Phantom Stranger #1-2 by Dan Didio, Brent Anderson, and Philip Tan
The Phantom Stranger is a powerful supernatural force paying penance for his past by obeying a voice that commands him “to perform reprehensible acts in the name of the greater good.” He’s trying to serve that penance while maintaining a life with his wife and kids but with enemies like Trigon, Pandora, Belial, and the Haunted Highwayman, he has to remain ever vigilant.
Good: I think this is Raven’s first appearance in the new DCU. She is run through the wringer before being tricked and captured by Trigon. I know Raven will pop up again fully trained, escape, and deeply disturbed – but she’ll still be the hero we will get to know again. I can’t wait to see more Raven.
Bad: The Phantom Stranger seems directionless. He just does what the voice tells him. He doesn’t seem to have any passion in his personal life or as The Phantom Stranger. It’s hard to get close to a character who projects indifference. Pandora’s part was hard to read too – no clue why the box is important to her and no reason to care about it. And I know there are a lot of die-hard Brent Anderson fans and the art seemed to match the mood of the book, but I don’t like it very much. I won’t be back for #3.
Talon #0-1 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, and Guillem March
Calvin Rose was trained as a Talon and sent out into the world as the Court of Owl’s weapon. When he refuses to kill an innocent woman and her child, he has to stay on the run. But one of the Court of Owl’s Talons has caught up to him. So Calvin Rose is going to do the one thing he thought he’d never do – return to Gotham City. It seems like a safe bet since Batman has scattered the organization but he survives another Talon attack and ends up with an ally who wants to take the Court of Owls down as badly as he does.
Good: This is one of the best new character origins in the new DCU. After #0 I was interested but after #1 I was invested in this character. It helps that there is a tie to a recent Batman storyline that I enjoyed. In the DCU there are a lot of new bad guys for the heroes to fight but the Court of Owls has been a fearsome foe and there are a lot of people watching Calvin kill a previous Talon including a small child who wants to watch – who knows who that child became. The art and the writing were great also. I’ll be back for #2.
Bad: Nothing. A great start to a fascinating new character.
Sword of Sorcery featuring Amethyst #0-1 by Christy Marx, Tony Bedard, Aaron Lopresti, and Jesus Saiz
Amy Winston is an outcast in school because she and her mother move from town to town in a trailer while training her to handle a sword. But all of the training comes in handy because on Amy’s 17th birthday, her mother takes her home to Gemworld. Not only did Amy never know Genworld existed, she didn’t know she had an Aunt who wants both of them dead, and she didn’t know she was a Princess.
Good: Amethyst (aka Amy) is a strongly written character. A strong mother/daughter book without the usual angst-ridden dialogue that comes from that kind of story. Amy follows without a lot of resistance and her mother leads without preaching. Lopresti’s artwork is gorgeous and perfect for the story. I’ll be back for #2.
Bad: The Beowolf story didn’t seem to set anything up and after two issues I’m still not real sure what’s going on or why the future is so messed up.
Team 7 #0-1 by Justin Jordan, Jesus Merino, Norm Rapmund, and Rob Hunter
Dinah Drake, Kurt Lance, Alex Fairchild, Amanda Waller, Dean Higgins, Slade Wilson, Cole Cash, James Bronson, and Summer Ramos are Team 7, a group put together for the purpose of trying to curb or control super-humans. The team is formed and on their first mission they break into a prison floating five thousand feet above the earth only to find the inhabitants being controlled by Eclipso. Will the team act like a team long enough to turn the odds?
Good: I loved the original WildStorm title because it teamed some of the most popular characters together and gave them a bond that carried over into the other titles. I’m a big fan of the new incarnation for a few reasons.
1) Dinah Drake, Kurt Lance, Alex Fairchild, Amanda Waller, Dean Higgins, Slade Wilson, Cole Cash, James Bronson, and Summer Ramos together. Some of the characters are new to the DCU and others have never been linked before. We get to meet Dinah and Kurt before the two are married and Dinah has to kill him. Alex Fairchild’s daughter, Caitlin, is a powerhouse member of The Ravagers.
2) The Grifter title felt a little lonely. Since being introduced it seemed like he was alone against the world. Now we find he had people he could probably call on for a favor. Now it will be interesting to see Grifter come across Black Canary for the first time post Team 7.
3) The new DCU’s history has been unclear and laying this layer down helps to not only introduce the new characters, gives the characters we already know an interesting back story, and it helps blend the WildStorm Universe into the DCU.
4) John Lynch formed the team and he’s behind something called the Majestic Project. Can this lead to the debut of the WildStorm Universe’s Majestic? I think it will (the foreshadowing is NOT subtle there).
5) It will be interesting to see if the new characters survive being on the team and what becomes of them in the present day DCU.
6) The writing and the art are really good and fit the title very well.
Bad: Some of the “putting the team together” scenes are kind of lame (I’m looking at you James Bronson) and not a lot of them show those members at their best.
I’ll definitely be back for #2.