The Court of Owls – How DC spoils themselves

Right, for all those who have not yet read Batman #10, here’s a fair warning. I will not warn you again, so here it is: Everything from here on out is spoiler territory.

This week sees some of the biggest, shocking moments of the Batman of the New Fifty-Two. Talon turns out to be some sort of mash-up between Hush and an owl and manages to make Thomas and Martha Wayne not the paragons of virtue they were previously believed to be. They’ve now had a handicapped or mentally insane child they’ve dumped at an asylum. Or maybe not. As Scott Snyder has said, they’re not entirely sure if he really is Thomas Wayne Junior or not.

Anyway, the presumably last Talon and Batman are duking it out. Their big, final climactic battle. How will it end? And here’s where DC has made a mistake. Remember back when they didn’t announce the New Fifty-Two? Suddenly, the solicitations stopped. Nobody knew anything. And even when people inquired, DC didn’t give definitive statements. So for a month or so, the comic book fans were in the dark. Was the lack of solicitations a glitch? Something they oversaw? Or were they really going to reboot everything? Could they reboot everything? Remember that excitement?

That proves that it’s possible that DC can have something exciting coming up without telling us that it’s coming up. And let’s look at the possible endings of the Court of Owls, without even getting into the slow decline of the story from the possibility of there being a massive conspiracy that has some hidden agenda but also might only exist in Batman’s mind to them being a group of people who have zombies that must be punched in the face. Here’s what we know.

Neither Batman nor Talon will die.

This leads me to the conclusion that either Batman will say one of the two sentences that follow: “Go free, Talon. Find your destiny.” Or “Damn you, Talon, you have escaped!” How do I know this? Simple, I’ve had a look at the solicitations. This is what I’ve discovered.

TALON - Writer James Tynion IV with co-plotter Scott Snyder. Artist: Guillem March.

Meet Calvin Rose, the only Talon to ever escape the grasp of the Court of Owls. This former assassin of the Court is trying to live a normal life ... but that’s impossible when he’s being hunted by his former masters!

To have an ongoing comic book, you need a lead character who is alive and somewhat free of baggage. Having Thomas Wayne Jr. no longer be burdened with that name and having done away with the Lincoln March alias would be just that. We’ve all read comic books before. We know how this works, right? So why pitch this book to us? It’s not like we know who Talon is just yet, thus we don’t really care about him up until now. We don’t care about him as a person, we care about the Court of Owls. Their entire point up until now was that we didn’t know who or what they were. So now we’re getting an ongoing book about someone we don’t know who or what he is yet. Now, I’m not against the Talon book existing. It might even be good, even though I can see it being marketed as the Dark Avenger route, where Talon is fighting the good fight, uncovering bits and pieces of his past while being more brutal than Batman and probably a bit more insane.

Couldn’t they just have announced Talon’s solo-book next week? Would that have hurt them so much?

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Fifty-Two Thoughts on the New Fifty-Two

Here we are, me doing a quick review-thing of all 52 titles, by popular demand. Now, mind you, I don’t buy all the series seeing as I’m not rich. But back when they came out, I bought them all. You see, I wanted to see what I was going to buy or not buy. I’m still buying books out of the 52, a couple of which are getting cancelled. Also, in some cases, I have included their cancellation, in others, I have ignored recent news, for obvious reasons. Still, I hope you enjoy it. Also, the entire thing is about 76000 characters long, spaces included.

Justice League

Status: Still buying

When it was announced, comic book fans were more or less shocked to learn that DC’s flagship-title, Justice League, was set five years in the past. Five years ago in a universe we don’t even know in the present of. How can this even work? Turns out we’re all finding out together. These heroes are people we’ve never heard of. Well, sort of. We have heard of them, but we don’t know them since they’re all new and all-different. So Justice League has been a big rollercoaster ride so far. We’ve seen Batman being somewhat rash and cocky, Green Lantern being much younger and much more reckless, Superman being outright hostile and so on. Whether you agree with the moves made by DC or not doesn’t matter, but you’re in the same spot as every reader: You’re discovering this team with the rest of us. There’s no use in going back to the issues from the 1950s to see if this or that reference explains what you thought was a plot hole or some previous storyline that might influence this one. It’s exciting to meet Darkseid for the first time. It’s interesting to see how the Justice League comes together and where it will go together.

All that you had to lose for a whole new and exciting story-arc is your ego. Because you’ve spent years accumulating encyclopaedic knowledge of the Justice League, its members and cases and villains and stories and now it’s all gone. Well, not gone per se, but it doesn’t matter anymore. And if you go on about it, you sound like grumpy old men, reminiscing about how everything used to be better back in the day. And no, it really wasn’t. And you know it. So let’s enjoy this new and different Justice League together and have a bit of fun with it.

Justice League International

Status: Dropped after #1

I sort of like the concept of there being an international team of heroes doing international things… wait. So how exactly are they different from the regular Justice League other than there being some quasi-racist-but-hilarious stereotypes attached to the main stars? I mean, it’s not like the Justice League are stopping at the borders of the United States. As such, we’re left with lame puns by various international characters. Rocket Red might as well go “In Soviet Russia, Red Rockets you!” Hilarity ensues and me, I won’t read it anymore.

I guess it’s humour to some. Some people like Deadpool, too. I don’t. I generally don’t like funny comics that want to blend fun with serious action. If a serious-action-comic ends up being funny, I can actually end up laughing and having fun. But if you go out of your way to make a book funny while they’re also saving the day all the while Superman and Flash and company are saving the day in super-serious fashion, then you’re doing something wrong. Because while the funny heroes being all derpy might be something I could be interested in, if you look at them in context, it just falls flat.

Aquaman

Status: Still buying

Okay, you all know about this one: Aquaman’s power is to talk to fish. He does it often, he likes doing it. Haw haw haw. Great fun. Cue Geoff Johns writing the lord of the seas. He’s a king, but he chooses to leave his kingdom for reasons unknown and make a life for himself in a place where he’s hated. And if he’s not hated, he’s getting laughed at, at least. And no matter how much he saves the day, he still gets to hear jokes at his expense. But does that stop him? No. Blame it on his royal attitude towards everything or just chalk it up to him being awesome. Aquaman just keeps marching on, head held high. He doesn’t care what people say about him. He just saves the day. And that’s what being a hero is about.

Wonder Woman

New Outfit

Status: Dropped after #1, contemplating buying it in TPB

Wonder Woman is a title I’m not entirely sure about. For one thing, it suffers from the usual problems Wonder Woman’s comics have, but on the other hand it’s really interesting if you manage to look past Wonder Woman. Diana is still bland, boring and utterly unengaging. She’s got perfect hair only seconds after getting out of bed. She’s got superpowers and still proclaims herself to be a great woman warrior without ever doing anything all that great.

But then there’s a plot about a pregnant woman who is hunted by evil Greek Gods – they’re Greek because Wonder Woman must fight them at some point and because they’re not yet another secret organization. The Greek Gods have found a new shtick. And that shtick is that they’re all urban-fantasy-ish. And I like that. Because the traditional sword and sorcery stuff usually bores me to tears other than it not working in comic books. So I could totally see all those Greek Gods being pummelled in a world where everything boils down to who punches who harder.

The Flash

Status: Dropped after #1

The Flash runs fast. That’s it. I love that concept. In fact, if I could pick any superpower, I would want The Flash’s speed. I wouldn’t even want the vibrating or this weird ability that the Speed Force gives you that allows you to take from and add speed to things and/or people. Yes, it’s a pretty bizarre power. But me, I’d just like to run really, really fast. Faster than a car, faster than a plane, just like the Flash.

Enter this book. While it’s not bad, it’s also not good and most certainly not worth my money. The Flash could have any kind of power and it wouldn’t make a lick of a difference. Let’s look at it for a second. In the first issue, The Flash’s thought-to-be-dead friend manages to run into a heap of trouble. In fact, that’s all he’s known for, because aside for that, he has no characteristics. And neither does anyone in this book, to be honest, but let’s look past that for a second. And The Flash, being the fastest man alive, is just as fast as Manuel. This is a man running at light speed, ending up at the same place at the same time as a guy who does a jog. Also, there’s the little fact that The Flash has no heroic qualities in the first issue. His first quasi-heroic moment was when he defeated a gang of terrorists. Only that he screwed up himself. So where’s the big “Man, this Flash-guy is awesome”-moment? Where’s the “Oomph” behind it all? Where’s the gravitas? Where’s the sense of dread, the shining hero, the lovable supporting cast? In this book, everything’s been watered down and it ends up being an overly inoffensive and mellow comic. And to that, I say “No”. Not with the guy whose powers I would love to have.

Captain Atom

Status: Dropped after #1

This book is about very little. It tries to do the same thing that J.H. Williams is trying to do over in Batwoman’s book. Freddie Williams is trying to tell the story by means of art. And as such, you have him trying to go all-out. Daring angles, intricate designs for alien creatures, the colours are everything but traditional and in the end, it fails. Why? Because you can actually see the art getting worse as the first issue progresses. While in his first appearance, Captain Atom is very detailed and rather impressive in his highly-detailed city where he fights a highly-detailed robot in the background, everything just seems sloppier by the end of the issue. It’s still highly detailed art in comparison to other books, but it fails on its own.

Other than that, the story is rather unengaging and I can’t even remember anymore what it was all about. What? It was five months ago. Yes, I could have read up on it, but that’s how much I’m interested in this book.

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men

Status: Dropped after #1 for budget reasons.

I don’t like Firestorm. The concept seems silly and the characters in Firestorm-books appear to try to come up with as many disabilities and social issues as they can. Also, the character – characters, rather – were completely wrecked during Brightest Day. So here’s a reboot. It stars Jason Rusch and some guy whose name I can’t remember right now, but he’s the jock of the two while Jason is the nerd. Trouble is pre-programmed. And if you add a deadly band of enforcers employed by a mysterious organization to the mix, you have something I could potentially be interested in.

On the downside, there’s very little Firestorming in the book and the mercenary-type-people are the most interesting aspect of it all. The very second the Firestorms have transformed, the story falls instantly apart. There’s a segue into the action scene of the book that is jarring and absolutely awful to the point of where I think they might have missed a page and then it’s right back to the old hi-jinks. Sure, trouble between Jason and Whatshisname is pre-programmed, but seriously, couldn’t it wait until they’ve at least covered the basics? What does “Focus or you’ll be unstable” even mean? You know what, screw it, have some Fury, who’s an evil combined version of both Firestorms. And who are these other, ethnically charged Firestorms. And what’s this silly subplot about racism where there really isn’t any reason to even introduce it? Whatshisname doesn’t like Jason, it’s not a race thing as Whatshisname was completely comfortable with his black friend who was shot in the head prior to that fella’s death.

Green Arrow

Status: Still buying it, although regretting it more and more. Stopped reading at #2

J.T. Krul has made Green Arrow awesome again with his sort-of-relaunch of the book in 2010. Oliver Queen was no longer a mayor, no longer married – because, seriously, who thought this was a good idea in the first place? – and no longer with Queen Industries. He was a hermit, living in a forest that just so appeared in the middle of Star City. Why was it there? We will never know. How did Ollie get into the forest? Nobody cares and also, we will never know. What we did know though is that the book was full of fun and adventure. It had good and interesting villains, a really good side-character and lots of good writing. Needless to say, when J.T. Krul was announced to be the writer of the latest relaunch with the New Fifty-Two, nobody was worried that it could be bad.

But it was. The reasons for this still baffle me. It’s not like Krul can’t write decent stories. It’s not like he can’t make weird villains work. It’s almost as if he decided “No, this can’t possibly be good. Let’s wreck it” and then proceeded to do just that. The new Oliver Queen, now younger and shaved, is not only the head of Q-Core but also yet another billionaire bachelor. His villains are – while their shtick of wanting to be YouTube Superstars and It-Girls is rather original – generic. It’s not like their premise is so generic, quite the opposite, but they’re evil for the sake of being evil, just like the Titans used to be “We do good because doing good is good”, Ollie’s new villains seem to be “We do evil because doing evil is evil.” Also, I can’t remember a single name from the book other than Ollie’s. That’s a bad sign. I actually gave up on this book at issue #2. It was bad. And I liked the former Green Arrow.

The Savage Hawkman

Status: Dropped after #1

Hawkman is not a bad book. It’s also not good. I guess that when you’re doing 52 books, you’ll end up having a few mediocre ones. And this is one of them. And then I remember the mess that is Hawkman and I think to myself that the character just might be screwed up beyond salvation for all times. Because can someone tell me his origins from before Flashpoint? That’s what I keep thinking about. Every time I see that beaked mask of his, I can’t help but laugh at the guesstimated seventy-three previous origins, all of which haven’t worked. What did work, though, was the version they initially portrayed in Wednesday Comics. I liked that. There seemed to be no aliens from alternate dimension’s past or stuff like that. There was Hawkman and he went after plane-hijackers. Okay, I admit, it turned out to be about aliens in the end after all and from there on out it got very confusing, but that Hawkman there, the one who goes after hijackers, that is someone I’d have liked to read more about.

In this new continuity, Hawkman is some ancient God and also a museum guy. Or something. I’m not even paying attention to it anymore due to aforementioned reasons. The only thing that has obviously changed is the fact that his wings and his armour are now in his body… somehow. All in all, it’s a pretty inconsequential thing to do to a trainwreck that can’t really help being a trainwreck. Pair that up with a mediocre story that seems rather uninspired and then add the prospect of Rob Liefeld taking over – even though that is a rather recent announcement – I am certainly not going to make any kind of effort to read this.

