Young Justice #1

Young Justice #1

  I know I’m a little (lotta) late to the party on this one, but I think this comic deserves some of my attention. I’ve always been a big fan of the young superhero teams in the DC comicsverse. I’ve always found them to be far superior to Marvel’s, and I think that’s part in due to the god level animated television shows that DC was consistently putting out in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Young Justice, Teen Titans, Titans, etc. have all had their miracle runs over the years, and I think there’s a ton of characters on these teams that we remember fondly and always return to. People in their 20s and 30s grew up watching/reading Teen Titans and Young Justice so I think the younger audience is always ready for more of that young adult comic book content. I’ve always been a Robin fanboy myself, so seeing characters like Dick and Tim return to the teams they were so renowned for during the turn of the century is genuinely exciting. I do have some reservations about Bendis, who’s spearheading this ‘Wonder Comics’ line featuring the younger generations of DC heroes, but Gleason, the new YJ artist, is perhaps my favorite artist of all time, so I was ready to finally jump in and see what the new series had to offer.

Young Justice #1 follows the reforging of the team with a couple of new faces and some very familiar ones. There’s a bit of spoilery in the lineup, so I’ll avoid any names, but the cover will obviously give you a decent idea. An alien invasion by a group of Gem soldiers from Gemworld, an old DC universe that I don’t think has really made an appearance since the 20th century is good cause for the Young Justice team to meet up. It’s unclear why they’re all in the same place at the same time, or what really even sparked the return of some of the characters otherwise forgotten by the New 52 continuity reboot, but they’re here and they’re teaming up once again to put a stop to these evil-doers. What better than an invasion of low tier enemies for a team’s introduction comic to clean up, ey? In natural DC style, the various heroes new and old seem to easily defeat the Gems in question, but as Robin unintentionally learns, there’s more to this invasion than a simple declaration of war and a petty attempt to conquer the planet, so it seems there’s development to come with this Gemworld callback. Robin has no choice but to reforge the previously broken team and tackle this new threat.

It’s very unclear whether Bendis was supposed to keep this comic book in continuity or not. It seems like a very loose yes, and I’m not sure how I feel about that in general. While I do think DC was trying too hard during the New 52 era to keep everything strictly in line with their new continuity, Bendis also shouldn’t be allowed to retcon and shrug off everything that doesn’t fit his vision. Apparently, that’s Bendis’ style, so I suppose it’s time to get used to it. Regardless, the writing felt littered with plot holes at times, and it kind of felt like we’re expected to just not question anything and enjoy the comic. I personally think that’s lame Writers should find a balance between playfully ignoring continuity problems and adhering to them. I’m not sure bendis is doing that here. Story and decision making aside though, it’s the characters and Gleason’s art that really carry this comic book to the level that it’s at. Individually the members of the Young Justice team are still really enjoyable, and there’s some great throwback moments to the old days. Gleason’s vibrant and almost childish art style has some grittier style to it here, and as always, it’s unbearably good. My reservations remain about Bendis even now. There’s a reason he left Marvel with a questionable reputation, however, I’m completely willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I look forward to seeing him hopefully prove naysayers wrong. With a comic like Young Justice, he better not prove them right.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
New Talent Showcase #1

New Talent Showcase #1

Every year DC puts out 1 or 2 DC Talent Showcases: a super oversized single issue comic book displaying the new and upcoming talents the DC Comics company is attempting to grow and turn into world class comic book writers and artists. It tends to run under the $9.99 typical price point that a lot of comics this size fall into, and it’s an awesome opportunity for up-and-coming talent to show the comic book world what they’re made of in ways they weren’t able to before. It’s difficult for obvious reasons to make it in this industry. It’s small and its community isn’t exactly mainstream. New figures trying to make it into the comic world only have a few options when trying to make a name and a brand for themselves: attempt to spread your name on Twitter, go independent, or struggle your way into one of the big two (DC / Marvel). It can be a tough and unforgiving road with not a ton of exposure, but this New Talents Showcase is an awesome opportunity for a lot of these newbies to show their stuff, and it’s always an exciting read in figuring out what DC has in store for the future of their creative teams.

Showcase #1 focuses on 6, 12 page stories that showcase  new artists and writers on each. The stories fall almost perfectly across the different styles and genres in the DC comic universe, and it’s apparent that each team was brilliantly assigned to a certain style and execution. These showcases are like team projects within a class. The Batman story is dark, broody and slick. Constantine’s is psychedelic and rightfully magical. Catwoman’s is sleek and sassy, Green Lantern’s (Awesomely focusing around the fan favorite Lantern John Stewart) is as sci-fi heavy as ever. Zatanna’s is graceful and fantastical, and Wonder Woman’s is powerful and unwavering. Each creative team takes the best parts of their respective characters and really runs with them, and each short comic is genuinely really good. They feel like classic return-to-roots comics, and while that doesn’t always work in an ongoing series in the modern world of comics, these stand alone comic books really do show what these teams are capable of.

