Saturday, December 31, 2011

New 52 Year-End Review

As we enter month five of DC's New 52 initiative, I figured I'd take a look at my own stack of DC comics, and explore the state of things in the Internet's favorite format, the bulleted list.
  1. Action Comics: I love it. In fact, the only things I don't love about it are the rushed-looking fill-in art, and the two-issue break from the main story. Hopefully the latter helps Rags Morales catch up on the former. I'm also not thrilled with the jump ahead to the present, and I hope this isn't the last we're seeing of young firebrand Superman.
  2. All-Star Western: One of the best titles of the New 52. There's very little to not like about Jonah Hex fighting the Crime Religion in Gotham City.
  3. Animal Man: Possibly the best book of the line. Lemire is knocking it out of the park with this mix of pitch-perfect family characterization and creepy superhuman horror, and Travel Foreman's art handles both with aplomb. I'm looking forward to the inevitable collision between this book and Swamp Thing.
  4. Aquaman: Probably the most surprisingly enjoyable book of the New 52. I've hypothesized before that Geoff Johns does best when he's writing fewer books, and it became clear toward the end of the old DCU that he was spread too thin and treading water on various characters. Aquaman marks a nice change of scenery for him, and I think that's part of why this book is so much fun. It also seems like Johns is taking a more intentionally upbeat approach to this comic, and so there's a lot less death and gore and limb-removal than you might expect from a Johns book of late. I'll stick with this one, at least for the time being.
  5. Batgirl: I've liked this first arc well enough, but I'm pretty lukewarm on the title as a whole. I like Barbara Gordon, but so far there's not a lot to her character. Simone's doing a slow burn, setting up Barbara's recovery as a mystery and building a small supporting cast, but there just isn't a lot of momentum here. It doesn't help that Barbara's defining characteristic right now appears to be "damaged and out of practice." I'd like to see a character that integrates who she was as Batgirl and as Oracle, but that's not the case yet.
  6. Batman: Oh man, Batman is probably the best straight-superhero book DC is publishing right now. Intrigue, action, secret societies and Batman out of his element? It's fantastic. It's not surprising, given how good Snyder's "The Black Mirror" arc was. Capullo's art is something of a surprise; I didn't know a lot about him going in, but his fluid, somewhat animated style is generally great. There are some talking head scenes that look a little funny, but I think that's just a matter of not being used to his particular style quirks. There are few comics I look forward to each month as much as this one.
  7. Batman & Robin: A theme that seems to be running through the Batman titles I'm reading is that Bruce is doing some much-needed growing up. In Batman, he's learning that he's not indestructible and moving beyond his parents' death. Some of that is explicitly happening here, too, as he also tries to become a father to the son he never knew. I'm not entirely thrilled with yet another new villain from Bruce's past who knows his identity, though so far NoBody is better than Hush by leaps and bounds. I'll stick with this one at least until the NoBody story ends, and we'll see after that.
  8. Batman: The Dark Knight: I wasn't reading this pre-Flashpoint, and I didn't pick it up afterward. So far, I haven't heard anything to make me change my mind.
  9. Batwing: Another surprisingly good comic, if only because it skirts, so far, Winick's various plot quirks. I like how David is clearly distinguishable from Batman, and I like that Winick is building a global superhero community, fleshing out the younger New 52 world quite a bit. The only thing that I dislike is that there's yet another black superhero with electrical powers. I don't quite get why that trope is so common.
  10. Batwoman: I've finally been catching up on Rucka's Detective Comics run, so hopefully I'll have an opinion on this book soon. But I don't expect to have any actual problems with it.
  11. Birds of Prey: Another surprising hit book. Birds of Prey is fresh and fun and action-packed, and it's a shame that so much of the press on female-centered DC books has been spent on Catwoman and Voodoo. Swierczynski and Saiz are turning in an excellent comic full of interesting characters, and consequently Birds of Prey is really better than it's been in awhile.
  12. Blackhawks: Never quite cared enough to pick it up. How is it?
  13. Blue Beetle: I really, really want to like Blue Beetle, and maybe once it's done with this retread of the origin story, I will. Right now, though, Tony Bedard and Ig Guara feel like a pale shade of Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner, and the book's focus on pain and violence over characterization doesn't help that. I'll give this book a little more time, but I really hope it takes a turn for the better soon.
  14. Captain Atom: Another surprising comic for me; I didn't intend on picking it up at first, but I've quite enjoyed it since. I've especially liked Captain Atom's more godlike presence as a hero, and how he's trying to deal with that. It's a nice mesh of the classic Captain Atom with Dr. Manhattan, in a way that doesn't feel entirely derivative or repetitive.
  15. Catwoman: If I wanted hentai, I'd buy hentai.
  16. DC Universe Presents: This Deadman story probably didn't need as many issues as it's taking up, but it's a fun ride. I'm interested in seeing the Challengers of the Unknown in a couple of months, but I'd really like to see this series become less of a TPB farm and more of an anthology title. Why doesn't this book have a second feature?
  17. Deathstroke: I've heard surprisingly good things about this title, but it just doesn't appeal to me.
  18. Demon Knights: Easily the better of Paul Cornell's two books, and one of the most entertaining titles of the New 52. If it feels like any previous title, it's Secret Six, with a quirky mix of characters and over-the-top threats and settings. I hope it goes forever.
  19. Detective Comics: I know some people who like this, but everything I've heard suggests that I picked the Batman titles that are right for me.
  20. Flash: This book is amazing, and would be even if only because the last Flash title was so underwhelming. Manapul and Buccellato are not just turning in the best Flash book in years, but they're doing it by taking a fresh approach to the character's powers, and playing with the medium in ways that you usually only expect from a J.H. Williams III. It's a beautiful, excellent title, and possibly the biggest turnaround from pre- to post-Flashpoint.
  21. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: There's a nice Morrisonian feel to this book, with crazy concepts stuck on top of crazy concepts, and given only enough explanation to get you through the action. I love the pacing and characters, and I can't wait to see the big O.M.A.C. crossover.
  22. Fury of Firestorm: I'm on the fence about this book, and I suspect that I'll be dropping it when Gail Simone does. I like the characters well enough, even if the tension between Ronnie and Jason is kind of grating by this point, but there's just not enough meat on the bones.
  23. Green Lantern: Who would have thought a buddy-cop book starring Sinestro and Hal Jordan would be so enjoyable? It's not my favorite title, by any stretch, but it's a good-looking and entertaining superhero book, and I think the change of status quo has really refreshed Johns' writing.
  24. Green Lantern Corps: Another one I'm kind of on the fence about; it seems like all the Johnsian dismemberment and over-the-top violence has been shunted to this title. I'll keep reading through the beginning of the next arc, I think, but I'm not sure after that.
  25. Green Lantern: New Guardians: Dropped after the first issue. There just wasn't enough there for me.
  26. Grifter: Dropped after that disappointing and dull first issue.
  27. Hawk & Dove: Yeah, right. No remorse for not picking up this one.
  28. Huntress: This book feels like one that's been sitting in a drawer somewhere, waiting to be published. I like Levitz, I like Huntress, and I like that this story is more globe-trotting action-thriller than superhero book. It's "The Bourne Supremacy" or "Quantum of Solace" with tights and crossbows, and that's just fine with me.
  29. I, Vampire: I wasn't planning on checking this one out, but I liked Fialkov's "Superman/Batman" story, so I gave it a shot. It's the kind of book that I might revisit in trade, but not something I felt like sticking with on a month-to-month basis. The most recent cover, with Constantine as a vampire-hunter, was intriguing enough that I'll almost certainly pick up that first volume.
  30. Justice League: Hoo boy, Justice League. It's easily both Geoff Johns' weakest and most uneven title. I've described it as a big dumb Michael Bay action movie, and that continuously seems to fit, down to the unnecessarily complicated character designs. Seriously, Darkseid could probably have done with an update to the skirt, but that redesign is a lesson in excess. This book is problematic on several levels, and is a pretty good example of why, for instance, the original Justice League of America introduction wasn't an origin story. This would be better as a prequel, and it'd be way better if it didn't feel the need to form the League (and Cyborg) in the middle of the largest possible threat. Where do they go from here? Fighting the Key?

