September 15, 2012 by Ish
I mentioned previously that DC Comics relaunched their entire line-up of titles last year, relaunching them all in their “The New 52!” event. Well, the trade paperback collections of the launch titles are hitting newsstands, and your’s truly hiked down to the friendly, local comic shop to grab a stack. Here’s my thoughts on the first four (and, no, I’m not going to read ALL of these new books… I just liked the title for this blog post.)
Animal Man: The Hunt is a collection of issues #1-6 of the New 52 Animal Man title. Written by Jeff Lemire with artwork by Travel Foreman, I’d never heard of either member of this creative team and have never been a big fan of Animal Man… but, I’ve never really disliked Animal Man either. Like most of the comics reading public, I just kind of ignored the guy. Having said that, I have read the trades that collected Grant Morrison’s revival of the character from the late 1980s (Animal Man, Origin of the Species and Deus Ex Machina) the Morrison books are, well, trippy is probably the best word. If you have any experience with Morrison, you know what I’m talking about. Those books were pretty much the apex of Animal Man’s fame, until the excellent series 52 from a few years ago, which put the focus on C-List heroes, of which, Animal Man played a big part. This new series from Lemire and Foreman is an excellent blending of the “down-to-earth, everyman hero” that I followed in 52 and the trippy, thought-provoking style of Morrison. Foreman’s artwork is a unique style, shifting from simple and spartan to hyper-detailed and creepy as the story needs without ever seeming disjointed. Lemire’s writing is clear, concise, and manages to convey the cosmic weirdness of the story without falling prey to the “Walls of Text Trap” that other imitators of Morrison usual run into. I cannot really sum up the plot or story, but it’s very good… Reminds me of the best of the Vertigo titles from the 1990s. Won’t be for everybody, but if you liked Sandman, Black Orchid, or Swamp Thing then I’d give Animal Man: The Hunt a try.
Batman: The Court of Owls is a collection of issues #1-7 of the New 52 Batman title. It stars naturally enough, the Batman, and starts with him investigating a string of murders that unravels to reveal a centuries old conspiracy, the eponymous Court of Owls. Written by Scott Snyder with most of the art from artist Greg Capullo, this is an excellent Batman yarn from start to cliff-hanger finish. I always enjoy stories that focus on the Batman in his “World’s Greatest Detective” role, rather than just a ass-kicker in a costume — not that the Dark Knight doesn’t kick some butt in several very nicely done action sequences — but this is the kind of Batman comic that I like to read best. Also nice is that the city of Gotham itself, serves as more than just a location tag. Gotham City is as rich a setting as any in fiction, and it feels almost like a character itself in this story. The bad guys are mysterious and creepy, the supporting cast are actually supportive of the story and not just props, and the artwork is excellent through out… in fact, a sequence where a drugged Batman begins hallucinating is presented with sideways and upside down pages, odd coloration, and nonstandard panels so that the reader (or at least, this reader) even gets a bit disoriented along with Batman. Great use of the unique strengths of comic books as a medium. I highly recommend Batman: The Court of Owls to anyone looking to start or rekindle an interest in Batman comics.
Catwoman: The Game is a collection of issues #1-6 of the New 52 Catwoman title. Written by Judd Winick with art from Guillem March, this is probably one of the best takes on Catwoman I’ve read in years. The New 52 version of Catwoman is back to being a master thief and this story is pretty grounded compared to the cosmic tripping of Animal Man: The Hunt or the dark conspiracy of Batman: Court of Owls. Catwoman makes a score, things go south, and she gets herself out of it with quick thinking and wits. Catwoman is sexy as ever, but for the most part March’s artwork keeps the cheese-cake factor to a minimum, the action flows seamlessly, and Winick’s pacing and storytelling is tight. Catwoman: The Game is how this character should be written.
Justice League International: The Signal Masters was the only true disappointment in the stack of comics I picked up today… which isn’t to say it was bad, but sadly, I also cannot say that it was good. It is average, just average, in almost every way… which is itself disappointing. Written by Dan Jurgens, with art from Aaron Lopesti and Matt Ryan, this book is clearly trying to harken back to the legendary 1980’s Justice League International run by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis. They bring back most of the core cast of that team, try to set up the same Batman/Guy Gardner dynamic, create a proxy for Maxwell Lord, and set up a lighter-and-funnier tone than most of the other New 52 books I’ve read. The plot boils down to “Galactus is here to eat the Earth, rag-tag group must learn to overcome their differences to beat him, rookie leader must learn to take command” that we’ve all seen a hundred times. Ultimately all that I can say about this book was that it was okay. Just… okay. I mean… not good, not bad, it’s just… okay. The villain? He’s okay. The main characters? They’re okay. How is the artwork? It’s okay. How was the writing? It’s all okay! Justice League International: The Signal Masters is 144 pages of unremarkable mediocrity.