Friday, September 9, 2011

Dan Didio Nut-Kick Theater

Since this blog has been mostly politics lately, let’s talk about comic books.

While I still go pick up new books every Wednesday, I’ve gotten way behind on actually reading them. I’m anywhere from 2 to 10 issues behind on most books at the moment and just can’t find time to sit down and catch up. When I do catch up on something, it’s not unusual to realize that I should have stopped buying it months ago. So for me, the DC reboot is a way to start fresh and attempt to keep up. Except for the single issue of Justice League last week, this Wednesday was the first wave of the new DC books. Since all but a few were on my “at least check out the first issue” list anyway, I decided to drop the extra $10-15 and give them all a chance. Just finished them all and the experience was mostly underwhelming, though some of the titles do have potential.

Justice League

This was the only DCU book released last week, and the big jumping on point that was supposed to get fans amped up for the all new DC Universe. Apparently, the creative team (or more likely, Dan “should be kicked in the nuts” Didio) decided that the best way to do that was with a story where....not much happens. So it’s kind of hard to tell where this one will go. Johns seems to be taking the Grant Morrison “Batman is so incredibly competent that he’s almost a self-parody” track, which can be a lot of fun. Green Lantern seems to be at least somewhat based on Ryan Reynolds from the movie, which could go either way. I don’t hate Jim Lee’s art, but I don’t especially like it, either. Especially the actions scenes. Lee seems to belong to the “maybe if I just put a bunch of shit in the panel, no one will notice that I suck at actually showing what’s going on.” I will cautiously buy issue 2.

Action Comics

The idea of an “edgy” Superman would turn my stomach in the hands of most writers, but I’ll give Grant Morrison the benefit of the doubt on just about any concept. It only took him a few pages of establishing that the edginess comes from the fact that Supes is an activist to win me over completely. This comic will probably cause some serious nerd rage, but I think I’m going to love it.

Animal Man

I never read Morrison’s Animal Man series, but I’ve run into the character in other books. He’s got kind of a “regular guy” vibe that I like, and the whole shamanistic animal otherworld thing seems neat. I’m not crazy about the art in the new book, but it looks like they’re sticking with the same basic character that’s always seemed likable to me, and the final scene of issue 1 means I’ll at least buy issue 2.

Batgirl

I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of the most recent Batgirl series, so it’s one of the ones I’m a little sad to see get rebooted. Plus, Barbara Gordon has been Oracle pretty much the entire time I’ve been reading mainstream comics, so while seeing her as Batgirl is cool, the idea of a DCU without Oracle is a little weird. The comic kind of starts where the original Babs-as-Batgirl ended, with her returning to duty after several months in a wheelchair courtesy of the joker (fortunately in the new DCU, the damage wasn’t permanent). I really enjoyed the first issue, but I’m probably a little biased since I’m a fan of both Batgirl and Barbara Gordon.

Batwing
I kind of like the art, but nothing about the first issue of this book really reaches out and grabs me. That said, the premise--a super-hero based in the Congo--has potential. If nothing else, the types of crimes and bad guys to be dealt with should have a very different vibe from the typical American super-hero comic. The problem, of course, is that I’m not sure I trust Judd Winick to do anything but write a straightforward American super-hero comic, only with black guys and Congolese place names. I’ll probably pick up the next issue or two just to see if it’s going anywhere interesting.

Detective Comics

The timeline seems to be after Bats has befriended Gordon but before the rest of the GCPD and city government are on board with the idea of a vigilante as an ally, and the series dives right into things with the Joker as the antagonist. It’s pretty standard Batman fare, but I’m always a sucker for any Batman comic that includes “Frank Miller medical updates” whenever Bats gets hurt.

Green Arrow

The nut kicks I advocate for Dan Didio are meant to be one-kick (each time you happen to run into him), do-it-and-it’s-done affairs. Almost like a greeting. Hell, I’d even be willing to elect a Nut Kick Commissioner to rule on when it is and is not acceptable to kick Didio in the sack. In the end, I know Didio will get his due when the ghost of Julie Schwartz rises, Spectre-like, to exact vengeance upon him. J.T. Krul, on the other hand, deserves the kind of brutal nut punch overkill that Hartigan gave to That Yellow Bastard’s head in Sin City. After all, he wrote The Rise of Arsenal, which is arguably the absolute worst comic book mini-series to ever see publication and then continued his rape of the Green Arrow family with the moronic “a forest pops up in Star City” nonsense. When I heard about the reboot, I was heartened by the idea that Krul’s reign of suck over one of my favorite characters was finally coming to an end. But, of course, Didio earned his daily nut kick by deciding that Green Arrow would be one of the few comics that didn’t get a new writer.

