Tag Archive: DC 52


   

Review by C.J. Bunce

(with spoilers)

One of the most anticipated titles of DC Comics New 52 is Wonder Woman, and its tight writing by Brian Azzarello is only slightly eclipsed by the brilliant artistry of top artist Cliff Chiang.  Chiang’s style alone is enough to make the new Wonder Woman series a title to keep reading.  But Azzarello’s developing story steeped (if not fully submerged) in Greek mythology is enticing and leaves you looking for what’s next.

In Issue #1 we meet Wonder Woman in in her London apartment, sleeping naked, of course (she’s a woman superhero in the new DCU so what else would you expect?) shortly after Zola, the soon-to-be mother of an illegitimate daughter of Zeus is pursued by a pair of bow and arrow and mace-toting centaurs released in a Virginia barn by a peacock feathered Hera.  (Phew!)  The “release” itself is disturbing but that’s where the negative part of Issue #1 ends.  The rest is akin to a pretty rousing episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Not a bad thing at all.

Even if we don’t know what’s going on, Wonder Woman, or Diana, as she prefers to be called, is confident and comfortable as a determined and skillful warrior in the DCU.  Apollo, perched high atop his new temple in the tallest building in the world in Dubai, is a modern sleazy type, quick to expend three hanger-on-ers as oracles to catch a glimpse of what transpires as Diana saves Zola, who escapes the Virginia farm with the help of a magic key handed to her by Hermes.   Inexplicably Zola lands in the dark of Diana’s London apartment and we’re off on a Xena and Gabrielle-esque ride from then on.

Issue #2 picks up with Diana returning to Mount Olympus carrying the wounded Hermes, stricken by the centaurs before Diana eliminates them.  There Diana meets up with her mother, Queen Hippolyta and has a few nice panels of combat with another Amazonian princess in the tribe.  A rather punked-out looking daughter of Hera named Strife, sister to Ares the God of War, arrives with a surprising claim on our eponymous superheroine.

The story of Issue #2 may be short and sweet, but the fan is had with Chiang’s art again.  If you have seen Chiang’s original artwork before, you will know his work is pristine with not a lot of sketching, just bold lines.  Despite all the chatter in advance about Wonder Woman’s new costume, ultimately it does not matter as this Diana is drawn beautifully, as you’d expect a stunning Amazon princess to look in the comic pages.  Her characterization as bold, brash, outspoken and brassy is right where Wonder Woman should be.  Expect to see Chiang in the next few years emerge as the next Frank Cho.

Review by C.J. Bunce

If we didn’t have Batman #1 and Detective Comics #1, there would be a fair amount to rave about with Batman: Dark Knight #1, another DC Comics “New 52” title, written by Paul Jenkins with pencils by David Finch (interestingly the artist on this book has top cover billing over the writer, which I don’t recall seeing before).

First of all, the art is great and the Batman narration is as good as the other two main Bat-titles.  Note: I won’t be buying or reviewing a fourth title, Batman and Robin, since Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin series may have forever scarred me and averted me from a title focused only on that duo.

Here, Batman is again on his way to foil a breakout at Arkham Asylum.  But wait a second, isn’t that the plot of Batman #1? Didn’t these writers coordinate that kind of glaring oddity?  It could have been useful and interesting had they shown two sides of the same event, but the writer shows us no indication here of that happening.

A new twist is an internal affairs detective who is pretty savvy to Bruce Wayne’s support of Batman, including getting too close for comfort to a likely background relationship between Bruce and Commissioner Gordon.

Despite some nice splash pages, good inks by Richard Friend and good color work by Alex Sinclair, this issue does not offer anything not available in another title.  It begs the question: Why not just give readers a weekly Batman comic that fuses 2-4 of these series together?  Soon we will be seeing more story elements tripping over each other, such as the fact that a presumably new “love interest” is introduced here (Jai Hudson) and yet we see Batman “linked up” with Catwoman Selina Kyle in the Catwoman series.  Continuity is just lost out the window.

If you have to pick just one Batman title to go forward with, you’ll be hard pressed to keep this as your keeper of the bunch.  For me, Batman is the series I plan to follow going forward.  Keep in mind that Batman is the busiest guy in the DCU right now, also appearing in Justice League, Catwoman, Batwoman.  Not to mention other Bat-zines like Batwing and cameos in every other book.  Can you have too much of a good thing?  I think we’re going to find out.

