Friday, September 16, 2011

DC Reboot Review: Green Lantern, Red Lanterns, Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Suicide Squade, Frankenstein, Deathstroke!

It's been a week of big new releases! Star Wars hit Blu-ray, seeing Scarlett Johansson's boob for the first time was like catching a rare Pokemon, and DC releases another wave of brand new issue ones!

Rather then flood the site with separate reviews like I did last week, I've decided to mash my week of comic reading together in one epic post! Mike has already offered his thoughts on some of these, but it looks like we didn't pick up the exact same books, and we don't always share the same opinions. The books I was entranced into picking up this time were: Green Lantern #1, Red Lanterns #1, Batman and Robin #1, Batwoman #1, Suicide Squad #1, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 and Deathstroke #1.

And I downloaded them all on the iPad for $2.99 each, which wasn't too bad. To find out what worked and what left me cold, join me, as always, after the jump!

Green Lantern #1

DC has done very little to convince me to care about Green Lantern. In fact, I'm pretty sure they want me to hate him! First it was the obnoxious trailer for the movie (“I KNOW, RIGHT!!”) and then, here in Australia, they released the film about six weeks later than the rest of the world - long after a sea of negative reviews and scorn had already washed away any lingering hope! (I still haven’t seen it!) So really I see Green Lantern #1 as DC’s last chance to change my mind. Sell me, DC. Convince me that Green Lantern is a heavy hitter and not just a douchebag with a lantern and a ring. Make me understand!

It didn’t happen. Hal Jordan is in this, but Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern inexplicably isn’t. There’s a lot of continuity alluded to here that, for me, as a first timer, left me out of the loop. And I'm not even sure it's a loop I want to be in. Hal no longer has his ring, but I’m not entirely sure why. Did he pawn it? And meanwhile there’s a lot going on with Sinestro (who shares equal focus this issue) and he is now a Green Lantern, but I’m not entirely sure why that is either, and I have no real idea if he's good or evil, or what he’s planning to do. 

With all these books, I’m far more interested in characterization than I am with the complicated machinations of the title's past, and frustratingly there’s nothing about Hal that appeals to me here. He’s brash, arrogant and punch-happy, sure, but he’s also now a washed up wreck with no job, no car, and no money. And he looks super creepy and dirty. His eyes keep bugging out which makes him look really wired, and there's cross-hatching all over his cheeks like he made-out with a hobo. Does everyone have to be a total dick in the DCU? 

Actually, it's Sinestro who makes for the more intriguing character here, and he does manage to even engage in a bit of gratuitous space action, but there’s just not enough story or direction here to make me eager to read the next one.

Red Lanterns #1

So if green isn’t cutting it for you, at least now you have a choice. Maybe red’s more your colour? I figured it couldn’t be any worse.

Peter Milligan’s a writer that I am familiar with through his inventive work on Marvel’s X-Force and X-Statix, so I had hopes for this. It’s the better of the two lantern books, in my opinion, and starts quite strong with a Red Lantern cat (Yes. A cat. The true face of evil!) going nuts on a team of brutish aliens. There’s torture, once again (and not the last torture scene we’ll see in this new line-up) but at least this whole sequence is relatively tongue-in-cheek. There’s a playful quality to Milligan’s work and I never felt that he was trying to make it real, or shocking, which always comes off awkward in a silly-setting. Red Lanterns feel a little more satirical to me, almost like a deliberately gritty, overwrought parody, but it’s entirely possible that I’m missing the point.

Again, there is a lot of past continuity that escapes me here. I don’t really know who the Red Lanterns are or why they constantly, and spectacularly vomit blood. I don’t know anything about the blue lady with the tiny wings on her head who is constantly maneuvering to show us her arse, or the dude that looks like an angry beach ball. But there’s a fair bit of backstory for their leader, the angst-ridden Atrocitus, and the whole thing’s really just a set up for what the series is going to be about. Spoiler: It's about vengeance. Anger. High blood pressure. Vomiting aforementioned blood.

It’s far from terrible, but there just isn’t enough here to hook me yet. Like Green Lantern before it, this is just the very beginning of a story and I have no firm expectations of what is to come.

Batman and Robin #1

Batman has a son? A 10-year-old son called Damien? And Damien is the current Robin? Whaaa?

Okay, so I did kind of know that going in, but this is the first Batman and Son book I’ve ever read. As a concept, it’s not especially appealing to me (Batman plans for every possible contingency. How does he accidentally get someone pregnant?) but the book does a pretty good job of selling the idea to me. Plus it reminds me of this shocking fact at least a couple of times a page! Bruce is constantly saying things like, “I’m your father, son”, and Damien is constantly saying, “Hey you’re my mostly absent, deadbeat father, Batdad” like the writer was anticipating a bunch of idiot newbies like myself, mouth agape, repeating, “Whaaa? Batman has a son!?” (Which I admittedly did).

I liked it though. It works. It’s kind of like that movie Baby’s Day Out, with Bruce running around trying to clean up after the anarchic Damien’s mess. Now it’s Robin who is a total dick, but it’s actually a lot of fun seeing the glum, psychopathic Damien sass-talk his dad while wreaking havoc on stupid crooks. It’s a fairly satisfying story too which wraps up quite nicely yet, at the same time, sets up enough questions for us to be interested the future. You've got me on your hook, DC. You can reel me in for another issue!

