Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mister Bones' Top 5

This is the last post about the all-new DC Universe for a while, promise. I've read all the #1's that I was interested in, some were good, a few were great, and thankfully so far nothing that I signed up for has been terrible. There were a handful that I understand were in fact awful, but I managed to steer clear thanks to my obvious genius when it comes to recognizing quality when it comes to comics and more importantly their creative teams. It's unfair to judge a series based solely on it's first issue, and also nearly impossible. That being said, this top 5 list only reflects my opinions based on having read one issue. In the coming months, as the stories get to rolling along I fully expect some changes. In any event, here are my top 5 favorite #1 issues from the relaunch...

Top 5 First Issues of the New 52

5. I, Vampire / Animal Man (tie) - Animal Man had this spot on lock until last night when I finally read I, Vampire. That book is going to be REALLY good, and I worry that enough people didn't give it a chance. Hope it doesn't get cancelled.

Animal Man is a character I've always liked but never read much of. Pretty cool concept, a guy that can "borrow" the abilites of any animal to use in any given situation. Jeff Lemire's take is certainly a different one though. Same basic idea, although Jeff has added a little element of horror here. Buddy has always been a family man, and that hasn't changed. He's recently finished starring in a movie, and attempting to hang up the tights and make a normal living with his family. That of course is a bit of a struggle as the paychecks aren't coming in from the movie yet, and as if that isn't enough Buddy's powers are on the fritz, so much so that in one scene he's bleeding from his eyes. Add to that some strange behavior from his daughter, Maxine, who is manifesting strange powers of her own, and seems to be terrified of something called "The Red" and the creatures who inhabit it. 

The first issue gives us a brief look at The Red, but doesn't do much to explain exactly what's going on just yet, of course. It also ends with a pretty creepy scene in the back yard with Maxine, but I won't give that away here. As expected, Jeff Lemire's story looks like it's going to be amazing. I love Sweet Tooth, looks like I'm going to love Animal Man too. I mean, Jeff actually had me reading Superboy and I hate Connor Kent. Travel Foreman's art is...different, and works with mixed results in this issue. His art looks great on the few pages that take place in The Red, but I didn't much care for his minimalistic approach to the rest of the book. There are almost no backgrounds, and the panels are weirdly shaped, and all over the place. It's a minor distraction, but it's there. Still this is a great taking off point for what I hope is a lengthy series.

I, Vampire I just talked about the other day, brand new series from Joshua Hale Fialkov, who wrote one of the bets comics that almost nobody read, Elks Run. The entirety of the first issue of I, Vampire is a conversation between what I can only assume are going to be the two main characters, Andrew and Mary, with flashbacks strewn throughout. Andrew is a Vampire, though of a different variety, he isn't driven by the thirst and doesn't feed on humans. He's also a vampire hunter, although why he kills his own kind isn't explained yet. Mary and Andrew have a long past together, and while a bit of it is shown, the conversation they're having has Andrew trying to convince Mary, now known as the Blood Queen, not to go through with her plans to begin a war against humanity. Mary is tired of her people (vamps) being oppressed, forced to hide their existence and feed on livestock, an plans to lead her army to it's rightful place as inheritors of the Earth.

Can't say enough good things about this book, it completely blew me away. As I mentioned, I initially didn't even sign up for it, because I'm a little burnt out on vampires, and the cover lead me to think this was going to be another attempt to cash in on the current "vampire love story" craze all the tweenie boppers are all in to these days. My love for Elks Run, and Josh Fialkov's writing eventually won me over though, and I am so glad it did. Do NOT let the cover art on this fool you. Andrea Sorrentino's interior art is far superior to the cover art, and greatly resembles that of Jae Lee, whom I have always loved. It's a dark, edgy style, and looks phenomenal here. I hadn't heard of him before, but rest assured he's on my radar now. This book is beautiful.

