Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
We’ve passed the first round No. 1 issues for DC’s New 52, and now it’s time to get to the real meat of the stories with Issue 2. This week’s pull had six continuing titles from Round 1 with some strong contenders for the final surviving title.
Also, some might be interested in the results of the wildcard selection from last week. There was overwhelming support for Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., so I’ll give that book another shot. I’d like to note that every book got at least a little love, with O.M.A.C. and Nightwing receiving a number of shout-outs in the comments. Expect Frankenstein to pop up later this month.
Also, I’m going to try something a little different from this month on: Each book will still get a short review, but the pull list won’t be fully evaluated until the end of the month.
Finally, two No. 1 issues for two miniseries dropped today, Huntress and Penguin: Pain and Prejudice. Both are a lot of fun and definitely deserve a look.
With that, let’s get to the six No. 2 issues on the pull this week!
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
Written by Grant Morrison with art by Rags Morales
Morrison continues his stellar tale of a fledgling Superman in style, subtly revealing a number of plot points while establishing Lex Luthor’s place as the main villain, and setting up Steel Soldier as a possible adversary down the line. Superman has an air of bravado that you’re not going to find in other books, but Morrison makes it work for the character just coming into his own as the Man of Steel. This issue also introduced a young Dr. John Henry Irons and the Kryptonian rocket seized by the government. As always, Rags Morales brings his A-game, making even Superman’s torture at Luthor’s hands look gorgeous. Everything from the moment Luthor asked whether Superman’s natural state was a goat to Lois Lane’s not-so-subtle infiltration of the Army base was tightly plotted, well paced and excellently drawn. This is most definitely a book to continue watching.
This book continues to be the sleeper hit of the New 52. Jeff Lemire clearly has a great story to tell, and he’s making the most of every single panel. The story hits the ground running after last issue’s cliffhanger, with Animal Man’s daughter Maxine showing off her newly revealed powers. As it turns out, those red marks on Animal Man’s face and body are a map – a map that they have to follow to more fully explore the Life Web. Lemire’s best moments in this issue are with the Baker family as they deal with their troubles, and his exploration of Buddy and Maxine’s relationship is genius, with Maxine knowing more about where their powers come from. Lemire also starts to reveal the series villain, but in a way that barely touches upon it, keeping you poised for the next installment. Travel Foreman continues to be a good fit for this book, especially considering the direction it seems to be going. An excellent second installment with high-quality story and art.
Justice League International
Written by Dan Jurgens with art by Aaron Lopresti
The first issue of Justice League International left the JLI poised for a fight with a giant robot – and that’s exactly what happened in this issue. Jurgens took much of this issue to continue establishing the team roster, bringing Guy Gardner back to the ranks, and cementing Booster Gold as the level-headed leader. There are a lot of things that work about this issue, like the dysfunctional team dynamic, and the setup for some kind of battle royale between the JLI and four Signalmen revealed across the globe. However, the banter between Rocket Red and August General in Iron is already starting to get a little repetitive, and Godiva’s promiscuous advances toward Booster seemed a bit odd. Aaron Lopresti is really hitting a great artistic note, and continues to deliver high-quality pencils. I would have liked to see a little more focus on some of the other JLI members, and I hope that comes in the following issues. This is a really fun book and I’d like to see more.
Peter Milligan constructs this issue almost like a one-shot featuring Atrocitus. He spends the first few pages bringing readers up to speed on the war-torn planet Ghan IX, where the Ghanites and the Yuevers are constantly at war. As Atrocitus puts it, “the planet has become a perfect furnace in which to produce rage and pain.” As the issue progresses, a Yuever ship opens fire on three Ghanite children, mistaking them for hostile warriors. Atrocitus, of course, destroys the Yuever ship as the only surviving child howls in rage. While the issue doesn’t end with the Ghanite child getting the red ring, Atrocitus does re-examine whether rage just begets more rage. With the exception of the first page and last two pages, this story probably could’ve been a self-contained one-shot. The story was solid, and Benes’ pencils are pristinely awesome, but I’m not sure I enjoyed this direction for a second issue. It didn’t really build on much of what the first issue covered. I feel like, despite the strength of the overall story, this issue really broke the momentum.
Written by Paul Cornell with art by Miguel Sepulveda
This issue was difficult to evaluate. Paul Cornell has a story to tell, and the giant eyeball villain really interests me, but it feels rushed. As a team, Stormwatch isn’t nearly as well known as, say, the Justice League, but much of this issue expects that you’re at least a little familiar with these characters. Miguel Sepulveda’s art continues to grow on me, but I do wish there were some kind of “Who’s Who” explanation in the issue. The Swordsman really got a chance to shine here, and his ability to think about all situations as though he were in a swordfight was a great bit of character work on Cornell’s part. I would’ve liked more Martian Manhunter, but as it was this book is still pretty fun, albeit a bit confusing at times.
I love Scott Snyder’s take on the Swamp Thing mythos. He’s definitely shaking up the status quo and a lot of what readers might already know about Swamp Thing. The writer crafts an incredibly intriguing story that has the benefit of a tightly plotted and well-paced expositional issue. Readers get a lot of answers to questions they didn’t even know to ask, and it’s rounded out with more of the villain reveal and a great cliffhanger. Yanick Paquette is an incredibly talented artist who shines on this title. Not only are his pencils fantastic, but his layouts are really something special. While Alec Holland hasn’t embraced his role as the Swamp Thing just yet, that’s perfectly fine; the story is really just that good. This is a creative team that has some great things in store, and as second issues go, this one was one of the strongest I’ve seen so far.
Nothing’s in or out just yet, but there’s a whole lot more to come! What did you love on your pull this week? Is anything getting cut from your list? Let us know in the comments!