Tag Archive: DC 52


Review by C.J. Bunce

Batwoman is a bit of an enigma. To one extent she is historically just another Batman in women’s garb.  If you really wanted to bring Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl up to date in a new universe, the logical way to do it would be to drop the dated “girl” reference and finally give the adult Gordon her due as the “woman” superhero.  By way of background, Batwoman was originally brought into the DC universe to show fans that Batman was straight, several decades ago.  With Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 1980s, she was virtually extinguished from the DC timeline.  She was only brought back a few years ago as part of the DC series 52.  To diversify readership DC made her of Jewish background and a lesbian.  So she is unique in the DC universe for several reasons, but her alter ego as Kate Kane was so interesting and integral to the storyline of 52 that DC left readers begging for more.

The new Batwoman #1 (written and drawn by J.H. Williams III, with co-writing credits to W. Haden Blackman) is so good, as was Batgirl #1, you’ll easily push any reservations you may have aside and embrace this fully realized, modern superhero.

Batwoman has a lot going for it.

A driven, smart, savvy, sexy heroine?

Check.

Stunning visuals, including two-page spreads with a floating trio of story panels that carries you across the pages, and a truly unique storytelling style that you won’t see in other books?

Check.

A great costume, highlighted by Dave Stewart’s eye-popping choice of colors?  And a redheaded superhero that wears a red-haired wig?

Check.

Romance–Batwoman’s love life–her relationships–are one focus of her ongoing story.

Check.

Women in all the leading roles, from the superhero, to the sidekick, to the police detective who is after Batwoman.  And we get one brief scene with Commissioner James Gordon for good measure.

Check.

I had flipped through recent graphic novel pages of J.H. Williams’s work on Batwoman and was bothered by the strange, unique art style.  I couldn’t place it but it was almost like someone wasn’t using enough black ink on the artist renderings.  For whatever reason it just didn’t work for me.  The new Batwoman doesn’t have that.  The style is not only unique it is stylish, from the covers to the flashbacks in black and white to the fight scenes and bridges between the main plot points.

For those new to the character, Kate Kane has a few pages that give us some back story–to bring us up to speed with her world from the 52 series to the present.  Kane has past relationships and current ones, both of the friend and romance varieties.  In the first issue she is after a criminal element that is taking the children of Gotham.

As Batwoman she appears as an equal to Batman.  She is no longer a secondary character relegated to fill-in roles in crossover series.  By making her not just a woman version of Batman, it seems to have opened up storylines and possibilities for this character.  Along with Batgirl this is at the top of the new DC series, for both its design, story and colors, to its interesting storyline.

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am a big fan of Jim Lee’s Hush series, which appeared as Issues 608-619 of the Batman title.  Jeph Loeb’s story and Jim Lee’s pencils, along with Alex Sinclair’s use of color and Scott Williams’s inks made a for a classic and definitive Batman story.  Both Loeb and Lee’s artistic influence can be seen with the feel, tone, even the inner thought fonts and speech boxes, of the new Batman in DC’s new 52, in both Justice League #1 and last week’s release, Detective Comics #1.

Detective Comics, back to issue 27 in the early 1940s, has always focused on the Caped Crusader’s real superpower (actually the absence of any superpower, to be correct), that of sleuth–as a modern Sherlock Holmes.  The modern Batman since at least Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One has remained a modern twist on Holmes, without all the necessary quirkiness of Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective.  A brilliant series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (who is filming the role of Bilbo Baggins in next year’s The Hobbit from Peter Jackson), recently began airing from the BBC.  Titled Sherlock, that series, created by the great Stephen Moffat of the Doctor Who fifth series fame, will be reviewed here later.  Like the modern look at Moffat’s Holmes, you would expect similar treatment with a modern Batman in the new DC 52.

And writer/artist Tony Daniel and co-writer Ryan Winn do not fail to deliver on that expectation.  Not only is the new Batman in Detective Comics a smart, master detective fluent in modern sleuthing techniques, the villainy he must face is disturbingly real.  Back in the 1970s, true crime and real-life detective mags were everywhere, and they often had uncensored, shocking photos.  The new Detective Comics seems almost inspired by this old sub-genre.  Is the Joker more vile than ever, or no different from his past psychotic nature?  The art seems to be pushing the bounds here and the new Detective Comics is not for the squeamish.  If there are new DC Comics titles directed toward kids then this title definitely is drawn for the mature viewer.  In one panel, the Joker’s face has been surgically removed by a new villain, the Dollmaker, and the remains are left hanging on the wall.  The result is as grotesque and grisly as it sounds.  As the Joker’s characteristic insane laugh and killer jokes are how we’d expect to see the Joker, the treatment here hangs at the precipice of being over the top.

