DC’s New 52: Week 2

So last post I got called out for not updating.

What can I say … I do what the fans want. All three of you.

It’s strange to see how little the lack of updates has affected traffic to the Kitchen.

Anyway … by the end of my regular updates, it was just getting tiring reviewing the same books every month. There’s only so many things I can say about Invincible Iron Man or X-Factor. But I could probably do a Book of the Week. And sometimes, on those special weeks, the Worst of the Week.

Hold on to your butts.

Eye of the Storm

A little preface on my thoughts on this whole relaunch stuff. For the past year or so, I’ve read three DC books regularly: Detective Comics, Secret Six and The Flash. This month I’m buying at least ten. It sucks that Six is cancelled, but if I end up with more quality comics, I can deal. And if I up the number of book I buy, DC will consider it a win too.

And since you didn’t ask: No, I don’t think any of this will get more people into comics. I do think however that this will get more people who are already into comics into DC Comics.

Swamp Thing #1Book of the Week: Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette

Scott Snyder’s run on Detective Comics was pretty boss, but I wasn’t going to pick this up. I’ve only read the first collection of Alan Moore’s run, so Swamp Thing isn’t too much of a pull.

Then I saw the first few pages. I saw the layout of pages 2-3. Pretty. Real pretty. So I gave it a shot. Yes, Action Comics was a fun read. And I’ll pick up the next issue of Batgirl, but Swampy was my favorite.

The interesting layouts continue throughout the issue, but everything remains perfectly readable. I’ve read a good amount of work by Paquette, and he certainly brought his A-game. I’m not crazy about his Superman, but his plants, bugs, and everything else is so good. I’m not sure if he always inks himself, but it works.

Scott Snyder doesn’t do anything revolutionary. He focuses a bit on some pre-DCnU storylines that I could have done without, but I could follow without having read that stuff. The man may resort to the “When I was a kid …” intro to much, but when it’s as effective as his “plants can scream” intro here, I can’t complain.

I suppose my favorite part of the book is its very nature – no costumed villains, no punching. This is a story about Alec Holland. I can’t wait to read more.

Stormwatch #1Worst of the Week: Stormwatch by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda

First draft. That’s how this issue reads.

I’ve repeatedly heard that the turnaround time on proposals and first scripts on this DCnU business was ridiculously fast, but these first issue should be so polished you can see yourself in them.

Some choice bits:
– “– and Harry Tanner, the “Eminence of Blades,” is good at … poking things out.” – Real suave way to slip the name and alter-ego your character into the dialogue.
– “This is me connecting with the alien language processing lobe that got lodged in my brain” – Yes, this is real dialogue. She telling you exactly what she’s doing in that panel. This is Psylocke telling you about using “the focused totality of [her] telepathic powers.”
– There’s a guy that explains to Jenny Quantum what her powers are. Even at Claremont’s wordiest, no one ever had to tell Gambit what his powers were.
– There’s also a joke about how horny a horn is. Yup.
– And is there any logic in referencing Superman #1, a comic that won’t come out for another three weeks!?

I always want to like Paul Cornell. Other reviewers seem to love him. But I’ve read a number of things: his Young Avengers mini, some issues of Action Comics, his Black Widow: Deadly Origin, but nothing’s grabbed me. I may give up on this guy.

No, it’s not all Cornell’s fault. When Martian Manhunter wants to scare Apollo, he turns into the snow monster from the newest Star Trek movie. ATTN: Miguel Sepulveda -: Try harder. And please use a little more subtlety with characters expressions. I thought Harry Tanner and Jenny Quantum were going to chew right through the pages.

I really wanted to like this book. Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch and his/Millar’s Authority are some of my favorite comics. A lot of what has gone into this relaunch is fixing that DC thought was broken (even if they don’t word it that way). Green Lantern and Batman books have sold great for a couple years, so they come out pretty unscathed. Superman? Justice League? They’ve been treading water for too long. (Hell, Superman even lost the spotlight of Action Comics for a while.) So they get overhauls. But giving Apollo a buzzcut and sending Midnighter to Rachel Summer’s tailor doesn’t fix these characters. Giving them purpose and threats that no one else can face would fix them.

So yeah, I bought four DC books this week – these two plus Action Comics and Batgirl. This is the only one I won’t be back for.

 

Readers: Thanks for not giving up on me. I’ll really try to do this more often.

Next Week: BATWOMAN!

The Shopping List 10-27-10

Death and Lex Luthor

Action Comics #894Action Comics #894 by Paul Cornell and Pete Woods ***

I didn’t realize this issue was part five of the arc, but I’ve been interested in getting into the book and featuring Death on the cover is about as good of Bells-bait as anything.

To me, Lex Luthor has never been a great villain. Xenophobia + genius = Lex Luthor. Bleh. I suppose I see him as too reactionary. What I mean is, if Superman did not exist, would Lex Luthor, as we know him? No. Without the X-Men, Magneto still has it out for Homo sapiens. Without Daredevil, the Kingpin is still ruining crime in NYC.

Paul Cornell is a writer whose name I hear lauded often, but nothing he wrote even grabbed me. Here, Lex’s personality is as clear as a bell in the night and there are some great character moments. Sadly, there’s not much more than that. No action. I understand I grabbed one stray issue on the middle of a run but I’m not sure what the actual mission of this book is. Did this issue even have an antagonist? Was it Death?

