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DC’s New 52 finishes the first month strong

Last week marked the end of September and the first wave of DC’s 52 new books. The bold idea of restarting all of their super-hero books seems to have paid off handsomely. Despite the initial outcry from some fans about the jettisoning of history and continuity, the relaunch has been wildly successful. Each week multiple books received almost universal praise and more importantly they were selling hugely on the stands, which was the whole point behind this move. DC has long been losing market share to their major rival Marvel. They were forced to try something new and drastic to right the ship before they found themselves irrelevant in the market. It’s still too early to say if they’ve pulled it off, but they’ve done about as well as anyone could hope for with their new offerings this month.

Personally, I can say that DC has won me over. I’ve never been a big fan of DC, but I was cautiously optimistic about the New 52. I applauded their efforts at trying something new and showed it with my wallet, purchasing 20+ of the new books that came out. Inevitably there were a few duds in the mix, but on the whole I was impressed with the titles I picked up. While I may not be buying 20 DC titles next month, I can guarantee that I will be getting many, many more than I was before September’s relaunch. Here are some quick reviews of the titles I picked up from the final week of new #1s.

The Flash #1: This was a great book. Co-writer (along with Brian Buccellato) and artist Francis Manapul’s does incredible job with the art on this book. The introduction splash page is probably my favorite page of art from the whole month. Not only does it look good, it functions as effective storytelling as well. The book benefits from not having to spend time explaining who The Flash is or what he does. Everyone’s already familiar with the characters, so the book is able to move right into the main story of a mysterious bank robber who appears to be an old friend of The Flash. For straight up superhero action, this is a great one to pick up.

Aquaman #1: Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis proved to be a powerful team on DC’s recent Blackest Night/Brightest Day events and they bring that energy to this book. It’s a rich and beautifully drawn whirlwind tour of Aquaman’s world. We see that much like the real world, in the DC Universe Aquaman gets little to no respect from anyone, including the criminals he stops, the police he helps out or even the public at large. It could be interesting to see if Johns can reverse that trend and finally make Aquaman a force to be reckoned with, both in and out of the comics.

I, Vampire #1: This was a pleasant surprise for me. I was entirely unfamiliar with the creators, Joshua Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino, but I decided to give it a shot anyways. I dug this book far more than I expected to.  It centers on a vampire who want to peacefully coexist with humans instead of preying upon them and his fight against fellow vampires who don’t share his idealistic ways. Now before anyone even mentions True Blood, I, Vampire is actually a relaunch of a book from the early 80s, long before Charlene Harris subjected America to the charms of Sookie Stackhouse. I’m really looking forward to seeing how vampires can fit into a world populated by superheroes.

Justice League Dark #1: Speaking of the supernatural conflicting with the superheroic, Justice League Dark is exactly that. A team of second (and lower)-rate DC heroes with magically based powers come together to fight menaces that they’re uniquely qualified to deal with. While the idea isn’t new (Bill Willingham did pretty much the exact thing in the DCU with Shadowpact a few years ago), it remains an interesting hook. Plus, it’s always fun to see street-level heroes succeeding where the Justice League can’t. It seems like creators are given more leeway when they use lesser-known characters which often leads to better stories.

Blackhawks #1: This book, written by Mike Costa with art from Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley, is another relaunch and update of an obscure title from DC’s past. Formerly a group of WWII fighter pilots, The Blackhawks are now a covert espionage team. They’re sent in to defuse a hostage situation at an airport, which they do. But their secret nature may be in jeopardy after a bystander gets a picture of the emblem on the side of their plane. (Why a black ops team would even have identifying marks on their vehicles isn’t explained however…) I got this one on a whim and I wasn’t particularly impressed. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. Which is a shame since I’m a sucker for the whole “Mission: Impossible” spy-genre.

The Fury of Firestorm #1: I was really looking forward to this book from the minute I heard it was going to be written by Gail Simone (along with co-writer Ethan Van Sciver). Firestorm’s always had just enough science-geekery in it to appeal to me. Argumentative high school students Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch find themselves turned into Firestorm, with the ability to reshape matter at the molecular level. Forcing two people who genuinely dislike each other to work together for a common goal is a great way to drum up some dramatic tension in the series. I did have issues with some of the awkward dialogue, but since the characters are high school-aged, I’m willing to let it slide. I’m quite willing to overlook said clunky writing when it’s paired with the awesome art of Yildiray Cinar, who is given plenty of opportunities to show off his dynamic skills with explosions and mayhem.

Voodoo #1: This was the dud of the week for me. The story, by Ron Marz, centers around a shapeshifting alien that’s being tracked by mysterious government agents. But it mostly seems like an excuse to draw a bunch of barely clad women, as the alien is currently disguised as a dancer at a strip club and there are plenty of opportunities for artist Sami Basri to explore the location to its fullest. There is a bit of a excitement in the final pages of the book, but by then it’s too little, far too late.

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