Saturday, October 29, 2011

The New 52 Month Two: Analyzing My Digital Pull List

Now that Month Two of the New 52 is over, which means I've had a chance to read at least the first issue of every series I plan to, it seems like a good idea to step back and take a look at the whole thing. And because I'm that kind of geek, when I say "step back and take a look," I mean "bust out Excel and plug in data in an attempt to quantify everything." So that's what I did. I entered the ratings I gave each of the first and second issues, averaged, sorted, and analyzed. Here's what I came up with:

  • I read 33 of the 52 first issues.
    • 15 day-and-date
    • 18 a month later
  • My average rating overall: 3.4 out of 5 Pixels
    • For Day-and-Date titles: 3.6 Pixels
    • For A Month Late titles: 3.25 Pixels
  • My favorite series: Batman and Stormwatch, each with an average of 4.25 Pixels over two issues.
  • In danger of being dropped if they don't get better quickly: Swamp Thing, Blue Beetle, Red Hood & the Outlaws, each with only 2.5 Pixels for the first issue.
  • Demoted from Day-and-Date to A Month Late after the first issue: Red Hood & the Outlaws
  • Comics that most pleasantly surprised me: Superboy and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
  • Comics that most disappointed me: Justice League International, Blue Beetle, and Red Hood & the Outlaws (JLI got a little better with the second issue; here's hoping the others do as well)
  • Comic that made the most significant improvement between issue 1 and issue 2 (so far): Wonder Woman, from 3 to 4 Pixels
  • Writers I am totally digging: Paul Cornell, Scott Snyder (despite Swamp Thing not really being my thing yet), Jeff Lemire, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison (the last two are not new additions to this list as of the New 52, but the first three are)
  • Artists that are blowing my mind: J.H. Williams III, Francis Manapul.
  • Number one feel-good book: Batman & Robin
Overall, I'm enjoying this New 52 thing. Sure, there are a few mushy grapes in the bunch, but a good number of them are crisp and tasty.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: Savage Hawkman 1, Justice League Dark 1, Fury of Firestorm 1

Savage Hawkman 1
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

One of the ten things Newsarama doesn't like about the New 52 is that a lot of titles feel like they're just retreading old ground. Savage Hawkman is not one of those titles. When I read on the first page that Carter Hall has been Hawkman in the past but is now trying to get away from it, I breathed a sigh of relief, because that meant I wasn't going to re-reading Hawkman's origin story, like I am in Supergirl and Blue Beetle, and because the idea of Carter Hall burning his Hawkman suit because he's trying to get away from the superhero life feels fresh to me. And then we find out that Carter is a cryptologist who specializes in alien artefacts, which is also new, and then we find out that the Nth metal has somehow bonded to Carter's body, refusing to let him get away from Hawkman, which is also new. The story itself didn't quite wow me--it was okay--but at least there are a lot of cool new ideas floating around here, so I'm thinking I'm going to like this series.

Justice League Dark 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels

This book had a few things going against it:

  1. The title sounds stupid.
  2. I don't care much about any of the main characters.
  3. I just don't get into magic stories.
  4. I generally don't like Peter Milligan as much as I think I should, and sometimes find his writing too confusing too enjoy. 
Given all that, I enjoyed this well enough. The team hasn't yet called itself "Justice League Dark" (but then the team hasn't formed yet), the characters are interesting enough to make up for the uninterestingness of magic, and the writing is easy enough to follow--I could tell who was who and what was happening at all times in the book. Still not a Wow, but I'll give it a few more issues.

Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels

First, I have to say this title is too long. You can have "Fury of..." or you can have the subtitle, but you don't get to have both. Also, I felt pretty stupid when I first noticed about five months after the initial solicits were released that it says "Men" plural and not "Man."

Anyway. Even though this appears to be a hard reboot starting over with the character origin, it still feels fresh because it's doing something with the character that hasn't been done before--Jason and Ronnie as two separate Firestorms who then combine into a big ugly Firestorm. Also, we get the Firestorms of all Nations:
I'm pretty sure that's Firehawk with the blue wings, so we'll be seeing her again before long, and the guy on right looks like he could be Hotspot--perhaps he's the Firestorm of Africa in this International League of Heroes--and if we're going with existing characters as Firestorms around the world, then I'm betting that the Firestorm of Japan is Rising Sun. At any rate, this panel was a nice tease.

