5
Oct
2011
The Watchtower
DCnU Reviews Week 4
Chris
And it's done! Super late. But it's done. I had a cold over the weekend, and some work stuff that held up this batch of reviews (although I say again that 13 reviews a week was rather grueling). I am just glad this month is done.

In the next few days/weeks there will be some announcements about the new schedule for this section, as well as some pieces where I examine the overall success of the re-launch having just finished all 52 #1s.

Like I said last week, I'm really forcing myself to be very decisive and judgmental with these books as I just can't afford (income wise) to give a lot of second chances with so many new and exciting books launching all at once, so sorry if I come off as excessively negative towards your favorite character or creator.

Alright. I'm going to the bar. Later.


All-Star Western
-Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
-Moirtat
This is the start to a gorgeously illustrated fish out of water story, as the ultimate frontier bounty hunter, Jonah Hex is drawn into the far more dangerous world of burgeoning civilization: Gotham City at the turn of the century. The artwork is sketchy, raw, and a joy to behold, really encapsulating the harshness of the genre, the brutality of the combat, the griminess of the Gotham underworld. Gray and Palmiotti's premise, pairing the sociopathic Hex with a pioneer in the field of psychology to catch a serial killer all the while exposing the most rotten roots of the evil that will grow into the present day Gotham is gripping. Where the issue falls short, is Gray and Palmiotti's over reliance on Dr. Arkham's narration that is at times, more than a little obvious. While the artwork and premise are phenomenal, the story is a little conventional, your feelings about the title character and the genre will probably be the deciding factor for you on this book.
Grade: A-
Status: I'd like to see something a little unexpected from the second issue before I commit for the long haul"¦partner.

Aquaman
¬-Geoff Johns
-Ivan Reis
Geoff Johns is on a mission to convince you that Aquaman is cool. One issue in and I would have to say mission accomplished. After thoroughly kicking the ass of some muggers, Aquaman interacts with some common folk who voice many of the same insults and misconceptions that readers and the general public levels against him and has the character himself respond. The issue ends with the set up of a very creepy threat (even by Johns' standards). Ivan Reis is on top of his game here. Reis makes Aquaman look regal and imposing whether he is taking down thugs on the streets or chatting with the patrons of a seaside diner. A lot of credit need to go to colorist Rod Reis whose vibrant pallete really makes Ivan Reis' figures pop off the page, and something as simple as showing the passage of time by increasing the orange hues in sky backgrounds to show the setting sun really elevates the visuals of this book above the rest of the crowd.
Grade: A-
Status: Dive right in! I will definitely be picking up Aquaman.

Batman: The Dark Knight
-David Finch
This book fails to justify it's existence beyond being an outlet for David Finch's art, though I really have to admit he draws a pretty cool Batman. The plot seems like it skips over several key beats leaving me to feel confused about why certain characters were doing what. The dialogue was also pretty bad, (what was Bruce giving a speech about and really?!?!?! "You are the parent of your own fear?!?!?!" Honestly, if you are a bat fan there are much better places for you to get your fix.
Grade: D
Status: I would be surprised if this book made it past six issues, but that's mainly because I remember it's shipping schedule for the last volume.

Blackhawks
-Mike Costa
-Ken Lashley
Blackhawks wants so very badly to be DC's answer to G.I. Joe. The result is a very generic and confusing action scene, followed by some scenes of heavy handed exposition that really don't give the readers any reason to like or be interested in any of the main characters. This book really needs to justify its existence as long as its published alongside higher quality books like Men of War and Justice League International.
Grade: D
Status: Did no one really see a problem with the title? Really? Oh, also, not picking this up.

The Flash
-Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Manapul and Buccellato's first foray into writing mainstream super hero comics is a huge success. They accomplish a feat that I thought was impossible, making this die hard Wally West fan care about and become interested in the adventures of Barry Allen. Manapul and Buccellato deliver a straight up super hero story that has the classic DC feel without coming off as retro or dated. However it is in the visual designs and layouts that this book really excels, as there really just isn't much else in the DC catalogue as eye pleasing or visually experimental as this book. Quite simply, this book is a joy to read and behold, and I truly expect to be singing its praises in the months to come.
Grade: B+
Status: Definitely going the distance with this title. (Cuz he runs a lot) ((I'm running out of "clever")).

