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Friday, 16 November 2012

DC Comics New 52: The Low 10 (41-32)

New 52 November continues! Be sure to check out the Bottom 11 before reading:

The Low 10 This set has its flaws, but the biggest crime here is just being so typical. Nothing here strikes me as anything more than filler or typical origin stuff. I realize not everything can be new and different, but even the characters in most of these are pretty shabby.

41. Superboy Vol. 1 Incubation (2012)
By: Scott Lobdell and R.B. Silva
Superboy is a clone, but he doesn't know where his DNA comes form. One half is presumably Superman and the other is from an unspecified human donor. Superboy hopes to learn as much as he can about the mysterious organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. that created him and by doing so learn his purpose. Even if he must hunt other teen heroes to do so.

I have never been a big fan of Superman or his affiliates, but there were a lot of good and potentially interesting routes they could have taken with this. Unfortunately, they made a lot of bad choices in execution. The first few issues move somewhat slowly as we go through some stuff that really doesn't seem that essential to the plot. Did we need that jarring random VR sequence? No. They could have just shown us that later. The writers try to build a mystery about Superboy caring where his DNA came from, but he is very dispassionate about it. Over the next several issues we have pointless fighting, a lot of random pointless antagonists, and incomprehensible decisions by both good guys and bad guys alike. Did we need to set up a prison break to test Superboy's powers? Why did Fairchild attack him and blow her cover? Why does Superboy risk his neck to save her? Why did Supergirl show up and plot dump about his destiny? The worst part is Superboy monologues over every comic. He is whiny and boring. It is difficult to care about someone when we don't know who they are, it is even harder to care about someone when they don't really seem that interested in finding out. Also crippling this series are the tie ins to Teen Titans and Supergirl. They make the story incomplete and seem just like an annoying way to make you buy the other comics. This has been handled better many other times (like Superboy's cameos in Teen Titans). All you have to do is focus on your character and how they experience things, Superboy frequently fails to do that.

40. Stormwatch Vol. 1 The Dark Side (2012)
By: Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda
Stormwatch is a team that protects earth from alien forces and from the knowledge of alien forces. The team consists of: Jack Hawksmoor who can talk to cities, the Engineer who can control electronics, Jenny Quantum who can control dark matter, Adam One who is some kind of immortal, the projectionist who can control the media, and the Martian Manhunter a shifting telepath. They encounter the Midnighter, who has super armor, and Apollo, a superman clone, who want to be rebels, but may join the team. They work together to try and stop a creature from absorbing the Earth. They also face betrayal by Harry Tanner, the best swordsman in the world who also the power to tell believable lies.

Stormwatch is trying way to hard to be epic and gritty. It doesn't help that I didn't read its first iteration because we only solidify who's in the team at the end of this volume. It is an okay book. We get a good amount of character interaction from most of those who stay on the team, but it is daunting trying to keep up with who is on what side. Other than that, this is pretty standard comic book fare and nothing special. New readers can read it without prior knowledge, but it has the potential to be confusing.


39. Grifter Vol. 1 Most Wanted (2012)
By: Nathan Edmundson, Jason Gorder and Cafu
Cole Cash is Grifter an ex-special forces member who hears strange voices before being attacked by people. He got this ability after being abducted during a con. His girlfriend, Gretchen, and brother soon get drawn into his struggle. Are these Daemonites real or all in his head?

The final question in my summary is one I'd wish they'd held onto for this whole volume. We know almost right away that they are and find out very little about them over the course of the volume. We also find out little about Cole other than he is resourceful, he is a former con man, and he may have abandoned his brother. This is a nice action packed book, but I didn't feel much of anything for any of the characters. It is a full reboot, so new readers are welcome. However; Rob Liefeld (Hawk and Dove) is taking over as plotter and its been cancelled as of issue 16, so I don't think the story is going to improve any. However; fans of action mystery may get a kick out of this. So, much like Deathstroke, I can't write this one completely off because it definitely isn't my genre.


38. Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1 REDemption (2012) By: Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort
We start with Jason Todd, Red Hood, and Princess Koriand'r, Starfire, bonding as Jason recuperates from a battle. They rescue Roy Harper, Arsenal, from a death sentence. Jason then heads to face a new foe that wiped out a previous organization he worked for.