    But the biggest problem is consistently the one-note characterization. I understand that ensemble books sometimes need those shortcuts and shorthand methods of developing character, but the problem is that this is the flagship title, literally the book that was meant to introduce us to these characters. So far, the characters with any depth at all, surprise surprise, are the ones whose solo titles Geoff Johns is writing (or has recently written, in the case of Flash). That, plus the book's weird place between eras of the New 52, makes this a frustrating book. Hopefully it might get better? But I kind of doubt it.
  31. Justice League Dark: Didn't pick it up, despite some good press.
  32. Justice League International: Yeah, I'm pretty well done with this book when the first arc is over. It's way, way too uneven in terms of tone, plot, and characterization.
  33. Legion Lost: Dropped after that jam-packed (and not in a good way) first issue.
  34. Legion of Super-Heroes: I'm lukewarm on this title. I guess when it comes to the Legion, I really prefer a teenage version, and I don't feel like I know enough about the Legion Academy kids to really care about them. There's nothing really wrong with this book, though it often feels pretty densely-packed, but there's nothing that really stands out enough for me to want to keep buying it either.
  35. Legion: Secret Origin: I'm not a fan of the behind-the-scenes machinations that are framing this series, but it scratches my teenage Legion itch. The one thing I don't understand is whether or not this is a limited series. The other minis that DC's publishing all have "# of #" on the cover, but Secret Origin doesn't.
  36. Men of War: I still really want to like this comic, but every issue feels like some key pages fell out. The last page of the main story of the first two issues basically negated everything that happened up 'til that point, and issue #3 referenced none of it. I'm all for comics not holding the reader's hand and trusting in their reading comprehension abilities. But there's a difference between that and making no damn sense. I understood "Final Crisis," I didn't understand "Men of War." I dropped it, but there's a chance--based on a stronger #4--that I may pick it up again, especially with the changing creative team.
  37. Mister Terrific: Probably the title that most disappointed me. I really wanted to like the science genius hero title, but the bad science and bad stereotypes were just too much for me to handle.
  38. Nightwing: Not a book that I anticipated buying, but one that I'm pretty happy with. Higgins was largely unknown to me at the beginning of this, and I wasn't a fan of Barrows' art, but I think the only things I've disliked about Nightwing are the red in his costume, the "adopted at 16" origin, and the '90s-style villain Saiko. The actual plot and art? I'm in for a while, at least.
  39. O.M.A.C.: I keep saying this, but this is totally the most surprising book of the New 52. Sure, Keith Giffen is usually good for good comics, but Dan Didio's not known for being a great writer. So surprisingly enough, O.M.A.C. turns out to be among the best titles of the New 52 in terms of all-out crazy fun, and it's the best Kirby-esque comic I've read since Tom Grummett did Kamandi with Superboy. I wouldn't mind this book going weekly.
  40. Penguin: Pain and Prejudice: The Penguin is not my favorite Bat-villain, and I can't say I was super-familiar with this creative team going into the title, but I've been on a big Batman kick, and I thought I'd give it a chance. I haven't had any problems with this book, and I like the idea of the Cobblepots as one of the major cornerstones of Gotham, but it doesn't really stand out either.
  41. The Ray: That first issue had a lot of infodump narration, but it was pretty fun, and it's nice to see a book whose entire core cast is all people of color. It's also nice to see a character whose power set is kind of reminiscent of Superman Blue. I'm interested in seeing where this title's going.
  42. Red Hood & the Outlaws: DC cares so little about this book that they can't even remember the title. Don't see why I should care either. Avoided.
  43. Red Lanterns: Of the rainbow corps introduced over the last few years, I find the Red Lanterns the least interesting. I haven't heard a word about this title since issue #1 came out, and that suggests that it's not really anything to crow about.
  44. Resurrection Man: I feel like this series is moving a little too slowly, but I'm sticking with it. The creative team and premise is too promising not to. And I like the crazy cosmic aspect as well.
  45. Savage Hawkman: How's this one? I never bothered.
  46. The Shade: Cully Hamner is one of the best artists in the field, and this is Robinson returning to characters he wrote quite well. I wish this series made sense in light of the New 52, but that's a small price to pay for great globetrotting adventures with the immortal Shade.
  47. Static Shock: Another book I wanted to like, but despite the Batman Beyond feel and the Milestone connection, it just wasn't doing anything for me. McDaniel's art wasn't helping that, and the fact that Rozum's leaving doesn't fill me with confidence for the future of the title.
  48. Stormwatch: This book has never felt like it found its footing, and while it was filled to brimming with crazy ideas, it was equally filled with characters who spent most of the time explaining who they were and how their powers worked, like a Chris Claremont book. I'm looking forward to the creative team, and I hope Paul Cornell's next project is a little more stable.
  49. Suicide Squad: By all accounts, this book is an exercise in scraping deeper into the barrel with each issue. Could it be a meta-plot to cause readers to commit suicide? Only time will tell.
  50. Superboy: I'm kind of tired of the "I have to learn why I should be a hero" plot, and it sucks that the New 52 has made all the Superman Family characters into fish-out-of-water types. If it's got an S-shield on it, though, chances are I'm buying it, and there's nothing actually wrong with the writing or the gorgeous art here. I just want to see the Superman Family go in some new directions.
  51. Supergirl: I'm enjoying Supergirl a lot more than Superboy, if only because this feels like the introduction the character should have gotten under Loeb and Turner. I guess that's the curse of being such a Super-fan...I can't look at things outside of the context of the last twenty-odd years of Superman family stories. Where Superboy already went through this kind of development and whatnot, Supergirl spent years without a consistent characterization, background, or creative team. This is a much more reasonable take.

    One thing I do like is how they're differentiating the powers of the Superman family, which should be good for making them distinct characters in the future.
  52. Superman: I'm sad to see Pérez going, especially since I've generally enjoyed the old-school feel of this book. Giffen and Jurgens will probably keep that sort of thing up, and I hope Giffen's presence means we'll get a little higher quality than Jurgens' usual workmanlike scripting. Jurgens isn't bad by any means, but he's rarely great on his own. Giffen has a midas touch, though, and I'm excited to see that play out.

    That being said, I kind of wish we'd get a smart--perhaps even super-smart--Superman. He's not a lout or anything in this book currently, but he's also not the super sci-fi genius I'd kind of like to see after 30 years of a more down-to-Earth version.
  53. Swamp Thing: I've been really enjoying this take on Swamp Thing, and I kind of hope we see the protagonist keeping his Alec Holland least as an option. I don't know, I like that there's this tension and reluctance in him to become the monster again, and I'd like to see it play out like something other than a Ben Grimm story. That said, the overall mythology of the Rot and the Arcanes is fantastic, and makes for some great body horror.
  54. Teen Titans: One Lobdell too many. I just have no interest in this book at all, and even the crossovering with Superboy isn't really making me reconsider.
  55. Voodoo: I think I might just have to start avoiding books where the solicits and descriptions say "sexy" more than any other adjective. If I were buying periodicals based on sexiness, I wouldn't be shopping at a comic store. Dropped.
  56. Wonder Woman: Quite enjoyable, even if I'm not thrilled with the change of Diana's parentage--or the recent "all the Amazons are gone again" cliffhanger. But this is the best take on the Olympian gods since Rucka left, and I'm excited to see where it's all going.
Overall, it's been pretty good. I'm buying more DC titles than I was before, and I'm pretty excited about most of the ones I'm buying. I'm also buying more Marvel books than ever, which generally means I spend way too much money on comics--and that may come to a breaking point in 2012 sometime. I'm neither made of money nor longbox space. But right now it's a pretty cool time to be reading good comics. Some things I'm anticipating for the New 52 in 2012 and beyond:
  • New old characters: There are a lot of MIA characters in the New 52 DCU, and I suspect that, in addition to the Atom and JSA, 2012 will bring us the Fifth World, maybe a new Doom Patrol, WildC.A.T.s, and of course some variety of others. I'd really like to see a book with Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, but who knows about that.
  • Retcons: There are some things that just cannot hold. I suspect that the first non-Palmiotti-and-Gray team to get their hands on The Ray will forget about his constant nudity. The iconic image (and thematic resonance) of a young Robin will eventually win out over the silliness that Bruce adopted Dick as an older teenager. In fact, the whole "five year history" thing will be expanded before you know it--if it hasn't already. We've already seen how well the absolutes and edicts of a line-wide reboot hold, and when it comes to the things that people really recognize and enjoy, the momentum of history will bowl right over arbitrary ultimatums.
  • Renumbering: I still fully expect to see Detective Comics #900 in early 2013.
  • Superman Family: The new Baltazar and Franco title focusing on the Superman crew? Count me in. I hope there's a Lois Lane feature!

And that's it for now. See you in 2012!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

In other news, water = wet, Pope = Catholic

I hate linking this, but here you go. Short story: J. Michael Straczynski posted a graph that shows the declining sales of "Amazing Spider-Man," implying that it was due to his departure and (by extension) the current creative team/direction failing to live up to his prodigious skill.

Naturally, the people who actually work on the comics--namely, Steve Wacker--responded in kind. Now, maybe it's just goodwill from "52," or maybe it's that I'm enjoying the current Amazing Spider-Man series a lot more than I enjoyed JMS's after a couple of arcs, but I'm willing to take Wacker at his word that the graph is, at best, misleading. After all, the economy's in a pretty nasty downturn since JMS left the title back in 2007 or so, and I imagine you could find a similar graph for most of the industry.

But I did a little quick Googling, and while it looks like JMS's Amazing sure was a pretty good seller (especially around the end, with the One More Day hype), even a partial picture of the sales show a more complicated picture, with sales of ASM just a year earlier in the 80,000 range--only a fairly small amount higher than where the graph puts Slott's ASM now. Taking into account the economic downturn--and the availability of digital comics (whose sales don't appear to be reflected in the graph), and the switch to a bimonthly release schedule, that doesn't seem like a huge drop. Also, the graph shows no comparison with JMS's run at all, and strangely omits the first two issues of Slott's run for some reason, which add to its shadiness. Just sayin'.

And I wonder what a similar graph would look like for Superman or Wonder Woman. Especially if we casually omitted the fact that the rising New 52 tide raised all boats. Heck, I wonder if the inflated sales for One More Day were just casual observers tuning in to see the landmark event of J. Michael Straczynski actually finishing something. Just sayin'.

But I agree with Mark Waid (who also had the best comment): this was a dick move. I just don't know why anyone was surprised.

Bitter sniping from the guy who jabbed at the originality of DC in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man," during a story where he created Molten Man II? Unprofessionalism from the guy whose history in comics is littered with chronic lateness and unfinished projects? Who could have foreseen it?

