Quick Hits on the New 52: Demon Knights, Stormwatch, Justice League and Frankenstein

Halfway through DC’s New 52 debut month, here’s what I think of the comics I’ve tried so far.

Justice League #1

Looked at on its own, this wasn’t a Justice League story so much as it was a Batman/Green Lantern team-up. That’s OK for a team-up book, or the first chapter of a graphic novel, but not exactly ideal for a high-profile launch that’s billed as an introduction to the League (not to mention an introduction to the new setting for the DCU).

I’m going to call it now: just like Final Crisis, this first Justice League arc should have been presented from the beginning as a graphic novel, not as a serialized story. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

All that said, it really didn’t grab me at all, and I’m perfectly happy to step off the treadmill of the mainstream part of the DCU.

Stormwatch #1

In some ways this went to the opposite extreme of Justice League (or as opposite as it can be without telling a done-in-one story — which is still possible to do in modern comics). While it also presented the first chapter of a longer story, it made a point of introducing as much of the team as possible. On the downside, while Justice League at least spent a lot of time characterizing Batman and Green Lantern, Stormwatch touched only shallowly on everyone in the team (and no one’s really appealing yet). On the plus side, it clearly presented the story’s threat from the beginning, and it’s hard not to like the craziness of the moon turning evil.

I might give #2 a shot, but I haven’t decided for certain.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

My favorite of the bunch so far, this had the best balance of introducing the characters, concept, tone, and threat, all while telling the story. The Monster (who has taken his mad scientist creator’s name) gets the most attention here, as a sort of world-weary veteran who has seen two centuries’ worth of humanity’s mistakes and still wants to protect us in spite of ourselves. But we get to see glimmers of the Creature Commandos’ personalities as they go on their first mission together (and they’re not quite the same as their Flashpoint counterparts).

There are wild and crazy ideas aplenty in the setup, from Father Time regenerating (Doctor-Who-style) as a masked Japanese schoolgirl to the secret headquarters being miniaturized using Ray Palmer’s technology to the whole place being run by automatons that, their creator assures Frankenstein, can’t possibly rebel.

The issue also got me thinking about genre, and the difference between a horror story and a monster story. Cliff Chiang described Wonder Woman as a horror book because she’s fighting mythological monsters. Jeff Lemire described Frankenstein as a sci-fi action adventure book. What’s different, I think, is that the mad scientist angle looks like it’s going to be a major factor in this, in which case that may end up being what makes the book stand apart from Hellboy and B.P.R.D. (That, and the fact that the agents are inspired by classic movie monsters.)

Demon Knights #1

I liked this one, but I wanted to like it more than I actually did. I think in part it’s that I was fighting too many preconceptions, particularly regarding Madame Xanadu. As a fan of her Vertigo series, the characterization seemed a bit off, and when I think about it, that’s true of Etrigan, Vandal Savage, and Shining Knight as well…but it is a new continuity, and there are whole centuries of their lives that haven’t been covered.

Also, there’s a scene early on that introduces the Questing Queen and Mordru that is just plain creepy in a way that may have put me off of the rest of the book.

Basic setup: It’s the dark ages, a few hundred years after the fall of Camelot, and a conquering army attacks the town where the main characters have all stopped to have a quiet drink in the tavern. Of the leads, Etrigan and Madame Xanadu get the most attention, with sparse, mostly one-note introductions for Vandal Savage, Shining Knight, and new(?) characters Al Jabr and Exoristos. It was still better balanced than Stormwatch (also by Cornell).

A couple of things that stand out: I like the idea that DC’s various immortal characters would get to know each other over the years, and that when they meet, they reminisce about old times. The banter was good. And the queen’s “dragons” are sort of the prehistoric equivalent of sharks with fricking lasers.

Coming Up

I haven’t had a chance to read Resurrection Man yet, since the shop didn’t get enough copies to cover pre-orders. (I’m on the special order list already, so I’m waiting for that instead of buying it digitally). After that, it’s Justice League Dark and (big surprise, I know) The Flash.

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6 thoughts on “Quick Hits on the New 52: Demon Knights, Stormwatch, Justice League and Frankenstein

  1. Savitar

    The biggest problem I had with Stormwatch was they were reacting to an event that we readers haven’t even seen yet (an event that occurs in Superman #1 later this month). I did like the subtle hint that this book and Demon Knights may have a closer link than first thought (beyond Cornell writing both).

    Your review of Frankenstein pretty much matches other reviews I’ve read on-line about it. I’ll try this along with Lemire’s other book, Animal Man (which also got terrific reviews)

    As for mainstream DC, not really interested in Justice League. Action Comics was great, Morrison and Morales really did a great job in re-introducing a more down-to-earth, new Superman. Waiting for Flash, Superman, and Hawkman now.

    Reply
  2. Kyer

    I’ve heard the same…Animal Man is good, Frankenstein is good, JL was boring. However, the cover of AM and a scan makes me think it’s going into horror while Frankenstein has never, ever interested me in books, movies, or TV…just…meh. I’m hoping that at least Justice League gets more interesting even though I really dislike the new de-humanized background for Superman (and Superboy) while Green Lantern Hal is rather puzzling seeing as in his own book he doesn’t have a ring as yet….yet he’s powered in Justice League? Yeah, two different books, but danged confusing (which as I understand the hype was what the New 52 was created to dispel for the sake of those new readers.)

    One week/4days to Flash (yet again) #1 and I’m mixed because if it’s good I’ll want to get it but I won’t. If it’s bad they may drop Flash for good and that won’t make me happy either. 🙁

    I miss a Green Lantern Corps (Kyle) that isn’t dripping in gore, a Superman who made my heart swell, a Justice League story that got to the point of the plot even as it made me care about the characters, and -most of all- the speedforce family once promised.

    Reply
    1. Ben Hall

      Green Lantern, Swamp Thing and others take place, I believe, in the present time.

      Justice League takes place in the past five years ago to be exact. Superman in Action Comics is redoing his early days, golden-age style but with jeans.

      Reply
  3. Kyer

    Just noticed the sidebar countdown to issue #3 of Captain Atom. I thought there weren’t going to be any crossovers other than JL during the first year? And…sheesh

    spoiler?
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    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    The Cap has gone bad already? The NuGrim&Gritty sure isn’t wasting any time.

    Reply
    1. Kelson Post author

      I don’t think they said there wouldn’t be crossovers at all. What I remember them saying is that they’d hold off on the big giant event crossovers. Two heroes meeting in each other’s books is a whole different scale.

      Reply
      1. Kyer

        Okay, but you’d think they’d want those new readers to judge each character on his or hers own merits before shoving in outside issue characters. Like wait until after the sixth issue or later. So soon smacks of “We don’t think the main character can interest enough readers on his own…so we’re having one of our top 10 drop by…”

        Yes, Captain Atom is not an unknown…but we are talking those *new* readers awakening to a *(almost)new Universe there.

        Reply

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