A Marvel Guy Rates The DC Books: Week One

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.

What follows over the next few weeks are the books I’ve tried and how they looked to my (relatively) fresh eyes, (mostly) free of bias.

Justice League

What Made Me Try It: By all accounts, this was Square One’s Square One. It was made by the two guys who are running the place. All the cool kids were doing it. It was the only #1 that came out that day.

What I Knew Before I Bought It: I have a working knowledge of most of these characters post-Identity Crisis, although everything I know about Aquaman I learned from Tom Katers. I only knew Cyborg was called “Cyborg” because of the pre-show; I can’t remember ever seeing him in action before.

What I Thought About It: 
Of all the Geoff Johns comics ever published, Justice League #1 is by far the most recent. If you like his sort of comic, this is the sort of comic you will like; the tone and dialogue fall right in line with the Johns Green Lantern books I’ve tried to read in the last few years. For whatever reason, I find Geoff Johns to be a bloodless technician; his stories move the characters efficiently from Point A to Point B, but none of them has succeeded in making me feel anything. Justice League has memorable moments– I’m still thinking about the much-discussed ring theft and grinning– and it left me wanting to know what happens next. After seeing a lot of Green Lantern double page spreads with 400 multicolored guys fighting and exploding on them, the decompressed nature of the storytelling was greatly appreciated. It’s also nice to see what Johns will do with a relatively blank slate instead of needing to take care of the usual continuity accounting he’s famous for (in the past, a lot of what has scared me off of books like The Flash has been his compulsive need to explain away things I never knew about in the first place). It’s just that the dialogue played like an extended video game cut scene for me… which may put it squarely in the wheelhouse of the people they’re trying to reach with this relaunch. What do I know? My Pick of the Week was Secret Avengers.

Will I Stick With It?:
It has me for at least the first arc. I want to give the team a chance to tell their story before I make up my mind. Besides, it occurs to me that after all these years, I’ve never read a story about how these characters met. Sort of amazing, if you think about it.

Action Comics

What Made Me Try It: Grant Morrison was saying all the right things about the back-to-basics approach before the book came out, and the image of Superman in jeans and work boots with a dish towel around his neck really appealed to me. The cops shooting at him on the cover pushed me over the top: a Superman that wasn’t fawningly worshiped everywhere he went?…

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
I hate Superman. So much. (I’m not wild about Morrison, either.)

What I Thought About It:
Do you believe in miracles? I loved this book. Loved it! A Superman with some rough edges and vulnerabilities and a strong point of view beyond “Justice is nice and Pie is delicious” scratched an itch I never thought anybody would reach. The Man of Steel is fighting for the Common Man against fathomable, relatable challenges with a scope mortals can wrap their heads around. Clark Kent seems like a person. (That person is specifically Peter Parker, but that’s not a complaint.) Even the iconic nature of the art is welcoming and accessible.

Will I Stick With It?:
Cannot wait to see what happens next. Hurry up and come out again, Action Comics!

Animal Man

What Made Me Try It: Early reviews reported that this book gave eyesight to the blind. People who touched it were on their knees in front of my shop in puddles of their own tears, vowing to live better lives from now on. Expectations had been set somewhere north of the ionosphere.

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
I saw some of Buddy Baker’s exploits in trades of 52 earlier this year, and I’m aware there’s a seminal run of his old book that I’ll get around to one day.

What I Thought About It:
Buddy seems like a nice guy, and I wish him the best, but his book was a flat beverage. It was not a bad book by any means: Lemire took a man who was a stranger to me on page one and made him into a fully realized character before my very eyes, but when I was done learning about him I found I had no desire to learn any more. When I was done reading it, I felt the same about it as I would have if I’d never heard of it. Maybe it was the art, the humans in which reminded me of mannequins or marionettes. The book is a fine starting point, tells you what you need to know about the character and his supporting cast, and is full of a sufficient amount of foreboding. I can see what people would like about it; I am just not one of those people. (Plus, not for nothin’: you can change the entire universe, but you leave a mullet on the son’s head?)

Will I Stick With It?: 
When the hero is bleeding from the eyes and it stirs nothing within you, it’s probably best to just move on.