Just sayin'.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mark Millar has some qualms with digital comics, and I can understand his sympathies for the retailers. It doesn't look, from the bit quoted on Comics Alliance, like he understands the effect that piracy has on our small industry (and those same retailers) or how opening up cheap, legal, and easily-accessible channels to obtaining comics is a way to mitigate some of those effects.

But that's largely beside the point, which is that Millar's concern seems to be wrapped in an advertisement for the next issue of Kick-Ass. As I said, I understand his sympathy for the retailer, but I also have sympathy for people who read comics and other creators. To that end, I corrected some issues with Millar's simple ad:
Fixed that for ya.

Much better.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Arkham City Wishlist

As I think I've mentioned, I've been playing a lot of "Batman: Arkham City." I've completed the main story and all Batman's side missions, gathered all of the regular Riddler trophies, and I'm mostly done with Catwoman's stuff as well. I figure I'll probably make sure I get some medals in most of the Challenge maps before I go on to the New Game Plus content. I know there's still the costume DLC in December, last I heard, but I kind of hope that's not the last hurrah for new content. What with the holidays coming up, I figured I'd put together my dream list of Arkham City DLC, in hopes that maybe some of it will come true:

New Challenge Map Characters: Playing as Nightwing and Robin and Catwoman is great--often more entertaining than playing as Batman. It makes me think that it'd be great to have some other character options. Ideally, Batwoman would be first up, but I'd be happy with Batgirl too--the difficulty being that I can imagine the alt-costumes for the latter (Cass's, Babs's, Steph's, maybe animated), but can't imagine them sharing the same voice when they're such different characters, and when Barbara is Oracle in the "Arkham" timeline. Again, ideally it'd be Steph, with Spoiler and the Cass-suit as alt-costumes, but I'm not sure how likely that all is. I'd also like to see Joker return as a playable challenge map character (especially since, as an XBox owner, I never got to play his maps the last time around), and I wouldn't mind playing as Talia or Ra's. In any case, some new characters for the challenge maps seems like the most likely route for DLC.

New Challenge Maps: This seems like the second most likely route (barring "new costumes"). I haven't played through everything yet, but it seems like that Wayne Manor map is screaming for some more action. I'd love to see maps that featured other characters as well. Black Mask is great (and ought to be involved in more than just the one map that I've seen him in--in fact, another map/campaign featuring Black Mask would be a natural fit for a Batgirl download pack), but I'd love to have that battle alongside Bane as a challenge brawl--especially if it ended with having to beat the brute who broke the Bat.

New In-World Side Quests: I've loved all the missions and side quests and so forth that the game has already offered, so I'd love to see more of the same. There's still plenty of potential material to mine, with saving hostages, fighting street-level villains, and so forth. Just upgrading some of the thugs around town would be fine, but I wouldn't mind the occasional encounter with the League of Assassins outside of Wonder City, or Clayface offshoots, or Titan goons, or Bane or Killer Croc or Poison Ivy. Heck, I'd even be interested in chasing down Zsasz or...ugh, Hush again. When you swap characters, Batman says there's still work to be done in Arkham City--let's see some of it.

And, of course, my offer of lots of dollars still stands for some Music Meister DLC.

DLC Characters Playable in Free-Roam Mode: This would be my holy grail, and sadly probably won't happen until the inevitable third game in the series. But man, I'd love to zip across the city as Nightwing or Robin, knocking heads with thugs and so forth. Every time I try to imagine that this would be difficult, though, I return to the fact that Catwoman gets by pretty well for not being able to access all the same places that Batman can, and the Predator maps seem to suggest that they could move around pretty easily on their own. I don't think this is likely, but boy would it be nice.

Top 1 Wrongest Wrongs in Wrongville

I was perusing Newsarama today, as I am wont to do, and took a look at their list of the "10 Greatest Batman Villains of All Time!" Now, Batman's got a great rogues gallery--quite possibly the best in comics (and if not, only second to Spider-Man's), so such a list should be beyond easy. In no particular order, Joker (of course), Two-Face, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Hugo Strange, Riddler, Ra's al Ghul, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, organized crime (e.g., the Falcones, the Maronis, Rupert Thorne). Honorable Mentions: Penguin, Harley Quinn, Clayface, Joe Chill, Darkseid.

I didn't read past number 10. What's a clear indicator that your top ten list of Batman villains is utterly wrong and full of it?
Not even in the top 10 of 'villains who are a dark mirror of Batman'.

That'll do it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Bat-thoughts

If I were writing Batman, I'd bring Chief O'Hara into the New 52 continuity. There ought to be another clean cop in Gotham who isn't Harvey Bullock. Gordon's always had a few loyal/clean cops under him, and I think I'd style O'Hara as the field leader of Gordon's team, a squeaky-clean, tough-as-nails fourth-generation Irish cop who trusts Gordon implicitly and admires Batman explicitly. Bullock is great as the detective who seems like he'd be dirty but isn't, and Montoya hasn't been a factor in Gotham for awhile. It'd be nice to see the GCPD getting some development again, and I think O'Hara should be the first step.

I would pay quite a lot of money to see an Arkham City expansion DLC with the Music Meister.

While playing Arkham City, I found myself wondering if they ever thought to take Nora Fries to the Lazarus Pit. As it turns out, they had, and it sounds terrible. Lazara? Fire powers? Internalizing the Lazarus Pit's abilities? That's...that's terrible. The latter-day Batman: TAS solution, where Nora was cured but Victor had been consumed by his condition, was a much better idea.

In other "this would be a good idea oh wait it's already been done" news, I thought it'd be interesting to see Jonah Hex against Ra's al Ghul in "All-Star Western," until I remembered that the Animated Series did that once already. Still, hey, it's not a bad idea.

One thing I've recently realized is how little Batman I've actually read. Sure, I've done the big famous stories, like DKR and Year One and all the Loeb books, but I've missed out on most of the month-to-month stuff, the Greg Rucka and Chuck Dixon and Alan Grant and so forth. With the Batman mood I'm in, what are some books I should check out? What are the best Batman stories I've never read? I saw the post-No Man's Land "Evolution" trade today and thought it looked intriguing, but didn't want to gamble on it--especially having never read NML.

Speaking of Batman books I haven't read, how is this year's 80-page giant? I've passed on buying it twice now, but really considered it both times.

Still several leaps away

I upgraded to the new iPhone a couple of days ago, and I've played a little with the new Siri feature. I guess I'm just a little unimpressed:
Even Gooshie could have done better.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missed opportunity

Recent sales figures state that Batman: Arkham City shipped 4.6 million copies.

To my knowledge, exactly zero of those copies came packaged with download codes for free digital comics. Zero came with minidiscs or USB drives pre-loaded with digital Batman, Robin, Catwoman, Nightwing, and Gotham Central comics.

My copy, and so I assume about 4,599,999 other copies, came with a catalog advertising a wide variety of Batman merchandise, including toys, clothes, and posters. Comics and graphic novels are mentioned on exactly two pages. The last two.

DC/Warner Bros. has enough awareness and marketing savvy to release the new Batman DVD movie on the same day as the eagerly-awaited video game, but for some reason continues to miss these easy opportunities to introduce new people to comics, thereby increasing their chances of selling more comics. This one game reached, what 20 times the audience of the most recent Batman comics? Why didn't it come with comics?

This isn't exactly rocket science, DC.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mr. Freeze and humility

I've been playing a lot of Arkham City when I've had a little free time here and there, and it's reminded me of a bit of weirdness surrounding one of my favorite Bat-villains, Mr. Freeze. Why "Mister"? Freeze legitimately has a doctorate. Intellectual supervillains are typically more than happy to lord their advanced degrees over society and its protectors--Doctor Octopus, Doctor Light, Doctor Double X, Doctor Sivana, Doctor Phosphorus--even when they don't actually have those degrees (I'm looking at you, dropout Doom). Looking through Wikipedia's list of fictional doctors, the only other villain who does the same is Marvel's Mister Hyde, and he took his name from a story.

Is Victor Fries the most humble supervillain in the DCU? Is this just another part of his tragic life story? Was his doctorate revoked? If so, why is Doctor Light allowed to keep his?

Curioser and curioser, the politics of comic book academia.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I saw Alan Moore's Neonomicon trade at the comic shop today. On one hand, I'd be happy spending this post making more digs at Moore dredging up another author's ideas to put new spins on them. That might be a sign of creative bankruptcy if you do it while the authors are still alive and the works are still protected by copyright, but hoo boy, you let those authors die and those properties lapse into the public domain, and suddenly your script for Lovecraft fans monthly or your 19th Century children's novel heroine slash fiction is a worthy pursuit for a legitimate literary genius. I can't wait for a hundred and fifty years after Joss Whedon kicks it, so my Buffy/Inara slash fic can be published and recognized as the seminal, game-changing graphic novel monument that it's meant to be.

Sorry, where was I? Oh right, Neonomicon. I take my shots at Alan Moore, but I dig Lovecraftian stuff. So I'm curious: is it any good? I've heard that the most recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books haven't been so hot, but maybe the alternate setting allows for something different. I'm not enamored enough with Moore these days to check it out sight unseen, but if it's an interesting take, I'd be up for checking it out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deadman and the Doctor

Sorry for the lack of content recently. I've been swamped at work; I haven't even been able to read most of my books from this past week, let alone write anything for Nerdy Nothings or this site. But I'm watching a bit of "Batman: Brave and the Bold" as I work on some other stuff, and I caught a fun little in-joke in "Dawn of the Deadman." During a séance, "Thomas Baker" is being contacted by his nephew, "Colin."

