I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Aquaman is probably the most widely ridiculed superhero in the DC Universe if not all comic book universes. I get why it’s easy to pick on Aquaman, because his powers are only useful in very selective situations, but when his name is Aquaman, what do people really expect him to be? Honestly, I think Aquaman gets a bum wrap as far as superheroes go and maybe it’s time the poor guy went out and addressed his haters head on. This is exactly why I liked this comic so much, because that’s exactly what happens and it’s just so much fun to read.
Our comic starts in the city of Boston as three armed gunmen are leading the police on a car chase after presumably robbing a bank; in the vernacular of Bostonians this is what’s called a “Tuesday.” The chase is causing a lot of collateral damage around town so the nearest superhero who happens to arrive at the scene is none other than… Aquaman. The gunmen and the cops react in the manner that most people do when they see Aquaman.
This scene really gives us a sense of what it’s actually like to be Aquaman. Here’s this guy who for all intensive purposes is a superhero who has foiled crimes and battled threats to world peace and yet no one really cares. What makes it more tragic is the fact that he doesn’t really want anyone’s gratitude; he just wants their respect and it’s very evident that he doesn’t even get that. Hell, he can’t even sit down to eat his lunch without being harassed.
In case you can’t tell by now, this comic is incredibly self-aware; Aquaman practically looks the reader in the eye in some panels when he defends himself. It’s almost like Aquaman is trying to set the record straight for new readers who have probably had their impressions of him shaped purely by old Superfriends episodes. This comic really tries hard to make Aquaman a sympathetic character and it definitely worked in my case; I want to see him change people’s perceptions and get the respect that he deserves.
Now while I personally think the restaurant sequence is the best part of this book, other things happen too. We don’t get an origin story for Aquaman but we do get hints at one, suggesting that this has not discarded the previous continuity. There’s also the appearance of those freaky fish monsters from the cover; we don’t get much info on them, but it seems that after centuries underwater, they’re coming to the surface for food. Maybe they’re paving the way for the coming of the Ancient Ones; expect to see Aquaman fight Cthulu at the bottom of the ocean for the fate of the world.
I highly recommend this one because it really marks an interesting direction for the character. Having a narrative that’s aware of how the public perceives Aquaman is really interesting and I’m curious to see where they go with it. I never thought I’d be giving a solid recommendation to an Aquaman book, but here I am. The writing’s solid, the artwork is good and I have no complaints. If you’re a new reader, this is a pretty straightforward story that’s easy to get into. If you’re not new, this is still a great read and a fantastic analysis of Aquaman which poses a great question: what really makes a hero great? Is it how cool his costume is? How strong his powers are? Or does it just boil down to whether his heart is the right place? That being said, this book really has a lot of heart behind it and that’s why I recommend it. Got anything else to add, Aquaman? So with that behind us let’s hope tomorrow’s book is just as good! Tomorrow we’ll take a look at All Star Western #1 starring Jonah Hex!
If you’ve been following along, you know the drill by this point. We’ve got six mini-reviews for the comics I didn’t cover in Week Three of the relaunch.
While I do like Batman, I have to ask if it was really necessary to have so many simultaneously running Batman books in this relaunch! Hell, Batman still finds a way to show up in a few of the series he’s not starring in. Petty gripes aside, this book is actually really good and I would strongly recommend it for new readers who would like to get into Batman. We don’t get an origin story or anything, but with a character as familiar as Batman it’s entirely unnecessary. We start with some good action that leads into an intriguing detective story. The entire book does a nice job of introducing us to Gotham City and the people who inhabit it. We end with a nice-cliffhanger even if it is an obvious fake-out. Still, the writing is top notch and while the artwork is not something I’d recommend, it still works well and doesn’t suffer from any real problems. If you’re a relatively new reader and would like to follow only one Batman title in this relaunch, I’d recommend this one for being the most accessible.
I had no idea what to expect from this one as I have no prior knowledge of Captain Atom and it doesn’t help that we don’t really get an origin story. In spite of that, we still get a decent introduction to the character, his powers and the supporting cast. Captain Atom himself seems to be a former pilot who somehow became a living nuclear reactor; he can absorb large amounts of energy and release it offensively. He also learns that he has the power to seemingly alter the atomic structure of matter, using this power to turn an enemy’s armor into dust. There have been some complaints about the artwork, but I personally liked it; I will admit that it seems a little blurred at times, but I like the overall aesthetic this creates. Admittedly, they don’t do much to explain Captain Atom’s origins or even who he is so it might not be the best for new readers but I think it gives us enough backstory that you can fill in the details pretty easily. I can’t give this a strong recommendation, but you might want to give it a look.
