the reviews written by Alex Zalben and Charles Webb over at MTV Geek.
Justice League #1-- I guess if you're going to make a comic book product that is truly aimed at the mass market and looks like the equivalent of the slick movie blockbuster of the month, this would be it. Complaints regarding its decompressed storytelling -- and the fact that we are only introduced to half the team in this issue -- are duly noted. However, I would suspect that as this title seems to be one specifically created for the mass market -- as opposed to, say, Justice League International (which I enjoyed a bit more, but then again I am a long-time comic fan not the mass market) -- DC has a solid eye on collecting this up for the eventual hardcover and trade paperback, where such storytelling makes more sense.
Action Comics #1 -- Now, here is Superman truly taken from a completely different angle than anything else I've read previously. And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Obviously, this story begins before the current continuity of the "new" DC Universe, and Superman has changed a bit since then -- but even that more "mature" Superman seems a bit cold, a bit distant...somewhat more "alien" (almost serving, in a sense, the Martian Manhunter role in the new Justice League). Certainly a sea-change from the love-letter to a smiling icon in All-Star Superman. Is Grant Morrison saying with this new interpretation of the character (though it can be argued that it's just a hearkening back to its very early Golden Age roots) that the previous earnest "Big Boy Scout" Superman can no longer exist or be effective in this sort of brutal world (recent art I've seen of Captain America holding a gun also mirrors this question)? These are questions that really deserve a larger analysis, after several issues of both this and the new Superman title are released.
Animal Man #1 -- I really liked this book -- though, unlike many other readers, I'm not sure I would position it as the number one book of the new crop. I'd put it in the top five. Certainly, in tone and art it feels more Vertigo than anything else. Specifically, it reminds me of the pre-Vertigo era, when some of DC's titles were getting more artistic and adult but the "Vertigo" label hadn't been created yet. By subtly placing himself in the story with the first text page, Jeff Lemire in a sense references Morrison's earlier run on the book. It seems like Lemire is getting positioned at DC as the "next" Morrison.
Batgirl #1 -- If this is supposed to be a "new era" for the Barbara Gordon Batgirl, the first issue sure hearkens back to the previous one a lot. Between flashbacks of the Joker and and an unusual focus on her legs (both in relation to said experiences with Joker and in just sort of a gratuitous, overly-metaphoric way in dialogue and battle), there seems to be a struggle here between moving forward in a new direction and possibly going back to the old thru a "side door." Best thing to do here with this character, in my estimation, is shit or get off the pot -- go back to Oracle or say "fuck it" and unapologetically work with a pre-Crisis, pre-Killing Joke Batgirl. I'm fine either way.
Batwing #1 -- There's a lot of potential here, helped by the intriguing and stylistically unique art of Ben Oliver. The storyline and sense of place seems genuine and well-researched. Unfortunately, this always seems like the type of book to get axed first unless somebody steps in and vouchers for it. Be great to see the title get a chance.
Detective Comics #1 -- This is a great comic. Some have mentioned that Batman's dialogue seems too short and choppy, but I kind of like that. Just really wish the last page wasn't so gory; the book is so strong, with an effective sense of menace and danger, that it really didn't need that. Deciding to go with such a "shock" ending is a crap shoot -- you might pick up new readers just based on the ballsy quality of it all, or it might be the "line" that certain readers draw to not pick up another issue. I like to err on trying to get as many readers as possible with a showcase title such as this (I mean, the name of the comic is essentially the name of the publisher) and using such extreme moments only if they are absolutely necessary to the story. Maybe I'm just a nervous Nellie.
Green Arrow #1 -- I'm very happy with the direction this character is going as a whole; it's an update that is long overdue and that I think can be positioned well for various spinoffs in other media, such as movies. Of course, this interpretation is very close to that of Oliver Queen in Smallville -- which is fine. The story itself was much more of an old-school straightforward comic book story, which was not a bad thing in my opinion.
Hawk and Dove #1 -- I like Sterling Gates as a writer, but this is obviously a book that is dominated by Rob Liefeld's art style and storytelling layout. You're either going to love it for that or hate it for that.
Justice League International #1 -- Like Green Arrow #1, this solid issue features an old-school style of storytelling. Old-school, or is it just good storytelling? While not of the level of the great DeMatteis/Giffen/Maguire run, it's still enjoyable enough and reminiscent of that era. The book seems to be the antidote to the more mass-market feel and storytelling of the main Justice League title.
Men of War #1 -- This book got really panned, but I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, it's a War genre comic book. It is going to have a different pace than a superhero comic. The unique thing with this title is that it features current wars told with a very World War II style; maybe some people find that off-putting. Again, I really didn't think it was that bad.
O.M.A.C. #1 -- The Kirby elements here are very true to the original source material, with clean, polished art. A number of books in this new 52 line seem to have somewhat murky coloring, but this was not the case here; it's like you could divide the titles into those that had appropriate coloring and those that had murky coloring.
Static Shock #1 -- I had a really hard time getting through reading this and I have no idea why. I don't know if it was because the story and/or dialogue was too dense, or the visual storytelling was too confusing, or I just didn't empathize with the main character enough. Sometimes, books just don't click.
Stormwatch #1 -- The delicate linework of the art here was massively overwhelmed by the (often murky) coloring, creating a barrier to an initial read-through. The story itself was OK, though it's weird seeing these characters presented as if for the first time. Of course, the whole thing is a real advantage to Martian Manhunter, who seems like a real badass in comparison to everybody else (as opposed to the JLA second/third-stringer nobody really knew what to do with).
