockets of storm.  As a matter of story tempo and meter, it is following the pacing of the movie Jaws, unintentionally I would expect. That is, we get to know this harbor town, and this is a familiar place.  It could be Amity from Jaws.  It could be Haven from the Stephen King/SyFy channel series Haven.  It is tranquil, and if you have ever spent much time in coastal towns Johns and Reis locked in the feel of this setting, the calm tide, almost the smell of sea and sound of the squawking seagulls.  And like the vengeful spirits in John Carpenter’s Fog, the approach of the villainy is slow and deliberate, victims are picked off one by one.

The aliens speak in stilted tones like the bionic animals in the stellar-but-sad-and-disturbing series WE 3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (probably the only series that has really impressed me from the much-hyped Grant Morrison).  Unlike the aliens in the Alien series, this makes them some how more approachable, a necessary trait with any good fleshed out villain.  Can these seemingly unsympathetic villains be redeemable?  One says “Help us” as he drifts away?  Does he mean “I am helping myself?” by escaping, or is he beckoning to Aquaman?

If there is anything to improve upon it is Aquaman and the often jokingly mislabeled Aquawoman, Mera.  Mera almost seems more interesting at this point.  We’ve been peppered with some slightly depressing but spotty backstory, some kind of regret, but I’d prefer something else, or at least some reason to like these characters more.  The super duo are trying to help humans, despite clearly the fact that humans don’t always want their help.  But as story elements go, we need to like the humans and the lead characters both or we’ll get bored with the story.  Maybe if Aquaman were to act against his own interest?  Then again, saving a dog from the creatures is a good start.

In issue #2 we learn that the sea monsters are hungry and they see us as food.  We also see that Mera is not going to take a backseat in this story—being the first to step forward against this new threat.  In issue #3 Aquaman gets the body of one of the sea monsters for examination and learns more about the creatures.  The book ends with Aquaman and Mera racing to “The Trench,” the supposed origin of these villains.  The story arc continues next month… and we’ll be back for more.

   

Earlier this year, and even from time to time over the past several years, commenters have criticized the comics publishing industry for its lack of female creators.  As with the lack of women creators in a lot of industries, the criticisms have credence.  You have to look very hard at comic conventions to find a female comic artist from a major publisher, for example.  But more and more female writers seem to be coming to the fore every month.  In the meantime, what is flourishing in DC Comics’ New 52 are female superhero characters.  In the past few weeks we reviewed here both the first issues of the new Wonder Woman series and the past two months of the Batgirl title.  Wonder Woman’s story is brilliantly drawn in the realm of the Greek gods and goddesses, as she is on her path to becoming a key leader of the Justice League.  Batgirl’s story bridges a lot of territory–she is a superhero with a rich past in the DCU: as daughter to Batman’s main partner in fighting crime, Commissioner Gordon, as former crime fighter in a wheelchair and member of the Birds of Prey, under the guise Oracle, she also covers the younger side of hero work and the trials of being at the beginning of a heroine’s career.

But Wonder Woman and Batgirl just scratch the surface of the arsenal of women crimefighters across the DCU.  In stark contrast to Batgirl, but equally as interesting and engaging, is the darker, tough and gritty world of Batwoman.  There is no hiding Batwoman’s role in the DCU–she is Kate Kane, a lesbian who was kicked out of the military because of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  When we met her again in Issue #1 of the re-launched title she was trying to mentor sidekick, Bette aka Flamebird, but in Issue #2 Batman warns Kate that she is endangering Bette and she as kicks her out of the sidekick business in Issue #3.  Writers W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III walk a fine line between a caricature of a modern gay single person, in the realm of Tom Hanks’ character in Philadelphia.  She uses poor judgment, frequenting gay bars and going home with whomever she ends up with and going on binges.  Did she, or the writers, learn anything from the 1980s?  Are they setting her up for another AIDS story?  Hopefully not, as that was done with Mia aka Speedy in the Green Arrow series.  

