Thursday, September 22, 2011

DC Reboot Review: Batman #1, Nightwing #1, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, Catwoman #1, Green Lantern Corps #1, Supergirl #1, Wonder Woman #1.,

So let's talk about DC Comics and the law of diminishing returns...

It's a new week and a new round of #1's for September's DC reboot. I bought 7 of the 12 new books on offer today, and wow is my interest waning! No, it's not all bad, but I'm seriously beginning to wonder exactly what DC is trying to accomplish here. So much so that it's starting to erode the goodwill created by some of the better releases from earlier in the month. We were lead into the pretence that this books would be solid jump on points for new readers, but sadly it's rarely the case.

The majority of these comics are a disjointed jumble of disparate elements.There's little effort to tell coherent stories. The characters are either bland, dickishly arrogant and "noble", or just plain sleazy-looking dicks. And most of the lines cling to graphic violence as a crutch - as thought the comics are only for "adults" - but now are peppering it with an awkward softcore sexuality ("Look boys! Bras!") as if the comics are for boys who have just turned thirteen.

But then I read reviews where people are going, "Oh yeah, Nightwing, man! That's a keeper! Great book!" By what metric is this great? Great compared to what? Other comics? TV? Movies? A punch in the forehead?


Join me after the jump and we'll try to unravel this expanding mess. I'm going into full SPOILER mode though or I'm not going to cope...

But like I said... It's not all bad.

Batman #1

Batman is by far the best book of the week (and one of the few I won't spoil). Although we've already had Batman and Robin and Detective Comics and I'm not sure just how many monthly Batman books we need or how they all fit into each other. He's also cameoing in a lot of other books (one of which we'll get into soon), so he's kind of somewhere in between Santa and Jesus in his ability to be in all places at all times.

But the best thing about this book is that it's a coherent story, that manages to welcome new readers without having to jettison everything that took place in the pre-reboot books. This is still the Batman with his 10-year-old son (who is now Robin) and he's hanging out with Dick Grayson (who used to be Robin but is now Nightwing), and Tim Drake (who used to be Robin but is now Red Robin) (and I don't know who Red Robin is). Okay, so that bit is confusing. Considering most casual fans (especially movie fans) far prefer a Robinless Batman, why is he now hanging out with the three of them?! WTF does he need with all these Robins? Oh, and remember Jason Todd, who also used to be Robin? We'll get to him in another book!

All that aside, it's a well written book, with solid characterisation, a uniting theme, and and an intriguing enough mystery that is teased at the end. My only gripe is that - like many other books this month - Batman still wants to be Seven and gives us our billionth grizzly murder of the reboot (yes, of course it involved torture) which feels a little alienating. There have been so many great Batman works in the past that just haven't had to rely on this. And it's frustrating because it eliminates a lot of potential audience. It's not enough to send me packing though - I'm willing to give issue 2 a shot.

Nightwing #1

Let's stick with the bat-family and take a look at Nightwing. Now I have zero interest in former Robin Dick "Nightwing" Grayson as a character (although I liked it when he used to have the electric blue disco collar) but I know a lot of people like him. So this is me being open-minded. This is me saying, "Okay... I will give your precious Nightwing a shot and see if I can understand what you like about him."

For me, this book is neither here nor there. There's nothing particularly compelling about the character - he's just an easy-going guy, has a strong sense of justice, gets a little emo about his dead family. Nothing here to recommend or damn him really - he's as middleground as you can get. For me he's pretty bland. Nightwing is like a cheese sandwich. Which is fine if you're happy with that. I wouldn't want it all the time.

The story is coherent (and seems like it may tie into Batman #1) but it's very silly at times. An assassin attacks Dick while he's in his civilian clothes - apparently the assassin knows all about Dick (he's a Dick expert) - but then Dick runs into an alley and changes into Nightwing! He returns, looking the same except now he's wearing a leotard and a tiny domino mask. And the assassin is convinced that he's now a different person. "Oh so you've come to protect Dick, huh? Dick's lucky to have you looking out for him! But it won't help! Wait until I get a hold of that Dick! Say... where is Dick? Seriously! You sprang out of nowhere but where has my Dick gone?" Exactly.

