DC Comics: The New 52 But the Last 13…Week 4 Recap

Reviews by Shaun Daniels and Edited by Sharon Wong

It’s finally here…the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, the fourth and final week of the DC relaunch.  This could easily have been the hardest week to review, especially if we read all 52 books (which we did, of course), since it never serves a creative team well to go last, making it an uphill battle for the last 13.  Several of this week’s books could have faired better had they been released a week or two earlier as they ended up following some really great issues from previous weeks.  Here’s to not looking back and moving onto the week in question…there were hits, a couple we’re on the fence about and one miss.

THE HITS

The Flash #1
Written by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato, Art by Francis Manapul, Colors by Brian Buccellato, Letters by Sal Cipriano and Covers by Francis Manapul, Ivan Reis & Tim Townsend

The Flash was light years ahead of any book published by DC this week.  From the writing to the art to the coloring and lettering, this book speeds past the competition.  Wasting no time, the creative team quickly tells the story and establishes the identities of both The Flash and Barry Allen.  It defiantly pulls from the classic Barry Allen-The Flash with Barry back at his old job as a forensic scientist.  Take the premise of the issue – The Flash breaks up a robbery at the Central City Technology Museum – it’s practically ripped out of the silver age.  Then tie it into the modern era – one of the robbers is a childhood friend of Barry’s, who is killed, but it’s not the last he’s seen of this “friend.”

The writing duo of Manapul and Buccellato prove they’ve got the writing chops.  Every piece of dialogue and characterization is Barry Allen, a character who, until the last couple of years, most people new little about.  The art is the real standout in this book, capturing the speed of the Flash with a soft wash to the art.  The title page of the book is a classic throwback to the original run of The Flash with Barry transforming into The Flash while the background has his origins written for new readers.  The panel layouts are the strongest parts of the art with one such layout being a single page of a building as The Flash and a robber fall from a helicopter.  The page is broken up by squares; the squares that The Flash is in are in color while the other panels are muted of any real color.  The lettering is amazing with the sound effects becoming a part of the action.  At one point, Barry dives in the water and the water coming up from his dive forms the word “splash.”

I, Vampire #1
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Colors by Marcelo Maidlo, Letters by Pat Brosseau and Cover by Jenny Frison

You’ve read the tale about two star-crossed lovers trying desperately to be together.  Now, add in vampires in the middle of a holy war between man and vampire and you get I, Vampire.  In this tale, Mary and Andrew are the two star-crossed lovers except what keeps these lovers apart is their two separate ideologies of the vampire status in the world of man.  Mary, Queen of the Damned, views the world as livestock that needs to be controlled whereas Andrew sees a world of coexistence between the two species.  The two go their separate ways with Mary trying to kill Andrew and he, in return, trying to kill her.

Issue #1 is solid and sets up the oh-so-important vampire rules without feeling like an info dump.  A prime example is the cat and mouse scene where Mary and Andrew change forms as they chase each other.  This sets up both the relationship between Mary and Andrew, and the abilities of vampires.  The art is moody and atmospheric with a slightly savage touch when showing the monsters in their true form.  The colors are a strong standout with its murky feel.

Justice League Dark #1
Written by Peter Milligan, Art by Mikel Janin, Colors by Ulises Arreola, Letters by Rob Leigh and Cover by Ryan Sook

When the this title was announced for the relaunch, we started salivating at the idea of a Justice League that was comprised of supernatural/magic-based characters.  Just imagine a threat arises that the main Justice League has no understanding of and is unable to solve.  Throw in John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Shade the Changing Man, Zatana, Deadman and The Enchantress, and we have Justice League Dark to handle these threats.  As far as #1 issues go, this did its job in setting up why the team is together and who is on the team.

The Enchantress, an already unstable character, becomes fragmented, both literally and figuratively.  As her mind becomes unhinged, so does reality, causing bizarre events to occur; the events that are too bizarre are best experienced in comic form.  Superman, Cyborg and Wonder Woman arrive on the scene, only to quickly realize that the situation is outside their wheelhouse.  This is where you must suspend your disbelief because after all, this is two-thirds of the DC Trinity we’re talking about.  Although the team isn’t formed in the strictest of senses, they are introduced and a thin thread is slowly being woven to connect everyone; Peter Milligan provides great character moments that will set up later plot threads.  Shade’s girlfriend turns out to not be who or what you think she is, which will undoubtedly prove to be a problem.  Deadman is seemingly hiding away from the world by not inhabiting anyone’s body.  Milligan also nails the dialogue, especially with Shade whom he wrote in the past, and Madame Xanadu with her mysterious foresight.