Green Lantern Corps
This entry isn’t bad, but it suffers from the same problems as the rest of DC’s Green Lantern lineup in that it does absolutely nothing to streamline the continuity. However, I will say this in it’s defense: it does serve to introduce us to the lead characters of Guy Gardner and John Stewart. We get a good look at what their lives are like and how difficult it is for them to lead normal lives considering their identities as Green Lanterns are public knowledge. Guy Gardner has a particularly tough time of it as we see him interview for a job as a gym teacher but get turned down due to the danger his role as a Green Lantern could pose to the children. We get an introduction to a new threat that is seemingly targeting the Green Lantern Corps itself, ending with a decent cliffhanger on what to expect. Overall, pretty good; out of all the Green Lantern books that have come out so far, this one gets the best recommendation for new readers.
Legion of Superheroes
Every complaint I had last week about Legion Lost is back and them some. Namely, this is not a good first edition because it drops us smack in the middle of an ongoing and complicated storyline. This is especially bad for a series like Legion of Superheroes which is largely unknown among mainstream audiences. Making matters worse is that we receive virtually no introduction to who the Legion is and why we should care about any of its members. There are entirely too many characters in this book and each one gets little more than a brief caption to denote their name, planet of origin and superpowers. Overall, I do not recommend this book for anyone who isn’t already a fan of the Legion. If you think this might be a good starting point to get into the series, you will be sorely disappointed.
Dick Grayson, the original Robin, returns to his own solo series after a good run filling in for Batman (long story). Overall we get a fairly decent story about Dick returning to his old Nightwing persona and returning to the streets of Gotham to fight crime in his own way. We also get some nice backstory for Dick as he revisits the traveling circus where he grew up, reminisces with old friends and even picks up a possible love interest. Our climax and cliffhanger comes when he’s attacked by a mysterious assassin who claims that Dick Grayson is a murderer. This might be going into SPOILER territory, but this is very likely a tie-in with Batman #1. Overall I’d give this book decent marks for the writing and artwork. I’ll probably pick up a few more issues to see where they go with this.
Our next entry in the new Superman mythos gives us an introduction to Kara Zor-el, Superman’s cousin and fellow refugee from Krypton. It’s hard to recommend this one because while it does many things right, it also has some problems. I commend it for giving us an honest to god origin story for Supergirl; I criticize it for moving way too slow with this origin, dragging out something that could have easily taken place in a few pages. All that happens is Supergirl arrives on Earth and fights some guys in mech-suits before Superman shows up and reassures her that he’s there to help; that’s all that happens in 20 pages. While we do get some interesting internal monologues from Supergirl, it’s just dragged out way too long. This is disappointing because the art and writing are pretty good and the picture of Supergirl’s psyche we get is well done. If the pacing doesn’t improve on this one I’d say either skip it or wait until it’s collected as a trade if you even want to follow it.
Well that wraps up week three; tomorrow we’re heading into the home stretch with the last week of reviews!
Admittedly, Wonder Woman is a character I know little about aside from the Golden Age of comics and the Linda Carter television series. I’ve always wanted to know more about the character but couldn’t really find a good starting point. That being said, I was hoping the relaunch could provide that starting point and give us a good reintroduction to the character. Now, while I can’t say I’m disappointed in this book, I was hoping for something a little more newbie friendly.
Our book starts out with one of the Greek Gods who I’m assuming is meant to be Ares. He consults with some Oracles to learn the future and some cryptic soothsaying ensues. While this is going on we are taken to a small farm in Virginia; Hera, or at least someone I’m assuming is Hera, enters the horse stable where she gorily decapitates two of the farm’s horses. She then transforms their headless bodies into vicious centaurs ready to do her bidding.
Visually speaking, I really enjoyed this book and found myself particularly fond of the redesigns for the Greek Gods. I particularly liked the subtle use of the peacock cloak to denote Hera. Despite giving us no real background on the character, the writing keeps a nice pace and does a good job introducing us to the story at hand. The intrigues involving the Greek pantheon and the role that Zola plays in all this make for a good cliffhanger and kept me interested in following this one.
