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Tag Archive: New 52 Second Wave


Review by C.J. Bunce

We reported earlier about the replacement of certain New 52 DC Comics titles that were launched last fall.  Men of War was one of those titles on the cancellation list.  If nothing else, low readership begs the question of whether war titles have a shot in the current state of the world.

Since the 1970s war titles seem to have had a rough time staying alive.  I am not sure how much of it relates to the topic of war as opposed to the spark of great storytelling grabbing and keeping readers.  Back in the 1980s I read Marvel Comics’ The ‘Nam series during Michael Golden’s stint as artist.  The ‘Nam was a success by any measure, surviving for seven years.  The stories were gritty and well done–they dealt with the daily trials of the foot soldier–and they survived almost miraculously despite dealing with no issues about drugs, and had no profanity because of the Comics Code.  They barely discussed the politics of the day, too.  But despite that, good stories caused readers to keep reading.

I also think readers will read anything good, regardless of genre category, and most regular comic book readers won’t shy away from any genre regardless of the subject, here “war comics”.  That said, I read Men of War and it didn’t work for me.  I think Issue #1 just featured too much action, too much sergeants yelling and the stereotypical movie “gung ho” vibe, and not enough character building.  Basically we saw a descendant of the classic Sergeant Rock of decades past himself become sergeant in today’s world.  It actually reminded me of the 1960s black and white TV series Combat!  an ongoing series of the daily trials of men at war.  The Sergeant Rock story was followed by a Navy Seals story, including an ending featuring a baddie who shockingly uses a woman as a shield.  The stuff of real-life war and the evening news.  If you like reality in comics then you may have liked that series.  If you see comics as escapism, well, this was perhaps not the best place to find it.

So last week saw the launch of G.I. Combat, as part of the New 52 Second Wave, which included both an ongoing G.I. Combat story and a second story reviving the unknowable super-soldier, the Unknown Soldier, a character derived in part from from the tomb of the same name in Washington, DC.  The character the Unknown Soldier has been around in various series for years at DC Comics, and he sees a short resurgence from time to time.

The first issue of G.I. Combat works for three reasons.

First, JT Krul and Ariel Olivetti sort of cheat here, because they added bacon.  I’ll explain.  If you ever watch competitive food shows like Top Chef or The Next Food Network Star, you often see judges jokingly tell contestants they cheated because they added bacon to a dish that may not have otherwise succeeded.  Here, the bacon is dinosaurs.  That’s right–if you can’t make your war comic succeed, throw in dinosaurs.  After all, who doesn’t like dinosaurs?  Frank Cho has been gearing up to release his own topic on the very same subject, Guns & Dinos, and his Shanna series also had military group taking on dinosaurs.  It’s hard to miss when you mix these together.

The alternate/incentive cover to Issue 1.

But to be fair, the second reason is the book works on its own merits.  JT Krul’s story is good, and Ariel Olivetti’s painterly style is just superb.  The story, “The War That Time Forgot” begins with a secret corps soldier on a live video chat with his wife.  The immediate focus on the personal creates a character that hooks the reader in quickly.  Scenes of the soldiers on an expected routine mission that ends up with pterodactyls surprisingly works, too.  Argentine artist Olivetti may be the next artist to keep an eye on.  You can see both some Adam Hughes and Mauro Cascioli in his work.  In fact, Olivetti has referred to fellow Argentine Cascioli, one of our favorites artists here at borg.com, as an influence on his style.

Some of Ariel Olivetti’s art from GI Combat.

The second story, “The Unknown Soldier” is also well written and well drawn.  I’m a little biased, however, as Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, the writers on the second story, are also my favorite current comic book writing team, telling the adventures of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in DC’s All-Star Western.  Dan Panosian’s panels are classic Charlton Comics war images–the story just looks like a classic war series.

But my third reason to like the book comes from the Unknown Soldier story.  Gray and Palmiotti’s hero is the type of timeless war hero that you would see played in the movies by John Wayne or Arnold Schwartzenegger.  A phoenix of sorts, this soldier is strong and he is a survivor, something everyone wants in a soldier story.

Since there are apparently no real rules to building a successful new war comic, maybe expanding readers’ preconception as to what a war comic is will be the ticket to a successful ongoing series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Spoilers!