4. Action Comics - Grant Morrison proved that he could write good Superman comics with the superb All-Star Superman. That book is exactly what I want to read when I want to read Superman. Action Comics is different, but good different. This Superman is younger, he doesn't have all his powers yet, for instance he can't fly, only leap tall buildings with a single bound. In fact that seems to be Morrison's angle, taking Superman back to his roots, and I like it. The first issue has Clark doing some things that we don't normally see from him, holding a business man over the ledge of a balcony, then dropping him before diving after and catching him just before he hits the sidewalk, all to get a confession that he's been laundering money from his company. A Batman-esque interrogation technique, and I loved it. He's also not publicly hailed as a hero yet, and is wanted by the US military. You know, like an alien probably really would be. Superman spends most of the first issue on the run from the Army, who are working with a brilliant scientist Lex Luthor, to capture him.

Again, really impressed with this take on the character. Morrison has managed to catch lightning in a bottle twice now, as he manages to do something with Superman that most writers can't do, he makes him interesting. So far it's a little bit Batman, and a little bit Spider-man, and I dig it. What's to be said about Rags Morales that hasn't been said before? His art is gorgeous, the characters are big and bright, and the way his stories flow from panel to panel, you can almost see them moving. My only concern is that in the past he's been a bit slow, but his art is worth the wait. I just liked this first issue so much that I hope he doesn't keep me waiting too long. Side note, I follow Josh Fialkov on twitter and he recently tweeted that he would be writing back-up stories in Action soon, so that should be even more incentive for everyone to be reading this book.

3. Aquaman - Geoff Johns is the master of making Silver-Age DC superheroes awesome again. Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, he's fixed them all. Still, even though I've always liked him and thought he had great potential, making Aquaman awesome is a tall order. So far so good, as Aquaman #1 is probably the best single issue of Aquaman I've ever read. In the first issue, Arthur's gone topside. He's visiting the lighthouse where his father worked, and would take him when he was a child, when he hears police sirens and goes to help out. He ends up putting a stop to a police chase by flipping over the fleeing bank robbers' van with his trident. Despite the awesome display of badassery, Arthur still gets no respect, as the cops joke about the fact that they were upstaged by Aquaman. He goes to a seafood restaurant, again a spot his father would take him to, and is heckled for ordering fish, and eventually he storms out after being asked by a blogger (hehe) what it feels like to be nobody's favorite superhero. Meanwhile, a group of creatures resembling the aquatic life that lives down toward the bottom of the ocean, emerges from deep inside a trench, and heads to the surface where they discover a brand new food source, humans.

I keep going on and on about Geoff Johns, but I just love DC's characters, and he seems to really love them too. I keep hoping he will eventually write Batman, and not just in Justice League, I'd like to see him on a regular Bat title full time. In the meantime, I'm fully content to enjoy him writing the hell out of Aquaman. This book is going to be THE defining run on the character, the run that collector's will still be trying to buy all of the issues of 20 years from now, the same way we scramble for Alan Moore Swamp Thing issues, or Englehart/Rogers Detective issues today. Same goes for Ivan Reis, this is one of the most talented superhero comic artists working today. He was great on Green Lantern, he was even better on Blackest Night. His Aquaman is picture perfect, this is going to be a very nice to look at book.

2. Batgirl - Hey na, hey naaa Barbara's back! Gail Simone has made me on happy little Bat-fan by making Barbara Gordon Batgirl again. The first issue is primarily a lot of set-up and a bit of catching us up to where things stand. Yes, Barbara was still shot by the Joker, and still suffered a spinal injury that left her paralyzed, only not for good this time, just three years. Here she walked again, and put the costume back on. She's apparently not been back in the game very long, and is still living at home with Commissioner Gordon, but does move into an apartment before the end of the issue. She also brings an end to a group of murderers known as the Brisby Killers, meanwhile a villain known as The Mirror is murdering his way down a list of people, and Barbara Gordon is one of the names on the list. What these people have in common, how they got on the list, and who The Mirror is aren't explained as of yet, again this was mostly a set-up issue.

Bringing back my second favorite comic character of all time has made one happy fanboy. I have always loved Batgirl, but only Barbara Gordon. Didn't care much for Cassandra Cain or Stephanie (Spoiler) Brown. Although I will take Stephanie over Cass any day. Gail Simone's comics have always been hit or miss for me, I thought Secret Six was great but didn't care for her Birds of Prey much. But in the past she's proven that she  can write female superheroes well when she wants to. I had reservations about this title going in, but so far so good. So far, so very good. The art on the other hand, I had no concerns about, Ardian Syaf has an energetic style that is perfect for Batgirl. Another gorgeous book here. I'm not crazy about Jim Lee's design for the costume, but that can be said about pretty much all of his costume re-designs.

