Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS Week Three of DC’s #0 issues in stores today!

Published at: Sept. 19, 2012, 8:35 a.m. CST

Issue #123 Release Date: 9/17/12 Vol.#11
The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
JUSTICE LEAGUE #0
GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #0
WONDER WOMAN #0
SWORD OF SORCERY #0
CATWOMAN #0
BATWOMAN #0
RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS #0
NIGHTWING #0
DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #0
CAPTAIN ATOM #0
BLUE BEETLE #0
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #0
SUPERGIRL #0


JUSTICE LEAGUE #0

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver
Reviewer: Matt Adler


We already know the Justice League’s New 52 origin. But the origin of Shazam (AKA Captain Marvel) is still in progress, as last seen in JUSTICE LEAGUE #11, so Geoff Johns takes a departure from most of the zero issues and continues that story. Those who have been listening to our podcasts know that we have pretty much uniformly been enjoying the Shazam back-ups more than the main Justice League story, so that’s no problem for me. I always love Gary Frank’s art, and for whatever reason, Johns’ plotting and characterization just seems a lot tighter on this tale of an obnoxious young boy destined for great power—which he finally gets in this issue.

It’s interesting to me to compare this to the tale of Alpha over in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Alpha is just as surely supposed to be annoying as Billy Batson is. And yet, I can’t tolerate reading about Alpha, whereas as much of a brat as Billy may be, I find him engaging. Why? Alpha's obnoxiousness is played for corny laughs, very often at the expense of the star of the book, while Billy comes across as a genuinely troubled kid, which makes you have some sympathy for him even as he’s being a bastard. The wizard who grants him his powers seems to agree; after initially dismissing him as just another punk, he takes a closer look and sees the goodness underneath the hard shell. This fits in with Johns’ new take on the Shazam mythos—none of these characters are infallible. Even the wizard is not all-knowing, and it takes Billy pointing out to him that there is no such thing as a “pure good” person for him to realize that what he really needs is someone with goodness at their core.

Of course, that core of goodness doesn’t necessarily mean that Billy will instantly learn the responsible way to handle his power, and it’s pretty funny to see what he and Freddy do with it upon his return to our world. I think that is going to be a big part of Shazam’s tale going forward in the New 52, seeing how a kid from a messed up background adjusts to being the World’s Mightiest Mortal, and I’m glad to be along for the ride.

The back-up tale in this issue, a 4-pager by Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, is a little less focused. It starts out by following up on Pandora, the mysterious woman who was supposedly responsible for some great sin in the DC Universe that she is now trying to rectify. When I say mysterious, I mean that thus far, that’s pretty much all she’s been; popping up all over the place, uttering some portentous lines, and then disappearing again.

We don’t get much more than that here; she has some words with the wizard who granted Billy his powers, but in the end, all we’re left with is more questions. Literally, since The Question shows up on the last page. You may ask yourself “Why?” Well, if you haven’t been reading every other one of the bazillion tie-ins, you may not know that The Question, who until the New 52 was just an ordinary street level hero, is now, along with Pandora and The Phantom Stranger, apparently part of the Trinity of Sin, a trio who are responsible for some gross transgressions in olden times and sentenced to near-eternal punishment for it. I’m not against tie-ins or a cohesive shared universe by any means, but surely there’s a less obtrusive way to do it than this, which screams to the reader “You’re missing the REAL story!” That’s never a great feeling to get after spending 4 bucks on a comic book.

Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.


GREEN LATERN NEW GUARDIANS #0

Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Aaron Kuder
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


This series isn’t the best, but I laugh like the Joker getting his taint tickled when people say they don’t buy this book because they don’t know where it’s going. Come a little closer, I’ll whisper it to you. KYLE RAYNER IS GOING TO BE A GUARDIAN. DC was about as tricksy with their clue work as a stoned hobbit here.

Now, what this zero entry illuminates is that Kyle just might be the only Guardian as he has a mano-a-womano with Hal Jordan gal pal and Star Sapphire Carol Ferris.

For the past year NEW GUARDIANS has brought together major players from the Skittles brigade of light to thwart an intergalactic ship that was the size of an entire universe. Death Star? Psshhhaww…this is the 21st century and comics should always do better than movies because they can. But what also was happening during this time is Kyle’s ring was picking up all the other rings’ powers through osmosis, making him a little bit blue, yellow, purple, orange, green, country and rock and roll.

The book has been slow till now, but I fault its pivotal place in the DC Universe versus placing any blame on Bedard. The slow burn storytelling needed to happen because the other GREEN titles needed to set up the fact the little blue bastards were losing their omnipotent shit. After all, you can’t have new Guardians until the old Guardians are successfully dethroned.

If my in-the-know speak confuses you, you know nothing about the GREEN LANTERN universe and as such should avoid this title. There’s nothing new to see here, folks; if you weren’t inclined to follow the doings of GREEN LANTERN before, this book won’t change your mind.

Longtime fans, however, will learn scads of new information, like a certain faceless overlord of love teaming up with the little blue bastards to destroy anyone who wields a ring and lantern. Also, in a very sincere moment both Carol and Kyle learn of Hal and Sinestro’s recent descent into the black and the rise of new Lantern El Bastardo, the evilest Mexican wrestler to ever be named a Lanter…I mean…Simon Baz…a Muslim dude from Detroit.

