A Marvel Guy Rates The DC Books: Week Three

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

Batman #1 by Scott SnyderBatman

What Made Me Try It: Scott Snyder is the King of Comics! Greg Capullo sounds familiar! Batman is always interesting! All systems are go!

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
 In the DC Universe, Batman is the one… whatever is the opposite of a blind spot for me. I have been reading the adventures of the Caped Crusader on and off since Michael Keaton was giving Knox a grant. I have every issue of Snyder’s Detective. Gotham Central is one of my favorite series of all time. You get the idea.

What I Thought About It:
 Now I know where I’ve heard Greg Capullo’s name. One look did it instantly: “Oh, right. Spawn guy.” After Snyder’s run on Detective, I wouldn’t have thought “the Spawn guy” would make a good fit, but a more iconic and less severe art style does Snyder (and Bruce Wayne) a world of good. It was like opening the windows and getting some air after a musty, claustrophobic summer. The book functions as a great first chapter for both the arc and Batman alike; even though Batman is probably more well known in pop culture than Mickey Mouse at this point, it references his origin without retreading it and uses a crafty “facial recognition” gimmick to introduce the reader to the cast. My mom could pick this up and learn enough about Batman to bluff her way through a conversation in the Hyatt bar. The book spends enough time talking about What Gotham Is to signal that neither we nor Bruce know the real answer, but that we’re going to find out, by cracky, and the prospect is enough to grab veterans and neophytes alike. Top notch, all the way ’round.

Will I Stick With It?:
 Come now.

Birds of Prey #1Birds of Prey

What Made Me Try It: If Duane Swierczynski can make me look forward to an issue of Cable, there is nothing he cannot fix. It may be worth it to have him take a look at the economy for us.

What I Knew Before I Bought It: I think that one in the back is Poison Ivy. Otherwise, these people are not even vaguely familiar faces.

What I Thought About It: …which turns out not to matter, because half the people on the cover aren’t in the book. We’ll catch up with them later in the arc, Justice League #1 style. In the meantime, Batgirl is in the book for a couple of pages to explain why she’s not in the book the rest of the time. (Batgirl used to be on this team in another universe, it turns out. This was deemed important enough to drag onto the clean slate for a couple of pages, to bring us new readers up to speed on why something we never knew about in the first place didn’t happen.) Fortunately, this cameo gives Batgirl a chance to say, “I’m not joining the team, friend whose full name I just said in casual conversation, because of all the following exposition I know about you.” That brief clunk aside, I found the book’s preposterous cat-and-mouse one-upmanship between the Birds of Prey and their predators (“I was a pawn to draw you out!” “We knew that all along, so we used you as our pawn to draw them out!” “Well, I knew you would know that, so what I did was…”) fun and engaging. Also, putting a snoopy reporter in your book is a great, Batgirl-free way to show readers what’s going on.

Will I Stick With It?: I will. I love a good getting-the-band-together story, and I want to know why the last page happened. Who is this evildoer who’s somehow out to get this team despite it not having formed yet? Who befouled his proverbial breakfast cereal?

Catwoman #1 by Judd WinickCatwoman

What Made Me Try It: After years of hearing it was excellent, I finally checked out Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman run from the library a month ago, only to find that 1) it was, in fact, excellent and 2) DC’s almost reader-hostile approach to collected editions was such that the trades ended in the middle of Brubaker’s story arc, leaving a void of dissatisfaction that I hoped the new volume would fill.

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
 As she’s a part of Batman’s world, I have had many opportunities to see Selina Kyle in action, not the least of which was the aforementioned Brubaker series.

What I Thought About It:
 Is Judd Winick genuinely trying to give someone who bought a Catwoman comic what he thinks they want, or is he just making fun of me for buying this? I’m not going to go back and count, because I’m afraid someone will look over my shoulder and see what I’m reading, but the main character must spend half the pages in this issue cavorting around in her bra. The very first panel is a close-up of her breasts; the very last is… well, it’s essentially the “Fig. A” illustration for the definition of “gratuitous,” and I’ll leave it at that. (Never mind the implications for the other character in that scene; what did it have to do with anything that had come before it in the issue? Was all of that to say “this ain’t your daddy’s Batbook”?) The book seemed exploitative even before I realized every other woman in the book but one was a literal whore. I can’t remember a comic that made me feel more like a grown man in his mother’s basement with a too-small Flash t-shirt encasing his gut and Cheeto dust on his hands. The Catwoman I was familiar with was cunning, calculating, and clever; this lady is a flighty, frivolous sex bomb, and I’m not sure how much more time I could spend around her. She’s like that friend you have in your twenties who thinks she’s “fun” but is actually just exhausting.

