Thursday, October 13, 2011

Week 4 of the New DC Comics!: Part Une!

 This is the longest post yet about the new DC comics. This length is due to the poor nature of many of the books DC put out in their final week of new books. In this post I only discuss half of the books DC released in their final week, and the other half will be discussed in a later post (probably next week). None of the below comics were ones I previously read and none are instant winners. Four of the comics did leave me interested enough to pick up a second issue and give the books another try, but overall this group of comics was a serious disappointment. From the group discussed here, I would recommend: Justice League Dark, I Vampire, Savage Hawkman, and maybe Teen Titans.

Green Lantern, New Guardians: On the plus side this book offered the kernels of an interesting story, a very brief reframing of the origin of Kyle Rayner becoming a Green Lantern, and that the art was OK. The biggest downside is that as a previous follower of the Green Lantern comic the story left me thoroughly confused as to what the heck has happened to the continuity of the Green Lantern comics and the DC universe as a whole. First off, why is Kyle not already a GL but everyone else previously shown in GL books are? In the previous GL books Kyle was already a GL, so I presume this book represents a complete reboot of Kyle's character, but why is he the only GL to have a reboot? In the previously released GL #1, the story picked up right where the previous GL story started. This lack of coherency in story has left me wondering where all the other new DC books fit into the continuum as it appears that books such as Batman have been left unchanged but books like the Blue Beetle have been completely altered. Is it me or did DC release a source book explaining all this that I missed?  A second and smaller problem is that Kyle is unaware of the presence of other Lanterns when he first becomes one, yet a random guy he saves on the next page is well aware of their existence. Furthermore, this comic appears to occur at the same time as does the story in the Green Lantern CORPS comic where the Lanterns are very well known throughout the world. So how the heck doesn't Kyle know about the Lanterns?

The issue of continuity problems has been addressed by many other online critics. It is a glaring problem with the DC reboot that boggles my mind as to how they managed to mess things up so badly. The blame settles upon the editors and should have been a simple issue to ensure not to happen. DC advertised their reboot as a clean slate to their heroes so new readers could begin reading their books. However, this clean slate and issue of reboot has only been applied to a select few characters with no explanation why other heroes were not included.

I, Vampire: Right away I was confused by this comic for the title is almost identical to another comic DC is producing under its Vertigo imprint. This other comic is called I, Zombie and is an absolutely exceptional book. The close similarity in name had me thinking these books would be connected in some way, but after reading 'I, Vampire' I discovered that there were no similarities other than the name and presence of classic horror creatures; but why use such a similar name? It makes no sense and is frankly a stupid move by DC.

One of the best parts of this book is the art. Andrea Sorrentino provides the illustrations that are strongly reminiscent of Jae Lee's work  with the usage of heavy and blocky blacks and scratchy /scribbly lines. This similarity is so strong that it leaves Sorrentino's art less memorable because of the lack of originality in style, but nonetheless the art looks good. What does work to Sorrentino's benefit is that no one else in the DC line of new books are using a similar style. While Sorrentino's art is not original, it is original in comparison to the other DC books.

i Zombie: confusingly similar names.
Going into this book I knew nothing about the characters or the previous usage of vampires in DC comics for that matter. The book opens with a conversation between two vampires, Andrew & Mary, and an ill described sequence of Andrew walking through a street filled with dead and weeding out the vampires from the dead that he then kills. The premise is interesting enough and a shallow depth of mystery this book provides also engaged my senses. However, I finished the book not caring about the characters. Such a lack of caring destroyed any sense of engagement the book had instilled in me. There is little depth provided to the characters and I, the reader, was thrown into the climax of the story without having a solid build-up to it. This book needed to start out much slower and allow the reader to become more familiar with the characters.

In all, I Vampire is a curious book that has me conflicted about the art's originality, confused by the naming of the book, and left me not  interested in the main characters. Yet, the storyline had some interesting elements that could pan out to be a gripping yarn later in the year.

Justice League Dark: This is a fantastic comic because I LOVED the art and the story presented a unique cast of characters in an exciting premise! In this issue, a team is slowly comprised with a group of mystics such as John Costantine and Deadman. The team has not yet gelled but the characters are converging, with their importance foreshadowed with the defeat of three members of the JLA by the character known as Enchantress. The story is very dark and moody, with tons of foreshadowing. 

The book could do with one or two less characters as a group of six is maybe too much and does not leave enough time to develop each character. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the group of characters assembled here but feel that Swamp Thing too should be included (despite the fact the book would do better with fewer characters). The art inside the book is just as well rendered as the illustration on the cover. The art is provided by Mikel Janin who uses soft lines with a realistic style that reminds me of J.G. Jones and Adam Hughes. I don't think this book has received much attention and could easily become a sleeper hit!