That Whovian shout-out, and the Wilhelm scream earlier in the episode, makes me wonder if some of the "Middleman" crew weren't involved in this series.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

New 52 Reviews: Lightning Round!

After writing several thousand words for Nerdy Nothings, I figured I might as well talk about the other books I picked up over the last month. The other DC ones, anyway; I'm way behind on Spider-Island. So here goes:

  1. Action Comics: Loved it. But you already knew that. I've got some things to say about #2 at some point, too.
  2. All-Star Western: I joked in my Firestorm review about how a comic called "All-Star Western" took place on the East coast, but it's really a very good comic. I'm not entirely sure how it lines up with Amadeus Arkham's story as seen in Arkham Asylum, but it's an interesting pairing nonetheless. It's a little like Red Dead Redemption by way of Edgar Allen Poe, with a bit of Jack the Ripper flair. I can understand people's complaints about Gotham being an almost preternaturally evil place, but that complaint lost quite a bit of traction when fans accepted as the city's second-most-recognizable location a building whose name comes from H.P. Lovecraft. In a post-Return of Bruce Wayne world, we know that Gotham City is a machine, the product of centuries of manipulations by Darkseid and Bruce Wayne, ultimately designed to produce a weapon called Batman. It's not surprising that it would produce its share of psychopaths before Batman's rogues gallery shows up.
  3. Animal Man: Straight-up great. The art is suitably creepy, and with all the unwritten marriages and newly-dead parents in the New DCU, it's nice to see a hero who's still a family man whose wife is worried about him tracking mud in the house. As someone who's only really read Animal Man's adventures in the Grant Morrison issues, I felt like this was a direct continuation, paying the right kind of homage to it without being beholden to it for continuity. The story is intriguing, and the art is suitably creepy, so I'm excited to see where this all goes.
  4. Aquaman: Frankly, this was a little too self-aware for my tastes. I understand the presumed need to counter all the jokes about Aquaman and deal with them head-on, but the scene in the diner and the interaction with the blogger are a little too close to the first issue of J. Michael Straczynski's "Grounded" storyline for my taste. Thankfully, Aquaman isn't a smug dick about it, but Geoff Johns' love of characters who stand in for Internet fanboys wears thinner the more he falls back on the same old tricks for his writing. Plus, you know, Aquaman's a head of state, and superhero or not, I can't imagine, say, Jacques Chirac getting that kind of abuse when he visits America, despite France being the Aquaman of the United Nations. All that aside, this was a pretty fun issue, and showcased some of the things that make Aquaman such an actually cool character, exploring his necessary powers in ways that Morrison and Waid have done in the past. I hope that this issue got all the jokes out of the way, and future stories move beyond them.
  5. Batgirl: See here. The more I think about the issue, the more I feel like I was a little softer on it than I should have been.
  6. Batman: One of the best of the New 52 books, and a fantastic introduction to Batman for people who might have been away for awhile. I'm sad to say that a lot of these #1s really haven't felt like #1 issues, but Batman felt like a comic you could give to anyone, and it would still be entertaining and understandable.
  7. Batman & Robin: See here.
  8. Batwing: See here.
  9. Batwoman: I'm ashamed to say that I've never gotten around to finishing Rucka's original Batwoman run in Detective, so I haven't read it yet. I'm finally caught up on Snyder's Batman oeuvre, so Batwoman is next on the list.
  10. Birds of Prey: One of the more pleasant surprises.
  11. Blue Beetle: Clicky.
  12. Captain Atom: My New 52 resolution has been to try new things, and apparently that even amounts to actually reading a J.T. Krul comic. I've frankly never seen anyone ever refer to the strong nuclear force (or just "strong force" or "strong interaction") as the "S.N.F.," including Stephen Hawking, who Dr. Megala is clearly kind of an ersatz version of. Other than that, though, this was a decent issue, and it's interesting to see that every other sciencey comic has done the science hero thing better than Mister Terrific. I'll check out the next issue, though I wish Captain Atom weren't so similar in powers now to Firestorm. I'd like to see Captain Atom as a character whose power is to manipulate quantum effects, to manifest them at a macroscopic level, which has long been implied by his abilities. Making him another hero who can absorb and shoot energy bolts and transmute matter--especially now that we have two Firestorms--seems redundant. Also, this is a very pretty book.
  13. DC Universe Presents: See here.
  14. Demon Knights: I'd be hard-pressed to find something to dislike about this book. It's very pretty, even the lettering, and its take on the DCU's medieval heroes (and particularly its immortals) is fresh and interesting. I'm not sure how I feel about painting such a good quintessential villain as Vandal Savage in an apparently heroic role, but I'm willing to go along with it if for no other reason than that it's really fun. The return of Sir Ystin the Shining Night is more than welcome, and I'm curious to see more of Al Jabr and Exoristos, who appear to be new characters. Of course, the only thing I should have to say to get people to buy this is "there's a castle riding a brontosaurus and dagger-wielding dragons." And that is awesome.
  15. The Flash: This way!
  16. Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: What a way to start an issue--not just the big hideous monsters and the skinned dog, mind you, but the reaction: "It's--it's finally happening...isn't it?" Not exactly the response you'd expect from a normal person in that circumstance, and the incongruity of it really serves to underscore the weird horror of the scene. The rest of the issue has a great combination of good story momentum and absolutely bizarre ideas, in a sort of Kirby/Morrison style. I wish the end had been just a little more strange--though it was certainly another turning-the-tables on our expectations--but I'm excited to see the next issue.
  17. The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men: See here
  18. Green Lantern: Easily the best GL book I've read from Johns in awhile, which might be damning with faint praise. There's a real sitcom vibe to this issue, with a heavy emphasis on humor (however clichéd it might be) and the promise of an odd couple setup at the end. I'm frankly getting a little tired of the Guardians of the Universe being a bunch of sinister plotters, but I get that this is still building on Johns' huge Green Lantern arc, and I can tolerate it. Looks like Ganthet got his hand back, though. The art's the kind of great stuff you typically expect from Doug Mahnke, and I'll admit to even liking Sinestro's relcutant return to the Green Lanterns more than I expected.
  19. Green Lantern Corps: See here
  20. Green Lantern: The New Guardians: I'd already decided that I probably wasn't going to buy three Green Lantern books, and New Guardians was the one that got chopped. For one, I just don't really care for the named rainbow Corps members as characters, and the story that we got just didn't do anything for me. It seems like it stripped away most of what was interesting about Kyle's origin to begin with, and did so in a confusing and cursory manner--and then gave him a bunch of rings for no apparent reason. I could see some of this premise working, but the first issue was just a mess, and it didn't give me any reason to think I'd like it better if I came back.
  21. Grifter: See here. I'm not sure why both of the Wildstorm solo titles seem to be taking their plot cues from John Carpenter movies, but it hasn't worked out real well for them.
  22. I, Vampire: Not a book I'd originally planned on buying, but I followed my New 52 resolution--and my enjoyment of Fialkov's Superman/Batman arc--to give this a chance. The entirety of my exposure to the I, Vampire character is from Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality, and it's clear that this is a fairly different version. The art is nice and moody, a little like Ben Templesmith with more clarity, although it is sometimes hard to follow what's going on. The dialogue is fairly well-written, if a little over-the-top, but there are a few places that just sound awkward, particularly Mary's letter. I do like the more traditional vampires, shape-shifting into wolves and bats and so forth, although there's still a little "our vampires are different" going on. I'm curious to see the vampires-vs.-superheroes match-up hinted in this issue, but I think I'll wait for the trade.
  23. Justice League International: Here you go.
  24. Legion Lost: How could this book go wrong? Fabian Nicieza is a good writer, especially when working with teams of teenage heroes, and Pete Woods is one of my favorite artists in the industry. Plus, I'm a Legion fan going way back, and I'd been kicking myself for dropping Legion and Adventure earlier in the currentish incarnation. And yet this book was...pretty bad. I think the biggest misstep was leaving out those helpful character description captions that Legion books so often have; even I had trouble keeping track of who was who, and I've read all of Who's Who. This book was a confusing mess, and it makes a decent case for the utility of decompression. It also doesn't help that the issue relies pretty heavily on knowing who the Legion is already, when this should have been new readers' gateway book into the concept. It also doesn't help that the "Legionnaires back in time to stop a deadly disease" was a plot point in Countdown. Ugh.
  25. Legion of Super-Heroes: Right this way.
  26. Men of War: Here 'tis.
  27. Mister Terrific: Probably my biggest disappointment of the bunch.
  28. Nightwing: Another book that I wasn't planning to buy, but I like Dick Grayson as a character, and I liked Gates of Gotham. The story is interesting, and it handles Dick's transition from Batman to Nightwing in a fairly believable manner. The mystery posed here is nice, and as someone who hasn't spent a lot of time reading Nightwing comics before, Dick returning to Haly's Circus is a fairly new story for me. I'll stick with this one, at least for awhile.
  29. OMAC: This wasn't one of the books I'd initially planned on picking up. I like Keith Giffen a lot, but I've never read a Dan Didio-penned comic that I thought was better than mediocre. But there was some positive buzz about it after Wednesday, and I'm a big enough fan of the Kirby DNA Project/Evil Factory stuff that shows up here that I was willing to give it a shot. Now, I've said for years that if you want Kirby's characters done well, the writer to turn to is Karl Kesel, but I'll happily add Keith Giffen to that list as well. I'm surprised to see Mokkari back; despite his background in Kirby's "Jimmy Olsen" work, I always thought he was Apokoliptian, and thus somewhat off-limits until Grant Morrison finished his Fifth World stuff. I'm not exactly complaining, and it's not like Mokkari is Orion or Desaad or anything, but I'm still a little surprised. Overall, this was a really fun romp, with very Kirbyesque art and sensibilities, and the kind of over-the-top insane action one should expect from an OMAC book. After "Superboy," I never thought I'd be subscribing to a Dan Didio book, but here we are.
  30. Resurrection Man: It's like Resurrection Man is back without missing a step. I haven't read the entire original series, but I've liked what I have read, and even the art in this issue feels like it's in the same vein, like Fernando Dagnino is some kind of reincarnation of the (yes, still living) Jackson Guice. The apparently-angels hunting Mitch Shelley are a nice touch, and feel like a tie-in to Zauriel and Peter David's Earth-born Angel stuff, even if it really isn't. I'm really excited to be in on the ground level for this incarnation of this book, and I hope it's immensely successful. So successful that DC considers launching some of the other brilliant-but-cancelled books from the last decade or two (Chase, Manhunter, H-E-R-O) under the new banner.
  31. Static Shock: I feel kind of bad dropping Static Shock, but it's just not distinctive enough for me. Static has never been my favorite Milestone character, and Hardware seems to have lost some of his edge, but really there's nothing wrong with this book. It gets the 'science hero' thing better than Mister Terrific, and the family dynamic is great--almost like Blue Beetle is known for. It's just, it didn't hook me. I don't know if it's just because it feels like Spider-Man with electricity or what, but it just didn't pull me in. It doesn't help that I don't think the art was even as good as McDaniel's usually is, and I can't imagine the book will get better after Rozum leaves.
  32. Stormwatch: What a sadly underwhelming book. I like the high concepts involved, and the ties to Demon Knights and the rest of the DCU, but it seems like Paul Cornell went to the Chris Claremont school of writing for this book. Everyone narrates their powers and provides clunky exposition, and I think this is a book that would really benefit from rolling out the crazy high concepts with a little less explanation. let the reader figure a little out for themselves--or leave some mystery for issue #2. I'll be sticking for at least the first arc, but I sure hope it gets better at distinguishing and juggling its characters.
  33. Superboy: Here you go.
  34. Supergirl: A better introduction than Supergirl's had in quite some time. It's clear that Green and Johnson have put a good deal of thought into Supergirl's character, drawing from some of the work that's been done in the last few years with the character--namely that she remembers her life on Krypton, her friends and family and such. Her costume is pretty terrible, at least with the crotch-shield. I understand the thinking that, if Kryptonians wear form-fitting armor, it doesn't make sense for her to have a skirt, but it also doesn't make sense for her to have bare legs. I liked her thinking she was in a dream, though, and I'm interested to see where all this goes.
  35. Superman: Right here.
  36. Swamp Thing: I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Alec Holland as a sort of David Banner character, but there's certainly interesting ground to mine in the character's history. It may be a little confusing to new readers, and probably would benefit from at least an editorial box touting the in-print hardcover describing the referenced events, but it's otherwise a nice superhero horror-type book that promises a return to the Alan Moore roots that have defined the character for so long.
  37. Voodoo: Let the record show that I was actually quite optimistic about Voodoo. My optimism was misplaced.
  38. Wonder Woman: I'm not totally sure about Wonder Woman as a horror character, but damn if this book wasn't good and entertaining. I'm excited to see where this is going, and it's easily the best take on the Greek gods since Rucka's run. I'm fine with Wonder Woman as a warrior and the heroine of her own Greek mythology, and it's a nice contrast with Batman and Superman.

