I started 2011 looking to cut down the number of comic series I bought. Though there were some titles that scored on a regular basis (like Captain America) there were many more not getting the job done. The slow start to my business in January forced me to make cuts I probably should have made a while ago. Away went the Bendis Avengers books, which I liked but hadn’t ever really loved, and several DC books that had been at the brink.
The picture at the end of the year is much different. This is due to several factors, such as my business getting back to normal, the DC relaunch, and several favorite creators jumping into new titles. I thought it would be fun to go through my current pull list and what I think of each book.
The big news of the year has been DC’s New 52. For those of you outside the loop, DC Comics relaunched all of their mainstream books, putting them back to #1 with new continuities (mostly). It might be early to call whether it was a success or not but I think the results have been mostly positive. I’m reading a LOT more DC now and there’s a new energy going through the line.
I’ll start tonight with those titles and go into the rest tomorrow:
I’m really curious how I’ll feel about this book several months from now. I’m having fun with the way Geoff Johns is writing the characters at the beginning of their careers. I know their cockiness, especially Green Lantern’s, is a turn off for some but I’m enjoying it. They’re young, after all, and haven’t been humbled yet. I also still enjoy Jim Lee’s pencils (if not his costume designs). The only problem I’m having is the book so far has consisted of heroes fighting monsters as they get introduced at the rate of one or two per issue. That’s fine but to have staying power, the book has to start building some dramatic meat.
When I read the first issue of this title (the one this year, not 1938), I was over the moon. It was the return of the Superman I’d wanted for years. The one that proved he could be more than a Boy Scout. Here was the “hero of the people” shaking up the forces of the status quo, just like in the original Action Comics #1. I still felt that way through the second issue. Now we’re past issue four and it’s stumbling. I’m hoping Morrison and Morales can find their footing again because I want their take on the character to have a lasting effect.
I’m enjoying this book though I think some are over-praising it. The story isn’t Earth-shattering. It’s simply a solid, basic Batman tale. The big surprise is Greg Capullo’s art. I’d only known him as the guy who replaced Todd McFarlane on Spawn. This has shown he has skills beyond what I’d realized.
I didn’t think I’d ever enjoy this character again. After Grant Morrison’s triumphant run around twenty years ago (that doesn’t seem possible), one creative team after another tried their take on him and failed. This one found an angle to make everything new, both for old fans like myself and those approaching Buddy and his family for the first time. The result is one of the DC relaunch’s surprise successes.
Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE
The first issue of this book is a shining example of how you start a new series. It mixed high concept science fiction (a miniaturized headquarters drifting in the Earth’s upper atmosphere) with old-fashioned comic book concepts (a team consisting of classic monster agents). For four issues they’ve been fighting horrific creatures from a monster planet and I’m still having a good time.
I’m on the verge of cutting this book. I’ve loved Grifter since he was first introduced in WildCATs #1. Something about his attitude and the costume just worked for me. That character has yet to show up in this series. I think the art is top notch and the writing isn’t terrible. The problem is it’s so by-the-numbers. It’s got two or three issues left to surprise me.
There’s not much I can say about J.H. Williams III’s art that hasn’t already been said. It’s always impressive and the writing hasn’t suffered like I thought it might in Greg Rucka’s absence. This is the DC book you open up to impress people with.
Justice League Dark
So far, so good with this one. I happen to love the idea of a Justice League team with members like John Constantine and Shade, the Changing Man. They’ve managed to strike a nice balance of weird, supernatural elements and classic superhero storytelling.
Okay, Geoff Johns, we get it. Everyone thinks Aquaman is lame but he’s awesome. You’ve proven the awesome part so let’s just drop the meta-commentary. Especially since the main story has been solid so far. It’s nice to know you can still create a fun superhero book. Unlike…
Geoff Johns reinvigorated the entire Green Lantern concept when he brought Hal Jordan back. There’s no questioning that. For the last several years, though, it’s been treading water. On the surface, it all sounds good. Hal Jordan has been kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps and Sinestro has taken his place. He’s enlisted Jordan to take on the Sinestro Corps he founded. This should be awesome but I find myself skimming every issue. This book was on the brink at the beginning of the year and it’s back there again.
More than any other book in the relaunch, Wonder Woman feels like it’s building a long-term story. It’s written by Brian Azzarello, after all, who showed over one-hundred issues of 100 Bullets that he knows how to plant seeds that take years to grow. I hope he gets that long because in four issues, he’s already creating the most immediate, compelling Wonder Woman story in forever. On top of this, Cliff Chiang has showed me he’s everything he was hyped to be. Plus, I love their take on the Greek gods. They’re strange and terrifying, just like they should be.
I’d argue that Warren Ellis’ work on Stormwatch and The Authority created a new dynamic that’s effected superhero books from The Ultimates to the new Justice League to even the Marvel movies. After reading Paul Cornell’s run on Action Comics last year, I thought he’d be the perfect guy to carry the torch. Instead, he’s dropped it. It’s not all his fault. The art looks good in single panels but is a jumbled mess when they’re put together. In other words, the book is a storytelling failure across the board. I feel like there’s good stuff under the surface but they can’t quite bring it out. It is, hands down, the biggest disappointment in the New 52.
Picking up where James Robinson’s classic Starman series left off, this book finds the sort-of reformed Golden Age villain getting to the bottom of who wants him dead. It’s a tough riddle to solve, even given the number of times he’s had to do it before. Robinson’s superhero stories of the last several years felt phoned-in. This is the work of an engaged writer creating stories he loves. More people need to be reading this.
This book is the New 52’s great orphan. It doesn’t fit in with the new status quo but was so successful it’s still going anyway. Well, kind of. We just got a special that collects what would’ve been #8 and #9 of the series, finishing up “Season 1”. How will Season 2 fit in with the new continuity? I don’t care. It could not fit in at all and not bother me, as long as it keeps up the quality level. Though the digital issue was a flop, the rest of the series has been a real hoot. Not all of Morrison’s Batman stories have been a home run but at least there’s real ambition in them. I’m game for wherever he takes things next.
There was another solid DC book I read last year that was cancelled six issues in. That book was Xombi. The tragedy is it would’ve fit in with DC’s new direction. And like Animal Man, it could’ve found itself an audience who wouldn’t give it a shot under normal conditions. It’s a lost opportunity and a real shame.