Friday, September 30, 2011

DC Reboot Review: Firestorm #1, Green Lantern New Guardians #1, I Vampire #1, Teen Titans #1, Justice League Dark #1

Here it is, folks, my last batch of issue one reviews for September's DC reboot! (and it is officially October her now anyway). I bravely dived into five of the slightly more obscure titles: The Fury of Firestorm #1, Green Lantern New Guardians #1, I Vampire #1, Teen Titans #1, and Justice League Dark #1.

But were they any good? Which way will my hyperbole wildly swing? There was actually one book that I really enjoyed a lot, and one that might just be my new contender for the worst. Find out which is which after the jump! (SPOILERS):

The Fury of Firestorm #1:

Firestorm sure is furious!.. And now I think I know why.

Look, I really do go into these books as a blank slate. I promise you. I have no preconceptions about these books or their creators. I've spent real money on every single one I've reviewed (via the Comixology app on the iPad) so I really do want to enjoy everything I purchase. And there's at least fifteen books so far that I'll be continuing with to issue 2. I don't even really look at the creative team who's involved until after I've read it (unless it's obvious - cough - Liefeld -cough) so imagine my genuine shock and surprise to realise that ther regrettably wretched Firestorm was written by Gail Simone!

I'm not familiar with Ms. Simone's writing, but I have heard a lot of praise for it. She's well respected among fans so I'm really expecting to read something great from her. And I have no doubt that she's written many great things. But for me, at least, Firestorm certainly isn't one of them. I had mixed feelings about Gail's Batgirl, but that wasn't for lack of craft - more the fact that the story just wasn't for me. On a first read, however, I was convinced that Firestorm was written by a teenage intern. It has that frustratingly uneven fan-fic feeling where not a single word of the contrived dialogue rings true and it is so tonally all over the place that I really am shocked that it was written by a professional. That's harsh, I know, so give me a chance to justify it...

Firestorm is actually two guys. One is white. One is black. One wears red. One wears yellow. One's a jock. One's a nerd. One has a single dad. One has a single mom. The list goes on. The only thing they have in common is that they're both douches and they hate each other. Their difference is a strong theme of the book, and I can respect and understand the choice to structure it like this, but it's so heavy-handed and contrived in execution that you'll feel like you're being battered across the head with it. It has a cheesy high school setting and the way the characters carry on it feels more like the missing link between Saved by the Bell and High School Musical (with threats of violence and childish insults instead of singing). Okay - so clearly these broad and obnoxious high school stereotypes aren't for me - but I am a bitter adult. If this book is intended for young teens then no harm no foul, right?

But no. Because that's where the book is so tonally odd. There's a group of casual terrorists who are interspersed into the story who graphically murder without emotion or regret. They slit a father's throat in front of his wife, young son and younger daughter (before shooting them all), they torture a scientist, and finally storm the high school, shooting a teacher at point-blank. So it's not a book for kids, then. Then seriously, who the fuck is it for, because the main storyline is so embarrassingly childish that I can't imagine it striking any chord with an adult, but the violence and disdain for life is far more abhorrent, detached, and without consequence, than your average R rated action film. FROM THE EIGHTIES OR NINETIES. It's a repetitive cycle of: "Hey isn't this cool! Throat slitting! Badass!" "Hey look! Snarky teenagers! Humorous!" "OMG you guys! Torture! Shocking!" "Now a very special comic about race relations!"

And the dialogue is terrible! When the teacher is shot the terrorist actually says, "No more teacher's dirty looks!" So if we're going to see yet another school shooting then I guess we may as well have a laugh!

And the thing is that the cold, home-invading killers was exactly what Simone used back in Batgirl to try to elicit... something? Emotion? Shock? Tension? But it's all so hollow. It all feels so easy. Like a mad libs of villainy!"
 "Masked/armoured/trench-coat-wearing thugs/mercs/crazies smash into a suburban home and kill/rape/torture/terrorise the distraught father/mother/grandmother/child/baby/puppy with a knife/chainsaw/garden hose/ice cream scoop and it is shocking/edgy awesome. Meanwhile plucky/obnoxious/smug superhero is being snarky/high-larious!/arrogant/aggressive in a domestic situation and is 100% focused on their own Narcissistic problems that are miniscule/tiny/fucking ridiculous by comparison."
Look you guys! We're writing modern comics!

During the shooting at the school Whitey McWhiteyson and Blacky McBlackerson uses a scientific mcguffin to unexpectedly turn into twin Firestorms! Whaaaa!? Now with superpowers (flight and fire by the looks of it) do they turn their powers on the murderers that are currently wiping out their school? Nope! They fight each other because NERDS HATE JOCKS, YOU GUYS. Yes, in the most outlandish act of dickery to been seen in the New DCU (and that's really saying something) the two of them continue their childish insults and duke it out - ignoring the shooters completely. Holy. Shit.

I hope that Gail Simone has a cat, and this was just the result of it walking all over her keyboard while she went and made coffee. By far the worst of the bunch.