I remember enjoying the Talent Showcase from last year quite a bit, but this comic book really feels like something special. All 6 stories are beautifully written and perhaps even more beautifully illustrated. You can tell there’s a ton of passion going into these, and while they’re perhaps not something as legitimate as an ongoing series issue or a massively successful indie project, these showcase comic books show a great amount of potential for these artists and writers going forward, and that’s really invigorating. Most of these people are young, and their grasp on the characters they’re writing are top notch. That alone is really reassuring for the future of DC’s comic book teams, but more than that it shows an undeniable presence of comic book talents still in love with these characters and still in love with superheroes. In the light of Image Comics’ success and the uprising of non-superhero comics over the past few years, it’s good to see these type of comics aren’t going anywhere.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)
The Green Lantern #1

The Green Lantern #1

   Green Lantern is perhaps the most flexible title in the DC Comicverse. Anyone with a Green Lantern Ring assumes the title, and all are a part of the universal police force: The Green Lantern Corp.. The freedom of this title has allowed creative teams at DC to play with the main title of ‘Green Lantern’. Where Batman will always fall back to Bruce Wayne and Superman will always fall back to Clark Kent, the main name of Green Lantern has in the past or present belonged to John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Jessica Cruz and most famously, Hal Jordan. Kids that grew up in the late 90’s and 00’s are probably most familiar with John Stewart, the mainstay Green Lantern of the incredible Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons that many of us, even non DC fans, remember fondly. Many would argue that Stewart hasn’t had the comic spotlight he deserves in recent years, and while I would agree, Hal Jordan has, and seemingly always will be the main crux of the name Green Lantern, and even with every new Green Lantern title that’s come out over the past 5 years or so, fate will always seem to realign the course of events, and give Hal Jordan the ever fitting title of: The Green Lantern.

   Green Lantern #1 begins as it should: larger than life. Somewhere deep in space far from Earth the Green Lantern Corp is dealing with a seemingly unformidable threat. Just another day in the job of a space cop, but there’s more to this problem than originally expected, and this small band of Lantern members find themselves quickly overwhelmed. The Guardians, leaders of the near omnipotent congress that make all major decisions regarding the entirety of the universe around them become quickly aware of this overwhelming problem and call all Green Lanterns back to their home world. Jordan is in a bit of an awkward situation though. He’s been put on hiatus by the Guardians, and even though he still has a power ring, he has no Lantern to charge it. So, he’s stuck on Earth feeling particularly rowdy and ready to get back into action. What better than a fellow Green Lantern in need and a call back to the Lantern home world to relieve some of that pent up fighting energy. Despite benching Jordan, in typical fashion, the Guardians need his help, and privately they tell Jordan of a growing threat of a traitor within the Corp.. One they’re unable to locate, but one that will surface on their own soon to challenge the strength of the Green Lanterns. Jordan is needed now more than ever to prepare for this incoming enemy.

   If there’s one thing that Grant Morrison can do well, it’s big space operas. That being said, Morrison has a track record of going a little too big and too complicated for his own good. Glance back to Final Crisis, a big DC event headlined by Grant Morrison around 10 years ago. It was absurdly bad primarily because of its obtuse story and near nonsensical timeline. It’s obvious that Morrison is a bit full of himself when it comes to his writing, and while I think he’s done some admiral works with DC, and he basically created my favorite DC character of all time: Damian Wayne, readers should be nothing but skeptical going forward with this comic book. I’m being genuine when I say I think this first issue was decent. Hal Jordan is a likable character who’s been around for a really long time, and with those two factors Morrison delivered on hard-to-fill shoes. However, if there’s ever a series that can become overblown and uninteresting in scale, it’s Green Lantern. If there’s ever a writer that can become overblown and uninteresting in scale, it’s Grant Morrison. That’s a dangerous combination. Keep your fingers crossed Green Lantern fans. I hope you get a good comic book going forward.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Heroes in Crisis #1

Heroes in Crisis #1

Tom King seems to have really found his stride with the DC Comics world. He’s been given a lot of work recently, and it seems people respond well to his work. When DC canceled the 12 issue comic series Omega Men there was a massive outcry from the community, and King was able to finish the series. DC seems to have realized he has a dedicated following that won’t waver through thick and thin. The name sells now, similarly to Lemire or Snyder, and that’s enough for DC to give King this big ‘Crisis’ event – which is a very powerful term in the DC comics world. Heroes in Crisis screams Identity Crisis, a grounded 2004 comic book series centered around a more emotional, human level story. I consider Identity Crisis to be one of the best comic books of all time, and DC’s best comic book of all time. It’s hard to hold a flame to it, but if anyone can bring the sheer intensity and the weight of Identity Crisis, it’s Tom King. However, if anyone can totally fail to meet my expectations and create something far too clever for its own good, it’s also Tom King. Heroes in Crisis is promising in theory, but as long as King is as crazy as he is, I’m always skeptical, but I’m also always ready to be impressed by his work.

