The fourth week of “The New 52″ was fairly Bat-centric for most of the titles. “Batman” and “Nightwing” both re-established their core characters. There was also more sexual content in this week’s books, leading to lots of discussion online and in comic shops about gender relations and the portrayal of women in the DC Universe. Click past the cut for reviews of Week 4 of The New 52.
* BATMAN #1
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo create an issue that feels like the beginning of a potential new epic, like a “Hush” or “Long Halloween.” Though that’s stiff company, perhaps the most appropriate art comparison is “Year Two,” which featured Todd McFarlane’s take on the character back in the 1980s. Story-wise, Snyder re-introduces the Bat-family as Bruce Wayne promises to help build a better Gotham with his wealth and connections. Batman’s dropped into the middle of a mystery, where I think the character is at his best. While this isn’t the absolute best relaunch book – I’m still giving the nod so far to “Action Comics” 1 – “Batman” makes it a close race.
* BIRDS OF PREY #1
A good start here for a book that’s historically pretty linked with Gail Simone (though Chuck Dixon actually started the concept). Black Canary and her new partner Starling are the new Birds of Prey. Investigative reporter Charlie Keen is following Black Canary, who is facing a murder rap. The story builds in a non-chronological fashion, and seems like it’s going to take several issues to untangle the layers. Artist Jesus Saiz is fantastic, and should be, along with Jamal Igle, the go-to artist for non-exploitative female comics.
* BLUE BEETLE #1
I like writer Tony Bedard, but I think my problem with this was, it wasn’t that long ago that I read the original introduction of Jaime Reyes, and liked that one better. But that’s not fair to Bedard and artist Ig Guara’s clean and accessible first issue. Bedard does a good job setting up the teenager’s world, and hinting at dire, cosmic threats to come.
* CAPTAIN ATOM #1
I liked the “man out of time” elements from the 1980s “Captain Atom,” but what we seem to get here is maybe something more Doctor Manhattan-like. Captain Atom seems to be losing touch with his powers, and possibly with humanity. JT Krul and Freddie Williams II are the creative team. This first issue didn’t grab me overmuch; I found it hard to relate to what was going on. The art is definitely different, though, with a lot of digital effects.
* CATWOMAN #1
Catwoman probably had her best sales success when Jim Balent played up her sexy attributes back in the 1990s, and Judd Winick and Guillem March go to that from page 1 of this new series. In places, I liked it well enough, though the hookup at issue’s end is what’s gotten most of the discussion. (DC’s insistence that this relaunch is aimed at teens makes me think this is pretty racy for the younger end of that age group, but then, it’s probably tame compared to TV.)
* DC UNIVERSE PRESENTS #1
With “Deadman” possibly coming to TV, this series looks to explain the character to a new audience. Former circus performer Boston Brand can’t cross over after his death, and instead goes around attempting to help others by inhabiting their bodies, Quantum Leap-style. This title will change stars, and I assume creative teams, each arc, but Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang put together a strong start for it.
* GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1
Peter Tomasi looks primarily at two members of the Green Lantern Corps: Guy Gardner and John Stewart—the Green Lanterns of Earth not named Hal Jordan — and examines how they try to fit regular jobs and pursuits around being a galactic guardian. Fernando Pasarin is the artist. While it’s not vastly different from the “GLC” before the reboot, this issue does introduce the main characters and the concept in a compelling way.
* LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Writer Paul Levitz and artist Francis Portela do their best to bring new readers up to speed via text boxes and the like, but with this many characters the first issue is a bit of an info dump.
* NIGHTWING #1
Another one that falls under “good first issue,” this re-establishes Dick Grayson as Nightwing and explores his connection to the circus, as his origin is gone over for the newcomers. After spending a year filling in for Batman, Dick Grayson is back in his own costume on his own terms. By Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows.
* RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1
Another one that was heavily dissected based on the sexual content. The Red Hood rescues Arsenal, a former Teen Titan, with the help of another former Titan, Starfire. Despite the Red Hood and Starfire appearing to be an item, Starfire hooks up with Arsenal. Starfire – who once was engaged to Dick Grayson – claims not to remember her time with the Titans, which the Red Hood says is part of her alien makeup. The issue ends with a “to be explained,” and I hope it is, since this isn’t the Kory we met in the Wolfman-Perez Titans at all. If this is her new character, I’m not sure I like the character or the implications. Scott Lobdell writes, Kenneth Rocafort provides the art.
* SUPERGIRL #1
This Supergirl is a Kryptonian who’s crash-landed in Siberia. There’s not a lot of story here, but writers Michael Johnson and Mike Green appear to be setting up a story of alienation as Supergirl heads to our planet. Nice art from Mahmud Asrar. The problem for me again is that I feel like I just saw this, in Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner’s “Supergirl from Krypton,” and I was much more interested in the Sterling Gates version of Supergirl we were getting a couple of years ago.
* WONDER WOMAN #1
For fans of the Perez-era Wonder Woman, this issue had a heavy mythological feel and some gorgeous art. It’s got a horror vibe, and reminded me a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a way, actually. It’s not exactly the Wonder Woman #1 that will get youngsters reading comics, but it’s a very good first issue.
* THE NEW TEEN TITANS: GAMES
Bonus review for this hardcover that’s not part of the New 52. “The New Teen Titans” was DC’s best-seller back in the early 1980s. This graphic novel project was intended for release back in the 80s, but a series of delays and mishaps have kept it hidden until 2011. Perez began working on this again a few years ago, but the art doesn’t show any signs of age or inconsistency. This long-delayed hardcover is an updated take on the classic Marv Wolfman-George Perez team, and I enjoyed it immensely, from the character moments to the art to the action. The plot’s not groundbreaking exactly, but it doesn’t matter – this is a reunion tour that hits all the right notes in execution. For those who want one last chance to enjoy the Wolfman-Perez Titans, or those who want to see what all the fuss was about back then, this is a clear purchase.
- Matt Price
Comics read in 2011: 1,451. Still to go: 560.