Friday, September 30, 2011

An Unproductive Response

Lots of people are talking about sexism in comics, and the often negative and stereotypical portrayal of women in superhero stories. When this type of topic comes up, invariably some version of this discussion will happen:
Person 1: I don't like how GENRE X depicts THING A.
Person 2: While you're complaining about GENRE X, GENRE Y has been depicting THING A in a respectful way for years. Why don't you read GENRE Y?
This is not a productive conversation. Seriously, can you imagine this conversation:
Person 1: I don't like how action movies depict women.
Person 2: While you're complaining about action movies, independent romance comedies have been depicting women in a respectful way for years. Why don't you watch independent romance comedies?
Put in those terms, the response should be obvious: because you don't watch action movies for the same reasons you watch independent romance comedies. They don't fill the same role. They're different things almost entirely. Plus, you know, maybe some people just don't like independent romance comedies.

And yet, some people use this exact same argument with respect to comics: "If you don't like Catwoman, then why don't you read Love and Rockets?" Responding to the silly and strange question with something like "because I want to read superhero comics" is met with scorn and derision, as when Image publisher Eric Stephenson called superhero comics a "security blanket."

There are a few reasons for this, but the main one seems to be a confusion of genre and medium. "Superhero" is a genre. "Comic books" are a medium. For a long time, the superhero genre dominated the medium of comics, but they are not the same thing. There have been novels and movies and television shows in the superhero genre, just as comics often explore romance and realism and autobiography.

I would be more likely to read Catwoman than Love and Rockets not because I'm unaware of the latter, nor because I buy comics out of some sense of habit or childish need for security. I would be more likely to buy Catwoman because I like the superhero genre, the same reason I'm more likely to go to the theater and watch Green Lantern than 50/50, or tune my TV to Batman: Brave and the Bold rather than Toddlers and Tiaras. I like superheroes as a genre, and comic books are one (in fact, the main) avenue for stories in that genre.

I also like science fiction, and so I read sci-fi novels and watch sci-fi TV shows and buy sci-fi comics. I like murder mysteries, so I watch murder mystery TV shows and read murder mystery novels and go to see murder mystery movies. But if I say "I don't like how atheists are portrayed in courtroom dramas," it does me absolutely no good to say "well, atheists are portrayed very well in steampunk adventure." If I wanted to read steampunk adventure, I would be. I don't pick the genres I read or watch because of how well they portray issues and minorities to which I am sympathetic, I pick the genres I read or watch based on the kinds of stories I like to experience.

I understand some of the plight of people who do non-superhero comics, because it often is difficult for them to gain notice. If I say "I don't like the way young people's relationships are portrayed in superhero comics. I sure do wish I could read an autobiographical story about a young man's coming of age and attempts to cope with a crisis of faith," then yes, it might be relevant to point me to Blankets.

But that's not what people are saying here. They aren't saying "I don't like how women are portrayed in superhero comics, I wish I could read other comics that would portray women realistically and respectfully," a statement which would reasonably be followed by "Well, have you heard of Love & Rockets?" They're saying "I don't like how women are portrayed in superhero comics. I wish superhero comics would portray women better." The point being that people who enjoy superhero comics want to continue to enjoy superhero comics without having to endure negative portrayals of women. Suggesting that they give up on an entire genre is not just counterproductive, it's ridiculous. I don't know anyone who reads or watches a genre based on one aspect of how they portray some group or issue, who doesn't actually have any attachment to the other tropes and features of the genre. I suppose it's possible that someone reads Amish romance novels solely because they treat carriage-drivers with the proper amount of respect and verisimilitude, but I somehow doubt it.

There is another, more subtle aspect to this, which results from a different level of "what I like." I like action movies, but I really like the character of John McClane. Consequently, I would be more likely to see a new Die Hard movie than some generic cop action flick. I like James Bond, and so I'm more likely to see the next James Bond sequel than some random non-Bond spy thriller. And yes, I like Superman, and so I'm more inclined to read Superman comics than other generic superhero comics. If someone's complaining about the portrayal of women or marriage or relationships in Superman, then it might be reasonable to direct them to Astro City or Love and Capes or something in the same genre with similar characters that provides that missing aspect.

But it's also reasonable for someone to want to read about Superman (or Catwoman, or Power Girl, or Black Panther, or Amadeus Cho, or whoever), and not "character who is like Superman in some ways but is not actually Superman." It's reasonable for you to like various traits of a character based on other stories with that character, and to want stories featuring that character to be better. And it should be trivially obvious that, if I want my superhero comic book about a woman who dresses like a cat and steals things to feature a strong, independent, often-clothed protagonist, it's not particularly useful to suggest that I read Invincible. It's not unreasonable to like particular characters for whatever reason--you like the concept, something about them resonates with you, they have a cool costume, you read or saw a great story with them in the past--and following from that, it's not unreasonable to want those characters to be in good stories. Every character is someone's favorite, and there's no accounting for personal taste.

Which is why it's so unreasonable to suggest another genre or a completely different kind of book or character as the solution to the complaint of "I don't like how THING A is portrayed in GENRE X." The complaint is not meant to imply "I want to experience some story, any story, that portrays THING A well," but "I enjoy various things about GENRE X and wish that their treatment of THING A didn't so negatively affect what I'd like to enjoy."

Or, to put it in more pithy terms, the "why not try GENRE B instead?" response is borne out of a simplistic, black-and-white understanding of things. It treats a complaint about a detail as a condemnation of the whole thing--and indeed, if that were the case, then it sure would seem silly for people to keep buying it. Its' comics' (and really, genre fandom in general) "love it or leave it," a media-centered version of "if you hate the country so much, why don't you move to Canada?" It ignores the existence of a vast middle ground between "like" and "dislike," labeled "room for improvement," and it treats caring about something, having a sense of investment in the things you like and wanting them to be better, as a defect. And it does so in a crass, myopic, self-centered attempt to get people to care about what the responder likes instead.