Mister Terrific

Status: Dropped after #1, borrowed it from a friend for this article

As a good idea, the editors at DC thought they’d make Mister Terrific a hugely successful superhero nerd. Basically, he’s wish fulfilment for many a comic book reader. You know them, the nerdy cellar dwelling type. The people who know all maps in Skyrim by heart but couldn’t find their way around their neighbourhood if their lives depended on it. Them. As such, he has a secret headquarters in an alternate dimension, does a lot of tech babble and is also a highly desirable bachelor. As such, he gets to nail not only the Caucasian-build black woman at the highly successful company he runs but also Karen Starr who may or may not be known as Power Girl. So, even in the realm of superheroes, he’s a bit too much. He’s a bachelor, runs a big company, is a superhero and even finds time to watch the latest episodes of Doctor Who and quote it in the midst of fighting a monster halfway around the globe. In addition to all that, he manages to be at every fancy dinner party that he needs to be at. Oh, and he’s also black.

I’m not buying it. Even in context of people who dress up as bats or hail from Krypton, I just can’t get myself to believe that someone like him is actually possible. I get it, they wanted to make an awesome character that’s also black and I commend DC for even thinking of minorities. But let’s assume for a second that this were the 70s. In the 1970s, Mister Terrific would be called “Funky Disco Black Thunder Boss” or something. And that’s just not how you’re being inclusive. You know what? Let’s play Mary Sue Bingo with Mister Terrific.

That’s a couple of crosses too many for my liking. And I was tempted to put two more crosses on there under “Story doesn’t make any sense” and “not able to die”. Because every challenge Mister Terrific has faced in the first four issues was almost instantly solved. Every fight he fought was a curbstomp battle. Brainstorm ate the minds of thousands of people and Mister Terrific basically went “Bah, humbug! Eat some T-Spheres!” and then punched the guy’s lights out. Or in the most recent issue, Mister Terrific was escaping a transdimensional prison. So – and now let this one sink in – he grabs a couple of horns that grow on a fellow prisoner, and modifies nanocircuitry with it. That’s even worse than “Tony Stark built his armour in a cave”. Nanocircuitry. With Horns. Really.

Batman

Status: Still buying it

So the Joker is out of the picture. Hoorah. And finally, a writer is not absolutely hell-bent on “writing that one, defining Batman/Joker-story”. Scott Snyder has, in a stroke of genius, thought of the Court of Owls. Who are they? We don’t know. What do they want? Well, we can guess but we don’t know. Even their basic premise eludes the world’s greatest detective. And as of right now, so does their existence. The only hints he has so far are the paranoia of one of his ancestors and there being an old retconned-in nursery rhyme. The strongest clue so far is the existence of Talon, apparently a killer in the service of the Court of Owls. But he just might be a madman with delusions. You never know, crazier things have happened.

And that, my friends, is how comic books get to be exciting. They give you fresh ideas, new themes every now and then and they don’t go around rehashing old ideas and villains. Because if you do, you take away from a universe. Arkham Asylum, one of the worst mental facilities in the known universe of DC Comics gets a revolving door the Joker marches through every other week. Blackgate becomes a place where the Riddler sleeps after a long night out in town. So cue the Court of Owls, how do they fit in? Do they even exist? If so, who are they? See, that’s what I wonder. I don’t care much about what the Joker’s up to because if he does something truly amazing, we’ll get the story sooner or later. But for now, we get a new and creative villain. A party or parties of unknown who baffle the Dark Knight on an intellectual level. I mean, look at what they managed to do: They have run Gotham for generations. This alone would easily be possible, but you have Batman in town – a man who is known for figuring everything out. And it’s not like he was unable to pin them down or make no arrests related to them. No, the Court of Owls managed to completely elude the Batman. As in, he has never heard of them. And Batman is the man who knows everything. How is that not awesome?

Detective Comics

Status: Dropped after #1

I like Batman. He’s pretty awesome. And I like Tony S. Daniel’s art. One of my earliest collected comics was his “The Tenth”. But his Detective Comics is just not all that good. It contradicts itself within the first two pages. First, Batman goes on about how he can pin 114 murders on the Joker. The very next page, he goes “He has no true pattern”, which basically translates into “Well, the guy might be awfully evil, but I’m making stuff up when I say something about his kill-count.” How can Batman know all this when there’s no pattern? Was he there for all these murders? Because if so, Batman is a rather crappy hero, what with him just sitting by as the Joker murders his way around Gotham and keeping count of how many victims there are. And then Batman goes to kick the living crap out of a group of police officers, citing that he has his reasons and must get a girl to safety. Wait… what? Wouldn’t the cops have done that as well? Why not leave the already frightened girl to the experts in the field while you – being a big and scary man that just so swooped in through a window following a huge explosion that for all she knows you caused – go after the bad guy?

This is storytelling at it silliest. Nothing adds up, the brave and noble moments of Batman are undermined on the same page that they begin and in the end, we have a jumbled mess of a story that has tried a lot and accomplished nothing. I borrowed issue #2 from a friend and it was about nothing #1 was about. Sure, expanding a universe is a really good idea, but if you feel like you have to do it in two issues, you’re doing something wrong.

I’ll say this for the book, though. It got the Joker out of the way rather quickly while having established him as either a merciless killer or as a very elusive maybe-murderer. And that’s pretty cool. Oh, and the art looks nice.

Batwing

Status: Dropped after #1

Prior to this book’s release, Judd Winick was going on about how much of a challenge this book is and how you can’t just put Batman in the country of Africa to have an African Batman. That wouldn’t work, mainly because the regular Batman has trouble keeping Gotham under control. Here, we’re talking about a whole continent, more or less devastated by numerous civil wars, genocidal campaigns of some asshole warlords, corrupt authorities, child soldiers, blood diamonds, oil wells that destroy the environment… and that’s just the tip of the ice berg. So enter Batwing, whose civil name is following the formula of “Christian first name and a last name that is very African, like Mwambo”. So he gets pitted against a fellow calling himself Massacre. The initial fight between Mwambulu and Massacre is rather brutal, I’ll give it that. In the end, it sees Batwing impaled on a machete, which is something – having had a good look at my machete – that is quite something to do. Machetes aren’t really stabbing weapons. Or weapons. As brutal and intense as this might want to come across is that it deprives Batwing of his chance to shine in his début issue. There is no real “Big Hero Moment” where readers can go “Man, this guy is really awesome”.

But it was the idiotic “Country of Africa”-thing that ultimately made me drop the book. If you can get over that – and most of you being American, I imagine some of you are surprised to learn that Africa is not only something you say in front of “n-American” – then you might enjoy Batwing. I certainly don’t.

Batman: The Dark Knight

Status: Dropped after #1

There’s something I have against vanity projects and this just happens to be one. In this book, David Finch – described as a comic book superstar – gets full control over Batman. So he ignores all recent goings-on in Gotham, such as Batman Inc. and… well, everything. It also seems to fit in nowhere with current continuity or anything that is the New DC Universe. Instead we have Batman in a story that is described as “The Dark Knight must fight his way through a gauntlet of psychos”. This makes me wonder how the book is supposed to be different from, say Detective Comics, where Batman is up against a group of psychos as well, including the police force. Or the comic titled Batman, where Bruce is up against a group of obviously psychopathic people and is currently dying in a maze.

“Batman: The Dark Knight” is superfluous and only serves the purpose of letting someone who the publisher thinks and/or describes himself as a superstar run wild with a property that really deserves better.

Batman and Robin

Status: Dropped after #1

There are way too many Batman books. Seriously. Four titles about one hero, in one of which he’s been lost in a maze for over a week? Yeah, I’m not buying it. But here we have it. Batman’s amazing tale of how he and his son are having a jolly good time doing random heroics. And while the book was quite spectacular under Grant Morrison’s pen, it is decidedly less so under Tomasi’s. He’s interpreting Damian’s rashness and his short-fused temper as well as his tendency to overdo it slightly as “Constant murderous rage” and stupidity. If Damian hadn’t been one thing in his previous incarnation, it was stupid. Damian was highly intelligent, well-trained and seemed rather competent, from which his occasional overconfidence stems. And by making Damian a stupid, murderous kid, Peter J. Tomasi is also making Batman look like a moron. In what universe would The Dark Knight, priding himself on being one of the smartest and most methodical heroes ever, let a kid endanger itself and Batman at the same time by letting him dress up as a hero?

Other than that, the story itself wasn’t that spectacular. It lacked the “Oomph” behind it and was utterly forgettable. I remember Damian’s characterization and this odd “Bat-Sewer-Rocket”. Other than that, I couldn’t even tell you what it was all about.

Batgirl

Status: Dropped after #1

I wanted to know how Babs got out of the wheelchair or if she was ever in it. I wanted to see if Gail Simone still has what made her so awesome. I read it; I got sort of answers to both questions. Of course, there was no answer to the wheelchair-thing. Because apparently, it’s a sort of rule in the comic book industry that goes something along the lines of “As long as we don’t tell them what they want to know, they’ll keep buying more books”. Well, I’m not playing. I want answers and just for once, I want them right off the bat. No big mystery. No big “Let’s have them speculate”, no nonsense. Just get on with it. Let’s do away with the burning questions to have new burning questions arise that baffle us even more instead of dwelling on the same old shite issue after issue.

But other than that, the book is rather nicely done. All the characters have distinct personalities, the art looks rather nice and Gail Simone is still a good writer. But out of protest, I’m not buying it anymore.

Batwoman

Status: Borrowing it from a friend, contemplating buying it.

This is a very pretty book. Frightfully damn pretty. J.H. Williams the Third is really pushing it here, treating comic book art with a certain disrespect that is so very refreshing. And by doing that, he manages to give us a completely new experience in superhero comics. There have been a few books with Williams’ incredible art before, but none of them were mainstream superhero books. And what he’s doing here clearly works. It’s highly dynamic, amazingly detailed and has interesting approaches to colouring, angles and lettering. Batwoman is something that really takes the term “art” literally as every page is a joy to look at. There’s something to be discovered in every nook and cranny of the page.

While the story is kind of thin, it still manages to be unpredictable. Who would have thought that Batwoman would ally herself with Cameron Chase? Gone are the notions of the never-faltering hero. Just like that. And I also appreciate their not pushing the Lesbian thing. You don’t have her proclaim herself being Queen Lesbian every other issue as it has been the case other times. While it might not revolutionize comic books as a whole, because that is damn near impossible these days and only appears to ever happen by accident, it is still a nice read that entertains and looks so very pretty.

Nightwing

Status: Still buying it

It’s so good to see Dick Grayson back as Nightwing. The capeless wonder has been his role from the get-go. It was he who came up with it, not Batman or anyone. Sure, Robin might have been partially his idea, depending on which retcon you’re currently believing, but it was never his own. After all, there was Jason Todd after him. Then came Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown and now we have Damian Wayne. But Nightwing is who Dick Grayson is. It’s a hero he shaped, it’s an identity that shaped him. He’s never been better as a hero than when he was Nightwing. Sure, he might have had a bigger impact on the entire universe during his brief stint as Batman, but it felt wrong. It just wasn’t him. Just like there will never be a fully accepted Batman who is not Bruce Wayne, there will never be a Nightwing that is not Dick Grayson. So seeing Dick back as Nightwing was a huge relief. It brought back memories of adventures that have long been past and the circus angle promises a great many adventures in a wide variety of places, none of which too outlandish. The only big difference I see thus far is that Nightwing is now clad in black and red, instead of the familiar black and blue. And as soon as they make a T-Shirt with the new logo on it, I’ll buy it.

The book itself is neither particularly good nor particularly exciting, though. It lives off the fan-bonus. While the introduction of Seiko early on was a really good idea, he disappeared quickly again as the circus moved. I suppose that’s where the whole circus-angle can prove to be a disadvantage. If your character is only in town for a couple of days, then it is hard to have him under a long-term threat. Sure, you could have a villain follow the circus, but why would the bad guy do that? Because nobody knows that Dick Grayson is Nightwing, let alone that he’s with a circus. Well, Seiko knows, but he’s not following for whatever reason. On the other hand, there’s the issue of the circus-people or some other villain figuring out Dick’s identity. Him being in the circus is a really big risk. Because if a villain or someone else is curious enough, then he could easily find the pattern that Nightwing always appears where the circus is. And if they look at the time and employment records or whatever, they could easily figure out that Nightwing appeared in the area of the circus around the time Dick Grayson joined the travellers. Confirmation would come from Nightwing having the same hairdo and stature and presumably a similar voice as Dick Grayson. Put Grayson under observation for a day or ten, and voilà, identity uncovered.

Then there was that little mishap with the demon. Yes, there was a rhyming demon who was summoned for some lost-love-type-of-thing. And it was stupid. Sure, it was a fun story to an extent, but I don’t think that Nightwing should be battling supernatural forces. Weren’t there any street thugs that the woman could have hired? That would have been much more believable. But the ordeal with the demon also showed us the limitation of the inability to have a long-term foe. It might very well be that Nightwing turns out to be one of the books that is made up of one-shots with very little to no overarching plot. If that would have to work, then it would need better stories than “There’s a demon and lost love”.

Catwoman

Status: Dropped after #1

This one is supposed to be the sexy book of the New Fifty-Two. It’s not. It’s supposed to be the one with the strong female character. It’s not, really. What we get is something that would be perfectly set in the 1990s. It has tits everywhere. Very little plot, very many explosions. So all in all, it’s not very exciting or new or interesting or New-Fifty-Two-ish.

