Saturday, September 17, 2011

DCnU REVIEWS: Justice League, Justice League International, Stormwatch, Batgirl, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE

The DCnU launched this month (well, technically, it launched at the end of LAST month, but with only 1 book - the Justice League flagship title; the balance of the books come out THIS month), and several of them made it onto my pull list. I had also wanted to add a few more titles to my pull list (Animal Man, Detective Comics, Swamp Thing, Demon Knights, Green Lantern), but they were unfortunately sold out by the time I made it to my FLCS. I may try and pick up the ones that I missed on digital, but I REALLY prefer print versions for my comics.

Without further ado, here are my quick-take reviews on the titles that I've read thus far:

Justice League #1 by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee

DC leads off the new 52 with the release of the latest, greatest version of their premier superteam - the Justice League. Replacing Martian Manhunter in the Big 7 line up is Cyborg, a change I'm not too thrilled about, but will give it an opportunity to grow on me. While the cover features all 7 characters, we're only treated to 3 of them in the story, and really, just two, with the third joining in at the very end. Still, you can't go wrong with kicking off the title with Batman and Green lantern meeting each other for the first time. The contrasting tropes of darkness and fear on the one hand, and bright light and courage on the other make for an interesting interplay between the two heroes. Distinct voices and keen characterizations make for a rich reading experience that hopefully sets the tone for the eventual introductions of the rest of the cast. Superman's arrival on the scene at the end certainly makes an impression on our two protagonists and the reader, literally and figuratively, and leaves us with the promise of a Bats vs. Supes throwdown next issue. The story felt a smidge decompressed, but not overly so, so I'll definitely be coming back for more next month!

REVIEW: 4 out of 5

Justice League International #1 by Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti

I picked up JLI due to my fond memories of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold BWA-HA-HA-ing it up, Batman one shot-ing Guy Gardner with a single punch, and the Martian Manhunter indulging his love of Oreo cookies. This is NOT that JLI. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Taking a tone more traditionally superheroic than the original JLI run, Jurgens crafts an undecompressed debut that in contrast to Justice League, introduces the reader to all of the ensemble cast in the very first issue. The characterizations are for the most part, spot on, and Jurgens does a great job of establishing interesting conflicting dynamics among the various team members that will generate no end of drama and entertainment as the title progresses - of particular note to watch will be the friction between Russia's Rocket Red and China's August General in Iron and the tension between Booster Gold and Guy Gardner. The fact that Batman is an unofficial member of the team is icing on the cake for me, and I enjoy his less grim-and-gritty mien in this outing which casts him in an interesting team role - not of the leader, but that of mentor/support. if this issue is any indication of things to come, JLI will be on my pull list for the duration.

REVIEW: 5 out of 5

Stormwatch #1 by Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda

Making the leap from the now defunct Wildstorm universe to the DCnU is Stormwatch. I wasn't a big fan of the original version of the title, but I WAS a big fan of the Authority, which featured pastiches of the Justice League's Superman and the Batman in the forms of Apollo and the Midnighter. Seeing those two featured on the cover, plus the Martian Manhunter, guaranteed this book a spot on my pull list, at least for one issue. Once I bought it and read the story, its place on the pull list was cemented for the forseeable future. The book can best be described as Science Fiction meets Clandestine Superheroics. The high concept tone and premise of the book are saliently distinct among the DCnU's pantheon of superteams with the protagonists having atypical monikers and designations like the Eminence of Blades, the God of Cities, and the Century Baby. Add in the Martian Manhunter to the already eclectic mix and I'm sold! Having been assured by DCnU editorial that Apollo and the Midnighter will still be/develop into a couple? Priceless.

REVIEW: 5 out of 5

Batgirl #1 by Gail Simone and Adrian Syaf

What can I say about this title? DCnU had me at Barbara Gordon as Batgirl written by Gail Simone. 'nuff said! But this is a review, so I suppose I'll try and put my joy into words. Babs was still shot by the Joker and paralyzed, but she somehow recovered, and is now back in the black and gold  uniform(with violet accents), swinging from rooftops and engaging in derring-do to bring a little fiery redheaded justice to Gotham City. I don't know that anyone other than Gail Simone could have handled Bab's transition away from wheelchair bound information science savant Oracle and back into to Batgirl with the deftness demonstrated in this issue. Everything that I love about Barbara Gordon is here. She's still smart as a whip, iron willed and full of compassion and courage. Complementing Gail's superb writing is some truly gorgeous art by Adrian Syaf. I think of all the books in the relaunch and all of the changes that were made, this one was the one that I was worried about the most. Gail Simone's writing in this debut issue has allayed my fears of what would happen to Barbara Gordon in the reboot and assured me that there will be many, many, many stories yet to come full of all the heart and true grit that define this character for me. Kudos to Gail for pulling off what I think was the toughest sell in the linewide relaunch!

REVIEW: 5 out of 5

Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #1 by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli

I'll admit to missing out on the bandwagon that followed Grant Morrison's "Seven Soldiers of Victory" back in 2006 (and his revival of the Frankenstein monster in the storyline), though I'll 'fess up to having since skimmed some of the trade paperbacks collecting the series. But it wasn't Morrison's reintroduction of Frankenstein int the DCU that drew me to pick up this title so much as my enjoyment of Dark Horse Comics' Hellboy and the BPRD comic books and characters. While there are definite superficial similarities between the two groups, this title definitely has a voice and tone all its own, thanks to the superb writing of Jeff Lemire. I'm generally a tried-and-true traditional superheroes kind of comic book consumer, but every now and again, I like a little peanut butter in my chocolate, and this title fits the bill just right. With a DCnU twist on Universal's classic monster archetypes, this book brings together monsters and superheroics into an action/adventure/horror mélange par excellence. The addition of Ray (the Atom) Palmer as one of the resident "mad scientists" of the title is a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to seeing how his story will play out in the coming issues. My only real quibble with this book was that the interior art by Ponticellli was much rougher and less "finished" than the cover art, so I felt a tad bait-and-switched. Still, I suppose the rough art fits the monster theme, and Lemire's writing is good enough that the art doesn't pull me out of the story too horribly. We'll see if the art grows on me, but its definitely not going to keep me from picking this title up on a regular basis.

REVIEW: 4 out of 5

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