Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some DCnU Reviews

Time to do some quick reviews of yesterday's new DC titles.

Action Comics #1 is excellent. It opens better than it closes: its second half is quite clever, but its first is positively brilliant. Best Superman since... well, All Star Superman.

Everyone knows Superman started as a vigilante, and Morrison even references this obliquely in the dialogue. I've argued for some time that returning to this kind of story, while it might upset the upstanding "truth, justice, and the American way" model of Superman that fans consider sacred, is the best way to make Superman stories vital again. And it's not like anyone can claim such a version wasn't authentic.

Morrison gets this, and he milks it. I don't know that he'll end the story with Superman still acting this way. But beyond this, the script is rather smart, filled with clever comments that enhance the story, rather than detract.

Animal Man #1 is surprisingly good. It returns Buddy Baker to the directionless suburbanite, struggling with his role as a super-hero and a parent. The last time this was done so well was Morrison's run, and that's a good sign.

It feels like a first issue, taking its time to set things up -- but unlike most of these first issues, this one doesn't suffer from its decompression. In other words, it feels more like a 1990s Vertigo comic than a decompressed comic from the 2000s. Not a lot happens, but what's here is carefully done by writer Jeff Lemire (outside of a couple too many ominous hints about the protagonist's family). Good stuff.

Swamp Thing #1 is a mixed bag. At its best, Scott Snyder is able to describe the point of view of plants in surprisingly new ways. Alec Holland mostly sleepwalks through the sparse plot, but when he gets to speak in response to Superman, what he says is actually pretty good. But beyond the decompressed plot, the comic has several collage-style pages that don't communicate much.

Stormwatch #1 was pretty disappointing. I like Paul Cornell's writing and I love these characters. To his credit, Cornell offers some new twists that I appreciated, such as implying that Stormwatch is much older (kind of like Torchwood) and Hawksmoor has been recruiting the spirits of the century for quite some time. But the main story, in which Stormwatch attempts to recruit Apollo, isn't compelling.

I'm honestly not sure what to make of Detective Comics #1. It feels like a tale from Batman's early years, in which he's hunted by the cops (except for Gordon), although we're given the Joker's death tallies for the last six years. I thought the new DC Universe is only five years old. So does this mean that the DC Universe is actually six years old and that Batman's still treated as illegal in the present day? So it would seem.

The art is certainly nice, but many scenes are homages to either The Dark Knight Returns or "Year One." Yet the story itself is rather different in tone and style, and I'm not sure if this level of homage is somehow meant to be ironic. Are these classic stories being retold in part? Is this supposed to feel like Batman's early years, although it's not? What is the point of this?

Then there's a shock ending that's straight out of Preacher.

There is a lot that's good here. Tony Daniel's really come into his own as artist, though not totally as writer.  But there are good passages in the writing too.

I guess the best reaction to this one is WTF. It's outside the entire system of ratings.

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