September has come and gone, so it’s time to give a rundown of the “New 52” I actually bought. As I said back in July, I had one sure thing, a strong maybe, and a lot of look-and-sees. In the end, I plunked down the dough for 5 books, one of which wasn’t even on my original list. So who’s in the pull box and who’s out? Take a gander below, and remember, spoilers abound!
ALL-STAR WESTERN: This was the sure thing, of course. I have virtually everything else Jonah Hex, so it would take a serious foul-up for me to not buy his new series. Luckily, it’s off to a good start. Moritat does a wonderful job on the art, a great balance of fine details and heavy outlines...and I would be remiss to not mention Gabriel Bautista’s coloring! When I saw the preview pages, I figured from the monochromatic tones that these were uncolored, but once I got the actual issue in my hands, I found that there’s a lot of subtlety going on with the palette here. Sepia tones are prevalent, naturally, with other colors used sparingly, just to accent certain things. A good example is this page about halfway through, featuring Hex and his new “partner” taking in the town’s seamier sights:
I think this is the only page in the whole book with any green in it, namely a lampshade and the absinthe, the presence of which helps to add to the reader’s mental picture of Dr. Amadeus Arkham. And that brings us to the important part of any Hex comic: the story. Palmiotti & Gray were true to their word and didn’t change Jonah Hex one iota -- the only difference between this and what they’d given us for 70 issues beforehand is the location. By the by, let’s get that out of the way right now: Yes, Gotham is an East Coast town, and this is referred to as a Western. Just deal with it and move on, because neither fact is all that relevant to the story. There’s a Ripper-style killer on the loose, and Jonah’s been called in for his ability to track down just about anyone. Also on the case is the aforementioned Dr. Arkham, a psychologist who gets little respect from many of the local authorities, save for one Detective Lofton, who also hired Hex. The doctor and the bounty hunter get lumped together in order to put an end to the “Gotham Butcher”, but it’s obvious by the last page this won’t be so cut-and-dry as Jonah would like.
Overall, I’m digging the story. Jonah’s discomfort with Gotham is already beginning to show (near the end of the issue, when asked about his opinion of the place, he declares, “Ah’d burn it to the ground an’ add some salt ta be sure nothing came back.”), and I expect it’ll become worse as we go along...that’ll be fun to watch. And being an old Bat-fan, I’m enjoying the name-drops that’re turning up: there’s Arkham, of course, but also architect Cyrus Pinckney, the Gates brothers from the recent “Gates of Gotham” mini, one of Bruce Wayne’s ancestors, as well as a Mayor Cobblepot, complete with monocle! Best of all, I’m hearing some new readers call this the best book out of the 52. Gives me a warm spot in my tummy, like a shot of good whiskey.
DCU PRESENTS: I figured that I’d be buying this new anthology, since I have a weakness for such things. Luckily, they opened it with a character that I’ve long had an interest in (Deadman) and worked in an angle from one of my fave sci-fi shows (Quantum Leap). The story is mostly a retelling of how Boston Brand got to be as dead as he is, and gives his usual body-hopping more focus: now instead of just making up for being a selfish jerk while he was alive, he has to help specific people if he ever wants to balance out his karmic debt. The fact that his latest mission is to help out a legless vet -- which was also the plot of a very good Quantum Leap episode -- hammers home for me the similarities between Boston’s new parameters and Sam Beckett’s old ones. Hey, nobody was using the gimmick lately, so I’m not gonna fault Paul Jenkins for dusting it off. And Bernard Chang does a fine art job here as well, especially with his rendition of Hindu goddess Rama Kushna:
My only complaint is that there’s no mention of Boston’s recent resurrection and second death in Brightest Day, nor his relationship with Dove aside from a barely-there shot of her face in one panel. The two of them do hang out for a page in Hawk and Dove #1, though, but I passed on it. I’m not buying that series on the off chance that Boston might pop up from time to time. And on that note...
GREEN LANTERN: Welcome to “The Adventures of Unemployed Hal”! I opened this one up while still at the shop and just started skimming, having no interest at all in seeing Sinestro with a GL ring, but wanting to give the book a courtesy flip since we still had Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke on board (not surprising: Geoff orchestrated this whole Flashpoint thing, and I seriously doubt he’d kick himself off his own book). GL book until I found even a glimpse of him. Then I got to Page 6:
I started laughing out loud right there in the shop. This was exactly what I hoped to find, and I nailed it on the first try! That one page made me buy the book, and I’m actually disappointed that Sinestro shows up at the end, offering to help Hal get his ring back. Boo, hiss! I wanna see Hal beg his brother Jim for a place to stay, or worse get, Hal has to get a regular job like in the old days! Let’s make him remember what life was like before he got a shiny magic ring!
On a related note, I never got to look at GL Corps or New Guardians because they were sold out, but since I found Hal already, they’re superfluous to me. And Red Lanterns didn’t grab me, despite having Dex-Starr the Rage Kitty right at the beginning.
