We are in week three (or four, depending on how you’re counting) of the big DC Comics relaunch, and your loyal reviewer is way behind schedule. I still have ten comics from last week to go over, and now we have twelve more this week. The reviews are going to be shorter and a little less detailed, but I’m still going to try and get them all in.

A bit of dialogue from the week's best book

First there is some news to report on this endeavor. Thus far the gamble has been a huge success, with every book released so far going into at least a second printing, and some of them going into third or fourth printings. This may not be as impressive as it sounds, since some of the more marginal titles had initial print runs below 30,000, but it’s still a vast improvement over DC recent sales figures. So in that regard, this has paid off. Whether the new readers stick around has yet to be determined.

We also have our first creative team shake-ups. John Rozum has left his co-writing duties on Static Shock, effective with the fourth issue, and Keith Giffen is taking over the writing gig on Green Arrow, also effective with number four. Rozum tweeted that it was a mutual and amicable decision, but no reason has been given for the Green Arrow shake-up.

DC also spilled the beans a bit about how hastily this reboot was put into operation. They had hinted that this was all part of a master plan stretching back several years, but they now admit that the first meeting where they discussed this company-wide makeover was held last October, less than a year ago. It was probably kept under wraps for months, which would explain why some creators knew nothing about their books being canceled and their jobs being reassigned as late as February.

In general, the reboot has been interesting, but not all to my liking. I realize I’m not the target audience, but I question whether or not this approach is going to have legs. I’m a little disappointed in what appears to be a bland new DCU house style, largely courtesy of South American artists following the lead of DC co-publisher Jim Lee. There is a sameness to many of these books, and the computer coloring makes for a more homogenous, less appealing overall look. This problem afflicts about half the titles I’ve seen. Of the remaining books, some of them are beautiful, while one or two are awful. It’s a little hard to get into some of the books when the art for much of the line is so uninteresting.

And now we catch up to last week’s comics…

Mister Terrific #1
by Eric Wallace and Gianlucca Gugliatto

This is one of those books afflicted with the new DCU house style. The artwork is competent, even state-of-the-art, but it looks like so much of the rest of the DCU. Mister Terrific is a holdover from the previous DC Universe who, in that continuity, was a member of the Justice Society. With the Justice Society written out of the New DCU, they’ve made this character, Michael Holt, a solo act, the “third smartest man alive” who runs his big tech company and apparently has a casual thing going on with Power Girl, another refugee from the Justice Society.

The confusing thing about this is the question: Why, of all the cool characters in the Justice Society, did they pick the one with the dumbest name (inherited from a 1940s third-string superhero) to star in his own title. Even more odd is that, reportedly DC will be bringing back the Justice Society, establishing that they operate on “Earth Two,” an alternate universe with different superheroes.

This book is not good. The character of Holt, who was marginally interesting as a team player, is not strong enough to hold down his own book. The story is not engaging, and the art is merely there. This will be an easy one to skip.

Grifter #1
by Nathan Edmondson and Cafu

This character is one of the remnants of the Wildstorm universe. Originally Wildstorm was part of Image Comics, and shared the weaknesses of that company–bad art and incomprehensible stories. When DC bought Wildstorm in 1996, it was a huge shock to some, but a shrewd move by Wildstorm’s owner, Jim Lee, who parlayed that sale into his current position as DC’s co-publisher and the guy who ruined most of the hero’s new costumes with his horrendous sense of design.

This book opens with our hero flipping out on a plane, hearing voices, and stabbing a stewardess in the eye before tumbling out of the plane with a Sky Marshall.

The story did not draw me in. Grifter is apparently a con-man who’s been hired to kill somebody, crap happens and at the end of the book he swears vengeance in a graveyard. The art is gorgeous though. Cafu does a powerful job of translating this moronic story into an attractive narrative, but he does not save the story. If we could be bothered to care about the character, we would not like him.

Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #1
by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli

I love this comic! It’s so bizarre and twisted, and perfectly-executed, that it instantly leaps to the top-tier of the new DC titles for me. Lemire has created a fantastic combination of Universal Monster Movies, 1960s-era secret agents and a David Lynch sensibility in one big entertaining mass of excitement. Ponticelli seems to be channeling the great British artist Kevin O’Neill (Nemesis, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) with a standout job on the artwork.

This is a minor reboot of Grant Morrison’s recent take on Frank stein as a superhero. Now he’s a member of S.H.A.D.E., a secret government agency created to keep track of superheroes. The acronym stands for “Super Human Advanced Defense Executive,” and it’s quite the organization. With “Father Time” leading the group (he’s regenerated himself and his mind is now in the body of a little girl with pigtails), and the secret HQ being a tiny floating ball that agents have to teleport and shrink to get inside, this series brings “quirky” to a whole new level.

The story opens as monsters overrun Bone Lake, Washington, and S.H.A.D.E. sends Frankenstein in to help with the containment. On arrival he finds that he has been given a team to work with, The Creature Commandos, made up of a werewolf, a vampire, a mermaidish lady, and a mummy.

