It’s been almost three months since DC’s New 52 premiered and by now you’ve all probably seen my reviews of some of DC’s rebooted titles including Green Arrow, Superman, Action Comics, and Detective Comics, just to name a few. I must admit, however, that part of me wanted to read every DC New 52 title…but how is this possible given the constraints of my wallet? Luckily for me, my local comic store occasionally has daily deals where they sell copies of a comic for only a couple of quarters. Meanwhile, some of my friends have also gotten hooked on the New 52 and let me borrow a few of the comics I thought looked interesting. Thus, over the last two months, I’ve managed to check out a bunch of #1 titles. I’ve decided to use this article to do some quick mini-reviews in what I’m calling The Gauntlet. Without further ado, let’s begin!
Inverseman, who loves Aquaman for his perceived ridiculousness, gave me copies of Aquaman #1 and #2 for my birthday last month. Most people view Aquaman as a joke hero who is almost worthless; ironically, author Geoff Johns decided to address these assessments head on in Issue #1. The plot centered around Aquaman’s place in the DC Universe, where common people see him as “nobody’s favorite hero.” Humorous scenes involve Arthur going to a fish restaurant and interrogation about the practice of “talking” to fish. Ultimately, this issue juxtaposes humor with drama in an excellent manner, hoping to show that Aquaman is above the stereotypes associated with his character. At DC’s All Access: Justice League panel at NYCC, Johns even stated that “Aquaman sucks, but he’s awesome because he sucks.” The comic is thus a great spin on an oft-written off character. The art, by superstars Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, exceeds all expectations and is perhaps the best I’ve seen in The New 52 thus far.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Batgirl; I’ve got nothing against her as a character, she just has never captured my interest. This first issue definitely shook things up in the DC Universe: Barbara Gordon, having recovered from paralysis after the events of The Killing Joke, is Batgirl once again. Opinions on this choice are mixed: some people are glad to see the original Batgirl back in her role, but others whine about the loss of Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Honestly, this first issue failed to impress me: there’s an interesting mystery set down that has room for development, but didn’t grab my attention. The dialogue is decent, and the art is above average, but nothing really wowed me. Perhaps people who are bigger fans of Batgirl may like it better.
I, Vampire #1:
I, Vampire has received a lot of positive press and word of mouth since its premier in September. The story is a different take on the vampire genre, giving us the tale of two lovers, Andrew Stanton and Mary, titled the Queen of the Damned. Mary’s only goal is the total eradication of humanity; Andrew, on the other hand, attempts to prevent her from wreaking havoc, noting that both humans and vampires can coexist peacefully. Mary, however, ignores his words and secretly sires an army of vampires to slaughter humanity, noting that she does not care if Earth’s heroes try to stop her. I must admit that the premise of I, Vampire is very interesting and really does give a new spin on one of the most popular monsters of legend. Joshua Hale Fialkov, the writer of the series, does an excellent job crafting the voices of these two characters and inserting them into a shadowy world. Fialkov is aided by Andrea Sorrentino, whose dark art adds the necessary layer of gothic horror to the narrative. I do, however, have two problems with the comic: the first is a worry that these vampires may not fit well into the DCU, but I’d need to read more before making that assessment. The second is that at times the scenes seemed as if they were made dark solely for the purpose of saving the artist time, adding shadows and shading where unnecessary. Ultimately, however, I, Vampire could very well develop into one of the best and most talked about comic series of this year.
Justice League Dark #1:
With a few of my favorite characters, some sweet art, and intriguing plotlines, Justice League Dark #1 captured my attention and sparked my imagination from the first two pages alone. The issue explored a cool idea: Enchantress, a foe with mystical powers, can shut down the main members of the Justice League who have difficulty dealing with magical mayhem. Enter Zatanna, Shade the Changing Man, John Constantine, Deadman, and Madame Xanadu (who also appears in my beloved Demon Knights) to tackle the problem. Can these unstable and shady heroes successfully function as a cohesive team? The world sure hopes so, since otherwise Enchantress could very well destroy reality itself! JLD definitely has huge potential as a series and I’m intrigued to see where it’s headed. Mikel Janin deserves special praise for giving Zatanna an amazing new costume and providing some other stunning visuals, such as the scene when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are repulsed by Enchantress’s magical onslaught. I have to say that this issue is definitely worth the buy!
Red Lanterns #1:
Since I first read about the introduction of Atrocitus I have loved the idea of the Red Lanterns. This issue, however, sadly did not live up to my expectations. It seemed to set up for two main plotlines: both the creation of a new Red Lantern on Earth and a possible rebellion of the Red Lanterns against Atrocitus. My main problem was that nothing stood out from this issue: the artwork, plot, dialogue, setting…none of it really stuck with me. It’s a shame because the Red Lanterns are so cool and there is a lot that can be done with them. The series may have improved since, but unless I hear some amazing things there is no way I’ll read Issue #2 and beyond.
Suicide Squad #1:
The premise of Suicide Squad is nothing novel: a group of criminals are given a chance of parole if they complete deadly missions for the government. The comic, however, infuses this tried and true plotline with new flavor: these “villains” all come from very different backgrounds and each brings something new and wild to the table, from El Diablo, the pyromancer who seeks reform, to Deadshot, the cold and calculating marksman whose only desire is to see the mission to its close…no matter the cost. The first issue focuses mainly on introducing the squad’s lineup, analyzing them all as they are tortured to test if they will break under pressure. The writing is great, though the art is only slightly above average. My only complaint with Issue #1 is that it is a bit slow since it needs to set up for the coming adventure. I’ve been able to read issues #2 and #3 as well, and so far the series has kept my attention with its varied characters and wild situations.
Teen Titans #1:
I was a big fan of the Teen Titans animated series back in the day but until now I never read a single comic about the team. The New 52 Teen Titans, however, is wildly different than the television series, involving totally different characters facing a new enemy, the enigmatic and oddly named N.O.W.H.E.R.E. The first issue introduces us to Kid Flash (Bart Allen), Red Robin (Tim Drake), and Wondergirl (Cassie Sandsmark). The story essentially involves metahuman teens gaining media attention, leading to the suspicious N.O.W.H.E.R.E. to come after them. Red Robin decides he will gather them together and form a team to protect one another from the machinations of this odd organization. The issue does well at characterizing the three characters it introduces, and even has a decent amount of enjoyable action. Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund gave these classic heroes some awesome new costumes, though Kid Flash’s visor still looks somewhat strange to me. Like many other #1s, Teen Titans mainly stands to set up the drama and introduce the reader to the protagonists. This series does carry potential, but as an issue standing alone this one has a plot that can be described as only average.
Phew, well there you have it, the Gauntlet is done! I hope this article will help guide you if you too decide to branch out into other corners of the New 52 Universe!
Brett Simon is a twenty-two year old comic enthusiast. He’s glad he avoided making a “something fishy” pun in his review of Aquaman. He also wants to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!