Will I Stick With It?: This was like trying to rent Ocean’s Eleven and getting Burlesque instead. I will wait to hear where the story goes before trying this one out again.

Supergirl #1Supergirl

What Made Me Try It: I asked Twitter and then did what it said. Use your powers for good, Twitter.

What I Knew Before I Bought It: Like Superman, but a girl? Related, probably?

What I Thought About It: In a way, Supergirl reminded me of what I liked about the first episode of Lost: Our hero crash lands in a mysterious, hostile environment and tries to make sense of what has happened, and we go through it as she does. She has no idea how she got there, so she and the reader are in the same boat. Luckily, the only thing you need to bring with you to the reading experience is “There is such a person as Superman, and hey, there he is.” True, the entire issue is essentially a fight scene, but it still manages to directly communicate who Supergirl is, where she’s from, what she knows, and what she can do, all while pulverizing mecha-soldiers who really need to be briefed on first contact protocol. We also get a sense that Earthlings have seen Kryptonians before, but how they feel about the ones they’ve seen is still an open question. Factor in the consistently wonderful art of Mahmud Asrar, and Supergirl #1 gives you everything you need to determine whether or not this book is for you.

Will I Stick With It?: This book is for me!

Wonder Woman #1

Wonder Woman

What Made Me Try It: Cliff Chiang is amazing, and I had fond but very dim memories of Lynda Carter being one of the first superheroes I saw on TV. Everyone seems to agree that there is greatness in Wonder Woman, and she should be right up there with Batman and Superman. The prospect of seeing her finally get her shot was exciting.

What I Knew Before I Bought It:
 Everything I ever knew about Wonder Woman, I last thought about in 1979. I’ve seen her pop up in other books, but I’ve never read anything with her name on the cover. I had no baggage or information, and did not know her origin story; they could have told me anything about her and it would have been A-OK by me.

What I Thought About It:
 Mr. Azzarello, pretend for a moment that I don’t know anything about mythology, history, or comics, and just tell me what the hell is going on. I don’t know what this was, but it was not a #1 issue. Wonder Woman is Amazon royalty from an island, if I remember correctly, but I don’t remember it from seeing it come up at all in this first issue of her brand new start-from-scratch comic for new readers. Everyone on earth knows what a Batman is, and Snyder still took the time– just in case– to introduce all the Robins and tell us Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed when he was little. But this…. Who is this Diana? Why doesn’t she like being called “Wonder Woman”? Where is she from? Why does she have powers? People seem to know who she is; has she been around long? What is her connection to these apparently mythological figures, one of whom I guess was Apollo, even though the book never sees fit to say so? Is that a way of depicting Apollo I should have recognized? What’s with Peacock McGee? Should I magically recognize her, too? Is Diana immortal, or nineteen years old? Why does holding a key take you to her in London? Why is she in London? Am I supposed to know who Zola is? Why does Wonder Woman care if Zeus has a baby? By the time the issue is over, I know her name. I think someone calls her “Amazon.” Beyond that, I get page after page of someone I don’t know fighting centaurs I don’t know who are trying to kill a woman I don’t know for reasons I don’t know. Even a panel that conveyed Zola is a nice person with a job, or Diana has thoughts in her head about a subject, would have been appreciated. Instead, every panel is bordered by narration boxes written as crypto-riddle Beat poetry. And every woman in the book who isn’t naked is brutally murdered. If you’d never seen Wonder Woman before, and I gave you this book without telling you what it was called, do you think you could even identify which one was the main character? I don’t know what this was, other than savage, opaque, heartless and pointless. On the other hand, the art was great.

Will I Stick With It?:
 I don’t even want to hang on to the issue I have.