Swamp Thing #1 -- My mom is really into botany, so I really appreciated the scientific references here to the weirder aspects of plant-life. This book seems, in some ways, very similar to Animal Man, as both characters are avatars of nature and trying to escape their true "duties" in exchange for a normal life. Also -- the situation with Animal Man's daughter seems to mirror that of Swamp Thing's own daughter in the previous incarnations. There's the idea that if you get mixed up with something as materially and spiritually massive as an aspect of nature, you're going to be "infected" with it no matter how you try to escape it; certainly, these ideas are fodder for another post.
Batman and Robin #1 -- This was an OK book, but I have two quibbles. First quibble: Damien sounds less like how a real highly intelligent/emotionally cold little hellion Wayne-spawn would really act, and more like Stewie from Family Guy. Seriously, read back all of Damien's dialogue in this issue with Stewie's voice. Second quibble: the Batmen of Other Lands (I'm sure that's not their official name, but you know what I mean) getting literally "erased" -- it seems a bit meta. But outside of that, the book was decent.
Batwoman #1 -- The problem with a book like this is that it is generally 3 or 4 levels above everything else in the new line. That was the advantage of having a title like this with Vertigo branding, or perhaps putting it out directly as a prestige graphic novel. You just look at this book -- as good and elaborate as anything at the height of Promethea -- and it's just hard to place it in the same universe as some of the other stuff even just within the Bat-titles. This was also the case with a title like Animal Man, and I'm willing to bet the new Wonder Woman may have the same distinction. Certainly, this is not a failing of the title, but rather it's just an interesting aspect of the whole 52 relaunch. This relaunch is definitely not one tied together by a certain "house-style."
Deathstroke #1 -- It was OK. Nothing particularly distinctive, except for the last couple of pages which you will either think are badass or kind of disturbing. It seems to be a generic-feeling title that might get lost in the shuffle unless they "edge" it up even more.
Demon Knights #1 -- I really liked the change of pace here from the rest of the DCU, and the fact that it seems like the publisher's "medieval fantasy" title is fine with me. I hope all those characters stay in that particular time period and everything doesn't get immediately shoe-horned into the present.
Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #1 -- This is really a bizarre book -- as, I suppose, any one featuring Frankenstein as a superhero might be. I liked it better than Lemire's Animal Man, actually, and they picked an artist that really seems to approximate the writer/artist's own unique style. Since Lemire is such a strong visual storyteller, even his writing and his requested panel layouts seem to ape his art style, so having an artist so aesthetically close to him really works here.
Green Lantern #1 -- This comic basically just continues the quality and storyline of the pre-New 52 Green Lantern, much in the same way the Bat-books seem relatively "untouched." This starts to provide a certain degree of confusion, as you wonder how much of the world of the Green Lanterns is really "intact," and how much has changed. But generally, if you bought Green Lantern before the relaunch, this is just a continuation, with a big of a stronger story than "War Of The Green Lanterns" and seeming to get back to the roots of the title.
Grifter #1 -- This was a decent book, but if you were a fan of the original Wildstorm books, titles like this and Stormwatch might frustrate you because the status-quo has definitely changed. I would imagine it is somewhat hard to step in and redo a character like this -- there's a lot of baggage but also a lot of potential.
Legion Lost #1 -- This comic captures a lot of the flavor of the original Legion Lost miniseries (one of my faves), but the time-travel element adds an extra level of complexity that made the story at times hard to follow. I would have like to see this book more rooted in the Legion's current timeline, at least initially. I referred to Chameleon Girl as "Puddle Girl" at the start of the issue, as well as "Drippy" -- making the ending sort of grosser in my own mind than it probably was. Don't mind me.
Mister Terrific #1 -- Another critically-panned title that was better than I expected. The art is a barrier here, for sure -- decent enough, but not jelling with the writing, and the whole thing seeming rushed. But the story itself was kind of interesting, with a cliffhanger ending that at least made you wonder how Mr. Terrific was going to get out of the spot he found himself in.
Red Lanterns #1 -- I would have loved to see the parallel storylines in this issue -- one on Earth, one in space -- be tied together before it ended, rather than be left for the next one. I think a book like Justice League can afford this sort of decompressed storytelling in lieu of the collected edition, but this Green Lantern spin-off cannot. I was surprised to see Ed Benes on the title, and his art looks far more textured and old-school than his ultra-polished JLA/Birds of Prey stuff.
Resurrection Man #1 -- I've never read the original Resurrection Man series, so this #1 is my introduction to the character. Writing team Abnett and Lanning are solid and never disappoint -- the art was reminiscent of a Neal Adams/Jim Aparo, but, like that of Mr. Terrific, seemed rushed. A lot of intriguing solid horror elements here.
Suicide Squad #1 -- The book is unabashedly trashy, and it knows it. We're clearly not going to get the sort of storytelling of the original series, as it goes in a very Grindhouse/Tarantino direction. It's so tonally different from the original that the fact that Amanda Waller is skinny in this rather than unskinny doesn't really bother me.
Superboy #1 -- This was really the sleeper of the bunch for me, as I liked it far more than I thought I would -- and would almost say, Batwoman notwithstanding, that it was my favorite of the two-week stretch of titles. The situation Superboy finds himself in, and his reaction to it, seems genuine and appropriate, and it is no small feat to get me to empathize with a character that has been rebooted/relaunched about three times in as many years. And the art by R.B. Silva was very clean and fresh, reminding me of Joe Eisma's from Morning Glories. But most importantly -- of all the New 52 titles I read, this felt the most like something an actual living teenager would want to read.
And that's it. My schedule will be pretty crazy end of September/early October as we enter New York Comic-Con season, but I will try to write up my notes on the rest of the new #1s at some point.