Friday, March 30, 2012

DC Firsts - The New 52 part 11

We've reached the eleventh installment of my look* at (most of) the first issues of DC's new 52 relaunch.

[* Reminder - I am looking at these comics with three things in mind. First, as an established reader, how do I feel about the direction and any significant changes that have been made to the characters or title in general. Second, is it new reader friendly. Third, and perhaps most importantly, is the comic good.]

Supergirl no. 1
Michael Green/Mike Johnson/Mahmud Asrar/Dan Green
I suppose there isn’t a whole lot you can do with a twenty page story covering the arrival of an alien being on Earth. Green and Johnson hit all the high points of chronicling a super-powered extra terrestrial’s first moments. She doesn’t understand the language. Since she has super-hearing, she is overpowered by an onslaught of sounds. She is confused by the things happening to her (attacked by ‘giant metal creatures’, noises she can’t block out, and the fact she is able to survive explosive blasts). So pretty much everything you might expect would happen in the modern day DCU.

While a new reader might not be familiar with Supergirl, it wouldn’t be unexpected such an individual would at least have some knowledge of Superman, and thus be aware what his powers are and thereby have an expectation of what her abilities might be as well. As such, I’m almost of the frame of mind that the story of her arrival may not have been the best starting point for this series. I do understand the challenges they are trying to set in front of her, and this story is certainly the easiest way to establish those.
I guess my biggest problem with the issue is that it was kind of boring. I just didn’t come out of it excited to see the next issue.

I’m not anticipating the next few issues to actually be all that interesting. I’m really kind of waiting at this point for things to get back to where Supergirl has enough familiarity with her new home planet to interact but is also still trying to find her way in a world that is mostly foreign to her. I don’t expect that to happen in the span of the next few issues. So while I will be along for the ride, likely I’m not going to be overly engaged until this first story arc is done. New readers will probably find the build-up enticing, but previous readers may find it a little tired.

Superman no. 1
George Perez/Jesus Merino
If you’re going to reboot a line of comics, you should incorporate changes that make it a worthwhile endeavor. That isn’t to say change everything, but change some things that will bring a fresh approach while still maintaining the things that best adhere to the core of the project. To me, this issue was probably the best example of taking the old and mixing in the new and coming out without something that gave reason for the reboot, something they otherwise could not have done in this title.

Any new reader on a Superman book would at least have passing knowledge of his mythos, so there isn’t really a need to go into detail about his abilities. This issue introduces the principle characters of Superman’s universe and gives enough establishing information for a reader to get a good feel on those who impact Clark Kent’s life. It also brings into play Clark’s activities and how he has to walk a fine line in his public life with his career. Some of the significant changes to this book have Lois working with the television side of the corporation that owns the Daily Planet. She has pushed for Clark to take over her previous role as a news anchor but he has refused for reasons he can’t explain (his face on screens in millions of homes would obviously cause issues with keeping his identity as Superman a secret). There is more than enough in these pages to engage a new reader and bring them back for more, especially in the depth of the characters and their interactions.

I thoroughly enjoyed this issue and though it was an outstanding debut. I really like the changes they’ve made and I feel like we will be getting some very fresh and interesting stories because of them. I’m more interested in seeing how Clark’s relationships with the other characters (especially Lois) develop than in what Superman will be doing to be honest. It was certainly unexpected that I would find this one of the more enjoyable of all the new 52 debut issues, but the fact is this was a well conceived project. The writing was pretty good (more on that) and the art was very good. This would have been a perfect issue save for two things. The first was a one page interlude that had nothing to do with the current story, and in fact directed the reader to go read the first issue of Stormwatch to see what the ramifications of the actions depicted. The second thing was actually more bothersome, and that was the narrative of Superman’s actions. Comics are a visual medium and we can clearly see everything that is happening, yet for some reason there was a running narrative describing exactly what we were seeing. It was distracting and unnecessary and I hope it goes away in future issues. Aside from those two things, this was really one of the best debut issues and definitely one that I recommend.

Teen Titans no. 1
Scott Lobdell/Brett Booth/Norm Rapmund
While the cover reveals (what I would assume to be) the initial members of the Teen Titans, someone reading this comic would encounter only a handful of them in the pages of this debut issue. This mirrors the first issue of the Justice League in that respect. Only three characters (perhaps four, if you count ‘Superboy’) are a part of this story. Kid Flash makes a less than impressive debut as he runs afoul of the fire department in their efforts to thwart a fire. Tim Drake (Red Robin) is really the principle focus of this story. He crosses paths with the organization N.O.W.H.E.R.E. (who appears to be a long-term antagonist) and later attempts to recruit Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl) to join his cause.

This is a pretty decent first issue for a new reader. They get at least a glimpse of three or four potential team members and enough background information on Tim Drake to establish his motives and credentials as a superhero. They learn there is a clandestine organization that has been gathering up teen metahumans for use in their own plans. It is effective at setting the stage if nothing else and provides enough entertainment value to bring a reader back for more.

I thought the story was fairly well presented. I’ve been a fan of Brett Booth’s art in the past (though he does have certain tendencies in his depiction of physiques that could use some slight improvement) so I was pleased with his efforts in this issue. The script was pretty decent as well and established the situation well enough. I’m not entirely sure I’m going to like the team make-up once they get everyone together (thus far I only like three of the seven, and those three happen to be the primary characters we see in this issue), so we’ll have to see how long I stick around. But so far so good.

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