Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Monday, 26 November 2012

DC Comics New 52: The Top 11 (11-1)

New 52 November goes into the final countdown! Be sure to check out: The Bottom 11, The Low 10, The Middle 10, and The High 10 in that order.

The Top 11 are my favorites!

11. Demon Knights Vol. 1 Seven Against the Dark (2012) By: Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves
A group of unlikely heroes team up to protect a small village and defy a great power. Etrigan, the demon, is bonded to Jason Blood by Merlin and the two struggle for control. Madame Xandu acts as a lover to both Etrigan and Jason and guides them. Vandal Savage is an immortal who is a traveler before joining the fight. The Shining Knight is an androgynous warrior from Camelot. The Horsewoman is a mysterious traveler. Al Jabr is a master tactician and mathematician. Exoristos is an amazon warrior.

The first volume of the sword and sorcery adventure is quite entertaining. It has a slow build that allows most of the characters to be introduced and given their own flavor without rushing. This has the same basic story as Seven Samurai with seven reluctant warriors teaming up to defend a village. This also reminded me of the first session of an awesome DnD campaign (yeah, I'm a geek, I know). This starts a brand new story, so new readers can start here. This serves as a start to a much more epic tale. Something that I think that fits the high fantasy genre this comic is going for. I'd recommend this to lovers of fantasy.

10. Batwing Vol. 1 The Lost Kingdom (2012)
By: Judd Winick and Ben Oliver
Wayne Enterprises is funding a Batman in every corner of the world. David Zavimbe, an African police officer, is selected as Batwing, the Batman of Africa. When someone begins to kill off Africa's legendary superheroes, Batwing must discover the culprit and stop him before Afirca's heroes die.

This was one of my biggest surprises in making this list. This springs out of a prior storyline in the DCU, but it doesn't feel like it. David is a unique character with his own supporting cast. He struggles with his secret identity and dealing with crime in one of the most corrupt places on earth. You see his backstory and come to understand why he was chosen. The African superheroes are also well portrayed. They all have cool superpowers and understandable motives. Massacre is a fantastic villain and he provides a worthy threat for Batwing's first volume. He's a brutal foe for a brutal land. Batman fans should definitely check out this spin off. Unfortunately the arc doesn't end until the next volume. Check out this different spin on Batman.

9. Batman and Robin Vol. 1 Born to Kill (2012)
By: Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Batman is adapting to having his son, Damian, as Robin. Complicating the matter is that Damien was raised by his mother Talia Al'Ghul and the League of Assassins. When a villain called NoBody begins targeting the Batmen of the world, Batman and Robin respond. But, when NoBody targets Robin, Robin must choose between being a hero or a villain.

This comic does what it needs to get new readers up to speed on the modern world of Batman. We are given the rundown on Damian's past and Batman Incorporated before the plot really gets going. We also see Damian's struggles to conform to his father's code as he takes out his frustrations on criminals and animals. It can be disturbing at times, but it is well worth it in the end. I've heard this volume covers eom groud that prior comics have already done, but this is necessary stuff for new reader. NoBody is an interesting villain, but I think he'll be quickly forgotten. Hopefully future arcs will contain some classic villains or create one of its won. Batman and Robin is not the best bat-book, but it certainly deserves a place in the top ten.

8. All-Star Western Vol. 1 Guns and Gotham (2012) By: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Jonah Hex is a frontier bounty hunter who has come to the big city. Gotham City. Amadeus Arkham, future founder of Arkham Asylum, contacts him about tracking down a serial killer. The pair then set out to uncover the person behind the murders. There a also some other western themed short stories.

This is an excellent Western themed mystery that has several interesting tie-ins to the Batman universe. They explore both the elite and the underworld of Gotham. Jonah Hex does a great deal to redeem himself from the terrible movie adaption. He is a kick ass, no-nonsense, hard edged lawman who doesn't let things lie. Amadeus Arkham works well as the more Holmesian and analytical sidekick, even if he can be a bit timid sometimes. The stories occasionally slip into cliches, but for the must part provide excellent wild west entertainment. THe backup stories are alright, but provide characters I hope to see in the future. This series begins a new story and should be a must get for Western fans.

7. Batwoman Vol. 1 Hydrology (2012) By: J.H. Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman and Amy Reeder
Kate Kane is an heiress and former military officer. She is also the Batwoman. Now she must deal with her cousin wanting to become her sidekick, her father's machinations, and a mysterious power stealing babies.

Much like the Flash, this series pushes the level of art in comics. The panel work and storyboarding are incredible and once again push this higher than it may have otherwise gotten. Not the the story is bad, but it is a pretty strange story and involves the supernatural. Now, I normally don't like that in my Bat-books, but Batwoman is much farther removed from Bruce Wayne than say Red Hood. Batman is in this, but acts in more of a guidance role. This isn't exactly a reboot, but it gives all the information needed for new readers to understand Batwoman's side of Gotham. This title also features the only lead homosexual character in the New 52, since Kate is a lesbian. So, check this awesome volume of one of DC's leading ladies.

6. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Vol. 1 War of the Monsters (2012) By: Jeff Lemire and J.G. Jones
Frankenstein is a poetic beast who's been a soldier for a great many years. His wife is a six armed femme fatale who keeps Frank at arms' length. Velcoro, a were-bat vampire, and Griffith, a werewolf, act as comedic soldiers. Kharis is a mute mummy with incredible mystical power. Dr. Nina Mazursky is a merwoman and the group's scientific advisor. Father Time is an old soul in the body of a young girl who runs S.H.A.D.E. Together they combat strange threats throughout the world. In this volume they face a town overrun by monsters, O.M.A.C., and the original Creature Commandos.