No mention of the mother though or what went wrong there. Damn, sexy, virile Batman! And I hope that Alfred's getting penalty rates because he appears to be doing Oracle's job now that she's off riding her motorcycle through hospitals!

Batwoman #1

The highlight here is the truly, phenomenal art – every page is a masterpiece which weaves free-flowing panels together in interesting ways. It's worth it for the art alone, and being a story man it's rare you'll hear me say that. And I love the supernatural threat that is introduced in this issue. It's urban legend come to life, tortured spirits abducting children and drowning them. It’s eerie, atmospheric, and completely unexpected.

I really dig the design of Batwoman, both in costume and out (and she does seem to spend a reasonable amount of time half-naked with her gal pals). She’s got an iconic look to her – pale white skin, tattoos, a bright red bob, and for me she feels like a nice deviation away from what we might expect from crime-fighting hero. Her supporting cast shows a lot of promise too, although I didn’t quite follow how they all connect together– there’s history here that I’m just not aware of. I would be willing to go another round here, though. It’s unique. And that's a great thing.

Suicide Squad #1

I was sold by the cover, because it all looks just so batshit insane! You have hi-tech sniper Deadshot, the Joker’s squeeze Harley Quinn looking like a stripper now (yes, she’s seen wearing that outfit in the snow), and a musclebound goon with a giant, ravenous shark head. Seriously! What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, apparently! Sadly, this book is about 5% character development, and 95% torture porn. The DC reboot is rapidly teaching me that people want protagonists who are dicks, and prolonged scenes of torture. It’s all pretty grim. And I’m new to this team, so I just can’t fathom why DC thinks I will enjoy reading about a group of characters – that  I don’t really care about yet - being tortured? I just don’t know want response they want me to have? Should I be shocked? Titillated? Should I find it humorous? Emotional? Exciting? I don’t feel anything at all while reading this book. It leaves me numb. And it’s all leading up to a twist that you’ve seen a couple of times before, which then conveniently sweeps it all under the rug and gives the various tortures zero impact or ramifications. It was all a big joke! Ha! Ha! Ok… so now what?

That said though, the highlight here is the shark guy because he has an insatiable lust for meat. At last! A character I can relate to!

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

When I first heard about this book, and saw the cover, I thought it looked like the dumbest thing ever and had no interest in it at all. I puffed up my mighty chest and announced loudly (to no one), "No, sir! I shall not buy your silly Frankenstein book! For shame!" But I was totally wrong.

Ive convinced me otherwise with his mention in the recent What's Out article. He was looking forward to it! Really? And then I realise that it's written by Jeff Lemire who wrote last week's Animal Man #1 which I loved. So I had to have this right? And it didn't disappoint.

It's an inventive world, which pulls from many things we already know, but still manages to be unique. Frankenstein works for Father Time (who now inhabits the body of a masked little girl) and his headquarters is in a flying globe full of tech, that you have to shrink to microscopic size to go inside. Soon Frank is battling alongside a new crew made of a vampire, a wolf-man, a mummy, and a fish lady, who - despite being old tropes - show more characterisation in their brief first appearances than the full cast of both coloured Lanterns.

There's all sorts of weird, wacky things going on here, and some clever narrative devices to pull it all together. I never felt lost and will definitely jump on-board the next one. And I'll sit up the front and clap my hands like a spoiled child.

Deathstroke #1

I grabbed this on a whim. I think Deathstroke's got a cool design, and I had a friend who read Deathstroke religiously in high school. I didn't expect much from it but was actually pleasantly surprised!

This is certainly the most "complete" story we've been offered so far in the reboot. It has a distinct beginning, middle and end and I thought that I was getting my $3 worth. And the end actually surprised me and I thought that it added a lot to the character. It's one thing to keep saying that your hero is badass but another thing to commit to (successfully) showing it.

And I really dig Slade Wilson's look. He's an old grey bastard with an eye-patch who is constantly thinking about the best way to murder you. What's not to love? It's not the greatest thing I've ever read by any means, but it's such a solid comic book. And you can go in totally cold. Worth a peek if you're interested.

Phew! So how many more of these things to go?


  1. couple more weeks! So far out of the ones I've got from the last few weeks Batman and Robin has gotten the most attention from random people coming over and picking up books from the coffee table at least. I still think Action Comics #1 was the best of the bunch...

  2. I'm certainly more interested in a lot of these than I thought I'd be. I've been longing for something regular to read for a while, and this is a good opportunity. There's a few books I'll stick with for another couple of months.

    I know it's probably blasphemous but I kind of wish Marvel would do the same thing so that I have a jump on point for all of those as well.

  3. oh I feel that way too. I am a traitor to my beloved x-men with all these DC books but I can't bear to follow them right now...Too confusing. If Marvel did this, and not some stupid "ultimate" version but FOR REAL, I'd be right in. Gotta spend all that money I used to use for cigarettes on SOMETHING!

  4. Deathstroke surprised me the most and I was really digging it until that ending.

    Damien's mother is Talia (daughter of Ra's Al Ghul). He's was Robin to Dick Grayson as Batman but this is the first father/son Batman Robin comic.

  5. But was Damien an accident?

    I liked the ending of Deathstroke because I honestly didn't see it coming. I was thinking the series was going to be crotchetty old Deathstroke dealing with jive-talking teens. Apparently not!