NEXT: Jim finishes this week’s books, but keeps on buying comics anyway!


  1. Oh Jimski. How can we be so alike and so different at the same time?

    • I feel the same way every time you or Paul don’t like something I like. 😉 That said, I agreed with Jim on all of these, with the exception of Wonder Woman.

  2. I pretty much agree with all of these conclusions. Obviously a lot of people don’t – Wonder Woman is well liked, for instance – but at least someone’s on the same page.

    I also am historically a heavy Marvel and light DC reader.

  3. Maybe your copy of wonder woman had a printing error.

  4. I feel like you over thought Wonder Women but that’s just me. I am interested in Supergirl now though. Will have to get that if I end up having a light week.

  5. Since I was one of the people who suggested Supergirl on Twitter, I’m glad you liked it. Despite not liking Superman I’ve always dug Supergirl & Superboy.

    I had a similar experience with not knowing what was going on in Wonder Woman. But I enjoyed the art enough that I’ll probably stick around for a couple issues.

  6. Whoa! Thats definitely a different response to Wonder Woman.

  7. That is a really interesting review given that WW was pick of the week last week.

    I was thinking about picking it up, but I probably wont now. Thanks Jim! I might check it out next month, for cheapsies on the download, but I have very high hope for Diana and I dont want them crushed, at least not while paying full cover price.

    I’m also glad you have an enlightened opinion on Catwoman. That is important.

    Overall, good job! We 2 strangers agree on things!

  8. While I don’t agree with your cirticism of Wonder Woman in full, I think that you make some valid cirticisms. I too was a bit lost in some of the plot, and was scratching my head over the identity of the villian. Even after I looked it up and saw that it was supposed to be Apollo, I was left scratching my head and musing “but why would he look like that . . ?” And yeah, it was hard not to notice all those panty shots of Zola. Guess they wanted to let us know what Zeus saw in her?

    That said, I did still enjoy the issue overall, and am going to stick with the series for now on the assumption that the waters shall grow less murky as we go along. Plus, the art is great.

    Pretty much agree with you on the others. I thought that it was great how Synder used the eye recognition tech to fill us in on the Robins past & present.

    Thanks for offering a different perspective on these books . . .

  9. Its great to see more and more people trying books out of their normal comfort zone. i am also pleased that you took the time to share with us what did or did not connect with you in regards to the books read. I am disappointed when I read or hear someone simply say, “The art in this issue sucked”.

    One quick note though. There is only one King of Comics and his name was Kirby. Scott Snyder can be the prince, duke or mayor, but retains the title of King.


  10. Jim likes ’em straight I guess. Interesting.

  11. I knew about as much about Wonder Woman as Jim and I had pretty much the opposite reaction. When Demon Knights had the word “Camelot” on the first page, it was like they set the hook. Same thing with Apollo saying he was the “sun of a king.” Even without knowing we were going with the greek/roman mythology, I knew I was looking at a sun god and that’s all I needed. And then there was a brutally decapitated horse and centaurs. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

    I thought Apollo’s introduction was great. I loved his oracles and how they introduced Wonder Woman. Every question they left unanswered just made me more interested in the next issue. Part of me wants to go back and refresh my knowledge of greek mythology, but most of me wants to wait and let the creative time teach me their version.

  12. In regard to WW, I like the fact that everything wasn’t revealed straight away. Out of interest, do you feel the same way if novels or movies throw you in at the deep end at the start?

    • I have liked many a novel and/or film that threw me in at the deep end, but when you’re holding a novel, you’re holding the questions and the answers in the same pair of hands. The movie that starts without telling you anything will go on to tell you everything right there in that movie. It is self-contained in a way that a serial comic book adventure is not. A comic has different goals to accomplish, particularly this one; you may have noticed over the course of the last three months hearing words like “new readers” and “starting point” and “#1” every day, until you started wondering what happened to all the other words. The only reason this books exists in this form is to say, “Howdy, stranger! Meet Wonder Woman!” and it is a perfect, almost meticulous failure. It shows you nothing about her except that she sleeps naked and murders things because someone she never met before told her to.