The main thing I do not like about this iteration of Firestorm is the ugly designs of the title characters. The strength of Firestorm's character, the thing that has made him endure over the years, is his unique, cool-looking design. The designs here for Ronniestorm (aka Firestorm Red) and Jasonstorm (aka Firestorm Yellow) are relatively bland and uninspired. And the big ugly combined Firestorm? He is big, and boy, is he ugly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day-And-Date: Teen Titans 2, Aquaman 2, Flash 2, Superman 2

Teen Titans 2
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artists: Brett Booth & Norm Rapmund
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

I'm still digging this. Yes, they've thrown out previous continuity and yes, Bart and Cassie's personalities have been revamped, but goshdarnit, that's Tim Drake, without a doubt, and how can I not love a story about Tim Drake investigating a worldwide conspiracy and trying to save his fellow teen heroes? Also, we get confirmation this issue that there have in fact been Teen Titans before, contrary to what Bobbie Chase said at the New York Comic Con, but in line with what Scott Lobdell has said previously and with what Bette Kane said in Batwoman. Yay!

Aquaman 2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

Continuing in the same vein as issue 1, this issue has people underestimating Aquaman and Aquaman being all badass to prove them wrong, but this issue also gives Mera a chance to be underestimated and to show off her badassedness in turn. Also, more of the creepy Trench creatures eating people. And lots of pretty pictures by Ivan Reis.

Flash 2
Creators: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

While Ivan Reis does beautiful art in Aquaman, Francis Manapul does beautiful, mindblowing comics art in Flash. Manapul is pushing boundaries here, really experimenting with the art of telling stories through pictures. Brian Buccellato's colors play a big role too. Check out this page of Flash using the speed force to master "augmented cognition" and boost his brain to superhuman levels:
The inset panels show his mind flipping through different possible outcomes of the details he sees. Trippy stuff.

Superman 2
Writer: George Perez
Artist: Jesus Merino
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

Lots and lots of words by George Perez, and pretty pictures by Jesus Merino, including a great rear shot of Superman:
I'm saving this just in case I ever start a blog called Superman Butt's Forever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Digital Horizons: Libraries, Vertigo, Marvel, IDW, and the New York Times

Apparently there was a panel at the New York Comic Con about digital comics and libraries. I want to know why I wasn't invited. C'mon, I have a blog about digital comics and a master of library science degree. Who better to lead that discussion? I'm offended and will henceforth boycott the New York Comic Con (not that I've ever gone before). Also, the article mentions Comixology as a digital comic provider that serves the library market. I haven't heard of this before and I wonder what kind of content they provide libraries--i.e. do libraries purchase single issues for their patrons to check out, or is there some kind of licensed package deal? Sadly, I don't see my local public library buying digital comics any time soon, as when I worked at the library five years ago trying to get them to embrace comic books as literature worth having in their collection was like trying to pull teeth. I can't imagine adding the digital aspect will make the art form seem any less ephemeral to them.

In the past couple of weeks both Marvel and IDW have announced deals with Comixology to release more of their digital content. My feelings about this news reflect my ongoing love/hate relationship with Comixology. On the one hand, I'm happy to know that when I get around to writing a Digiversity post here I'll have more options to choose from. On the other hand, I'm concerned by the prospect of Comixology's status as the primary source of digital comics being cemented even further. As I've said before, competition is necessary for the medium to grow, and I fear that if Comixology is the de facto monopoly when it comes to digital comics, they won't be forced to make improvements (and drop prices) in order to win customers.

Somehow I missed this in all the comics news that I read regularly, but Macworld notes that DC announced at the New York Comic Con that Vertigo titles will slowly be folded into the day-and-date digital release program. I've never gotten into any of the Vertigo titles I've tried out, but nonetheless I think it's cool. As with Marvel and IDW, more fodder for those future Digiversity posts.

The New York Times has an article about Barnes and Noble's boycott of DC titles in response to the Kindle Fire exclusive deal. This isn't really news anymore--I blogged about it two weeks ago--but I just think it's cool to see an article about my pet hobby in the New York Times. Kind of like seeing your ex-wife on Jeopardy. (Which, incidentally, also happened to me this past week.)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Digital Video: Batman: The Brave & the Bold "Powerless"; Young Justice "Humanity"

Batman: The Brave & the Bold s3e9 "Powerless"
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Pixels

This episode features the Batmen of All Nations, the Justice League International, Captain Atom doing G.I.Joe-style PSAs that lack only the "...and knowing is half the battle" line (but have an equally silly one in its place), and Aquaman spontaneously breaking into a musical number which he afterwards calls "Aquaman's Rousing Song of Heroism" and in which he appears as a couple dozen different superheroes, from Superman to Dr. Fate to Steel (the Detroit League version) to Black Canary. Yes, Aquaman as Black Canary.
Need I say more?