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book. I really did and will buy the next issue. I’m just saying that it didn’t grab me the way an issue sure to grab new readers should. Bringing Death to mainstream DC Universe is a big step. I’m afraid it was a wasted opportunity.

It’s interesting to see Death in a modern art style. It works. Pete Woods draws her as the cheeky enigma that she should be, but modern coloring makes her more rendered, less distant than some Sandman artists. Negative reviews of his New Krypton work has me scared, but I had no problems here at all.

Last month, I took Uncanny X-Men off my subscription list. I just found a place for that $4, Action Comics.

Black Widow #7Black Widow #7 by Dwayne Swiercynzki and Manuel Garcia ****

Swiercynzki has certainly made this book more action-packed that Marjorie Liu did. His plots twist and turn, and once you think you see where it’s going, you’re kicked into a pit in a Polish bunker. I’m also impressed by his skill working Natasha’s various talents and weapons into the story. Most writers are content to have her shoot someone, maybe kick someone in the face, but he uses her full repertoire: Widow’s Kiss, Widow’s Bite, whatever. The books sales aren’t good; it’s selling less than 19,000 copies a month, but just as he did on Iron Fist, Swiercynzki refuses to let a character’s lack of popularity stop him from telling great stories.

Manuel Garcia doesn’t have a quickly recognized style, but even in his days on Mystique with Sean McKeever, he knew how to keep even the talkiest scenes interesting. He’s night and day from Daniel Acuna, but his agreeably exaggerated figures are fun to watch. And to anyone worried, no, the pages do not look anything like his covers. In fact, a couple places reminded me of Mark Bagley, other places, not so much.

For the one solicited issue left, followed by the Widow Maker miniseries, keep your eyes on this book while you can.

Captain America #611Captain America #611 by Ed Brubaker and Daniel Acuna ***

Brubaker must be hoping a lot of people jump on this book with “The Trial of Captain America” arc. He spends most of this initial issue explaining what brought us here over the last five years, much as he did with issue 25 before he, you know, killed Steve Rogers. That was a good jumping on point, so maybe he knows something we don’t. The story itself is interesting, showing various heroes’ various reactions to Bucky’s past as the Winter Soldier. Hawkeye’s disbelief that Bucky used to be an assassin is a bit off, but luckily, Natasha is the kettle that reminds Clint of his pot’s color.

For months, I’ve talked about how consistent the art has been on this book. No longer. Daniel Acuna, fresh of his Black Widow run, brings his truly unique style to Brubaker’s epic. He doesn’t look like any of the previous artists, but his art is so cool that I didn’t care. The large patches of color and lack of eyes make the art look deceptively simple, but give a haunting tone. That’s something I’m not used to on a Captain America title. Solicits show that Butch Guice will be back for the rest the arc, which may only make this issue stick out in the eventual collections. I love Guice, but it would have been nice to see what Acuna could have done with a full arc.

Sean McKeever’s Nomad story continues with a fun Black Widow team-up. I wonder, just as Rikki does, why Natasha chose her as a teammate. With such a dangerous mission, you think she’d choose someone more experienced. And if it’s training, take her somewhere safer! With the last issue of Young Allies out this week, this may be the only place to see the new Nomad. Keep you fingers crossed for her.

Teen Titans #88Teen Titans #88 by J. T. Krul and Nicola Scott ***

Close, but this isn’t quite doing it. The team members are a great mix of New Teen Titans (Raven, Beast Boy), Johns’ Titans (Wondergirl, Superboy, Kid Flash) and even newer faces (Ravager and Damian!). As much as I miss Nicola Scoot on Secret Six, it is nice to see her on a higher profile book. And she kills it. But …

J. T. Krul spends his first issue treading old ground. 1) Readers don’t need to be told that Raven has to keep her emotions in check. 2) Titans should have some romantic tension, but does it still have to Connor and Cassie? 3) The villain needs a motivation, which he doesn’t yet. He’s just a sketchy high school teacher.

The whole concept behind the Titans has always been family. You can see it in their villains: Deathstroke, Trigon, Blackfire. The list goes on. Use that to tell some stories. I’ve enjoyed Teen Titans the most when things are fresh. And no, killing off members does not count as fresh. Define the team and then shake some shit up. I want to like this book, but it needs to improve or it will stay on the shelf like it has since Johns left.

Thunderbolts #149Thunderbolts #149 by Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey ****

This was an interesting way to do a tie-in series. In reality, it simply took advantage of the way things are in the Marvel U, instead of a specific book/event. The plot of Shadowland, that Daredevil is possessed by The Beast, does not factor in the story. The only related factor is that DD is using The Hand as his soldiers, which has been the case for over a year.

Between those fully reformed like Luke Cage, those trying their best like Songbird, and those who may never repent like Crossbones, Jeff Parker does a great job allowing his protagonists to show the many layers of evil. Parker also takes advantage of the above-mentioned status quo, using inhuman demon/ninja opponents. Of course, this allows his characters can truly let loose, which is always fun to see.

Declan Shalvey once again shows up on art. I assume the black dots within his inks are his doing as colorist Frank Martin has not used them on regular artist Kev Walker’s pages. They give a nice, idiosyncratic touch. That’s what you’ve got to do to stand out in this industry. I applaud it. I will, however admit that I am excited to see Walker back for the big 150th issue. Woot.

Sorry this was so late. Halloween’s a hell of a drug.