Art was strong for the majority of the book.  Mikel Janin handles the art chores and does an admirable job of capturing the quintessential looks of the characters including a mean Constantine and a sexy version of Shade’s girlfriend.  There are, however, a couple of rough spots.  Janin draws some real awkward poses in the book; there are two that come to mind.  The first being the intro scene of Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Superman with the three characters hovering in a very weird way.  The second is the first panel with Shade’s girlfriend as she has a strange facial expression and pose, making her look superimposed onto the panel.

ON THE FENCE

Aquaman #1
Written by Geoff Johns, Art by Ivan Reis & Joe Prado, Colors by Rod Reis, Letters by Nick J. Napolitano and Cover by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis

For the most part, this comic was fun as it showed off what Aquaman is capable of in establishing him as a DC heavy hitter.  The art was really detailed with its depiction of the creatures from the depths of the ocean with their almost alien-like appearances.  Johns’ establishes Aquaman’s voice right away but what we can’t get past on in the book are the Aquaman jokes.  From SNL to The Simpsons, everyone riffs on Aquaman but Johns actually writes it into the book.  There is a twofold strategy at play with the jokes.  First, Johns is poking fun at readers who poke fun at Aquaman, and we get it.  Second, it’s a sort of cathartic episode to exercise the Aquaman demons that have plagued the character in pop culture.  A great idea on Johns part but it just gets a little played out in the book.

Blackhawks #1
Written by Mike Costa, Art by Ken Lashley & Graham Nolan, Colors by Guy Major, Letters by Rob Leigh and Cover by Ken Lashley

We wanted to love this book.  It had action and fun art but didn’t really give us much of a story.  Instead, it gave us a problem that the characters are going have to deal with.  The book hits on some future threads with issues with the government and where the Blackhawks get funding for their equipment.  It suffers from a “show but don’t tell” problem.  Although the book is short on exposition, it never takes the opportunity to show the tech in action.  What does work in the book are the characters interactions and interpersonal relationships.  Costa has a good track record with this type of story so we have faith in the book and its writer.

Voodoo #1
Written by Ron Marz, Art, Colors & Cover by Sami Basri

Most strippers care more about the all mighty dollar than showing vague interest in the client, but not Voodoo.  She’s more interested in learning about people, more specifically, to gather info.  Whether or not this info she is gathering will play into a larger plot or allows her to stay hidden while fitting in remains to be seen.  Nothing against the creative team on this book, it’s just that Voodoo is not a character that is all that interesting to us.

With that being said, Ron Marz captures our interest in this book.  From the writing and art, it’s clear in Voodoo’s facial expressions and disinterested dialogue that she could care less about being a stripper because this facade serves a bigger purpose for her.  Confronted by a man who reverses the tables on her, things get a bit more interesting with the ending.   Not much of the larger story is brought out into the light but instead, Marz teases what the book has in store.  As for the art, it’s pretty and the woman are beautiful.  The reason why we’re mostly on the fence with this book is not just due to a lack of interest in the character but without more of a story at play, it’s hard to latch on.  Issue #1 is not a barometer for the series, instead issues #2 or #3 will be the better gauge.

THE MISS

Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Written by David Finch & Paul Jenkins, Art by David Finch & Richard Friend, Colors by Alex Sinclair, Letters by Sal Cipriano and Cover by David Finch, Richard Friend & Alex Sinclair

This book would suffer regardless of when it was released.  With all of the Batman books out there, this one doesn’t stand out or have a distinct voice.  It relies heavily on Finch’s art style and is fun to look at.  If this was a focus on Bruce Wayne or his rogue’s gallery, it might have some legs.  There are three good spots in the book.  First, there is a new love interest for Bruce, which is always fun and sets up tension.  Second, there is the introduction of the character White Rabbit, who  we’re betting may be the alter ego of Bruce’s new love interest.  The final bright spot is an interesting take on a classic Batman rogue which will leave some fans upset, but for us, we’re glad to see a change.

Don’t forget to check out our sister site www.horrorhaven.com and click on The Fright Channel, the web’s best 24-hour horror network, to see what’s playing.  Follow us on Twitter @FrightChannel to keep up with the latest news and updates, and friend us on Facebook.  Subscribe to our RSS feed and never miss an update.

Feedback is always welcomed at shaun@horrorhaven.com and sharon@horrorhaven.com

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