A Marvel Guy Rates The DC Books: Week Four

I’m not a new reader, but where DC is concerned I might as well be.

Whether it started as brand loyalty, Spideyphilia, or just an aversion to Crises, my love of comics started with Marvel books and stayed that way for a long time. Over the years, I’ve broadened my horizons from Dark Horse to Dynamite, but for some reason no matter how omnivorous I tried to be DC’s titles never stayed on my pull list for long. From The Flash to Green Lantern to Action itself, I always failed to connect with the stories and lost interest. Was it the baggage? Was it the writers? There was no better time to find out than this month.

I’m going to be straight with you, True Believer: the last two books I read in week 3 were Catwoman and (ugh) Wonder Woman. I found the former so perplexing and the latter so atrociously horrendous that the one-two punch in the eyes soured me on this entire experience. There were already no books I was really looking forward to in week 4, but the Terrible Two left such a tangy aftertaste that I spent the following week actively dreading this like a term paper. How’s that for full disclosure? Let’s do this thing!!!

Blackhawks #1Blackhawks

What Made Me Try It: Mike Costa took a G.I. Joe book that should have been a ludicrous embarrassment for a grown man to read in public and made it into perhaps the best series of the year. The same writer + adjacent subject matter + less cultural baggage = READER VICTORY.

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
 Who the writer was, and also that it was probably not about hockey in Chicago.

What I Thought About It:
 Blackhawks is in Costa’s wheelhouse; it’s a book about a special ops team in a world full of Supermen that doesn’t end up sounding dopey. As someone who didn’t know what a Blackhawk was, I thought the book did a lot of work with relatively few pages. It reminded me a bit of the beginning of Battlestar Galactica, in a way: you’re getting up to speed on a mission, command structure, and base full of characters all at the same time. It hooked me with some action up front that also gave me a sense of the kinds of missions this team gets assigned. Seeing everyone doing their jobs gave me a sense of the team dynamic and personalities involved, and their radio chatter served to satisfy my increasingly stringent who-am-I-looking-at-and-why requirement. Later, a persnickety diplomat needs a tour of the base, so we get one too. There are a something like eleven people in the cast, but we get a sense of what their lives are like and a taste of some compelling problems they’ll face, all without the story slowing down. See? It’s not rocket science, ya Amazonian goose egg.

Will I Stick With It?:
 It looks that way. I’ve met these guys, but do I like them? Will that matter? The “promise” part is handled; now, for the “living up to it” part.

I, VampireI, Vampire

What Made Me Try It: I… do not know. I was jonesing for a look at the dark corners of this world? The previous week had burned my superhero receptors to shriveled, crumbling nubs? I liked Fialkov’s Tumor? All I know is that I saw it on the list and thought, “The title sounds like a book from 1974. I think that will do nicely.”

What I Knew Before I Bought It: It’s probably about vampires. I’ll bet it’s told from their point of view. Hey: is that the guy who wrote Tumor?

What I Thought About It: On one hand, I, Vampire did not give me much that I haven’t gotten from a variety of other media on the same subject. The “rules” were straight out of Bram Stoker (which from this pop culture vantage point is sort of refreshing, actually; at least nobody sparkled) and the female lead would have been right at home as a Buffy Big Bad. On the other hand, the writer and artist took these basic ingredients and whipped up a confection that was both oddly affecting and creepier than either Animal Man or Swamp Thing a few weeks earlier. The visuals in those books were striking, but this was the one that had me mind-shouting, “Look out! They’re right behind you!” at a piece of paper. (Of course, I have to deduct points for actually using the line, “They’re right behind me, aren’t they?” That’s one of those pieces of dialogue that, the next time someone says it, balloons should drop from the ceiling: “Congratulations! You are the 4,000,000th customer to type that line.”) All in all, the book effectively introduces its two-person cast and draws you into the seemingly insurmountable central conflict in a way that compels you to ask, “How is this poor bastard going to get out of this one?” and keep reading.

Will I Stick With It?: I need to know how the poor bastard is going to get out of this one. Hopefully, it’s not by remembering that a guy with heat vision lives a couple towns over and could end the vampire race in an afternoon.

Justice League DarkJustice League Dark

What Made Me Try It: I think of Justice League as the squarest, squeaky-cleanest, most nutritious high-fiber part of your complete breakfast. The idea of a twisted, haunted funhouse-mirror take on that concept appeals mightily to the Superman skeptic in me. Also, the title reminds me of M&Ms, which are delicious.

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
 I’ve heard Josh talk about Constantine. I have a handle on Deadman, having read as much of Brightest Day as I could. I didn’t so much as know the name of anyone else in the book.

What I Thought About It:
 Ohhh, mercy.  Listen: there are parts of this book that work. It opens with a two-page spread that made me exclaim, “Wow, yikes, here we go!” and there are melting girlfriends and rains of teeth and ominous envelopes that are certainly very effective visuals. Unfortunately, the issue is also full of some lengthy mood killers. There is a love triangle in this book between a woman, a man, and a vest. It is unintentionally so soap-opera-parody hilarious that I quite literally had to set the book aside and walk away to regain my reading composure. (“Don’t walk away from me! Just for once, don’t listen to your vest!” “Don’t you think I’d like that? Don’t you think I’d like to walk away from this DAMNED VEST?!”) Shortly thereafter, there’s a sequence featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg that has to be seen to be believed: the three of them are discussing how ill-equipped they are to handle magic when suddenly a forty-foot witch appears in the sky and roars at them, in no way interrupting their conversation or even causing them to change their tones of voice or facial expressions. Horrifying teeth-rain ensues, and Wonder Woman remarks, “Superman, you’re being sliced to ribbons!” (Psst! Wonder Woman! I’ll bet he knows.) These scenes are standouts in a book that shares a storytelling approach with Ciphers on Parade Wonder Woman: little to no sense is given of who any of these people are or why they’re doing any of these things, and the book is liberally sprinkled with narration boxes written like fortune cookies, except for a lone page that breaks the flow by abruptly switching perspectives like a page of Constantine fell into the printer and then immediately switches back without a hint of context. I am guessing that page may have been intended to explain where John Constantine has been in DC continuity, for all us new readers who never knew he was missing and still aren’t entirely sure who he is. This is also the second book that had a chance to give me two lines of introduction to Madame Xanadu and took a pass. For all I know, that thing with the vest is heart-wrenching if you’ve been reading the characters for years, but shall we not then just acknowledge that this “first issue” was actually written for a forty-year-old dude with a shelf full of Absolute Editions and stop jerking me around? Let’s.