Beyond the pursuit of the crime element we get short shapshots of a classic Alfred Pennyworth, as true to his past form as ever.  Commissioner James Gordon is also the class-act we would hope him to be.  Readers can’t really have enough Commissioner Gordon, so hopefully we’ll see a lot more coordination between him and Batman.  Once we saw Gary Oldman provide such a definitive performance as the unflinching cop in The Dark Knight, fans just can’t get enough of this character.

As Bruce Wayne, our hero is consistent with past Batman and Detective Comics stories.  One thing is for certain, if DC Comics is changing the face of certain superheroes in its universe, Batman is the same as ever.  A very good thing for such a key figure in the new universe who is featured in nearly a dozen titles.  Will the Dark Knight continue in this title to be this dark, bleak and gritty?  We’ll check out the next issue to find out next month.   But if the story sticks to its current grisly path this may not be an ongoing ‘zine for this reader.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Three years ago Barbara Gordon was shot and sustained spinal damage by the Joker.  The crime was detailed in Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s controversial Batman: The Killing Joke, the first slick prestige-formatted comic book and one of the best looking comic books of all time.  Since then Barbara Gordon has been in a wheelchair. During the past three years Barbara had dropped her Batgirl costume for a computer and became the brains behind the Birds of Prey as the character Oracle, along with Dinah Lance/Black Canary, and Helena Bertinelli/Huntress.  She’s been living with her father, Commissioner Gordon, all the while.  And a miracle happens–she can walk again.  Now she wants to “spread her wings” and move out on her own.  That is where we meet Batgirl in the new DC Comics “New 52” Batgirl series.

It is only fitting that Gail Simone, who in recent years has spent more time creating Barbara Gordon’s voice than anyone, scripted the first new universe Batgirl story.  She understands the character and is my argument for why writers should stick with characters longer than they seem to be allowed at DC and Marvel.  Especially when the writer gets it right.  If you invest a lot of time in a character, you get in his/her skin and begin to think the character’s thoughts.  You get that feeling with Batgirl.

Obviously the “three years” in the wheelchair as Oracle is in DC universe time, since Batman: The Killing Joke was published 23 years ago, back in 1988.

The new Barbara is funny and endearing.  She shares her inner voice with us to contrast with her Batgirl exterior.  We don’t know what will come of it, but she finds a new roommate and a place she can afford to rent.  Her inner voice is determined, and she forces herself to be confident, even though we sense a lot of doubt in her about her abilities.  She’s young, but not too young.  She is a straight arrow, not gritty and also thankfully not vapid.  In the first story we see her crash a home crime, similar to what Gordon faced with the Joker.  She hasn’t been in the superhero business physically for years now.  She is successful, but she’s nervous.  Simone shares that the shooting will never leave this character, although we get the vibe that this series will be about moving on.  The art is clean, Batgirl looks good in her costume and the panels and design are creative.  Nice work all around by artists Ardian Syaf and Vincente Cifuentes.

Fans have asked numerous questions: Why pull her from the wheelchair?  As a model for disabled people, what is DC saying about people with disabilities–to be heroes do you need to be able to walk?  All these are fair questions and Simone has attempted to answer them this summer.  Ultimately this is a character and maybe DC thought every piece of her story as Oracle had been written.  And where else but comic books can a character live a dream that may not be able to be fulfilled with a person in an actual, similar circumstance?  It is difficult to say anyone but Simone could have handled this transition with the same level of grace and alacrity.  But it shows that no fan is free from the change in this new set of series.  The risk with so much change at once is simply human nature–humans don’t like change.  So everywhere you look in the new titles, something will be off-putting to everyone at some point.  What Issue #1 of Batgirl does successfully is wade right through those questions and deliver a new, fresh story that has promise.