Jason, Roy and Koriand'r are reworked into the New 52 universe. Jason is made into an antihero after coming back to life, though he still has an antagonistic relationship with Bruce Wayne. Roy Harper has lost his family baggage, but gains a falling out with Green Arrow. Koriand'r claims to be a warrior with open sexuality, but she comes off more as an emotionless real doll. I think the writers realized this mistake as the collected edition starts with the more emotional meeting of Jason and Starfire that is used to build her relationship with Jason. This is before heading into the much reviled first few issues where she barely distinguishes between Jason and Roy. Even her relationship with Roy gets better as the story moves on, but the stain of those first issues is a hard one to erase. The organization that Jason used to work for is also very mystical in nature and works with his whole coming back to life thing, but against the much more practical or sci-fi swing to the rest of the team. New readers may feel like there's some backstory missing here, but the continuity is mostly rebooted. It contains only a few mentions of Starfire's past with Dick Grayson (Nightwing) and Jason's coming back to life after being killed as Robin.

37. Justice League Dark Vol. 1 In the Dark (2012) By: Peter Milligan, Mikel Janin, and Ryan Sook
The Justice League has been defeated. A powerful enchantress is destroying the earth. Now earth's mightiest mystic heroes must team up to stop it. 

How do you screw up such an awesome concept? Well... The characterization of our heroes is all over the place. I am most familiar with John Constantine and Zatana, but neither is presented in a way that makes them interesting or compelling. Constantine should have been more wise cracking and less caring. Zatana is supposed to be fun and charming not an annoying terrified vixen. As for the others, Deadman gets the most development in these issues. He seems like kind of a hard-luck jerk, but I could give him a chance... It's certainly better than his representations in DCU Presents and Hawk and Dove. His girlfriend, the superhero Dove, also gets a lot of development especially since she's not part of the team (though I had no idea she was Dove until issue 4...). Changing man seems interesting, if only we got more time with him. Madame Xanadu spends her time whining about the terrible future and how she shouldn't use drugs... And Mindwarp (apparently a brand new character) runs around in his astral form(?) doing... stuff? I dunno. Also, we get a bunch of random spells, terrifying magical events, a weird nursery rhyme and a bunch of crazy blond chicks... instead of a plot with a clear motive and villain. The ending is explained with "it's magic!" and we're evidently not supposed to care what happened to the Justice League who disappear after issue one. The problem is that the writer spends all his time giving us random magical craziness while our team just wanders around bickers whenever in close contact. There are some amusing moments mostly between Deadman and anyone else, but the others are really unsatisfying. The art on the other hand is gorgeous. Mikel Janin provides a feast for the eyes making all the spells appropriately creepy and the characters visually dynamic. Its kind of a shame he has to illustrate such crap. I plan to continue reading because Jeff Lemire (we'll get to him later) takes over in issue 9 and I have faith he can turn this around. These first six issues may as well be an artbook though.

36. Static Shock Vol. 1 Supercharged (2012)
By: Scott McDaniel, John Rozum and Chris Brunner
Virgil Hawkins is Static and due to his special powers his family has moved to New York City. He faces the Slate Biker Gang, Piranha, and the Pale Man. The Pale Man, Piranha and their gang of mutants face Static as he interrupts their crime spree. Also, his sister and her clone figure out who's real and Virgil helps them deal with it.

This is another one of the New 52 that is not so new. This continues story lines from previous static books and is not a true first volume. Even so, it could have done a better job of getting new readers caught up on the past. Instead it's bit of a mashed up experience with most of the important backstory occurring as a dump at the end. I did find the section dealing with his sisters to be the best of this volume. Otherwise the story if fairly decent, nothing great, but decent. If it had managed to be an actual new start I would have likely given it a higher mark and likely pushed it up a point, but as is, I cannot.

35. Superman Vol. 1 What Price Tomorrow? (2012)
By: George Perez and Jesus Merino
Superman fights an invisible alien and the damage raises some concerns in Metropolis. Then aliens begin possessing people and giving them extraordinary power. The Daily Planet also switches from being a print to a digital publication.

Yeah, this one just wasn't really impressive. It seemed to kind of lean on Action Comics for much of its story which is funny since apparently Grant Morrison (writer of Action Comics starring Superman) was stingy on giving details to Perez. But we're left mostly with Superman battles Aliens. They had some interesting ideas with the Daily Planet merger and the Daily Planet saving Superman, but overall it was pretty average stuff. This one is accessible to new readers and Superman fans should get at least some enjoyment from this. However, if you want a better and more acclaimed take on Superman you can check out Action comics which appears a bit higher on my list.

