Friday, September 23, 2011

Comics: Justice League, Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Batgirl

Even though I'm probably a little late to the party now, I thought I might share my thoughts on "The New 52" DC relaunch or "reboot" (or whatever it is DC's calling it this week). For those of you who haven't heard: DC is relaunching almost all of their regular DC Universe books, 52 new comics in all, starting with "Justice League" (which itself has been renamed from "Justice League of America").

I'm going to be sharing my thoughts on some of the new titles. Just a fair warning, this post WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS!

Justice League #1

After reading several lukewarm reviews on Justice League, I was a little worried that the issue was going to be a bad start to the the relaunch. But when I actually got the chance to read the book myself I was pleasantly surprised. At least, to a point.

The issue focuses on mainly two characters: Green Lantern and Batman. Two great characters in their own right. Well, generally. Green Lantern comes off as one hell of a rookie and a definite chump compared to 'ol Bats. Something that can be fun to watch. And other times? Be ridiculously grating.

For example: Batman somehow takes Hal's ring without him noticing.

How?! You can't do that! No one, not even Batman, is that good. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Batman but I'm getting kind of tired of the stories showing off how cool he is compared everyone else. (Even if he is pretty damn cool.)

Where the issue really shines is in the banter between Green Lantern and Bats. Batman shows no respect for Hal, who, in all fairness, comes off as one hell of a jackass. Seriously. Every time Batman is about to do anything, Green Lantern just charges up ahead, thinking his ring will save the day. Every. Single. Time. It's like, "Stand back! I've got imagination, bro!"

But then, who could blame Lantern for acting so ridiculous? He's got a ring that can produce almost anything he can think of! And Batman? Well he's got... uh... he's got... you know what? I'll just let Hal explain it: 

If anything, this issue earns marks purely for Hal's reaction to the stunning revelation that Batman is indeed a regular guy (who happens to be a billionaire).

Anyway, after about 16 pages of just Green Lantern and Batman we get to see Cyborg before he was Cyborg. Apparently, he's just a young High School football player with daddy issues.

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of Cyborg, so this part of the book I didn't really care for. In fact it just left me wondering as to why Cyborg was to be a part of Justice League anyway? Isn't he supposed be a part of the Teen Titans? There was a little blurb in the end of the book that called him "the teen titan to be." So my guess is that Cyborg is just a temporary JL member for now. But, yeah. Why him?

The issue ends with Batman and Green Lantern heading off to Metropolis to find a fellow by the name of Superman and restrain him for questioning. Of course Superman "Doesn't handle so easily" and knocks Hal across the street. The last page seems to lead up to a Batman vs. Superman fight in the next issue.

Was this the best way for DC to start their relaunch? No, I think they could have done a better job introducing the characters to new readers and certain parts of the story weren't that great. But on the plus side, there was plenty of action to keep new readers excited, and fun and interesting dialogue from the main characters.

The issue was a solid one for me. But I can see why some people, especially hardcore fans, may not have the same conclusion. 

Action Comics #1

Action Comics starts off with Batman jumping onto a roof top and striking fear into the hearts of criminals. 

Oh, I'm sorry did I say Batman? I meant Superman. You see it's hard to separate the two since their personalities are almost exactly the same in the issue!

Okay, that's not exactly fair to say. The only part were Superman does something Batman-like is in the very first page of the book. In the rest of the issue he's acting more like an arrogant young Superboy. And who knows, maybe that's what Grant Morrison is trying to do, show us a young cocky Superman who hasn't yet developed into the great hero we know of today.  

One thing that disappointed me about this book is that it seemed very tame. I've read plenty of Morrison penned books and sometimes they can be pretty wild and sometimes bizarre, but in a good way. I don't want to compare this issue to his work on All-Star Superman but I was expecting some of that great writing to be in this first issue.

That said, there were some things I did like. For instance, I like how Superman CAN get hurt. It was a great idea to de-power the "invincible" man of steel. He still has super strength but he struggles in fighting tanks and stopping fast moving trains.