Two points on Kuder’s art: it’s beautiful…except when Carol smiles. In those moments I felt less joy and more fear for my immortal soul being devoured. Seriously, I don’t know what it is, there were just a couple panels where I truly felt Carol was more maniacal than happy.

I think this 13th issue (sorry, gotta call a horse a Sarah Jessica Parker here) didn’t do a lot to illuminate the past, but like GREEN LANTERN’S 13th foray in zero land, it put the book on a new and I think better direction for its second year.

Less team work, more Kyle, please.

Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.


WONDER WOMAN #0

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Cliff Ciang
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Not the strongest WONDER WOMAN issue I’ve read from the creative team of Azzarello and Chiang, but compared to some of the others, it’ll do. I liked the way this story began with an editorial note that this is a reprint of a series starring Wonder Woman that never existed. This issue drips with intentional old school alliteration that would make Stan Lee blush and serves as a nice throwback story that embraced the comic book roots it sprang from.

Following Wonder Woman in her early years, we see her stealing a harpy’s egg as an Amazonian rite of passage for her birthday, then taken under the wing of Ares to train as he did Ulysses and Achilles before her. Diana proves to be her star pupil, but when it comes to delivering the killing blow, Diana refuses, sparking a feud that resonates in the current storyline of this book. The story itself feels rushed, as if any one part of the book would have made an interesting issue—-the harpy egg hunt, the sparring with her fellow Amazons, the training with Ares, and the final battle with the minotaur. But because we get all of that in this issue, it felt as if none of them had the impact of what could have been given a larger page count. Because of this, the emotional impact we are supposed to feel when Diana refuses to kill is lessened because it’s sardined in there with all of the rest of the story.

Chiang adjusts his art a bit to reflect the old school feel of the story. He squeezes more panels per page at times and tries to give Diana a younger, softer look. Still, this feels rushed compared to his regular work on the title.

Still a halfway decent issue of WONDER WOMAN is better than most comics out there. I think this just shows that Azzarello’s strength lies in multi-part storytelling rather than short one offs.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.


SWORD OF SORCERY #0

Writers: Christy Marx, Tony Bedard
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Jesus Saiz
Reviewer: Matt Adler


The lead story in this issue of a revamp of the AMETHYST, PRINCESS OF GEMWORLD concept, and it’s interesting to me that DC seems to be using these anthology books (see the recent debut of Looker in NATIONAL COMICS) as a launch pad to reach out to under-served comic book audiences--in this case, young women. I think they’ve been doing a pretty good job of it so far, and Amethyst continues that trend. It touches on familiar themes that many teenage girls (and boys, for that matter) can relate to: a sense of alienation, of not fitting in, of not understanding why your parents seem to obsess over things that don’t matter.

Of course, in the case of sixteen year old Amy Winston, her mother’s particular obsession involves training her to be a fierce swordswoman in modern day Middle America, making her confusion and irritation that much more understandable. It isn’t until her seventeenth birthday that her mother is willing to reveal the truth to her, and she does so in dramatic fashion, by transporting them both to another world where it’s revealed that they are part of a royal line that is under threat of death from a usurper. Suddenly, all the sword training pays off.

Christy Marx’s writing is fast paced and entertaining (I discovered in writing this review that she wrote the JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS cartoon, of all things), and she provides her characters with some amusing lines. Amy/Amethyst, who’s a bit of a rebel and dyed her hair punk colors, notices her hair reverts to its natural color in Gemworld. Quoth Amy: “I have the power to be blonde. I am soooo thrilled with that.” My only quibble with this story is that even in something like this, which has no reason to be anything other than a standalone tale, we get the crossover treatment from editorial, with John Constantine, the New 52’s resident magic expert, popping up at the end and meddling with the royals’ plans. It’s really just a cameo, but it felt out of place and thus a little annoying. Still, I think Marx has a great grasp of her characters’ voices, artist Aaron Lopresti demonstrates his compelling illustrative ability, and I feel like this is the kind of book I could give to a teenage girl and not have their eyes glaze over from boredom. We need more comics like these.

The back-up story, BEOWULF, by Tony Bedard and Jesus Saiz, is of a completely different tone, with a take on the hero of Scandinavian legend. I presume there must have been some previous iteration of a Beowulf character from DC, since the New 52 has generally been about revamps, but if so, I have no familiarity with it. Tony Bedard is a writer I generally enjoy (see his run on NEGATION) but here there’s not much to sink your teeth into. A group of what appear to be Norsemen, in a time “years from now”, go looking for the legendary Beowulf for help defeating a monster, and he slaughters most of them before being talked into helping. The end. There are hints of something more here (particularly with the confluence of the future and the past), but it wouldn’t be enough to get me to follow this story on its own. It’s an odd pairing to put this in the same book as Amethyst; it could be argued that they both belong to the “sword & sorcery” genre, but that’s a stretch, and they certainly wouldn’t appeal to the same audience. Hopefully they will eventually allow the two concepts to develop separately, and sink or swim on their own merits.