The new Batgirl could be the lead in Veronica Mars. She could be a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Or the writers will create someone who makes her own mark.  Not the Batgirl from the TV show, or the Batgirl from the Batman and Robin movie, but someone with the same energy and optimism.

First off she will need to encounter a new villain called the Mirror, who she meets at the end of Issue #1.  And her first big encounter is brief–and a failure.  Luckily for us readers, Batgirl Issue #1 is not.  Looking forward to Issue #2 next month!

Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s finally here after all the chatter over the summer.  The new DC 52.  The first issue out, Justice League, definitely is a jolt in the fabric of the DC universe, much in the same way as Crisis on Infinite Earths, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis (we can all be glad they didn’t title this re-launch with another “crisis” metaphor).  It’s a jolt that will keep the readers that picked up 150 copies at my local store and everyone else across the globe to come back next week to try on the other new titles that will be trickling in this month.

Happily Jim Lee’s art is familiar and reliably well done.  It’s not like his work on Hush, but it has a lot going for it.  Alex Sinclair’s use of color is the next big item to stand out.  We don’t get enough of the story to be able to make a pronouncement yet on Geoff Johns’ story.  A lot is going on here.

Somehow I had not figured this would be an origin or first meeting story.  We start five years before the present-whatever the present is.  There are hints, like a reference to “transformers” that would seem to place the new origin of superheroes in our own recent time, as opposed to an origin in the middle of the last century with past continuity.  Without spoiling it with the details, we are first introduced to Batman who quickly encounters Green Lantern.  There is no indication whether this is Bruce Wayne or Hal Jordan, but it seems pretty likely.  We see a pre-superhero character that will likely become the Cyborg character on the cover of Issue #1, who looks like he may be the “kid” team member.  Despite the presence on the cover of Aquaman, Flash, and Wonder Woman, they do not make an appearance in Issue #1.  Superman makes only a brief appearance, our first panel look at the new Superman suit.  To most readers the new Superman suit will not come off as changed much.  No red bloomers on the outside of his outfit this time.  The new suit looks good because it does not incorporate a lot of obvious change.

A two-page Jim Lee mini-sketch book follows the main story.  It includes an awesome Aquaman suit that was rejected, a version that would fit right in with Aspen Comics/Michael Turner’s Fathom series.  And  Wonder Woman with a leg belt holding a knife like Lara Croft.  Also rejected.

The story ends with a lead-in to Issue #2, a battle between Batman and Superman.  No time is wasted in this first issue, starting with a team up straight out of the Brave and the Bold.  As much as I like a pairing of Green Lantern with Green Arrow, a pairing with Batman and Green Lantern at the foundation of the new Justice League would be my second choice.  The funny bit in this issue is a reference to who has what superhero powers–Green Lantern’s reaction to Batman’s response is funny.

There is no discussion of a League yet–we are clearly early in the story.  And something that I have not seen discussed anywhere–the drop of “of America” from the decades-old team.  No doubt our global economy/marketplace/communications was the impetus behind losing the rest of the team label.   I do find myself asking whether Metropolis, Coast City and Gotham fall in the same state or not.

Earth’s first villain in the DCU is a strange alien, “changeling” type of menace.  But with one whisper we learn who will be the first major villain for the League to encounter: Darkseid.

So the first issue of the new DCU looks good, appears to be a good start, includes some uncertainty, and reveals some changes.  All in all a lot going on in only 24 pages!

   

It is always great to catch up with my friend Freddie Williams II, whether it is at a midwest con or in San Diego.  DW and I were lucky to meet up again with Freddie and his wife Kiki at Comic-Con in San Diego last month.  Freddie is probably best known as the series artist for DC Comics’ Robin, as well as more recently the Flash series, but he’s also served as artist on Aquaman and Seven Soldiers, among other titles, and he is currently the artist on the new Captain Atom series premiering next month.  And I mentioned in a prior post that Freddie literally wrote the book on digital comic illustration, The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics.  We’re happy to welcome Freddie to borg.com.

It was great to see you again doing sketches for fans at Comic-Con this year.  How was life in Artists Alley?  How did this year’s event compare to past years for you?

Freddie:  Artists Alley and the convention itself are super busy, I love seeing friends from years past and meeting new folks but those 5 days go by so fast. The first couple years I had a bit more time to breathe and walk around but now I am doing signings and commissions non stop, but I love it!