In every aspect of her life Kate is dangerous and cocky–she is dating Detective Maggie Sawyer, the very woman on the police squad who is trying to uncover who the vigilante in the black and red suit really is.  On the one hand Kate herself is not a role model, yet Blackman and Williams have written her as a tough woman fighting the good fight every day like everybody, only in the depths of Gotham, her place is getting down and dirty.  To balance out the series, we find Kate’s true enemy is the federal agent, Cameron Chase, and we learn in Issue #3 she is partnering with the creepy skull-headed villain behind the dark doings of Gotham.  The best part of Batwoman?  Despite her own inner doubts and less experience at the hero business, Batwoman stands on equal footing with Batman in their secret meetings–we see a mutual respect there.

On the other side of the globe in Italy is Helena Bertinelli, the heroine of the Huntress title.  Like Barbara Gordon, Huntress spent some time gaining her crime-fighting sea-legs in the Birds of Prey.  In Issue #2 of the current Huntress limited series, Huntress has tracked down a trafficker of girls in the sex slave industry.  Huntress is a character who simply has a job to do.  Unlike Batgirl and Batwoman, we see no emotional obstacles with Helena.  She knows her job and gets the job done.  As her own flavor of dark knight detective, she is a true sleuth in the ongoing whodunnit of each issue.  And like all the superheroes in the DCU, she has her alter ego life.  Bertinelli would fit in fine with the characters of the BBC’s Zen series, tasteful and stylish, she seems to have adopted Italy as her home turf.  It is refreshing to see a character establish herself in a non-English speaking locale, and the word balloons even feign a translation via dialogue in carets.  A clever comics story device.  Unlike Batgirl or Batwoman, Huntress’s targeted villains are rooted in the real world, and in Issue #2 she is honing in on capturing the man behind the trafficking operation, as she liberates all the victims.  A woman saving women.

In an even darker realm we encounter Zatanna, magician of backward incantations, in Issues #2 and #3 of Justice League Dark.  The Enchantress has unleashed an evil that even the Justice League itself cannot stop, and she must use a spell to save herself.  Only John Constantine understands the magic enough to use her own language to free her from her protective state.  And tarot card reading Xanadu appears to be working alongside the ultimate villain of this series–the Enchantress, on a quest to capture June Moone, who has been seeking the aid of Deadman.  Deadman is complex yet entirely weak, he slips in and out of other people’s bodies, himself a ghostly spirit.  Deadman is driving his girlfriend, Dawn Granger, the character Dove from the Hawk and Dove duo, nearly mad with his switching from body to body.  Dove drives off in anger as Deadman tries to protect June Moone from the Enchantress, but we get the vibe she can pull away from the witch’s curse when she will need to.  We hope to see more of Zatanna and Dove in future issues, but as new characters are added, like Mindwipe in Issue #3, Justice League Dark is bordering on a soap opera-sized cast that may be too much for a monthly title.

Not only do these titles stand out as key stories focusing on strong female characters, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, Huntress, and Justice League Dark, with both good writing and art, continue to stand at the top of all of the 52 main titles of the New 52.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

   

Review by C.J. Bunce

If one word sums up Barbara Gordon and her new Batgirl persona, it is feisty.  She gets knocked down.  She gets right back up.  She makes mistakes.  She tries to recover from her mistakes—both the long-term lesson learning variety and the instant kind–a bad kick or punch here or there.  And she will keep after the bad guy, here a grim reaper type baddie called the Mirror, who carries a list of the soon-to-be-dead around as a checklist.  With a quick moving story line her decisions are split-second choices.  She has no choice, she must be focused.  Having the use of her legs return only in the past several months, all indications are that this heroine is engaging in the secret crime fighting gig too soon.  And that is the current theme of her character’s growth.

Issue #2 of the DC Comics New 52 Batgirl is peppered with seemingly irrelevant details that actually help build our understanding of Batgirl’s Gotham City, like the fact there is only one cemetery left in town that hasn’t been demolished and replaced with parking lots and malls.  We see real-life reflected here, or at least the over-development, economic strife and questionable priorities that make Gotham the worst of what is real in any society.  We also see a microcosm of the individual, living the single life, trying to get through the mundane tasks of daily life.  Barbara Gordon is a poster girl for the individual in the big world.  Like all of us, she is forging ahead.