But there’s something to be said for it. Not only does Catwoman continue to be an interesting character with some strange attraction to her, but she also began to have likable and interesting supporting characters. But I hear the fence Selina’s hanging out with – you know, the chubby woman with the mouth from the first issue – got killed in the second issue. So that should take care of that. And the art is pretty awesome. The boob-shots are nice, but there are some really awesome bits of art hidden between the big, flashy and mostly filled-with-boobs-and-underwear splashpages. Sadly, the exit of the fence or the prospect of it took anything remotely interesting out of the book. So yeah, this one just isn’t for me.

Birds of Prey

Status: Still buying, but I read the issues irregularly.

Here’s why I don’t understand some of the flak the New Fifty-Two has gotten. There apparently aren’t any strong and well-rounded female characters. Also no female writers. In case of Voodoo or Catwoman, I would agree. But Birds of Prey is the reason why everyone’s wrong when they say that there are no strong female characters. And it’s also proof of why it doesn’t matter whether or not a man or a woman writes a book. Because Duane Swierczyinski (and I just typed that name without looking it up) makes this book totally work. He re-interprets a number of characters we’ve known. His take on Poison Ivy is very interesting and the newest addition to the cast – Starling – feels very at-home in this book and gels well with the rest of the book.

While I don’t like the story too much as precious little seems to be happening or if it does, it doesn’t seem too interesting, but the characterizations, the banter and the wit make up for that. This is indeed a very good book and just might live up to the precedent that Gail Simone set in her near-legendary run of the first volume.

Red Hood and the Outlaws

Status: Still buying it, one of my favourites

It began with a bang. Everyone was in an outrage because of Starfire. It appears, though, that all those loud voices are being quieted, because Scott Lobdell appears to have so much more in stock for this book. Not only do we get to see radically new characterizations that only bear a faint resemblance to the characters we’ve known, but we get introduced to new characters that are equally mysterious and ultimately, very awesome. The plot goes as so: A mysterious organization of Tibetan ninjas are hell-bent on killing all of the Caste of All, a rival ninja organization. For all we know, the All-Caste are the good guys as they have trained Jason Todd. Now, a battle between two rival ninja clans with some aliens, genetic mutations and the obligatory Americans thrown into the mix seems awesome, doesn’t it? Well, there’s more. Kenneth Rocafort is doing the art. And it’s amazing.

In fact, the art is so good, I want to eat it. Rocafort makes the book amazingly different. It’s highly detailed, rather realistic but appears funny and quirky in places while maintaining a sort of elegance. Rocafort even pays attention to the tiniest details. Red Hood is the best example of this. In the past, his hood was a sold block of red whatever-it’s-made-of before the reboot. Due to Rocafort’s effort, it’s now a kind of transparent material that let’s onlookers see that there’s a face underneath it while probably not recognizing the man under the hood. And while we’re talking about Jason Todd, this is the first incarnation of the character that is actually interesting and does not seem like something we’ve seen a million times before.

Action Comics

Status: Still buying it

Grant Morrison is a love/hate kind-of-guy. You either love what he’s doing or you hate it. And it’s not a general thing. Even if you generally love Morrison’s stuff, you might end up hating the odd thing he does. And when it was announced that Superman would not be wearing his costume in Action Comics and that he’d just be a reckless kid in the big city, people were rather sceptical. Was this another one of the things where Morrison just tries to do too much? Would it be a confusing mess of mindfuckery?

It’s not. Grant Morrison takes Superman’s youth after Smallville and tells a seemingly straight story. There are no big twists or weirdness. It’s a story that shows us Superman in a new environment with new villains and new allies. Not even all the guys we know from the Daily Planet are working at the Planet. This makes it pretty awesome as well as we have no idea how they end up with each other. It appears, however, that some people would like to take this book as the prime example of how the New Fifty-Two have no continuity. Apparently, Action Comics is a big continuity snarl that messes up everything. The main issue seems to be that “If Justice League happens five years in the past and Action Comics happens in the past as well, the two books don’t add up!” The answer to that is simple. If Justice League happened five years ago, Action Comics happened at least five years and one day ago. Action Comics happened before Justice League. Whether Action Comics is set one year, a month or ten years before Justice League doesn’t really matter.

In addition to the interesting premise and the characters that are not quite themselves yet – which adds a sense of discovery to the book – the book manages to have a certain wit and it’s funny and exciting and generally very interesting. But it seems that the next arc will be set in the present, five years after Justice League, which I don’t really look forward to. I’m having too much fun with Clark Kent in his jeans.

Superman

Status: Dropped after #1

While Action Comics is doing an amazing job at showing us Superman’s past, Superman was supposed to throw us right into the fray of Superman’s present. But in the first issue, there’s a number of things wrong with it. The biggest thing is that they hired George Perez to write it. Perez undoubtedly is a legend in comic book circles and has done a lot for the medium as a whole. However, he’s had his time. His writing is out-dated and seems not only forced but also very stale. Considering that this is supposed to be the all-new, all-better and fresh Superman, this falls flat. Perez should just call it quits, maybe write that book all writers dream of writing. Or do Indie Comics, or out-of-continuity tales of way-back-then. But modern and fresh is not something Perez can do.

Then there’s the fact that Perez made the one mistake and made the villain the one thing that has never worked in any movie or comic: a cloud. Marvel is an expert at that. They have their heroes fight clouds on a regular basis. The Fantastic Four did it when their movie-versions went up against Galactus who was a cloud. Ang Lee had the Hulk fight a cloud and the Ultimate Fantastic Four fought Cloud-Galactus. Not once did it work. Not once did it amount to anything other than it being a lacklustre finale to a stupid story. I bet that there’s an editor at Marvel’s going “You know what would be a good villain? A cloud!” whenever someone asks who Iron Man or Spider-Man should fight next. Nobody is threatened by clouds. And Superman isn’t either.

Oh, and the art seems very old, too.

Superboy

Status: Dropped after #1, not necessarily because it’s bad

Superboy shows us how a mysterious organization clones Superman and adds some human DNA. Out comes Superboy who has tactile kinesis powers. How that even begins to work is simply mind-blowing but here we are. Scott Lobdell is on writing duty and he does a good job. Practically every employee of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is a familiar face. There’s Rose Wilson, who may or may not be related to Deathstroke, then there’s Caitlin Fairchild of Gen13 fame and so on. And that’s all fun and good. The art, too, it’s fresh and sort of cartoony but adds the right amount of seriousness to it to make it enjoyable.

Still, I don’t read it anymore. I have no idea why, though. I remember looking at it in the shop when #2 came out. I stood there, had it in my hand, then put it back. It wasn’t a budget-decision. It wasn’t because I thought the book was boring or uninteresting in any way. But I just didn’t buy it anymore. I might get it in trade, but for some reason, I just have no urge to buy it at this point.

Supergirl

Status: Dropped after #1

Supergirl crashes on Earth, but instead of loving adoptive parents, she finds giant killer robots that speak in a language she has never heard and Superman who apparently can’t be there. According to her, he should be dead. And she’s wearing a graduation dress. On an obvious level it falls apart at the “graduation dress”-bit. Because what self-respecting society would have that outfit as their graduation outfit? As a whole, it falls apart When they’re trying to sell us on the idea that a) not only is Superman not who he claims he is, because he is Superman. There’s no doubt about him. He’s Superman. For almost eighty years. End of story. And then there’s b) nothing ever will come of it, because it’s all one giant misunderstanding. So all that can happen is hijinks ensuing followed by “Oh, we were rather dumb, were we” and then she fights for good in the obscurity of the DCU somewhere, being Superman but not.

Green Lantern

Status: Dropped after #1

What Geoff Johns has done for Green Lantern was amazing. He took a rather obscure and everything but cool character and made him one of the old DC Universe’s most awesome reads. Right now, he’s doing the same to Aquaman. The problem with Green Lantern was that it all fell apart when Johns suddenly had the theoretically good idea of the different Lantern Corps. While Larfleeze got what feels like seven arcs dedicated to him, the other Corps were pushed into the background. And then came Blackest Night which started off rather interestingly but ended up being a complete wreck because it was way too long. As a whole, Green Lantern suffered. Along came the DC Reboot and I was hoping that they’d ignore Blackest Night and do it like they did it with the Titans: Take all what’s been recent, keep the awesome stuff but tweak it so that all you did wrong there is no longer around. But, no, Green Lantern ended up being a renumbering rather than a reboot. As such, it’s stayed pretty uninteresting for me.

Green Lantern Corps

Status: Dropped after #1

This book, again, is not a reboot. And with about a handful Green Lanterns from Earth where there should be two tops, they keep struggling to find places for all those extra Lanterns, because the fans couldn’t possibly tolerate Guy Gardner to not be a Green Lantern. As for the book itself, it has a rather dubious quality about it. Nothing seems to fit together other than the general message of “You’re not all that awesome”. First, the unknown Lanterns get murdered by the mystery-ninja enemy without that fella even breaking a sweat. Then both Guy Gardner and John Stewart, who don’t do anything plot-related in the entire issue and feel rather out of place, are told that they’re awesome but still suck. And then they invoke Eddie Izzard’s mass murderer principle. I’m paraphrasing here, but he’s said something along the lines of the following:

When a man kills ten people, you think it’s awful. When a man is responsible for the death of thousands, the number is so large that you can’t even grasp it. You’re almost willing to congratulate him because something like that is no small feat.

And if you kill off an entire planet’s worth of blue, barely human aliens, the entire effect of John’s “Good God!”-reaction falls flat.

Green Lantern: The New Guardians

Status: Still buying it

The book of Kyle Rayner. Being not so impressed with the other two, I didn’t have high hopes for this one. But I like Kyle Rayner. Not because he’s funny and goofy or because he’s a comic book artist, but he seems to be the most relatable Green Lantern out there. And on the first pages, he’s not even a Green Lantern yet. And that was awesome. Harvey Tolibao, whose art was questionable at best in the past (see his X-Men stuff) didn’t exactly make me want to read it either, but he’s doing a really good job in this. Add an interesting plot to it all, what with the various rings gravitating towards Kyle, the Orrery being apparently lost worlds that have somehow gone to another dimension only to return for some reason. All in all, it’s pleasantly weird and as a fan of the first four seasons of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda I am all in favour of something that adapts the idea of the Magog Worldship, even if there’s not a horde of murderous monsters inside. Oh, and then there’s an interesting villains. But so far, it’s not quite clear who the New Guardians are and why they are, but that’s something I’m willing to find out as the book progresses.

Red Lanterns

Status: Dropped after #1, borrowed up to #4 from a friend for research reasons.

Atrocitus. A being so pissed off he pukes blood. A being so angry that it’s become his only raison d’être. He’s an unstoppable force, driven only by rage and a sense of being so annoyed that he wants to murder something in a cruel and somewhat ironic way. That’s how we met the big red guy, having more or less “just” survived the complete annihilation of his entire space sector, having sworn revenge and roamed the universe for a really long time searching for beings that are equally enraged by some cruel injustice.

Yeah, that’s not what this book is about. At all. Instead we’re supposed to swallow that now that Krona’s dead, Atrocitus has become some sort of galactic Punisher who doesn’t do much besides brooding. The sort of brooding you’d have expected to find on LiveJournal, written by people who are now in their mid-twenties and very, very embarrassed by their musings. He doesn’t do much anymore, besides screwing up his own corps. I’ve written a column on it, too.

Teen Titans

Status: Still buying it.

After about issue #50 of the previous volume, Teen Titans was unreadable. Lots of writers have tried and failed to make anything of it. In the end, the characters were featureless and bland and their dialogue was interchangeable and everyone’s motivation seemed to be “I do good things because doing good things is good”. And in the end, they decided that what the world needed was a terrible Mary Sue character named Solstice who made Raven vomit spiritually and was terrible in every regard. But still, a DC Universe without the Teen Titans does not feel complete. So it came as no surprise that there was a new volume of the Titans announced in the New Fifty-Two. I groaned but since I’m a Titans-fan. So I renewed my subscription… and I was pleasantly surprised.

All the characters feel refreshing and rather rebellious in their own ways. Wonder Girl refuses to be called Wonder Girl, is a skilled thief and has stolen her superpowers. Red Robin has had Batman’s training but quit being in the service of the Dark Knight for reasons unknown or unexplored. Kid Flash is more reminiscent of Impulse – he’s rash, too quick and never thinks things through. Solstice makes her return as well, but she’s now a mass of black smoke and feel occasionally terrible about it. Then we have two new additions to the team – Bunker and Skitter. They’re polar opposites: Skitter is brooding and sad, Bunker is a happy-go-lucky guy with indestructible optimism. And then there’s a decent villain. The organization known as N.O.W.H.E.R.E. which hunts down teenaged superheroes for reasons unknown. The previous volume still leaves me kind of worried that this might turn into a crapfest of epic proportions, but I’m looking forward to the next issues.

Blue Beetle

Status: Dropped after #1

This book sucks. Jaime Reyes was one of the best new characters of recent years, even though he came out of a rather terrible “everything will change”-crossover. He was funny, he was not like all the other heroes, he had a good and unique supporting cast and while he was a minority character, he didn’t really make a point of it. Much like I imagine Latinos not flaunting their Latino-ness all day long. So that was good. Then the book got cancelled for a reason I don’t understand to this day, but when he was announced to return as a solo character in The New Fifty-Two, I was all excited. It was one of the first books I read when I got it the day it came out.