The Savage Hawkman: I am most familiar with the character of Hawkman from cartoons and a handful of his guest appearances in other comic books. I have always liked the character but whatever reason never became a big fan. This first issue did not make me into a big fan but did pique my interest. The story is pretty simple with Hawkman conflicted about having powers, which then change and force him into retaining his powers. Hawkman's conflict over his powers is poorly explained and made me feel that I should've read earlier Hawkman issues. 

The second component of the story is a glimpse at Hawkman's private /regular life, and then the story's third act reveals a new villain. These last two components were presented well but did not leave any character development for secondary and tertiary characters as multiple pages were used up with a fight sequence in the final act. As for Hawkman himself, there is little exploration or explanation of his character. The only side of Hawkman we see is his anger, which is all fine and well if you're talking about the Hulk.

Turning to the art you find a very compelling reason to pick up this and future issues of the book. Philip Tan provides luscious illustrations that have grey tones that give the illusion of each page looking like a water color painting. I love the contrast of loose and angled lines and the minimalist approach taken on some of the elements like clothing. It really works and I look forward to seeing where Tan's art will go later in this book.

Superman: Who is Superman in light of the new DC? This is a question left unanswered in this first issue. It is not until the final few pages that Clerk Kent is provided a brief character sketch. Instead, we are treated to a long explanation of what the role of the Daily Planet, or lack thereof, is in the new DC universe. It is more of a commentary on the changing face of the modern news media with obvious references to the Rupert Murdoch scandal of unethical journalism. Considering that this comic is named SUPERMAN, and that the point of the renumbering of the DC comics was to reintroduce new and old readers to their characters, I am left bewildered why George Perez, the writer, took such a bizarre direction in the first issue. 

Another glaring problem with this comic is that at no point was there a sense of wonder or awe. These are critical elements in portraying Superman. He is the Man of Steel, the Man of Tomorrow, yet neither nickname find relevance in this issue. Superman is instead used as a tool to halt evil doers, but in an unremarkable way where any other superhero could have been swapped in for Supes. In all, I was left un-enthused with this issue and the treatment of Superman. I truly expected much better from this issue.

Teen Titans: I am very torn on how to feel about this first issue. To begin, a book entitled 'Teen Titans' does not have the feel of a group of 'Teenagers'. Instead, Scott Lobdell, the writer, introduced us to a group of superheroes that are in their early to mid 20's; perhaps the book should be called 'Young Adult Titans"? Problems of age aside, I found the dialogue some of the best and funniest yet in the new DC books. The dialogue felt genuine to each character, with good usage of stereotypes in the dialogues that set the characters apart from one another; for instance, Kid Flash speaks in a quick and arrogant fashion while Red Robbin speaks in a more deliberate and wiser fashion. The overall story itself is strong but nothing too original. On the plus side, the book briefly introduces you to all the characters that will join the team but focuses on only three of them. This allows the reader a slower introduction to the book which fosters greater character development and character likability. This was a strong move that Justice League Dark would've been improved by following. 

The final point to mention is the art, which is one of the undoings of this comic. Brett Booth provides generic artwork where everyone has the same body type and facial features. The environments are rendered with sufficient detail but the choice of framing is uninspired. For this book to succeed, Lobdell needs to rethink who his script fits into a book called 'Teen Titans', and Booth needs to spend more time on creating original and realistic art.

Voodoo: Wow DC. All I can say is wow, and I do not mean this in an awe inspiring kind of way. This book had a number of problems, the biggest of which is who DC believes the target audience of this book is for? Ron Marz provides the script and is a writer I enjoyed years ago for his run on Green Lantern where he first introduced us to Kyle Rayner as a new GL and the beginning of Hal Jordan's insanity and fall from the GL's. Marz was a trendsetter back in the 90's, but his work on Voodoo is the work of a teenager who watched the movie Species too many times. The first 3/4 of this book is situated in a strip club and the last little bit features a brutal killing. There are no warnings for how graphic this comic is. DC is advertising their comics for all ages, yet have ramped up the maturity of the content.

Getting past the over the top usage of sex and violence, Voodoo does very little to build interest in where this comic is going. The story feels very tired with the over-done story of alien who is hiding on Earth and a mysterious government agency that chases after such aliens. This is all too similar to the a fore mentioned movie Species, and many other franchises such as X-Files. This lack of originality definitely hurts the comic's ability to spur interest, but the lack of story development also does not help. The first 20 or so pages could have been slimmed down to 5 as the exposition was gratuitous. In consideration of the art, Sami Basri does a commendable job. There is very little detail in his art, resulting in people looking more like silhouettes with a few interior lines. The result of such a style are clean and easily understood illustrations while also not leaving a big impression upon the viewer for remembering the art. Basir does the job well, but not well enough to be remembered against other artists. 

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