Young Justice s1e15 "Humanity"
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

Just as this week's episode of Batman: The Brave & the Bold is that show doing what it does best, this week's episode of Young Justice also does what it does best. After cameos from Black Canary, Zatara, and Captain Marvel, the team goes hunting for their errant mentor Red Tornado, who it turns out has been reunited with the android family of Red Torpedo, Red Inferno, and Red Volcano, characters who I'm pretty sure were first introduced in some random Red Tornado miniseries a year or two back, and who in this incarnation have now been tied to the Justice Society and related Golden Age characters. The story ends up being the same as every other Red Tornado story ever, in that it's basically a Pinocchio story about a toy who wants to be a real boy, but I love that this one explicitly acknowledges that fact.

Also, this episode introduces Zatanna, who I absolutely love as a teen superhero (much more than I've ever cared for the character before). The dynamic immediately established between her and the other characters--especially Robin--is great, so I hope she becomes a frequently recurring character, if not a regular one. Eventually she puts on a standard Zatanna costume, but at first she shows up wearing a sort of Catholic schoolgirl outfit, which totally works for teenage Zatanna:

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: Supergirl 1, Birds of Prey 1, Blue Beetle 1, Legion of Superheroes 1, Captain Atom 1

Supergirl 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels

There's nothing bad about this comic except for that godawful costume, but at the same time there's nothing in this first issue that convinces me there was a reason the story of Supergirl first coming to Earth needed to be told yet again, just a few years after the last time. (The last time, by the way, is on sale for a buck an issue this weekend.) The only part of this issue that made me stop and say, "Hey, that's cool," is the moment when Kara first discovers her superhearing, and she hears lines of dialogue from other comic books:
One of my favorite things about comics is the shared universe aspect, so I get turned on by moments like this.

Birds of Prey 1
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

Fun, fast-paced story with a cool premise--Black Canary has been framed for murder, so she has to lie low while still trying to do good. I like that Dinah is intentionally putting together a team simply because she wants to help people. It seems that superhero teams are more often thrown together against their will in order to battle some common threat, so it's nice to see a superhero being proactive about forming a team. Also, I'm glad that Barbara shows up, even briefly, and shows off her Oracle skills.

And in case you didn't believe me about Supergirl hearing lines of dialogue from other comics, here's one of those lines:

Blue Beetle 1
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Pixels

So, let's take a fan-favorite character who very recently had a critically-acclaimed series in which his origin was already told and then expounded upon, and reboot him completely, except let's not make any substantial changes--we'll just retell the same origin story, but watered down now and decompressed. And whereas the previous series was often laugh-out-loud hilarious, let's make this one just mildly humorous, but throw in a lot of Spanish words to give us diversity street-cred. And mems how one of the best parts about that series was the supporting cast? Let's keep that same cast, but mess with them unnecessarily, for example turning the goofy but lovable best friend into an annoying gangsta wannabe. Sound like a good idea?

Legion of Superheroes 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels

At least this first issue is a little more new-reader-friendly than Legion Lost 1 was--each of the characters gets a little caption intro blurb thingee, so I know who's who even though there are a bunch of new characters I haven't met before. Also, I dig that Mon-El is Legion leader, as hopefully that means he'll get a lot of screen time. (He's soooo dreamy.) I think I'll be completely immersed in this Legion within a couple of issues.

Captain Atom 1
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

From the more godlike powers to the philosophical pondering to the more-blue-than-silver look, this is very much Captain Atom as Dr. Manhattan. Very appropriate, I'd say. (Now that would have been an interesting take on Blue Beetle--make him an out-of-shape, middle-aged man with an inferiority complex, struggling with impotence.) I was surprised to see that Freddie E. Williams II is inking himself here, as the style is very different from his previous art I've seen. I applaud him for experimenting with something new.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day-And-Date: Justice League 2, Batman 2, Nightwing 2, Wonder Woman 2

Justice League 2
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Jim Lee & Scott Williams
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

Like the first issue, this is not the world-changing comic it was promised to be, but it's still an enjoyable read. Even better than the first in that it's starting to feel more like a Justice League book now that we have Superman and the Flash in addition to Batman and Green Lantern. Still no sign of Wonder Woman (except in a text piece at the end) or Aquaman, though. In true Geoff Johns fashion, we get a sequence where Barry Allen proves that he's the awesomist ever,
but then on the next page Clark shows that he's still pretty darn awesome too, lest we piss off Superman fans. (And I think I might be a Superman fan, now that he has a personality. It's interesting to see the dynamic between these characters now that Clark is no longer the level-headed one.)

