9.14.11 Reviews (Part 1)
Batwoman #1 (DC): It’s too bad that DC can’t take much credit for this upping the success rate of the New 52, since it was never really a part of the new line. I mean, they could have published this months ago! The good news is that it was worth the wait. If you discount the technicality of its inclusion, this is easily the best book of the New 52. By far. JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman (no Amy Reeder Hadley?) deliver a story that is nearly perfect in execution on all fronts. I have a couple minor quibbles with how the Spanish language is used (“mi hijo” should become the standard contraction “mijo” and no native speaker would ever say “mi dios,” instead they’d utter “dios mio”), and there’s a humongous two-page exposition dump when Colonel Kane finally arrives on scene, but other than that things are pretty tight. Jim’s formal experimentation on the page is absolutely a thing of beauty. The page layouts are miraculous with intent, not simply style over function, aided a ton by the one-two punch of Dave Stewart’s colors and Todd Klein’s letters. The team puts so many things into motion here, from plotlines to characters – both personal and professional, and it’s all effortlessly paced. We have an investigation into some kids being abducted by an otherworldly menace, the DEO (hot off of JH Williams and D. Curtis Johnson’s old Chase series, including Chase herself and Director Bones!!!) investigating Batwoman simultaneously, references to those Chase stories and the first run of Batwoman, Detective Sawyer, Renee Montoya, Bette Kane (no longer Flamebird), and on and on. Perhaps a little odd that Bette references being with the Teen Titans and fighting Deathstroke if continuity has been wiped clean, but oh well. It’s like JH is two completely different artists in one, pulling off superhero sequences and civilian sequences with completely different aesthetic temperaments. This book is a masterful example of corralling so many disparate parts into a cohesive whole. There’s the intricate plot, multiple players, beautiful pencils, and heaps of style on top of it all. Throw in a last page cameo from Batman (maybe offering to formally franchise Batman Inc. again?) and this is an easy Grade A.
Demon Knights #1 (DC): Paul Cornell. Diogenes Neves. I picked this up mostly based on the strength of the art during the Casual Flip Test (CFT) at the Local Comics Shop (LCS), and to a lesser extent some early buzz on the interwebs. Past that, I didn’t know much going into this except that Paul Cornell let me down a little on Stormwatch. Thankfully, Diogenes Neves seems to have broken free from the generic house style at DC, and done something that’s got his own unique flair to it, with small bits of Adam Hughes, Jim Lee, John Byrne, and even some deliberate Jack Kirby affectation. I think it’s certainly the best looking of the New 52 I’ve sampled so far. I don’t know exactly where the story is going yet, but there’s plenty to chew on with the time jumping exploits of Madame Xanadu, Jason Blood/Etrigan, Merlin, Vandal Savage, and the dubious gender identity of Sir Ystin, aka: Shining Knight Sir Justin. Cornell mentioning Game of Thrones as comparison makes me really nervous, because them's mighty big shoes to fill. But, the pace is brisk, I like the banter between Xan and Blood, and there’s probably enough of a hooky off-beat cliffhanger thing happening here to make me come back for an issue or two. I sound like a broken record, “I’m still not blown away,” but this was a nice surprise. Grade B+.
Legion Lost #1 (DC): Fabian Nicieza. Pete Woods. I was a huge fan of the original Legion Lost story, which spun out of the Legion of the Damned crossover back in the late 90’s. It’s my favorite Legion story by far, so I thought I’d just jump in and give this a try based on that nostalgia alone. Woods is an ok artist, but it makes me miss Olivier Coipel from the original stuff I referenced above. I think Woods inking his own work helps tremendously, as does Brad Anderson’s coloring. I’d probably prefer to see Ultra Boy in here as the brash one, rather than Timber Wolf, but as long as it’s got Dawnstar and Wildfire, I’m pretty much in. We also get Chameleon Girl, Tellus (new character?), Tyroc (new character?), and Gates. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about time bubbles, the “flashpoint breakwall,” searching for Alastor’s Wake, and blah-bitty-blah, but for the most part his is a high-spirited adventure that just feels more fun than most of the New 52 I’ve sampled. I’m not seeing much that makes this intrinsically a Legion story vs. another generic team though, nor am I really blown away, but it feels good enough, with a little hookage toward the end regarding the pathogen threatening Earth and our heroes being stranded in time. Grade B-.
Grifter #1 (DC): Man, I really wanted to like this book, but this was pretty awful. It felt like DC was trying to establish Grifter as some sort of Gambit meets Logan freelance operative here, saying “darling” in New Orleans, and it just kind of fell on it’s face. Cafu (with Bit) on the cover looks really nice actually, but inside when it’s Cafu alone, things seem to fall apart. The aisles on the plane are comically large, no effort is made to explain why everyone isn’t sucked out when the cabin depressurizes, and Cole is seated, then up, then told to sit, but only the second time, wait, huh? The choreography of the action and just the… logic of it all is way off. It’s very jerky. Cafu’s art seems best with thicker inks (like the cover), but inside it’s very thin and wispy, and much too delicate to service the tone of the story, which wants to be gritty. Ugh, did I just type “gritty?” So the end result is just generic DC house art once again. “17 Minutes” is planted to look like an old Will Eisner title sequence, but instead looks like a lame bookshelf on the wall. I guess Nathan Edmonson is trying to bring the WildStorm Daemonites (which Grifter and the WildCats fought) in to function as, like The Brood of the DCU or something? Feels tired. The dialogue about sorority girls and con-artists is staged and all kinds of contrived. The weird DC woman in all the New 52 books is in the background, I don’t get why the “Christopher Argent” persona is necessary, I don’t think this team has captured the essence of Cole Cash in any way, and I basically have problems with everything, not the least of which is there being absolutely no hook to make me interested in seeing any more of this. Grade C.