Another thing I did like was Lex Luthor. Tasked with capturing Superman, he goes about it all so casually while drinking a can of soda. He seems cool and collected and he's not threatened by Superman, at least not yet. Jimmy Olsen and Louis Lane also make an appearance, but they only serve as another group of folks Superman needs to save; something I'm sure will happen often in the future... 

In the end, I felt this book was alright (at best). I guess I had high expectations because I knew Morrison was the one writing it. But, and maybe I'm off here, but he seemed to be playing it safe. Maybe that's entirely due to it being a first issue. A reintroduction. But safe?

A first issue shouldn't really be safe. It should be reckless. And I'm not sure Morrison gave it his all in that regard.

Detective Comics #1

Okay, let me just get this out of the way: I didn't like this issue at all.

I found myself laughing at moments that weren't intentionally funny, and Batman's inner monologue? It was nothing short of cringe-worthy at times. 

The story starts out with Batman on a rooftop looking for the Joker. Pretty standard stuff except that one page later we see Joker fighting a mysterious man... completely naked. He eventually kills the man by biting off his jugular and stabbing him repeatably to death. Soon after this we see Batman - as he is won't to do - swoop in to try and capture him. The Joker manages to get away but not before Batman delivers an awful line.

"I own the night?" Seriously Bats? You could have stopped at "You can't run."

The rest of the book is your typical Batman vs the Police vs the Joker setup, but the end of the issue is what really gets me annoyed.

The Joker is eventually captured and is sent to Arkham Asylum. While there, a mysterious man enters his cell alone. He seems to be a fan of the Joker's "work" and reveals that the man the Joker killed in the beginning of the issue, was his son. The Joker of course is amused by the revelation. But the "Dollmaker," as the man is called, doesn't seem to be in the Joker's cell for revenge. No, he actually seems to be okay with the fact the Joker killed his prodigy. But... then he cuts off the Joker's face. I'm not kidding, he removes his face. It's like a scene out of the movie Face Off. 

I feel like the ending was a cheap shot at shock value. And I'm ashamed to say that it worked. I was genuinely surprised when I saw the last page, but at the same time I felt it was cheap.

The issue as a whole was a very paint by numbers Batman story, with the only exception being the end. But cheap shock ending aside, I just wish there were more detective work being shown. It's Batman! The world's greatest detective! How's about having some more of that detecting and less of the face cutting? Is that so much to ask for?

Batgirl #1

I don't know if I really liked this issue or really hated it. I'm glad to see Barbra as Batgirl again but it feels like I lost the great character that she used to be. Oracle was a strong female character who didn't let her handicap get in the way of fighting crime, even if she did it mostly digitally. She was an expert hacker and helped Superheroes like Batman get the job done. I really liked that about her, so I guess you can say I was a little biased while reading this issue.

The story opens up with a mysterious man called the Mirror killing off an old man who had survived a sinking ship. It seems that the Mirror is obsessed with killing people who barely survived death. (And I can't help but now wonder if the writer is a big fan of the "Final Destination" movies, but I digress..)

In this issue it's clear that the events of "The Killing Joke" did indeed happen, the only difference is that instead of being paralyzed for life, Barbra was only paralyzed for three years.

It's not explained how Barbra was able to walk again after so long. For now we are to believe it was a "miracle." But I really hope it wasn't. I feel that if this goes on without being explained it will just cheapen the events of the "Killing Joke" and just blatantly insult fans of Oracle. 

Also, just going a little off topic here but, I hated Barbra's roommate:

She's an activist you see, and in order to prove this she painted "Fight the power!" on her living room wall. Aw yeah! Fist Bump, girl!

Her roommate also calls Barbara "B.G.B." for Barbra Gordon Barbra, because when she first met her, Barbra stuttered when saying her name. Or something. I don't know why but I just found it irritating. She seems to be the stereotype of what we think female activists are like. Luckily we don't see her much in this issue. 

Later on in the book Barbra confronts the Mirror in the hospital, trying to stop him from murdering the leader of of the thrill killers from earlier in the issue. But when the Mirror points a gun right at her midsection, Batgirl freezes; haunted by the flashbacks of when she was shot by the Joker she stands there stiff while the Mirror goes on to kill the gang leader.