Here is some nice pencil work by Finch:

Ultimately Dark Knight may be one of the victims of trying something as ambitious as releasing 52 new series at once.  It makes you wonder if the writers and artists realize how much they really are competing against each other for consumers’ dollars.  It is unfortunate because even having a nice piece of work such as this result may not keep you in the running when you’re in the leagues with other equally good creators.

Review by C.J. Bunce

(with spoilers)

The best thing about The Flash #1, another of the re-started DCU titles published in the past few weeks, is that they didn’t mess around with which Flash they chose to move forward with.  To me, Barry Allen is always THE Flash.  Barry was killed off in 1985 in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, which ended with Flash sacrificing himself to save Earth.  Before that, his long-time girlfriend-turned-wife Iris West was killed.   After 23 years Grant Morrison brought Barry back in Final Crisis, and via the Flashpoint mini-series this past year it was anyone’s guess where The Flash would be for the new DCU reboot.  Here, we’re at the beginning again, and with Barry and co-worker Patty Spivot dating it’s a refreshing place to re-start this series.

Issue #1 begins with Barry and Patty at a technology trade show.  A strange terrorist-like force that looks just like the Cobra Commander squad from G.I. Joe crashes the event leaving Barry to zip out  in Flash mode and stop the squad, one by one.  Just like a Clark Kent-to-Superman-and-back transformation, Barry walks in at the end to Patty having no idea that he even left.  But Iris West is here, too, this time as a reporter pursuing Barry.

This Barry story has the same nice tone that the short-lived The Flash TV series had.  The Flash series has always been an easy read–like any number of superhero titles, from Spider-man to Justice League of America to the Fantastic Four, you could just pick a copy off the rack and jump right in.  So the challenge for writer Francis Manapul and artist Brian Buccellato is creating something new with this well-known hero.  How can you raise the stakes for The Flash when he was already killed off and left for dead for 23 years?

Here, Manapul answers that by introducing a long-lost friend named Manuel who shows up as one of the dead shooters at the trade show, only to have Barry see him later, and in the last frame step into something he couldn’t expect, apparently a clone army of Manuels.

I wouldn’t say The Flash is one of the New 52 stand-out titles because there is not much new by way of art style, storytelling, or surprises.  Unlike similar classic Justice League reboot titles for Savage Hawkman and Aquaman, there is not a lot here to rave about.  Will diehard Barry Allen fans be happy with this approach or demand something more?  Too much change, as with the Green Arrow series, will put off readers, but retelling the same story as it has been told before will probably not re-ignite anything for the current DC fan base either.  For an audience of new readers, however, this series would be a good place to check out a solid, classic character, whose story, originally or retold, is worth reading if you just like the idea of “the fastest man alive.”

With a choice of 52 DC regular titles to choose from (and every other publisher’s product out there), unless you’re one of the rare ones reading them all or you’re just a tried and true fan of the character, it will be hard to keep this series on the shortlist unless the creators can amp up the action and creativity to compete with other titles.

By C.J. Bunce

Geoff Johns is well known as one of DC’s best writers and he doesn’t disappoint with a well formed intro to everyone’s favorite superhero from their youth.

Ivan Reis’s pencilling of the king of Atlantis is clean. He has a nice way of making Aquaman look like a hero in contrast to the regular people he encounters around Boston Harbor. A few pages feel bit like Reis could go in the direction of the Aspen/Fathom art style. He doesn’t and I am not sure if that would be so bad.  Here is the original art for his first appearance in the DC New 52:

I was a bit surprised to see a brooding Aquaman. The story begins with an awakening of some hideous sea monsters at the bottom of the ocean’s depths. By the end of the book the creatures have reached the water’s surface and had their first and unfortunate contact with humans. Like several other DC New 52 stories, this Aquaman is having some sort of mid-life crisis and a re-evaluation of his role as superhero of Atlantis. (Makes you wonder how all these writers are doing in their personal lives just a little bit).

Some nice setting locations go a long way to getting us into the feel for this book: a seafood restaurant, a lighthouse where Aquaman’s alias Arthur lives with a beautiful wife, and a seaworn vessel where the crew is first to encounter the sea monsters.

The sea monsters are probably the best villains yet in the DC’s New 52. Alien-like, with their own language, these will be a good first nemesis for Aquaman.