Again, if you’re unfamiliar with the character in any way, this one will probably confuse you; overall, I’d recommend it as a good read and a good setup for what’s to come.
Tomorrow begins the last week of the relaunch as the final 13 issues are released. Tomorrow we’ll wrap up Week Three with short reviews for the following books:
- Captain Atom
- Green Lantern Corps
- Legion of Superheroes
DC Universe Presents is essentially a new anthology series similar to older books like Strange Tales and DC Showcase. Being an anthology series, this book will have a rotating focus meant to shine the spotlight on various characters within the larger DC Universe. I like series like this because it allows for a nice change of characters and creative talent on a regular basis. This series will no doubt be used to fill in some of the gaps in the new continuity by explaining how the origins of other characters have been affected by the relaunch. Our first entry in this new anthology is none other than Deadman, so let’s take a look.
Our comic essentially serves as a rebooted origin story for Deadman, an undead, supernatural hero. Prior to his death, Deadman was Boston Brand, a popular and talented trapeze artist for a big time traveling circus. This incarnation of Boston Brand was a complete jerk in life and he seems to have no problem admitting to that.Things seriously go south for Boston when he’s shot by an assassin during a performance of all things. Boston wakes up in the afterlife to find himself standing on a fulcrum with the goddess Rama before him. She explains that Boston is being given a chance to atone for his life of selfishness by returning to Earth and helping guide troubled souls away from the path of destruction. By helping others he will work his way towards salvation and have the chance to become who he was meant to be. If he refuses, then he will be forced to wander limbo as a ghost for eternity. It’s a pretty easy choice and Boston takes Rama up on her offer.What follows is essentially a combination of Quantum Leap and Heart and Souls. Deadman is invisible and intangible as a ghost but can enter the body of any person. By possessing the bodies of others, he can share in their experiences and help steer them away from destroying themselves. Deadman helps out a number of people in this way but we don’t really get to see his full involvement in a case just yet.
We get a great setup for Deadman’s current mission in which he’s trying to help a suicidal veteran who lost his legs in combat. The veteran is probably the most poignant character and the writing does an excellent job of setting up why his situation feels so hopeless. It’s a compelling read and definitely one of the strongest aspects of this book.Overall, this book does an excellent job introducing us to the Deadman character complete with his origins and motivations. If I have one complaint about this book it’s that it does feel a bit dense at times; sometimes a lot of dialogue is crammed into one page. In spite of this, I think the pacing works really well and I highly recommend giving this new Deadman anthology a read.
Seeing as Deadman is going to be in the new Justice League Dark series, set to come out next week, I’m guessing DC Universe Presents will be used to flesh out some of the supporting characters from other series in the relaunch. That being the case I’m interested in seeing what other supporting players will get their own limited runs; I’d love to see Booster Gold or The Great Ten get their own stories. I’m definitely going to follow the rest of Deadman’s anthology, which is set to run for at least three more issues, and I’ll certainly keep an eye on this series overall.
Catwoman is a character that’s gone through a lot of changes over the years. She started out as a strict antagonist and has mellowed over the years into an anti-hero of sorts. She doesn’t really register that high on Batman’s radar because her specialty is burglary, which doesn’t seem all that important if you’ve got the Joker shooting people and Poison Ivy turning folks into plant food. It also doesn’t help that she’s had a sort of on-again off-again relationship with Batman over the years. Sure, Batman could probably lock up her up but then he’d lose his only reliable booty call as far as this continuity is concerned.
Our comic begins with Catwoman fleeing her apartment after it’s invaded and bombed by a group of thugs in skull masks. With nowhere to go, she hits up her friend, Lola, for some new digs and a new gig. Lola tips her off to an unoccupied penthouse she can crash and even arranges a job spying on some Russian mobsters at a bar.The job goes well until Catwoman recognizes one of the mobsters from a violent childhood flashback. She ambushes the man in the bathroom and beats him senseless before the other mobsters catch on. She changes into Catwoman and finesses her way out of the bar, making as clean a getaway as possible under the circumstances.