Also there's a slew of violent murders on page - two thugs get graphically stomped and two cops have their throats ripped out in a spray of blood. Seriously? In a Dick Grayson book? I just can't believe that Nightwing is intended for adults. I'm sorry. I can't process that. Once again, please look back at the wonderful cavalcade of Batman related entertainment that did not rely on throats being graphically torn out as a climax. It's such a weird juxtaposition, because the book mostly feels like its written for a kid, and then this crazy stuff happens. I'm done with this one. Although I'm sure Dick will keep poking into Batman.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1

So I'm the idiot for buying this, but honestly I didn't know what to expect! That Deadpool looking guy at the front is our other, other, other ex-Robin, Jason Todd, now apparently "The Red Hood" (even though I thought Jason Todd was dead). He's inexplicably teamed up with Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy,and Starfire - an orange alien lady who spends most of her page-time standing around awkwardly in a bikini like a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition tracing.

And apparently Starfire is banging Red Hood, but then Red Hood finds a weird ethereal goth girl (who looks like a Neil Gaiman runaway) at a tropical resort, and they talk about all sorts of stuff that I didn't remotely understand, and then Starfire - clearly as bored as I am by this point - goes and bangs Speedy (!?). Although, of course, they're coy with this part because violence is fine but boobs are the devil! God bless you America!

Red Hood goes and does something somewhere. and meets someone that he clearly cares about - but we don't give a shit about -and then some other strange dudes attack and the issue ends promising us that next issue "All will be explained!" No. Fuck that shit. You should have explained it the first time. Fool me twice, shame on me. I won't be around for the "explanation". 

Catwoman #1:

I like the modern Catwoman. I like the catsuit with the goggles. I like the short, black Audrey Hepburn hair. I like the concept of Catwoman, and I like it when she shows up in a good Batman story to complicate things further. But I didn't like this too much.

The biggest problem with Catwoman as a lead/solo character is that she lacks compelling motivation. She really just wants material gain - which seems at odds with the way in which she shrugs it off when all her possessions (and her apartment) are blown-up at the beginning. So she has no attachments, yet is always trying to steal stuff? Okay...? In this issue she wants a painting and she tangles with some nondescript Russian gangsters who we aren't remotely invested in.

There's graphic violence here again when she beats up one gangster who she recognises as having raped her friend many years ago, and the blood flies freely. So again - it seems to be an "adult" content book, but then it's also very coy about its softcore sexuality. Catwoman appears in her bra at least three different times in the issue, and it all accumulates at the end when Batman pops in to check on her. She is soon straddling him, takes off his belt, and opens up his suit to expose his abdomen, and presumably more, and then we see him kissing her neck as something unseen goes on below. The last shot widens out and she is still straddling him but her suit it still on (and we know it doesn't zip low enough for that) so we're left with the impression that... Catwoman just beat Batman off?! That's how you're ending your book? Batman cameos for a handjob? And she comments on how it finishes fast. I thought you had stamina, Bruce.

I just don't know what it wants me to feel. It's far to silly and awkward to be titillating, and yet the book seems to believe that you will continue to buy it purely for glimpses of her cleavage. Really? Look, DC, I'm no  prude - if Catwoman is supposed to be a sex book, then just man up and make it a sex book! Get a filthy European artist like Manara, or Serpieri, or Altuna - all of which can actually draw sex - and show him totally giving it to her. But don't be such babies about it. If it's an "adult" book, then act "adult". Have her poking out the Penguin's eyes with her ridiculously puffy nipples! Show Batman swinging his dick like it's one of his bat-ropes! You're acting like a ten-year-old that doesn't have an Internet connection!

Green Lantern Corps #1

Last week Green Lantern pretty much lost me, so god knows why I went for this. Because I want to like the Green Lanterns? I'm intrigued by the concept, but it's yet to give me much. 

This story isn't terrible, and it's easy enough to follow, but the two human GL's Guy Gardner and John Stewart are earthbound for most of it - and both are incredibly annoying. Gardner is inexplicably trying to land  a job as a high school football coach, even though his duties as a space policeman would cause havoc with their training schedule, and Stewart - puffed up with his own self-importance - arrogantly lectures a group about safety before terrorizing them by dropping them off a building. Gardner's an idiot and Stewart is such a deadpan, pompous "let's do what's right you guys even though it makes me a total asshole to be around" party-pooper. I'm surprised they don't spend all their time arguing about who has the stupider haircut.