CATWOMAN #0

Writer: Ann Nocenti
Art: Adriana Melo (pencils) & Julio Ferreria (inks)
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


I’m a huge fan of Ann Nocenti’s work from her days on DAREDEVIL. Some of my favorite comics of the late eighties were written by her as she capably picked up the book after Frank Miller left the title. At the time, Nocenti was great at writing deeply psychological studies of human behavior thinly veiled with super hero tropes. Nocenti’s issue of CATWOMAN, the first issue I’ve read with her focusing on the character of Selina, is a mixed bag.

A lot of the same old psychological dissections are on display here. Some of them work, like Selina’s almost kleptomaniacal compulsion to steal when she is put under duress or abused in some way. The scenes where Selina makes promises to herself to ascend the class system and be one of those people who live in the Gotham City penthouses are the most powerful in the book.

Then again, Nocenti chooses to flit around timewise with the narrative, flashing backwards and forwards so much that it really is hard to keep it all straight. With this being a “Times Past” tale in the first place, it seems odd to jump around like this and the story barely keeps itself together because of it.

Also, though I’m not sure how this Selina is portrayed in this new DC 52, she seems much more of a pushover here. Even in her Catwoman outfit, which is supposed to signify the pinnacle of proud, strong womanhood, she is still slapping her cheeks and sobbing about who she is and how she got here. I guess I’m just used to Catwoman always being in control. Maybe that’s why I prefer her to be a Batman femme fatale over her solo adventures.

The art by Adriana Melo is decent. Some pages are stronger than others, while some are just downright weird like the panel where Selina and her brother look to be three feet tall grown adults being scolded by a out of proportion teacher. Is this a skewed, dreamed, abstract expression I’m not getting or is this panel just badly rendered? Not sure.

I don’t read CATWOMAN on a regular basis, and despite my affinity toward Nocenti’s writing, this issue didn’t really do anything to make me one. It does move quickly, but the rapid pace doesn’t make up for a lack of grounding from the hit and miss art and the time-jumping story.


BATWOMAN #0

Writers: J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Reviewer: Matt Adler


I honestly didn’t know much about Batwoman till now other than that she was a lesbian and she dated Renee Montoya. This issue fixes that.

Told in the form of a recorded message left for her estranged father, Kate Kane explains how she became Batwoman, and takes us on a journey through her tortured family history along the way. This is very caption-heavy, but the pacing and rhythm of the writing is such that I never really felt like it bogged the story down; it’s a dense but enjoyable reading experience. There are a couple of key elements left out of this extended recap, namely what exactly happened with her mother and sister, but the main point is gotten across; Kate is struggling with anger towards her father for keeping what she believes he knew about their fate. Kate comes across as a three-dimensional character here, not just defined by her sexuality, but by the anguish she feels over her loss, and how she’s used the life of a costumed vigilante to compensate.

J.H. Williams’ artwork is gorgeous as usual, of course.

Ultimately, I think this issue succeeds at what it sets out to do; it introduces you to the character, and gives you a reason to want to see what happens to her next.


RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #0

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


This zero issue about the days of Jason Todd prior to becoming Red Hood is an absolute necessity for anyone who hasn’t read anything from DC prior to the New 52 launch last September. It explains it all in a tidy 22 pages: his bad upbringing, his misspent youth boosting tires from the Batmobile, his untimely death under the Joker’s crowbar, and his ultimate resurrection.

The DC 0s were meant to fill holes and RED HOOD was one of those titles that was definitely in need of some good hard plugging. The series has been wonderful, despite its initial bullshit Mommy Blogger controversy. Lobdell has always had a plan and that plan consisted of creating three very three dimensional characters that have traversed the galaxy and mystical haunts in search of a purpose. Starfire, Speedy and Jason are three of the most unlikely friends who fit together better than Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen. Yet if I were a new fan, I would be beyond bewildered why these people matter in the grand scheme of the DC universe. This does a serviceable job of truncating one of the few histories that was deemed worthy of surviving FLASHPOINT.

For long time fans this is a definitive truncation. We remember the moments that Lobdell concisely and entertainingly vacu-sealed in their initial puffy states. Jason stealing the wheels off the Batmobile was a series of epic discovery and wonderment. A DEATH IN THE FAMILY was monumental because of the heart and heartache that bled across every issue. It concluded by placing in front of all of us a mirror of our own morality, and like Roman princes, we collectively put our thumbs down and sentenced Jason to death. We helped set a precedent with that fateful 900 number and became one with the story in a way we had never imagined.

I’m not sad after reading RED HOOD; all I needed were these light embers to ignite a pyre of history before my eyes. It does make me once again question the “five years before” issue. If he was the second Robin, then the events I transcribed above happened over the course of weeks--at most months. I understand comic time runs on its own chronological meter that is infinitely slower than our own. But if our time with Jason Todd was only mere months so many years ago, it cheapens the emotions I felt reading his angst fueled adventures. I am also sad for new fans, because you truly only got a fraction of a history that is storied and one of the best in modern DC canon. Jason Todd was the definition of the dark age of comics, and it’s a history I entreat new fans of DC to explore in its original state.

These are the laments of a fangeezer, though, and I am not one to pine for what can never be again. I hope you will forgive me for my maudlin nostalgia. RED HOOD #0 is a damn fun read, and if every one of you 20 year olds and younger promise to go read some of the original books I will happily ride away from this review content that history has been served and tomorrow is in good hands.