But memo to Geoff Johns: A cliffhanger where the left half of Victor Stone's body is all mangled from an explosion is not really a cliffhanger. It's not like anyone doesn't know how that story ends. (His brain is put into a robot body and he becomes Robotman, of course.)

Batman 2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Pixels

Good stuff, from page 1 to 20. Great character moments for Bruce, fascinating historical details about Gotham, intriguing hints of some kind of secret society. Also, I love that Bruce has a page full of captions to represent the thoughts that run through his head in the couple of seconds it must take to be thrown out a window and fall toward the ground below:

Nightwing 2
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artists: Eddy Barrows, J.P. Mayer, & Paulo Siquiera
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

A good issue all around, but I dunno, nothing really stands out about it. Except that Dick's redhead of the week calls Bruce his boss, and Dick doesn't correct her. Did Bruce never adopt Dick in the new continuity? If so, that will make me sad. Also, I could swear that there's been a story where Dick bought Haly's Circus before, which bothers me not so much for continuity's sake as for the sake of feeling like I'm reading a new story, not one I've read before. Oh well, the last page promises some kind of huge reveal about the circus coming up, which hopefully will make this story stand out from similar ones that have preceded it.

Wonder Woman 2
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

I felt a little lukewarm about the first issue of this series, but this issue rocks. It's got humor, action, intrigue, and best of all, the plot is much easier to follow than the first issue's was. I'm kind of angry that the last page reveal was spoiled in all the coverage of the New York Comic Con, though, because otherwise I think it would have totally caught me off guard (in a good way). I love that Hippolyta is blonde again, because it goes back to her roots (no pun intended) and because it visually distinguishes her from Diana. Depending on who was drawing her, black-haired Hippolyta often looked like Wonder Woman's identical twin. Also, I love this exchange:
The look on Hermes' face in that middle panel made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Digital Video: Batman Year One

Batman Year One
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

The strength of Batman Year One, the animated adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli's comic book storyline of the same name, is that it stays very close to its source material. Lines of dialogue and narration are taken straight from the comic, frame compositions directly reflect panel layouts, and even dates are adhered to closely (I know this even though it's been years since I read Batman: Year One because Batman's debut is on April 6th, my mom's birthday and also Jesus Christ's birthday, according to official Mormon doctrine--I always thought that was appropriate, in a bordering-on-sacrilegious way, growing up almost as faithful to Batman as I was to the Mormon faith). The film works because the narrative is great--great in ways I'd forgotten, like the way a large cast of characters works because each one is introduced slowly throughout the story, or the way Jim Gordon's relationship with his wife and his affair with Sarah Essen is presented completely devoid of melodrama, or the way Batman has to deal with details like setting up a spotlight and cutting the power in order to create a dramatic entrance.

As for the adaptation itself, the voice acting and music are well-done. I'm not crazy about the animation, at all. The opening sequence is of an airplane entering Gotham City, and both the plane and the city are very obviously computer-generated, devoid of any semblance of style or life. The same is true of later scenes involving cars, helicopters, and even the horde of bats descending on unsuspecting bystanders at the showdown between Batman and the Gotham City SWAT Team. I hate hate hate when traditional animation incorporates scenes that are so obviously CGI. I'm also not a fan of the art style in general, with lines a little too sharp and colors a little too bright to capture the subdued tone of Mazuchelli's and colorist Richmond Lewis's masterpiece.