James Robinson was able to do with his first issue in Wave 2 of DC Comics’s New 52 what the other DC Justice League creators didn’t do in the initial launch–he created an exciting and interesting play on the DC universe.  And with Paul Levitz they have re-ignited the superhero books when it seemed like the titles across the board were wavering a bit.

Robinson’s Earth 2 takes DC back to its origins up through the 1980s when characters traversed parallel universes before there were all the myriad multiverses in the DCU with series in the 2000s, such as that found in the weekly series titled 52.  Levitz switched up the classic DC title known for Batman and Superman team-ups–World’s Finest, flipping the apostrophe to account for the parallel worlds into the new Worlds’ Finest.

You can’t read one title without the other.  Issue #1 of Worlds’ Finest nudges Earth 2 only a bit because of its focus on a new Huntress and Power Girl, so far missing their own titles in the New 52.  But are they really who they appear to be?  Back to that in a bit.

I love parallel universe stories, ever since reading the battle between the Earth 1 and Earth 2 superheroes in the pages of Justice League of America as a kid.  These two issues brought back all the fun of those earlier stories.

The first book of the parallel DCU is Issue #1 of Earth 2, and you’ve just got to envy Robinson and artist Nicola Scott with what they were allowed to do here–show the death scenes of not one but all of DC’s big three, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  Scott even folded in her own versions of the supersuits, which are cooler than the earlier New 52 outfits.  But these characters only die on Earth 2 (not our Earth 1) in a battle called the Apokolips War (really, why do they always have to spell it so strangely?) by the leader of some “parademons” under a leader called Steppenwolf (usually with such a unique name you’d have an explanation for it, but neither the band, the novel or the wolf appear to apply here).  Regardless, Steppenwolf kills Wonder Woman first, but not before she has an encounter with the God Mercury, followed by the explosive death of Superman.  Batman sacrifices himself to blow everything to kingdom come, but not before a sign-off with daughter Helena, presumably his daughter with Catwoman, who is fighting the parademons as Robin, Batman’s sidekick.  Supergirl, here Karen Starr from DC’s 1970s, and Helena are part of the explosion and their ongoing story continues in Worlds’ Finest Issue #1.

But Earth 2 continues as we meet the Earth 2‘s Green Lantern (although he doesn’t have that title yet) Alan Scott.  And the issue ends as the God Mercury shows up to meet 21-year-old self-described screw-up Jay Garrick.  The name for a classic Flash in the DCU, no doubt we can see where Issue #2 will go with this character.  The how of showing Justice Society leaders Green Lantern and Flash getting together is well worth looking forward to.

Kudos to DC Comics for putting James Robinson on this title–his Justice League-Cry for Justice, although criticized by some, is one of the best reads from DC in years of limited “Crisis” series featuring the JLA.  Robinson can handle the intertwining story elements of something as complex as merging two Earths.

In Worlds’ Finest Issue #1, writer Paul Levitz and artist George Perez pick up the Earth 2 story by following the adventures of Robin and Supergirl as they decide to change their personas on Earth 1 into Huntress and Powergirl.  The big question is:  What happened to Kara Zor-L, Supergirl of Earth 1 and Helena Bertinelli, Huntress of Earth 1?  We know Supergirl is in her own Earth 1 series and Huntress recently finished up a trip to Italy in her own limited series.  Will we get to see a Supergirl vs Power Girl battle as we’ve seen in the past?  And Worlds’ Finest starts with the mention of Earth 1 Helena Bertinelli’s death.  But how?

Worlds’ Finest has great banter and chemistry between Karen and Helena, like we saw in the Gail Simone/Nicola Scott era of Birds of Prey.  Here this Worlds’ Finest issue is what I’d hoped for with the New 52 reboot of Birds of Prey.  You could easily see Batgirl of the New 52 joining up with these two superheroines at some point.  Helena fills the shoes as the Batman clone Huntress very well here–Huntress is at her best when she is written as Batman with a different hairdo and all the detective skill.  Karen’s Power Girl is outgoing and fun. not the typical spacey, serious and ethereal Supergirl.  But fans of her revealing Power Girl suit note that that outfit is long gone, replaced with a more updated supersuit.

I was pleasantly surprised with these first two issues of the New 52 second wave.  The re-hashed origin story that caused me to stop buying Justice League after the first few issues was disappointing, so it is nice to have a similar topic approached in such a refreshing and fun way.  Anxiously awaiting the second issues next month!