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DC New Genesis : Week 4

DC stays strong in the final week of new #1's. This week had only one strike and a quarter of the books I was indifferent to/not interested in turned out to be really engrossing or had a hook that was compelling enough to get me to want the second issue.

All-Star Western
I think this was my favorite title of the week (definitely top three). Jonah Hex finds himself in Gotham on the path of a serial killer and he pummels his way through the industrial-era bat-burg in search of answers. In stark contrast to Hex is the narrator Amadeus Arkham, psychologist and future founder of the infamous eponymous asylum. Arkham spends the issue analyzing both the clues left by the killer and the rough and tumble cowboy who he's been partnered with. The book doesn't teeter into overused cop/detective or cowboy stereotypes but rather fascinatingly blends subtle aspects of both to create a very unique kind of comic story. The art is slightly cartoonish but very good. It keeps the level of violence seeming less brutal than it is (in a good way). A more graphic artist might make the sequences with the murdered prostitutes too much to handle. But the architecture of old Gotham, the attire of the characters, and the tone and setting of the whole book are conveyed excellently by Moritat.

This is one of the books I was most looking forward to and while I don't think it was perfect it was quite good. The opening scene of Aquaman intervening in an armored car heist is great. It lays out Aquaman's level of power (as well as establishing that cops and criminals alike don't have very much respect for poor ol' Arthur). Aquaman appears to have gained the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound giving him Hulk-like mobility (with less destruction). This is a new power for Aquaman but makes sense since he is very strong. Johns also clears up some misnomers (He doesn't TALK to Fish, he telepathically commands them). This book was slow but that's ok. Go read the first issue of Green Lantern (the first volume John's did) and it's even slower. With ongoing books Geoff tends to lay things out and they snowball quickly into something awesome. Ivan Reis is exceptional as always on the art. His attention to detail is excellent, facial expressions are priceless, his briefly seen monster designs are cool, and his flare for action is almost unmatched. I'm hooked... Like a fish. Get it?!

Batman: the Dark Knight
BtDK is a showcase for the truly intricate, action-packed, and beautiful art of David Finch. Batman's cape coils and billows, lights flare, and women have tiny faces (sorry, that last one is a bit of a pet peeve). Mr. Finch is also onboard for writing duties which is a special treat for fans because it means his imagination is going to be set loose on the Bat-verse unfettered. But seriously, Finch is about as A-List as artists come and this book is his baby, so it's interesting to see what he wants to draw: Batman being awesome, sexy women, sexy female villains in bunny costumes, and Bane-d out Two-Face. Let me say that I've been spoiled with Batman from a story standpoint having just come off of Grant Morrison's epic run and having been enjoying the work of Scott Snyder. Next to these complex, multi-faceted stories BtDK is very straight forward (it seems) but that being said it's not bad. And coupled with that art? Ok, David. I'm onboard. Let's see where this is going. That being said there are four books that star Batman and I can't see myself continuing to drop $ for four Batmen a month. I have to say that this book might be the first on the chopping block as I am more story-oriented than art-oriented and this had the least compelling story out of Detective, Batman, and Batman & Robin.

Another title that I wasn't expecting much from that's surprised me in a very positive way. The ultra-secret airforce (?) squadron of fliers is fine but the real interesting aspect of the story in my opinion is the transformation of Kunoichi after she falls into a stew of radioactive chemicals a la the Joker. Her obvious struggle with the meta-human potential of her condition is fascinating even if her personal relationship with another pilot is fairly stereotypical. I feel the same way about the rest of the squadron though I will give them all a chance. The Irishman I expected to be another tired convention who appears to have at least a little more depth than I first anticipated. Likewise with the Gyrich-esque government character whose story with the possibility of public exposure was also fairly interesting. Their secret aerodrome the Aerie is very cool too. The art for the most part was very good but in the opening for the actions scenes it seemed a bit muddled and hard to understand. That does not bode well but it seems like this book has been having a rough time with creative teams and changes are due soon. I hope they're for the best. I suspected that Blackhawks was going to be a strike but much to my pleasant surprise I am looking forward to the next issue and the revelation of what is coming down the pipeline for the covert pilots of the DCU. Hawk-AAAAAH!

the Flash
Flash proved to be an interesting, visually engaging book that delves both into Barry Allen's persona and his past as well as being a showcase for the world of the speedforce. Francis Manapul proves that he is very much in tune with the Flash. Showing the Fastest Man Alive in constant motion, Manapul's double duty as writer and artist give him total control over Barry Allen and he makes the most of the Speedforce potential in this comic. One spread shows him all over a room doing a complete forensic analysis in the time it takes him to ignore a phone call from Iris (and Flash fans, prepare for a surprise on the Iris-Barry front). Manapul's art is deceptively simple, bold, and effective like Jeff Smith. With few lines his characters convey emotions crystal clearly- the genius beauty of an effective cartoonist. While I will admit I am bummed that this isn't Wally West (no reason he couldn't have just stayed the Flash and Barry remained dead) I think this has the makings of a great Flash series and was one of my favorite books of the week.

Fury of the Firestorms
Despite HUGE continuity changes I really liked Firestorms. Apparently in the New 52 neither Ronnie Raymond nor Jason Rusch has been Firestorm before. They both begin this new series as teens in high school (one a jock and one a nerd to fill an age old stereotype dichotomy) and each has something of a problem with the other. Honestly the racial tensions felt pretty natural and relevant for 2011. Also, Jason's girlfriend is still alive so $@{&@! you Blackest Night. I question the wisdom of deciding that Ronnie's past is all gone seeing as he's been around for 30+ years but DC has not been shy about letting everyone know that some changes are major in order to accommodate new readers and this is just one of those changes. While this is one of the biggest reboots I enjoyed it quite a lot, especially because I have never read a Firestorm series before and I look forward to this new genesis (hey, that's the name of this post) for both characters.