BLUE BEETLE #0

Writers: Keith Giffen and Tony Bedard
Artist: Ig Guara
Reviewer: Matt Adler


Keith Giffen is credited as co-plotter here, but this feels much more like a Tony Bedard story, and that’s a good thing as anyone who’s read his run on NEGATION knows. He does space opera as well as anyone in the business, and that’s a big chunk of what we get in this issue, with the New 52 backstory revealed for the Blue Beetle’s scarab. Clearly there’s no Ted Kord or Dan Garrett in the New 52, as the scarab’s previous holders are shown to have never included them. But we do get to see the scarab interact, disastrously, with a creepy little spider-like girl who is said to grow up to become Lady Styx (a big bad villain, I presume). There’s also reference made to the conflict between the Reach, creators of the Scarab, and the Green Lantern Corps, and in this world, the Scarab had much more of an influence on pre-Columbian cultures such as the Mayans and Aztecs than ancient Egypt.

What makes all of this exposition interesting is that it’s told from the perspective of the Scarab, a sentient artifact that was not designed with the best intentions for humanity in mind. And Bedard wraps this all neatly in a bow at the end, revealing that the Scarab is explaining this all to Blue Beetle immediately after his appearance in the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL ANNUAL, where he was banished back into the territory of the Reach empire. This is really a smart move, as it gives this issue a feeling of relevancy that many of the other zero issues just don’t have. It certainly has piqued my interest in this series.


NIGHTWING #0

Writer: Tom Defalco/Kyle Higgins
Art: Eddy Barrows (pencils), Eber Ferreira (inks), Rod Reis (color)
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo


The memories my muddy brain can still conjure of my 4 color childhood are rife with Robins. Yea Batman had the indignant brooding and the hot women, but gawd-demmit, the DC marketing bastids got it right. Those ridiculously loud, targeting beacon colors just spoke to me. Tim Drake, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, it didn't matter. I enjoyed all of their stories equally. Even to this day, if asked, I would say I'd rather be Nightwing then Batman. Despite having a similar origin story, Dick still has a personality. He has an identity waiting when the mask comes off, while for Bruce, there is only...the bat.

Now, since we have all discussed ad nauseam how improbable the 4 Robin thing seems ever since this new DCnU, I'm just going to forgo ad-ding more nauseam and get to the fact that this Nightwing series has been the tits! There is a consistency to the character of Dick Grayson that finally makes him feel like a real person. For some reason, in the past, it was difficult for me to think of Dick-Robin being the same person as Nightwing, but lately, with the writing, matched with the outstanding art by Eddy Barrows, Dick feels like a perpetual motion machine. He almost seems like a Flash, what with the way he's always in action. And I love the way the team has brought him back to his roots, quite literally, with Haly's circus! The only thing missing is a consistent love interest, but I'm sure that's on the horizon.

In this 0 issue, we actually do have an origin story that really isn't all that different from what we've seen in the past, but this time peppered with tasty little enhancements. My favorite addition is the emphasis on Dick's innate ability to "read" his surroundings and other people. Using people's stance, balance and body language he's able to piece certain things together. I feel like this is a talent that can be explored even further. It seems that sort of ability would make it very difficult for people to lie to him, for instance.

Another change that I've noticed since the reboot-ening is the difference in the costumes of the Flying Graysons. When I was growing up, Dick and his family were clad in get-ups that wound up inspiring his costume choice when becoming Robin. He was using the garish colors of his circus uniform as the basis, to be a constant reminder and homage to his past life. In the New 52 however, they all wear the Nightwing uniform, giant 70's collar and all. It just seems like a strange and arbitrary change to make. It was a nice touch to have Robins be his mother's favorite bird though.

The rest of his family's time together goes pretty much as it has in the past. Tony Zucco ka-snips the wires and mommy and daddy Grayson hit the dirt. Hard. Dick winds up with Bruce because the police "need to stash him someplace safe" and the rest is history. Now I don't quite remember how Dick originally found out that Bruce was Batman, but I do like that due to his aforementioned ability to read people, he figures it out on his own. This is something that Tim Drake would later figure out while watching television, but I think it's appropriate. Any kid who is going to be diving in front of bullets for Bats SHOULD be able to deduce his identity so it just seems right.

Another shard of substructure that I appreciate is the realization that while Bats did help set Dick on his path, he is a vastly different person than Bruce. There is a poignant scene here where Dick starts to realize that he is already healing from his parents premature departure. He's already dealing with it and moving on, not letting it warp and control his life. Here, Dick looks back and realizes he was always destined, or at least interested in doing his own thing. Being a sidekick was just a stepping stone to becoming his own man, his own hero. And I've gotta say, he's off to a great start! There's something to be said for compressed storytelling these days, but I could have stood this being a 4 issue mini-series to dive even deeper in the psyche of Richard Grayson and his AWESOME new Robin Costume! I almost totally forgot to mention it! Man! That is a great new old costume. Gone are the booties and the underoos, in lieu of Kevlar and armor. I think something is missing in the center of his chest though. It's pretty peripherally heavy, and there isn't anything weighing it down in the middle, visually. I think the yellow stitching down the center could have stayed, but otherwise, this is a really snazzy update. That goes for the entire issue, actually. Really Snazzy Update.

JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD. He is also now co-hosting another Comic Book discussion show on Party934.com alongside Bohdi Zen. They discuss comics and play music, check it out live every Saturday from 4-5pm.


DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #0

Writers: Dan Didio, James Robinson, Rob Liefeld, Tony Bedard
Artists: Keith Giffen, Tom Derenick, Marat Mychaels, Carlos Rodriguez, Scott McDaniel
Reviewer: Matt Adler


Anyone remember CANCELLED COMICS CAVALCADE? This is sort of like that, with a bunch of comics that have already bitten the dust packed into one issue. Why? Well, there’s some indication that DC may want to continue these stories elsewhere, so that’s justification enough, I suppose. First up is OMAC, Dan Didio and Keith Giffen’s labor of love, resurrecting old Kirby Koncepts and integrating them into the New 52. We’re given some background on the relationship between Maxwell Lord and Brother Eye before Kevin Kho was selected for the OMAC experiment, but having not followed the series too closely, I can’t say whether there’s anything new or revelatory here. Giffen is in full Kirby mode here, which to be honest is an approach that never engages me for more than a pin-up, despite my love of authentic Kirby art. I’m of the mind, as someone else once said, that the best way to honor Kirby is to do something new, because that’s what his career was all about. But if you were a fan of Didio and Giffen’s OMAC series…well, here’s more of it.

Next up is Mister Terrific, not written by series writer Eric Wallace, but by James Robinson who is picking up his story in the pages of EARTH TWO. I found this story to be a little confusing, as they try to pack a lot of backstory into 10 pages with a layout that does not make efficient use of the space, including a couple of splash pages and several unnecessarily large panels. Robinson tries to compensate for this with reams and reams of captions, but that just serves to bog the reader down. As near as I can piece together from having read a bit of EARTH TWO, Michael Holt is the Mister Terrific from our world, and he discovers a way to travel to Earth Two, where he meets an evil Mister Terrific. But here, before he’s made that journey, he seems to recognize Karen Starr, AKA Power Girl. But I thought her Earth One counterpart was Supergirl, who doesn’t use the identity of Karen Starr? And then there’s some kind of deal with the evil Mister Terrific posing as his dead son, which I guess I’d only get if I read the Mister Terrific series. There really seems to be very little point to this tale other than to say “Hey, remember Mister Terrific? Well, here’s where you can find him next!” But let’s be honest; anyone who cares about the Mister Terrific solo series is surely already aware of EARTH TWO, making this tale an exercise in futility, and a dull one at that.

Now we come to Hawk & Dove, written by Rob Liefeld and drawn by Marat Mychaels. God help me, I enjoyed it. A big part of this is Mychaels’ artwork; while he developed a reputation over the years as a Liefeld clone, it seems to me he’s making a big effort here to establish his own style, and it shows. The art is clean and clear, with believable anatomy and realistic facial expressions. And the script? It takes the form of a debate between two cosmic powers, War and Peace. Hawk & Dove are merely bystanders in this confrontation, perhaps not even able to fully register what they’re witnessing. Exposition is handled here far better than in the Mister Terrific story, with the two sides presenting the events in the lives of Hawk & Dove as “evidence” for their respective arguments. But the thing that really impressed me about the story was that we are set up to believe, as usual, that War is the irrational one, and that he is being paranoid in his accusations against Peace. But Liefeld reveals at the end that the forces of Peace can have their moments of irrationality too, and it’s a nice twist. Given recent events in the Twittersphere, however, it’s unlikely we’ll see these threads picked up anytime in the foreseeable future.

The next story is Tony Bedard and Carlos Rodriguez’s Blackhawks. This is another tale that ditches the series writer, in this case Mike Costa. The trouble with fitting the Blackhawks concept into the DCU is highlighted for me right away in this story, as we see the Blackhawks in the midst of the Justice League’s first battle with Darkseid. Don’t get me wrong; I love stories about ordinary people. I think the stakes can be higher, and the consequences more relatable. But when you put them in with a bunch of gods who can move mountains with a thought, it lessens them. I think the Blackhawks could be a great adventure serial outside of the DCU. Inside the DCU, they’re just one more generic human strikeforce, and they never rise above that in this story.

Finally, we get Deadman, by Tony Bedard and Scott McDaniel. Deadman technically didn’t have his own book in the New 52, although he did headline this very series, DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS, for its first five issues, under the stewardship of Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang. Pre-New 52, Boston Brand’s early adventures started with an extended hunt for his killer, which led him into a conflict with the League of Assassins. Bedard stakes out with this story that this Deadman is going in a different direction. Here, his murder is almost incidental, and his quest to track down the killer resolved without effort. It’s clear that’s not going to be the focal point, because his death is really just the beginning of a new life, one where he must atone for the sins of his previous one. It’s certainly an interesting concept, but one that might tread a bit too closely to what DC is already doing with the Phantom Stranger. But I’ve always liked the character of Deadman, so I’m willing to see where they go with him from here.