I do like that the creators decided to make this a period piece rather than attempting to update it for the new millennium. It's not overtly a period piece, mind you, but there are little things like the car models and the fact that Gordon is in the hospital waiting room while his son is born, and even the music has a sort of 80s heavy metal vibe to it. And best of all, a video store that rents both VHS and Beta.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Digital Horizons: Up With Digital Exclusives, Down With Prices, Down With Piracy

The New York Times announced this past week that Archie comics has reacquired the rights to the Red Circle superheroes, and that they'll be publishing new comics about these superheroes in digital format only. This surprised me since DC was pushing the Red Circle characters so recently, but I guess they weren't doing well, so might as well sell them back to Archie. The really interesting thing to me about this news is that Archie is going to be offering these digital comics via a subscription service. Part of me is intrigued by the idea of paying a monthly rate to have unlimited access to anything I want to read (a la Marvel's Digital Vault), but another part of me holds onto the idea of wanting to own the comics I read, not just rent them.

Meanwhile, Fleen, "the webcomics blog about webcomics," reports the results of scholar Mia Weisner's research into digital comics buying habits and interests. Fleen finds most notable, and I agree, Weisner's report that 90% of comics readers who are willing to buy digital comics are not willing to pay more than 60% of cover price for them. I apparently fall in the 2.4% minority of stupid people who are willing to pay full price. Not that I'm happy about it. I really think digital comics would do much better if the price point were lower. $0.99 per issue, same as an MP3, seems like the right point to me. But apparently I don't believe that strongly enough to refuse to pay more.

iFanboy has an interview with a former digital pirate who has given up pirating because, basically, the influx of legal digital comics made the whole thing uninteresting to him. It seems like that's basically what happened in the music industry--at first the industry was afraid to go digital because they didn't want to make piracy too easy, but piracy thrived in spite of them until the industry finally did go digital, making the piracy more or less redundant (not that it doesn't happen anymore, but my impression is that it happens much less than it did in the late nineties and early naughts). Of course, the music industry sells individual units at one buck a pop, not three or four bucks. Just saying.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Month Late and a Dollar Short: Demon Knights 1, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE 1, Legion Lost 1, Mr. Terrific 1, Superboy 1

Demon Knights 1
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels

I won't say this is my favorite comic ever, but I'm glad that Stormwatch convinced me to give this a try. Paul Cornell manages to take two characters I've never found interesting, Etrigan and Madame Xanadu, and make them interesting. He's also set up an interesting premise, bringing together a team of somewhat familiar DC characters in the Dark Ages to battle Mordru and the "Questing Queen" (should I know who she is?). It's also not lost on me that out of this team of seven, four are women, one a cross-dresser, one a paraplegic, and one a Middle Easterner. And this is centuries before diversity became cool!

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 1
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

This is another one that I was not going to buy, but I'm glad I changed my mind. Jeff Lemire writes a solid first issue--the cast of characters is introduced, the concept and setting are fleshed out, and an engaging conflict is established right from the start. I love Father Time as a little girl, I love that Ray Palmer shows up, and I love the miniaturized floating headquarters--as I've said, I'm a sucker for cool secret hideouts.

Legion Lost 1
3 out of 5 Pixels

This is a decent story, but doesn't work so well as a first issue. I've been a Legion fan for nearly twenty years, but I don't know these characters--I know both Waid reboots much better than the classic version, and I'm not quite caught up on recent Levitz trades in order to get acquainted with characters like Tyroc, Tellus, and Chameleon Girl. Gates I know, and I'm pretty familiar with Dawnstar, Wildfire, and Timber Wolf. If I were a brand new reader reading a Legion story for the first time, though, I'd be even more lost than the titular characters here. We don't even have the little caption boxes providing name, home planet, and powers, as is common in Legion books. Also, I'll be pissed if (spoiler alert) Gates is really dead. He's one of my favorite characters from the first 90s reboot.

Mr. Terrific 1
3 out of 5 Pixels

This is an okay comic, but it didn't wow me. And I'm afraid that in order for this comic to succeed, it needs to wow people. It's a title starring a lesser-known minority character, launched in the midst of 51 other new titles. It has a strong lead character and interesting supporting characters, but the conflict is a little too vague so far to really grab onto. Here's hoping issue 2 has something more tangible to grip readers and keep this title alive.

Superboy 1
4 out of 5 Pixels

This, on the other hand, wowed me. Of the three Scott Lobdell titles, this was the one I was least excited about (hence putting it on my Month Late list), and after loving Teen Titans and hating Red Hood, I didn't know what to expect of Superboy. What I got is the most interesting take on this character since his introduction nearly twenty years ago, a well-rounded supporting cast (hey, Rose Wilson has two eyes again!), and a great narrative twist halfway through the first issue. I love the reason why Superboy ends up going to school in a small town, I love that he's fascinated by the redhead (presumably for the same reason), and I love that Lobdell seems to be picking up on the Superboy/Ravager relationship that was just blossoming in J.T. Krul's Teen Titans. I hope this leads to Ravager joining Lobdell's Titans. This title just may end up graduating to my Day-And-Date list, especially if it continues to tie closely into Teen Titans.

