Wednesday, September 7, 2011

52 Flavors: DC's New 52 Week 1 and 2 (Part 1)

Welcome to the 21st Century!

It's eleven years late, but it's only now that I'm starting to feel the ripples of that time change.  The futuristic 21st Century arrived and I had virtually nothing to show for it.  No flying car, no time-travelling DeLoreon, no Virtual Reality; but eleven years later and I have a game system that blows my mind on a regular basis and delivers virtual realities I'm fond of visiting; I have super 1080p HD visuals that run at 120hz per second that emulates another form of virtual reality by playing tricks with my eyes -- I feel like I'm actually on the set more often than not -- and I have a cell phone that's one part Star Trek communication device and one part DO EVERYTHING.  While it won't give me medical readouts of people just by pointing it at them, it does allow me to watch movies (also in 1080p), read books, socialize on all sorts of networks, text, call, email... and read comics.

Yes, my definition of now living in the 21st Century is the ability to read comics on my phone and with the conception and birth of day-and-date releases, the 21st Century has come to life on my favorite hand held device in a way I never imagined.

I'm a 21st Century Comic Book Reader.

Done are the days of making weekly trips to the comic shops to get my fix.  Now I just tap the phone's screen a couple of times and the comics come to me!  No more straining myself to get a sold out issue, no more driving from the tip top of Northern Utah to the Southern most point of Salt Lake City to find a copy of Whatever Man # 182 with the SUPERAWESOMECOLLECTABLE cover.  No more let downs of not getting my favorite comic, no more disappointments.

Do I miss the comic shops?  Certainly.  But ever since the birth of the 21st Century I've had my own personal Crisis of Infinite Comic Shops where the evil villains overtook my time and replaced it with not-enough time.  I couldn't make it to the comic shops regularly because of these villains and even the superpowers of the Pull List Reserve System couldn't stop them.  I had deemed it a time to hang up the single issues and went trades only, it seemed the only way to stop them.  But now, the 21st Century has brought the comics to me, and the Crisis has been eliminated.  Permanently.

And it's great!  It brings a great amount of delight into my life, being able to get things delivered right to my phone.  Any time, anywhere, I can pick up the device, browse the comics and in a moment have it ready to read.  It comes in real handy at movie theaters while waiting for the room to go dark and the picture to begin.  Long trips or car rides, being somewhere I don't want to be; at any moment I can have a new comic, and that new comic will bring me joy -- whether it's bad or good.  And there are other delights, too!  One such delight of digital comics is storage.  No more long boxes, bags, boards, or single issues filling up the continuously shrinking space in the house I live in.  It's all stored for me in the magical nothingness of digital media.

Do not fret!  I'm not 100% pro-digital.  I'm very pro-trade paperback, and I buy them regularly.  By the metric shitton.  Preferably in hardcover.  Tomorrow, for instance, the Year Round Santa Clausmen (or UPS as most people call them) are bringing me three epic tomes of Comics Past that I've been eyeballing for a long time: The Complete Alan Moore WildC.A.T.s, Wildcats Version 3.0 Year One and 3.0 Year Two.  Excitement!

As a result of me being a 21st Century Comic Book Reader, I'm going to drop my thoughts on the first real experiment in 21st Century Comics: DC's New 52.  The set up is easy: DC's head honchos thought it was time to relaunch the entire line of their superhero comics.  They've called it a relaunch or a soft-reboot, essentially saying they're starting over from the beginning, but not really.  Only some of the books are effected by a complete overhaul, other's still remember things of years gone by.  But each of the New 52 Flavors of DC Comics has a different taste to me and I'm going to describe those tastes to you!

Don't you feel lucky?

Flavor # 1:
Justice League

I feel stupid about this comic.  I really do.  I've read this book three times now and the first two times I thought it was a really bad example of superhero comics.  Now, I have to publicly retract everything I've said about this comic because I obviously don't know how to read.  I stated that it felt like generic superheroics without any buildup to anything.  Well, this IS the buildup, apparently.  I missed a single caption in the comic twice over that change the overall dynamic of the story I was reading.  A single caption that read "FIVE YEARS AGO".  I really can't explain how that single caption changed the entire book for me, but it did!  And I feel like an ass about it.  A complete and total ass.

