Thursday, September 8, 2011

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

Flavor # 3:
Detective Comics

Batman.  Can you believe I used to hate the Batman character?  When I was younger, really young actually, I associated all things Batman to that horrible television show starring Adam West and Burt Ward, so I never read the comics.  I carried this through life, even through Tim Burton's Batman film from 1989, until I finally read Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS sometime in the early 1990s.  How things change!

Detective Comics is one of DC's flagship titles, mostly because of the title, I'm assuming.  DC Comics was named after Detective Comics way back in the day.  And I gotta get this outta my head first and foremost.  I wouldn't have relaunched this title as a Batman only title.  I would have done this, and Action Comics, as big black and white books like Shonen Jump that featured serial detective or action based stories featuring characters of those types.  Batman, the Question, and others for Detective, Superman, Lantern, and other lesser knowns for Action.

Anyway, the cover here is pretty morbid, and I like that.  I am a horror nut after all.  This would make a really awesome horror movie poster at the theatre.  It has Batman posing all menacingly over what very well could be the severed head of the Joker among severed doll heads.  Tony Daniel outdid himself with this cover.  And I haven't mentioned this yet, but DC's new trade dressing is pretty eye catching.

The book opens with a claustrophobic action sequence done in lone, vertical panels that messes with your brain a bit, covered with some thought-boxes from the Bat himself.  The Joker is in a fray with some unknown assailant then moves to a shot of Batman somewhere atop the massive buildings of Gotham City.  It's a very nice opening sequence, I think, 'cause it prepares you for the rest of the book.  The claustrophobic play with the panels and the heavily detailed environments of Gotham City.  The City, I think, is just as much of a character in Batman's world as Batman himself.    Over the course of the twenty or so pages we're given the opening stages of a mystery, which suits the title well.  From previous readings of the former Detective Comics title, I never understood why there were less detective stories going on in that book than straight out Batman slugfests.  And this book is well suited for people who are familiar with other representations of the Batman character, specifically the Christopher Nolan films.  It jumps head first into a mystery featuring the Joker and is done in a very plausible atmosphere.  The Batman story being told here is almost a universe away from what's being told in the Justice League books.  It's gritty, detective work that fits the Batman character and sets up his relationship with Comissioner Gordon and the rest of the Gotham City Police Department.  Another significant detail is during the fight sequence between Batman and the Joker towards the book's closing.  It shows that Batman is just a man and makes mistakes, which is very appreciated for reasons I can't rightly explain.  I like knowing Batman is just a man, not a super bat-god as some people are complaining that they've turned him into again.  The end of the book is such a gruesome shock that I had to re-read it multiple times on two different readings.  I loved it, again the horror fan rears his head, and I'm still very pleased with what I'm looking at.

The single image is so disturbing that it's almost frightening, and the dialogue that goes with it makes it so much more so.  I have no idea what Tony Daniel is planning with this story he's giving to me, but I'm going along with it to the end.  I wanna know.  And no, no spoilers.  You'll have to read it to see what happened, or go somewhere else.  I will say it's one of the most delightful illustrations of the grotesque I've seen since Hellraiser.

Flavor # 4:
Action Comics

I am not a Superman fan.  I never have been, but that's slowly changing, and most of that change is coming courtesy of Grant Morrison.  I had no expectations of this comic except that I was probably going to like it.  I'm a Grant Morrison mark -- or fan if you're not up to wrestling lingo -- and I'm not ashamed to say it.  Morrison's run on New X-Men is my favorite X-Men run ever, his work on All-Star Superman got me to really recognize what's wrong with the character (it isn't him at all, it's the people that write Superman stories) and The Invisibles is in my top five all time favorite comic books ever.

All that said, I did not expect to like this comic as much as I do.  It's simply fantastic.  The cover starts the book off with the tone and pace that it keeps throughout the twenty-something pages.  It depects a younger Superman wearing a blue t-shirt with the Superman S symbol on it, blue jeans and boots, with a much shorter cape than normal being chased by what could be a whole prescient of Metropolis' Police Department.  This is not the costumed Superman we've seen all our lives, this something different.  Something youthful, arrogant; something brash and temperamental; it's something fresh.