There’s plenty of “Easter Eggs” for fans of the old DC Universe. The name, “Creature Commandos” was used in a series in the old Weird War comic, and the government liaison to S.H.A.D.E., is Ray Palmer, who employs the shrinking technology he used as The Atom in the creation of the S.H.A.D.E. headquarters.

This one is a keeper. Loads of fun and weird as hell.

 

The Red Lanterns #1
by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes

I have to admit that this whole spectrum of Lanterns thing flies over my head. I bailed on Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern series before they got to this point, and the whole thing strikes me as silly. However, I do enjoy Peter Milligan’s work, and Ed Benes is one of the more solid artists working in the DC style, so I’m going to dive in with an open mind.

Okay, apparently the Red Lanterns wield hate the way that the Green Lanterns wield will power. The story opens in space where a bunch of big blue guys in space ship start feeling torture ennui with the poor people whose eyes they’re plucking out, so they reach out into space and reel in a flying house cat in a Red Lantern uniform in for a good vivisection. Being a house cat, the little beast destroys everything before the main Red Lantern, Atrocitus, rips open the hull of the space craft and yells, “What Are You Doing To My Cat?”

For some reason, this works.

The book is confusing as hell. The reboot seems to have skipped over this title, since it spends so much time recapping the last several month’s worth of Green Lantern continuity, but it does so in a stylish and entertaining manner. I’m gonna give it a few months to see if I can get into it.

Demon Knights #1
by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this review. It’s a revival of Jack Kirby’s character, The Demon. It’s set in Medieval times, during the reign of King Arthur, which is in line with Kirby’s origin of the Demon, who was originally an unwilling servant of Merlin.

The artwork serves the story well, and the story is a solid sword-and-sorcery tale, with slightly macabre overtones.

This is a very good re-imagining of the title, building solidly on the base left behind by Kirby and fleshed out a bit by Alan Moore. Another keeper.

Batwoman #1
by J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman

This is Bat-WOMAN, not the Barbera Gordon Batgirl. This is the lesbian, Kate Kane, Batwoman who was introduced a couple of years back and had a memorable run in Detective Comics. This is also just about the least rebooty book among DC’s “New 52.” It was originally scheduled for release in 2010, but was canceled before publication and rescheduled to give the artist time to get ahead on the title. It was scheduled again for February, and was mysteriously yanked from the schedule. There was no explanation at the time, but now it’s clear that they simply held it up so they could put it out with all the other new first issues.

Having cleared that up, this book is worth the wait. Co-writer and artist, J.H. Williams produces some of the most gorgeous artwork in superhero comics today. He knows the character well, having co-created her and drawn most of her stories. This is the first story in a multi-issue arc that will see Batwoman tracking The Weeping Woman, a supernatural child-snatcher. There’s plenty of subplots and a certain caped crusader shows up on the last page to hook readers for the second issue.

Which isn’t really necessary. They’ll be hooked by the intriguing story and beautiful artwork long before they get to the last page. This is yet another keeper.

Legion Lost #1
by Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods

This book takes seven members of The Legion Of Superheroes, DC’s super-team from the future, and strands them in our time. It’s a solid, if unspectacular book, hindered a bit by the awful costume redesigns that make the characters unfamiliar.

This book is not horrible. It’s a well-done, standard superhero team book with a twist that’s been done before. It didn’t hook me, though. This’ll be an easy one to leave behind.

Death Stroke #1
by Kyle Higgins and Joe Bennet

This is another book that didn’t hook me. It stars Deathstroke The Terminator, a hired assassin from the classic Marv Wolfman/George Perez “New Teen Titans” comic,and makes him the centerpiece for a generic action story that could have pages scrambled with Grifter and nobody would notice.

This is about as generic a comic book as any of the “New 52” have been so far.

Another one in the “Miss” column.

Resurrection Man #1
by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino

This is a revival of a cult hit comic, created by Abnett and Lanning, about a guy who keeps getting killed, and when he comes to life, he has a different superpower.

I was never a fan of this concept. Reminded me a bit too much of Kenny, from South Park. And if the superpowers are so hot, why does he keep getting killed? If you liked the original series, this is more of the same. If you thought it was a really idiotic idea and never liked the writing of Abnett and Lanning, then you’re in my camp.

Batman and Robin #1
by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

This is a great superhero comic, with a tight script and wonderful art. It’s got all the trappings of the reboot, with Alfred being a hologram, and Batman having gone through four Robins in five years. That’s a bit much to take.

You see, the new Robin is Damian Wayne, the ten-year-old son of Batman and Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ras Al Ghul, one of Batman’s foes. The problem isn’t that it just doesn’t add up mathematically, for Batman to have knocked up the daughter of his nemesis a good five years before he started fighting crime.

The problem is that the new Robin is a total bastard. With this reboot they could have wiped out all the other Robins and de-aged Dick Grayson so he could be the definitive Robin once again. They didn’t do that. Instead they chose to keep the most unlikable Robin ever.

I will continue to read this book. I want to see The Joker get his hands on that little jerk, Robin.

Tomorrow in the PopCulteer we’ll cover a few of this week’s comics, plus we’ll have a bunch of other cool stuff. The reviews will continue until we hit all 52 of the DC relaunches, then Cool Comics will dive into a large pool of really cool new hardback books.