The Watchtower
New 52 Reviews!
As promised, I present reviews of the first 14 books of the DC relaunch. This turned out to be a much longer and more grueling process than I had hoped for, especially since I was traveling for most of the weekend, so please forgive me if the reviews are shorter and not as well written as usual (well not the shorter thing, they will be short if I keep doing this). I also need to stress that I usually try to keep my reviews and columns fairly positive and constructive, and for that reason I usually steer clear of discussing the books I vehemently dislike. Here, in this instance I'm looking at everything, I'm writing reviews in a limited amount of time due to the travel I mentioned, and I need to be especially harsh in order to narrow down my own list of what titles I will be buying going forward, so please forgive me if I come off being a bit brutal in some of the reviews. In addition to the usual letter grade, I've also included a status of whether or not I will be purchasing each series going forward.

Justice League #1
-Geoff Johns
-Jim Lee
There were huge expectations riding on this book. DC's most popular writers coupled with arguably the most commercially in demand artist in comics on a book detailing the adventures of all of DC's most popular characters? This thing had blockbuster written all over it. So it's a little disappointing but maybe not surprising that the first issue didn't live up to the hype. Don't get me wrong, the inaugural installment of Justice League (which takes place five years in the past, chronicling the team's origins) was a good read. The book starts off on a slow burn focusing on Green Lantern and Batman. Johns is very adept handling their interactions, and plays the two off each other in a much more fun way than we are used to. Lee's panels explode off the page and he delivers the iconic character work and big screen action sequences that fans expect from him. I like the set up for the team's first villain but I'm kinda hoping he only appears indirectly as I think it is waaaay to early in the game to introduce this particular player properly. The one cringe worthy moment of the interview was when Green Lantern, bonafide space cop suspects that there might be a connection to the alien artifact they are investigating and "that guy in Metropolis" because "he is an alien." Really Hal, really? The bad ass cliffhanger more than makes up for it though.
Grade: B+
Status: I will be buying this book even if the team moves back to Detroit and starts operating out of a used car dealership.

Action Comics #1
-Grant Morrison
-Rags Morales
The other book that is taking five years in the past, and actually a few months before Justice League #1, showcases the debut of a very different Superman than fans are used to, and certainly not one I was expecting from Grant Morrison. Long story short, Morrison wasn't kidding around when he said he was returning Superman to his 1930s roots as a champion of the little guy. This is a Superman who really stands up for truth and justice, even when doing so puts him at odds with legitimate authority. This Superman isn't quite as powerful as his old continuity counterpart, yet, but he's still the most powerful thing this new universe has ever seen. This is also a more arrogant and brash Superman than we are used to. He comes off with a sort of cockiness that is very believable for a young character who is incredibly strong, bullet/mortar proof, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It comes off working very nicely as a metaphor for what it's like to be in one's early twenties, where you feel like your invincible, that you can do anything, and that government and big business is screwing over the little guy every chance they get. Rags Morales draws a much better Superman than he did during Identity Crisis and although the action scenes oscillated between thrilling and confusing, the nice touches differentiating Clark from Superman showcase an impressive attention to detail. The art as well as the first adventure are still a bit more realistic and gritty than I like for Superman, I'm more a fan of the high concept Sci Fi adventures, but there's still plenty of time to work up to that. Didn't see too much from the supporting cast but I'm already a fan of the changes Morrison has made especially in regards to Luthor. The issue ends with an especially impressive action sequence which is a nice nod to popular culture and one of the most well known descriptions of Superman and his abilities.
Grade: A-
Status: It's Grant Morrison on Superman. I would sooner give up food and health care.

Swamp Thing #1
-Scott Snyder
-Yanick Paquette
Is there any talent experiencing a more whiplash inducing ride to stardom than Scott Snyder right now (well maybe Nick Spencer"¦). This is a very impressive debut issue and an excellent reintroduction of Swamp Thing back into the DC Universe proper. From the extremely creepy opening sequence, to the first look at the inaugural threat our hero will be facing to the little touches of what Alec Holland's new lease on life is like when the plant world obviously has other plans for him, Scott Snyder knows how to write a horror book. An atmosphere of foreboding permeates every scene, even the ones that take place during bright sunny days. The dialogue and narration are both nuanced and engrossing. And it is evident that Snyder has put a huge amount of research into botany as if this first issue is any indication this series could double as a masters class on the subject. Yanick Paquette is quickly becoming one of my new favorite artists but I was a little worried that his style was a little too clean for a true horror book. Boy was I wrong. His pages are both creepy and gorgeous, and his art has gotten even better ever since he started inking his own work. This book's cameo by Superman further proved that I want Yanick drawing Supes on a regular basis. After his several year long tenure on Swamp Thing with Snyder is over of course. Honestly, this was my favorite book of the bunch. And given that it was up against Grant Morrison on Superman, that's saying something.
Grade: A
Status: Top of my reading pile next month.