As new costumes go Aquaman looks exactly like he should. His gold scaled shirt seems to shine as if made from gold, matching his trident. At first we see Aquaman in a fish out of water scene and he is tough, with bullet deflection and the ability to make a car stop with his trident.

This would be a great first comic for all ages, and I am looking forward to issue #2.

Review by C.J. Bunce

I like western movies.  I like the sounds of the Old West, the cattle, the clinking of spurs as the two guys slowly meet up in the center of the old western town.  I like epic western soundtracks and I like slow guitar soundtracks, and theme songs that sometimes tell a familiar story.   I also have read a little Louis L’Amour and love his writing and descriptions.  I’ve never thought of picking up a comic book about the Old West, mainly because they don’t make ’em anymore.

I almost didn’t pick up All-Star Western #1, one of DC Comics’s New 52 line.  Mostly because it had the crazy looking Jonah Hex on the cover.  All I knew of Hex was watching a bit of the Jonah Hex movie, which for whatever reason I didn’t finish on video.  But somehow (fate?) it ended up in my pull list.  I have read a super western-ish book recently called El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman, by Jai Nitz, Ande Parks, and Phil Hester, that was just awesome (to be reviewed here later on).  Intrigued by the idea of a current western comic in the midst of the Justice League superheroes, I read it first from the stack.

From a literary standpoint there is almost an unending supply of reasons to check this one out.

Unusual Setting

One would think a western comic took place in the Old West.  This takes place in Gotham city in the 1880s, which in my mind is more Old East.  The drawings have a nice old-time feel to them.  The colors offer more than just sepia tones.  There’s a little Mike Mignola and P. Craig Russell’s Gotham by Gaslight feel here for sure.  A good thing, as I wished that book had turned into its own series.

Narration

The narrator is none other than the founder of Gotham’s own Arkham Asylum, Doctor Arkham himself.  Arkham is our narrator, and he’s a bit odd.  His character, his mannerisms, and his creepiness might remind you of Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker in Otto Preminger’s Laura.  A further creepy scene may also make you think he’s a bit of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Familiar But Reliable Plot

To get us into this world quickly, the plot seems to be a mix of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and a Jack the Ripper tale.  Pacing is reminscent of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  There’s also a bit of the outcast element of Danny Glover’s Mal in Silverado.  There’s a medical aspect of the 19th century as well, the sleuthing of an early Detective Comics of sorts, but again, familiar because of the similar treatment in From Hell.  The art here, however, is a lot more stylish and evocative.  The only downside will be if this continues to be just another Jack the Ripper story.  Too many stories end up there.

The Archetype Western Anti-Hero

Not only does the half-mangled faced Jonah Hex play the anti-hero, he talks a bit like Clint Eastwood mixed with Sam Elliott.  Hex’s confederate uniform really brings you back to Sam Elliot’s performance as Dal Traven in Louis L’Amour’s The Shadow Riders, but there is also a little of Elliott’s Ghost Rider’s Caretaker mixed with The Golden Compass’s Lee Scoresby.  To get me to conjure any incarnation of Sam Elliott in your character is a win in my book.  But then again there’s a spin on Eastwood’s Stranger from High Plains Drifter, as you can see the whole town of Gotham closing in on Dr. Arkham and Hex after only the 24th page.  Who would have thought Jonah Hex could be so cool?

If you want something truly different, pick up this book.

Review by C.J. Bunce

(with spoilers)

Writer Tony S. Daniel may have created a nearly perfect origin story, although it actually starts at the end for Hawkman, and we don’t really know the origin of his powers.  But if this is the first issue of Hawkman you ever read, you will be instantly hooked, just as this reader was.

Hawkman was that stoic hero that stood in the background of full-scale Justice League adventures.  He and Hawkgirl always looked cool, quick to sweep into the scene with full wings spread, ready for any brawl.  One of my favorite exchanges in recent Green Arrow stories is a presumed argument between resurrected Green Arrow and Hawkman in Green Arrow 12 that turns into a full-on laugh fest/yuk it up at the expense of Dinah Lance/Black Canary.  Here is Matt Wagner’s original artwork for that issue:

And let’s face it, Hawkman has always had one of the best costumes around.  How many people have doodled this guy in the margin of papers in school?

But a series all his own?  And why is he “savage” Hawkman?