The Fury of Firestorm The Nuclear Men
-Ethan Van Scriver and Gail Simone
-Yidrilay Cinar
I was really counting on this book to be the buzz book of the new 52. However while the premise and villains are strong, the protagonists come off looking like bit players in an after school special and the changes to the character's origin and powers seem to have removed the hook from this classic DC hero. Yidrilay Cinar's art really pops off the page during the Firestorm scenes but really bland during the scenes with the hit squad or in Jason and Ronnie's school. Van Scriver and Simone also try to inject some racial tensions into this story but it comes off feeling forced and dated (although not as bad as it was in Mr. Terrific).
Grade: B-
Status: I'll flip through the next issue in the store, but I expect much better from everyone involved.

Green Lantern: New Guardians
-Tony Bedard
-Tyler Kirkham
This is a really fun issue that moves along at break neck speed. In one issue we get Kyle Rayner's origin story, an introduction to several of the other Corps and the main players that will compose this anti-team, a brief sequence of Kyle in action, and a killer cliffhanger that will be sure to entice readers to come back next issue. Bedard really knows how to write Kyle Rayner as the everyman Green Lantern nailing his voice, and giving him numerous laugh worthy lines. As a fan of DC's legacy heroes, it's nice to see Kyle headlining his own book when so many other characters are MIA in the DCnUniverse. Tyler Kirkham's art has improved greatly since his run on Green Lantern Corps but is still uneven in places. On some pages the art looks really polished (most notably inside the bar and when Kyle rescues the construction workers) but on other pages the pencils become very scratchy and the characters appear very ugly (Kyle and Ganthet's meeting in the alley). Although only half the cast was introduced this issue, the amount of content that the creative team packed into these pages really makes up for this issue being a lot of set up and should excite fans for what this creative team can accomplish when the sparks really start flying.
Grade: B+
Status: I think GL NG just edged out Green Lantern Corps for a spot on my pull list.

The Savage Hawkman
-Tony Daniel
-Phillip Tan
Having read Geoff Johns, James Robinson, and Rags Morales' last reboot of this character made this issue even more painful to read than it would have been had I flipped through it cold. When done right, Hawkman is both the Wolverine of DC and the Indianna Jones of superheroes. The latter comparison was used as a description in plugging this new series, but I'll be damned if I saw any evidence of it. Yes Hawkman had a confusing origin story, but Geoff Johns went to great lengths to simplify it, and succeeded rather well. Daniel's approach is to just ignore the origin story and have the character as much in the dark about his abilities as we are. Several questionable changes were made to Hawkman's power set this issue that I really can't find an explanation for other than it simplifying Daniels' job as a writer. The narration and the dialogue are bad. Really bad. Daniels fills these pages with one worn out cliché after another, and shoe horns new characters into the developing plot. One of the thing that has really bothered me about the relaunch has been the seeming effort to make the DCU more like the real world at the expense of certain trappings that made the heroes unique. Instead of Star City, Green Arrow now operates out of Seattle. And instead of the vibrant New Orleans port city of St. Roch where Carter curates his own museum, Daniels moves him to New York City?!?!?! Gee, just what we needed, another super hero living in New York City. Tan's art is actually pretty good, and is the redeeming quality of this issue. His non traditional style really makes this book stand out against other DC offerings and gives these pages a haunting quality.
Grade: C (Only because of the art)
Status: I've said it before and I'll say it again, if DC wants to be a viable publisher, they need to take better care of how they present their second tier heroes. This just isn't cutting it.