This attitude is asinine, petulant, and wrong to the point of being entirely backwards. And it really needs to stop popping up with such predictable frequency.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Redheads in their Natural Habitat

DC's been taking some lumps over the past week for the Starfire controversy, alleging that the character's portrayal in "Red Hood and the Outlaws" was somehow demeaning or stereotypical or sexist cheesecake pandering. But I think one commenter on Robot 6 is clearly saying what we're all thinking on the subject. Obviously women aren't unduly objectified in comics. After all, men are just as objectified--I mean just look at them! No guys ever look like Superman, or wear tights like...well, okay, no one in DC's wearing tights anymore. But you get the idea. It's totally equal, and all the complaints are clearly coming from overly sensitive feminazis who just hate sex and want men to be castrated or something.

Besides, what everyone's missing here is that Starfire's status as an amnesiac nymphomaniac is just because in the New 52, she's taking the place of one-time Teen Titans hanger-on and fellow redhead Terry Long!
Hello, ladies.

Creepy male fantasy wish fulfillment?
He teaches down the hall from Dr. Jones.

Indiscriminate about his sexual urges, to the point of forgetting about current and former sex partners?


Inappropriate swimwear?


Heck, even that oft-reposted image of Starfire whipping her hair out of the water?
Fast Times at RedHood High

Obviously a homage to this tasteful sketch:

Terry Long: Genuine Class.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welp, looks like I'm playing an MMO.

DC Universe Online is going free to play in October. I've been watching some of the news about the game with increasingly ineffective inhibitions toward playing it, and now it's going to be free. I literally have nothing to lose.

Except hours and hours of my entirely limited free time. Almost makes me want to dust off my Kingdom of Loathing account in the meantime.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Awhile back I wrote about losing an excellent Ed McGuinness Superman wall scroll, and put out an (ultimately fruitless) alert to see if I could track down a replacement.

Happily, this weekend it turned up in my parents' garage. It's a little dirty, but the wife's pretty confident it's nothing a little soap and water won't help. Now I just need to find a place to hang it.

I'm planning on having my mini-reviews of the past two weeks' New 52 books up by Tuesday night. In the meantime, I've been doing a bit o' guest blogging at Nerdy Nothings and I'm happy to announce that it's no longer a guest thing. It doesn't mean less frequent posting here (how could I post less frequently?); it just means that I've got to figure out something in the realm of a regular feature for over there. Any suggestions?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Should've gone to the Gennero family reunion instead

I just saw a Humana Insurance commercial featuring the "McClain Family Reunion." I can't help but think it'd be more interesting--and more germane to health and life insurance concerns--to show the McClane family reunion. Can't you just imagine it? Burgers on the grill, cold beer in plastic cups (not glasses--don't want to chance breaking them all over the place), inexplicable explosions. The kids run around playing cowboys and German terrorists (or to change it up, cops and German terrorists), John saying "No, I don't want to play tetherball, I have a really bad headache!"

And by the end, there'd be no one left at the nearby Gruber family reunion.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

"Action Comics" (vol. 2) #1

It's probably no surprise for me to say that I loved it. It's also probably no surprise to say that I feel the best current expression of my love is through rambling on at length and gushing at the Morrison/Morales altar for a bit. Spoilers ahead.

Rather than start with the beginning, I think it's better to start with the impression I had after finishing. It reminded me of nothing so much as the DCAU Superman Animated Series. That series had a similarly casual Superman (at least in terms of language and attitude and often righteous anger), with a similarly nonchalant, collected Lex Luthor, and similar ties back to the Fleischer shorts. Both are clearly attempts to distill the essence of Superman into a concentrated, purified form.

That's what this feels like: the distilled essence of the Golden Age Superman, or better yet, the distilled essence of how we think of the Golden Age Superman, seen through the lens of everything that's come after. This is what the original "Action Comics" #1 might have read like if all the pieces of the Superman mythos that developed later had been in-place from the start.

So the story begins with Superman invading a penthouse, where he's attacked by armed thugs as he pursues a corrupt businessman named Glenmorgan--"Mr. Metropolis," the cops call him. Glenmorgan gives us such a great glimpse into the thesis behind this series, shouting "Somebody! Save me!" as he's being held by the Man of Steel. I don't know if the phrasing is intentionally meant to recall Remy Zero's "Smallville" theme song, but the irony is great--that someone would need to be saved from Superman. Glenmorgan's next line is no less important: "In the name of God! You people [the police] are supposed to protect me!"

And, of course, that's exactly the problem. The police protect high-class white collar villains like Glenmorgan, but there's no one to protect the people he exploits--or at least there wasn't anyone, until Superman showed up. Now, the Man of Steel exists to protect the people--by attacking the real villains, the ones who hide in penthouses instead of secret lairs.

Ever since the preview pages leaked, I've seen people complaining that by jumping off the roof with Glenmorgan in order to scare him into talking, Superman is 'taking a page from Batman's book.' I'd recommend that those people head on back to "Action Comics" #1 (or more likely, a reasonably-priced reprint) and find the very scene that Morrison and Morales are paying homage to here. Then, it was a corrupt lobbyist, but the purpose and effect are the same.

We get, in this initial scene, a good look at the young Superman's philosophy as well: "Nobody's so big they can't be taken down a peg or two" not only prefigures his treatment of Green Lantern in "Justice League" #1, but also underscores his proactive fight against moral crime, no matter the perpetrators. This is a Superman who uses his power to help the powerless against those who would use power for evil, and that's an aspect of Superman that's not only foundational, but too often forgotten or overlooked.

But the statement also betrays Superman's hubris, foreshadowing his own fall at the end of the issue.

It tickles.

The tenement battle--and specifically Superman's struggle against the electrified net--was what really reminded me of the Fleischer shorts, and it's another nice nod by Morrison and Morales to the particular era they're trying to evoke. The moment when the people stand up to protect him seems to be the validation of his whole mission--and a reference to the guiding philosophy that anyone can be a Superman, and that Superman's greatest power is his ability to inspire. At least it doesn't say 'CHA' anymore.For all that the word "cynical" has been bandied about with this version of Superman, it's actually amazingly optimistic. It's not cynicism to note that power corrupts, it's cynicism to accept that, to refrain from doing anything about it, to admit defeat. And as I've said before, the whole idea of Superman is that there's one person that power didn't corrupt, that power never will corrupt, who uses that power to better others and help the weak. That's what Superman is, and that's how anyone can be a Superman.

We see a nice change too in the reason for Clark Kent's chosen career; in the '30s, he became a reporter to stay near the news, so he'd always be the first one to arrive at trouble. Sadly, that's worn quite thin as a justification in the intervening decades, but positioning Clark Kent as a way for Superman to expose more injustice, to inspire more people, and to generally continue the same work he does as Superman is brilliant. Morrison's not the first to do it, of course, but here we see it as a reason rather than a justification. That Clark lives a meager existence, foregoing luxuries even as simple as television, only adds to the selfless do-gooder image.

Clark, Jimmy, and Lois have an interesting relationship here; it's established fairly early that the Daily Planet is still known for the Superman stories (and that Lois gave him the name, a nice carry-over from the Byrne era), but Clark works for George Taylor at the Daily Star, just as he did in the Golden Age. This doesn't just set up a nice rivalry (with Jimmy as the neutral party), but it also sets up a distinction between the sensational, possibly more hard-news Daily Planet, and the more opinionated, crusading Daily Star.

Luthor's motives at this point are unclear, but I like that this Luthor skews somewhere between the Animated/Byrne-era genius businessman, and the Maggin-style criminal mastermind. That he can pin Superman's defeat down to the second sets him up as an excellent foil, and I can't wait to see where this all goes.

Speaking of Maggin, the "invasive species" angle on Superman's presence is a great one, and something of an update to the "Must there be a Superman" argument.

After all this, there's plenty of detail left to praise. I'm curious what more there is going on with Glenmorgan and his Dr. Psycho-esque partner. I hope the purple-clad, white-haired landlady with no traditional vowels in her name pans out the way one might expect. I liked the reference to Clark's friends--"two men and a woman--a blonde, very nice, very good-looking"--which pretty firmly establishes that for all his down-to-Earth, powers-developing, man-of-the-people nature, this is still a guy who spent his teenage years with superheroes from the future. I like Jimmy Olsen's ringtone. I like the callback to Superman's encounter with a wife-beater, which was a great detail in "Action Comics" (vol. 1) #1, and was expanded into one of my favorite stories of the post-Crisis era. I like that we get to see Superman being faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but not quite more powerful than a locomotive.

I've been clamoring for a Superman book set in the '30s with the old rough-and-tumble protector-of-the-oppressed Superman for years. This isn't exactly that--it's not a period piece, and it's not drawn by Jon Bogdanove--but it definitely scratches that itch. I don't know if this is "Superman for people who don't like Superman," but it's definitely Superman.

And I can't wait for the next issue.

By the way, I (and a bunch of more talented people) will be writing reviews this week and for the rest of the month, covering DC's New 52 #1s for Nerdy Nothings. Be sure to check them out!

Monday, September 05, 2011

A Study in Justice

I have...things I'd like to say about "Flashpoint" #5, but that can wait. After all, it arrived alongside the brand new "Justice League" #1, our introduction to the New 52 DCU for you.

And I was underwhelmed.