Stormwatch #1
-Paul Cornell
-Miguel Sepulveda
I would have steered very clear of this one if it weren't for Paul Cornell. Having already become one of the most buzzed about and fan favorite writers of the past year, Cornell is known for excelling at team dynamics, and dark/tongue in cheek humor. That's exactly what is needed to make the Justice League's more extreme and violent counterparts from the Wildstorm universe work in the DCU. Cornell definitely delivers one the first issue giving a story that is fun and fast paced while setting up the main players and the first crisis we will see them deal with. He hints at how the team's mandate will be different from the other DCU super groups but I will have to see a bit more before I can declare that he has firmly established their niche, although I do like the idea of Stormwatch being an ancient organization that has always protected the world. This book looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.
Grade: B+
Status: Definitely safe for awhile.

Animal Man #1
-Jeff Lemire
-Travel Foreman
The biggest surprise of the bunch. I was definitely planning to pass on this book but now I am completely on board and dying for the next installment. Jeff Lemire crafts a tale of simmering horror and foreboding against the backdrop of quircky suburban bliss. Buddy Baker is a family man first, superhero probably like fourth or fifth. Lemire delivers a wonderful and believable family dynamic that plays out as a dark version of the Incredibles (much, much, much darker after the extremely creepy dream sequence and chill inducing last page). The magazine interview first page was a fun read and a great way to get readers caught up to speed. Travel Foreman's minimalist and scratchy style will be divisive but I love it if for no other reason than it looks nothing like the DC house style. Bottom line, if DC wants this whole initiative to work, they need more books like Animal Man, books that aren't what people are expecting and that take chances with the kinds of stories we fans don't expect from DC or either of the big two in general.
Grade: A-
Status: Dying to get my hands on the next issue.

-Gail Simone
-Adrian Syaf
Simone gets a chance to put her favorite character back in the spotlight in what is probably one of the most controversial books of the relaunch given that it takes Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair, and back into the tights. Simone has a great handle on Barbara but we knew that already. She gives a protagonist who is young, fun, spunky, enthusiastic, but also damaged. The Killing Joke still happened, its effects still linger, and Barbara as a young hero trying to reestablish herself and cope with a pretty hefty case of PTSD is a nice hook and something you don't see too often in super hero titles. New villain Mirror seems very creepy but that was also to be expected because Simone concocts and writes great villains. This issue wasn't perfect, parts of it were a bit too run of the mill super hero comic, the art was uninspired, and the cliffhanger was kinda dumb. I liked the book, but it's not 100% safe.
Grade: B
Status: Safe for now, but the second issue better bring it.

Justice League International #1
-Dan Jurgens
-Adrian Lopresti
Really wanted to like this issue as I love the characters, I love the older incarnations of the title, and I love Adrian Lopresti. That being said, I'm sad to say I wasn't crazy about this debut issue. While Jurgens writes Booster well everyone else comes off a little two-dimensional. Except for the protestors. They were just sad. This book has that old school DC flair that I was really kinda missing, and I think it's niche market is that crowd that looks for old school super hero flavor in the DC tradition. It was just a little too generic team book for my tastes. Also it really bothered me that it portrayed the U.N. so falsely (as an organization that could, ya know, do stuff. My suspension of disbelief was shattered when they sent out a research team, let alone try to put together a Justice League of their own).
Grade: B-
Status: I'll flip through the second issue in the store.

Detective Comics #1
-Tony Daniel
A solid book but it also came off a little too cookie cutter Batman story for my tastes. This issue is a marked improvement from what I'm used to from Tony Daniel as a writer but still found myself a little bored as Batman pursues the Joker. This was not the way to reintroduce the character in the new continuity, even if most of the Bat continuity is still intact, as other than the last page the Joker doesn't come off nearly as terrifying as he should. Batman's narration is also kind of cringe worthy at times. I do like Daniel's new style on the book though, his art is definitely improving and it was already pretty impressive to begin with, I'm just not too impressed by his forays into writing.
Grade: B
Status: Decent book if you're a Batman fan, not my cup of tea though.