I was sure that this comic would be yet another rape of one of my favorite characters by Krul. The low expectations might have actually helped, since the comic didn’t manage to annoy nearly as much as expected. Sure, the villains are apparently motivated by Youtube hits, Krul’s attempts at writing Ollie-style banter are atrocious, and the armor looks entirely too Green Lanterny for my taste. However, at no point in the book does Ollie take off his pants and start randomly urinating on things, which for Krul is a small victory. I will give him credit for re-introducing the trick arrows and remembering that Ollie does, in fact, own a huge technology company and therefore should have some Batmanesque cool toys. I will continue to read this book out of grim obligation to the character and the solemn hope that J.T. Krul is struck down by a vengeful god or rendered permanently incapacitated before the series gets cancelled.

Hawk & Dove

Even if this comic were extremely well-written (it’s not), I would have still been distracted by one of the great mysteries of modern life. Namely, how is it possible for Rob Liefeld, who has absolutely no skill or talent for drawing, to be a successful comic book artist? I just don’t understand.

Justice League International

I suspected that loyalty to some of the individual characters would be the main draw of this book, but the first issue suggests that there might be some fun character bickering, and there’s even a possibility of some ineteresting conflict derived from introducing global politics into the usual super team set-up (the team is backed by the U.N.). If nothing else, having protesters bomb the Hall of Justice in the first issue is enough to convince me it deserves a chance.

Men of War

Call me a traditionalist, but Sergeant Rock should be fighting Nazis. In addition to just seeming wrong on a fundamental level, attempting to update Rock to a modern-day setting runs a high risk of the enemies devolving into offensive racial stereotypes. Much as I like the character, I doubt I’ll pick up the next issue.

O.M.A.C.

I knew basically nothing about this character going in, and after reading the first issue, I still know basically nothing about this character and am very neutral on the comic. Since I usually love Giffen’s work and, as I may have mentioned, am not a fan of Dan Didio, I was hoping that one of them would overpower the other, making the decision as to whether or not this would be worth reading an easy one. Instead, it seems that when the powers of good and the powers of suck combine, you end up with something blindingly mediocre. I might pick up issue 2 in hopes that by then Giffen will have discovered a way to circumvent the Kryptonite-like drain on all things good that is Dan Didio (my suggestion: repeated nut kicks), but only if it comes out during an otherwise slow comic week.

Static Shock
Comics, on the most basic level, are supposed to tell a story with pictures. Words are often used to enhance the story, but the visual element should generally be a big part of the experience. So if a typical page of a comic is using several hundred words and most of them add very little to the story, somebody’s doing something wrong. Sometimes the artist just can’t tell a story very well. Sometimes the writer is too wordy or not good at letting the pictures do the talking. Since the art in this book seems to do a pretty good job of showing what’s going on, I’m going to blame the overabundance of caption boxes and word balloons in this book on the writing team. Unfortunately for DC and fortunately for my bank account, there’s nothing about this book that makes me feel like I need to buy any future issues.

Stormwatch

I used to read The Authority and always like the characters, but I’m curious how they’re going to fit it all into the DCU. Several of character concepts (especially Apollo and Midnighter) have always been “kind of like [JLA member], but more of a bad-ass and not necessarily ‘heroic’ in the traditional sense,” and it look like that may be the direction the book is headed. I’m definitely intrigued, especially with the idea of Martian Manhunter belonging to both teams.

Swamp Thing
Re-envisioning Alan Moore seems to be a battle you’re destined to lose, so I’ll give the creative team some credit for even trying. The book starts off after Dr. Holland has died, become Swamp Thing, and somehow returned with vague memories of his time as a rotting heap of plant matter. Then at the end, a Swamp Thing completely independent of Holland shows up. Not sure if Swampy and Holland existing independently of one another was done in the old comics--I never finished the series--but using that as the starting point could work. We’ll see where it goes from here.

Looks like next week has a few of the big names (Batman & Robin, Green Lantern), a few all-new (at least in monthly format) titles (Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, Red Lanterns), and a few titles that, if history is any indicator, are doomed to cancellation (Resurection Man, Deathstroke). We also finally get the Batwoman series that DC’s been promising for at least a year now. I don’t know if I’ll pick up the whole pile next time--I find it hard to imagine any possibility of a readable Grifter comic--but I’ll try to post some mini-reviews of the ones I do.
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