She returns to “her” penthouse only to find Batman; he heard about the bombing of her apartment and says that he tracked her down to make sure she was safe and staying on the right side of the law. And of course, he was also holding out hopes that she might be up for a quickie; that’s no joke, either.
I wish had more to say about this comic but there really isn’t much to it. We get a lot of inner monologue from Catwoman but a lot of it seems more like fluff than actual character development. Mind you, it is fluff that’s fun to read and gives us a good idea of Catwoman’s playful attitude towards the world. However, in the end it’s still fluff and that really sums up the writing in this book.
The artwork was also something that kept me on my toes and not in a good way. Overall I really liked Guillem March’s artwork; he does a good job showing off very sumptuous curves, which this book has a lot of. That being said, he’s also very inconsistent and sloppy at times. For every gorgeous scene of Catwoman kicking ass and looking fabulous doing it, there’s a few panels where parts of her anatomy are just flat out wrong; not in a sexy way, either.Moments like this are incredibly distracting and really pulled me out of what was otherwise a light but fun read. While I did enjoy this book overall, there doesn’t seem to be much to keep me coming back. There are some looming mysteries put forward such as who bombed Catwoman’s apartment and what that violent flashback was about, but these moments pass so quickly that you honestly kind of forget they even happened. Out of curiosity, I might follow this one for a couple issues, but if I don’t see more polish on the artwork and writing, I’m bailing.
For every Bram Stoker that writes an immortal tale that comes to define a genre, there’s a hundred Stephanie Meyers peddling their own self-insert fan fiction to a mass audience. It’s just an inevitability of any creative medium that 90% of what’s out there will be schlock. With that being said, if Watchmen can be considered the Citizen Kane of comic books, then Red Hood and the Outlaws is somewhere between Porky’s III and an American Pie Presents DVD.
Admittedly, this is not the worst comic I have ever read, but the only thing that could have made it worse is if Rob Liefeld had both written and drawn it in 1993 before sending it into the future just to troll us. Let’s take a look at why this comic is bad.
If you’re unfamiliar with Red Hood, he’s Jason Todd: the second unwitting child to wear the tights of Robin the Boy Wonder. Jason is something of a “black sheep” among the Batman Family since he’s an obnoxious little shit whom no one liked. How disliked was he? So disliked that when given the choice, comic book readers everywhere actually got together and killed him.
Despite being unpopular enough to be killed off, Jason Todd remained an enduring part of the Batman mythos and so it’s not too surprising that he came back to life as the anti-hero, Red Hood. This brings us to the present where Jason now stars in his own series as leader of a fun-loving cadre of noble outlaws!
The two make it out of prison but are intercepted by a squad of tanks. This isn’t a problem as Jason is backed up by former Teen Titan, Starfire, who makes short work of the artillery. With everything clear, the team makes their escape to St. Martinique for some recuperation and shameless fan-service.
Jason later meets with Essence, a member of the All Caste. The All Caste was an order of monks that trained Jason in the art of killing long ago. Essence wants Jason to investigate a series of mysterious murders she believes is connected to a group known as the Untitled. Jason initially refuses, claiming that the All Caste are responsible for taking care of the Untitled. Essence then informs him that the All Caste have been eliminated. This news rouses Jason into action and so he takes the case for Essence and sneaks out in secret investigate the All Caste’s Himalayan headquarters.
All in all this book just isn’t good for a number of reasons that might not seem apparent from this summary. First, the dialogue is absolutely terrible. Everything that comes out of Jason’s mouth is a shallow one-liner. The only thing worse is Starfire’s dialogue which makes her sounds less like the stubborn, passionate princess of Tamaran and more like a bubble headed porn star.
Jason also explains that Tamaranians apparently don’t regard people as much more than “sights and smells”, which is why Starfire is perfectly okay with humping everything that moves. Even more insulting is that because of this previously unestablished aspect of Tamaranian psychology, Starfire doesn’t even remember the names of her former friends much less who they were. In short, Starfire is now a sex-hungry bombshell with no sense of commitment or attachment whose only real purpose is to validate the masculinity of our male leads by fucking their brains out when it’s convenient.
This also begs the questions of why Starfire is even in this comic to begin with. Jason and Roy make sense as partners who would be brought together out of the questionable nature of their crime-fighting methods and troubled pasts as former sidekicks. Starfire, on the other hand, doesn’t really have any reason to be a part of this team other than showing us her ass every couple of pages.