I was disappointed. Tony Bedard apparently thinks that having him do the “Spanglish” at every given opportunity makes Jaime and his cast awesome and diverse. No. That’s not how it works. Diversity works the very second you don’t make a point of it. That’s why affirmative action fails. That’s why token characters fail. See Bunker in Teen Titans? He’s a gay Mexican. That’s a twofer in minority-bingo. Yet all everyone ever remarks about Bunker is that he’s an awfully happy guy and that his happiness is contagious. Put him opposite the “all-new, all-better” Jaime Reyes, you will notice that people talk about Bunker, but not Jaime. Because Jaime is not interesting. His support characters also suck. Where’s Peacemaker? Where’s all the awesome and decidedly un-Spanglish lot?

Legion of Super-Heroes

Status: Dropped after #1

When I looked at the cover of this one, I thought “Wow, here we have Gun Holding Lad, Muscle Showing Boy, Red Hair Having Lass and Antenna Lad”. That’s how much I care for the Legion. But still, I entertained the possibility that I might end up being entertained by the book. After all, a good Sci-Fi-story has never failed to amaze me thus far. Well, this book didn’t. The main reason is that this is the same stuff that hasn’t worked for the Legion for about six reboots in the last three years. So why are they trying again? Because that’s just what it is: Same crap, different day.

Everyone in this books keeps going on about how the Legion has thinned out and how they’re such a small force nowadays, yet the first issue alone introduces sixteen characters who are all of varying degrees of uselessness. Oh, and I care about exactly none of them, especially since they reference stuff that I feel like I should have read to understand the story, but seeing as this is issue #1, there’s nothing before it. Then they keep talking about stuff that I have no idea about. What’s this “United Planets Good Behaviour Statistic”? Why is it important? Or is it supposed to be funny? And even with someone of Superman-Level as the big cliffhanger ending, I do not care.

Legion Lost

Status: Dropped after #1

While this isn’t half as bad as the Legion of Super-Heroes (that's a lie, it actually is), which this spins out of, it’s still pretty awful. Again, they reference a lot of things that nobody can know because the story’s supposed to be only just beginning. In addition to all that, we have no idea what these people can do, so the mythical new reader that DC’s trying to attract with this book (and the entire New Fifty-Two for that matter) will only be confused and not read on. Besides, the story doesn’t make any sense either. Something’s been released somewhere and nobody but the Legionnaires knows what it is.

Basically, the entire book feels like a giant in-joke or a strange “Nyah, nyah, I’ve got a secret” prank. Yeah, you may have a secret, but what you don’t have is my money, because your joke sucks.

Static Shock

Status: Dropped after #1

Most people know Static from the cult classic animated TV series “Static Shock” which was somewhat based on a comic book by the “Let’s write about black people”-publisher Milestone, founded and largely written by none other than the late Dwayne McDuffie. While the publisher – a DC imprint, by the way – was somewhat successful and left some marks on the landscape of comic books mainly for its political approach to comics and including minorities in prominent roles (while not having names like Black Blackman). In Milestone-books, minority characters were not reduced to that one little titbit about them. They’re fully rounded and rather unique figures set in a rather different corner of the DC Universe. Well, it would become the DC Universe a couple years after the Milestone-imprint had folded and fans still kept talking about Static and his friends. This failed. Horribly. Static was included in Felicia D. Henderson’s absolutely awful run on Teen Titans and then quickly left the team because of some bullshit excuse like “My planet needs me”.

But still, after Flashpoint – an event that is also largely forgotten already because other than rebooting everything to its all-new, all-different state it didn’t have any consequences – Static was to get his own ongoing series. Fans were excited. I have watched the series on Cartoon Network back in the day and I was very much looking forward to it. The first issue came about. And it was terrible. Static was unrecognizable. He was no longer in Dakota. His costume was new and different. He has new villains nobody cares about and the story is absolutely terrible. The villains are bland, the heroes stupid and incompetent. The supporting cast is absolutely awful and the art is lacklustre at best. Let’s cancel this book and never speak of it again.

Hawk and Dove

Status: Dropped after #1

This book isn’t actually half-bad. Well, it’s rather terrible but the story showed promise. Hawk and Dove weren’t just your average heroes and their approach to the whole business of heroics seems rather novel too. They’re treating their being heroes openly and have supporting characters that are fully aware of their doings in tights. Also, the two main heroes clash nicely. All in all, Sterling Gates does a decent job at introducing characters we know and care very little about.

And then there’s this book’s downfall: Rob Liefeld. The infamous artist from the 1990s who’s often blamed for everything that was wrong with that decade makes his less-than-stellar return to DC with this book. It’s not that I think Liefeld could not produce a decent book to save his life – even if it might be true – but I say his hey-day has passed. He should either adopt a new style or leave the business in much more contemporary artists’ hands. Because you just can’t look at the book without thinking that some retarded monkey with spasms drew this. And seeing as “Hawk and Dove” has already been cancelled, I can safely say: I’m not surprised and I know why.

All-Star Western

Status: Dropped after #1, borrowing it from a friend

This book is good. It begins as a classic Whodunit but evolves into some sort of conspiracy quickly. Jonah Hex, him being a man of the wide prairie and all that, is easily the most interesting character in this book, because he’s in an area he’s not familiar with. An area where he does not feel at home and knows nobody and nothing. And here he is, trying to find a killer. And his helper on this case is Doctor Arkham, a man who’s a physician by trade but a psychologist at heart. The two characters with completely opposing mindsets clash often and easily – Hex with his violence and Arkham with his unrefined psychological explanations. The one thing I worry about here is that this book, it being the past of half-million Bat-books there currently are, is getting constricted by the things that will happen in the future of the “Present Day” books. And I wouldn’t want that because the adventures of Jonah Hex are pretty awesome the way they are. I’d much rather see the Bat-books adapted to Hex’ past, but somehow, I don’t see that happening.

The only real problem I see with this book are the backup features. None of them have been interesting enough to catch my attention. It was all “Blahblahblah… vaguely Western-y stuff… blahblah”. They lack the gravitas, the impact and basically everything that makes me want to care for a story.

Deathstroke

Status: Dropped after #1, occasionally flipping through it, was interested in picking it up

Whenever a writer describes his own book or a character therein as “badass”, you should avoid the book like the plague. Badasses happen on their own not after an announcement. Look at Jonah Hex. He’s a badass. Everything he does he does with reason, with cunning and with a certain degree of coolness to it. And here we have Deathstroke who just tears through everything. No reason, no coolness, no anything of real significance. He just mows down everyone and everything for the sole reason that he has to. I can see how a former top-notch mercenary might want his spot at the top of the food-chain back, but it’s not nearly enough to carry a book. Still, it’s a fun read for rainy Tuesday afternoons and that’s why I’ve been occasionally following it. And then they announced that Lobo will show up in it.

Lobo is my all-time favourite character. He’s the reason I collect comics. He’s awesome. Screw everything else, Lobo is the greatest character in all of DC if you ask me. So I knew that this will be a book I’ll buy once Lobo shows up in it. Then I read who’ll take over the book as both artist and writer: Rob Liefeld. Again, this guy is poison for every book he’s touched apart from Youngblood which has come out irregularly at best. So, unless you want a book to be cancelled, why put him on a book in the first place?

Suicide Squad

Status: Still buying it

It was the cover of the first issue that drew me to it. Harley Quinn looking as radically different as she does looked as if there were some really great stories in there. So far, the book hasn’t been good. Or bad. It just has been. There’s nothing terribly adventurous or shocking or offensively bad. I see what Adam Glass, a writer I’ve never heard of before this book, is trying to do. He wants there to be some of the same that made The Secret Six so awesome. The problem is that you can’t have that unless you’re Gail Simone. Not that Gail Simone would be the most amazing writer ever and everything she touches is pure gold, but if you’re not Gail Simone you’ve already lost at being Gail Simone. The book lacks its own style, its identity and does everything Gail Simone has done only not as well. Why? Because Gail Simone has had years and years of practice at being Gail Simone. And Andy Glass is neither called Gail Simone nor has he got any experience at being her.

The art is also decisively inoffensive. Where’s the spark that makes comic book art good art? Daring perspective, breath-taking and impossible angles that could never be achieved with a camera? Where are the exaggerated features? Mind you, I’m not talking about Liefeldian proportions here, but if I’m going to suspend disbelief to the point where I am willing to tolerate a guy with a burning head, then I’d certainly be cool with a couple big muscles. After all, exaggerations are what made comics awesome. You had exaggerated tales of people with exaggerated features that do exaggerated things. Sure, the Suicide Squad kills an entire stadium full of zombies, but even that is not sending shivers down my spine. And if that’s the case, you’re doing something wrong.

Still, I’m buying it. I’m reading it. And I can’t get myself to cancel my subscription. Because while it’s not good, it’s also not bad. It’s just an average comic book that mostly evokes the emotion of “Meh”.

Stormwatch

Status: Dropped after #1

As you might know, I’m a big fan of Paul Cornell’s writing. I’m also convinced that he’s a nice guy all-around. But even all that doesn't make this book any better. The main problem with it is that the story didn’t begin in this book but in some completely misplaced page in Superman #1.Then there’s the fact that there are about five stories being told at once. I’m not a huge fan of decompression but here, I wouldn’t mind it. All that wit I love about Cornell’s writing? It’s not here, because he has to tell a story in the Himalayas, one in Moscow, one on the moon, one in hyperspace and introduce ten characters on twenty-two pages. This can’t work. It lacks everything but characters and story threads and so there is no reason to read any more of it. And just seeing how some guy we don’t care about teaches some other guy we don’t care about how to kill every evil bastard on the planet… that’s just not enough.

Grifter

Status: Dropped after #1

To be honest, I had very little motivation to read this book from the get-go. It didn’t seem like something I would enjoy at all. I had no reason to think that, but it was a gut feeling. So I still bought it, mainly because my mind was set at this point. I will read all the new Fifty-Two. So I did.

This book would have been the perfect gritty noir-like story. A con man travelling America, the police hot on his tail and so on. A story that shows us what a man with no superpowers does in a world where everyone has superpowers. Or if he needs superpowers, give him something useless like superhealing but no superstrength. But instead we get aliens – at least I think they’re aliens – a brother with the army and a whole lot of stuff that makes no sense. It’s neither here nor there, it’s not funny, there’s little action, there’s no real story.

What initially turned me off this book was the covers, though. At some point before the series hit, we got solicits for later issues and one of the issues already promoted a crossover with Green Arrow. I hadn’t read either book at that point, but I knew that if I was going to start on Grifter, I would want to read about Grifter. Not about Green Arrow chumming it up with Grifter. Let’s have Cole Cash be his own character for a while. Let’s get to know him and see him do his fair share of awesome things before some other guy with his own book shows up in the book. I’m perfectly willing to believe that everyone shares their universe without everyone showing up in everyone else’s books all the time. So, if you name a book after Grifter, have it be about Grifter for at least the foreseeable future.

Voodoo

Status: Dropped after #1

The concept of “Voodoo” sounds rather interesting. An alien shapeshifter has come to Earth. It takes the shape of a woman. She calls herself something with a really unlikely last name. And that’s as far as the plot goes. Is she the good guy who is just misunderstood? Or is she a part of an invading alien horde? Well, sod that thought. Because we’re going for cheap thrills here. There’s little to no explanation of who she is and why she’s out there. Instead we get her talking about how she’s a stripper and then how she’s a special agent. And then, shockingly, she reveals that she’s actually a monster. And by that point, everyone’s stopped caring.

And so did I.

OMAC

Status: Dropped after #1

This book is the perfect example why editors in chief or editors of any kind should not get to write the product they’re supposed to edit. Because there’s nobody to stop them when they’re screwing up. And if recent DC-history has shown us anything, it’s that Dan DiDio can’t write comic books. He might have his greatest day because he’s the one who did the New Fifty-Two, but honestly, never let that guy anywhere near a plot. I can see why they greenlit the book. I just can’t see how it would work. And as a bonus, I will here reprint my friend Nick’s review of the book he wrote in its entirety.

It was OMAC.

Fuck OMAC.

Moving on.

Blackhawks

Status: Dropped around #4

I was excited to see this team. Because it sounded a bit like a fun and adventure-filled book featuring badass pilots and special operatives doing impossible missions that are completely out there. We got something quite different. In the end, it boiled down to “Hurrdurr Nanotech Something”. It was a bit of a mess, the art wasn’t that good. And yet, there were interesting themes and characters and stories visible just underneath the main plot. Only that they will never be expanded on, because the book is cancelled. Instead, we get a short run of a book that tried to do too much. We had attempts at badass piloting, attempts at a clandestine operation trying to be integrated and regulated by governments, attempts at science fiction tech, attempts at getting us to like a new and previously unknown enemy, attempts at making that villain somewhat sympathetic and attempts at character developments after attempts at establishing those new characters.

Yeah, I can see why this book got cancelled. But I can also see how it would have worked.

Men of War

Status: Still buying, not really knowing why.

One of the titles I was most excited for was “Men of War”. The premise sounded very interesting: It was apparently supposed to be about a group of die-hard but baseline human soldiers who have to fight on the front lines while super heroes have their big New-York-levelling fights. Or they get deployed into war zones in a world where there’s a metahuman hero or villain around every corner. And all they have at their disposal are guns and grenades and our normal military hardware. And what do you do when the good guy – who admittedly is the only one to stop the bad-guy-du-jour – goes down. Hold the villain down with a barrage of suppressing fire and give CPR to the hero? Wouldn’t you want to read that?