Green Lantern New Guardians #1:

I haven't had a lot of love for the Green Lantern books so far, but I must admit that New Guardians - while not wonderful - at least featured a story that intrigued me.

This book focuses on Kyle Rainer who is pretty much Hal Jordan but with black hair. It's also worth noting that he has some of the filthiest hair I've ever seen rendered in a comic. Make no mistake, Rainer is also an arrogant, cocky, cock, and I have no love for him, but I did enjoy the events that were happening around him.

I'm lost on how this all came to be, but their other coloured Lanterns running rogue across the universe. We see a Yellow Lantern, a Red Lantern and a Pink Lantern (among others) all of which are mysteriously abandoned and left for dead by their sentient rings who head off to find their new owner. Who are they looking for? (SPOILERS) The unsuspecting and oblivious douchebag Kyle, of course, who is shocked at the onslaught of flying rings and the angry crowd of Lanterns that are close behind it. It ends there but I genuinely wanted to know more about why this was happening and what it was all about. (END SPOILERS- Although it's all shown on the cover).

I don't want to get you over-hyped about this all. It's a mild success. It still features all the New DCU tropes we've come to expect. A sleazy, self-centred, snarky protagonist. Full body shots of women in very little clothing posing for the camera. Indecipherable goings on. But this late in the game I will take what I can get!

I, Vampire #1:

You may be somewhat relieved to learn that the worst thing about I, Vampire is that hideous cover. The interior art actually has a lot more atmosphere and style, more akin to a dreary-looking Hellboy than anything else. A lot of elements are clearly traced over photos, so it does have that occasional stiffness and emptiness to it, but it's not terrible, and when it gets creative (like when we see the hulked-out wolf form) it actually works.

That said, story wise it's really a pastiche of many, many other vampire stories that you've heard before, and I'll be surprised if it garners much ongoing interest. A couple have been pushing back and forth for  decades - she's a vampire who wants to be bad, and he's a vampire (I think?) who wants to be good. It's confusing at times and it never really grabbed me, but I'm sure it's someone out there's thing.

Teen Titans #1:

I think I'm just going to accept that reading about cocky, arrogant, douchebag teenagers and their stupid problems isn't for me. It's a waste of my time and yours because I'm never going to be interested in much that these guys do or say. Kid Flash is a painfully irritating dick (although deliberately so) with one of the ugliest costumes (and faces) ever put on the page, Tim Drake as Red Robin is a tolerable straight man, and Wonder Girl is that emotionally distant female character who we're supposed to think is "strong" because she gets joy in cracking heads. No, kids. Any girl, or guy, that enjoys inflicting physical violence on others is probably not for you.

This strikes me as real middle of the road teen superhero fare, that will have its biggest appeal for people who already have some form of investment in the characters. As a newcomer though it left me cold. Not a terrible book, just not for me. I'm getting too old for this shit. High-five, Danny Glover!

Justice League Dark #1:

And brace yourself! This is the book that I genuinely liked! It's the alternate Justice League made up ghosts, witches, psychics and magicians, and I thought it was full of fantastic inventions. I was far more at home here, reading what felt more like a Vertigo book with a twist of Alan Moore or Gaiman. Sure, some of these characters have some silly baggage (Shade the Changing Man's reality-bending powers stem from his "M-Vest" which give him ridiculous lines like the straight-faced "Don't you think I'd like to be able to walk away from this damned vest?") but the introductions to the various (and truly bizarre) powers are creative, unexpected, and often pack a punch.

A crazy witch lives in an envelope. 34 simulacra of June Moone are being mowed down by cars on the highway. A local power station is imbued with consciousness. And the guest-starring real Justice League are caught in a tornado of rotting witches' teeth that actually begin to tear up Superman.

It's weird and it's wonderful, and somewhat of a tease, because we're only just getting introduced to the team and don't really know where it's all going, but I'll definitely stick around. It creates its own unique world so much better than many of the other books I've read - especially this week! Well worth a look if it has piqued your interest.

And that, Dear Reader, was my look at (a fair chunk of) DC's New 52! Will you stick around for some second issues?


  1. i'm glad to hear you liked justice league dark. based on the title alone, it could have been pretty horrible, but i like milligan a lot so i figured it would be pretty much what you described. i'll probably check it out when the trade comes out.

  2. The weirdest character revamp has to be Cliff Carmichael in Firestorm. In the original, he was the main nerd at high school and would bully Ronnie who was the main jock. Now he's the leader of a group of home invasion/murderers!

  3. See, that's part of the problem for me here as a newcomer - I have no idea what has been made up for the book, or what is actually paying some respect to the character's history. As a result, it all feels silly and made up, and probably means I'm being unfair to a writer who is constrained somewhat by the past? I don't know what to make of it!

    @Aaron Yeah, probably will make for a solid trade once all the threads tie together. I have high hopes for it and hope it delivers!

  4. I would say it didn't really matter. It's a totally new character with the same name for some reason.