Friday, March 30, 2012

DC Firsts - The New 52 part 9

This is the ninth 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.]

Justice League Dark no. 1
Peter Milligan/Mikel Janin
This is a series I sort of had high hopes for. That probably seems a little strange given I really only have interest in two of the characters in the title (Madame Xanadu and Zatanna). Both of those characters had successful titles of their own (in my eyes at least) prior to DC’s relaunch. So I was optimistic a little of that same magic might creep over into this title. After reading this first issue, I’m not so sure it did.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t say this issue is very reader friendly. The principle characters are introduced (for the most part), but there really isn’t much revealed about them. Certainly not enough to give a new reader a good feel for who they really are. On the other hand, likely anyone picking up this series is probably familiar with the main Justice League group, so they do get to see Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg in action (though not a successful campaign for them) and also see Batman interacting with Zatanna (which at least provides her some credence as an established hero and may do the same for the other characters in future issues).

I hoped for a stronger debut with this title, but I have to admit I was very disappointed with the story over all. It was too disjointed, and I’d rather see the characters of this series standing solidly on their own and not having DC rely on characters from the principle Justice League to validate their place in the hero mosaic (at least not at this point). The art was actually pretty good (and there were backgrounds), so that was at least a plus. I’ll stick around for another couple of issues to see if Milligan can find his footing with this group, but this effort certainly didn’t get the book off to a good start. No recommendation on this one at the moment. If things pick up and it turns out to be good, you can always grab the first trade collection.

Justice League International no. 1
Dan Jurgens/Aaron Lopresti/Matt Ryan
What is old is new again. The band is back together. Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red, Guy Gardner, and even Batman take part in a mission to find a missing group of researchers as a Justice League unit formed under the authority of the UN (though Batman isn’t actually an official member, he tags along to keep tabs on them). This first issue kind of reads like a 90s Justice League comic (which one might anticipate would be a bad thing, but instead is strangely comforting).

This first issue suffers a little bit from the same problem Justice League Dark in that there are a bunch of characters introduced, but the reader doesn’t really known a whole lot about them (other than their home country). Once again though, Batman’s presence helps establish their credentials as heroes of some renown. Booster Gold is somewhat in the same shoes as the reader in that he isn’t overly familiar with the powers of his teammates (which is slightly problematic since he has been appointed team leader). But that actually provides an interesting opportunity for both Booster and the reader to learn about the capabilities and personalities of these characters going forward.

Overall, I found the story to be decent enough. It has a nice mix of character interaction (helping to establish a little bit of personality for a few of them) and action. I was a little disappointed with a subplot involving protesters who are angry that the UN took over the Hall of Justice (which is now supposed to be the JLI’s base of operations). It seemed extremely forced and is really kind of laughable (a particular group is angry the UN has ‘taken’ it from them, so they set a bomb to it and blow it up --- I mean, really??). I was very pleased with the art. Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan were most recently on Wonder Woman and they did a phenomenal job on that series. It looks like they are bringing their A game to this one as well.
If you’re looking for some of that mindless kind of 90s style fun Justice League book (though not the bwah-ha-ha kind of fun engineered by Giffen and DeMatteis), then you will probably like this series.

Legion Lost no. 1
Fabian Nicieza/Pete Woods
I’ve read Legion of Superheroes in various forms over the years. From the Bierbaum and Giffen Legion in the late 80s to Legion Lost and the Abnett and Lanning Legion that followed, to the more recent incarnation from Waid and Kitson (which I thoroughly enjoyed) that concluded with a brief run from Jim Shooter (which I liked less), and resulted in a reboot helmed by Paul Levitz (which I liked not at all), I have experienced several different visions of the team over the past few decades. While I found no appeal in the most recent “vision” of the group from Paul Levitz, I was definitely looking forward to still having the opportunity to read a Legion title, especially one featuring Timber Wolf.

I don’t think this comic really hit the mark in regards to being a good introduction for new readers. You have a team of 7 members who suddenly appear via a time bubble who are chasing some foe who has led them from the 31st century. There is very little revealed about these seven characters in this issue other than some very basic information about their abilities. Almost nothing is revealed about their adversary, other than he has brought some pathogen from the 31st century and released it on present day Earth. What sort of pathogen? Your guess is as good as mine. By the end of the issue, two of the team members have disappeared, their foe appears to have blown up along with their time bubble, and the five remaining members are trapped in the current timeline. The draw, one might think, would be what happens to this team next since they are cut off from their own time. Unfortunately, I don’t think there was enough of a connection established with these characters for a new reader to really care strongly enough about what happens next.

I have a connection to many of these characters because I’ve been reading about them for years, and even I barely care enough about what I read in this first issue. It just wasn’t really that engaging of a story. I also found the art to be somewhat average. Not bad mind you, but just nothing to help perk up a bland story. The only reason I will be back for the next issue is because I like these characters and hope things actually get more interesting. But this certainly was not a good start, especially when it needs to be something that really grabs hold of a new reader and leaves them waiting impatiently for more. If you’re not already a Legion fan, I can’t really give this one a recommendation, at least not at this point.

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