34. Voodoo Vol. 1 What Lies Beneath (2012) By: Ron Marz
Priscilla Kitaen aka Voodoo is an alien agent sent to retrieve information on Earth's superheroes for her alien overlords. She's tracked by agents Fallon and Blackjack of the Black Razors. Voodoo begins to question her choices when her telekinetic powers begin to give her human feelings. So she heads to her bosses to find out.

I think I liked this a little more than I should've. She starts off as a stripper. Classy. Plus, Voodoo uses her feminine wiles a lot, perhaps too much to complete her missions. However; this is subverted later on. Aside from the large amount of cheesecake, I liked most of the ideas about acquiring empathy after taking something's shape. There are also references to The Thing and Alien films that serve as nice small touches, but don't distract from the main story. This series is only two volumes long, but sadly the next volume doesn't provide a decent ending, more of a tacked on story and a to be continued. Plus the Blackhawks' leader Andrew Lincoln takes over half the story. Shame.


33. Justice League International Vol. 1 The Signal Masters (2012) By: Dan Jurgens, Alan Lopestri, and David Finch
Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, August General in Iron, Fire, Ice, Godiva, Vixen and Red Rocket are the United Nations sponsored team the Justice League International. With their Justice League liaison Batman they go off to find some missing researchers as their first assignment. They end up discovering a cosmic force that could wipe out the planet.

The first volume does a nice job of giving us an impression of pretty much everyone on the team with the possible exception of Vixen who didn't seem to get as much. I like Booster Gold, but as leader he doesn't get to be as much of his fun loving self. The biggest issue is the ineptitude that surrounds the handling of this team. They meet and after no training or even real introductions are sent on a mission? Then when the mission proves far bigger than anyone could anticipate, the UN bosses yell at them? That part of the story could have been handled far better. The story itself is pretty standard stuff. The cliffhanger at the end is dumb. So, really the best part about this is the superhero characters who manage to give a nice team vibe. Unfortunately the ending bleeds into this series net and final volume which is just a mess as O.M.A.C. wanders randomly in from his cancelled book and half the characters we just got used to are put out of action.


32. Teen Titans Vol. 1 It's Our Right to Fight (2012)
By: Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth, and Norm Rapmund
Tim Drake, the Red Robin, watches as young metahumans around the world are captured. It turns out an organization called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. collects young heroes and plans to collect Red Robin as well. He blows up his apartment and escapes. Then Red Robin rescues Cassie Sandsmark aka Wonder Girl though she doesn't like to be called that. Cassie and Tim then save an insectoid girl called Skitter. Meanwhile Kid Flash and Solstice break out of N.O.W.H.E.R.E. While getting away Red Robin and Skitter encounter Bunker who can make psionic bricks with his mind. Kid Flash and Solstice are brought to Red Robin's group by a strange street. Then they see Cassie being attack by Superboy and head to help. They unite during the fight and call themselves the Teen Titans.

I think the biggest problem I had with this were the weird flaws in Red Robin and Wonder Girl. Red Robin doesn't do his research, gets tailed by Cassie, and doesn't notice a giant mechanical creature sneaking up on him. Batman would be ashamed. Cassie seems oversexualized and it's not just how she's drawn. I'm sure every teenage girl lets guys know her breasts are real after she tells him off for staring at them... Then she mentions how Robin should have noticed "her ass in those jeans" when she tailed him. Making Red Robin look doubly stupid. Solstice and Skitter get less attention, but seemed more real in the interaction they do have. Kid Flash is kind of annoying especially with all the dialogue, but I think that's always been Kid Flash's role. Bunker actually has some funny lines and is my favorite. Superboy doesn't get much of a character intro, but he has his own series anyway. The characters got better as they went along as well, so this series could turn out better than its first volume. The story is quite solid and it does contain a complete arc and then cliffhangers in the midst of a follow-up at the end. This mostly reboots the team and is a good place for new readers to enter.

Once again four of these have been cancelled. I also noticed while typing this up that all three of Scott Lobdell's series are on this list (#41 Superboy, #38 Red Hood and the Outlaws, and #32 Teen Titans). I can't say I enjoy his writing particularly yet he's still on all his series and they're still going so he must have some fans.

Also, I've noticed that I grade characters I have a history with a bit harsher treatment. I still stand by the fact that while I dislike many of the new incarnations, I like a fair amount of them too. Don't worry Bat-fans there is still plenty of good Batman to come!

33-22 The Middle 10
21-12 The High 10
11-1 The Top 11

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