Even a comic book of 24 pages sometimes takes a few sittings.  You want to give every page its due.   And for $2.99 you’ve got to get as much bang for your buck as possible.  Savage Hawkman #1 is a one-sitting read, not because it is a “quick read” but because you just can’t put it down.

The story starts at The End.  Actually the end for whatever came before, as Hawkman has evidently experienced all he can take and is ready to throw in the towel.  But something called the Nth metal will not let him leave.  It keeps pulling him back in.

Hawkman is really Carter Hall, a linguistics expert/Eqyptologist whose name instantly conjures the ghost of Howard Carter (the Eqyptologist who discovered King Tut).  In trying to burn his very awesome Hawkman super suit, the suit has different ideas.  Carter wants to kill Hawkman.  But he can’t.  It won’t let him.  Flash forward.  A team.  An archaeological dig.  Aliens?  We need to call in the expert.  No one knows where he is?  Find him.  Mummified aliens.  Wait a second, they’re not dead?  And in nice Incredible Hulk-like fashion we find out what happened to the super suit.  Don’t make him angry.  You won’t like him when he’s angry.   (We do).  And the result is even cooler than we thought.  Where can we get some of that Nth metal anyway?

Tony Daniel described Hawkman as “Indiana Jones fighting alien threats.”  That’s pretty good.  You’ve gotta love when the creators know their character and want to bring out the best in that character.  Philip Tan’s painterly art has great style.  I don’t know whether it is because Hawkman looks so much like Warlord, but Tan’s style reminds me of Mike Grell.  Hard to beat a comparison like that.  For anyone with no background on Hawkman, this would be a good first comic book to pick up and plunge right in.

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s no secret that Green Arrow is my favorite DCU character.  As re-envisioned in the early 1970s by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, he became less of a Batman knockoff and more of a completely separate and identifiable voice.  Even early on with O’Neil and Adams, Green Arrow and Green Lantern were a mirror image of Batman and Superman.  Superman tending to be the holier than thou determiner of right and wrong, and Batman more subversive, critical of the powers that be, cutting through everything to solve real problems, in a practical way.  Green Arrow was influential, even in his first meeting with Hal in Green Lantern 76.  Over the years Green Lantern, watcher and guardian of Earth, became more like Green Arrow, critical of the status quo.  Green Lantern/Hal Jordan learned from Green Arrow/Oliver Queen as their relationship grew.  But lately, especially with the recent Green Lantern movie, it’s getting harder to tell Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen apart, with Hal becoming more critical and brooding.

The DC Comics New 52 Green Arrow #1 came out two weeks ago.  I read issue #1 quickly.  Then I put it aside because I hate when reviewers, instead of reviewing what is in front of them, review what they wish was in front of them.  Hence the delay.  So I re-read it.  And I still find it baffling.

I also read the one-shot issue Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries, which seemed to be a lead in to the new Green ArrowGreen Arrow Industries has Oliver Queen as the head of some military industrial complex.  He is Tony Stark from Marvel Comics’s Iron Man, and nothing else.  Other than in the first Iron Man movie, I have never cared for Tony Stark.  He is arrogant.  He lives a life of privilege.  Oliver Queen is not that guy–his back story is that he was a millionaire that lost all of his money.  He is not the owner of Halliburton or of Stark Industries or of Wayne Tech.

Queen learned what is important is watching out for the little guy.  The Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries one-shot may be the most unexplainable, out of left field one-shots I have read.  Right up there with the bizarre Green Arrow: One Million book from a few years back, but at least that book had some context.  As expected, the New 52 continues with Green Arrow as this new leader of what is called Queen Industries.

The new Green Arrow is gadget happy.  Oliver Queen has never needed to rely on gadgets to be a superhero.  Like Batman, Green Arrow has no super powers.  He uses his brain.  He solves mysteries.  Gadgets?  That’s for Bruce Wayne.  We like Bruce Wayne and his toys.  Again, that’s not Oliver Queen, except for one thing:  trick arrows.  That said, the best Green Arrow stories leave out the trick arrows.  They are an amusing gimmick that even Oliver Queen jokes about when using them.  Oliver Queen doesn’t need a trick arrow with bluetooth technology that can be shot onto a boat and allow someone far away to control the boat via satellite.  A nice idea for someone else?  Maybe.  Put that story in the next Batman arc.  And Green Arrow also doesn’t need a Geordi LaForge-like visor.  Green Arrow just wears a mask for disguise.  He doesn’t need X-ray vision.