Writer Gail Simone continues to deliver the satisfying and snappy, Buffy-esque dialogue, that reminds us we’re talking about Bat-girl here, like the serious but silly “But I am done being afraid.  And I can’t die tonight.  I’ve got a lunch date!”

What I can’t get over, and Batgirl is today’s pick for best written series, is the first person narrative we get here, in the same style as Batman from Jeph Loeb in Batman: Hush.  In this way, we’re in her head as she smartly comes off as the almost-Batman, which is sort of what a junior Bat-hero should be striving for, right?

Batgirl’s positive outlook is counter-balanced with a well-constructed bad guy.  Unlike some other villains in the New 52, the character called the Mirror is smartly crafted with an engaging back story.  Family lost in a car wreck, he snaps and becomes this Final Destination inspired, twisted rationalizer of who lives and who dies.

Batgirl Issue #2 delivered on its potential.

But that’s not quite so with Issue #3, which had a lot to live up to considering the work on Issues #1 and #2.  For part one, Barbara Gordon becomes Sandra Bullock in Speed, in a psycho-orchestrated opportunity to save a train from a bomb.  Good stuff?  Check. For part two, she has some awkward catching up to do with dad, Commissioner Gordon.  Good stuff?  Check.  For part three, she goes to pick up her Batcycle, which had been impounded in Issue #1.  There she runs into Dick Grayson-formerly-known-as-Robin-who-then-became-Nightwing-then-Batman-and-now-he’s-Nightwing-again.  And an old, teen romance is rekindled, veiled as an effort by the Bat-team to get Barbara to dial back on the dangerous derring-do.  Gordon gives in a bit, but ultimately recoils into that comic book cliché of the superhero—“I just want to be alone.”

It’s not a bad follow-up to Issues #1 and 2, but the obligatory romance issue just seems a bit too soon for this new series.  Maybe it is intended to reflect the chaos of real life, where the individual is burdened with too much to do in too little time.  In that vein, Batgirl is very modern.  The writers must have intended this guest appearance of Nightwing to conjure up the most successful of the original Birds of Prey series issue, when Grayson returned to take Barbara on a date.  Definitely a bit nostalgic so no harm there.  But we’re eager to get back to the smart character building we saw in Issues #1 and #2, next month.

Another thing worthy of mention is Ardian Syaf’s illustrations in Issues #2 and #3.  Batgirl is both agile and tough balanced with naivete and some real street smarts, and we know this from how she is drawn on every panel.  I am also becoming a believer in the Adam Hughes school of cover art.  Issue 3 is one of the best of all the New 52 covers so far.

Review by C.J. Bunce

One-shot comic books—those issues that carry a complete story in typically about 24-30 pages, usually to fill a gap in a publishers current showcase of stories, remind readers of characters of the past, or even introduce a work in its own right with no intention of continuing on in a series—don’t often result in much that is memorable.  A book like Batman: The Killing Joke is an example of the best kind, and the recent Green Arrow Incorporated is an example of one that doesn’t stick with you very long after reading.

But the new series Avengers Origins has started off right with its volume of expected one-shot issues of more obscure Marvel Comics superheroes, beginning last week with Ant-Man & the Wasp.  Like all one-shots, the story must be told quickly and here writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has double-duty with two characters, albeit with an intertwined story.  He is pretty successful with Ant-Man and lesser so with the Wasp.  But the big takeaway from this issue is the almost dream-state painting style of French artist Stephanie Hans.  Her animal and insect work evokes David Petersen’s Mouse Guard work, and her depiction of Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, is both realistic and unreal.  In fact it is her creature drawings and work on Janet that counterbalances the lack of story and character development that Aguirre-Sacasa brings to Janet.

The story encompasses the back story of Dr. Henry Pym, seeking a grant to fund research into shrinking technologies after his wife is murdered, accidentally crosses paths with Janet Van Dyne, daughter of another scientist seeking grant money.  Henry is stodgy and over-focused on his work, Janet is free-spirited.  Their relationship slowly grows and doesn’t actually come together until literally the last panel. What is missing is chemistry…why she falls for him so quickly.  But all this is forgivable for the brief page count, as the rest of the story is packed with action and interesting curiosities.