CAPTAIN ATOM #0

Writer: J.T. Krul
Art: Freddie Williams II
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


I’ve always been kind of rooting for Captain Atom to finally cross over from second tier hero to first. When I heard the character was getting his own series, I was stoked. But after reading the first issue, those fires of interest quickly burned out. From what I recall, the first issue started pretty broadly, but never felt like it really was able to grasp the science of what makes the character so fascinating. With this character being the inspiration for Dr. Manhattan, it was interesting that they chose to pattern his new look after the character with a bald head and penchant to walk around seemingly naked. Still, the book didn’t catch on and this, being the last issue, sadly illustrates why.

While I felt that writer J.T. Krul handled some of the action scenes with skill, CAPTAIN ATOM just felt sort of generic throughout. I guess the clichés outweighed the imaginative ideas as the former pilot coped with becoming a human nuclear reactor. Though only a snippet of his origin is delved into in this zero issue, the basics are all touched upon. And while I can’t expect Krul to pull off any writing to compare with the way Alan Moore wrote the character, I would hope the editors would push the writer to delve a bit more into the physics of things in a book such as this.

Imagine a CAPTAIN ATOM book written by Grant Morrison. I just did and my head had a mini-explosion go off in it.

Freddie Williams II is keeping the art fast and loose in this issue. The book looks like either he wasn’t given a lot of time to finish it or as if Williams just wasn’t into it. Either way, despite some cool looking ‘splosions, the book just doesn’t pop.

I hope this doesn’t mean editors think there’s not an interest in Captain Atom. For some reason, they tend to blame the characters for not appealing to the fans instead of the real culprits--the writers that write them and the editors that steer the way. I’d love to see Cap elevated to the big leagues in the Johns and Lee JUSTICE LEAGUE book and interacting with the big guns like he deserves to be with the power he’s packing. Here’s hoping that the character won’t be off gathering dust, because it just wasn’t handled well in this series.


LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #0

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Scott Kolins
Reviewer: Matt Adler

Paul Levitz and Scott Kolins give us the story of how Brainiac 5 joined the Legion of Super-Heroes, but unfortunately it’s a rather dull affair. The Legion come to the rescue of Brainiac’s home planet of Colu, which despite being under the threat of unleashed weapons super-weapons from a previous era, never really seems like an exciting or interesting place. There’s no real sense of a threat here, and the Legionnaires we meet—Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, and Ultra Boy--seem very interchangeable and without much personality. The Coluans themselves seem to be a bunch of pacifists who like to wring their hands at the first sign of trouble—and they don’t even have the trademark arrogance and obnoxiousness that usually makes Brainiac an entertaining character.

There’s a brief subplot involving Tharok, who as I recall goes on to be a major Legion villain, but it’s not developed much, and the revelation at the end of the story is a bit of yawn as well. I generally like Scott Kolins’ art, but here it seems to lack any dynamism, which adds to the overall sense of tedium. This is an extremely forgettable issue, which is particularly disappointing as I’ve come to expect more of Levitz’s writing. If you want to see him write a good “Before The New 52” issue, check out WORLD'S FINEST #0 instead.


SUPERGIRL #0

Writers: Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Art: Mahmud Asrar
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo


In WHAT universe is Supergirl a more consistently fun and interesting read then Superman?? Oh right. This new one. To start, I should admit to a disturbing lack of knowledge regarding past incarnations of Kal-El's cousin. There was one that died in the Crisis, with the Olivia Newton John headband, there was the one who was somehow something called The Matrix, which looked a lot like Clayface. There was the one that just showed up a couple years ago and sided with Darkseid for a little bit in the Superman/Batman series. Oh and let's not forget Powergirl, her Earth 2 counterpart. Supergirl always seemed to me to be one of those characters that I didn't really have a handle on, like Hawkman, or Jesus. I've recently had a chance to catch up on this new series and despite a mild hiccup here and there, I've really enjoyed it! I LIKE that she didn't show up on Earth and immediately know English. I like that, due to cultural and language barriers (not to mention her teenage hormones) she keeps lashing out, unnecessarily.

And sweet sassy molassy, I like the ART. Mahmud Asrar is a name I didn't know before Supergirl, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye out for years to come.

This issue, interestingly enough, focuses our attention not on Kara Zor-El, but on her father. On the outs with Superman's pappy Jor-El, he too knows that Krypton is not long for the universe and seeks only to send off his only daughter. There are references to the Kryponian ban on cloning which harkens to Superboy 0 and all the shenanigans from that issue, and...well hell, Superboy even shows up in this issue! I'm not sure if this is a storyline that is being revisited, since I'm an issue behind on Supergirl and several behind on Superboy, or if this is a look at an upcoming story, but I'm definitely interested in finding out. We also get a glimpse at how Argo city was saved from decimation. But what is most intriguing about this story is the relationship between Kara's parents. I'd always seen Kal-El's parents saying goodbye to him together, resigned to their fate, comforted by the knowledge that their son would hopefully be safe. Interesting, then, that Alura is kept out of the loop on what Zor is planning until it's too late. Did he think that she would want their only daughter to suffer the same fate they have in store? Is it just selfishness on her part, or something else? Strange.

I don't generally enjoy stories about Krypton, but this tale grabbed me. There was enough mystery to keep it interesting, but nowhere near impenetrable for new readers. A great start.