Batgirl

What Made Me Try It: I realized I’d never read the work of Gail Simone before, and in the time since the book was announced I realized I had read more about the Batgirl controversy than I had actually read of the Batgirl book.

What I Knew Before I Bought It: I read The Killing Joke in grade school (!) and I read one Stephanie Brown Batgirl trade a month ago.

What I Thought About It: So far, so good. I’d never seen Barbara Gordon in action before, and the book quickly drew me into her life in and out of the cowl. It was a prosaic, fairly optimistic portrait of someone trying to put her life back together after a severe trauma, complete with all the guilt and the PTSD and adjusting to the way other people act around her that it would entail. The newbie gets some explanation of how we got here without feeling like he’s sitting through a PowerPoint presentation, as well as a clear look at what the stakes are going to be. My only worry is that Batgirl has the potential to wade into that continuity accounting I mentioned before: any minute, they could launch into an interminable One Moment in Time-ing of Barbara’s recuperation, in which case I will disappear like Batman when your back is turned. I don’t give a damn how the Speed Force works; I just want to see the guy go fast. If you see what I mean.

Will I Stick With It?: I want to see what happens next, unless what happens next is that nonsense I just mentioned.

Swamp Thing

What Made Me Try It: Scott Snyder is the best in the biz. He could reboot Planet Terry and I’d buy the first arc.

What I Knew Before I Bought It: Whatever happens in this book, Alan Moore will say he did it first.

What I Thought About It:
I knew as little about Swamp Thing as one could know without recently emerging from a coma, but Snyder gripped me right away with a striking opening sequence and quickly gave me a tour of the main character’s history and state of mind. This was another book that knew it had to tell me a lot to bring me up to speed yet managed to do so without making me slog through the exposition. (The only thing that struck a false note was how nonchalantly Alec Holland reacted to Superman landing next to him at his job, as if they run into each other every day at the gym or something. I guess they’ve met…?) Meanwhile, this book’s mastodon-hating evil force pushed all my “creepy” buttons in a way that Animal Man didn’t manage to do. The twist on the last page would have meant nothing to me twenty-two pages earlier, but I was completely invested by the time it was through with me.

Will I Stick With It?:
Any writer who can make sorrel menacing has me for the foreseeable future.

NEXT TIME: What’s with all the Resurrection, Man?

Comments

  1. This is an interesting take (a non-DC fan perspective) but what i’d REALLY like to read is a non-comic reader’s take on the new DC books! What do those who are new to comics think of this stuff?

    • There’s a few of those around on the net, buddy! 😉

    • And I’m sure you have friends who don’t read comics (you have friends, right!?)?

    • Plenty, just none that are willing to give superhero comics a try 😉

    • Sorry, just realized my post can come off as a bit disparaging to the article, not my intention Jimski. I loved it and I like your Clark Kent/Peter Parker comparison. Hadn’t noticed it until now

    • I have only recently become a comic book reader again and I never bought anything other than Vertigo from the DC lineup. With that said, I am very excited to start fresh with DC’s new 52 lineup. I have been impressed with the storytelling, the art, and the imaginative future that will unfold. I’ve bought almost every one of the new 52 and will probably stick with half of the lineup for the next six months.

      What had brought me into reading comics again is Scalped. I was perusing the local comic store (Meltdown Comics in Hollywood) and asked the friendly workers for something that was more mature and had a noire style to it. He pointed me to Scalped and the Gotham Crime Unit books. I bought them, loved them and then bought American Vampire.

      A few years ago, while bored during my deployment in Iraq, I mailed my wife requesting she send me some reading materials. She sent me The Watchmen, the first Hellblazer volume, and a few other independent series I can’t remember at the moment.

      To be true, I have never fully turned away from comics but I have never gotten into the tights and cape scene again until now.

      My top favorites from the new lineup are Animal Man, Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, Action Comics, Grifter, O.M.A.C., and Batwoman. Those aren’t in any particular order.

      The only reason I didn’t post Detective Comics is because some jerks (proactive, non-procrastinating fans) bought them out before I got to it. Luckily my comic store bought an extra 200 copies coming in this week.

      I hope this gives you insight into how a “new” comic fan feels about the new lineup!