“Hah, you wish”, seems to have been the thought of some editor at DC. Because despite it seemingly being about this, that’s not what Men of War is actually about. It’s about a troop of somewhat die-hard soldiers in a war zone and it’s mostly talking about how badass they are. Then, occasionally, either a sort-of-ethereal woman shows up and kidnaps the main character for no reason and then releases him for even less of a reason. And then some seemingly immortal war heroes show up for also no reason. Long story short: After about 100 pages of Men of War, we have had little to no superhero-fighting or humans vs. heroes and villains. What also is missing is any sort of coherent plot other than the soldiers walking from point A to point B. Random people appear here and there and do random things only to then fade into obscurity again.

And the backup feature’s existence still baffles me. Why? How? … Why?

Justice League Dark

Status: Dropped after #1

This book manages to escape the common tropes of magic in comics quite well. There are no multi-coloured beams that are magical beams but might as well be your regular science fiction lasers or no random “Let’s stop this battle to come up with a spell”-bollocks. Also, the art is very good. And that’s as far as the good about this book goes. The one issue I’ve read had one problem: It made me everything but excited to read about this team of magical Justice Leaguers. Why? Because not only was it dead boring and very, very text heavy while offering absolutely nothing in the way of explanation, no, it was also about everyone but those dark heroes we should like. A grand total of seven pages are devoted to the Justice League Light, highlighting its failure. And they’re not really failing either. They’re just standing there, spouting clumsy exposition about how magic doesn’t really work and how physics and its laws don’t matter when it comes to magic. Of course, they also mention that the Justice League Light also completely defies those laws, thus eliminating the difference between JL Light and JL Dark.

And those seven pages also commit the biggest crime against stories there is: Zatanna at one point mentions that these dark heroes are not important. If they’re not important, then why should we even bother reading about them or buying their book? The other bad mistake is that it’s so very repetitive. How often does the book’s purple captions state that Xanadu sees into the future while completely neglecting the fact that we might want to know who June Moon is? We have some rough idea about John Constantine, we get a couple of insights into Shade, Zatanna we also know. But June Moon is just there and confused. But we get a very weird panel showing us that Xanadu’s a junkie, taking some form of nondescript drug. And we can’t even make out what it is, because it’s just something that might be a vial but also a tampon with a hole in it.

In the end, there’s only one question left to ask: Why should we care?

Swamp Thing

Status: Dropped after #1

I remember writing a review of this for ComicVine. I remember liking it. I remember wondering what was going to happen next. But I forgot to buy the issue in the end. Well, it wasn’t exactly that I forgot, but I remember looking at it and going “Meh…” and leave it there. And even though I know that it will tie in with Animal Man – my favourite book of the New Fifty-Two – I can’t bring myself to read it. I guess the first issue just didn’t have that much of an appeal after all. And I know that whoever wrote the CV-review is madly in love with the book, but then again, I think the staff-review system is deeply flawed and we’re being way too nice. So I don’t trust these either.

Animal Man

Status: Still buying. My favourite book of the New Fifty-Two

So what is there to say about this: It is awesome. It’s very different, very dark, very evil in places and has so many human characters in it that act like actual people. And it has art by the previously more-or-less-unknown Travel Foreman who does an excellent job at showing us rather twisted imagery. For some reason, Foreman’s leaving the book, which I regret but he’s being replaced by Steve Pugh whose work I also love. So it’s amazing.

I’m most impressed with how strong the supporting cast is. Most of the time, characters other than heroes or people who are important to defeat the villain du jour get little to no character development, even if they’re married to the main hero. See Lois Lane’s role of being the person to go “I love you, Superman” or “I love you, Clark”, depending on whether Superman is currently wearing his underwear inside or outside his pants. Sure, we get the occasional glimpse of something that might resemble character development, but in the end, they’re just supporting cast. Not in Animal Man. While the two stars of the book are very clearly stated to be Buddy Baker and his daughter whom he calls “Little Wing” (which I find adorable), his wife and his son are very important and influential. And they’re not only playing active parts in the story, they also define Buddy as much as he defines them. When he rushes off to stop a man who’s armed and has hostages, Buddy and his wife are in the middle of a fight. She goes “Don’t you dare flying off”, putting the hero in the usual situation of “Choose between the greater good and your private life”, Buddy does fly off. His wife, who had just been very angry with him, is suddenly very worried about him, wishing he’ll come back in one piece. And that is awesome.

And that’s what makes this book less of a superhero book and more of a character-driven piece featuring one superhero and a lot of craziness. Add the amazing art of Travel Foreman and – in the future – the amazing art of Steve Pugh to that and you’ve got one of the best books that DC has put out in recent years.

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

Status: Dropped after whatever number the issue was where Frank got eaten by the continent.

In a world full of very crazy stuff, there has got to be something equally crazy that you throw at the craziest stuff. And that crazy team of defeaters of craziness are supposed to be Frankenstein and his Creature Commandos. And it’s pretty good, from what I’ve read, even though it will hardly go down in comic book history as something memorable. In fact, there’s hardly anything memorable in the book itself, but that’s not for lack of trying. Frankenstein is not brooding or overly emotional. He takes every confrontation head-on, going as far as to let himself be eaten by some vile, huge, alien creature only to be able to kill it from the inside. But I couldn’t tell you what led to that moment and what came after it. The same goes for the shocking reveal earlier on that a village has been sacrificing children to some aliens or something to keep Earth safe. No clue what led there or what was caused by the reveal.

But while it’s not memorable at all, it’s not a bad book. It’s light-hearted fun as far as I can tell. It’s got a lot of crazy science in it. And explosion or things that are equal to explosions. It’s just not memorable.

I, Vampire

Status: Dropped after #1

So this is DC’s answer to Twilight. It’s got vampires and it’s got love. Sure, it’s wildly different from Twilight, but it’s what DC does to cater to the fans of what is apparently a genre nowadays called “paranormal romance”. And it’s laying on the romance thick. I would think that someone as noble as the main male character of the forgettable name would be able to put his emotions aside for a minute or two to kill his former lover seeing as she wants to murder everyone and everything. I remember her name being Queen of Blood plus some forgettable first name. And that’s just what it is. Even after the first issue, I couldn’t tell you anything about the two ever-so-emotionally-invested characters that I’m supposed to care about other than he’s a vampire and she’s a vampire, neither of whom sparkles. She wants to kill everyone. He doesn’t. They disagree. Violently.

Other than the entire book being rather forgettable, here’s another thing that the people in charge seem to have forgotten: Eyes. There is a grand total of nine eyes visible in the first issue. The rest is either in some inexplicable shadow or the character has his or her eyes closed. There are eighteen pages with at least one face on it that has eyes. This includes pages with a lot of people on a subway, a mass grave and other groupshots. Am I the only person who finds that absolutely stupid? Because just slathering everything in black will not make your comic book any darker. And not drawing eyes will not make the story any more enjoyable. They’re not lying when they say that eyes are windows to the soul, even if they’re drawn eyes. So making them random shadows out of nowhere makes the character inaccessible and distances them from the readers. Thus, I ended up liking not one of the characters in this book. And that’s the reason why I won’t buy it anymore.

Resurrection Man

Status: Still buying it.

Now this is a book I am buying because I enjoyed the pre-Flashpoint book so much. Resurrection Man was one of DC’s more interesting concepts in a time when they had many an interesting concept going around and dared to explore new things. There was Xer0 – a black superpowered character with an expiration date disguises himself as a white special agent – amongst others. And while that era seemed to have ended at the end of the 1990s, there have been some small resurgences of it occasionally. There was Bloodhound in 2004/2005, for example, which tried many a different thing and Marvel had its try at this during that time too. It was all sort of doomed to fail for various reasons. So here’s me hoping that this era of more outlandish and more different concepts manages to stick around this time. Because, you see, these times were often the most interesting in a publisher’s history and brought forth some of the most memorable characters, even though they might have been short-lived.

As for the book itself, it had this repetitive formula. Mitch is looking for his past, then someone who may or may not know him shows up. Things explode. Repeat. Occasionally, Mitch dies. The glimpses of Mitch’s past we do get to see are rather interesting and tell of quite a different character. And seeing as nothing much other than that has happened so far, that’s pretty much all I can say about it. I enjoy it, but I can see how that just might not be enough for some people. Because it really isn’t a whole lot to go on. And if you don’t know the previous volume, which you really don’t need to know to understand this one, the name of Mitch Shelly and his awesomeness will not mean anything to you. And that’s quite probably what has made this book survive the first wave of cancellations. But that effect will wear off at some point in the not-too-far future. I’m a bit worried about this book, to be honest. But I’m enjoying it.

Demon Knights

Status: Still buying it, one of my favourites

Basically, sword and sorcery bores me to tears. As a general concept, I don’t find magic to be interesting and in no way good. In comics, it’s even worse and I’ve elaborated on that in my previous column. Bottom line: I like the book. It’s good, it’s funny, witty and it treats the entire genre of fantasy with a healthy disrespect. The common tropes associated with all that fantasy rubbish are exploited and ridiculed. However, none of this happens in any mean-spirited sort of way. That makes the comic refreshing, fun and adds a certain sense of adventure to it.

The plot is that an evil queen is trying to conquer England in medieval times. She happens upon a village where our cast of heroes just so happens to be. They’re not a team; they don’t even know each other yet. And with all that going on, writer Paul Cornell finds spots to add character mysteries, establish alliances and friendships and even manages to add a seemingly transgendered hero/heroine.

DC Universe Presents

Status: It’s complicated

This is a bizarre book to review. I find it impossible to say “I like it” or “I don’t like it”. The concept, though, I can and do like. Because a book that does not have a set continuity and a changing roster of characters and creative team as well as settings and everything else is a brilliant idea. People who have been talking to me for a long time, they know that – would I be someone with some say at DC – I would have had such a book back when they turned on the Multiverse again after Fifty-Two. As long as it’s not getting taken over by one character that suddenly turns out to be super popular, a book like DC Universe Presents should be something both Marvel and DC should have.

For the book itself, I read the Deadman arc, because I read all the first issues of the new Fifty-Two and this first one seemed very interesting. The story itself was nice and it the ending had this air of finality to it while shamelessly sequel-baiting. So even if we never hear anything about Deadman ever again, we still had this nice little story. As for its follow-up, the one written by Dan DiDio, I didn’t read it. I have no interest in it whatsoever, simply because Dan DiDio is writing it and that man can’t write a story to save his life. But that’s the nice thing about it. I don’t have to read every issue, or every arc. I can read one, then skip one or two and skip some more. I will read the Vandal Savage arc, or at least give it a shot.

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The Watchmen Prequel’s Press Release is Hilarious

By now, I assume everyone and their mom has heard that DC Comics – undoubtedly emboldened by their recent success with the New Fifty-Two, because they’ve threatened us with them repeatedly over the last few years – is finally putting out those Watchmen prequels. Attached to them is some pretty serious talent. To get rumours out of the way and answer all those who are interested, I’ll answer the main questions first:

Are the prequels necessary? No. Not at all.

Do I think that they can be good? Yes. I’m willing to entertain that possibility.

But that’s not what I’m going to write about today. Because today, I’ll write about the magic of press releases. See, I’m a journalist. I get dozens of press releases every day. And as part of my training as a journalist, I was taught how to read behind all the bullshit that they serve us. And yes, that’s actually what we call it: Bullshit. Press releases are full of it. Tons of it. Everywhere. So today, for fun, I will pick apart the press release. I hope you’re entertained.

This summer, DC Entertainment will publish all-new stories expanding on the acclaimed WATCHMEN universe. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the seven inter-connected prequel mini-series will build on the foundation of the original WATCHMEN, the bestselling graphic novel of all time. BEFORE WATCHMEN will be the collective banner for all seven titles, from DC Comics.

“We know that you’ll hate it, but please bear with us.”

There’s also a typo there. It should be “best selling”, not “bestselling”.

“It’s our responsibility as publishers to find new ways to keep all of our characters relevant,” said DC Entertainment Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. We sought out the best writers and artists in the industry to build on the complex mythology of the original.”

Apparently, co-publishers are able to speak in unison. It’s like they’re mentally linked.

But their statement is the usual garbage about how you make something that we have not needed in the past twenty-five years into something that we should be craving.

Stepping up to the challenge is a group of the comic book industry’s most iconoclastic writers and artists – including Brian Azzarello (100 BULLETS), Lee Bermejo (JOKER), Amanda Conner (POWER GIRL), Darwyn Cooke (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER), John Higgins (WATCHMEN), Adam Hughes (CATWOMAN), J.G. Jones (FINAL CRISIS), Andy Kubert (FLASHPOINT), Joe Kubert (SGT. ROCK), Jae Lee (BATMAN: JEKYLL AND HYDE), J. Michael Straczynski (SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE) and Len Wein (SWAMP THING).

Long words! That makes our press release sound more important. However, there’s a bit of a problem with it. “Iconoclastic” doesn’t quite mean what the writers thought it mean. I’m pretty sure they were trying to go for something like “iconic” and “fantastic”. So “iconoclastic” popped up and everyone thought it was a good idea. The word “iconoclastic” comes from the noun “iconoclasm” which has nothing to do with amazing and fantastic stuff, but more with the destruction of religious icons and holy imagery. This usually happens after a drastic change in politics in a country, such as there having been an overthrow of the government or some war where the home-party didn’t win.