This is a fun action adventure series featuring a band of super powered heroes based on classic Universal monsters. It certainly owes a debt to Hellboy, but the similarities stop at premise. All the action is nicely offset by humor. This series is enjoyable with lots of over the top action and interesting characters. They only really delve into Dr. Nina Mazursky, but I have high hopes for the continuing series. The next arc hints at more development for Frankenstein and his estranged wife. Unfortunately, the series is set to end at issue sixteen which is a shame. This series is pretty much all action and may not be some people's style. However; I'd recommend it to anyone who likes action or comedy or horror motifs.

5. Batman Vol. 1 The Court of Owls (2012)
By: Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Batman knows Gotham City. He has been raised in the city. He has protected it from multiple threats. But he's missed something. Someone has been controlling the city his whole life.

This one has come out on top of many other New 52 lists, but it didn't make it quite as far in mine. While I enjoyed this start to the Court of Owls arc, I wasn't completely blown away by it. It has great art and an interesting premise, but I've read it all the way to its conclusion and that is a bit weak. Batman is made younger in the reboot and most of his old timeline is compressed. However; fans of The Dark Knight trilogy should have no problem navigating this tale. I think the biggest problem I had was that Batman has shows some weaknesses of character that don't really mesh with my idea of the dark knight. Conversely, it does have a good amount of mystery and detective work. The Talons are an awesome new set of enemies. If you're going to read one Batman volume in the New 52, this should be it.

4. Wonder Woman Vol. 1 Blood (2012)
By: Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
The Iliad with Wonder Woman is about the shortest summary I can give this book. Wonder Woman must protect a woman impregnated by Zeus who is caught in the middle of a battle for the throne of Olympus. 

I'm sure you can tell by the name of the blog that I have read my fair share of Greek mythology. This Wonder Woman story blends new sensibilities with old world myth. It is Epic stuff, but the one thing that dissatisfied me about the whole thing was issue 3, Clay, which revealed Wonder Woman's boring new origin story. I understand the revision in the context of the story: to connect her more with the gods and create a new 'family' for her. I still dislike it. The rest of it is grand storytelling on an epic scale. This volume is a fresh look on Wonder Woman and is a great introduction for new readers. It is an ongoing story, so it isn't concluded in this volume or the next, but don't let that stop you. I recommend it to fans of legendary epics and fans of Xena Warrior Princess.

3. Aquaman Vol. 1 The Trench (2012)
By: Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado
Aquaman and Mera, his wife, are trying to get back to a normal life. That doesn't prevent him from fighting crime, unfortunately the citizens and police think of him as a joke. But, when strange ocean creatures start snacking on locals, it's up to Aquaman and Mera to stop them.

Color me surprised. Aquaman was engaging, funny and clever. All this was managed without a real villain. We got to see the human side of Aquaman and his desire to protect humanity. Mera, however, is the more interesting character. She is fiery and doesn't understand Aquaman's mild temper. Mera even got her own issue which made me like her character even more. I must commend Geoff Johns for using our expectations to enhance the story. The jokes and Aquaman's response make the story hilarious.  It is helped by brilliant art and a properly inserted backstory. I did not expect to like this comic as much as I did, but I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys comics.

2. Swamp Thing Vol. 1 Raise Them Bones (2012)
By: Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
Alec Holland is a botanist who could be Swamp Thing. Unfortunately, he doesn't want to become the monstrous creature. The Green, force for all plant life on earth, is under attack by the force of death and corruption, the Rot. Assisted by Abigail Arcane who fights against the taint of her family, Alec must come to terms with himself and stop the agents of the Rot.

Swamp Thing is sort of a Romeo and Juliet tale with crazy zombies and hulking undead monstrosities. We are given a good introduction to Swamp Thing that gets us up to speed on what has happened. They leave out anything that overcomplicates the plot, so much so that new readers can easily jump in here. This is far more than just another zombie tale. The family dynamic allows for the Arcanes to become so much more than another group of villains. The  Also, like Flash and Batwoman, this has gorgeous art and unique paneling. This series also links up with my number one choice. I recommend reading them both, though they don't intersect for quite awhile. This is not a complete tale, but it does set the stage for a war. This unique blend of hero and horror is one I think anyone can get into.

1. Animal Man Vol. 1 The Hunt (2012)
By: Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
This volume starts off with a magazine article that tells us about Buddy Baker: family man, animal rights activist, vegan, actor, and superhero. He has the ability to take on the ability of any animal through the Life Web. After stopping a hostage situation he begins bleeding from the eyes. What is happening with his abilities? And what will happen when his family gets drawn into the action.

The first New 52 comic I read is still my favorite. I'd read some great reviews of the first issue and the praise didn't stop coming, so I picked it up. My summary contains about half the first issue because the cliffhanger at the end of issue one is something that should not be spoiled. Unlike most of the other superheroes, Animal Man gets to keep his family and this is definitely to this series' benefit. His family drives the stakes as the Rot threatens the keepers of Animal Man's Life Web, the Red. We also get much more delightful envoys than those of the Green from Swamp Thing. Socks the cat provides humor amidst the horror. I liked the art, but it has gotten mixed reviews from others. I feel it enhances the bizarre and often horrific tone of the story, but the ordinary scenes are also imbued with this strangeness. I see this as the bizarre touching even the normal world as it soon does, however some dislike it. This volume sets the stage for the Red's war against the Rot and connects to a much longer ongoing story. If you're interested in comics, check this one out.

I plan to keep up with some of these series and hopefully check back in with major crossovers and when the New 52 Second Wave gets released in Graphic novel form. Marvel has also done its own relaunch with the terribly named Marvel Now and I hope to do a countdown of those for next year. Until, next time. Happy Reading!

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