Comics Dorkitude Ahoy

I’ve been a casual comic book fan since I was eight years old. I’ve always had a soft spot for Batman and Superman, thought I’ve really lost track of what’s gone on in the DCU since Infinite Crisis. I’ll come in for a few months, check out what’s what, and then lose interest for a bit.

That said, this whole “New 52” thing intrigued me. Though I was initially annoyed about the renumbering of all of the comics from Number 1 (particularly Action and Detective Comics) and the redesigned Superman costume, the idea of the whole DCU starting over with a clean slate intrigued me. If there’s one thing that has always bugged me about comics, it’s about how dense and inaccessible they can be to new readers-a new start could go a long way to alleviate that. So it was with great interest that I went to my local comics shop and picked up a few of the new DC titles. So what did I think?

Well, I’m happy to say that the renumbering and redesigned Superman costumes are still my biggest complaints. That said, those are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. Here’s a quick rundown of what I got:

ACTION COMICS: Grant Morrison nailed a lot of little things I love about Superman. What we have here is a young Superman, just starting out and having a blast with his powers. One of my favorite things about the Richard Donner Superman film is the wonderful part where young Clark is running alongside the train, using his powers to their fullest extent and enjoying himself. That’s the young Superman we get in this book. One exchange I particularly loved had a young kid asking if Superman had ever “jumped over Metropolis tower”, to which Clark responded “not from here”. In addition, this Superman seems to be a bit more concerned with the concept of social justice than some of the more recent iterations of the character. That said, this is very much in the tradition of Siegel’s and Shuster’s original concept of the calendar, who went after wife beaters and corrupt politicians before Metropolis was regularly attacked by mad scientists and killer robots.

That’s not to say this comic is perfect. Clark doesn’t have much to do in this one, and what’s there seems to be a knock-off of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 2. Lois and Jimmy make essentially a cameo, and don’t figure to much into the action. And, not to beat a dead horse, I HATE HATE HATE the jeans-and-t-shirt look on Superman. It worked (somewhat) for Guy Gardner in 1992-not so much on Superman in 2011. Also, from what I’ve read, DC plans to put more emphasis on the alien nature of Superman, which is worrisome to someone who grew up on the John Byrne version of Superman, where Clark Kent is the real person and and Superman the alter ego. While I’m okay with them splitting up Lois and Clark, I worry about the relationship not having a lot of emotional depth without a truly “human” version of Clark Kent. And I really hate the idea of Ma and Pa Kent both being dead-they were both wonderful characters who served to “ground” Superman somewhat. It’s hard to relate to a god, but somewhat easier to relate to a guy with all these gifts being forced to deal with having the weight of the world on his shoulders.

All in all, I feel the good outweighed the bad in this one, and I’ll definitely pick up number 2. I’m VERY excited for Superman number 1 in a couple weeks-they’ve got George Perez, for chrissakes! I don’t think anyone has drawn a better Superman since Curt Swan’s heyday.

DETECTIVE COMICS: I’m torn on this one. This is some dark, dark stuff, and definitely not a book for kids. What’s here is a fairly basic, yet very well executed, Batman vs. Joker comic. Batman is chasing Joker across Gotham, desperately trying to keep him from killing again, which has been done to death at this point. The one truly original twist comes on the last two pages, which is as shocking and unexpected as anything I’ve read in a comic before.It really feels like something out of The Silence of the Lambs.

There’s some very good points about it though. The art is terrific-they really nailed Gotham as a terrifying place, and even Jim Gordon thinks it might just be beyond saving. There’s some great interplay between Bruce and Alfred in the cave. And I do like that they aren’t wasting time with an origin story-really, we all know where Batman came from and why he does what he does. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. And the twist at the end is enough to want me to see where they plan on going next with this story.

I kinda wanted to have a bit of interaction with some of the other Bat family, though I can understand why they’re not doing so just yet-they still have Batgirl, Batwoman, Batman and Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Birds of Prey, plus Batman’s own book to work this into it.

Bottom line here-I’ll check out number 2 and see where it goes, but this one didn’t wow me like I hoped it would.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: Don’t go into this one expecting to see the Big 7 in this right off the bat-this issue is entirely a Bruce Wayne-Hal Jordan story. What’s odd is this is a much more lighthearted version of Hal than I’m used to seeing. When I think of Hal Jordan, I think of a stoic, steel jawed hero who was somewhat lacking in the personality department (that said, I’ve never been a big GL fan, so if my interpretation is off then forgive me). This one is a bit livelier, using his ring to conjure up green firemen to but up fires, and a big green safe to lock himself and Batman in to keep them safe from an explosion.

Also, it’s almost like they’vre building towards the old Green Arrow-Batman relationship of friendly antagonism between the two of them. There’s a delightful little scene where Batman manages to use sleight of hand to steal Hal’s power ring. While the relationship between Bruce and Hal is exactly what I’m used to, it’s pretty enjoyable.

Couple of little complaints about this one: first the cover. I like the art fine, but I’ve always hated misleading cover art. This book has no Wonder Woman, Flash, or Aquaman. Vic Stone has a four page scene where he is not yet Cyborg, and Superman shows up on the very last page. I wonder about why they are using Cyborg in the JLA rather than the Teen Titans-I’ve heard they’re going to be using Martian Manhunter as an anchor for some of the Wildstorm titles, so I get when he’s not around, but I can think of a couple of other characters that might have worked better in the JLA (Green Arrow and Captain Marvel spring to mind). All in all, though, the interaction between Hal and Bruce is a lot of fun, and plenty for me to recommend picking this one up.

JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL: I was not optimistic about this one. It brought back memories to me of the Justice League of the early 90s, when I started reading comics. If you’re not familiar with that iteration of the league, it wasn’t really a high point for the league. Membership was, well, less than impressive (the lineup I remember most is Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner, Maxima, and Bloodwynd). This line up reminded me quite a bit of those days. Imagine my surprise, though, when this ended up being my favorite title of the four I picked up.

Dan Jurgens has long been one of my favorite characters, and he’s succeeded in making Booster Gold a funny and effective front man for the team, with Batman keeping an eye on things for his own reasons. Guy Gardner is an insufferable prick, so he’s got Guy Gardner down pat. And the lesser known heroes who round out the team all get a decent amount of characterization.  This comic has a bit of an X-Men like feel about it, as normal people aren’t thrilled with the idea of superheroes running around, which is I think a very nice touch for a book so dependent on lesser known heroes: would you put stock in these people? I’m not sure I would. Lastly, there’s a gorgeous splash page at the end of the JLI going up against a giant robot that would’ve been right at home on a Silver Age JLA cover. I loved that page. In fact, I loved all the art in this issue-I think artistically it was the best of what I read.

All in all, I was happy with what I read, and I’m cautiously optimistic. I think that JLI could potentially be a bit of a breakout hit for them, and I’ll definitely give these four books another shot next month, in addition to Superman and Batman number 1.

Now, onto DBI stuff: our September show at Main Street was, as usual, a ton of fun, and kudos to Dan Marquez for a very funny set to open up for us. We’ll see you all on 10/28…unless, of course, you check us out at the South Amboy Festival and Street Fair on 9/25. More details to come soon-ish.

Lastly, there’s still time to register for our Improv Foundations class-mash the button for it at the top of this page RIGHT NOW for all the info.

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