-Dan Didio and Keith Giffen
-Keith Giffen
Seeing Giffen channeling Kirby while working with some of his more out there creations was really cool. As for the story, it was a mindless smash "˜em up that lasted way too long, left me very confused, and I honestly can't tell you why the reader is supposed to care about any of the events or characters involved.
Grade: D
Status: Never again

Hawk and Dove
-Sterling Gates
-Rob Liefeld
This issue suffers from a pointless/kinda boring action scene, a very awkward retelling of origins, a cliffhanger that actually made me say "come on!" and a complete lack of focus on the hook, the uneasy partnership between these two opposites. Although they talk about how they are partners and how they don't like (with almost no reason on Hawk's part), we never really get to see how they work together, other than aforementioned action scene where we never really see the heroes interact. Rob Liefeld's art has gotten a lot better since the 90s, but he is still the post poster boy for everything that was wrong with the 90s artwise. I honestly expected much, much better from Sterling Gates.
Grade: D
Status: Sad to see the potential of a neat concept squandered. Will not be picking this book up again.

Batwing #1
-Judd Winick
-Ben Oliver
Another book that I really wanted to like but just ended up being luke warm about. This series follows a new hero introduced as the Batman of Africa, which is a pretty cool hook and one Judd Winick does a good job of exploring even if he only focuses on police corruption in this debut issue. Overall the issue suffers from too many jumps in time and setting, never really allowing the readers to immerse themselves in the story. Ben Oliver turns in some great artwork, and Judd Winick continues his impressive resurgence with a script that is much more serious than I have come to expect from a writer who excels in humor and pop culture references. I have high hopes that this series might improve sometime in the near future, but if you are a bat fan, please by all means, check it out.
Grade: B
Status: I'll give it a flip through in the store from time to time.

Men of War #1
-Ivan Brandon
-Tom Denerick
I really like that DC is trying some genre books, and this is the first of a couple war books they are releasing. The idea behind this series is to examine modern warfare in a world where superheroes exist, and to be honest with you, I was really digging it until the superheroes showed up. Ivan Brandon introduces his lead character in a very effective sequence that both informs and hooks the reader. The military jargon feels authentic, and the stakes are made all too clear by the issues end. Honestly I really wish that this book existed in it's own universe or completely separate from the super heroics, as the entrance of super powered players midway through the issue seems really out of left field and completely threw me out of what was otherwise a fairly engaging story.
Grade: B
Status: Probably will be skipping, unfortunately I only have so much money, and this book benefited from my going into it with low expectations.

Green Arrow #1
-J.T. Krul
-Dan Jurgens
The art on this debut issue of the emerald archer is really the only thing I can praise about this book, as Dan Jurgens turns in one great looking page after another. I really disliked this issue because of the new direction it presented for Oliver Queen, one of my favorite DC characters. In the DCnU continuity, Queen is younger, the CEO of his own company, and jetting around the globe to take down criminals. Gone is the socially conscious, slightly too old curmudgeon, who forsook his fortune, and sabotaged his own personal happiness and relationships at every turn. In turn is a much younger, much more successful Oliver Queen who doesn't like bad guys. Really? Who thought that was an improvement. The new Ollie comes off as a much less interesting cross between Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark and his first adventure is one big long (and it feels loooong) generic super hero fight scene. They removed all the things that made this character (who started his publication life as a blatant rip off of Batman) unique. And until they return some semblance of what made Ollie, Ollie to this new unrecognizable character, you can count me out from his solo title.
Grade: C (Only because I like Dan Jurgens)
Status: Call me when there is a new writer.

Static Shock #1
-Scott McDaniel and John Rozum
-Scott McDaniel
While I know that Static is a fan favorite character for many, I haven't had much exposure to him outside of a few appearances in Teen Titans. As a result I don't know if he was written in character in this issue, but if he was, I really don't see the appeal. The character comes off as arrogant and cocky. The narration by McDaniel and Rozum, which is meant to portray the character's intelligence, reads like a high school science text book. Merely listing facts and trivia does not make good narration, you still have to present it in a way that is engaging, or that relates to the themes of the story. If you want an example of science woven into narration and dialogue in a compelling way check out Swamp Thing #1, and leave this book on the shelves.
Grade: D
Status: I will not be picking this up and I will be surprised if it's still around next Summer.
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