Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quick Reviews: DC Universe's Second Wave

It's been almost a year and I'm still excited about DC's new direction. Now, with some titles biting the dust (including some that I really liked), it's time for a new crop of titles to take their place. I reviewed the first 104 new titles (all #1 and #2 issues) back on New Year’s Day so I wanted to get and review the first two issues of the 'Second Wave.'

BATMAN INCORPORATED #1-2 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.
Batman Incorporated is a franchise Batman has built to handle jobs that he either can't do alone or he can't get to quickly, or are in another hemisphere altogether.

Batman & Robin go after cells of the followers of Leviathan while a sniper out to collect the bounty on Robin...kills Robin. And we get a very abbreviated of Talia’s formative years from conception to her relationship with Bruce to Damian’s birth to overthrowing her father.

For me, Grant Morrison is way overrated. I get that he writes hard-hitting better than anyone but I don't like the way the characters act or speak when Morrison writes them - they become foreign. But Batman Incorporated is a fantastic blend of action and comedy and has been the most fun Batman & Robin pairing as father & son in recent memory. Although I’m not sure why we had to get the roller-coaster recap of Talia’s life when a more thorough exploration, even a story arc featuring it, would have been more satisfying.

I don't think I've read anything else with Chris Burnham's art in it but it's incredible here. I thought Frank Miller was drawing the pages. The characters are bulky but agile and incredibly intimidating on the page.

As far as the title, Batman Incorporated, we didn't get a lot of that - mostly Batman & Robin. For this title to have a chance of standing on its own, it needs to get away from Batman & Robin and the franchise players need to be front & center. But despite that obvious flaw, the title is interesting and I’ll wait to see where it’s going before deciding to drop it or stay with it.

EARTH 2 #1-2 by James Robinson & Nicola Scott
On Earth 2, Darkseid is about to conquer when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman make one last ditch effort to turn the tide. It will require a large fight, an uploaded virus, and the sacrifice of all three of Earth's greatest heroes. But from their ashes, a new superhero group will rise up to protect the Earth - The Justice Society.

James Robinson is one of the most underrated writers in comics. His books are consistently fantastic and he's the definitive Justice Society writer (or at least the one I'm most familiar with having read his run). Nicola Scott's art is equally fantastic and the fight scenes look gorgeous.

The first two issues are slowly, satisfyingly, introducing us to the characters and how they get their powers. In the first two issues, the only two characters we’ve been introduced to are Alan Scott and Jay Garrick and only Jay has gotten his powers. Of course we’ve also seen Mr. Terrific wind up on Earth 2 to that will eventually provide a nice perspective for the new team because he’s probably worked with the heroes who were killed on that world.

Having the Justice Society rise up from the ashes of the dead Justice League members is a nice twist on continuity and the first two issues are a solid setup for what promises to be a terrific reintroduction of a classic team.

WORLDS' FINEST #1-2 by Paul Levitz., George Perez, and Kevin Maguire
Power Girl and Huntress were Earth 2's Supergirl and Robin. But when they become stranded on our world, they carve out a place for themselves which include new identities.

This is easily one of my favorite reboots. Both characters are comparable to their original DCU counterparts but their back stories now include each other. In the original DCU, Power Girl was essentially alone but now she has Huntress. I like the idea that Power Girl and Huntress know all these secret identities of friends they fought alongside but the heroes don't know them. It gives them an advantage and we may get to see a hero differently through their eyes as they reflect on who that hero was on Earth 2. And I especially love that Huntress is Bruce Wayne's daughter on Earth 2 - there's a deep connection there that I can't wait for her to explore with the current version of Bruce Wayne.

This book reestablishes Power Girl and Huntress while giving writers a gigantic, continuity-free canvas to paint new stories on. It’s a fresh take on the ‘World’s Finest’ dynamic of Superman and Batman. Paul Levitz, George Perez, and Kevin Maguire are a terrific team and I'll be back to see what happens next.

DIAL H #1-2 by China MiƩville & Mateus Santoluoco
When a man desperate to save his friend reaches up for a payphone to dial 9-1-1, he's transformed into Boy Chimney and saves the day!

While I like the idea of Dial H, previous incarnations have been either campy or very dark. This is pretty much in the middle. It's dark enough to be taken seriously but not so dark that the hero still fills you with hope (the really dark stories have been about getting that power and abusing it so there was never a protagonist to really root for).

Still, the story sort of drags and doesn’t make much sense. Still, it did give us the Iron Snail so it wasn’t all bad.

If you’re a fan of previous incarnations, you’ll probably like this one, but I’ll pass on getting more issues.

G.I. COMBAT #1-2
THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT by J.T. Krul and Ariel Olivetti.
THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Dan Panosian
To be fair, the stories presented here are very short so it's hard to judge a title on snippets of story but as a reader I'm turned off by anthology-type titles so take these reviews with the grain of salt.

The War That Time Forgot spends a little time on two of the characters, a briefing, and then the helicopters are flying among pterodactyls. The soldiers fight dinosaurs, join forces with a North Korean. It's a little jarring there really a version of Marvel's Savage Land in North Korea? Huh....I guess.

The Unknown Soldier is about a normal man whose family is killed by terrorists and craves revenge but is rejected from joining the military - so he trains and finds his way into combat on his own. A terrorist attack leaves him disfigured with no memory of who he is but he does remember how to kill terrorists. The United States recruits him, augments him by making his bone structure strong and making him a quick healer – then unleashes him against their enemies.
The Unknown Soldier reminds me of Snake Eyes with the disfigured face and amazing combat skills. This could be the creation of the DC Universe’s own Punisher.

THE RAVAGERS #1-2 by Howard Mackie and Ian Churchill
This is a spin off from Superboy and Teen Titans (though I haven’t read the issues that lead up to this title) which finds Fairchild leading an escape from a lab where the meta-powered subjects are being tortured and brainwashed to be ‘Ravagers.’

If you’re old school like me you’re thinking, Fairchild leading an escape from a facility doing experiments on her sounds like her beginnings in Gen13. But you’d be wrong. The issue begins with Fairchild leading the escape and quickly turns into a free-for-all as the teens ignore her, unwilling to listen to a former employee of the same facility that tortured them and fly away, leaving Fairchild to take care of the handful that is left.

The dialogue in this book is powerfully written by Howard Mackie and perfectly reflects how teens would really react to being freed by someone they blame. Most pair off and fly away. When the troops surrender and Fairchild has to convince the escapees not to kill them, it's some of the best dialogue and is a great beginning to cementing a relationship with the kids, creating some boundaries for them, and establishing herself as the leader.

This issue introduced me to the 'New 52' versions of Beast Boy and Terra. I love that they've added this to Gar's background and that he and Terra escape together. I don't know if they'll stay in this title but it was great seeing them together. Also, I hope I'm not alone in being happy that Rose is a villain again. I know the facility changed her into a psychopath when means that we'll get to explore her redemption against the people she's killed who were friends of the kids in the facility. I can't wait to see her try and apologize to Beast Boy while he tries to rip her face off.

This title contains some of the most volatile characters in the DCU and I can't wait to read more.

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