Neither is Oliver Queen James Bond.  We love James Bond.  But the two guys just are not much alike.  Part of the problem may be that even JT Krul has acknowledged Queen’s new “globe-trotting, James Bond, high adventures.”  Writers and artists who are not familiar with Green Arrow’s decades of character study and growth might think they are the same.  And I think the guys rebooting Green Arrow wish they were writing Tony Stark for Marvel Comics.

Recent issues of Green Arrow have shown Green Arrow as a hunter.  That makes more sense.  Oliver Queen was inspired by Robin Hood, specifically the classic film The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn.  Oliver Queen can survive in a forest, like Robin Hood in Sherwood.  And all he needs are arrows and a bow.  Nothing else.  No iPads or iPhones (called not-so-creatively qPads and qPhones in this issue).  No Oracle-type helper constantly feeding him the latest tech data.  Queen also knows how to adapt his carefully honed skills to the life of the urban cliff dweller.

Recent storylines had Green Arrow losing control because the baddies hurt his friend Roy Harper, formerly his sidekick Speedy, and killed one of Harper’s kids.  Oliver Queen murders the evil Prometheus in revenge, and the Justice League gets on his case for not properly bringing Prometheus to justice.  Like Batman over the years, Green Arrow issued some vigilante justice.  That storyline was interesting and going someplace.  The new Green Arrow is preachy and sounds like the old Silver Age Hal Jordan or Superman.

The new Green Arrow has no similarities to the O’Neil/Adams creation.  It has no similarity to 100 issues of the Green Arrow as further refined by Mike Grell.  It has no familiarity to the faithful ongoing adventures re-envisioned by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, or even the artist Jock.  Fans of Green Arrow as interpreted by Cliff Chiang and Mauro Cascioli will not recognize the new Green Arrow.

So what is the audience for the new Green Arrow?  I think I figured it out: (1) Readers who do not like Oliver Queen, or (2) readers who really liked his son Connor Hawke as Green Arrow.  Or readers who like a stubbly looking hero like Wolverine.

After Queen supposedly died (in the last 30+ issues of the first ongoing Green Arrow series that started with the Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters mini-series), Hawke took over as Green Arrow, sometimes referred to as Green Arrow II.  Hawke was purportedly written for a newer audience.  I would understand the new Green Arrow series if only they referred to the new Green Arrow as Connor Hawke.  The similarities are all there:  Hawke has no Van Dyke beard or goatee like Queen had.  Hawke had this more vinyl/leather looking suit, like the Green Arrow on Smallville wore, and like the new Green Arrow is wearing.  Hawke had this ongoing grudge against one thing or the other.  If this is where DC’s editors want to go, why not take Hawke along for the ride and give fans of Green Arrow our goateed hunter and partner to Dinah Lance and pal to Hal Jordan back?

Here is the new Green Arrow:

…and here is the more similarly drawn Connor Hawke:

If you take on a beloved character that has a 70+ year back story, you should be passionate about that character.  DC Comics announced this month that JT Krul is no longer writing Green Arrow with issue #4.  Good choice, JT.  JT Krul has written solid Green Arrow stories before.  His non-Green Arrow stories are also awesome, including his work on the new Captain Atom.  So what happened?  Was Green Arrow just an unfortunate casuality of mismatched post-its on the wall of the DC editors when re-assigning characters in the new DCU?  Does anyone love this new Green Arrow?  Will replacement writer Keith Giffen be given any latitude to fix the direction of the new Ollie?  We can only hope.  My guess is Krul was just hamstrung by new decisions of the editorial team.  So far I have enjoyed the rest of the New 52 for the most part.  “You can’t please everyone on everything” probably applies here.

Even if this series was not about Green Arrow–about some other new character with this plot–I think storylines that have used the reality TV storyline, as Green Arrow #1 does, televising anything and everything, are just tired.  The Running Man did it and The Hunger Games did it again.  Enough already.

And not to throw too many darts at the new Green Arrow series, but what’s with these new villain names: Dynamix?  Doppelganger?  Supercharge?  About the only thing right about the new Oliver Queen is he is back in Seattle where he belongs.

