DC’s third week of new titles picks up steam

Comics

DC’s modernizing of their characters and universe continued with their third wave of books.  Out of curiosity and hope, I picked up seven of the 13 new titles out this week, as well as one from last week. Like the previous weeks, there was some some great books (Batwoman #1), some not so great (Green Lantern #1) and some bad (Grifter #1) ones. On the whole, this was another good week for DC and their efforts to reinvent themselves and take back some of the market from their rivals. There’s a little something for everyone in this week. I’ve got a quick review of the titles I checked out below.

Batwoman #1: This is the best book of the week. The story is interesting and engaging, but what really sells it is the incredible art from co-writer J.H. Williams III. I knew he was good, but I was blown away by the range that he has on display in this book. It’s kind of ironic because the main reason I picked this book up was because of artist Amy Hadley, who will be tag-teaming with Williams on alternating story arcs. I was looking forward to her work much more, but after reading the first issue, I’m sold on both artists. That being said, there are some flaws here. This book was supposed to come out long ago. I believe it was originally scheduled for March of this year and bits of the storyline seem to reflect the continuity of the old DCU. I think this could lose a lot of people who haven’t read the backstory involved, but still, if you only pick up one new book this week, make it Batwoman.

Deathstroke #1: The longtime Teen Titans baddie gets another shot at starring in his own series by Kyle Higgins and Joe Bennett. Many of these new #1s miss the mark on being accessible to new readers, but this book lands it solidly. Within just a few pages, even someone totally unfamiliar with comics and the character has an understanding of the character and by the end of the book, they know everything they need to know about Deathstroke and his motivations. Giving a legitimate bad guy a book is a tricky affair. There’s a constant temptation to try and make him more accessible by turning him good. If Higgins can resist that, this could be a solid book to watch.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1: I mostly picked this one up because of writer Jeff Lemire. After his incredible job on last week’s Animal Man #1, I wanted to see how he was going to prevent this monster punching book from just being a Hellboy knock-off. I’m still not sure if he pulled it off, but the introduction of Frankenstein’s back-up agents is worth the price of admission alone. I’m willing to stick around on any book that has an ancient mummy as the team’s medic. If you like some supernatural in your comics, give it a try.

Green Lantern #1: Writer Geoff Johns and artist Doug Mahnke teamed-up on Green Lanterm and managed to put together one of the few DC books that could consistently beat Marvel’s titles in the sales chart. So DC decided not to mess with a good thing and kept the pair together on the relaunched GL. They’re off to an intriguing start, but it really feels like a missed opportunity. Yes, theoretically, this is a new start to the series, but if you don’t know your Lantern lore, you’re not really going to get quite a bit of this book. While most of the new DC Universe has pitched the majority of the complicated backstory, Johns appears to be cheating and just continuing right where he left off in the previous Green Lantern series. This is going to confuse a lot of new readers. (Why is Sinestro a Green Lantern? Who’re the guys in yellow? What’s a Star Sapphire?) But Johns knows how to tell a story and people who can stick it out will probably be rewarded for their patience. I just don’t know if I’ll be one of them.
Grifter #1: I wasn’t going to pick this one up, but my local shop was out of the two other books I really wanted (Mr. Terrific #1 & Demon Knights #1), so I decided to give it a chance. Unfortunately, I would have been better off putting that money back in my pocket. This is the worst title I’ve read out of the new 52. The story, by Nathan Edmonson, goes nowhere, provides no real reason to care about the characters or what happens to them and is just generally a mess. A small time con-man is kidnapped, only to wake up being experimented on in an warehouse. After escaping he starts hearing voice in his head that prompt him to kill aliens disguised as humans…or something. The aft from Cafu is decent, but not worth wading through the story for. This is actually kind of appropriate since the Grifter character was originally introduced during the Image Era of comics when all you needed was some flashy art to sell 100,000 copies of any book, no matter how terrible the story may have been. If this book had a gold foil cover it would be the perfect representation of everything that was terrible about comics in the 90s.
Resurrection Man #1: Co-writers Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett created this character in the 90s and are back for another go ’round. If Suicide Squad is comics’ version of The Dirty Dozen then Resurrection Man is Quantum Leap. Mitch Shelley has a unique ability. Well, really he’s got a nigh-infinite amount of abilities, every time he’s killed, he come back to life with a new super-power and a mission to go along with that power. This book seems like it could be a lot of fun or really, really dark or maybe both at the same time. Either way, I plan on sticking around to a while to see where it goes.
Suicide Squad #1: This is my second favorite book of the week, not so much for what it is, but for what it has the potential to be. This issue delivers a by-the-numbers introduction to the Suicide Sqaud, which may be old hat for comic fans, but most new readers probably have no idea about the team’s unique composition. Jailed super-villains are recruited by the government and sent on impossible missions with little chance of survival. It’s like a super-powered version of The Dirty Dozen. For this book to be a success, the line-up and team dynamic is vital. Writer Adam Glass and artist Federico Dallocchio seem to have nailed it. There’s a great collection of memorable B-list (and lower) characters that look great, including a tarted-up version of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, King Shark and others. All of this added to a great hook on the last page means I’m already looking forward to the next issue.
Men of War #1: This is from last week, but I just managed to get a copy. Early reviews said that it was nothing like what people expected. I took that as a good thing, but it turns out that the story is nothing like the solicitation information that DC provided. The book may change direction with future issues, but instead of the private military contractors that were promised, it’s much more of a standard war comic featuring the grandson of the legendary Sgt. Rock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that necessarily. War comics were a staple of the industry for decades, and I cut my comic book teeth reading about the combat happy Joes of Easy Company, but it’s not what was promised. That being said, I’m always interested in seeing comics stretch their boundaries and this is something that you don’t see much of nowadays, so I’ll stick with it.