Friday, March 30, 2012

DC Firsts - The New 52 part 8

We've reached the eighth 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.]

The Savage Hawkman no. 1
Tony S. Daniel/Philip Tan
This probably sounds like a broken record now, but I was a Hawkman fan from way back. I’ve thought the concept of the character was rather interesting though I’ve been disappointed in the execution of some of the incarnations of the character. My favorite incarnation to date was the Tim Truman Hawkworld series that started as a mini-series, became an on-going series, and eventually spawned a new Hawkman series that took several elements from its Hawkworld predecessor. That run from 1989 through mid-1996 was the best set of Hawkman stories I’ve read. Since then, DC has tried several other revamps that have just never struck a chord with me. This is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts.

This series is not what I would consider new reader friendly. It starts off with Carter Hall attempting to destroy his Hawkman armor. The story never really gives a specific reason as to why Carter doesn’t want to be Hawkman anymore. The way he tries to destroy it is kind of stupid as well. He douses the armor in gasoline (or some flammable liquid). But instead of using a match to light it up, he fires a gun at it. After it burns, he buries it and thinks that is the end, but he soon discovers it isn’t so easy to extricate himself from the Nth metal. Flames explode from the ground in a hawkish shape and engulf him. Carter wakes up much later and finds himself back at home. He has some burn marks to indicate it wasn’t a dream, but he isn’t burned as badly as he would expect. Carter is fetched by his employer who has uncovered an alien craft of some sort. Carter is a cryptologist and is tasked with translating the strange symbols on the craft. However, before Carter can begin his work, a DNA sample taken from the mummified alien remains they recovered from the craft reacts and engulfs one of the scientists, then begins to attack another. Carter finds his skin is tingling and somehow the Nth metal emerges from his body in the form of his Hawkman armor. And of course, fighting ensues.

This isn’t a good comic in my opinion. There isn’t enough backstory about Hawkman for a new reader, and the changes to the character are too drastic. I don’t recall any previous incarnations of the character where the Nth metal was a part of him. And even if it was, that doesn’t explain why when it emerges from him that it forms the full sized wings as well. The Nth metal was never part of the wings. It has always just been a part of the harness and the belt. The wings were to enable him to glide and steer. And these wings are not metal anyway (as they were in the Hawkworld series). We very clearly see feathers. If the wings were more like those the character wore in Hawkworld, I might be able to buy it. This is just too much of a departure from the Hawkman concept. Now I will give credit to the art being really good. A lot of it is helped by Sonny Gho’s colors (which really brings the art to life), but overall I like the style and layout choices. If I was just basing this on the visuals, I would give the book a passing grade. But the story is just a hot mess. Unfortunately I would have to recommend skipping this one.

Hawk and Dove no. 1
Sterling Gates/Rob Liefeld
When I found out a Hawk and Dove series was going to be part of the new 52 relaunch, I was excited. But then I found out Rob Liefeld was attached to the series and that excitement died. When you have Liefeld handling the art on a comic, you know exactly what to expect. Very few backgrounds. Bad anatomy and disproportionately drawn characters. Weird hairstyles. This stuff may have been okay back when I was a less discerning reader in the 90s, but it just doesn’t pass muster today.

It would have been nice to have been ‘disappointed’ by the final product. And by disappointed, I mean unexpectedly surprised that it wasn’t a disaster. Needless to say, I was not ‘disappointed’.

A new reader would pick up a few things when reading this first issue. They would learn that Hawk had another partner previous to the Dove presented at the beginning of this story. That partner was his brother Don, who was the original Dove. They would learn that Don died being a hero and that Hawk isn’t happy about that and isn’t happy about being partnered with the new Dove. They would also learn that the current Dove has a boyfriend who is known as Deadman. What they wouldn’t learn is exactly what Hawk and Dove’s powers are (they can see that Dove flies and Hawk is really strong, but there is nothing specifically defined regarding their powers in the text of the story). They would learn virtually nothing about Deadman other than that he can fly too so he obviously must have some sort of powers. And they would learn that the current Dove is hiding something from Hawk that relates to how she became Dove in the first place. Really that last bit is the only thing I can possibly see that might interest a new reader enough to come back for a second issue.

I didn’t find the story to be well written. The plot is rather bland. The script and especially the dialogue is very weak. And the art is typical Liefeld. All in all, this comic was just a bad idea. Or to put it more directly, this creative team was a bad idea. This I most definitely do not recommend.

I, Vampire no. 1
Joshua Hale Fialkov/Andrea Sorrentino
To be honest, I wasn’t looking for another vampire comic. I already read and thoroughly enjoy American Vampire, and frankly that is quite enough vampire fare as far as I’m concerned. But I had to give this a look because it did sound halfway interesting.

One complaint I have about comics in general is that the packaging often doesn’t match the contents. In some cases I don’t mind that there is a particular cover artist for a title who has nothing to do with the interior art (Fables is a good example --- DC has had some very talented artists on that series who have done some really inspired cover pieces), but more often than not I’d rather the cover art be representative of the style the interior art will be in. The first issue of this series is a perfect example. The cover is by Fiona Staples, a very talented artist, and it looks fantastic. But it also looks nothing like the interior art. So if someone ordered the title based strictly on the cover, there is a likelihood they would be disappointed upon opening it up. That isn’t to say that the interior art is of poor quality. The interior art is actually quite good (save for the lack of backgrounds) and actually fits the tone of the book fairly well. It just isn’t as sharp and colorful as what is found on the cover.

This issue is very reader friendly. You don’t really need to know anything at all about these characters coming in. Joshua Hale Fialkov does a good job establishing the principle characters and their motives and sets the stage for the rest of the series.

I found this first issue to be entertaining. I’m not sure I’m entirely sold on the title, but they showed me enough here to bring me back for the next couple of issues. I’ll see how the story progresses over the next couple of months and then determine whether to stick around for the long haul. I give it a tentative recommendation for now (if you like vampires).

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