Had DC changed Batman or Superman as they did Green Arrow, they would have lost a ton of readers.  You can’t remove Batman’s cowl and his detective work or Superman’s cape and kryptonite and still call them Batman and Superman.  Same goes for Green Arrow’s goatee and the essential elements of his character.   You strip away the basics and it’s no longer the same guy.

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the DC Comics New 52 readers are not told in the issues themselves how the new series are supposed to relate to one another.   Action Comics #1, which will be reviewed here at a later date, does include “continued in” references at the back of the first issue pointing readers to the continuation of the story in other issues.  With all the Batman books, a fair question is “which one is for me?  Comparing Detective Comics #1 with Batman #1, this reader would choose the Batman series as an ongoing read.

Detective Comics was dark and disturbing.  Batman is dark, but in a less gruesome way.  That said, the story takes place in Gotham City (they haven’t changed that about Batman) and we see one gruesome death with a victim stuck with dozens of knives.  Skillfully told at the beginning of Batman #1, we are reminded in a speech by Bruce Wayne given at a solicitation for investors, that Gotham is “damned,” “cursed,” and “hopeless.”  Ultimately Gotham is Batman.  Bleak comes with the territory.

But good Batman stories also have some surprises and Batman #1 has a fair number.  We see a nostalgic team-up Batman and the original Robin and briefly-Batman-replacement, Dick Grayson (who has his own title as Nightwing).  The story includes a great moment with all the boys and men who have been Robin standing alongside Bruce in Wayne Manor and you could foresee an interesting story that could develop later involving all these wards (and one son) of Bruce Wayne.  If you aren’t keeping track, that’s Dick Grayson, Tim Drake (now Red Robin), and son Damian Wayne, the current Robin.  Recall that the second Robin, Jason Todd, was killed in the Batman series A Death in the Family story arc, but has been brought back in different incarnations and last we saw him he was in jail in Gotham.

The new Batman crams its first issue with false facts, fake clues, Wayne Manor, a jail break and cameo of almost all of the Arkham Asylum villains, a Batman/Joker team-up (!), Alfred, and the Batcave, complete with vintage Batmobiles.  We have mystery, a set up for future issues, and layering of dialogue with action.  We don’t have the inner thoughts of Batman here, something we did find in Detective Comics #1, which makes me think that is part of the distinction between the series.

Along with a good opening story by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo’s  art fits well, the locations are familiar, and the colors all scream Gotham.   In fact if you pulled out the text the artwork alone could carry the story from beginning to end.  About the only thing I didn’t care for was the weak title logo on the cover.

For first-time readers we get a good story that covers all bases and seems to borrow a lot from the Michael Keaton Batman movie, with some nods to the most recent Dark Knight film.  “Why so serious?”

With all the Batman books coming, and no indication why we should read one over the other, this #1 was a nice surprise.

Review by C.J. Bunce

The short-lived but fan favorite TV series Heroes launched a concept that really hadn’t been tried before in this way:  starting each episode not at the beginning of the story, but well into the story, and often at the best part–that point where the guy is hanging over the edge of the cliff, right where the cheerleader falls off the building, or right where the samurai gets the sword in his gut.  You feel a little bit of a slingshot at the back of your head at first, then you grab the rope, the boat pulls tight and before you know it you are skiing along with the characters at full throttle into the unknown.  Captain Atom #1 is a comic for readers who like wall to wall action, and it avoids any introductory phase–placing us right where the story gets good.  There are no gimmicks here that you might find in other books, just a good read that makes you hate having to wait a whole month for the next issue.

If you’re not a regular DC Comics reader, you may not think you know Captain Atom but you probably just haven’t put it all together yet.  He’s so familiar and you can’t quite place why you know him, even though he is not another current Justice League headliner (although he has served in the Justice League and led Justice League Europe in the past).  If you’re like me, you read his comic back in the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths 1980s, or you saw him in the more recent Superman/Batman.  But more likely you recognize him as Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, either the comic or the movie, because what comic reader hasn’t seen one of those?  Alan Moore originally designed his atomic man as Captain Atom, but DC decided not to let him use the newly absorbed Charlton Comics pantheon of characters in Watchmen at the last minute.   As stunning and surreal as Dr. Manhattan was portrayed in the Watchmen movie, he really comes to life in the new DC 52 Captain Atom #1.  And he’s not aloof like Dr. Manhattan–speaking to us through his thoughts we get to like this guy and feel for his circumstances quickly.  Dr. Manhattan is in the background in this shot from the Watchmen movie:

Like our heroes in the first issue of the new Justice League, superheroes are finding themselves as targets more than heroes.  Captain Atom finds himself defending himself against an attack, only to learn his powers are more expansive than he knew.  He begins to melt metal and it seems congeal and drip off the page.  Captain Atom surprises himself.  Like Han Solo said “sometimes I even amaze myself.”  Although I have liked most of what I have seen so far from the new DCU, this is the first ‘zine where the story doesn’t let up from the first panel through the last panel.