Speaking of great, once again Asrar drew the boogins out of this book. I can taste a hint of Stuart Immonen, but not enough to be detrimental. The linework is clean, Krypton feels otherworldly and regal...and the best part: Supergirl herself. He draws her with an appropriate eye towards dimensions and he gives her eyes a sense of youthful wonder that is just a joy to behold. Her body language speaks volumes and every emotion is on display. Just beautiful work!

This series has been a bit of a surprise for me, but it just keeps chugging along, and I hope it has a lot more miles under it's cape.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 19, 2012, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Ticklish

    by dark

    can i get my taint tickled?

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Nightwing, Beetle, JL.

    by TheMachinist

    Looking forward to these.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:19 a.m. CST

    So praise for Red Hood and the Outlaws but scorn for OMAC and Kirby?

    by MrMajestic

    Nice, so all Kirby was good for was covers and splash pages? So OMAC, the comic that felt like a breath of fresh air when all the other nuDC titles felt like doom and gloom, blood and sex packaged by the Marvel/Image bullpen from 20 yrs back, is brushed off? And now Red Hood and the Outlaws is a praiseworthy title and a guide to how comics should be handled for a new generation? Trust me RHatO will go the way of Venom comics from back in the day. Trying too hard to be cool, or at least a dorky teen's idea of cool. You know what's cool? Balls out art like Kirby's. Classic characters like OMAC. And definitely not Red Hood.

  • Optimus - 'I don’t know what it is, there were just a couple panels where I truly felt Carol was more maniacal than happy.' Yeah, a couple of my friends do that. I call it the soccer mom smile. Stressed out and unhappy with their life, but desperately trying to convince themselves and everyone around them otherwise. I was a *lot* more interested in GL when Carol was a part of it (I lol'd hard at 'except me - except her). Maybe I should have been reading NG this whole time. @ Matt - I ordered Amethyst, but never would have guessed that John Constantine would be in it. JL Dark is close to being my favorite title right now. Constantine is such a bastard in his own book, that I'm going to automatically assume he tries to sleep with Amy. Here's hoping she declines. Are the first 5 issues with Deadman exceptionally well-done? If it'll significantly add to his character in JLD, I'd pick them up. JD - 'Supergirl always seemed to me to be one of those characters that I didn't really have a handle on, like Hawkman, or Jesus.' Alright, I admit I'm easy for Atheist-esque humour, but I'll throw my digital panties up on the stage for that one. Well done.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:29 a.m. CST

    mikeyeieio : seriously? lol..

    by Poptard_JD

    do you feel guilty when you're watching the news on the television and not reading it in a newspaper? A story is a story, whether you read it in a book with no words or alongside beautiful illustrations. Comics are the same as books, just brought to you by a team of people working in conjunction out of a passion to tell that story together. Your books won't think you're cheating on them, I promise.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:40 a.m. CST

    ps. thanks Pink! digital panties caught and..

    by Poptard_JD

    well i was going to say sniffed, but that just seemed out of line, lol!

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:51 a.m. CST

    The act of reading prose and absorbing images are different things

    by Laserhead

    Straight prose forces all sorts of internal decision-making and requires more active engagement and participation by the reader than comics, and much more than television or movies, which are passively imbibed, as opposed to prose literature's active absorbing. We might say there's a spectrum between passive and active forms of narrative intake. You sit back and watch a story acted out for you in images and sounds, it's much more passive. More synapses fire, more disparate parts of the mind working together when reading literary prose. There's brain-mapping studies to show this. Just saying.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Kirby

    by MattAdler

    Mr. Majestic, I didn't review Red Hood and the Outlaws, so it doesn't make much sense to compare reviews by two different people and say "How could you like this but not like this?" On the subject of Kirby, I think I made it clear that I do like Kirby, and that I think the best way to honor him is not to imitate him-- because the imitators can never be as good as the original-- but to innovate just like he did. Breaking new ground, that's what Kirby was all about.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Pink

    by MattAdler

    Don't go reading it for John Constantine. It really is just a brief cameo.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 9:58 a.m. CST

    Prose

    by MattAdler

    Straight prose forces all sorts of internal decision-making and requires more active engagement and participation by the reader than comics

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 10:03 a.m. CST

    Prose vs. Comics

    by MattAdler

    Damn quoting system. My response to that theory about prose vs. comics was... That's baloney. I've met numerous people who find it harder to read comics than straight prose precisely because comics require your brain to synthesize the flow of the words with the flow of the artwork. In essence, the story is being told on two separate tracks, and your brain has to interweave them. Not an easy thing to do if you haven't been raised on the form, and it certainly requires as much if not more effort than simply reading a block of text.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 10:17 a.m. CST

    Hate Silver Age

    by optimous_douche

    And hated OMAC because of that vibe. I'm a product of the Dark Age of comics (86-99), so yes, RED HOOD is my cup of tea. Provide reasons OMAC is so good instead of simply stating it's good. Matt, most people have no clue the reviews are written by different folks, I accepted that fact a long time ago.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 10:22 a.m. CST

    @laser: point being: a story is a story no matter the medium.