But I'll get there. See, I got this crazy idea about what an introductory story to the Justice League should include, but then realized that it's been an awfully long time since I read any introductory story to the Justice League. But I have a veritable mountain of comics around me, including the first volume of "Showcase Presents: Justice League of America," "JLA: Year One," "Justice League International" Volume 1, "Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare," "JLA: New World Order," and "Justice League of America (vol. 2) #0-1. So I figured I'd take a look through the first issues of each series before ultimately offering my thoughts on the new hotness, to put things in context. Check it out below the fold!

"The Brave and the Bold" #28
Creative Team: Gardner Fox & Mike Sekowski.
Story Pages: 25 (including splash)
Capsule: I suspect you've already read this one, but here goes: when Aquaman learns of the threat posed by an interstellar conquering starfish, he rallies Earth's greatest heroes to combat the menace.
Thoughts: Well, the first point is that this isn't an origin story for the Justice League, despite being their first appearance. Aquaman sends out a Justice League signal on page one, alerting the League of the threat. What's more, the League spends most of the issue split up--Superman and Batman appear, but are busy with other threats, and the rest of the League divides itself to fight Starro's minions. Consequently, we have a chapter where Aquaman summons the team and each of the members is briefly introduced, a chapter where Green Lantern fights solo, a chapter where Martian Manhunter teams with Wonder Woman, a chapter where the Flash fights alone (and meets Snapper Carr), and a final chapter where the strike team (GL, J'onn, Wonder Woman, and Flash--Aquaman is ostensibly there, but essentially disappears) defeats Starro. Overall, it's actually kind of a terrible introduction to the Justice League, unless the intended takeaway is that teamwork is important, but not particularly vital if you've got other things to do. On the other hand, it does three things that I think are really important: it introduces the whole team, including details like Steve Trevor and Hal Jordan's test pilot career; it showcases everyone's abilities, which is related to the previous item--even Superman and Batman's brief appearances show you what they're all about; and it presented a threat that required a team to take it down. The only reason Starro is defeated is because the team was alerted to his presence ahead of time (thanks to Aquaman's abilities), able to split up to take on his minions, and had a range of expertise that put the creature down for good. That seems like a bare minimum expectation for an introductory League story.

"Justice League of America" (vol. 1) #9
Creative Team: Gardner Fox & Mike Sekowski
Story Pages: 26
Capsule: The League's origin--where individual members independently encountered and defeated a set of alien invaders, which ultimately brought them all together--is relayed to Snapper Carr and Green Arrow.
Thoughts: It's another story where the League is mostly working separately, as each Leaguer in turn combats and defeats an elemental alien being. Each Leaguer's story ends with them arriving in North Carolina, where one of the aliens had yet to emerge from its meteor. As each Leaguer lands, they are turned into living wood by the creature's strange radiation. That said, it does something that any team's origin story ought to do: provide a reason for the characters to work together. They were all alerted to the problem separately and defeated their enemies almost simultaneously, leading them to be in the same place at the same time. Except Superman and Batman, who were working together as the pre-existiing World's Finest team, which was frankly a nice touch. It relied a bit less on each Leaguer's particular skills, I think, than the first story, but still managed to make use of just about everyone's powers (and Superman and J'onn's weaknesses), in addition to getting the team to work together to get themselves out of some dire circumstances. It's incredibly contrived, but it's also the kind of story that modern comics would drag out for six months to make it seem less contrived, so there are trade-offs.

"Justice League" (vol. 1) #1
Creative Team: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, & Kevin Maguire
Story Pages: 24
Capsule: After the ignominious end of the Detroit League, a new Justice League comes together, somewhat manipulated into forming by Max Lord.
Thoughts: This is definitely a very different League origin, with far more focus on character--and character conflicts. Leaguers unite at the old headquarters, where we're introduced to a brash and arrogant Guy Gardner, Mr. Miracle and his glory-hound agent Oberon, no-nonsense Black Canary, wholesome Captain Marvel, insecure Blue Beetle, brooding J'onn J'onzz, enigmatic Dr. Fate, and Batman. The Leaguers clearly don't get along, and while Batman's presence, authority, and adherence to League tradition is able to keep them in line, they're less the best of the best and more a bunch of unruly children. Despite Batman's reluctance, the team is forced into action when terrorists take the United Nations hostage--and Dr. Light happens to be in the middle of the hostage situation, after receiving a League communicator from a mysterious benefactor. The League takes down the threat--despite Gardner's attitude and Dr. Fate's disappearance--though it turns out that there wasn't much threat at all. What I like about this introduction is how it not only focused on the characters--something the previous two stories only did in the broadest of strokes--but on the characters' relationships and conflicts. There's no reason that so many different people with different priorities and personalities would work together as a seamless team on their first outing, and it shows. Moreover, there's some attention paid to internal conflicts as well--Beetle's desire for the spotlight and Dr. Light's sympathy for the villains especially. It promises a more nuanced, character-driven Justice League--while also setting up long-term conflicts that can drive plot and character development, and giving us a nice action set-piece. At the end of this issue, even though the characters aren't all icons, you know at least a little about who each member is, what they can do, and what their motivation is. That's pretty impressive.

"JLA: Year One" #1
Creative Team: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, & Barry Kitson
Story Pages: 41
Capsule: After their first public outing (a slightly altered version of the events in "Justice League of America" #9), the Leaguers struggle with the decision to make the team official.
Thoughts: It's worth noting that "JLA: Year One" was a maxi-series, and thus had a somewhat different set of needs and priorities compared to the issues that kicked off new series. "JLA: Year One" #1 could tell a more compressed story, not having to carry an ongoing series on its back. On the other hand, this issue is particularly significant because of its status as a reboot origin for the League, made necessary after "Crisis" turned Wonder Woman into a newcomer and "Zero Hour" made Batman an urban legend--obviously they couldn't have been involved with the original League, then. In terms of structure, the story falls somewhere between the Giffen/DeMatteis opener and the original origin--mostly solo spotlight stories, but with a particular focus on characterization, relationships, and conflicts. Waid and Augustyn do a great job of showing how inexperienced this team is, while also giving them reasons to stick together--as well as tying it all together with an overarching mystery. By the end of the first issue, we've seen the reasons each character would want to be in the team, we've seen their general motivations and flaws, we've seen how their inexperience hurts their effectiveness, and we've seen that they still make a pretty good team. It's a larger space than the other issues have had, but it's used very efficiently.

"Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare" #1
Creative Team: Mark Waid, Fabian Nicieza, Jeff Johnson, & Darick Robertson
Story Pages: 38
Capsule: In a world where everyone seems to be developing superpowers, the more familiar characters are instead living out mundane lives without costumes or abilities.
Thoughts: This miniseries seems to have served as a kind of test-run for what would become Grant Morrison's epic JLA re-launch the following year, bringing together a team of the "big seven" for the first time in quite awhile. It's a fun story, the old "heroes dreams finally come true--but at what cost?" with a conflict that partially echoes the then-recent "Kingdom Come," but as an introduction to the Justice League, it's pretty terrible. You'd have to have a pretty thorough grasp of the heroes' backgrounds to understand just what's wrong with the world--sure, the fact that Clark Kent doesn't have powers and that Bruce Wayne's parents are still alive would be a tip-off to anyone in this culture that's saturated with their mythologies, but the significance of Arthur Curry working for a tuna manufacturer or Kyle Rayner drawing the "Green Lantern" comic might otherwise be lost. Otherwise, it follows the same general pattern of most of these stories: show the characters coping with some menace alone, eventually bringing them together for the teamwork. Of course, the actual everyone-comes-together bit doesn't happen in this issue; it ends on the World's Finest reuniting, as Batman and Superman are the first to realize that the world's gone wrong. As such, we don't really get to see much of the League in action. I suppose that's acceptable for a three-issue miniseries in an established universe, but it doesn't exactly make for the greatest first issue.

"JLA" #1
Creative Team: Grant Morrison & Howard Porter
Story Pages: 22
Capsule: The old League is moving out, the new League is moving in, and a team of alien superheroes has arrived to make them all obsolete.
Thoughts: This issue is packed, and that's both a good and bad thing. On one hand, it's not much more new-reader-friendly than "Midsummer's Nightmare." Everything that happens with the old JLA (represented here by Metamorpho, Obsidian, Nuklon, and Icemaiden) relies on some background knowledge of those characters and what their deal is. The new Leaguers make out a bit better, but the reader is definitely thrown in toward the deep end of the pool. The plot itself is a bit more straightforward, and it does not let up. The Hyperclan show up, renovate the Sahara, execute some criminals, win the public's trust, and find time to destroy the Justice League satellite, and still more goes on. In doing so, it also reveals some of the philosophy behind the League--specifically tackling the "proactive vs. reactive" models of superheroics (and quite a while before either "The Authority" or "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and The American Way?" I might add) and showing the caliber of situation that the League is designed to handle. As a story, as a first issue, it's great about drawing in the reader with action and adventure, and it's decent about developing the characters' relationships and giving almost everyone a chance to shine--even the lame duck League, it's just not particularly new-reader-friendly. Oh, and Aquaman--who's on the cover--doesn't appear at all, which seems like a pretty big knock against it.

