Thursday, 22 September 2011

DC New 52 Week 3

Week three was my most expensive week so far. Wonder Woman and Batman were a must. And, being the Bat completist I am, so were Nightwing, Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, even though I was pretty sure the latter two would just give me something to shout about. But hey, I like having something to get indignant about. Which I will get to later. Let's start from the best and work our way down.

Wonder Woman

When everyone was busy ranting about how they didn't want the reboot to damage characters like Batman, Superman and the Birds of Prey, no-one really mentioned Wonder Woman. Everyone was just relieved that a reboot meant they could pretend that JMS' disastrous run never happened.

And my God does this pick up the Wonder Woman mythology and run with it. For a long time editors seem to have been scared of her Greek myth origins, fearing that it would scare casual readers away. Well, in a year where a film about a Norse god superhero attracted huge audiences, I think we can all finally agree that's not the case. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have put Diana right back where she belongs, in a world populated by centaurs and gods with the power to turn party girls into oracles. Superman goes toe-to-toe with the smartest man on earth. So what? Wonder Woman fights gods.

Azzarello's script throws us right into the centre of the action, setting up a great villain in the shape of Apollo and kick-starting the story arc. So many of these new 52 books have been concerned with re-establishing heroes, explaining their histories and motivations with an abundance of thought boxes. Blessedly, Wonder Woman doesn't have a single one. We don't get into Diana's head. We don't know why she's living in London and not Themyscira. The word 'Amazon' isn't even mentioned. Azzarello doesn't bash us over the head with the facts and it's refreshing.

It goes without saying, of course, that Cliff Chiang's art is just gorgeous. I'm a big fan (I'd kill for a commission from him - and in fact I'd have to kill for it, because I certainly couldn't afford it...) He draws Diana as the strong Amazon she is, not as some pretty girl to be fantasised about. His emotional story-telling is great (Zola has a whole heap of brilliant facial expressions) and his action scenes have a great sense of movement.

The storyline this sets up is hugely promising, and it's one I'll definitely stick with. I'm a trades girl, but I think I'll eschew that to keep abreast of Diana's adventures.


I never read Scott Snyder's run on Detective, but I heard resoundingly good things about it, so his Batman was one of the books in the New 52 that I was sure would be good. And I wasn't wrong.

This is a great Bat book and Snyder nails the Dark Knight and his supporting characters - including Gotham. A clever opening scene shows off Batman's rogues, a blend of classic and modern villains including Two-Face with a more, shall we say, realistic look. Snyder follows this with a glimpse of the Batcave, Alfred, Robins past and present and a typical Bruce Wayne fundraiser. This comic is saying, loud and clear, "everything you love about Batman is still here".

Snyder throws in some nice surprises along the way that I won't spoil here, but this is clearly going to be a title in which you can't always believe what you see. It also sets up an arc that looks set to be cross-over heavy with one other title in particular and which also makes sure that things stay personal for Bats for a little while yet. At the same time we get some funny lines and some excellent Bruce/Dick banter. This book isn't mired in darkness and misery - Bruce, for once, seems to be coming from a more positive place. Perhaps that letter at the end of Flashpoint did him some good.

Greg Capullo's art keeps everything nice and gothic (or perhaps neo-gothic is a better term, given the new WayneTech on display), although he draws Dick too small. And, frankly, when 'Dick Grayson isn't tall enough' is the biggest complaint you have to make, it must be a pretty damn good comic. It may not have got such wide, astounded praise as Wonder Woman but that's just because Batman has been great for years and Snyder and Capullo are just building on some sterling foundations, rather than re-establishing a 'broken' hero.

And, okay, there are thought boxes, but then they're revealed not to be thought boxes, so all is forgiven. I think I will now arbitrarily rate all comics by how many of these boxes they feature.


Well, he already loses points on the thought box scale. There are an awful lot here, drumming home the whole 'I used to be Batman, and before that I was Nightwing/Robin, and before that I was an acrobat and my parents died and I like red-heads...' All the stuff even casual fans know about Dick Grayson (yes, even the red-head thing). I would have liked to see Kyle Higgins forget some of the back-story and get stuck into the action a bit quicker instead.