What was the best part of Comic-Con for you this year?  Did you make it to any panels or offsite parties?  Any favorite fan moments from this year?

I was on The New 52 Panel for the DC Reboot but I had no time to walk around and take in any sights.  No offsite parties (too much work to do) though I did dinner with my Editor and a few other DC folks one night and got to add Batman to The Palm restaurant in the Gaslamp District another night, that was pretty awesome!

   

Every year longtime Comic-Con attendees comment that Comic-Con has changed with the addition of mega-panels for Hollywood movie franchises, production studios, video game companies, etc., implying a lesser focus on the “comic” in Comic-Con. Being in the industry as a comic book artist, what is your take?

Freddie: At times it does feel excessive, but folks don’t have to go to those panels & areas if they don’t want to. There are still comic related areas to hit, though they do tend to be shrinking every year. I was very happy to see deviantART add the Jumbo tron screens over Artists Alley this year, those rocked!

Any peers in the comic book world you were able to meet up with again, or meet for the first time?

Freddie: Had dinner with Rachel Gluckstern, JT Krul, Nicola & Craig Scott during the con and a few days after the con we met up for lunch with Francis Manapul, Agnes Garbowska, & Joel Gomez, then before we left for the Chicago con we met up again with Joel Gomez and his wife Beth Sotelo. It is always a blast to get to hang out and visit with these folks when we’re out for the Comic-Con.

I want to throw in a big congratulations for being selected as the artist for the new Captain Atom series coming from DC Comics in September. We can’t wait to see the first issue. This year’s Comic-Con had a huge focus on the DC Comics 52 #1 re-launch. What can you share with us about your work on this new project?

Freddie: I am trying some new stuff artistically with Captain Atom and JT and I get to go a bit off the beaten path with the character, so it’s been exciting so far. So doing not only super hero stuff but also esoteric & sci-fi story lines as well.

Here is Freddie’s AWESOME original art for the coming Captain Atom Issue #1, page 12:

Any advice for next year for fans or professionals coming to Comic-Con for the first time?

Freddie: Hmm, that’s a hard one, let’s see–pack light, always walk the outside halls if you want to get anywhere (from one end of the hall to another–it seemed faster to me than walking inside), be prepared to wait in long lines. And come to Artists Alley where the cool folks hang out!

Hey-that’s what Elizabeth C. Bunce and I did!  Here we are having a great time on Comic-Con Friday with Freddie and his wife Kiki in Artists Alley:

Thanks for chatting with us today, Freddie!  Follow Freddie as a featured illustrator at DC Comics website, at his own website www.FreddieArt.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

DC Comics revealed Monday that it will publish a compilation of the first 52 new DC Comics #1 issues from its September re-launch in December.  If you’re like me and you skip regular issues and wait for the trade paperback version, this may be for you.  The book will sell at $150, but for that you get all 1,216 pages. 

Starting July 20, at Comic-Con and retailers nationwide, DC Comics will be debuting a guide to the new re-launch titled DC Comics – The New 52.  It will be available for free and will include a six-page guide and reprints of all 52 relaunch #1 covers.

DC Comics also revealed several Comic-Con giveaways and exclusives that had not yet previously been disclosed:

  • DC will have a green screen where guests can get a photo with the new DCU Justice League.
  • DC will give away its own oversized swag bags featuring the Justice League.
  • DC will give away various “Wayne Manor” casino chips.  DC did not mention whether these have any value or will be exchangeable for anything or whether it is just a Comic-Con collectible treasure hunt item.  The chips will be available in six colors and denominations up to $100.
  • Also available: DC 52 postcard checklists, posters and pins.
  • Limited edition portfolios featuring DC 52 covers for $39.95.  Only 520 copies of each volume will be available per day.
  • Limited character action figure “Zoom” from the Flashpoint series.
  • The full panel schedule including DC Comics speakers can be found here.

DC Comics also has revealed several Issue #2 covers for the 52 re-launch, including this one for Green Arrow

I have to ask: Since when did Wolverine become Green Arrow?  What’s with the weird stubble/sideburns?  I’m also not a fan of the suit.  He looks more like Connor Hawke from the last issues of the original run of Green Arrow, not our Ollie Queen.

Hrm…

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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