Anyways, I don’t think you want there to be any reference to “purposefully destroying imagery of religious significance” especially since Watchmen – and the press release has established that in the first paragraph – is something of a religious icon in the comic book industry.

But that is some serious talent involved.

Each week, a new issue will be released, and will feature a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins. There will also be a single issue, BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE, featuring the work of various writers and artists, and a CRIMSON CORSAIR story by Wein and Higgins.

Here is the obligatory paragraph where they try to tell us that it’s just more of the stuff we’ve previously had twenty-five years ago. Problem is, it’s neither artist nor writer. It’s some of the “other people” who are involved.

“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.

“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”

Oh, and this part is the best one. Dave Gibbons is basically going “I really don’t see how this is necessary, but they’re forcing me to tell you something about how good this will be.”

And then come the in-unison-speaking co-publishers again. They desperately try to give this “Eh, sod you”-statement by Gibbons some sort of positive edge by spouting something completely unrelated to anything that sounds amazingly important but is essentially useless.

So there you have it. One more stupid press release by stupid PR-flacks who really should know better. Especially since most PR-flacks have had the same education as most journalists. In fact, most PR-flacks used to be journalists. They just eventually gave up or something, wanted steady hours and wages that can actually support a life of modest luxury.

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The Best and Worst of the New Fifty-Two

So it’s been about half a year of issues for us to get to know the new DC Universe. Time to look back. What has worked? What was surprising? What turned out to be a disappointment? And without further ado, let’s get right into it. Oh, one rule I set for myself. For every bad point, I have to find one good point. And for everything I didn’t like, I have to add something I liked to the list.

Demon Knights turns out to be one of the best titles

Let’s start off with a good one. Basically, sword and sorcery bores me to tears. As a general concept, I don’t find magic to be interesting and in no way good. In comics, it’s even worse and I’ve elaborated on that in my previous column. Bottom line: I like the book. It’s good, it’s funny, witty and it treats the entire genre of fantasy with a healthy disrespect. The common tropes associated with all that fantasy rubbish are exploited and ridiculed. However, none of this happens in any mean-spirited sort of way. That makes the comic refreshing, fun and adds a certain sense of adventure to it.

The plot is that an evil queen is trying to conquer England in medieval times. She happens upon a village where our cast of heroes just so happens to be. They’re not a team, they don’t even know each other yet. And with all that going on, writer Paul Cornell finds spots to add character mysteries, establish alliances and friendships and even manages to add a seemingly transgendered hero/heroine.

Men of War turns out to not have the premise that it was supposed to have.

One of the titles I was most excited for was “Men of War”. The premise sounded very interesting: It was apparently supposed to be about a group of die-hard but baseline human soldiers who have to fight on the front lines while super heroes have their big New-York-levelling fights. Or they get deployed into war zones in a world where there’s a metahuman hero or villain around every corner. And all they have at their disposal are guns and grenades and our normal military hardware. And what do you do when the good guy – who admittedly is the only one to stop the bad-guy-du-jour – goes down. Hold the villain down with a barrage of suppressing fire and give CPR to the hero? Wouldn’t you want to read that?

“Hah, you wish”, seems to have been the thought of some editor at DC. Because despite it seemingly being about this, that’s not what Men of War is actually about. It’s about a troop of somewhat die-hard soldiers in a war zone and it’s mostly talking about how badass they are. Then, occasionally, either a sort-of-ethereal woman shows up and kidnaps the main character for no reason and then releases him for even less of a reason. And then some seemingly immortal war heroes show up for also no reason. Long story short: After about 100 pages of Men of War, we have had little to no superhero-fighting or humans vs. heroes and villains. What also is missing is any sort of coherent plot other than the soldiers walking from point A to point B. Random people appear here and there and do random things only to then fade into obscurity again.

And the backup feature’s existence still baffles me. Why? How? … Why?

Aquaman turns out to be a true badass

Okay, you all know about this one: Aquaman’s power is to talk to fish. He does it often, he likes doing it. Haw haw haw. Great fun. Cue Geoff Johns writing the lord of the seas. He’s a king, but he chooses to leave his kingdom for reasons unknown and make a life for himself in a place where he’s hated. And if he’s not hated, he’s getting laughed at, at least. And no matter how much he saves the day, he still gets to hear jokes at his expense. But does that stop him? No. Blame it on his royal attitude towards everything or just chalk it up to him being awesome. Aquaman just keeps marching on, head held high. He doesn’t care what people say about him. He just saves the day. And that’s what being a hero is about.

Red Lanterns turns out to be about everything but rage

Atrocitus. A being so pissed off he pukes blood. A being so angry that it’s become his only raison d’être. He’s an unstoppable force, driven only by rage and a sense of being so annoyed that he wants to murder something in a cruel and somewhat ironic way. That’s how we met the big red guy, having more or less “just” survived the complete annihilation of his entire space sector, having sworn revenge and roamed the universe for a really long time searching for beings that are equally enraged by some cruel injustice.

Yeah, that’s not what this book is about. At all. Instead we’re supposed to swallow that now that Krona’s dead, Atrocitus has become some sort of galactic Punisher who doesn’t do much besides brooding. The sort of brooding you’d have expected to find on LiveJournal, written by people who are now in their mid-twenties and very, very embarrassed by their musings. He doesn’t do much anymore, besides screwing up his own corps. I’ve written a column on it, too.

Justice League adds the sense of adventure to comics

When it was announced, comic book fans were more or less shocked to learn that DC’s flagship-title, Justice League, was set five years in the past. Five years ago in a universe we don’t even know in the present of. How can this even work? Turns out we’re all finding out together. These heroes are people we’ve never heard of. Well, sort of. We have heard of them, but we don’t know them since they’re all new and all-different. So Justice League has been a big rollercoaster ride so far. We’ve seen Batman being somewhat rash and cocky, Green Lantern being much younger and much more reckless, Superman being outright hostile and so on. Whether you agree with the moves made by DC or not doesn’t matter, but you’re in the same spot as every reader: You’re discovering this team with the rest of us. There’s no use in going back to the issues from the 1950s to see if this or that reference explains what you thought was a plothole or some previous storyline that might influence this one. It’s exciting to meet Darkseid for the first time. It’s interesting to see how the Justice League comes together and where it will go together.

All that you had to lose for a whole new and exciting story-arc is your ego. Because you’ve spent years accumulating encyclopaedic knowledge of the Justice League, its members and cases and villains and stories and now it’s all gone. Well, not gone per se, but it doesn’t matter anymore. And if you go on about it, you sound like grumpy old men, reminiscing about how everything used to be better back in the day. And no, it really wasn’t. And you know it. So let’s enjoy this new and different Justice League together and have a bit of fun with it.

Mister Terrific turns out to do way too much

As a good idea, the editors at DC thought they’d make Mister Terrific a hugely successful superhero nerd. Basically, he’s wish fulfilment for many a comic book reader. You know them, the nerdy cellardwelling type. The people who know all maps in Skyrim by heart but couldn’t find their way around their neighbourhood if their lives depended on it. Them. As such, he has a secret headquarters in an alternate dimension, does a lot of tech babble and is also a highly desirable bachelor. As such, he gets to nail not only the Caucasian-build black woman at the highly successful company he runs but also Karen Starr who may or may not be known as Power Girl. So, even in the realm of superheroes, he’s a bit too much. He’s a bachelor, runs a big company, is a superhero and even finds time to watch the latest episodes of Doctor Who and quote it in the midst of fighting a monster halfway around the globe. In addition to all that, he manages to be at every fancy dinner party that he needs to be at. Oh, and he’s also black.

I’m not buying it. Even in context of people who dress up as bats or hail from Krypton, I just can’t get myself to believe that someone like him is actually possible. I get it, they wanted to make an awesome character who’s also black and I commend DC for even thinking of minorities. But let’s assume for a second that this were the 70s. In the 1970s, Mister Terrific would be called “Funky Disco Black Thunder Boss” or something. And that’s just not how you’re being inclusive. You know what? Let’s play Mary Sue Bingo with Mister Terrific.

That’s a couple of crosses too many for my liking. And I was tempted to put two more crosses on there under “Story doesn’t make any sense” and “not able to die”. Because every challenge Mister Terrific has faced in the first four issues was almost instantly solved. Every fight he fought was a curbstomp battle. Brainstorm ate the minds of thousands of people and Mister Terrific basically went “Bah, humbug! Eat some T-Spheres!” and then punched the guy’s lights out. Or in the most recent issue, Mister Terrific was escaping a transdimensional prison. So – and now let this one sink in – he grabs a couple of horns that grow on a fellow prisoner, and modifies nanocircuitry with it. That’s even worse than “Tony Stark built his armour in a cave”. Nanocircuitry. With Horns. Really.

Batman turns out to have really cool villains

So the Joker is out of the picture. Hoorah. And finally, a writer is not absolutely hellbent on “writing that one, defining Batman/Joker-story”. Scott Snyder has, in a stroke of genius, thought of the Court of Owls. Who are they? We don’t know. What do they want? Well, we can guess but we don’t know. Even their basic premise eludes the world’s greatest detective. And as of right now, so does their existence. The only hints he has so far are the paranoia of one of his ancestors and there being an old retconned-in nursery rhyme. The strongest clue so far is the existence of Talon, apparently a killer in the service of the Court of Owls. But he just might be a madman with delusions. You never know, crazier things have happened.

And that, my friends, is how comic books get to be exciting. They give you fresh ideas, new themes every now and then and they don’t go around rehashing old ideas and villains. Because if you do, you take away from a universe. Arkham Asylum, one of the worst mental facilities in the known universe of DC Comics gets a revolving door the Joker marches through every other week. Blackgate becomes a place where the Riddler sleeps after a long night out in town. So cue the Court of Owls, how do they fit in? Do they even exist? If so, who are they? See, that’s what I wonder. I don’t care much about what the Joker’s up to because if he does something truly amazing, we’ll get the story sooner or later. But for now, we get a new and creative villain. A party or parties of unknown who baffle the Dark Knight on an intellectual level. I mean, look at what they managed to do: They have run Gotham for generations. This alone would easily be possible, but you have Batman in town – a man who is known for figuring everything out. And it’s not like he was unable to pin them down or make no arrests related to them. No, the Court of Owls managed to completely elude the Batman. As in, he has never heard of them. And Batman is the man who knows everything. How is that not awesome?

Static Shock turns out to be awfully boring, also awful

Most people know Static from the cult classic animated TV series “Static Shock” which was somewhat based on a comic book by the “Let’s write about black people”-publisher Milestone, founded and largely written by none other than the late Dwayne McDuffie. While the publisher – a DC imprint, by the way – was somewhat successful and left some marks on the landscape of comic books mainly for its political approach to comics and including minorities in prominent roles (while not having names like Black Blackman). In Milestone-books, minority characters were not reduced to that one little titbit about them. They’re fully rounded and rather unique figures set in a rather different corner of the DC Universe. Well, it would become the DC Universe a couple years after the Milestone-imprint had folded and fans still kept talking about Static and his friends. This failed. Horribly. Static was included in Felicia D. Henderson’s absolutely awful run on Teen Titans and then quickly left the team because of some bullshit excuse like “My planet needs me”.

But still, after Flashpoint – an event that is also largely forgotten already because other than rebooting everything to its all-new, all-different state it didn’t have any consequences – Static was to get his own ongoing series. Fans were excited. I have watched the series on Cartoon Network back in the day and I was very much looking forward to it. The first issue came about. And it was terrible. Static was unrecognizable. He was no longer in Dakota. His costume was new and different. He has new villains nobody cares about and the story is absolutely terrible. The villains are bland, the heroes stupid and incompetent. The supporting cast is absolutely awful and the art is lacklustre at best. Let’s cancel this book and never speak of it again.

Teen Titans turns out to save itself

After about issue #50 of the previous volume, Teen Titans was unreadable. Lots of writers have tried and failed to make anything of it. In the end, the characters were featureless and bland and their dialogue was interchangeable and everyone’s motivation seemed to be “I do good things because doing good things is good”. And in the end, they decided that what the world needed was a terrible Mary Sue character named Solstice who made Raven vomit spiritually and was terrible in every regard. But still, a DC Universe without the Teen Titans does not feel complete. So it came as no surprise that there was a new volume of the Titans announced in the New Fifty-Two. I groaned but since I’m a Titans-fan. So I renewed my subscription… and I was pleasantly surprised.

All the characters feel refreshing and rather rebellious in their own ways. Wonder Girl refuses to be called Wonder Girl, is a skilled thief and has stolen her superpowers. Red Robin has had Batman’s training but quit being in the service of the Dark Knight for reasons unknown or unexplored. Kid Flash is more reminiscent of Impulse – he’s rash, too quick and never thinks things through. Solstice makes her return as well, but she’s now a mass of black smoke and feel occasionally terrible about it. Then we have two new additions to the team – Bunker and Skitter. They’re polar opposites: Skitter is brooding and sad, Bunker is a happy-go-lucky guy with indestructible optimism. And then there’s a decent villain. The organization known as N.O.W.H.E.R.E. which hunts down teenaged superheroes for reasons unknown. The previous volume still leaves me kind of worried that this might turn into a crapfest of epic proportions, but I’m looking forward to the next issues.

