Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
It’s finally here: The first full week of DC’s New 52 brought 13 brand-new titles – only the tip of the iceberg as September progresses. If the quality of this week’s books is any indication of the rest of the New 52, there will be some very difficult cuts to make at the end of the month.
From now through the end of September, I’ll provide brief overviews of each book with the pull-list status at the end. With no further ado, it’s time to jump into Week 2 of the New 52! Prepare for a number of Bat-family books, the new JLI, Sgt. Rock for the modern age and more!
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
This book sets the benchmark for this week as to what a New 52 #1 should be. Jeff Lemire brings new life to Buddy Baker in an incredible story that both takes advantage of the character’s rich history and introduces new elements in the spirit of DC’s relaunch. Not only does Lemire give readers a welcome reintroduction to Animal Man with a stunning cliffhanger that will leave them wanting more, Travel Foreman’s interior pencils are gorgeous, only adding to the unique feel that Lemire gives this title. It’s a great first issue, and I can’t wait to read more. If I could read only one New 52 issue this week, this would be it.
Written by Gail Simone with art by Ardian Syaf
Gail Simone had a tough job here: plausibly reintroduce Barbara Gordon as Batgirl into the New DC Universe while explaining what happened following the events of The Killing Joke. Luckily, she’s had experience writing Barbara for years and handles the transition with style and grace. As a huge fan of the character, it was refreshing to see Barbara’s personal trials in getting used to walking again clash in a big way with the desire to be a hero as she pulled on the tights once more. You get a little bit of everything here: the badass superhero, the loving police commissioner’s daughter, the post-operative patient trying to get back into the swing of life, and the strong, but damaged, crimefighter. Ardian Syaf’s art is well tuned to Simone’s writing, making them a great storytelling team for Batgirl’s first issue out. It’s a great start and I love the character, so there’s really no question here.
As DC’s original flagship title, Detective Comics has a lot to live up to. While Tony S. Daniel meets the expectations of a traditional Detective Comics story, it doesn’t feel any different from the series before the relaunch. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the strength of so many of the New 52 titles this week is that they take advantage of a new status quo. Daniel’s writing and pencils are solid, but it seems like a Batman story that could have happened at any point. I enjoyed reading the book, and I’m intrigued by the final page, but is it enough to keep Detective on my pull list?
Status: ON THE FENCE
Written by Judd Winick with art by Ben Oliver
Batwing follows the story of David Zavimbe (AKA Batwing) as the protégé of Batman in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The concept is actually pretty solid, but the issue itself suffers from many jumps and quick cuts that make it somewhat difficult to get to the core of what’s going on. Judd Winick also includes Batman in this issue to help Batwing clean up the city of Tinasha, outfitting him with armor and computers, all beautifully rendered by Ben Oliver. However, this issue was just too difficult to follow and overloaded on character introductions with very little development.
This is a new take on Oliver Queen, with a complete character redesign from the ground up. J.T. Krul takes full advantage of the relaunch to give Green Arrow a new position in Queen Industries, new companions and a revamped rogues gallery – but it does make the concept seem a lot like Batman. Ollie’s got the gadgets and gizmos to get the job done, and he’s joined by computer genius Naomi and weapons expert Jax. The issue showcases Ollie’s skills and how well he works with his team, but it feels as though you could’ve replaced the cast with Batman, Oracle and Lucius. Does that merit a cut from my pull? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to re-evaluate at the end of the month.
Status: ON THE FENCE
Hawk and Dove
Written by Sterling Gates with art by Rob Liefeld
I’m a big fan of Sterling Gates, and I think the plot he lays out gives due respect to the history of the characters, and sets up some cool stuff for future issues. Rob Liefeld’s art is actually a decent fit for the tone of the book — a rock-‘em, sock-‘em action series with zombies on a plane. At the end, I wasn’t clamoring for Issue 2, but I’m still impressed with Gates’ plot and want to find out what Dawn Granger’s big secret connection is to Don Hall. Hm. What to do…
Status: ON THE FENCE
This book was so much fun. The team is completely assembled in the first few pages and, judging from last week’s comments on Justice League, that’s something that fans are going to be really happy about. Jurgens gets right into the action within the first few pages, sending the team on its first mission. There isn’t a huge amount of character development here, but you do get the feel of the team as a whole, which is excellent. The best moments were between Rocket Red and August General of Iron – in fact, Rocket Red nearly steals the whole show with his hilarious comments and asides. Great issue; can’t wait for the next.
Men of War
Written by Ivan Brandon with art by Tom Derenick
Co-feature written by Jonathan Vankin with art by Phil Winslade
Men of War is Sgt. Rock war comics for the modern age, and Ivan Brandon has made me a believer. This is a great read, serving as an origin story for the new Sgt. Rock, leaving me with a semi-Silver Age taste in my mouth … and I love it. Tom Derenick really shows a lot of range in this issue, depicting everything from a battlefield to a claustrophobic debriefing room in style. The co-feature “Navy Seals” isn’t as compelling, but it’s still an entertaining read. This book made me care about war comics, and I would take this over a full play-through of Call of Duty any day.
I found it very difficult to get into this story. Things shot off to a climax within the first few pages and continued to stay at that level for the entire issue. Of all of this week’s releases, this is actually the only one that I couldn’t get into at all. Maybe it’s not my cup of tea, maybe I’m not that interested in Brother Eye. Despite the excellent art and old-style characters introductions, I think I’ll skip this one next month.
Written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum with art by Scott McDaniel
I loved this cartoon as a kid. There need to be more books about teen superheroes, and Scott McDaniel gives readers one to latch onto. This version of Static is just starting to come into his own as a superhero, with a lot of help from fellow Milestone hero Hardware. McDaniel and John Rozum introduce some cool elements that will either delight or infuriate science buffs. (I’m not one, so I couldn’t say for sure whether the science is solid.) What you get here is an adventure that pays homage to the original character without sacrificing anything that made him great. Combine that with great art by McDaniel and it’s a welcome shock to my system.
Paul Cornell has the unenviable position of introducing Stormwatch to DC Universe readers that may have never followed the title before. As one of those readers, I have to applaud him for writing a book that has not only a clear tether to the New DCU but also a science fiction story worthy of Cornell’s best work on Doctor Who. The introduction of the core team is a delight, and Apollo’s first appearance alone makes this book worth your time. In addition, the art by Miguel Sepulveda is great. Honestly, I liked pretty much everything about this first issue.
Written by Grant Morrison with art by Rags Morales
Grant Morrison, you have made me love Superman all over again. I liked him before, but you’ve made me believe that a man can fly and still be awesome at the same time. This Action Comics takes full advantage of the New DCU and sees Superman as, for lack of a better word, a know-it-all who thinks he has it all figured out. He’s at the start of his career here, and Morrison once again proves his mastery over storytelling and the character. Rags Morales does not disappoint with his interiors, either; gorgeous book. It captures the spirit of what makes Action Comics great for the modern age.
I think this one is going to be tough to pick up and read for folks who didn’t follow Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. The story seems to follow directly from the end of that book, and there are a lot of things that it’s helpful to know going in. That said, I really enjoyed this reintroduction to Swamp Thing, although the issue is really more about Alec Holland. Snyder has crafted a very real threat in the first few pages that has a direct connection with the rest of the DCU. Throw in Yanick Paquette’s pencils and this is something that I definitely want to read for at least another month.
That’s it for this week. Making cuts is going to be difficult if this level of quality keeps up. For those keeping score, here’s the rundown for this week’s books:
Justice League International
Men of War
ON THE FENCE
Hawk and Dove
Agree? Disagree? Make yourself heard in the comments!