"Justice League of America" (vol. 2) #0
Creative Team: Brad Meltzer & "an all-star cast of artists"
Story Pages: 24
Capsule: A series of brief vignettes traces Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman's relationship since the start of the League.
Thoughts: On one hand, this isn't a story about the Justice League; besides the Trinity, the League only appears in brief cameos. On the other hand, this is a story about the League from the perspective of people key to its formation, and more specifically, what the League means to them and what it's become. I don't know that I've read this since it came out, and I honestly thought that it was a really good, really touching book. I think Meltzer had a great handle on what made the Trinity tick, what sorts of tensions would affect their relationship, and the general dynamics of friends forming an organization that ultimately becomes larger than its original founders. The quirks that made Meltzer's writing grate in other places--characters referring to each other only by first names, focusing on character drama and relationships above all else--simply work in this context. It's a shame that the rest of Meltzer's run couldn't be as good as this issue. As an introduction to the Justice League, it's not very good--it requires a whole lot of background knowledge, and as I said, doesn't much involved the Leaguers at all. At least, however, all the characters on the cover appear in the issue, even if the qustion it poses ("Who's In?") isn't answered.

"Justice League of America" (vol. 2) #1
Creative Team: Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes
Story Pages: 38
Capsule: While the Trinity talks about putting the Justice League back together, other heroes find themselves in situations where being alone is a liability.
Thoughts: Aaaaand here's where Meltzer's quirks start grating. Everyone refers to everyone else by first names or unfortunate nicknames ("Reddy"), and if you don't happen to be familiar with all these characters and their relationships to each other and other people, then you could pretty easily get lost. It's a shame, because there's a lot going on here, and some of it is quite ballsy: changing up Red Tornado's status quo, using Black Lightning's ties to Lex Luthor to make him an underworld mole, graduating Roy Harper up to A-level status, introducing Dr. Impossible, and so forth. It's actually a pretty good comic, and it does a good job of exploring the League's family ties, both literal (Roy and Lian, Red Tornado's family) and figurative (Roy's relationship to Black Canary and Green Lantern, the Trinity's relationship to each other and the other heroes). As an introduction to the Justice League, however, all those ties, all that heart, is more than a bit confusing. If you didn't already know Deadman's schtick, or who Felix Faust was, or have memorized key parts of "Who's Who," then you'd be lost. The regular cover for this issue sidesteps the whole "every hero on the cover appears in the issue" expectation I'd have for most Justice League introductions by making it a huge panorama of DC heroes who couldn't possibly all fit on one team (outside of a Justice League Unlimited status quo). The "actual team" cover features characters who showed up in one form or another, except Hawkgirl, who doesn't appear at all, though several of them only appear out-of-costume on the interior. As a kind of summary, it's interesting that this is the most self-conscious of these Justice League introductions, one where people are actively trying to assemble the best team, while the heroes who will eventually make up that team have solo adventures around the sidelines. There's no "heroes' travails bring them together as a team" aspect to this first issue, the way there largely has been for the last ones. There's also no real action set piece, which is unfortunate, though there's plenty of foreshadowing and architecture laid down for a long-term plot. It's not a bad Justice League story, aside from those previously-mentioned quirks and the lack of any action, but it's a really awful introductory issue.

"Justice League" (vol. 2) #1
Creative Team: Geoff Johns & Jim Lee
Story Pages: 24
Capsule: In an age when superhumans are feared and mistrusted by the general public, Batman and Green Lantern cross paths for the first time while fighting an alien menace.
Thoughts: And now, the latest installment, and the issue that launched a new universe. Everyone's been saying that it would have been impossible for this comic to meet the expectations set by all the enormous hype surrounding it, and that may be true. On the other hand, I've read quite a lot of very good Geoff Johns comics, and if this is something he's been working on for months, I would kind of expect it to fall on the high quality end of the Johns storytelling bell curve. I'm not saying it doesn't, but it certainly makes some missteps that could easily have been avoided. I've identified the basic items I would expect in any introduction to the Justice League: it introduces the characters, giving some indication of their abilities and personalities; it brings the whole team together or at least everyone who shows up on the cover, it introduces a conflict, preferably with some action; and it gives the team a reason to get together; the best of these have also explored the relationships between the Leaguers, but that also falls into a couple of the other categories.

So, our story largely centers on Batman chasing a Parademon (apparently) through Gotham while also trying to avoid cops who can't--or don't care to--tell the difference between the two, between any superhumans. There are nice parallels between Batman largely ignoring the "idiot" cops and seeing them as a hindrance to his goals, and then treating the idiot space-cop the same way. On the other hand, it's also nice to see Batman--though he wouldn't admit it--in over his head. I never thought I'd say this about a Geoff Johns comic again, but there's some subtlety at play here. Batman's trying the usual Batman methods on the Parademon--yelling at it, threatening it--but it doesn't work. On my first read, it seemed stupid for the World's Greatest Detective to go along with thoughtless GL's free-association of the Parademon with Superman, but another time through it looks like Batman goes along because he's out of his depth--something that Meltzer explored in "Justice League of America" #0.

I'm also surprised and somewhat impressed with Johns' take on a younger, brasher Green Lantern. I've been reading Johns' Hal Jordan since "Rebirth," and even when he's acting like an ass, it's always seemed like he's supposed to be a likable rogue, the movie-screen rebel who doesn't play by the rules but is clearly the hero. Here, he comes across as a thick-headed arrogant jackass, a trumped-up frat-boy with a magic ring, and it's glorious. It's so nice to see Hal Jordan as something other than the golden boy, something other than the greatest Green Lantern of them all, including the Guardians themselves. Is it subtle? Not in the least--up to and including GL referring to himself in the third person and misusing the phrase "Note to self," and generally acting like he's trying to impress Batman. But it's entertaining nonetheless.

In the midst of that, we get a brief interlude courtesy of an After-School Special about the true meaning of family. Seriously, the Vic Stone pre-Cyborg interlude is Geoff Johns at his worst in terms of dialogue excesses. "There's nothing Vic Stone loves more than football," proclaims a dialogue caption said by no one in particular, over a panel of a seat reserved, clearly, for Stone's absentee father. Dad didn't come to his football game, he's too busy with his clichés. The whole scene is clunky, played-out, and probably the most predictable thing ever, and it has absolutely no connection to the larger story until the very end, when we see Green Lantern fly overhead. It's a bad scene, and it's worse once you consider the implications. First, it contradicts statements made by others that the Wolfman/Pérez Teen Titans still occurred in some capacity, since Cyborg--a key component of those adventures--didn't exist yet. Second, we have the Justice League, forming around this sequence, prior to Stone's transformation into Cyborg. This means that the League will consist of six powerhouses who have been active for varying amount of times, and one completely green rookie high school student. Stone won't even have the edge that Kyle Rayner did as the rookie member of Morrison's JLA, that his inexperience is balanced by his possession of the most powerful weapon in the universe and the skills to use it. Cyborg is strong, but "super-strength" is a power for over half the League. Anything Cyborg could do with his tech as weapons could be accomplished equally by Green Lantern's ring. Vic won't even get to be the smartest or fastest member of a team with Flash and Batman. By making Cyborg's origin a part of the JLA's origin story, Geoff Johns has set up the team's only black member to be their Green Arrow, to be the character who clearly adds nothing to the team. That would be a bad enough move with any character, but with Cyborg it sets up calls of "Justice League Affirmative Action." It's tone-deaf, and for a "bold new direction," it's tone-deaf in the exact same way that DC has been tone-deaf before.

Much has been made of Superman's appearance at the end, with charges that it's out of character. If we were talking about old-DCU Superman, I'd totally agree. But New 52 Superman is already established as a guy who speaks truth to power and takes the arrogantly powerful down a peg or two. This issue has been all about Green Lantern shooting his mouth off and ending up with egg on his face as a result, and it subtly (there's that word again!) shows that Batman and Superman aren't all that different. Is it the introduction I'd like to see for a new era of Superman? No. But being able to make a joke and take someone down a peg or two shouldn't be banned from Superman's repertoire. This is still "five years ago," so I can accept a Superman who's a little more flippant, a little more...smirky.

But boy, that costume is stupid. It's further stupid that he's apparently been wearing it for five years. Can you see the classic Clark-ripping-his-shirt-open scene happen with this suit? How would he wear that armor under his work clothes? Batman's is no better; I have a hard time imagining how long it would take Bruce to respond to a Bat-Signal when he's got to put on that much armor with that many pieces. These new designs are still, to a one, terrible, heaping unnecessary changes that appear to exist only for the sake of change.

You know what I'm surprised this issue didn't have? The "Coming This Year" page that kicked off Johns' "Justice Society of America," among other comics he's done. It would have been a good way to build interest in the coming issues, even if the first issue wasn't a full story, and I think it would have done quite a bit to assuage readers that no, this reboot was not done spur-of-the-moment, seat-of-the-pants style. Maybe there's a reason for that.

So, back to the categories I set up, how does "Justice League" (vol. 2) #1 stack up? It introduces a conflict of suitable size for the Justice League to unite--Darkseid, namely. It's a sight or two better than the Apellaxian aliens, while also having the same "alien invasion" flavor. It doesn't introduce the whole League--only three and a half members--but it does spend some time characterizing the ones who do appear, though some in broader strokes than others. It's better than some, not as good as others. It's just a shame that it could easily have been "Brave and the Bold featuring Batman and Green Lantern" #1. This is supposed to be a window into the new DCU, both for new readers and old, and to have only a partial story, with only a partial League, seems like a misstep. And much as I enjoyed Green Lantern's portrayal, it was a further misstep to make him the buttmonkey of the first issue (and the team) by having both Batman and Superman demonstrate their badassery by taking him down effortlessly.

It's not a bad issue, and not the worst introduction the League has ever had, but I can't help but think that making this issue double-sized and putting at least the full "League gets together" part of the story into it, would have been a better kickoff.