    • Jim, could be they want to introduce you to Diana through her actions, instead of just her giving exposition on her history, relations, and favorite flavor of Starburst. Think about it, sometimes when you meet new people, you get to know them through what they do in everyday life. You don’t always get a wikipedia entry on them.

    • Her actions are monstrous and inscrutable. If I am supposed to get a read on her based on what she does, then she is either a serial killer or an imbecile. She kills two beings without even talking to them after exchanging three words with a stranger. For all she knows, Zola is a demon. Of course, maybe she has seen enough centaurs to know they’re not sentient or always evil or something. Maybe she can see people’s auras or some damn thing. Unfortunately, nothing like that is communicated by the book, because then the book would run the risk of telling a story.

    • But she didn’t kill anybody. She cut off one of the centaur’s arms, but both of the centaurs ran away and Diana did not pursue them. I’m ok with discussing whether the dismemberment was excessive, but don’t call her a killer when she didn’t kill anybody. As for her immediate willingness to protect Zola, it was clear to me through her words with Hermes that she had a prior relationship with him and would trust him. Zola having the key he gave her was a signal that Diana was supposed to protect her.

  13. I’m surprised that you didn’t enjoy Wonder Woman, but I can understand why you feel that way.

    I’ve yet to hear anything negative about Supergirl, so I’m planning on picking #1 up when #2 releases.

  14. Supergirl throws you into the middle of a situation, explaining almost nothing and you like it?

    Wonder Woman throws you into the middle of a situation, explaining almost nothing and you hate it?

    What did Supergirl do right that Wonder Woman didn’t? Was it the fact that Supergirl didn’t give you people and places, just focusing on Kara and her current problem?

    I would also direct you to Josh’s comparison to The Dark Knight on the recent POTW podcast.

    • Josh’s comparison was about the Joker, who is not the main character and is basically the shark in Jaws. As I shouted at my iPhone several days ago.

      Supergirl literally shares every thought in the main character’s head on every page. It tells you she is young and specifically in school (she shouldn’t be wearing her outfit because she “hasn’t graduated yet”). It tells you she is from Krypton, is not on Krypton currently, doesn’t know where she is, and doesn’t remember how she got there, and all of this is unusual for her. It tells you that she has powers, but that even she does not know what the extent of them are. It tells you that Earth has seen Kryptonians before. The only thing it doesn’t tell you is what she is going to do next, leaving you to decide whether you want to find out.

    • And also, everyone on the planet knows who Superman is, and since Supergirl is also Super and has the same symbol, it’s a safe assumption that she’s connected somehow. You don’t need near as much explaining for that as you do Wonder Woman.

    • @MisterShaw: You don’t need much for Wonder Woman. She’s one of the most famous fictional characters in the world.

    • Incorrect!

    • Sure, in the sense that people recognize the name and maybe could tell you what she looks like. The same way people who’ve never read a Stephen King book know who Stephen King is. I’ve never read a Wonder Woman book in my life*, and I’d be willing to bet that, like me, most comic readers have only been exposed to her through the filter of the Justice League, event comics, etc.

      *That I can recall right now.

  15. RE:Catwoman. Can we stop pretending to be ashamed of semi-nude women? Its juvenile. The book has plenty of problems but it sexy the, which they told you about beforehand, is not one of them. There is nothing in this book dirtier than you see in an edgy PG13 movie and definitely not worse than an R. What in society has happened to make grown men feel ashamed when a piece of mundane, normal entertainment hints at sex? Just laughable.

    • I ain’t pretendin’, brother. It’s not the “what”; it’s the “why” and the “how.”

    • I’m with Jim on this one. I don’t think anyone’s criticizing out of some sort of prudishness. On a previous Fuzzy Typewriter podcast, I think I blurted out how I would actually like to READ a book about Catwoman: Thrill-Sex Addict. 😉 But as Jim says, it’s the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ in this book. The weight placed on the sex scene (and all the steps involved), and the constant barrage of cheesecake shots leading up to it…? Those just didn’t seem justified in the context of the story.

      But I do like Ali’s take in that same discussion on the podcast — we came away with a curiosity to see how Winick would deal with the consequences of this issue.