Oh, and before you're disappointed, some other Green Lanters are graphically: decapitated, cut in half, and/or impaled on spikes. Oh! And a whole planet of aliens are murdered. DC COMICS, KIDS! GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT!


How can I review this!? There's nothing here to review!? It literally took me about 2 -3 mins to read. Supergirl crashes to earth, has no memory of how she got there, and fights some guys in robot suits. AND THAT IS THE ENTIRE STORY. You seriously think that's enough to warrant my investment in your future issues? You are taking the piss with this one, DC. You didn't put in the effort, and I'm not going to either. (The art is nice. Wish it had a story to go with it).

Wonder Woman #1

The other big release of the week and I was genuinely looking forward to it. Perhaps I'm an idiot, but for me this was another confusing mess where I never really figured out what was going on. There are nice ideas in here - I love the mythological aspects and really liked what happened with the horses (as gruesome as it was), but it all lacked coherency and wasn't a warm welcome for a new reader. Frustrating, because it looks pretty good - perhaps I just need to read it again.

Wonder Woman gets (coyly) naked though, so that's a solid three for three with our main female characters this week! Imagine this. You're an executive at DC at you gather your best writers in a room. "How do we relaunch Wonder Woman?" you bellow from your gigantic leather chair. "How do we sell this character to grown men!? How do we get them interested in Wonder Woman?" One brave soul timidly raises his hand. "Side boob?" he answers.

Come on, DC. Your industry is dying. You need to work harder than this.


  1. I quite enjoyed Wonder Woman. I am now fantasizing that Wonder Woman has become 'sexy Hellboy' thanks to this comic. I'll give it another go and I am yet to try Batman, but the rest of it was dross.

  2. "Come on, DC. Your industry is dying. You need to work harder than this."

    I'm sure they did work hard, and I'm sure they regard this as success, which makes the results that much more disappointing.

    Thanks for reading these books so I don't have to ... happily sticking with my graveyard of back issues.

  3. Ideally I'd have them do away with ongoing titles all together.

    I'd have a "relaunch" every 12 months. With say, 52 titles each year, a set start date, a set finish date, and everyone knowing that their stories have to be contained within that.

    Maybe a quarter of those titles would be evergreens, Batman, Superman, Wonderwoman, etc. A quarter being ensemble stories, another quarter being underused characters, and then the last quarter being made up of writers and illustrators from outside of the superhero world. They can make works that are positioned within the DC universe, but not necessarily superhero tales.

    There would be no limitations to how the writers want to represent the characters within their year (although they should be consistent across the line).

    Then at the end of 12 months, you start again, new creative teams, some titles dropped, new ones started.

    You could then sell collections of annuals, which would work especially well in digital format. Or sell subscriptions for the year, knowing that everything will round up at the end.

    I think that'd be a cool format for DC.

  4. @Campbell - you know, I could get into that. May sound crazy to long-term readers, but it's essentially what happens with the movies - we see three or so with a distinct vision and version of the character and then once that's exhausted we reboot and start again. You'd at least get that initial interest each year when people bought the beginnings of the runs and decided whether or not they'd be reading Batman that year.

    It would be great to have that freedom for the artists and writers though. Knowing that they could take it absolutely wherever they liked because it would all be reset anyway.

  5. They have a similar model in Latin American with their soap operas. Same actors and writers and so on, but each series only lasts 12 months, so they don't drag on for decades like in the states.

    And I guess, within DC's internal rules, each year of published comics could take place within one of their alternate universes. Or did they destroy them all? I don't really know, and if they went down this road it really wouldn't matter.

  6. Yeah this week's books really bummed me out. I can't believe Catwoman is a real thing and not some fan fiction.
    Batman was way more straightforward than I was expecting. I'm not sure if it was good or just good compared to the other Batman books.
    It bugs me that so many of them are obviously written to be collected later. I can picture the Wonder Woman arc being a good story down the track but as a one issue setup it was only okay.