Wednesday, October 26, 2011
DC Comics, in the latest marketing scheme, issued 52 first issues in September, sparking a few weeks of buzz and angering many fans because many of the first issues were not brand-new comics. That means that some long-running titles, such as the historical Detective Comics - which started in 1937 and had run for almost 900 issues - started all over again with #1.
I haven't bought any new comics for a very long time, but a few months before "The New 52" comics were published, I saw some comic books at the newsstand at Barnes & Noble, and I flipped through the latest issue (#879) of an old favorite (Detective Comics), and I started buying Detective again. So I heard about "The New 52" at a time when I was getting interested in comics and I decided to get a few of them and start reading comics again.
It's been a fun experience. Some of these are very good (I think my two favorites are Batwoman and Wonder Woman) and some of these are a little dodgy for one reason or another (Catwoman! I'm looking at you!). But they've all been fun. I don't think anyone expected 52 instant classics. I just remember that, when I was a kid collecting lots of comic books, I didn't really pay that much attention to whether the comics were 'good' or not. I just bought what I liked and what looked interesting. (For example, I collected "Jungle Action," which is now highly rated as a highlight of the Bronze Age. But I had no inkling, when I was 11, that it was destined to be a classic. I just thought it was cool that it was set in the jungle and the Black Panther got to fight dinosaurs.)
Before I start my capsule reviews of the comics I bought, I want to address a big problem that I found in far too many of these comics, even some of the comics I liked: I refer to decompression.
Decompression is an unfortunate practice - some would call it a curse, or perhaps 'the curse' - of modern comics. Decompression means spreading out a few minutes of story throughout an entire comic book. Every page has just two or three or four panels, a few tiny word balloons, no captions, no thought balloons, nothing to catch the mind as the eye skims the pages and you read a whole comic book in three or four minutes. (Sometimes that "three or four minutes" includes a phone call, getting the mail, feeding the cat or any number of things that might interrupt your comic book reading. (Click here for a fine discussion of the evils of decompression.)
The end result is a feeling of dissatisfaction when you reach the end. Nice art, intriguing fraction of a story, where's the rest of it?
Not all of "The New 52" comics that I read displayed decompression to an annoying degree, but it was a problem on a regular basis, and I may drop some of these comic books sooner than I had expected merely because of the frustrating effect of extreme decompression. ("Supergirl" comes to mind.)
Grant Morrison takes Superman back to his roots, an activist Superman who personally involves himself in political corruption and domestic violence. Yes, it's set in modern times, but it evokes the late 1930s, when the Superman comic was chaotic as hell, and Superman would harass and terrorize reckless drivers if the mood struck him, or he would abduct European leaders and throw them in front of armies and tell the leaders to fight out their differences.
Those were the days.
I liked the first issue, but a pretty good story, unfortunately, suffered from the abrupt nature of the big finale, an abruptmess forced on the story by decompression. Then, the second issue didn't really make sense.
I will stick with Action because it is a DC flagship title, but I'm already having my doubts.
Barbara Gordon can walk again! And she has taken up the mantle of Batgirl. She's a little rusty, so she makes mistakes. But she'll get better! (She has to, if she expects to last more than a week.)
(It has been suggested that, in the new continuity, she was never Batgirl before. I don't know about that. But I couldn't find anything in the dialogue or text that says either way.)
Writer Gail Simone is awesome, and the art is great. I'm having fun with this one.
Let's see, what to say about this one. It's a bit over-the-top. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing in a comic book with the Joker. Or with Batman either, when you get right down to it.) The Joker is running around naked, for some reason. He kills a guy with meat sewed to his face. He's one step ahead of the Batman, until he isn't.
Then, the Joker voluntarily lets another villain, the Dollmaker, cut his face off. And the first issue ends with a full-page panel of the skin from the Joker's face spread out on the floor, grinning at you.
It is just about the only time a comic book made me physically ill. (Which, again, is not necessarily a bad thing.)
The second issue did not answer any of the questions created by the first, it generated a whole series of new questions and it ended with Comissioner Gordon in considerable peril!
I am definitely intrigued. And I love "Detective Comics," so I would be buying it anyway. But it's not for everyone.
This isn't going to make anybody forget the Jack Kirby "O.M.A.C." series, but I'm enjoying it. The best thing about it is the Keith Giffen art. One great thing about "The New 52" is the high quality of the art in general, even if some of it is a bit eccentric, and Giffen is a welcome addition, providing a little contrast with so much of the slick art in some of the other comics.
Plot? A futuristic super-soldier attacks Cadmus, the cutting-edge technological facility, and seems to be after something, creating much havoc and upsetting some young woman who works there who doesn't know that her boyfriends is, somehow, the super-soldier, who is known as O.M.A.C., which stands for Only Mechanizes Against Carnage, or something.
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I've enjoyed it so far. I would drop this like a hot potato if it weren't drawn by Giffen.
This just kicks ass. Great art. Great writing. Love the covers. Read it.
FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT of S.H.A.D.E
The Frankenstein monster belongs to a secret government organization that battles supernatural threats that ordinary secret government organizations can't handle. His wife, who has somehow acquired extra arms, is also an operative. The boss is an eight-year-old girl in a schoolgirl outfit who wears a domico mask, for some reason. Ray Palmer is onboard, as are the Creature Commandos.
It's much better in the execution than it is in the telling. Besides, what's not to like for people who like this sort of thing?
BIRDS OF PREY
This is another one that's a lot of fun. Black Canary, Starling and Katana, just doing what girls do when they can KICK ASS with the best of them.
Poison Ivy showed up at the end of the second issue. It appears that she was invited.
Not nearly as bad as a lot of people were saying, and it has its good points. I can certainly see why many people don't want to give it a chance after the first issue, but I'll stick with it for a few issues. I think it has potential.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
Not the best the Legion has ever been, not by a longshot. I liked the first issue quite a bit. it was good to see Dream Girl and Brainiac so prominent. I was a little more ambivalent about the second issue. One thing that bothered me more than it probably should have was how blubbery Shadow Lass was over the death of Earth-Man. I don't know who Earth-Man is, but it seems badly out of character for Shady.
We'll see what happens.
I like the idea for this. But the costume needs work. (Pants, anyone?) And decompression doesn't get any worse than this. (I hope.)
I so want to like this.
I can't even begin to put it into words how much I like this. Just buy it.