    by Poptard_JD

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 10:23 a.m. CST

    really? people think this whole column is just one person? huh

    by Poptard_JD

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 10:26 a.m. CST

    Absolutely JD

    by optimous_douche

    Very few read the reviewer name, nor absorb the different tonality of the reviews.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 10:35 a.m. CST

    No, Matt

    by Laserhead

    Just because some people find it hard to acclimate to the form doesn't mean it's giving your brain any kind of workout. Just means someone needs practice at it. 'Interweaving' the image and the 'prose' isn't really done by the reader-- it's done there for you on the page. I'm talking science, not opinion. 'Your brain on literature' is vastly different than your brain on comics or your brain on TV and movies. No matter the quality of the materials. There's studies. Harvard, MIT, some of those places-- several years ago I was on an academic panel that had two such brain-mapping studies as part of its discussion: you could look at the magnetic imaging of the brain and see clearly what was happening. I kind of deleted that part of my life, but the studies should be imminently google-able.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 11:20 a.m. CST

    New Guardians?

    by Eddie_Dane

    Ram, Jet and Floro are back? Awesome!

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 11:33 a.m. CST

    Prose Vs Comics: the point being address was emotion, not science

    by Poptard_JD

    he said he felt guilty, and so I supplied him with my reasoning why he shouldn't feel guilty.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 11:36 a.m. CST

    I know, pop, I got it.

    by Laserhead

    Just Bill Nyeing a little with Adler.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 11:59 a.m. CST

    Was a fan of the original Amethyst...

    by Tom

    I curious to give it a try, but DC in general has been letting me down big time.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Laserhead

    by MattAdler

    You're talking about TV and movies, which are vastly different from comics. TV and movies DO interweave the visual and verbal aspects for you. Comics don't; we as longtime readers just assume they do, because we've been raised from childhood with the form. People who haven't grown up with it don't simply need practice; they will never be able to read them as easily as we do because their brains weren't conditioned in their formative years to do so. I'd be interested to see the scientific study that says reading an adult-oriented comic is less taxing on the brain than a novel of a comparable reading level.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 2:45 p.m. CST

    Amethyst! And the reviewers...

    by Homer Sexual

    I also loved the original Amethyst because it was all light and shiny on the surface, but actually went very dark,with lots of political intrigue and more death amongst its cast than most any comic I can think of from DC. It ended darkly but extremely satisfying, with Amethyst's "boyfriend" going with an actual adult instead of Amy/Amethyst and Amethyst basically sacrificing everything for gemworld. I think I am hoping for too much this go around, but I have my fingers crossed. Ok. then... I have been here so long that I remember the Comedian. I didn't like his taste in comics but loooved his reviews. I can't tell who every reviewer is,(Adler seems to tend toward a more dry approach, Douche a bit more snarky) but most of us can definitely identify some of the more (in)famous reviewers, such as.. ahem.. the Kid, Henry Higgins is my homeboy, Prof Challenger...

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 2:46 p.m. CST

    and Lyzard...

    by Homer Sexual

    She only reviews/reviewed indy comics I would never read, but I appreciated a female voice and she also reviewed Archie comics, loved that...more recent ones where Archie got married, Kevin Keller became Archie's homo pal, etc. etc.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 3 p.m. CST

    The Legion characters are interchangeable and without personality?

    by Homer Sexual

    No way! The next thing you'll be saying is that despite being from worlds galore, they are all just like white young adults from America. There have been moments, but this is why the Legion ALWAYS ends up getting cancelled, then rebooted but hardly anyting ever changes. Did like the Bierbaum era tho...

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 3:38 p.m. CST

    I would agree...

    by MattAdler

    ...I do generally take the drier approach, even when I'm joking. Heavy snark or outrageousness doesn't usually sound right coming from me. Douche does it well. I have read Legion stories where they're well-characterized and stand out as individuals. This wasn't one of 'em, unfortunately.

  • Sept. 19, 2012, 5:31 p.m. CST

    Only talkbackers sound the same...

    by Greg Nielsen

    or is that bigoted to say?

  • Seriously, JT Krul writes a few bad comics so he's bad for life? People dislike Freddie Williams being distinctive but can happily gobble down the crap that is given them from boring guys with no style like Ivan Reis, who seriously might be the most boring artist I've ever seen. Sometimes, I honestly can't tell the difference between Ivan Reis and Joe Prado and yes they do pencil and ink things separately sometimes. The book wasn't great but it was better than the slowness being jammed down our throats on Batman and Swamp Thing. It was better than the crap being served up in Batgirl and Justice League too.

  • I'd buy it every time.

  • I DID like his Robin work, but his Captain Atom stuff really isn't for me.

  • Sept. 20, 2012, 10:35 a.m. CST

    @matt adler

    by Tigger11

    I wasn't as excited as you about DCUP #0, but I did have an interesting thought after reading all the stories in the book. "Wow, Hawk and Dove are supposed to have normal human sized feet"

  • Sept. 20, 2012, 12:01 p.m. CST

    I don't know about excited...

    by MattAdler

    After all, I only liked 2 out of the 5 stories. But that's why I generally like anthology books; if you don't like one story, well, here's another.

  • Why is his cover work superior in every single way? It's like on the Earth 2 covers he remembers maybe there should be some style. I mean it's still not my cup of tea but I still immediately recognize it as him and don't think who is this house style machine.

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