Scott Reviews The New 52 (And Other Stuff, Too!) – 12.21.11
I decided to ditch the cover photos in order to speed things up. In case people are wondering.
Longtime reader Mike Campbell asks…
We're four months into the New 52 now, what do you think the best series has been so far? For me, it's Aquaman. They took a character who has long been a running joke (lest we forget that The Rock told The Hurricane that even Aquaman could whip his candy ass), and created totally compelling character with a great storyline going on right now.
I’m a big fan of Aquaman as it stands right now, but it’s more of a “surprisingly good” deal than an outright comic where you’d consider it to be one of the best. For me, Scott Snyder’s Batman has been a stone cold killer each and every issue, with Batwoman not far behind. Aquaman falls into the same category as OMAC for me thus far, where it’s very entertaining and I look forward to reading it each week, but it doesn’t stick with me in the same way that the Bat-titles or even something like Animal Man does. For me, the order is currently Batman, Batwoman, Action Comics, Animal Man and Swamp Thing in terms of quality reading material every month.
So last week I gave New Avengers another shot, and it sucked, so I figured that I’d try the regular Avengers this week since it’s continuing the storyline anyway. And that’s where we’ll start…
I came into this one not really knowing the whole deal with the SHATTERED HEROES masthead, but I know most of the major players so it’s not a big deal to catch up. My biggest impression after reading this and Avenging Spider-Man is that I’m kind of turning into a fan of Red Hulk for some reason, and it actually led me to pick up Hulk this week as well to try it out. That’s probably exactly the sort of thing that Marvel wanted out of the new Spider-Man book, so good on them. At any rate, this is your standard “divide and conquer” superhero team issue, as Captain America splits the Avengers into teams to deal with the continuing annoyance of Norman Osborn. The public gets more and more on the side of Osborn rather than the good guys, and there’s some fun stuff with the bickering Avengers and especially cantankerous Hawkeye, serving the Green Arrow voice of dissent role in the team. And then the HAMMER forces invade and Iron Man finds himself possessed by Oscorp Technology at the worst time. I found the art a little, I dunno, rough for my liking, if that’s the word I’m looking for, but this is the kind of good old-fashioned superhero team fun I would continue to support with my hard-earned money. Plus we all know where the team is going to end up anyway, just in time for the movie, so might as well get on board now.
Speaking of jumping on-board…
So as mentioned, I really enjoyed Rulk’s role in the new Spider-Man team-up title thus far, and I liked him in the Avengers, so I figured it was worth a couple of bucks to check out his main title as well. And I liked this too! General Ross as Hulk is an intriguing idea, with a new perspective on the usual rampaging monster idea and a bit of a smart-ass twist on it. This one in particular is the very end of a story arc, with Rulk getting sent to the Middle East to quell a budding super-powered dictatorship with the help of Machine Man. Turns out that politics are a pain in the ass. Not much more to it than that, but it’s a Hulk story, so I’m not exactly looking for deep storytelling here. The storyline here kind of reminded me of Black Adam’s attempts to launch his own legitimate empire. Next month is Betty Ross as Red She Hulk, and that’s interesting enough to keep me coming back for another month. Well played, Marvel, well played.
Justice League #4
Much like Avengers, this continues to be a fun, bombastic superhero team book with tremendous artwork from Jim Lee. I’m sure you already know the big cliffhanger ending, but I won’t spoil it just in case. I will say, though, that this will make a hell of a trade paperback, but watching the pieces come together is making me feel anxious for Johns to get to the point already. So picking up from last issue, Aquaman shows up and is still a badass as a part of Geoff Johns’ personal project to make him cool. So that means making giant sharks eat demon invaders and then stabbing one of them with his triton. Really you’d have to get Chuck Norris involved somehow to make the point any more clear. Aren’t heroes supposed to have codes against killing, though? Or do parademons not count? Anyway, Green Lantern continues to be far more entertaining here than in his own title and I’d kind of totally buy a GL-Flash team-up book set in this time period. Unfortunately the character who is supposed to be the new focus of the book, Cyborg, still doesn’t feel like he belongs with the big guns. It’s an interesting take on the concept, with a computer in Vic’s head basically calling the shots for him, but I wanna know more about Superman and why Batman’s such a dick to everyone and all that stuff. It continues to entertain, but could be so much more.