  2. Cool article and reviews from the other side of the fence. Will keep reading those as they come out, curious to know your opinion of the other books! 🙂

  3. This is a splendid idea. I’m always interested in hearing from people with a different background. I’m somewhat surprised you didn’t enjoy Animal Man. I also have no history with the character, but the first issue really hooked me. Possibly because I actually enjoyed the art (and I disliked the art in Action Comics).

    I must say, iFanboy’s coverage of the New 52 has been spectacular across the board. Well done.

  4. I’m glad Action is doing what needed doing for so long, by bringing in people who hate Superman. I never hated him, but I have always felt the only thing that mattered was his origin, especially when a fresh take was done it or an Elseworlds version turned it around somehow. Hopefully, this new retelling, from a different starting point will make the character resonate more.

    • and by Action, I obviously mean Morrison.

    • ACTION #1 was the first Superman title I have read in years that actually made me like the character again. We really haven’t seen him at full strength I believe but I like the harder edge he has here. Not exactly Batman heavy, but not the boy-scout he has been for way too long. I also thought that he was nicely used in the SWAMP THING issue, which I also will be adding to my regular pull list.

      I liked what Gail Simone did with BATGIRL, especially since I wasn’t sure how I felt about Barbara Gordon regaining use of her legs again. I’m interested enough in the story and curious who The Mirror might be and what his plans ultimately are. Nicely done!

      FInally, Jim is spot on regarding ANIMAL MAN. When the art is so bad that it pushes you out of the narrative you know there is a problem. I have read some well-written books with mediocre art, which is fine since you can’t get the first-string artists on every book, but there was nothing here to get me to read beyond the first issue.

  5. Great read.

    While a fan of comic book worlds (through films, games, TV etc) I’ve never been a regular comic book reader due to never knowing where to start. Most of my reading has been via friends handing me complete series of things like Transmetropolitan or Sin City saying “Read this! All of it!”

    The New 52 has been a great way for me to feel like I can start picking up single issues on characters I know (and many I don’t) without feeling like I’ll be lost without heaps of prior character knowledge.

    With 52 new books to choose from articles like this, the many others on iFanboy and all the community comments are really helping me separate the killer from the filler (and probably saving me a tonne of money!) So, thanks all round!

  6. I like the more vulnerable Superman, I was never the biggest Superman before because other than Kryptonite and Magic and Doomsday there really was not anything that was a real threat to Superman. IT is easy to be a super hero when there is almost nothing in the world that can kill you. I always found Superman to be extremely over powered.

  7. “Early reviews reported that this book gave eyesight to the blind. People who touched it were on their knees in front of my shop in puddles of their own tears, vowing to live better lives from now on. Expectations had been set somewhere north of the ionosphere.”

    this

  8. You didn’t like Animal Man? I don’t understand Marvel Fanboys

    • Neither do I.

    • Clearly Animal Man was filled with hidden, Anti-Marvel messages.

      I was actually in a similar situation to Jimski. Before the New 52, I was mostly a Marvel reader. I would read certain DC books here and there, but my pull list was probably 85% Marvel. I tried out bunch of the DC #1 issues and didn’t have a lot of knowledge on most of the characters, but really enjoyed most of what i read. although unlike Jim, Animal man was my favorite of the bunch. Although I am also somebody who really didn’t like Superman at all but loved Action Comics #1.

    • Trust me, I’m as far as you can get from a Marvel Fanboy, but Animal Man was just plain bad. How can you excuse art that would have been substandard in some ’80s fanzines? Also, does anybody need somebody trying to imitate Grant Morrison style writing when Morrison is still around?

      Of the new DC 52 I have read so far, I put Animal Man between Hawk & Dove and OMAC at the bottom of the pile. And that’s only after the first week!

  9. “Of all the Geoff Johns comics ever published, Justice League #1 is by far the most recent.”

    Well done.

    (and for those of you playing at home, I made this book pick of the week, and me and Jim get along great.)

  10. So, this guy doesn’t like Superman, but likes Deadpool? I always knew Marvel fans were brain dead, this just confirms it.

  11. Your Animal Man review was almost exactly how I felt. “It was good but what’s all the hype about?”

  12. Brilliant as always. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the second week of books especially Resurrection Man

  13. I enjoyed Animal Man. But I do find it refreshing to find people who didn’t lap up the hype with a spoon and ask for thirds. Comic fans are certainly an opinionated lot. And you’re always going to have people have the exact opposite opinion of the masses. But it is refreshing to see someone give a decent explanation as to why they didn’t fall in line with the rather sizable hive-mentality.