This is the set up of how the Justice League came together, and while it still does lack in some areas of world establishment and character buildup, the comic by itself doesn't really nearly as bad as I had earlier exclaimed.  Because of that one caption box.  The dialogues between Green Lantern and Batman were more interesting, and funny, and the entire premise became something a lot more tolerable.  While it definitely isn't one of the best superhero comics I've ever read, it's very well done for what it is.

I still think this comic would've been better read at the end of the relaunch.  Making it the 52nd instead of the first would've allowed everyone to relearn the DC Universe as it is currently being presented and better know the characters of Batman and Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern, as well as let us know full force why the Gotham City Police Department's Death Troops (I call them that because of the Death's Mask faceplates they wear that look like they just fell out of Modern Warfare 2O) are shooting at Batman.  But I do apologize for not taking my time with the book and reading it so quickly, then giving a false opinion of it.

But, in order to save nerdface, I have to say something negative about the book.  So, I'm targeting the secondary, variant cover drawn by Dave Finch.  Where Jim Lee's cover is a symbol of the second coming (of sorts) of DC's superheroes, Finch's is this really weird, darkly shaded cover that really makes no sense in the context of the stories being told.  Six of the seven members of the League are standing in front of the seventh member, Superman, who is flying above them I'm assuming, but he doesn't look like it.  All the characters have this dead-serious, menacing expression on their face that, when accompanied by the dark shading, make them look evil instead of the heroes we know them as.  Then there's Superman.  He looks, with his arms and fingers stretched out, like a deranged, maniacal puppeteer and the other six members look like his equally maniacal marionettes.  It's a very weird image, and a very horrible cover.  Yikes!

Flavor # 2

I'm doing these in the order that I read them.  Just so you know.

I just read this comic a second time with a more open mind.  Shedding off the history of a comic I enjoyed as much as I did with Stormwatch and, eventually, the Authority is pretty hard.  You have to forget a lot of stuff and start over from scratch.  A lot of the things that were very intergral issues and components to characters is no longer there.  I'm reading these characters for the first time again.  Which both sucks and wasn't too bad.

I was meh when I first read it because of that detachment issue.  But after just reading it a second time, it's really not that bad at all.  There are some moments that are hard to wrap my head around.  The Engineer is one of them.  They just show her, they don't really get into who she is at all.  Hawksmoor is another -- who looks goofy as shit in this comic -- who kind of explains his powers, but not the trauma he went through to get them.  There's the Century Babies that makes no sense whatsoever if you've never read the previous Stormwatch comics, or the Authority, or Planetary.  And then there's Apollo and the Midnighter.  Both are represented here in a good way, they're not negative depictions of the characters.  My issue is that there there to begin with, only because the characters of the previous works went through HELL.  Without that HELL, brought upon them by Henry Bendix, it makes the new versions of them completely new and almost mysterious.  I don't know if I'm comfortable with it, quite yet.

The premise is a bit of a mix between the old Ellis Stormwatch, the old Ellis Authority, and the early WildC.A.T.s comics. Stormwatch is a secret team of superfolks that's been fighting off aliens on this planet for centuries.  There's a brief history run down of that stuff and there's a few glimpses of the Demon and some other characters that hints at a much longer, and stranger (a tip of the hat to Planetary, maybe?) history than the five year one that DC's giving us now.

Second reading of the book definitely has me curious for more.  I wanna know if these characters share more with their WildStorm counterparts than powers, names and visuals.  I hope so.  I miss Ellis' Stormwatch and the Authority.  I also hope that Apollo and the Midnighter are homosexual as they were positive images during Ellis run, I thought.  I think Millar took that a bit too far and over the top at times, but even during his run they were positive homosexual characters.  We'll see, I suppose.

I didn't quite intend for this blog to be simultaneously long and short at the same time.  I only got through two of the books of the thirteen I bought.  But this has taken me almost two hours to write, so I think I'm going to close it off here and finish the rest of the books throughout the week.

Come back tomorrow and I'll have my thoughts on Detective Comics # 1, Action Comics # 1, Swamp Thing # 1, and Batgirl # 1.

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