Green Arrow turns out to be generic and bland

Green Arrow #1 - Dave Wilkins

J.T. Krul has made Green Arrow awesome again with his sort-of-relaunch of the book in 2010. Oliver Queen was no longer a mayor, no longer married – because, seriously, who thought this was a good idea in the first place? – and no longer with Queen Industries. He was a hermit, living in a forest that just so appeared in the middle of Star City. Why was it there? We will never know. How did Ollie get into the forest? Nobody cares and also, we will never know. What we did know, though is that the book was full of fun and adventure. It had good and interesting villains, a really good side-character and lots of good writing. Needless to say, when J.T. Krul was announced to be the writer of the latest relaunch with the New Fifty-Two, nobody was worried that it could be bad.

But it was. The reasons for this still baffle me. It’s not like Krul can’t write decent stories. It’s not like he can’t make weird villains work. It’s almost as if he decided “No, this can’t possibly be good. Let’s wreck it” and then proceeded to do just that. The new Oliver Queen, now younger and shaved, is not only the head of Q-Core but also yet another billionaire bachelor. His villains are – while their shtick of wanting to be YouTube Superstars and It-Girls is rather original – generic. It’s not like their premise is so generic, quite the opposite, but they’re evil for the sake of being evil, just like the Titans used to be “We do good because doing good is good”, Ollie’s new villains seem to be “We do evil because doing evil is evil.” Also, I can’t remember a single name from the book other than Ollie’s. That’s a bad sign. I actually gave up on this book at issue #2. It was bad. And I liked the former Green Arrow.

So that was that… for now. Mind you, I started writing this before the first wave of DC cancellations were announced. But I thought, regardless of what was cancelled, it doesn’t matter. Because the stories don’t suddenly get any better or worse depending on the book’s cancellation. And as usual, I’d love to hear your comments. What did you think was bad? What did you like? And why? Am I wrong with my choices? Let me know!

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Demon Knights, or: Paul Cornell, You’re a Sneaky Sod!

Fig #1: Something usually boring.

I buy many comics. Not all. Occasionally, I drop a book, occasionally, I add one to my list. It’s a pretty stable list. Well, it was. Then came the New Fifty-Two. I had to completely redo my DC-list and so I looked at the new titles and what they all did and said and were about. Naturally, DC’s PR-blahblah was heralding every book they put out as the second coming of Comic Jesus or something, so that was worthless. In the end, it boiled down to what I like to read about. I like Science Fiction. I like superheroes. What I don’t like is magic users in established comic book universes that are predominantly inhabited by superheroes (Read: The Marvel and DC Universes).

Allow me to elaborate on that: In comic books, especially superhero-books, there’s a lot of fighting. You have Superman who can punch a planet out of orbit and lift mountains. You have Batman who manages to kill Gods given preptime and the gadget-du-jour. Iron Man shoots laser beams in the face of killer robots from alternate dimensions and Wolverine just skewers everything in his path if need be. But in the end, it all boils down to one thing: Who punches who harder. The more bodily harm is done, the better. Like it or not, it’s the very basic of seemingly every comic book arc. Everything must end in a big fight. And somehow, magic users don’t seem to fit into that. After all, if you have a man in a robot suit shooting lasers at aliens for three splash pages, why would you waste the space on some guy in a robe and a silly hat mixing up a sleeping potion that puts aliens to sleep due to magic? There have been numerous attempts at mixing magic with the standard operating procedures of superheroes, which saw the wizards and magicians of the comic universes reduced to shouting catchphrases and shooting not-lasers that looks suspiciously like lasers at people. They were called Magic Force Blasts or what have you, but in the end, it made no difference.

Magic was treated and is being treated as some sort of irrelevant powerset that makes you equal, albeit slightly shittier, than other heroes. Thus, I immediately discarded Demon Knights, Justice League Dark and Swamp Thing. The latter less because he’s a magic user but because I was so very sick of him during Brightest Day, even though he only appeared briefly. I might catch up to the book eventually, but he was on my first “Bleh, nah…”-list even though I did end up reading my friend’s first issue and enjoyed it. Said friend, by the way, is a big fan of magic stuffs, so the entire Dark-group of DC’s new Fifty-Two is basically one big must-buy for him. I can’t even imagine how he got the impression that magic comics could be good.

And this was how I came across Demon Knights. Paul Cornell writes it. And Paul Cornell is a sneaky sod, I tell you. Paul Cornell can take something that has held no interest to me at all for years – such as Action Comics – and turn it around completely. In his run on Action Comics, he did the undoable: He made Death of the Endless awesome outside of Sandman and her own book. Sure, she had the occasional guest appearance in other comics, but they are rather unremarkable. Paul Cornell on the other hand, he made an issue where she meets Lex Luthor who’s pursuing the Black Lantern Rings. It was awesome. And you should read the issues from #890 onwards.

Anyways, back to the point. Paul Cornell writes Demon Knights. And it’s good. It is sword and sorcery and has magic and all that. The funny thing, though, is that DC seems to herald it as the second coming of Comic Jesus in the solicits, they make precious little effort outside of that. Paul Cornell himself has done a couple interviews here and there, nothing more. And even in the interviews, he’s not doing the usual “This is the greatest thing ever! If you don’t buy it, you’ll miss out” even though it would be true. That’s what I like about Paul Cornell. He writes awesome stories that have a profound impact on their readers and he’s just so modest and nice about it. Sure, he tells you that he thinks it’s a good story and maybe that you’d enjoy it. But he also says “It’s up to the readers” when asked who the best-liked character of Demon Knights will be. All in all, being a journalist, I would love to interview Paul Cornell. Because either all the interviews paint him as a really modest fella or he just doesn’t do any of the PR-rubbish that most interviewees do these days. For the record: I would have no idea what to ask him, but still, I’d imagine it to be time well spent.

And that’s precisely what the book reads like. It’s a good story and as a reader, you go into it without any expectations and the knowledge that the writer expects you to like someone or something about this comic in particular. It reads like a nice guy writing a story for people to enjoy. No strings attached. As a reader, you have no idea what’s to come and what the next issue will bring. Because DC is on terra incognita here. They have no idea how this could and will end up. It’s got this sense of discovery about it; it’s a great big adventure.

The greatest thing, however, is that Paul Cornell treats the setting in a very unusual way. He’s not all “Beholdeth thine bollocks! Them doth do the dangling in the winds of magic!” But here’s an actual excerpt of it: “Then let’s do what we always do… We find the source of the problem, and we throw dragons at it” and “My cods say that’s no man” (spoken by none other than the formerly-known-toe-be-super-sophisticated-but-now-rather-barbaric Vandal Savage). How did they get dragons? How are they summoned? Who cares? There’s a dragons that get thrown at stuff. Carnage unfolds. They do magic. You can see it somewhere in the background and Paul Cornell actually takes the whole “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it” by its word. Or maybe he’s taken Neil Gaiman’s route where magic things just sort of happen without any explanation. Or very little. Remember Gaiman’s “Anansi Boys” where Fat Charlie just couldn’t get home for a night? No further explanation given, that’s just what happens. That’s how Cornell treats magic and manages to tell a tale of sword, sorcery and magic, thus proving that you can blatantly disregard historical speech and the common expectations that come with a genre and make something very enjoyable out of it.

Bottom line: I like Demon Knights. It’s gotten a firm spot on my pull list and as long as Paul Cornell is writing it, it’s not going anywhere. And it’s one of the few books that I think every comic book reader out there can enjoy for it stands on its own, it’s funny and adventurous and all that stuff we came to expect. No one issue feels like it’s just dragging on, even though it’s only four issues so far.

Oh, and it’s the first sword and sorcery book that I am actually buying. In fact, I’m looking forward to it every month.

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X-Sanction is not X-Citing

This is boring already. We know everything about it.

So here’s a quick one. X-Sanction, the much anticipated return of Cable, already has nothing to offer. Not because the story is bad or they shouldn’t have killed off Cable in the first place (which they shouldn’t have, but that’s whole different thing), but because of something that annoys me quite a bit about comics these days. There is no surprise anymore. But allow me to illustrate.

First we got the teaser going “_ _ _ _ _ Reborn” and everyone was wondering who it was. Is it Bucky? He wasn’t quite dead at that point, but we knew he was going to bite it because of the same reason why X-Sanction isn’t all that good anymore. Is it Steve? Whoever Steve might be. Or Synch? Was he even dead? Excitement, you know. Or was it someone else, maybe someone who will be retconned into having always been there but then kind of forgotten on the butt-end of some reality-altering event? Could be! Who knew?

Then it got very, very boring all of a sudden at the moment where we learned who the about-to-be-reborn “_ _ _ _ _” was. Cable. Sure, we’ve speculated that it might have been Cable. And we were pretty sure that it was him for some odd reason, but the official confirmation suddenly put an end to most of the excitement. No longer could we speculate about who would be returning. No longer could we try to figure out if some books have left clues to who _ _ _ _ _ might be. But still, we knew it was Cable. The speculation began… somewhat. The how and why were left. And most importantly: What will he be doing?

Then they told us that as well. Cable was going up against the Avengers who are now apparently big killers and blahblahblah… who still cares at this point? Because as much as you try to avoid the comic book news, you’re bound to be somewhat market-savvy. So here’s the things that will immediately kill any sort of excitement for the whole event.

  • The Avengers are the good guys. Always have been, always will be. They will not end up being the bad guys.
  • None of the Avengers will die, because they have a movie coming out.
  • The Avengers won’t be destroyed, either.
  • Cable won’t die, because he just got better.
Still exciting.

This leaves us with the following: Details. We know the premise, we know the ending – something to the extent of “Sorry, people, I mistook you for someone else!” – “Oh, you!” – and so there’s no real excitement anymore. It’s endless monotony (thanks to my friend Vlorghax to get me back on track with this). Same crud, different characters. And of course, we’re being fed the same PR-crap. “This will shatter the status-quo.” Sure it will. Just like the last fifty-nine events we’ve had in the last week. And nothing changed.

And that’s what’s wrong with most of the announcements for new comics these days. Currently, we have this “What if there wasn’t only one?”-mystery going on. People are still speculating, most agree it’s Bucky. And it might be. But we don’t know. And if I didn’t know that they’d tell us who it will be and who will do what when, then I’d go into the shop, all excited and interested and buy a comic.

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The Red Lanterns Ongoing is Doomed

Fig. #1: One dimension

With the New Fifty-Two, we’ve gotten a lot of good comics. Justice League brought back the sense of adventure, the sense of discovery. Deathstroke brought us a badass villain who is not even halfway redeemed by some noble cause. Action Comics finally brought us a Superman who is not Justin Bieber. Some books are also quite bad. OMAC brought us more writing genius by Dan DiDio, much like Hawk and Dove brought us the question why they still let Liefeld draw things. And then there’s the odd ones out. Books that you can’t help but wonder why they were greenlit. One of them is the new Red Lanterns book.

It’s about Atrocitus, leader of the Red Lanterns of Rage. He’s angry. Because rage is the emotion that fuels the Lanterns. Rage is the source of their powers. Rage is what they do. As such, the only thing they’ve done during Blackest Night is scream something along the lines of “RAAARRGH!” That was that. End of story. They raged, then they raged some more. Not much to it.

Why is there not much to it? Because rage is one of the most primitive emotions there is. Sure, the rage-inducing thing might be different – annoying co-workers, lack of money, feeling of being wronged by the government, that annoying neighbour dog and many more – but in the end, it all boils down to “RAAAARRGH!” and maybe some choice expletives.

And that’s the book’s main problem. You can’t do anything with rage. And they’ve realized that fairly early on in an issue that wasn’t even about the characters. Thus, Atrocitus and his buddies are getting a new mission. That mission is something like “We’ll punish all the guilty people in the universe.” And that somehow is rage… which it really isn’t. It’s revenge, to an extent. Maybe a sense of justice to go with it. But not rage.

Actually, most of the other Corps would have made for better ongoings. You know, books that do not require the writer to completely rewrite characters and having to make it sound logical and like it’s the natural progression of the characters. Let’s look at some.

Blue Lantern – Hope

Fig #2: Detective stories with a moral twist

Hope can be many things. Often, hope is something you don’t even see as hope. Sometimes, it’s someone going “It’s going to be alright” or a hug. Other times, it might be a gun. Something that you’re given to fight. Or something to oppress someone else. Saint Walker could appear on a planet where some group of people has issues of some sort. An investigation into their problems and what drives them follows… There’s a million stories in that.

Violet Lanterns – Star Sapphires – Love

Fig #3: Maybe a bit too meta.

The Star Sapphires were among the most interesting corps before Blackest Night. Right from the get-go, we knew that the love the Star Sapphires preach and enforce goes far beyond anything that is considered healthy. They’re obsessive, they’re possessive, they’re actually downright evil. And there are some stories in that as well. But it might be a bit too “out there” even for comic book readers who have been hardened by stuff that attempts to deconstruct emotions… and usually fails.

Orange Lantern – Larfleeze – Greed

Fig #4: Cosmic treasure hunts

If Larfleeze wouldn’t be so one-dimensional and if he actually had some supporting characters that are not stars of other comic books, he would actually make for a pretty damn good comic book. Why? Because driven by greed, he wants it all. And to have it all, he needs to go and get it. Imagine intergalactic treasure hunts, daring break-ins and adventures, starring Larfleeze who is pursuit of treasure.

These were the most obvious candidates. Sure, all three teams have not been fleshed out and they don’t have the likes of Dex-Starr – who is an instant internet-favourite because he’s a kitten – or any sort of depth to them. And sometimes, their logos were rather shoddy and appeared phoned in. The Red Lanterns have an internet crowd-pleaser, a cool logo and there’s something that at least looks cool when you see a character vomit blood. But there’s nothing behind it.