I, Vampire
-Joshua Hale Fialkov
-Andrea Sorrention
Say what you will about this book but it is definitely not Twilight the comic as some had feared. This is a creepy horror story twisted around a bittersweet tale of lost love that takes more inspiration from Anne Rice than from Stephanie Meyer. Sorrentino's work reminds me a lot of Jae Lee and I mean that as a compliment as that stark haunting style is exactly what this story about vampires need. While Fialkov has a few problems orienting the readership in time and to the rules of vampires in this world, he deftly establishes the complicated relationship between protagonist and antagonist that will drive this series. Don't dismiss this book based on any current prejudices toward vampires that current pop culture may have instilled in you, this is one of the good ones.
Grade: B
Status: I only have so much money, so unfortunately this doesn't make the cut, but I do recommend it.

Justice League Dark
-Peter Milligan
-Mikal Janin
This is a pretty standard team gathering issue with a few fun twists thrown in here and there. Milligan quickly establishes the need for a magical division of the Justice League, and sets about introducing his main cast in brief scenes that reward some characters more than others (most notably Shade). Drawing magical threats really gives Janin the opportunity to cut loose with a variety of surprising and frightening visuals and he does not disappoint. He also sells character redesigns in a way that I was afraid only Ryan Sook's covers would be able to do. This looks like it has the potential to be a really fun book, but until we see all of these characters together butting heads, it's hard to judge whether the concept can sustain itself. Given Milligan's handling of these characters, and Janin's gorgeous art, I'd say the smart money is on this book being one of the big success stories of the re-launch.
Grade:B
Status: Again, money is tight, but if you are a fan of the supernatural and eclectic character groupings give this a look.

Superman
-George Perez
-Jesus Merino
There's been a lot of talk about how insanely decompressed this issue was and it is true that Perez and Merino packed a lot of content into their pages. However that's not necessarily a good thing as this issue felt more like a slow read than a fast read. Perez is in the unenviable position of presenting the modern day Superman while the character is simultaneously being rebuilt from the ground up in Action Comics by Grant Morrison. This leaves Perez either unable or unwilling to give us much insight or development into Superman without spoiling or contradicting things Morrison is doing. This really shows as Superman is really only prevalent in the action scenes of this book, and all the character development and narration comes from the supporting cast. Superman is more of a removed set piece than he is a character in his own book. This would be an interesting approach if there were more than 2 titles chronicling the man of steel but there aren't, and in fact the 2 titles we do have are telling completely different stories in different time periods. Those complaints aside, both story and art are just a little too conventional at a time when the man of steel needs to prove his relevance and forge ahead to become the hero for a whole new audience. Now I don't want to see an extreme Superman, but what we have here are the same recycled story ideas that Superman teams have been using for years. Great things can be done with Superman in a modern way, Geoff Johns did it, Grant Morrison is doing it again, DC just needs to put some non conventional creators with fresh ideas on this title.
Grade: C
Status: I'll pass.

Teen Titans
-Scott Lobdell
-Brett Booth
Brett Booth's art has really improved since his stint on Justice League, I just hope this level of quality can keep pace with a monthly title. Lobdell presents a solid if slightly conventional reintroduction to the Teen Titans, and while many things are still the same, a lot more has changed. Having read some of Lobdell's interviews about this book, I do agree with some of the changes he is making (no official headquarters, no specific team leader) as they ring true to how teenagers would act. However this whole teenage super heroes on the run thing doesn't really seem like a believable or sustainable hook, not when one of them has Batman on speed dial. This wasn't a bad issue, just not a whole lot to sink your teeth into and all of the characters except for Tim Drake still feel like strangers.
Grade: B-
Status: I'll flip through next issue in the store but chances are unlikely I'll be picking it up again.

Voodoo
-Ron Marz
-Sami Basri
Basri's art is awesome, I would love to see more of it on a different title. This one is mostly cleavage and stripping in a comic. It comes off as kind of awkward. The cliffhanger is pretty cool and Marz handles the dialogue with particular skill, but they kinda lost me with the gratuitous T&A, it felt too much like pandering.
Grade: B (Basri!)
Status: Pass
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