In addition to the wretched dialogue and weak characters, the artwork is sloppy, inconsistent and lazy. As if Jason Todd’s child-bearing hips from earlier weren’t bad enough, there just something about the art that lacks effort as if the artist just got tired and stopped trying. Therefore it’s not surprising that the pages with the most passion put into them tend to involve Starfire’s ass.
Our next entry is another example of DC’s ongoing efforts to embrace more diversity in their lineup by featuring a Hispanic superhero. This doesn’t mark the first appearance of Jaime Reyes in his own solo series, but it does mark a potential new direction for the character as we get a full reboot of his continuity and a retelling of his origins.
Our story begins with a prologue introducing us to the Reach: a race of galactic conquerors. The Reach take over worlds by posing as benevolent beings and offer each world’s champion a special Scarab symbiote that allows them to use great power and access all the knowledge of the Reach. The Scarab is a trap, however, and programs the champion to conquer his own people on the Reach’s behalf. We witness one such world fall in this way.
The Reach send more of their scarabs out into space and we see one intercepted by a Green Lantern who damages it but is unable to recover it. The Scarab crashes on Earth where it is discovered by the ancient Mayans and presumably kept locked away as a priceless treasure.
After the prologue we’re introduced to Jaime Reyes, our awkward teenager archetype who lives in El Paso, Texas. Jaime is a fairly average teenager with no real defining traits as of yet other than that he doesn’t really like gym class. We also meet his friends: Paco, a dropout who seemingly runs with a gang, and Brenda, a fairly popular girl that Jaime has the hots for. Half the school is abuzz about Brenda’s fifteenth birthday party and it seems that anyone who’s anyone is expected to be there. Being friends since childhood, Jaime and Paco both receive their invitations.
Jaime’s parents forbid him from going, however, due to the fact that Brenda’s aunt Amparo will be hosting the party. His parents have some issues with their son attending a party at her house, which probably has something to do with her being the crime lord known as La Dama. Speaking of which, La Dama has gone to considerable lengths to acquire the Scarab from earlier and almost has it in her grasp before supervillains Warp, Plasmus and Phobia attempt to steal it from her. Luckily, La Dama has her own cadre of metahumans and a full on super-powered brawl ensues over who will possess the Scarab.
Not too far from the fight, Jaime sneaks out of his room to meet up with Paco so they can drive to Brenda’s party. They drive past La Dama’s warehouse just in time to accidentally strike Warp and Plasmus, causing the stolen Scarab to fall into Paco’s car.
When Paco get his ass beat, Jaime steals the Scarab in order to draw the villains away from his friend. Jaime doesn’t get far as he’s stabbed in the back, causing the Scarab to activate and fuse into Jaime’s spine. The book ends with Jaime transforming into the Scarab and shouting his “Scarab Name.”
For a first book this did a good job of establishing our characters and their relationships. I would have liked a little more development from some characters, particularly Jaime, but considering how much was fit into this book, I think writer Tony Bedard did a good job. More than anything this was a fun book and it manages to keep a fairly lighthearted tone in-between action sequences.
As for the issue of Jaime Reyes as a Hispanic superhero I find him likeable and credible. The fact that he’s Puerto Rican doesn’t define every aspect of his character; it’s simply a part of who he is. In my Mister Terrific review I discussed how dialogue meant to discuss issues of race can come off as preachy and unnatural. Blue Beetle doesn’t suffer from that problem; there is a lot of Spanish interspersed in the characters’ dialogue but it doesn’t come across as forced and actually makes sense in casual conversation. The only instance I find odd is Jaime’s argument with his parents where the writer notes that it’s translated from Spanglish. This might serve to denote that Jaime, being first-generation, doesn’t actually speak fluent Spanish and communicates with his parents in a mix of both languages; something many children of immigrants can relate to.I also like the fact that Jaime’s friends, while all part of a large Hispanic community, are pretty diverse in and of themselves. This serves to show that the writer understands that the Latin American community is a diaspora of many different nationalities and ethnic groups as opposed to one homogenous group.
All in all I really enjoyed this one. If you want a book that’s just fun and doesn’t feel the need to preach about the characters’ ethnic backgrounds, then give this a try.