I have just one nitpick, though: Is it just me, or is R.B. Silva's Superboy very oddly proportioned?
He has the forearms of a gorilla! Least sexy dude in briefs I've seen in a while.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Digital Pull List: Updated

One month (plus a little bit) into the New 52, here's my updated pull list:

  • Justice League--definitely staying on this list
  • Action Comics--definitely staying on this list
  • Batgirl--definitely staying on this list
  • Justice League International--still on this list for the time being, but I might drop it to the Month Late list if it doesn't wow me soon
  • Stormwatch--definitely staying on this list
  • Batman and Robin--definitely staying on this list
  • Batwoman--definitely staying on this list
  • Green Lantern--as mentioned here, I decided to wait on Green Lantern titles until the "War of the Green Lanterns" goes on sale... still hasn't happened...
  • Batman--definitely staying on this list
  • Green Lantern Corps--see Green Lantern above
  • Nightwing--definitely staying on this list
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws--ugh. The first issue was not quite offensive enough for me to drop altogether, but I'm going to wait at least long enough to read the reviews of issue 2 before buying it. I'd like to hear whether people are convinced by Lobdell's defense of Starfire after reading the issue. 
  • Wonder Woman--staying on this list for now; not necessarily my favorite book, but pretty good nonetheless
  • Aquaman--definitely staying on this list
  • Flash--definitely staying on this list
  • Green Lantern: New Guardians--see Green Lantern above
  • Superman--definitely staying on this list
  • Teen Titans--definitely staying on this list

A Month Late and a Dollar Short
  • Animal Man--not quite awesome enough to move up to the Day-And-Date list, but pretty darn close
  • Batwing--sure, I'll keep reading this
  • Detective Comics--sure, I'll keep reading this
  • Green Arrow--I'll read at least until Ann Nocenti takes over, to see how she does
  • Static Shock--ditto, except Marc Bernardin instead of Ann Nocenti
  • Swamp Thing--I dunno, I'll give it a couple more issues
  • Grifter--I was only somewhat interested in this one and it didn't get great reviews, so I probably won't buy it afterall
  • Legion Lost
  • Mister Terrific
  • Superboy
  • Birds of Prey
  • Blue Beetle
  • Captain Atom
  • Catwoman--this is a case where I'm glad I read the reviews before buying. Saved myself two dollars.
  • Legion of Super-heroes
  • Supergirl
  • The Fury of Firestorm
  • Justice League Dark
  • The Savage Hawkman
  • Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.--the Flashpoint mini convinced me to add this to my list. I'll let you know tomorrow what I think of the first issue
  • Demon Knights--Stormwatch convinced me to give this one a shot. I'll also report on it tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Month (plus one week) Late and a Dollar Short: Animal Man 1, Batwing 1, Detective Comics 1, Green Arrow 1, Static Shock 1, Swamp Thing 1

Last week the first batch of New 52 comics dropped a dollar in price and I picked up six of them. I read them last week but didn't get a chance to review them until now, so I guess we can consider how well I remember them as one indicator of how good they were. Keep in mind, though, I was exhausted from moving and in my fourth week of shingles, so I wasn't in the best frame of mind for reading critically. I know I fell asleep with the laptop on my lap during a few of these, and I'm not sure that's an accurate reflection of their quality. So here goes:

Animal Man 1
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels
This was my favorite of the bunch. The concept of Buddy Baker as celebrity environmentalist feels unique, and even if the concept of Maxine manifesting freaky animal powers doesn't seem so unique (I haven't read a lot of Animal Man, but I swear I've read a story like this before), it's well done with engaging writing and quirky artwork.

Batwing 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels
Well, at least this Judd Winick comic didn't end with the protagonist having sex with Batman (though that would have been interesting). The artwork is pretty, the story has Batman elements but doesn't feel purely derivative (it's uniquely a Batwing story, not just a story about Batman where Bruce is black instead of white), but flipping through the pages again just now I'm just as confused about the chronology of events as I was when I read the comic in my Lortab-induced haziness last week.

