Thursday, March 29, 2012

DC Firsts - The New 52 part 7

And we've reached the Gs. Here is installment number seven 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.]

Green Lantern no. 1
Geoff Johns/Doug Mahnke/Christian Alamy
I think I started reading Green Lantern with the Emerald Dawn mini-series. I believe that hit right around the end of the 80s. I followed Green Lantern all the way up through his being replaced by Kyle Raynor, and then I didn’t read the series after that. No more Green Lantern and no more Hal Jordan – at least until he made his return as the Spectre in the Legends of the DC Universe series. That fed into a short-lived Spectre series, and that led to Green Lantern: Rebirth. And that put me back onto a Green Lantern series. All of which is to say that I’m a fan of Hal Jordan and his adventures more so than Green Lantern as a general concept.

Following the end of the most recent Green Lantern series – wherein Hal was relieved of his ring and duties as a Green Lantern, most of the solicitations I saw for the Green Lantern series relaunch were centered on Sinestro as a Green Lantern. As they were presented, they left me with the perception that the main character in the Green Lantern series was going to be Sinestro … and it wasn’t very clear at all what, if any, role Hal Jordan might be playing in the series. With this in mind, I put in my advance order at my LCS for the first issue of (the relaunched) Green Lantern in early July (ordering comics that would be shipping in September), and when I put in my advance order in August (for comics shipping in October – which would represent the second full month of DC’s relaunch), I had crossed Green Lantern off my list (all of this before actually having an opportunity to receive and read the first issue – I only had the DC’s advance solicitations to work from). So basically I’m saying here that my perception of what the comic was going to be was something I did not want to read. I wasn’t interested in a Sinestro-centric Green Lantern title. And DC’s promotion of the series was essentially selling that perception (meaning they did a bad job of conveying to Hal Jordan fans that he was still playing a major, if not principle, role in the series).

So if it isn’t clear from what you just read above, as an existing Green Lantern reader, I wasn’t happy with the direction I perceived the title would be going in with the relaunch. It wasn’t until I actually read the first issue that it became clear that Hal Jordan is still the star of this series (which is how I wanted it to be). So now that I’m clear on that detail, I’m ok with what they are currently doing with this series.

As far as looking at this as a fresh jumping on point, this couldn’t really be considered new reader friendly. If someone hasn’t been reading this series prior to this relaunch, they are not going to have a clear understanding of Sinstro as a Yellow Lantern (or even what and why the relationship between Green and Yellow Lanterns exists as it does). They won’t understand the full ramifications of why Hal Jordan is no longer a Green Lantern. And they would have zero clue what Carol Ferris is referring to when she mentions not having put on the Star Sapphire ring since she returned to Earth. A new reader would be thoroughly confused and very unlikely to return for subsequent issues.

This issue pretty much reads the way the series has for the past few years. With Geoff Johns still onboard as the writer, that is to be expected. It almost feels like the title didn’t take a couple months hiatus. I enjoyed the issue and will definitely be back for more (at least as long as Hal Jordan is leading the show). I already alerted my LCS that I needed them to go ahead and add the second and third issue to my order list. So my judgment is this is an entertaining comic, but it definitely fails as far as being a vehicle to attract new readers.

Green Lantern New Guardians no. 1
Tony Bedard/Tyler Kirkham/Batt
Having just said in my previous comments that I stopped reading Green Lantern when Hal Jordan was replaced with Kyle Raynor, and that I wasn’t interested in reading a Green Lantern series that did not have Hal Jordan as the principle player, you’re probably wondering why I picked up this comic - a Green Lantern series with Kyle Raynor as the principle player. Truth be told, I’m here mostly to review it. But I did actually advance order the first three issues because I am interested in seeing what they do with a series that features Lanterns of all the current color spectrums working in tandem.

I think Tony Bedard (the writer) really made an effort to provide a decent jumping on point for new readers. He rehashed Kyle Raynor’s introduction to the Green Lantern Corps in the opening sequence. But I don’t think it was executed all that well. I’m not sure if they just forgot a text box at the beginning, but it really wasn’t clear (to someone coming in new) that those opening events actually took place well in the past. The only indication that there was any time differential is when the story shifted and the blurb at the top of that page mentioned that it was present day. Without any particular reference point to what the portions previous to ‘present day’ were (could have been a week, a month, or six months for all a new reader might know), it doesn’t provide clear enough detail about where the character really has been. So while I do appreciate what Bedard was trying to accomplish, I think in the end it may have been an effort better left on the cutting room floor (and if a new reader was also checking out the main Green Lantern series, they would really be confused by the state of the Guardians in that book versus what they see at the beginning of this one). Readers may have been better served by using those introductory pages to better flesh out what all the different Lantern groups are and how the rings operate (especially in regards to how/why they locate a new bearer).

So my feelings on this comic are that it wasn’t bad but it definitely could have been better (especially looking at it with new readers in mind). Existing readers would already be familiar with the different Lantern groups so they would likely find the ending of the issue to be particularly interesting. New readers would be unclear on a lot of things, but they would potentially find the events enticing enough to come back for another issue. The story was fairly good overall and I do give bonus points for the attempt at presenting some of Kyle’s back story (even though it may not have been the best decision in hindsight). The art was pretty good as well and I think as Kirkham continues to draw these characters, he will eventually establish a consistent feel for them individually. As I mentioned above, I’m already in for the first three issues, and then I’ll see where I stand on it after that.

Grifter no. 1
Nathan Edmondson/Cafu/Jason Gorder
I would say that I’m a long-time WildC.A.T.S. fan, and my favorite character from that group is Grifter. I’ve read his adventures in multiple WildC.A.T.S. series as well as a few Grifter mini-series. That makes me a perfect candidate for this new title. Except that I don’t really have good expectations for it based on the solicitation. This isn’t the gun-toting black ops Cole Cash we’ve grown accustomed to. Instead, this Cole Cash is a con-artist who runs afoul of aliens that only he can see. Can’t say that is exactly singing to me.

New readers might be slightly interested in this comic, though there are some serious discrepancies in the timeline that I think would frustrate a reader. The title of the story is 17 minutes. Cole Cash gets abducted during the story. He wakes up and manages to escape from his strange surroundings. He looks at his watch after he is making his get-away and mentions that he was out for 17 minutes. Then he manages to get on a plane (he is supposed to be meeting his con-artist partner in San Juan). Things go bad however and he ends up bailing out of the plane. Then we get a caption that says 2 hours later from the point where he splashed down into the ocean. Cole calls his partner (Gretchen) and she wants to know where he has been because she is already back from San Juan and he has been missing for 17 days. That is a fairly significant mistake for a writer (and editor) to miss. And even if one was to actually assume that he was in the hands of the aliens for 17 days (and 17 minutes – to make his watch reading relevant), whatever transfer they were trying to engineer with the unconscious Cole should have gotten much further along over that span of time than for him to just wake up and hear alien voices in his head and be able to see them in reflections.

I didn’t think this was a well written comic. Even ignoring that glaring mistake with the amount of time that actually passed, the story was all over the place. There are too many different things going on and as a reader you don’t really know exactly the purpose of some of these characters and events. The art was okay. It was a little uneven in places and I didn’t find the ‘camera’ angles to be all that creative. End of the day, I can’t really recommend this comic to anyone, even a hardcore Grifter or WildC.A.T.S. fan.

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