BATGIRL: I wanted to hate this book on general principle. They broke up the Birds of Prey for no reason, pulled Barbara Gordon out of the wheelchair through means unknown, then ripped the Batgirl mantle from Stephanie Brown’s hands and sent her into limbo (I only bought a handful of her issues, but I know she had a lot of supporters out there). Add to that the grudge I still carry over their treatment of Cassandra Cain years before, and you have a serious amount of bad marks against this title right from the get-go. I’m sure Gail Simone was aware of the uphill battle she had ahead of her, though, because all throughout the story, she confronts the biggest elephant in the room, right down to a one-page recap of how Babs got crippled in the first place. There’s no details yet as to how exactly she’s waking again (other than referring to it as a “miracle”) but I’m going to guess that we’ll have the question solved by issue 3. It can’t be avoided forever.
Ardian Syaf does a great job on the art, with an expressive style that’s complimented well by the watercolor-like touches of Ulises Arreola. Action sequences and personal moments are treated with equal care, and while his rendition of new villain The Mirror doesn’t really stand out, it also doesn’t need to due to his whole M.O., which is apparently reflecting people’s mistakes back upon them right before he kills them...and since Barbara Gordon is on his lil’ list, I suspect it might tie into her whole “miracle” reveal. Something else I want to keep an eye on is Barbara’s new roommate: no name has been given yet, but something about her reminds me of Dick Grayson’s landlord from Bludhaven, Clancy. I can’t remember if she made it out of the city before it was destroyed, though. Might have to go digging through the back issues.
Only bad marks I can give right now are the de-aging of Babs (it’s now been only 3 years since she was shot, and she’s apparently still living with her dad) as well as the way Batgirl acts...and I emphasize “Batgirl” here, not Babs. Once she puts on the cowl, she seems to be channeling her inner Bruce, and it doesn’t fit her at all. However, I was glad to see that facade shatter when The Mirror points a gun at her gut:
Again, Gail keeps turning our attention to the elephant in the room. I’m sure that’ll fall away eventually as both us and Babs get used to the idea of her being up and about, but right now, it’s necessary, as the change is still too recent to be ignored. As for the other big change in her life -- no longer being Oracle and running her own team -- there’s no reference to it here, but in the new Birds of Prey title, we get a cameo of Babs staring daggers at Dinah like they’re ex-lovers after a horrible breakup. I really hope they explain this sudden shift in attitude, because they didn’t act like the same gals that have worked together for more than a decade...and they’d better explain it in BG, because I passed on BoP. As for former member Zinda Blake? Sorry, kids, but the Lady Blackhawk in that particular title isn’t her. She might be gone forever, thanks to the new “no Golden Age” rule, but I hope she’ll land up on Earth-2, still fighting the good fight.
RESURRECTION MAN: This is the only wild card in my whole stack. I had no intention of looking at it, but Tremo and Harry (fellow members of the “Wild Bunch” over on the DCMB) insisted that I give it a whirl. And considering how many people I’ve talked into buying Jonah Hex over the past six years (I even got a guy in the shop to pick up All-Star Western #1 the same day I was picking up my own copy!) it seems only fair that I return the favor and try a new character. Well, new-ish: Mitch Shelly has had his own series before, and I do own two issues of it, but only because Tommy “Hitman” Monaghan was doing a guest-shot. So I knew the basics about him: regular guy who got experimented on and pumped full of nanites capable of bringing him back to life, as well was giving him a new superpower every time. It’s like “Dial H for Hero of the Dead". I was also familiar with writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning from their time on Legion of Super-Heroes (and no, I didn’t look at either of the new Legion titles, I’m kinda burned out on ‘em, just like I’ve gotten burned out on Batman) and knew they could deliver a good story with lots of twists and turns. So I picked up the first issue and dove in.
Tremo and Harry were right, this is pretty good. Mitch seems to be pulled around by some gut instinct that tells him where he’s needed, but not why (shades of Deadman’s new angle), and his “just a regular guy who can do extraordinary things” attitude appeals to me. Most of all, I’m intrigued by the idea that, as we find out halfway through the tale, both Heaven and Hell are tired of waiting for Mitch to permanently die, and are going to do whatever it takes to bring him in. The art by Fernando Dagnino has a Butch Guice/Tom Mandrake feel to it, and he has a great eye for layouts, invoking both open spaces and the closed-off interior of an airplane with equal skill. This page in particular is interesting, as he chose to use the plane’s windows to frame the sequence instead of traditional panels:
So, that’s it. Five books out of 52. There are more coming, of course (The Shade gets a new mini this month, and the Earth-2/JSA stuff will arrive eventually), but from their initial offerings, this is all I’m committing to...and that’s only so long as it remains good. If you recall, I initially said that I was tiring of Green Lantern, so we’ll see how long they can keep my interest -- if Hal goes off questing again, there’s a good chance I’ll remove him from my pull-list. And if the next DCU Presents character after Deadman’s arc doesn’t appeal to me, that could disappear too. Sorry, DC, but I’m no longer the hardcore fangirl of 20-odd years ago that would buy anything with Batman on it. You and your entire stable of characters have gotta work hard to earn my money.
Except for you, Jonah. Just keep being a surly bastard and I’ll stay with ya.