Detective Comics 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels
This is a pretty decent Batman comic, just not awesome in the way that Batman and Batman & Robin are. Also, I'm confused by the whole Alfred hologram thing, and the last page with Joker's face cut off (retroactive spoiler alert) is gross. But I'm curious to see where it goes.

Green Arrow 1
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels
I really dig the concept of this reboot--Green Arrow as Bill Gates meets James Bond. As for the story itself, it's kind of bland. The villains are uninteresting and don't feel like much of a threat, so the cliffhanger ending doesn't really have me hanging.

Static Shock 1
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Pixels
A very compressed, wordy comic. I dig. I also like the headquarters Hardware has set up for Static:
I'm a sucker for cool secret hideouts. Also, this book's cliffhanger has me genuinely wondering what's going to happen next issue.

Swamp Thing 1
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Pixels
I want to like this comic, I really do. It's well-written and has pretty artwork. But I just can't get into Swamp Thing, as much as I try. The fact that tonight I couldn't even remember for sure whether I read this last week says something. I'll give you another issue or two to hook me, Mr. Snyder, but if you haven't convinced me by then I'm afraid I'll just have to love you on Batman only. But I am anxious to read your Detective run that was finally released on Comixology last week...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Digital Horizons: Catching Fire

There's been a lot happening in the world of digital comics while I've been neglecting this blog, but certainly one of the biggest things is the announcement of Amazon's Kindle Fire. At $199, this new tablet gives the iPad a run for its money, appealing to consumers who are turned off by the iPad's steeper price tag. Of course with its Android OS, it was clear right away that the Kindle Fire could be used to read comics via apps like Comixology for Android, but then DC came out and announced an exclusive deal with Amazon to distribute its graphic novels digitally via Kindle Fire. This pissed off Barnes & Noble, who responded by yanking the DC graphic novels in question off their shelves, and then Books-A-Million did the same (am I the only one who's never heard of Books-A-Million before this? Did the company form just for the purpose of announcing that they would be pulling DC graphic novels from their shelves?).

My thoughts on all this? (Because that's what you're paying for.)

  • Of course B&N and Random-Bookstore-I-Never-Heard-Of are free to do what they want, but I think it's kind of silly. I don't know what percentage of DC's graphic novel sales come from people happening upon Watchmen while casually browsing Barnes & Noble shelves, as opposed to people who know what they want and will buy it wherever it's available, but I suspect it's not a very high percentage. Which makes me think they're hurting themselves more than DC. 
  • I'm glad to see graphic novels and collections being made available digitally, and through a medium other than Comixology. Variety is the spice of life and the impetus for better business. 
  • I'm really really tempted to buy myself a Kindle Fire, specifically for the purpose of reading comics. Yes, it's smaller than the iPad, which I've already decided is not quite big enough for reading comics, but c'mon, it's only two hundred bucks. Also, I like my Kindle so I trust Amazon to make a good tablet, and I buy so much digital content from Amazon that it makes sense for me to have an Amazon tablet where I can easily access all that content. If I had not just incurred huge expenses above and beyond my income due to major life changes, I would totally buy it, just to buy it. Even so, I still might. But maybe I'll wait a couple of months until I get my Christmas bonus so I can pay off my credit card balance first (populating a new home with furniture is expensive--even Ikea furniture!). (FYI, Dear Reader, my birthday is next month, which happens to be the same month the Kindle Fire is being released. Just saying.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day-And-Date: Batman & Robin 2, Batwoman 2, Batgirl 2

My apologies for the sparse posting lately, folks (pretending that anyone is reading). Between shingles, a move, and a divorce, I've been pretty busy.

Tonight I read three Bat-comics that each made me happy:

Batman and Robin 2
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Patrick Gleason & Mick Gray
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

This comic is all about Batman being a dad, which I didn't realize is something I've always wanted to read until I read it. Of course there's always been that father-son dynamic between Batman and Robin, but now with Damian actually being Bruce's son and Peter J. Tomasi explicitly making that the theme of this title, it's just... well, a feel-good comic. Imagine that--a Batman feel-good comic. To top it off, in this issue, Bruce adopts Scooby Doo:

