Wednesday, March 28, 2012

DC Firsts - The New 52 part 5

Installment number five 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.]

Catwoman no. 1
Judd Winick/Guillem March
I read the previous Catwoman series in trade format and also read the recent Gotham Sirens series (in monthly format). I certainly have a liking for the character and was glad to see Catwoman getting another shot at a monthly title.

As someone who read previous series involving the character, I was a little apprehensive coming in based on some of the comments I read about the writer’s take on this new series. According to those comments, this Selina Kyle would be more reckless and less responsible (she would not be reaping long-term financial rewards for her thievery --- she would be more similar to the average paycheck-to-paycheck living person as she would kind of be living heist-to-heist). I can’t say I find that idea of the character all that interesting.

This comic starts off fairly well as a jumping on point. The reader is introduced to Selina and it is quickly established that her line of work is dangerous. Then we get a member of the supporting cast (the only one thus far) in Selina’s fence Lola, who also is categorized as an actual friend. There is also a quick peek at a slice of Selina’s history, one that provides a motivation for wanting to beat the crap out of a Russian mob member. But then all of that good work gets thrown out of the window with a more graphic-than-necessary romp between Selina and Batman. And we learn during said graphic activity that she doesn’t know who Batman is and she isn’t sure if he knows who she is. So the relaunch rears its ugly head and completely rewrites the Selina/Batman relationship.

I liked the fact that Selina knew Batman was Bruce Wayne and that he knew many of her secrets as well. I’m not at all keen on this rewriting of history. At all. And while this started off with some promise, it took a head-dive into a bad softcore porn story. Also, at the beginning of the issue Selina is leaping around rooftops with a horribly overstuffed cat carrier that has the door swinging wide open, thus making it likely one or more of those cats would fall out (probably to its death). Selina (not to mention any character calling herself CATwoman) would NEVER do something so unquestionably irresponsible and dangerous to her ‘babies’. Not a good issue. And definitely not a good place to start with new readers. Fail all around DC. Congratulations.

Blackhawks no. 1
Mike Costa/Graham Nolan/Ken Lashley
This series is a reimagining of the Blackhawks that brings the group into present day as a covert military force – in other words, it is DC’s answer to G.I. Joe.

This issue is really a fresh jumping on point for everyone involved as this incarnation of the Blackhawks is different from any version before, especially in terms of happening in the modern day DCU. As I’m not overly familiar with previous Blackhawk appearances, I don’t know if there are any carry-over characters (I do know Zinda Blake – the original Lady Blackhawk – does not appear to be a part of this re-envisioning).

The story jumps straightaway into the middle of a covert operation to take out a small team that has taken control of an airport in a small European nation. It provides the opportunity to see a few members of the squad in action, most notably Nikki – codename Kunoichi. The team wraps up the mission fairly quickly, meaning we get a scene shift to the Blackhawks’ base of operations and an introduction to a few more members of the organization. There is a little bit of character definition and relationship establishment, but most notably the reader discovers the Blackhawks are worried about the threat of nanotechnology that can be used to make a person an unknowing weapon (which we get firsthand demonstration of) or perhaps an information gathering device. And it seems the Blackhawks have good reason to be concerned about this ‘theoretical’ threat as one of their own has been compromised.

I thought the opening plot was a little weak (a team of 8 people take over an entire airport – granted the airport is in what I assume to be a small European city, but still) and there definitely could have been a little more detail provided about the characters, but overall I think Costa likely did about the best that could be expected with twenty pages to work with. He established a notable threat to the organization, introduced the beginnings of what is likely going to be some bureaucratic headaches, and spent a little time delving into the relationship between two of the characters. With that said, I’m not sure I can find any reason why someone might want to choose this title over a G.I. Joe series that already has an established track record. It is certainly a chance for someone to get in on the ground floor, but there is also a high risk that this title isn’t going to be around a year from now.

Captain Atom no. 1
J.T. Krul/Freddie Williams II
I read DC’s Captain Atom series in the late 80s/early 90s and took a liking to the character. This new series ramps up his powers quite a bit, but one of the hints we get about the character’s previous life seems to indicate his origin may not be much changed.

This is a pretty decent jumping on point for a new reader. We get to see the character in action (twice) with some explanation of his powers. We also discover that he is having problems maintaining control of his powers, which could result in his ceasing to exist as a sentient entity. We very briefly meet a couple of supporting cast members, though there isn’t much revealed about them.

All in all, this is an okay issue. It isn’t a great story, but I can’t really find any particular fault in it either. The art is pretty good too. I’ve enjoyed the work from Freddie Williams II in other series and he doesn’t disappoint here.

Now from a personal point of view, I can’t say I was very impressed with this comic. I think there are a few too many similarities to the Dr. Manhattan character from the Watchmen. I prefer the previous incarnation of the character. I don’t have any particular affinity for this one. I was definitely hoping for a Captain Atom series that I would find engaging, unfortunately that isn’t what we have here. It may strike a chord with a number of other readers, but it isn’t making the cut for me.

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