Bet you thought I’d forgotten about you.
Through a series of misadventures ranging from rant avoidance after getting angry at the internet to the near destruction of my computer, this post is significantly later (and thus shorter) than originally intended. The following is the list of new 52 (now called the new universe or DCnU, not sure why the ‘n’ is small case but I digress) titles I’ve checked out. Because I’m feeling kind of crummy today, the first is the list of titles that failed the test and will inevitably die in the pit of obscurity! Or just weren’t worth $3.99 for 22 pages of comic and 20 pages of ads (mostly for other comics). Interestingly, of the six titles that were recently cancelled (OMAC, Men of War, Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, Black Hawks and Hawk and Dove), none are ones I even glanced at. Mostly because they were characters/stories I’d never heard of. Awesome advertising there DC, real stellar.
Because I'm a bit of a noob, the Guy/Girl at the comic book store (G@CBS) helped me out with initially picking these.
G@CBS recommended this as the one title with the best story. Apparently it's an abandoned character from the 80s that was revived for the reboot. Unfortunately there is a slight problem with the new series, the art is… ‘interesting’
*G@CBS: It’s not interesting, it’s crap
Me: Well, I’m trying to be polite
G@CBS: Don’t bother, you’re just giving him an excuse. It’s complete crap. These people look like they have skin diseases!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand there we have my first problem with the first title on this list. While the story is interesting, twisted, compelling, and definitely unique (it involves human avatars for animal spirits, soulless rot-monsters devouring innocent bystanders and a super-powered child reanimating the skeletons of her neighbour's dead pets, all in good fun), the art is just so… well, see for yourself. As far as I’m concerned, art in a comic or graphic story is just as or more important than the story itself (the medium is the message?) So, as good as the story is, it’s not THAT good. I don’t know if anything really is…
Ah controversy. To be honest, this one was a little weird for me. I grew up with Barbara Gordon as batgirl in the 1992 animated series of Batman. I really liked that show, partially because I thought it made me cool to like a superhero show, but also because it had some great characters, Batgirl being one of them. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I found out about Oracle, in fact, the first DC comic book I ever read was a Birds of Prey issue featuring Oracle in a pretty badass role. This left me with two characters named Barbara Gordon that I liked. As a result, Barbara Gordon is the only person I know as Batgirl, but I still miss Oracle. The best I can say is that from a newbie standpoint, the casting is the only one that makes sense; but considering that DC has made little to no other effort to properly pull in newbie readers, there’s no real reason for it.
With that said, the first few books were decent, and BG’s recovery from a couple of years in a wheelchair is treated with respect, but I found her character pretty bland. Maybe it was that she was overshadowed by a much more interesting villain, maybe she caught the wrong balance between character development and plot, or maybe it’s the fact that, although I like characters that are relate-able, a white mid-twenties female who likes to research and is looking to find her own way in the world while staying close to her family but being independent and drinks a lot of tea is a bit too relate-able (it is escapist literature, or at least an escapist media).
I used to go to Blue Beetle Comics. Reading this seemed the thing to do. In January, the name changed to Big B Comics, and I didn’t pick up Blue Beetle. Coincidence? Yea actually.
There’s something inherently fun about teenage superheroes. And Jamie Reyes, the main character who has been “infected” by (captured? acquired? He’s basically host to an alien parasite) the titular blue beetle, plays it up: learning to use his powers (aka convincing the bug not to incinerate everything on sight), trying to impress the cute girl (who looks alarmingly like Mary Jane, a la Spidey-fame), and keeping his new identity secret from his parents (the bug forces him not to tell anyone by subjecting him to nausea-inducing pain if he tries. Obey me fleshy human slave! Obey!). While the story has potential, that seems to be all it has. There’s no main conflict yet (a crime boss wants the bug, but hires a rotating slew of super-powered henchgoons to go after it so there’s no individual fights that last more than a panel), not counting Jaimie vs bug, and the civilian identity issues are kind of predictable. It’s not a bad comic, but I also picked up Teen Titans, which has a lot more fun with the teenaged superhero beat. Blue Beetle, I may torrent you later, but you’re just not worth the price of the ads.
Batman in Detective Comics
I wanted a Batman comic and this one came out first. However, Batman seems alarmingly busy, so far he himself has a lead role in 5 titles (Batman, Batman and Robin, Detective Comics, The Dark Knight, and Justice League International) and had shown up (usually to say something stoic and vaguely threatening/supportive) in at least 4 others (Batwoman, Batwing, Batgirl, and Catwoman that I know for sure), so really I needn’t have worried. On the whole, I’m not sure how this translates into the continuity of the other Bat-family titles, but a few of them have been swapping characters around (Batgirl’s been in at least 3 different titles so far and is set for another in March) so it probably doesn’t matter all that much.
Th comic is high action, gritty, and dangerous, although there’s not a whole lot of detecting going on despite the title. The first villain is creepy as anything: he calls himself the Dollmaker, collects body parts, and likes to swap skins to make himself and his mooks look like ragdolls (by the way, my inner bio-geek has tried to figure out how this would work medically speaking, and it is disturbing). But other than that, for both Batman and the villains I feel like the man under the mask doesn’t matter that much. The villain is cut and dry evil and Batman is this unstoppable force of vigilante justice. A tap into the pop culture consciousness sure, but as a story it's really difficult to be interested in any of the characters. Even Jim Gordon is kind of lifeless. Overall, I’ve become much more of a fan of the people Batman has inspired than the Dark Knight himself. (Now I want Huntress or Batwing to show up in The Dark Knight Returns this summer. Somehow I doubt it’ll happen.)
I like legacy characters and ongoing continuity (wait about 4 lines), I like characters that learn from their mistakes, that grow and redefine themselves in a natural way, and continuity nods are often fun. It adds depth to the universe and roots to the character’s identity. HOWEVER there is a good way and a bad way to reboot a legacy character (for a good way, see the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who). Nightwing’s first storyline in the DCnU is loaded with references, callbacks, unresolved issues, history that may or may not have happened… Apparently Dick Grayson took over as Batman while Bruce was “away” (one website called it “dead”) and there are other plot threads that don’t seem to tie to anything (I am perfectly willing to do a bit of research to keep up, and not all fans are, I’d like it if that research didn’t remind me so much of high school research papers). While Dick is an interesting character and more believable-as-a-human-being than Bruce Wayne, the story relies far too much on previous storylines, overall it just felt too bogged down.
So there you are, a few comics that I would not recommend. There’s none that I am actively opposed to or would turn someone away from, in fact I’m sure I’ll check out the further adventures of a couple of them in a much less expensive (and slightly more illegal) format. On that note though, the actively NOT-recommended by G@CBS books are (Disclaimer: I have read exactly none of these):
Catwoman: FANSERVICE! Oh so very very much. Apparently she spends a page or two of issue 2 naked. btw, she has an adult daughter in this universe. Yea
Static Shock: Juvenile. A good book for kids, but we’ve seen how that worked out.
Wonder Woman: Again, fanservice. Not nearly to the extent of Catwoman though and supposedly a good story with multiple strong female characters.
Batwing**: Rumour of racist undertones. More on this later.
So much for the bad, the good to follow, the ugly to be avoided.
**okay I did read this one.
By the way, I have an undying love for scans_daily. So you know. :D