And that’s why the Red Lanterns book will fail.

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Why You Shouldn't Care About Diversity in Comics

Fig #1: Someone who doesn't get it.

In San Diego, a girl dressed as Batgirl stole the show with the question “Where are all the female creators?” She asked that question at literally every panel that DC held and became a kind of hero of the oppressed minority of female comic book writers and thus – for some completely bizarre reason – of the comic book readers themselves as well.

Marvel has announced that their new Ultimate Spider-Man is called Miles Morales and is no longer white. Shock and awe ensued and the subject of Miles Morales is currently the topic here at ComicVine. Is him being black a good idea? Will his blackness somehow suddenly cause the character of Spider-Man to speak in ebonics? Comic book fans are debating all these very important questions, because… well, because – I suppose – they feel that they have to.

Meanwhile, I answer to both Batgirl’s question and Spider-Man’s newfound tan with the following statement: Who gives a damn?

Diversity does not matter. It never has and it never will. I imagine it is about now that people will claim that I’m either racist or some sort of bigoted moron who likes NASCAR and drinks Bud Lite. But my point has absolutely nothing to do with race.

You see, I read comics because I enjoy the stories told therein. I read them because I want to see Spider-Man punch the Green Goblin while desperately trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy in his life. I read the Birds of Prey because I’m interested in them fighting crime and how they work together as a team and how Misfit grows as a character (not that she’s doing much of that lately, but it was pretty cool). Whether the characters were female or black or black and female, that was the least of my concerns. In fact, I don’t even particularly care about the race of a character. And neither should you. And neither should the creators. Why? Because it really doesn’t matter. Not one bit.

Look at it this way: All of us, we have at least one friend who is not of your own ethnicity. You might have to think about that one for a bit since I hope I’m not the only one who’s managed to have a Tamil friend and not notice her dark skin until she pointed it out to me when I offered her sunscreen – because if I am, then I have really embarrassed myself. Point is, apart from me hopefully not embarrassing myself, that her skintone did not matter. She could have been green for all I cared and I probably still wouldn’t have noticed. Because the thing I do notice and the things I think of first are – for example – her smile, her sense of humour and the fact that she’s a lot of fun to hang out with and do stuff. I remember the one time she hugged a complete stranger because that poor girl was crying because as it turned out, her boyfriend cheated on her, I remember the day where she got really annoyed and grumpy because she didn’t get to eat breakfast and she’s of the sort that gets cranky when she is hungry. I remember the day where she crashed at my place and brought one of these table-oven things on it so we could make pizza-thingies on it. These are the things I remember, these are the things that make her her. Basically: I remember my history with her.

 
Just as with my Tamil friend, Spidey’s skin colour doesn’t matter, just as the gender of the writer doesn’t matter as long as the story told – the character’s history – is interesting, engaging and ultimately sympathetic, as that’s what gets us to buy the book month after month. The second you make race or gender a deciding factor in a character’s traits, you end up with someone like Poochie from the Simpsons. Or, to use a more recent example, Victor Hernan Alvarez aka. Power Man. I am betting you that the character will be forgotten in three years’ time.

Basically, our user @MydLyfeCrysis put it best in the comment section of the article that revealed Miles to be black:

Diversity for the sake of diversity is a failure on all accounts. It's insulting. I still hold out hope it's a good book, and it's interesting to see what they do with a new Spider-man. But I cannot shake the awful taste in my mouth the awful "D" word brings to my mouth. It's the bane of great stories to begin with diversity and work your way out. Diversity should be a byproduct of a great story, not the genesis.

Another reason why you and DC and Marvel and the rest of them shouldn’t care about diversity in the who-writes-what debate is the following: In comic books, it’s ultimately all about the story told. It’s about heroes or villains overcoming some sort of obstacle in their lives and doing stuff. That stuff can be very interesting. Or very boring. Would you have enjoyed All-Star Superman more if it was written by Grace Morrison? Would you enjoy The Walking Dead more if it was written by Roberta Kirkman? Does Robert Kirkman not write a fantastic female character? Or you could turn it around: Was Felicia D. Henderson’s run on Teen Titans any less abysmal because she uses the girl’s room? Was Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman any less of a failure because Gail is a she herself?

Sure, there’s any number of reasons why a book is either successful or fails. But in the end, it’s all down to the story. You tell a brilliant story, you get readers. You screw that up – regardless of whether you are a man or a woman – nobody will read your idiotic attempts at telling us a story about “new hot and sensational characters” like The Wyld or Victor Hernan Alvarez.

Writing as a concept, seen as the act of bringing ones thoughts to paper, has the advantage that it’s not something that is defined by the person committing the act. Writing is probably the most unbiased form of expression because all we have are twenty-six letters and ten numbers. With these, we can express ourselves. And every writer, regardless of race, age, creed or gender, has the same tools at his disposals. Nobody criticizes Stephenie Meyer because she’s a woman. Nobody loves J. D. Salinger because he’s a man. Both Salinger and Meyer are defined by their writing, their style, their stories and their treatment of the trade. Also, both didn’t get famous because of their gender. The same can be said for every black, Hispanic or Asian writer.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: Publishers should not hire male or female writers or artists because they feel like they must hire a woman or a man or a giraffe to write their comics. Because again, as MydLyfeCrysis explained, it will fail.

So there we are, my advice to writers, artists, publishers and fans: Stop forcing diversity for the sake of diversity. Care about the stories that are told. Because those end up mattering, not the authors.

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Nobody's scared of Fear Itself

So I’m sitting here, minding my own business, procrastinating on my column about horror comics and then this sudden thought crosses my mind: Fear Itself sucks.

I have no idea where it comes from, no idea what brought it on, but now I can’t fathom why I hadn’t realized it up until now. Fear Itself is really, really boring. Why? Numerous reasons, and I’m making those up as I go along because the thought didn’t care to elaborate. It just rang rather true.

We all know what’s going to happen

Fig #1: Yeah, this is going to happen... again.
Fear itself does not contain any kind of exciting prospect. We know that Steve Rogers will be back as Cap, so that surprise has gone out the window, if it was ever intended to be a surprise. That leaves readers without one of the biggest – if not the biggest – points that could raise excitement. Don’t you wish you’d have a comic book where you’d be surprised? Where you’d go “Steve Rogers is back!? Holy crap, that is totally awesome”? But you’re left with about half a year’s worth of comic books that just drivel on and – if anything – you catch yourself feeling “Come on, we know what’s going to happen, just get it over with!” Sure, you don’t know how it will happen, but, honestly, do you care that much? Do you care for half a year of decompressed storytelling with a hundred tie-ins that you have no intention of reading? 
 
Same goes for The Worthy. Here’s how it will play out. The heroes and The Worthy will battle each other in New York City. We’ve had Times Square, we’ve had Central Park, so it will be something else. How about Ground Zero? I mean, how boring does an event have to be until you start worrying about where the big fight will be? Mind you, I’m not asking whether or not there will be a big fight. I know it’s going to happen. The Worthy and the Avengersdefendersmen or whatever the team du jour will be called will make their stands, shout battlecries and then bash their heads in for about twenty pages. Whoop-dee-doo. And then the inevitable happens…   
 
T he Worthy lose, the good guys win. Big surprise. Who saw that coming? Sure, some character will die here and there and will eventually come back, which saves us the trouble of being emotionally affected in any kind of way, and in the end, we’ll be left with Steve back as Cap which in turn is a giant retcon and in a couple years, nobody will even remember Bucky being Cap.

 
Furthermore, we know that none of the Worthy will die. Hulk dead? Come on, he’s a staple character. You can’t kill him off, mainly because his own book is going strong and so on. Killing off villains is always dicey because you never know when you might need them and having to come up with a convoluted and thoroughly idiotic way of “They died but got better” is so bothersome. Besides, nobody really cares about it anymore.

We don’t know what’s happening

Fig #2: Guess who wins... boring, innit?
We’re about three issues in – without proper motivation to check when #3 is going to be out / was out, I will just assume that #3 will be out soon-ish, as it feels like it should come out around now – and we still have no clue what’s going on. Sure, hammers have fallen, people have picked them up, started mumbling gibberish in runes and then did… nothing of any sort of interest. Hulk did some smashing. Surprise, surprise! And the others just did the same. What about that fear we were promised? Has that happened yet? Nobody’s particularly afraid in this book as Bucky’s first reaction was not to pee his pants but rather to shout “Avengers Assemble!” and run head-first into a fight he’ll surely win. What about that psychological horror of having to face all the scary things that have ever scared you at once we were promised? And if we weren’t promised that, then it was heavily hinted at.   
 
What’s the deal with Asgard and why do we care? Asgard’s left. Why? Because of the hammers, presumably. If we’re indeed at #3 and we still have Odin be a twat about it and Thor being a whiny teenager, then this is about the halfway marker of the entire story and we still have absolutely no idea what their sudden urge to move is all about. It would be about time to let us know, though. Because we have no idea who sent the hammers and why. We have no idea why the Asgardians are being asses about it and we have no idea how they plan on getting Steve back into the suit. So we have three issues and about fifty-nine tie-ins left and nothing has happened so far. Awesome.  

We know that nobody’s scared

Also, nobody in this book – and I mean, absolutely nobody – is scared. In fact, I’m surprised that Marvel even made an attempt at bringing fear into the mix. Most of these characters have faced off against alien demon zombies from another dimensions, creatures with six mouths that devour entire dimension and crap lightning, Galactus, each other and everyone else. Is there really anything left that strikes fear into these characters? Even mild concern would be hard to do at this point. And “Mild Concern Itself” is a crappy title anyway. A couple of hammers would mildly inconvenience these characters at best. So now they’re trying to shoehorn fear into these characters. With home improvement utensils.  
 
The main question here is this: Why do we still bother? The story falls flat on all accounts. It is bland, it is confusing, it is predictable, it is boring. Yet people still buy it. Why? Because apparently, we’re having an event of our own: “Stupidity Itself”.
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The DC Reboot: Comic Book Readers Being Stupid

Apparently, I’m one of the very few people who are actually enthusiastic about the DC Reboot. And I can totally see why comic book companies never change anything. Because if you have to deal with comic book readers who get upset about everything – and I do mean, everything – that requires some change, why should you bother? And with all the blahblah surrounding the reboot, here’s what I think about some of the most heard quotes.

“This will suck!”

Fig #1: This is better already than what we had in recent months.

Simple statement, simple answer: How do you know? All we have so far are about three lines of blurb, one image and a title for each book. There is absolutely no way you can know how good or how bad each book will be. Mind you, I am fully entertaining the possibility that some of the books will suck. Even the Teen Titans book, which I’m looking forward to a lot because it is so radically different, might as well be a horribly bad read. I don’t think it will be as bad as Felicia D. Henderson’s run on the book, because being that bad takes some effort, but still, it could be bad. And Felicia D. Henderson is also the exact reason why I’m looking forward to the reboot. Felicia D. Henderson broke the Titans beyond salvation. J.T. Krul made valiant effort since he’s otherwise a good writer, but even he failed. The rest of the DC Universe is in similar shape. While the 2000s began quite well, Geoff Johns re-invented the Teen Titans for example. Or Judd Winick on the Outsiders. All those ideas were good. They worked. But as the 2000s went on, DC had this brilliant trend to do everything like they did in the Silver Age. Why? You can’t go forward by going back. And to be honest, DC has waited too long with the reboot. So here’s a chance at a fresh set of characters written by people who get to re-invent these characters.

Blake Northcott (aka. ComicBookGrrrl): “The DC Comics reboot is a desperation move, and people can already sense it. You don’t win new readers with one big, overblown marketing gimmick – you win them with compelling storylines that are worth sharing and discussing.”

While I’m fully willing to accept that DC is desperate – in fact, I’m very comfortable with the thought that they’re desperate – I don’t see how a desperate move is a bad thing. Because it means that DC has realized that they have a problem. Compared to how they’ve been fuddling about in the past couple of years, I would say that this is actually a very good thing. It shows that DC has seen that they’ve written them into places where they just can’t go on.

As for compelling stories: Was ripping Arsenal’s arm off compelling? Was killing his daughter a story worth telling? Did we have anything to discuss after they made him a junkie again? And Arsenal is just one of the characters that had crap happening to him that can’t easily be reversed and did accomplish absolutely nothing. Other examples would be the killing of just about every Titan but maybe a handful. Sure, we did discuss all these instances, but not once did I hear something along the lines of “Man, this story was awesome!” or “Rest in Peace, Kid Devil, you had a good death”.

So if this desperation move enables writers to tell compelling storylines that are worth sharing and discussing again, then they’re on the right path. Besides, it takes a lot of courage on a company’s end to admit that they’ve been totally wrong and that they need to do something drastic.

PS: Blake Northcott is actually awesome. You should totally read her blog.

“The re-design of my favourite character sucks!”

Fig. #2: This is awesome.

Yeah, that one I have to actually agree with to an extent, since we’re all individuals. And individuals have individual tastes. Personally, I like most of the redesigns I’ve seen. Harley Quinn’s is spectacular, Superboy’s is very interesting. However, I’m not too fond of Kid Flash’s as he looks like he’s wearing a crown. And for some odd reason, I miss Superman’s briefs. So yeah, that’s a perfectly valid complaint.
 
Yes, I did just admit that I'm in favour of Superman wearing his underwear outside his pants. I never thought I'd say this.

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