Detective Montoya, being a witness to all of this, somehow accuses Batgirl of murder. Er, lady, I'm pretty sure that's not murder, especially if a mad man was pointing a gun at her the whole time.

I wasn't quite expecting this issue of Batgirl to be so... dark. Don't get me wrong, there were certainly some light moments sprinkled around (though not enough of them if you ask me). I guess my problem with the issue is that I couldn't help but think that Batgirl was supposed to be a fun and adventurous title. I may not been a fan of the previous Stephanie Brown version of Batgirl but if there's one thing I give those earlier comics credit for, they were lighthearted - if not downright fun at times.

So far, when it comes to the relaunch, I'd say overall the titles have been okay. Nothing really exciting has happened yet, but maybe after a few more issues we'll start to see the comics pick up steam and maybe even hit their stride. Either way, I'll continue to read several of the books and see where things go from there.

Expect to see more comic-related thoughts  - and yes, comic-related artwork - from me down the road.

Keep swimming,


  1. Glad to see you doing comic book reviews again! I've always appreciated your thoughts on graphic novels (alongside your awesome drawings, of course XP).

  2. Love the Wonder Woman bukkake. And nice little blurbs, Glass.

    I thought the reboot was kind of okay, it has it's ups and downs.

    But one thing's for sure nothing can set the bar lower than 'Redhood & the Outlaws', an absolute abortion starring Jason Todd, Starfire, and Speedy. Now, I don't want to sit here and take up page space explaining it but suffice to say it makes a mockery of all who are involved.

    Jason is a complete douche. Even more than before as I'll explain in a bit.

    Speedy is... just nothing.

    But Starfire takes it the worst. Now I'm well aware casual sex is a big aspect of her planets culture but this book just takes it to the extreme, making her so obsessed with fucking that it's both the first thing Jason mentions about him and her, and that she actually takes a break during the comic to fuck.

    It's frankly appaling, taking her and turning her into a vapid, brainless, blow-up doll in less clothing than she's ever been. She likes to fuck, there's no doubt about that, but a major, essential part of her character is that she's always been able to get past that and actually have meaningful relationships with people, particularly the Titans.

    Oh, as if that weren't bad enough; she can't remember her time with the Titans (especially Dick) but everyone else can.

    Sorry about that little rant, but this is definitely the lowest point of this reboot. So, if anyone thinks something is bad, trust me, it could be a lot worse. It can be Red Hood worse.

  3. @Anonymous
    Thank you! I'm just glad I found the time to sit back and actually write about comics again. It's quite enjoyable! Honestly, I can't wait do it more of it. (As well as the sketches!)

    @squall lee
    No need to aplogize! And thanks for letting me know what you thought about it! I also recently read "Redhood and The Outlaws" and I agree that the way the writer handled many of the characters was just awful. But Starfire, especially... the whole casual sex bit in the issue is what really made me upset. Anyway, I think I'll write more about it when I next get the chance.

  4. I've been seriously underwhelmed by the reboot so far. There have been some good parts, but nothing to justify the reboot, and certainly not enough to counter-balance everything they've gotten wrong. Really seems like a case of "Don't fix what ain't broke," if you ask me.

  5. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of Cyborg, so this part of the book I didn't really care for. In fact it just left me wondering as to why Cyborg was to be a part of Justice League anyway? Isn't he supposed be a part of the Teen Titans? There was a little blurb in the end of the book that called him "the teen titan to be." So my guess is that Cyborg is just a temporary JL member for now. But, yeah. Why him?

    With Geoff Johns' mancrush on Hal Jordan keeping John Stewart from being the team's Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter* joining Stormwatch, they obviously needed somebody to break up what would otherwise be the Justice League of Honkies. Sadly, Black Lightning doesn't have anywhere near the mainstream recognition Cyborg has from the Teen Titans cartoon, though you'd think they could have pulled a Milestone hero or two in what with Static now floating around in the DCU. Shit, would it have been too much to at least have a second woman on the team?

    *How sad is it that the JLA's longest running non-white member is a green guy?