  14. When me and Jimski agree on a particular topic, the cosmos is in trouble.

    I’m surprised someone on here didn’t like Animal Man but you and I have the same opinion for it. Although Foreman’s art wasn’t fully mentioned in the piece which is why I hated it for the most part. But this is a great idea for an article and I can’t wait to see more.

  15. You betraying me, TheNextChampion?

    I thought we bonded on our common criticisms of Animal Man?

    However, I did not not like it. I just didn’t think it was nearly as good as the masses and had definite reasons for my feelings.

    So if most people loved it.

    And a small group of people hated it.

    The truth must be somewhere in the middle with me.

  16. Finally someone who i can agree with about these comics. I never saw what all the hype over animal man was. It was jsut not that good.

  17. Now this is one of those articles I was expecting to pop up everywhere and have found only this one.

    Coming from a Marvel-mostly background and having picked up some of the titles from the relaunch I can def say that I’ll happily follow quite a few titles.

    Justice League can be best described as a slow burner, introductions will take time and the threat will escalate over the first arc, and it seems that will take some 9 to 12 issues from the looks of things. Still not a bad start, and from what little I know Darkseid can be a major antagonist. And yeah the ring trick was smile worthy.

    Action Comics finally presented a modern, not by-the-book Superman. A major character that never held my interest – while a bit too Peter Parker-y – he could now be on my pull list.

    Detective was fine for my tastes, as everyone I came in having read some Batman stories before and found this one quite entertaining, a classic Joker hunt with a twist; were it not for the cliched one liners it would have been my favorite from first week. Oh and thanks to Scott Snyder for confirming that Alfred continues to be a real person on twitter, my worries are gone.

    I’m still on the fence about Stormwatch, as a fan of Warren Ellis and his Image/Wildstorm work with the former title, The Authority and Planetary; I came in with lots of background and thus mid to high expectations. The final product felt a bit disjointed, the introductions and the three plot threads going on stretched the plot too thin – and I just don’t care for the Midnighter’s new spike heavy costume… will see the first arc thru before I decide to pull or drop.

    Onto week 2: I also picked up Batwoman, it was just AWESOME! the non-blocky panels with some great artwork and a supernatural mystery to solve… I had never read anything featuring the character before and its already on my pull list 🙂

    Green Lantern was also good for me, this title I’m most familiar with having followed the relaunch a few years back up to Blackest Night. The shock factor of Sinestro being a GL again against his will is the main attraction here, my interest is picked and I’ll follow it to see where it leads.

    Grifter: sigh… it was not good IMO, I had hopes for a better Wildstorm integration but that certainly did not bode well for the future of the series, after one issue I’m ready to drop… a con man getting abducted, losing time and then hearing voices is not something something that gets my attention really.

    Sadly I was unable to get copies of Demon Knights, Frankenstein, Animal Man and Swamp Thing; the only LCS in town ran out due to an unwillingness to take risks on those books… hope I can get my hands on them later on and give them a try.

    Oh, and for the record: I also don’t care for Deadpool either; not every Marvel fan likes him you know?

    • Haven’t gotten to my Week Two pulls yet since I wanted to get my reactions to the initial books down before I moved on. I had forgotten about some of the other first issues in my earlier rant.

      Neither DETECTIVE or GREEN ARROW moved me one way or the other. I think I have disliked how Bruce/Batman has been portrayed for years now and I saw no difference here. I did think he at least seemed more human (if you will) in JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL than the book where he made his first appearance. As for GA, haven’t we seen all this before and don’t we know that as with Bruce and Tony Stark this is going to end up with one of those ‘lose his corporation’ storylines that will drag on for a year?

      HAWK & DOVE was just boring, but at least it wasn’t a complete spit in the eye of its creator as OMAC was. H&D isn’t what Ditko had in mind in this incarnation, but you still have the original Hawk and tribute is paid to the first Dove, who was his brother after all. In that other comic it just seems that Dan Didio, aided by Keith Giffen, are going out of their way to destroy any legacy Jack Kirby ever had at DC.