Will I Stick With It?: The first arc may end up cohering, but I will never know.

Fourth Book

What Made Me Try It: Actually, you know what…? Nah. I’m good here.




  1. I too really liked Costa’s work with GI Joe (and i agree, it should be a hokey comic, but is one of the best ones going on now imo) but I didn’t know he was doing Blackhawks. Gonna add it to my stack when i hopefully get to my store tonight!!

  2. If Blackhawks was about a hockey team, I would have bought it. even though I’m a Devils fan.

  3. I’m confused, you gave up before you read the good ones like All-Star Western, Flash and Aquaman?

    • I guarantee you he wouldn’t have liked Flash or Aquaman.

    • I thought about buying Aquaman every day last week, but if I haven’t learned what I think about Geoff Johns by now I might as well go put my hand on the stove to make sure it still burns.

      I’m also pretty Flashed out at this stage of 2011, although the nice thing about digital is that I can change my mind any moment and be fine.

      I have no doubt that All-Star Western is worth a read at some point. If I’m being completely honest, I got burned out on the enterprise after Justice League Dark and just didn’t want to deal with it for another week or two. And I mean, I didn’t read all 52 like these other poor souls. I got tired of it just hearing about it every week, especially as the month dragged on and I chose a handful of mediocre-to-awful books and books that were almost aggressive failures as first issues. When you’re reading a book, going, “Wow, that was no good at all,” and then you log in and see 70% of people rating it The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ, after a while you think, “Maybe I belong somewhere else for a couple of days.”

    • Hey, everybody has an opinion and a right to share it. Not everybody’s gonna love Batman and not everybody’s gonna hate Hawk and Dove. That’s what makes this fun, we all have our own tastes and opinions which can actually change over time. The first book I picked up when I started reading comics again was Batman #676, I was absolutely blown away by it. By the end of R.I.P I was so confused that I promised to stay away from anything Grant Morrison. Today he is one of my absolute favourite writers, and I love going back to read those Batman issues. Crazy but true.

    • @Jimsky: Holy crap! That last sentiment perfectly sums up my feelings toward about 90% of the reviews I’ve read concerning all these “New 52” titles. I read almost all of the new #1’s, save about 10 (I’m not reading Legion. Never again.), and I’ve found myself disagreeing with most of the fanfare these books are receiving. Wonder Woman? It was all right, but her previous books must’ve been absolute shite for this new version to make everyone so excited. Flash? I thought Manapul’s work on Adventure Comics was great, I think his Flash, when he’s running around super fast and being, you know, Flash-y, looks stiff and slow. Justice League was about 8 pages too long, Swamp Thing looked pretty, if nothing else, Animal Man DIDN’T look pretty and I STILL think Jeff Lemire is overrated, and how can Batman have three wards and a 10-year-old son if he’s only 25 (as seen in Batman #1)? Ultimately, this whole thing kind of feels like Jim Lee went to his old Marvel editor Bob Harris and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if all these DC heroes existed in the Image universe? And wouldn’t it be cool if we could throw some work at my old Image and X-Men co-creator buddies? And shouldn’t some of MY characters get their own special places in this brave new world?”.

    • @RecksDeud: Batman’s not 25. Scott Snyder told us on our post episode 300 chat that he was in his early 30s.

    • @Conor: Honestly, and call it the entitled fanboy in me, I’m glad to hear that. When I was a kid, Marvel is what got me hooked into comics, but after a few years (or ‘forever’ in adolescent teen time) Batman became my all time favorite. There was a period where I was convinced Batman could take on literally ANYONE in the DCU and come out victorious. If you had told me, back when I was 15-16, that Batman was going to fight God, I would’ve thought, “Well, God IS kind of a wussy…”. With the New 52 taking artistic liscense with all of “my” DC characters (’cause every one of them REALLY belongs to each one of us individually, right?) , I was glad to see Batman got left (mostly) alone. But when I saw Capullo’s take one him in Batman issue #1, I thought they were taking the de-aging thing to far (I was wrong, of course. ‘Green Arrow’ was taking it to far.). Maybe Greg drew Bruce extra young and smooth looking to compensate for all the years of drawing Spawn’s fugly mug. Also, Dick looked really…petite to me in that issue.

  4. Cool, thanks for the clarification. I just thought maybe you were missing out on accident rather than on purpose.

    @TheFlashr– We seem to have had the exact same experience with Morrison. However, with your logic applied all of our opinions are subject to change. I feel bad for those people too stuck in their ways to enjoy something, on the other hand I am happy for those who know exactly what they like. It’s an interesting dichotomy….

  5. I agree completely on Blackhawks.

    As for the worst, Satan couldn’t piss fire into my eyes and make me forget the drivel of Hawk and Dove.