Midweek Geek Out (November 22) – New 52, Part 1

Posted on November 22, 2012

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Alternate title: “No, Superman does not wear his underwear outside his pants anymore.” (Inspired by my response to Miss Four Eyes’ blog entry.)

Justice League

Not your father’s Justice League…

[Disclaimer: While I have not come even close to touching all 52 titles and most of my samplings so far have been the trade pubs (which are at least 6 months behind the actual comic release), I won’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I will discuss what I have experienced thus far.]

Last summer, DC Comics rebooted the bulk of their comics in a major initiative called “The New 52” (a reference to the number of launch titles) in an effort to make their comics more accessible to new readers or, such as in my case, lure old comics fans back in with an easy new starting point. I personally had not touched a comic in about 20 years (good Lord, that makes me feel old). High school was difficult enough to adjust to without adding the social impediment of “comic book reader”. Yeah, kind of a lame reason to give it up, but hey… I was an early teen just trying to fit in, and comic books had a much more negative stigma in the mid-90s than they do now. Besides, it was heavily implied to me at the time that “growing up” meant you stopped playing video games and reading comic books, so… I did both. (I didn’t start really gaming again until late teens / early 20s).

[For the attention span impaired or those who want to cut to the chase, feel free to skip ahead a couple paragraphs.]

But comic books never really got my attention again for a long time. It wasn’t really until the last few years that comic books started getting some traction; a friend, Jennifer Miller (singer and geek extraordinare), recently commented that comics seem to be undergoing a renassaince of sorts lately, and I think she’s right. I looked at it more from a business perspective; comics finally found a medium other than print where they were universally accepted, making the printed formats easier to market. A reboot was inevitable, really. (Marvel very recently followed suit with their own reboot, labeled Marvel Now.)

But after seeing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (a masterpiece in my book; you’re welcome to disagree but be warned I will automatically assume you’re retarded) and recognizing several elements from both Knightfall (the series in which Bane was introduced) and The Dark Knight Returns (a classic Frank Miller graphic novel where an aging Bruce Wayne returns from retirement to become Batman again) after so many years made me want to go back and start digging back into the archives again. I started with some classic Batman, such as the beforementioned Knightfall and The Dark Knight Returns, as well as The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, A Death in the Family, Batman: Year One, etc. before moving into Battle for the Cowl, etc. and then the first trade pub for The New 52, titled The Court of the Owls, which leads me to the obligatory list…

batman court of owls new 52

Batman

1.) The Court of the Owls Volume 1 (collecting Batman issues 1-7) is a phenominal book, easily the best entry point to The New 52 of the ones I have been exposed to thus far. The writing and art are nearly perfect.  Scott Snyder crafts a fresh story in Gotham, introducing new dynamics to an existing world that has been explored so many times over, and Greg Capullo’s art just enhances the storytelling by adding layers to the characters through expression, heightening the intensity of the action and giving atmosphere to the environments. Seriously, the story could easily translate directly to a film with minimal effort; it doesn’t “feel” like a comic book. It probably worked to my advantage to have read some more classic comics to compare just how far the storytelling and presentation have come. If I could recommend only one New 52 book, the Batman flagship title would easily be it.

Rating: 5/5 (unashamedly)

The New 52: Catwoman

2.) The Game, collecting Catwoman #1-6: This was a pretty solid read; there is a lot of nice character work with the writing and the art has a lot of really nice touches; the use of color and cropping is genius. The reboot on Selena Kyle was slightly controversial, as a sex scene depicted between her and Batman (not really a graphic one, mind you) came off nearly universally as unnecessary and really just kind of comically awkward . The genre, unfortunately, isn’t devoid of sexism, but I felt the writer had the best intentions. One of the more interesting character points with Catwoman is her odd relationship with Batman, who is obviously conflicted with how to deal with her. He lets her get away, and she knows he has a soft spot for her. You kinda hate her a little for manipulating him, but then it just adds to her depth, makes her more human.

I have to say also, that I absolutely love her current look (which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played Arkham City), especially compared to more vintage takes on the character. In addition, her evolution from 2 dimensional villain to complicated anti-hero (she’s a member of the upcoming Justice League of America) is a welcome one. Plus, with a solid movie representation (The Dark Knight Rises), miss Kyle is one of the more interesting comic book characters in play right now.

Rating: 4/5

The Darkest Reflection

Barbara Gordon, Batgirl

3.) The Darkest Reflection, collecting Batgirl #1-6: I had very mixed feelings about this title before I picked it up. Over the years, the de facto original Batgirl was Barbara Gordon, who was paralyzed by the Joker and then became the information broker known as Oracle. In one of the more confusing moves with the Bat-continuity with the reboot, Barbara was paralyzed but had a miraculous recovery; plus, the two ladies that succeeded her as Batgirl (Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown) no longer exist at all, which I think is a bit insulting, especially considering all FOUR Robins survived the transition (even though Damien Wayne and perhaps even Jason Todd shouldn’t have).

That said, this book was a lot of fun, great art with a lot of fantastic full page displays and an intelligent take on a young woman dealing with her recovery on multiple levels. One thing about Batman that always kills me is that he lands every jump, dive, etc. perfectly ALL OF THE TIME. He never makes mistakes (not of the physical variety anyways), and that puts him just a bit further away from the rest of us. We’re not nearly that well trained or disciplined; we makes mistakes all the time. Batgirl, thankfully, is allowed to make mistakes, and it’s pretty much impossible to not love Barbara all the more for it. A few scenes really stood out to me, but the moment after Bruce tells her that she was “always meant to be Batgirl”, she practically glows right off of the page. I would almost like to have that panel framed. The villains were appropriately B list quality for her, but it didn’t detract from the read. I hope The Mirror makes another appearance down the road, actually.

Rating: 4/5

nightwing new 52

Nightwing

4.) Traps and Trapezes, collecting Nightwing #1-7: I was just slightly disappointed by this book. Dick Greyson has been my favorite comic book character as far back as I can remember. He’s more accessible than Bruce Wayne, and he’s the only other cat to manage to graduate to being Batman (successfully). I liked Traps and Trapezes, but for a dude that was temporarily Batman (though the fact that wasn’t removed from cannon on the reboot is another puzzling issue), the storyline felt a little too trite. I suppose that, had I not read The Court of Owls Vol 1 first, it wouldn’t have been such an obvious tie in and consequently a more interesting read. But as is, it felt a little too predictable, but it was a nice way to re-introduce his roots, gave an excuse for a Batgirl cameo and introduced an appropriate (if slightly underwhelming) villain. The art is pretty sharp; I liked the unconventional panel transitions, even if they were a little confusing to follow at times.

Rating 3.5 / 5

I’ll wrap up my New 52 thoughts in another blog, including Red Hood and the Outlaws, Birds of Prey, All Star Western, Teen Titans, Deathstroke (who I mentioned in a previous blog), The Dark Knight, Action Comics (Superman), Supergirl and Aquaman, plus my initial thoughts on the beginnings of the Death of the Family crossover arc (this guy is finally current!) with the Joker. I would say “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel”, but I think we all know I’ll write it whenever I feel like it. Cheers!

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