Green Lantern: New Guardians
The Green Lantern family of titles while one of the smallest is also the strongest of the New 52 and New Guardians is no exception. While the story of rings leaving their users became a little repetitive it did not get tired. In fact, it's a very easy way to introduce new readers to the variously colored Corps without overwhelming them. Also, the brief recap of Kyle's origin wasn't unwelcome. The art in this book was perfectly acceptable but wasn't as standout good as a lot of the new titles. That being said, it wasn't bad. Especially Kyle and his facial expressions which conveyed a lot of emotion. The two-page spread of Kyle creating monumental green construction workers to catch a falling crane is also artfully done and reminds us why Kyle Rayner is THE BEST GREEN LANTERN (You heard me, Hal fans. Bring it). And in this issue a whole lot of trouble drops right in our poor protagonist's lap along with a bunch of rainbow ring-slingers. I can't wait for more and am so pleased that Kyle has his own title once more.

I, Vampire
I did not know what to expect from this book. Classic Vampire tale? Twilight ripoff? Ode to the original? True Blood ripoff? Something completely new, startling, and enthralling? It turned out to be that last one. Andrea Sorrentino's art reminded me of Jae Lee's; dark pallets, brooding and atmospheric with stark blacks running rampant like grim shadows over every page. Utterly perfect for the terrifying story. Andrew Bennett is unfamiliar save for his benevolent attitude towards humanity and trademark streak of white hair but proves nonetheless to be a sympathetic contemporary vampire protagonist. Besides, it's so cool to hear two vampires talking about attacking the mortal world en masse with the powers of darkness and one saying "You think you and your army stand a chance against Superman and a half-dozen Green Lanterns and Wonder Woman?" Mary, Queen of Blood is an interesting antagonist and spending the issue cutting back and forth between their last night together (giving hints to their history) and the morning their war begins was very well done. I look forward to next issue!

Justice League: Dark
Peter Milligan's Flashpoint Shade series wasn't my favorite and while I liked the concept of JLD I didn't exactly have my hopes up. Shame on me. Milligan brings terror to the world of the New 52 in a way we haven't seen before and all through poor little June Moone. Enchantress employs her magic in unique and devastating ways like having thousands of copies of her make suicide runs onto the freeway or having a storm of teeth attack the JLA "Superman! You're being cut to ribbons"! The team itself is just what you'd want from a group of messed up loners brought together by horrendous arcane odds. John Constantine the Hellblazer is only briefly glimpsed but Shade the Changing Man gets a scene in which his madness is discussed. Madame Xanadu also opens the title, making this the second New 52 book in which she is prominently featured. Deadman is briefly glimpsed and it appears that June Moone is seeking him out or is drawn to him for some reason. And how do all of these offbeat mages come together? We will have to wait and see. Overall this first issue was good but is obviously just set up for great things to come.

Savage Hawkman
This is certainly a new take on Hawkman. The story opens with Carter Hall burning his Hawkman gear a fiery hawk avatar rises from the inferno and consumes our protagonist. When he is confronted by some alien mummy slime-turned monster the Nth metal grows out the pores of his skin and forms his new "cool" armor. I don't dislike it, but the claw thing and the shoulder plate bring to mind the old Hawkman JLA Action Figure (now you can't unsee it). I like the weird archeology, though. The black slime villain is cool too and I am interested to see what the uncovered alien craft holds for the future. As with the majority of the New 52 the art is exceedingly fine. Philip Tan's style has seemed to refine his style even further and I liked his work on this book better than I did his arc on Batman and Robin.

This was probably the least good of the Superman family of titles (note: it's still good. I simply enjoyed Action, Supergirl, and Boy more). Frankly, it was underwhelming for me. The battle felt like a classic Superman kind of sequence and was good but something about the issue didn't click for me. I have trouble objectively judging the ending of the book as it was revealed back in August so without the shock the "surprise finale" felt lackluster. However, other readers may feel differently. The page that ties in to Stormwatch was pretty cool though and the style of the Himalaya-sized alien (?) and the mystery of the horn he sounds has me intrigued. Also, I like that Galaxy Communications is being featured both in Superman and in Action comics since that's a reference to the Fourth World and Jack Kirby's run on Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen. More hints to the impending invasion from Apokolips? I can only hope.

Teen Titans
Another BIG reboot for the DCU. The last run of Teen Titans which began with Geoff Johns (when I began reading TT) has never happened. Totally gone it seems. Kid Flash appears to be as novice as they come and Wonder Girl and Red Robin have never met before. Superboy is still in his lab too (see Superboy #1). The story itself is ok. Red Robin and other teen heroes are being hunted down by a shady (government?) organization spurred on by incidents of reckless young vigilantes (see: Kid Flash). This incites Robin to gather the Teen Titans for mutual protection and supervision/training. Lobdell manages to not turn any of his female characters into mindless sexpots, so that's a plus also. The costume designs didn't bother me in the interior art but I am still not crazy about the aesthetic displayed on the cover.

This is the final DC New 52 I'm reading. Voodoo suffers the harshest degree of reader fatigue, so maybe it's better than I think it is. It was ok. Your classic tale about a guy meeting a stripper only it turns out the stripper is a shapechanging alien. You've heard it a million times. But seriously, I went into Voodoo totally blind, not knowing what it was about or what to expect and I finished the issue saying to myself "well, that was interesting but I kinda don't care". The art and the script were fine I suppose but I am just not compelled by the story or the character. I'll give this one more shot with #2 but I can't see myself continuing to keep getting Voodoo. Sorry Ron Marz.

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