Pym’s story is straight out of the classic film The Incredible Shrinking Man, although Pym takes a surprising turn at immediately taking toward liking the insects he is confronted with, experiencing no fear of horse-sized ants, and instead bonding with them and working on problems together.  That cornerstone of his character is nicely revealed.

Van Dyne’s story becomes a hurried vengeance origin that forces the reader to remember the Stan Lee school of obtaining superpowers: Sometimes you just have to accept gamma rays for what they are, a quick mechanism to move you along to focus more on character and relationships.  The how of becoming the Wasp is revealed so fast that you don’t really have time to scratch your head and question it.

Ultimately Aguirre-Sacasa and Hans come together to create a really good looking book, and the cover Marko Djurdjevic is a real eye-grabber.

If your only exposure to Ant-Man is the Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead), Phil Hester (Bionic Man, Green Arrow) and Ande Parks (Union Station, Green ArrowThe Irredeemable Ant-Man short-lived series, this issue is a good flashback to the original Ant-Man story, before the off-the-wall Eric O’Grady sneaked into Dr. Pym’s lab and got his own ant suit.  If you haven’t read The Irredeemable Ant-Man, then there’s no time like the present to check out that funny series, also known for its great covers, showing the little hero actually was present in a previously released, character-packed, Frank Cho cover.  And if you’re missing the other famous little superhero, the Ray Parker Atom character from DC Comics—who inexplicably doesn’t have his own series in the New 52—maybe someone at DC will get some inspiration from Hans’s drawings of a tiny guy in a big world to resurrect that character.

Ten weeks ago I posted my list of what I intended to buy from the DC Comics New 52.  To recap, they were:

Then through browsing the racks at the store, I added the following, based on something I saw in the title or a page-turn, or in the case of Animal Man, a good review:

Based solely on what I read in Issue #1 of each, I decided to not go forward with the following titles:

I reviewed Action Comics #1 here.  Just not the Superman I was interested in reading about, I guess.  (All other DC Comics titles I have reviewed here include links in comic title names in this article).

Green Lantern #1 was spent exclusively on Sinestro, not Hal Jordan, and because I wasn’t interested in an ongoing Sinestro book, I gave up on buying Issue #2, which he also appears to be featured in.

Voodoo #1 was so thin in plot and long on shock factor that it made the bottom of the list of all that I read over the past three months.  Not my cup of tea.

Supergirl #1 wasn’t bad.  But I couldn’t help comparing it to Michael Turner’s and Jeph Loeb’s Supergirl from the Superman/Batman series and this just didn’t compare.

Birds of Prey was a series I read in about 5-10 issue arcs over several years.  This isn’t the same team, and it’s not worse because there is no Oracle, it is just not the same sensibility.  I prefer the more mature, aka women heroine vs. girl heroine Birds of Prey group of the past, and I don’t like at all where the current Black Canary is, they should get her back in the Green Arrow title.  I think the characters are drawn almost like teenagers, as if this should be a companion to the Teen Titans.  That would make more sense.  So I left this title behind after Issue #1, too.

I decided to go forward and read Issue #2 of the following titles, however, just to give them another shot (I plan to review each Issue #2 at a later date):

So this is how five titles were cut from my pull-list.  The big winners?  I have eight titles I hope to be reading for a long time:

I will also keep buying Green Arrow in hopes that it will improve, and Jim Lee’s Justice League since it seems to glue a lot of the other stories together.

Frankly, eight is about the right number I wanted to end up with, especially at current comic book prices.  I also will keep reading til the end of the short series, Huntress.  And as I get into more Marvel Comics I will be adding at least one book from that publisher to the ongoing read pile, in addition to independent publisher books Bionic Man and Rachel Rising.

So was the first round of the New 52 successful?  Ultimately most of what I read was worth reading, so I’d answer a definite “yes“.  I read 21 of the 52 titles, more than I planned to read.  The biggest surprise?  How much I liked All-Star Western #1 and its mix of old Gotham City and Jonah Hex.  Captain Atom and Justice League Dark were the two books I was most curious about, and they both delivered in a big way stellar stories and art about more minor DC Comics characters that I now can’t wait to read more about.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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