There’s something inherently satisfying about carrying around a couple of comic books in one’s day–bag to just pull out when there’s a free moment or two, something almost silly or indulgent which is completely different but just as fun as having a book or piece of string. Of the DCnU books I stuck with, most were recommended or promoted in some way by the Guy/Girl at the comic book store (G@CBS). I think my favourite part of this whole experiment has been going into the shop and asking the right questions to get someone to go into fan-mode. G@CBS, cheers to you!Batwing
This one is really tricky. The story takes place in the fictional city of Tinasha in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). David Zavimbe was recruited by Batman (as part of the Batman Inc. thing), to become Batwing. Rumours of racist undertones sprang up as he considered “the Batman of Africa”, though thankfully that phrase has yet to be uttered at all in the DCnU. Naturally this comic faces the danger of portraying a stereotyped American perspective of “Africa”. However, for the most part the authors use the unique (for a western comic book) setting quite well (although I would feel way more comfortable if the cover page for a superhero based in the DRC didn’t have pyramids on it). The characters refer to ‘Africa’ the same way Bruce Wayne would refer to ‘America’ (reminiscent of K’naan’s song TIA). I’m happy to say I haven’t noticed any overt Western stereotypes (aside from the pyramids...), although if set in any African country other than DRC there would have (or possibly Somalia). Despite the rather gruesome violence (the main villain calls himself Massacre for a reason), the corrupt police force (what else in a Bat story?), and the references to child soldiers (David Zavimbe is actually a former child soldier, his Alfred expy, Matu Ba, worked for the organization that helped him recover), Batwing takes place in a slightly cleaned-up version of DRC. An old superhero team called The Kingdom apparently ended a revolution and freed DRC from a corrupt dictator, resulting in a country more reasonable than reality. Setting the story in DRC gives an added dimension: in a country struggling to pull itself up, the Kingdom feel like real heroes in a way that fictional old hero teams like the JSA never do. Plus it’s just really refreshing to see a superhero in a setting that isn’t an American city.
This is one of the stories that supposedly didn’t shift much from pre-reboot, leading to a very confusing first couple of issues. There’s backstory involving Batwoman’s (Kate Kane’s) twin sister coming back as a super-villain; issues with Batwoman’s protégé, Firebird (who is actually Kate’s cousin), not being focused or prepared enough; Kate’s former girlfriend (a cop) was apparently killed in action; and there’s anger at her father despite the fact that he apparently helps fund her vigilantism... oh, and there’s a government agent who is basically a smoking skeleton (by which I mean he has a cigar, but no skin). Partially because the story is bogged down by unexplained backstory, Kate doesn’t exactly selling herself as a likeable character (between the daddy issues and the overprotective controlling of Firebird…). I find myself rooting for her anyway as it becomes clear how much she is barely hanging on. She falls into her girlfriend’s arms sobbing at one point (her girlfriend the police detective who just happens to be working the same case as Batwoman). I really want to see where she goes from here. Oh and a better reason this one is awesome: the art is amazing. Absolutely gorgeous. Seriously there are pages I want to frame on my wall. Or make quilt out of it or something.
Birds of Prey
Classic comic/cartoon setup: fight some bad guys, do some investigating, fight some more bad guys. The Birds of Prey are Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (the brains of the team, sorta, maybe “the responsible one” is closer), Ev Crawford aka Starling (a new character so awesome she already has her own tumblr), Tatsu Yamashira aka Katana ( believes her dead husband’s soul is trapped in her sword and because it’s a comic book, she’s probably right); Pam Isley aka Poison Ivy (still an eco-terrorist); and Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl (not consistently on the team yet). The real drive of this one is the fantastic character interactions. Next to it, the story is just kind of there, lurking in the background to slice your face off or turn your teammate into a brain-bomb (actually yea, that’s pretty close to the plot: targets hear a certain phrase and boom!). Ev snarks at everyone, calling Poison Ivy a ‘talking salad’, and after driving through two second storey windows in as many issues comments to Dinah that she just likes ‘smashing things’. Katana’s introduction features her calmly slicing through a roomful of gangsters while discussing with her ‘husband’ the option of moving to Gotham. Dinah herself is portrayed as the straight man, but it’s her internal dialogue narrating the story and you can practically hear her rolling her eyes at her teammate’s antics. I’m secretly hoping for an Oracle-esque character to appear in a future story arc, but don’t think it’s likely.
What I know about the Flash (from the JLU cartoon), I like. I like that he’s a legacy character (and that old Flash still pops up now and again), I like that his powers are a little bit silly but are complicated enough to have stood the test of time, and I like that he’s a scientist (he totally geeks out at a science conference at the beginning of issue 1). Also, the head artist, Francis Manapul, is from Toronto and apparently likes to put people he knows in the background. I should point out, according to G@CBS, the entire reboot is Flash’s fault. The story (Flashpoint) involves a cosmic treadmill, time travel, and some guy wearing a “Barrie Boat Club” jacket (you thought I was kidding earlier didn’t you?) so I don’t really get it, but the point is: blame Flash (and never trust treadmills).
This Barry Allen is relatively new to the superhero gig and still learning new things about his powers. Turns out one of the things he learns is how moving really really fast messes with time and space. (The December issue of Scientific American is actually all about time! Flash gets a lot of it wrong but a surprising amount right…)
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why I like this, but it’s shiny, tries to be science-y, and has a vague Canadian connection. That’s close enough.