The first issue of Heroes is a bit of a mystery. Harley Quinn and Booster Gold are duking it out, why? Not so sure. These characters have some kind of unknown connection and appear to be blaming each other for a similar event that occurred sometime before. Said event was bloody, but that’s truly the extent of our current knowledge. Meanwhile the trio of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman are traveling place to place and finding, unbelievably, the bodies of various superheroes of renown, including Wally West and Arsenal. Considering there’s no way these characters are just dead, something particularly weird is going on. As it turns out – all dead heroes in question were receiving treatment from a group called Sanctuary, a hidden hospital created by the leaders of the Justice League to treat super heroes that had been traumatized during their heroism. Somehow, someone infiltrated Sanctuary, killed its purveyors and all of the heroes involved. Somehow, Booster Gold and Harley are connected, but still alive. So the question is raised, who did it?

To no surprise, Tom King’s style and tendencies show all over this comic book. It’s cryptic, people talk in riddles, and its incredibly stylized in its writing. When it comes to these stories, especially mysteries and psychological thrillers, King’s methods do shine. However, Identity Crisis was not only a beautifully dramatic and emotional story, its first issue alone sets up something that feels massive in scale but completely contained at the heart. Additionally, Identity Crisis made things feel real in ways that comic books usually don’t. Characters talked like people talked, they interacted like people interact, with or without superpowers. Heroes in Crisis already struggles to feel these ways by being wholly uninterpretable due to King’s proneness for the ambiguous and being extremely pattern-logged and stylistic in its dialogue. This is King’s signature writing method, I don’t think that’s terrible. However, issues going forward are more deterministic of the quality of this comic than I’d hoped, and that’s never a major win in my book. Heroes in Crisis has a hopeful, but questionable start. I’m eager to see where it goes, though ever skeptical.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Batman: Damned #1

Batman: Damned #1

   Amidst all the absurd controversy surrounding Batman: Damned, DC’s first ‘DC Black Label’ comic book and similar controversies with other comic books, we forget everything else about them. Brian Azzarello is a phenomenal writer with a big track record. I have no doubt that when offered a limitless medium to write a Batman comic book, he couldn’t refuse. This comic book has really fallen into a dark hole all over the internet, and for how much I’ve heard about the comic’s scene in question, I know very little about the comic book itself and what it entails. I wasn’t going to review this comic. Most elseworld Batman comics don’t interest me, even if they’re good. There’s a massive over-saturation of them on the market and while they all might offer something new to the plate, I’m just not that into Batman as a character. That being said, this comic book deserves to be reviewed fairly, and while I’m sure Azzarello isn’t particularly bothered by the uproar that’s surfaced around this first issue, I think it’s unfair how it’s been received and how its been flying off the selves for the wrong reasons. Kudos to the creative team for doing something brave, but I’m going to review this comic as I would any other.

   Batman’s injured, and an injured Batman is a desperate Batman. That makes for a pretty dangerous vigilante. Alfred is off the grid and all his tech is down, so Bruce is stranded, barely functioning on the streets with no backup, and in his desperation he’ll take down anyone and anything that gets in his way as he limps back to the Cave. John Constantine, our dark DC comic mascot, comes to save Bruce nearly dead in an alleyway. We soon learn the Brit is our narrator, but we’re still a little foggy on why exactly he’s here. Formalities aside, Bruce learns soon after that The Joker is dead, thanks to Constantine’s knowledge about Gotham and his apparent near omnipotence of current events. The Bat’s not so sure, and despite his injuries he’s out to find out exactly what’s going on in the city as it seems to be tearing itself apart. Constantine and friend’s hanging around Gotham is cause enough for concern, but patternistic killings around the city cause Bruce to begin to unravel something perhaps too big even for him.

   There’s a couple of noteworthy things about Damned #1. The writing and the art coexist beautifully. DC has a hard time sometimes making something R rated. It’s a path they keep traveling down unnecessarily, especially with their animated movies, and they seem to chalk an R rating down to heads exploding and lots of swearing. I think that’s lazy and terrible. Azzarello does a really respectable job of making something heavier themed without trying too hard. This is a ruthless Gotham and an experienced Batman. On top of that, the Justice League Dark with all their underbelly methods are sticking around. There is room for these kinds of mature themes in the Superhero comicverse, and this is how they should be. The story itself is interesting, though a little too cryptic and stylized for my taste. It reminds me a bit of a Tom King style with its psychological drama and mysterious writing style. The comic often flashes back to Bruce’s past, and it never breaks pace. All of these things come together to make a pretty enjoyable story and set up an interesting elseworld DC universe. This comic didn’t deserve the ridiculous controversy around it, but I’m glad it’s selling at least.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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