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.
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.
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.