It can’t be easy drawing the visual expression of seemingly unlimited power as pure energy.  Freddie Williams II is at the top of his game here.  JT Krul has taken what he did with the edgy Soulfire and Fathom series coupled with his hero work on Green Arrow and has paced out a story with non-stop action, a smart hero, and intelligent writing.  We are pulled through the story via Captain Atom’s own thoughts and watch him try to control what is probably uncontrollable.   Williams renderings of Captain Atom as distinct from the rest of the art, and coupled with Jose Villarrubia’s creative use of color–red and blues are used to stunning effect–this book made me want to track down some 3D glasses to see if this could be viewed in actual 3D (I looked and couldn’t find the pair that came with the Chuck Season 2 DVD set).

For new readers you get enough back story to see what is going on.  Krul slips in background information just when you want it and sets up the action for coming issues.  Williams’s style seems inspired by the eye-popping visuals of Michael Golden, Howard Chaykin and Alex Nino–and this makes sense as a character who absorbs energy has got to ooze energy across the page.

I also like characters who are seemingly stronger and more powerful than the often one-note Superman.  Like Captain Marvel, Captain Atom is a character that makes you glad to know there is someone else out there who can carry the weight of the DCU world.  Like Firestorm, an old favorite hero with similar powers, this guy is not just a human in a supersuit.

Eagerly waiting for Issue #2!

Review by C.J. Bunce

(With spoilers)

One of the promises by the editors of the DC Comics New 52 was that any new reader, young or old, could pick up any #1 of the new issues and be able to delve right in, without any prior knowledge of the characters.  This was a good opportunity for me to browse the racks for something different, something I might not normally check out.  So I picked up a copy of Animal Man #1. It’s a good example of a new title that gives you enough back story and dangles a bit of things to come to get a reader hooked.

What the first DC 52 issues demonstrate is that Marvel Comics should do the same thing.  Every time I check out a random issue of Spider-man, Thor, or Captain America, I either get the feel that I have read this character so many times before there is nothing new here, or that the issue is in the middle of some complicated Marvel Universe event that I would need to buy every tangent title before I could figure out what is happening.  But back to Animal Man.

Issue #1 begins with a New Yorker magazine type interview with Buddy Baker, a washed-up ex-stunt man turned superhero turned animal rights activist turned movie actor who recently acted a part like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, mirroring the phase of life Buddy is in.

Buddy appears to be near some life changing turning point, is involved in a lot of self-reflection, and by all accounts is teetering at the edge of some midlife crisis.  Buddy has a wife of several years, and kids, and hasn’t engaged in much of the superhero biz for a while.  But he hasn’t hung up his super suit just yet.

Like Mr. Incredible at the beginning of The Incredibles, Buddy decides to go out on a mission, but afterward gets indications that his powers are affecting him in a bad way.

At home, his daughter has a room full of stuffed animals and she just wants to adopt a pet dog.  And we get to learn why Buddy is a superhero after all.  And we get indications that this series may not only be about Animal Man–a family member may have inherited some of his super abilities.

The story unfolds nicely, written by Jeff Lemire.  But whereas I like Travel Foreman’s panels with Buddy in superhero mode, his dialogue panels with the family in conversation are very minimalistic and seem like filler pages included to get us to the next big story point.  Some of it may relate to the equally minimalist colors used.  And the cover is just wrong–it makes Animal Man look like he is in some kind of gory bloodbath.  What the image reflects is his tie-in to the lives of animals throughout the world.  The color is important, it just has a strange vibe compared to the actual story.

I like the idea of a superhero family tale in the DC universe like that used in The Incredibles.  I like Buddy’s powers–he seems to be one of the Wonder Twins from The Superfriends tv show who could take on the abilities of any animal when needed to save the day.

As a non-Justice League, non-main DCU character title, Animal Man has gotten off to a nice start.

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