This is actually a 6 issue mini-series before Huntress teams up with Powergirl for their own series. Huntress (all we supposedly know about her secret identity is that her real name is Helena) is in Italy, giving us another international story, tracking down arms dealers who are diversifying to human trafficking. The story revolves around the fictional north African country of Kufra which has been caught up in the Arab spring, the girls being trafficked are told they’ll be taken to the UK or US to escape the uprising, meanwhile the big bad is also smuggling out Kufra’s oppressive dictator. The reality inspired plot is candy to my inner political-nerd. The whole thing reads like an old school James Bond flick: espionage, exotic locations, evil dictators, gratuitous explosions at odd moments! It also has a set ending, which means the story moves at a good pace.
It has been revealed that this Huntress is Helena Wayne, daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. This is apparently the Huntress that died in Crisis on Infinite Earths (however long ago that was), and since then Huntress has been the name used by Helena Bertinelli, daughter of a Gotham mob boss who’s goals start at being less evil than daddy and somehow end at teaching. I’m not sure why they’ve gone with the old Huntress. This decision, coupled with the Batgirl issues and the line-up of the Justice League, suggests to me that the editors just didn’t like the last 20+ years of DC comic books. That’s the only logical option.
Bored in the comic book store, I started flipping through this one and ended up on the page where Batman steals Green Lantern’s ring. That still makes me giggle (take that Hal Jordan, your movie was stupid too, nyah!). Eventually, the novelty of having all these characters in the same story will wear off and I’ll put this one down, but for now it’s tapping into everything I love about crossovers. The story takes place about five years in the past and features seven heroes (Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg) meeting each other to battle a common enemy. Because they’re (for the most part) meeting each other for the first time, there are fun little bits such as GL and Flash being surprised that Batman is real, and then being even more shocked that he’s just a guy in a bat-suit (Flash thought he was “a vampire or something”); Wonder Woman, fresh off the island, plows her way through a marine corps to go explore the town (and eat ice cream), which is how she finds the fight in the first place; and Superman flinging Flash across town with a finger flick. Being a fan of the JLU cartoon, I find the line-up confusing. Aside from the obvious missing characters, who is Cyborg? All the other members have their own titles. This guy is a completely rebooted character who used to be a member of the Teen Titans and only appears in Justice League. What is he doing here? Also, Hal Jordan, this League’s Green Lantern, is an ass. Just saying. Jon Stewart would not have put up with this. Lastly, was I mistaken in the impression that nobody likes Aquaman? When did he become cool? I’m sticking with this one for now, because it hasn’t lost its initial charm and I want to see how this story line ends, but I’ll probably drop it after that.
G@CBS recommended this one. Because it has Harley Quinn in it.
Basically the Suicide Squad is a team of super-villains recruited by Amanda Waller (source of DC!hate, see pre-reboot Amanda, see post-reboot Amanda) from within Belle Reeve prison for missions that involve a bit more… destruction than conventional superheroes will do under orders. So far there have been cyber-zombies (think zombies + cyborgs, spread by nanobot virus), Harley with a giant hammer, a snake-themed villainess (are they still a villain if they just fight other villains?), a super-powered prison riot, and King Shark eating his teammates (this is why you don’t join a team that has a humanoid shark on it).
Despite certain… changes, Amanda Waller is badass. Everyone is scared of her and she rules her little world like a master RPG strategist (bet you thought I was going to use chess as a reference didn’t you?). Deadshot and Diablo are also interesting characters, the first joined the team to negotiate time to spend with his daughter, and the second believes himself responsible for redeeming the immortal souls of the villains around him (though his likely firmly belongs to hell). I’m torn between loving and hating this version of Harley. Broken and completely nuts, she stops to steal ice cream while being shot at (and offers some to the shooter), waltzes with the man she just killed, and laughs in everyone’s face. I just wish she wouldn’t do so in the skimpiest outfits imaginable. Seriously, if you’re going to complain about zombie guts in your hair maybe you should be wearing something to keep from getting zombie guts in… other places (I did find this, which made me happy). These being super-villains rather than heroes, team members tend to die at an alarming rate. This may be the comic where unwanted villains go for one last hurrah. All in all, exciting and entertaining.
G@CBS recommended it when I mentioned I’ve been watching Young Justice, different characters but same basic premise: young people with super-powers!
There’s not a whole lot to say about this one. The variety of characters makes it much more interesting than other teen-hero stories I’ve read/watched (*cough*spiderman*cough*). Tim Drake as the Red Robin (though not revealing his identity to his teammates) is tracking down super-powered teens before a super-secret government organization can kidnap them. Tim’s backstory is that he figured out Batman’s secret identity then convinced Bruce to let him be Robin, thus forever causing him to be written as very clever and slightly cocky (okay, so I only know this version). Most of the other characters I don’t know, the exceptions being Kid Flash (think of the most hyperactive kid you’ve ever met, any age, now multiply by about 100 000, I never want to babysit that kid) and Superboy (surly clone of Superman, sent by super-secret gov’t org to capture the Teen Titans, to be fair, I don't want to babysit this kid either). The girls so far are forgettable (as much as a girl who turns into a giant bug and a damn-it-i-want-to-be-independent Wonder Girl can be) but next to Kid Flash, Robin, and Bunker (hitched his way up from Mexico and is LOVING how AWESOME and SHINY this all is) the three ladies can’t help not standing out (at least they all have their own personalities. Oh, and that’s not a typo, there are three ladies (Solaris is a quiet one, she spent most of her intro issue recovering from being experimented on) which makes this line-up the most gender-even of the team books).
So, yea, young people with super-powers. Hijinks ensue (oh and Kid Flash and Red Robin argue about wearing each other’s clothes).
Once again, I will conclude by expressing my undying love for scans daily. :)