1. Batman - Yeah, yeah, I know I'm biased. My favorite new book is Batman?! Shocker. That's not always been the case though, and I've always given credit where credit was due. My favorite character will always be Batman, sure but my favorite comic has always varied. This new Batman sees former Detecive writer Scott Snyder taking over as writer. Detective was not only the best Batman book in years, but also the best DC book on the racks pre-reboot. Snyder hasn't lost any steam moving over to Batman and the new DC Universe. Batman begins full speed with an Arkham breakout. Scarecrow, Professor Pyg, Clayface, Killer Croc, Two-Face, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and others are all freed. Batman shows up and manages to turn the tables with the help of....Joker?! After all the prisoners are rounded up, Batman meets with Commissioner Gordon on the roof of Gotham PD and tells him about his suspicion that the break out was an inside job. Things then shift to Bruce Wayne who is hosting a fund-raiser to help rebuild some of Gotham's slums, and move the city toward a bright new future. The evening is cut short when he sees Detective Bullock sneak into the room and whisper to Gordon about a crime scene. Bruce excuses himself for a bit of "fresh air", suits up, and heads to the scene. When he gets there, he finds a body tied to a wall, with blades strategically placed to miss all vital organs. The victim was left to bleed out slowly, like something out of the movie Seven, and the message "Bruce Wayne Dies Tomorrow" was also left on the wall. There's one more reveal, and it's a biggie that sets up the rest of the first arc, but I won't spoil it here.

Scott Sneider has taken the comics world by storm in the last year or so. His Vertigo series, American Vampire won the Eisener for Best New Series, and that book gets better every issue. He wrote the aforementioned critically acclaimed Detective Comics run with artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla, he's got another creator-owned series currently being published by Image Comics called Severed and it's nothing short of brilliant, and while it didn't make this Top 5, his other New 52 book, Swamp Thing is also off to a good start. Snyder manages to blend superhero and horror elements together seamlessly, and in my opinion that's when Batman is at it's best. Most of his villains resemble something out of a horror movie, and I feel like Scott gets that. What's most impressive about him though is that while his Batman is wonderful, the supporting cast, including Bruce Wayne, is just as fun to read. I love his Commissioner Gordon for example. Bringing Snyder's scripts to life is Greg Capullo, who was the artist on Spawn following Todd McFarlane. Greg drew Spawn for somewhere close to 10 years, and while he started out as a bit of a McFarlane clone, he really came into his own after a while and defined his own style. In my opinion, he is a fine fit on Batman, as drawing a horror comic like Spawn for as long as he did has translated well. His Scarecrow, Two-Face, and especially Joker are really creepy looking. I'm very excited about this book, it's nice to have Batman be the best DC Comic on the racks again, it's been too long.

Whew, imaginary being most believe responsible for our creation bless any of you who read all that. I wrote it all in one sitting, and my hands are now in an arthritic state that will surely take hours to recover from. DC's ballsy experiment is paying off big time, and fortunately they aren't the only ones benefitting, we the readers are being treated to some great comics. Aside from the five I mentioned here, I also loved Green Lantern, Swamp Thing, Resurrection Man, Nightwing, Omac, and Batwoman. Other highlights included Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., All-Star Western, Wonder Woman, and surprisingly Batwing. In fact about the only ones I was a little disappointed with out of my picks were Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and I wasn't expecting much from Red Hood anyway. Catwoman I still think will pick up as time goes on.

As promised, I'm officially done talking about the new books for a while. I may check back in with you guys around issue 6 or so and see where thing stand then, but these are in my opinion the best of the bunch right now. Feel free to comment if you're reading any, want to know what I thought about one that I didn't mention here, or if you agree or disagree with me. I'm always down to talk comics. Happy reading folks.

1 comment:

Lissa Lycan said...

I almost bought the Batgirl comic the other day, but I couldn't remember if you had said it was good or not. I'll definitely have to check it out soon.