It's nice to see Dick back as Nightwing and this comic deliberately sets him up as a solo hero, not even featuring cameo appearences from the likes of Bruce and Damien (now that they're no longer partners I like to think that Damien comes up with flimsy reasons to come over and hang out with Dick). The first part of the comic focuses on just how together Dick is, only for him to make a massive mistake later on that costs two police officers their life. And he just shrugs it off. That doesn't really feel like Dick. It would have made more sense (and been more interesting) if his flaws as Nightwing were the result of that fact that he spent months with a sidekick, and he got used to it. He's got to learn how to go solo all over again.

There was nothing particularly bad about this comic, but there wasn't anything to make it really good either. Over the last few years, Dick became one of DCs most prominant and popular characters, and it feels like he's been massively demoted here and landed with a third-tier writer. Snyder wrote him much better over in Batman.


Now we're getting progressively worse. Thought boxes? Plentiful. Bras? Even more so. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that about half the panels in this comic feature bras. Judd Winick has been talking no end about how 'sexy' his Catwoman is, and fans couldn't help but feel he was missing the point. Yes, Catwoman is sexy. But that wouldn't be the first word I'd use to describe her. If you asked Ed Brubaker or Will Pfeifer, her last two writers, I'm sure they'd agree with me over adjectives like resourceful, smart, protective, crusading, witty, loyal, brave, and, yes, sexy. Winick only took one of those on board.

Worst of all, he has somehow failed to understand what makes someone sexy. Showing boob on the first panel isn't sexy. Even the sleaziest of strippers know that something needs to be saved til the end. In fact, that's just it. Catwoman should be sexy in a sophisticated burlesque way, teasing and playing with expectations, making you think she'll give it all up, yet she always leaves with her modesty in place and the audience wanting more. Winick thinks sexy is a back-room stripper who'll go home with you for a tenner.

But that's not even the worst of the comic - in fact, for most of it I was thinking that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I found the anatomically mind-boggling T&A shots amusing rather than offensive. But then, in the final pages... urgh. I don't want to see Batman and Catwoman having sex. I really, really don't. I want them to flirt on rooftops, kiss a little, and make suggestive comments. I don't want to see them going at it on the floor. And, I'm sorry, but can we have a little inter-comic continuity here? Snyder's Batman would not have sex with Catwoman on the floor of a random penthouse surrounded by kittens and bras.

Frustratingly, there were elements here that were good. Guillem March draws a great Selina (in the one scene that we get to see her out of disguise) and it seems a shame that he didn't have anything else to do with her bar suggestive poses on the other 18 pages. Those kittens were just joyous. I liked Selina's fence Lola as well, she felt real and different. But everything else was basically Judd Winick turning one of DC's three most recognisable female characters into a thoroughly uninspiring, insecure nymphomaniac. Get him off this book as fast as you can.

Red Hood and the Outlaws

And the winner for worst book of the week goes to...

I'll ignore the actual plot (what little there was), the characters of Jason Todd (disappointingly sane) and Roy Harper (disappointingly Ron Weasley), and the abundance of thought boxes and skip straight to my Rant of the Week: What the fuck have they done to Starfire?!?

I'm so angry about it that I'm going to give it a post all of its own straight after this one.

But, while I'm the subject of Red Hood, here's my a quick New Teen Titans in the New 52 update: Here it is revealed that Kory used to be part of a team that including Dick, Vic, Gar, Garth, Lilith and someone called Dustin. No mention of Wally, Donna or Raven. Surely this has to be significant? Surely they're saving these characters for something important down the line, right? Right?!

I also speed-read a couple of other books in my comic shop:

Supergirl: Great art, nice introduction, but it felt more like a prologue than an opening chapter. Frankly, I'd have been pissed off if I'd spent money on something that took 60 seconds to read.

Birds of Prey: I like Starling (although, really, just about everything she did could have been done by Lady Blackhawk) and Black Canary's still bad-ass, but this lacked the wow factor and the sense of cammeraderie that defined Simone's run. That might just be because the full team isn't together yet.

1 comment:

  1. My mistake - the word 'Amazon' is mentioned in Wonder Woman. I'll point it out before anyone else does...