      Now in the latest Fuzzy Typewriter, we talk about Voodoo, which I had much less of a problem with because the main characters IS a stripper, and the setting is a strip club, and there’s not only a reason for that within the story, but there’s a female character in the book who is having none of it — which creates a much more rounded view (no pun intended) of the world of this book.

    • Would you read it on the bus next to an old lady?

    • I love Jim. Of all the folks who write here he shares my amused sense of curmudgeonry more than anyone. I just don’t understand why, or even how, a guy feels embarassed by women in their undies. I have seen that a million times in movies. I am pretty inured to images of this kind, as opposed to live women which are still copiously effective on my mental state. I have noticed a lot of guys taking an ‘ As shucks’ standpoint and I cannot imagine so many of them are genuine. And, yea, I would read the book with my grandmother present. Love what you live and never be ashamed. Unless its children or animals in unsavory ways. Then be very, very, very ashamed. Very.

    • Who is ashamed or embarrassed? I’m not sure I’ve seen one criticism using these sentiments.

    • The implication of the question: Would you read it next to an old lady? Translates to: wouldn’t you be embarassed to be seen with this material?

    • Oookay… well, I think you’re inferring a lot in one question from ResurrectionFlan that may have not been implied in the question. But even so, your FIRST comment above (before RF’s reply) seemed to come from the same standpoint.

      Yet, there has been a TON written about Catwoman that has NOTHING to do with shame or embarrassment. My point here is: there are PLENTY of reasons to take issue with Catwoman #1 that have nothing to do with shame or embarrassment. So let’s not suggest that that’s the only why people have an issue with it.

  16. Okay… I can’t resist… I don’t think it an accurate analysis to look at just one issue of a comic unless there is some eye-popping problem…. like really off the wall art, cliche dialogue, disjointed storytelling, and the like… So much of our discussion is on the value of a single issue instead of looking at a story arc… It’s like those commentators reviewing presidential debates a year before the run-off… though it may be interesting in a fun sense, it isn’t very informative. That being said, I do enjoy the discussions to an extent as I have to decide what to buy next. WW looks like a promising book as it has a great deal to reveal… But, I may have to buy it with some shame… Like I need to tell the dude at the counter “I know I know, it’s Wonder Woman”,,,, why didn’t they just name the book “God of the Amazon” or something?

  17. Heheh, great, astute reviews, Jim. It’s great to see the viewpoint from someone with little exposure to these characters. I agree with everything but the WW review, but I do understand your criticism of that issue. That said, I also gave that one to my girlfriend, with no foreknowledge of WW aside from the basic pop cultural understanding, and she really enjoyed it.

  18. I , for one, completely agree with you on Wonder Woman! It seems like everyone is making tons of excuses for Azzarello writing one of the worst introduction issues I’ve ever seen. Ah, who am I kidding… I’m just glad someone agrees with ME, I was starting to feel like I was the only one who drank the Kool-Aid.

  19. I’m in the “Wonder Woman doesn’t need an introduction” camp. One of the reasons she’s never gained the kind of traction Batman has is that they keep going back to that damned Fantasy Island with the clay and the togas. She’s earned amnesty to be introduced as already established.

  20. Damn! If only this came out a week ago. Think of the insane arguments (more so) we would be having on Catwoman and Wonder Woman!

    Spot on Catwoman there Jim. I am hesitant to think Wonder Woman isn’t good because of the almost unanimous praise for it. But I didn’t read it and I’m waiting for trade so I’ll get back to you on that.

  21. Entertaining article and series. Thanks.

  22. I have to disagree with the review of Wonder Woman. I like the approach Azzarello has taken. I’d rather get to know the character with each issue as opposed to getting a whole bunch of information on them right away.

    Sure we don’t know who Zola is, or why Diana is in London, but we’ll find out. Just like in “100 Bullets”, we didn’t know what Graves’ or Shepherd’s deals were, but we found out.

    Wonder Woman has become a more compelling, fascinating character because we don’t have all the info at the get go. Azzarello and Chiang give us just enough to want to see more.

  23. I simply don’t get all the people hating on Catwoman, what is wrong with a female character wanting sex, if it was a male character doing the same thing no one would complain. Besides as a straight male I appreciate well drawn large breasts.