Batwoman 2
Creators: J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

Batwoman fights bad guys with Plebe (aka Flamebird), Kate goes on a date with Maggie, who in a fun twist is suspected by Cameron Chase of being Batwoman, Batwoman has a talk with Batman in a way that nicely establishes a relationship of equality and mutual respect between them, lots of people die, and Batwoman investigates. I especially enjoyed Kate's interaction with Maggie, as these scenes really showed off Kate as an interesting character beyond her Batwoman identity. And the art, of course, is simply beautiful. Or rather, complexly beautiful. The only part of this issue I didn't totally dig was the little everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-character blurb at the beginning:
I don't like that the blurb highlights "proud lesbian" as one of the essentials of the character. I don't think this is how Kate would describe herself. Yes, she's a lesbian, but to be proud implies that it's something she goes around bragging about. There are people who are proud to be lesbian or gay, and more power to them, but I just don't see Kate as the rainbow flag-waving type. She seems like the type that would very comfortably hold hands with her partner in public and who would gladly tell you about being expelled from West Point under DADT because she refused to lie about who she is, but she's not going to walk up to you, reach out for a handshake, and say, "Hi, I'm a lesbian." Which is basically what this blurb does.

(And yes, this is a case of a me as a minority critic being hypersensitive about the representation of a character from my minority class.)

Speaking of DADT, it occurred to me that Kate's origin will quickly become dated now that DADT has been repealed. Way to ruin one of my favorite superheroes, Obama. Jerk.

Batgirl 2
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

In this issue, among other things, Babs goes to the library to do some research. Which on the one hand is cool because it calls back to her librarian roots and besides libraries are just plain cool, but on the other hand she's Oracle and has way more info in her own databases than any library would, but on the other other hand maybe she's just enjoying her newfound mobility so doesn't want to hang out in the clock tower, but on the other other other hand wasn't it established at one point that she had a van with hand controls so it wasn't like she was ever really immobile, but on the other other other other hand maybe buildings in Gotham are not very wheelchair friendly, as older buildings and even some newer buildings tend not to be. You know, like maybe there's a ramp at the library but it's way around back and you need to get special permission to go through the staff area just to get in.

Also, we still don't know how she got her legs back. But I still enjoyed this issue, in part because of this panel:
Between the lady's craziness and the look on Babs's face, this panel just makes me happy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day-And-Date: Action Comics 2, Stormwatch 2, Justice League International 2

Action Comics 2
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Rags Morales, Brent Anderson, & Richard Bryant
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

It's really unfortunate that Rags Morales can't handle a monthly comic for even two months, because he's a brilliant artist and this would have been a nearly perfect comic if not for the jarring disparity between the pages drawn by Morales and those drawn by Anderson. Anderson's not a bad artist, but he's no Rags Morales. The story's good enough, though, with cocky young Superman taking on the equally cocky Lex Luthor for the first time, that I think it's best they went with a fill-in artist rather than letting the issue be delayed. If only we could have our cake and eat it too...

Stormwatch 2
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Miguel Sepulveda & Al Barrionueva
Rating: 4 out of 5 Pixels

Yes, more of this, please. This book has a cast of nine, I believe, and every character comes across as unique and interesting. A review I read of the first issue complained that it seemed like it was trying too hard to be a Grant Morrison book, but I disagree. Yes, Stormwatch has that same over-the-top wacky sci-fi feel that Morrison's JLA or All-Star Superman or Final Crisis did, but whereas I had to read Final Crisis three times after the entire miniseries was finished and still I didn't totally get it, Stormwatch is much easier to follow. The only thing I do not approve of is J'onn's funky loincloth thingee. Because seriously, that's just weird.

Justice League International 2
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artists: Aaron Lopestri & Matt Ryan
Rating: 3 out of 5 Pixels

I enjoyed this issue a little more than the first issue, mostly because I went in with lowered expectations. The plot is interesting, between the global threat that necessitates an international Justice League's involvement and the challenge Booster has in bringing his team together in order to meet the threat. I also appreciate that Jurgens cleared up a little of the characters' backstory, establishing that Guy and Tora have only been on a few dates, but Guy obviously cares for her--enough to bring him back to the team after abandoning them last issue. And the art is simply beautiful. The thing that makes this book difficult to read, though, is cringe-worthy exchanges like this:
Or this:
With the most truly international Justice League International roster yet, this book has the potential to be really cool. It's not going to get there, though, as long as it comes across as the Justice League of International Stereotypes. Please, Mr. Jurgens, flesh these characters out beyond squabbles over Russian vs. Chinese superiority, and pretty please, even if no one else on the team bothers to differentiate between the various countries of Africa, let Vixen do so.