There's a second cover, too, which has nothing to do with the story inside, but it's pretty cool looking nevertheless.  It's a Jim Lee drawn cover that looks like it takes inspiration from the old Fleischer cartoons with Superman in his future costume.  And, y'know, I have to say that I really dig the new Superman costume.  I was never a fan of the original, even after I learned its inspirations.  A lot of older comic readers and fans call it things like "Iconic" and all that, but most people I know that don't read comics call it, "Stupid."  I tended to agree with them.  The S is iconic, 'cause, y'know, it's an icon, but the whole of the costume was absurd and outdated since 1940.  It was based on circus strongmen outfits of the 1930s, for Pete's sake, it has no relevancy past its use by date, and it never looked cool.  Jim Lee's redesign of the costume looks more like armor which implies that it has some significance beyond being a superhero costume.  It has more story to it, and, well, I think it looks hella cool.

Anyway, as I said, this is a fresher, younger Superman.  The story, as I understand it, takes place a while before the Justice League story which took place five years ago.  Maybe a few months or so before then.  Superman, or Clark Kent, has only arrived in Metropolis six months before that, so we're getting a look at a Superman just starting out, and he's a far cry from the Boy Scout image that everyone associates with Superman in my non-comic reading circles, or my Marvel only reading circles.  This Superman is brash, and he's ballsy.  If I'm guessing right, Morrison is basing the new Superman on the Old Superman, the original Superman from the late 1930s where didn't go after small time criminals -- like in Superman the Movie's beginning -- and went after something much bigger.  In the opening sequence here, he's going after Mr. Glenmorgan, a corrupt CEO of sorts who's responsible for much more heinous crimes that cat-burglary.    Morrison and Rags Morales paint a really awesome picture that is almost complete -- too complete for a first issue to be believed -- not only of this younger Superman who cannot fly yet, cannot throw planets around, cannot do everything we've learned he can do in the past twenty years since his last reboot, but of Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, the Daily Planet, Metropolis and Lex Luthor.

This is by far my favorite of the New 52 so far, and I recommend it to everyone.  Especially people that hate Superman.

Flavor # 5:
Swamp Thing

This is almost like the mystery meat in a straight on superhero sandwich.  It was totally unexpected, probably completely overlooked, and one-hundred percent worth your time.  It's also where the idea of a reboot-slash-relaunch becomes very fuzzy.  I knew some things were going to be carried over yet not entirely sure what, here it's almost implied that everything Swamp Thing has experienced has.  At least to some extent.

But let's start with the cover!  It's beautiful!  Yanick Paquette delivers a cover that's rich in detail from cover to bottom and lets you know from the beginning that this isn't a superhero story told in the traditional sense, if at all.  I'm no foreigner when it comes to Swamp Thing.  Before I knew he was a comic book character, I was a big fan of the horribly made movie from the 1980s.  When you're a child, you're allowed to like really crappy forms of entertainment.  It's forgivable.  Later on in life, when DC republished them, I became very familiar with Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing.  I loved it because it was so non traditional superhero, yet almost superhero at the same time.  Several of the big names appeared in the book, but what it was about was so distant from the costumed heroics of Superman and Batman and there was this rough touch of horror icing the entire cake, that the end result was quite delicious.

This book, written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Yanick Paquette, seems to invoke some of that old Alan Moore Swamp Thing in it as it goes through it's pages.  It begins with a moment of horror, at least that's how I saw it, and we're off in running at a slow and deliberate pace.  Alec Holland is no longer Swamp Thing, he doubts he ever was, and is working construction instead of his biological science shit he used to do.  Sorry, my brain literally farted upon trying to think of what it was he used to do before the Swamp Thing gig.  The book is methodical compared to the other titles of the relaunch, which is very appreciated because it doesn't let the book let go of its roots in Vertigo.  It's still an alternative type comic that relies on horror type stuff to tell its stories, regardless of the brightly colored Superman appearing in a few issues.

The book is a delightful read, that's for sure, and it's quite mysterious and compelling.  This is a keeper for me.

Flavor # 6:

I really don't have much to say about Batgirl.  I know I should because it's really good, but other than that, I just don't KNOW what to say.

I love that it doesn't forget nor does it forgive.  This is Barbara Gordon as Batgirl.  Without trying to ruin anything for anyone, Barbara Gordon hasn't been Batgirl since the 1980s, after a crippling gunshot delivered to her by the Joker in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke.  She's served as Oracle, the eyes and ears of the digital age for Batman and all related Bat-books for the longest time.  Here she is, back on her feet, back in the costumed for good time romps, but the book hasn't forgotten.  The events that took away her legs are still fresh in her mind, they still happened, and even cause her to choke up towards the end of the book during its finale.  Gail Simone handles the subject matter with amazing skill and pulls off a book that's not only really well written, really well drawn, but is incredibly fun.

As I said, I don't have a lot to say about this comic other than I really did like it and enjoy it, and I feel bad for not being able to say more.  But it's one you should read.  You should definitely read Batgirl.  And keep reading it.

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