Red Hood & The Outlaws #4
This, of course, by way of contrast is the team book that does not entertain and probably couldn’t be any more than it is. We’re four issues into this trainwreck and the Outlaws are STILL fighting against a group of ancient alien things called The Untitled and we still don’t even know what this damn book is even ABOUT. Oh, and Starfire is off facing some sort of big dragon thing that has apparently been stalking her from her homeworld and using her own technology against her, which gives Lobdell the chance to use the phrase “Tamarendean Transubstanciator” without a HINT of irony. This is also the only place you’re going to read someone saying “Your steel-tipped arrows are but a petty annoyance. Only COPPER can hurt me.” Well thanks for the tip, retard. But don’t worry about the bad guys, because Jason Todd is the Red Hood and he’s got guns. Are we supposed to be rooting for him and his alcoholic douchebag hetero life partner Roy? I don’t even think the writer knows for sure at this point.
This is just such an enjoyable comic for me. This is more of a flashback issue, as Batman chats with Dick Grayson (who is so much better written in this book than his OWN and has an easy camaraderie with Batman) about the Court of Owls and how they influenced his own origin story. Here’s what I really liked about that whole sequence: There was no obvious retconned payoff for it. Batman talks about how he became a detective after his parents were murdered, thinking that the Owls were behind it because all the “clues” pointed to them, but actually after months of junior detective work all he found was a dusty old house where he stupidly locked himself in for a week. That bit of humanity is far more interesting to me than suddenly saying “The Court of Owls killed Thomas Wayne” would have been, because it makes Bruce Wayne seem like an actual fallible human being in his younger days. That fantastic backstory sequence is bookended by some great action sequences as Batman stalks (and is stalked by) the Owl assassin Tallon, leading up to a nice cliffhanger. I wish Scott Snyder would write Nightwing as well, because the appearances of the character in this book are all great and it makes things feel like an actual Batman family. Best of the week, again.
I think I noted last month that this title was on the bubble, and they’re STILL not going anywhere yet, so I’m done for good. Supergirl still can’t speak English and she’s dealing with bazillionaire Simon Tycho on his private space station, while he tortures her and tries to clone her. Honestly, they could have combined the last issue with this one and saved people the money. I don’t find Supergirl a particularly likeable character, given her inability to temper her powers and not just blow shit up to solve problems. I understand she’s supposed to be young and brash, but I don’t want to read about her. I did like the final twist for vain Simon, as I’m sure Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of the irony involved. Sorry, Supergirl, you’re dropped.
And finally this week…
Birds of Prey #4
This remains a fun book that’s like, I dunno, an episode of 24 with chicks or something. I really like it, and was legitimately curious about how they’d get out of the “Black Canary has a bomb in her head” cliffhanger of the last issue. This one gets them out of it, as it’s told through flashbacks with Starling investigating the invisible assassins on the train, while Katana slices the shit out of bad guys and Poison Ivy uses her “creepy plant seduction thing” to figure things out and stop the train. And Batgirl shows up! And then they get brainwashed or something by the voice in their head that’s behind everything (his name is Choke, apparently) and we have another good cliffhanger. This is fun, easy to read, light entertainment that’s getting better with every issue, and I appreciate that.
The winner: Batman, of course. Batman always wins! I did really enjoy my sampling of Hulk, however, and will continue following that title and the Avengers until they change their mind and decide that there is only one Hulk in the Marvel universe and restore the status quo again.
Merry Christmas, everyone!