Sep 092011
 
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My name is Jet Wolf, and I’m addicted to comic books. Since picking up my first issue of X-Men way back in the late 80s, comic books have been a focal point of my life. I can’t imagine a world without superheroes flying around in brightly coloured and impractical costumes, punching out bad guys and sometimes each other. May the Pull List be eternal. Here’s what was on it this week.


 
This is a very number one-y week, and also a week with about 80% more DC than normal. As indicated when I talked a bit about The New 52, the Marvel Universe is my home; I just occasionally visit the DCU. So I’m a little surprised to see me picking up as many relaunch titles as I am. I’ve been encouraged to try books that I might normally not try and that counts for something, so kudos to DC for getting me in their door. Staying, well, that’s the real test, and it’s down to the individual issues to convince me of that.

Action Comics #1    Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1    Batgirl #1    Casanova: Avaritia #1    Detective Comics #1    Static Shock #1    X-Men #17    
Action Comics #1 | Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1 | Batgirl #1
Casanova: Avaritia #1 | Detective Comics #1 | Static Shock #1 | X-Men #17

Action Comics #1 4 of 5 stars

Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1, cover by Rags Morales and Brad Anderson


Writer: Grant Morrison
Penciller: Rags Morales
Inker: Rick Bryant
Colourist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau

I’m very much not a Superman fan, which is a bit at odds with the fact that I have very strong opinions about the Superman character. I like the ideal of Superman and his role in the pantheon of heroes both inside his own universe and outside it. When it comes to reading about Superman himself however I find him so darned dull. I admire the boy scout, but I don’t want to hear about his day-to-day, you know?

Grant Morrison, though. There’s something magical about Grant Morrison and Superman. It’s not just that he gets the character on levels I’ve never even tried to consider (which he does) and it’s not just that he’s able to effortlessly balance the Man with the Super (which he does), it’s that he’s able to do all this while maintaining the archetypal feel of Superman and still make the story interesting.

This is where I think most writers trip up for me. They’re fixated on one aspect and play to that, so you either get the invincible hero against increasingly ridiculous odds with pre-ordained outcomes, or you get Superman walking around proselytizing for a year or so. I don’t blame anybody for that. I find it interesting (and more than a touch ironic) that the character who I’ve always viewed as the most simple and straightforward may in fact be the hardest one of all to write well. Batman’s labyrinth of complexities is a fertile field of ideas, but Superman to me is as flat and uninspiring as his beloved Kansas.

Grant Morrison, though.

Action Comics #1 takes us back in this new DC history, to a time that must be at least a year or two before the events of last week’s Justice League (JL itself being set “five years ago”). We’re introduced to young Superman and his big grudge against the rich and corrupt of Metropolis. It’s clear he’s been on the scene for a little while at least – he’s being hunted not by regular beat cops but the army – and things have escalated to the point where the army is seeking outside contractors to get the job done. It’s a pretty grim look at Superman and the world he’s in, but it accentuates two important things about him: 1) he’s not the starry-eyed idealist we used to know, and 2) yeah he so totally is. You can already see it in just a few pages, that spark is there. This is a Superman that will indeed become Earth’s greatest hero, he’s just going to do it one neighborhood at a time. I like that. I love it. There’s room for growth with this Superman. His powers are still forming. He can bleed, he can be hurt. He’s going to learn and make mistakes. Just this right here makes Superman more interesting to me than he has ever been.

Which isn’t to say that the issue is completely perfect. More than once it felt like Superman’s dialogue should’ve been coming out of Batman’s mouth, but they’re moments that pass quickly, and feel more like nitpicking than genuine complaints. Overall this was an exciting issue with a fresh take that managed to still hold true to the core of the character – exactly what a relaunch should feel like.

Guys, I have a Superman comic book on my pull list for the first time in my entire life. I have read a Superman comic and enjoyed it. Amazing.

 

Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1 4 of 5 stars

Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1

Atomic Robo: Ghost of Station X #1, cover by Scott Wegener


Writer: Brian Clevinger
Artist: Scott Wegener
Colourist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Jeff Powell

Atomic Robo is a title that I decided to pick up very quickly. I was searching for something a bit different to add to my list, and a friend recommended it. She sent me some pages as an example. They involved a dinosaur trying to buy a gun. I was in.

That was months and months ago though and I forgot all about it until I picked up my books for the week. I know that at the time I did a little bit of research on the title (read: Wiki’d it), but most everything I learned I’ve forgotten. I know that each storyline is largely self-contained, and that the title character – Atomic Robo – is an atomic robot. I think Tesla is involved somehow. That’s about it.

I considered revisiting the basic info before reading but you know, screw it. I got so many DC number ones this week it’ll actually be a nice change of pace to come at a new series with zero preconceived notions.

Here’s what I came away with.

Atomic Robo is a self-aware and wholly autonomous robot who – in what I’m sure is a whole ‘nother story – owns a tech company that is quite well regarded. He has surrounded himself with an inner circle of so-brilliant-they’re-crazy/so-crazy-they’re-brilliant people who seem to specialize in thinking in unusual ways. This is useful as there’s been a disaster in space, some astronauts need saving, and the only ones who stand a chance of reaching them in time is Robo & Crew. As they race to come up with a plan, somewhere in London a friend? colleague? employee? of Robo calls to say that an entire building has disappeared and while nobody seems to know exactly what was in it, they are quite positive it was very secret and important. Robo’s pretty busy right now so he assigns two guys who I’m pretty sure are indeed employees to check it out. They appear to have been stationed in a very very cold part of Norway as punishment for nearly destroying the entire universe. Oops. Then Robo gets into space but can’t find the astronauts and is hit with a satellite that blows up his ship and he’s falling back down to earth.

And all of that without knowing what the hell got us to this point and not having the single foggiest idea who anybody is that does not look like a large robot. That’s pretty awesome.

My ignorance serves pretty well here, as it lets me enjoy how effortlessly Brian Clevinger is telling this story. Without the help of any prior issues or “previously on” summary pages I was able to hop right into the story. I don’t know how a sentient robot came to run a company with a global (and extra-global) influence, but I don’t need to know. Well, outside of the awesomeness of a robot in a polo shirt running around saving people, because who doesn’t need to know how that happened?

I didn’t walk away from the issue getting much of a sense of Robo’s supporting cast outside of the truly insane would-be destroyers on their London adventure – which I am quite certain will be pivotal to the space thing not only because their B-plot got lots of page time but because I read the subtitle of the story. I don’t know their names, but I got a decent feel for them as a single entity, which was a bit more than everyone else got. That was probably my biggest critique of the issue, but that having been said this is like the sixth series by now I think? I don’t mind doing a little legwork.

While a little indistinct all the characters were charming enough, particularly Robo himself. The dialogue was thick but super smooth and easy to swallow, like a good milkshake. Scott Wegener’s art for the book is also fantastic, being just cartoony enough to serve the light feel of the title and all its absurd elements. A thoroughly entertaining read.

 

Batgirl #1 3 of 5 stars

Batgirl #1

Batgirl #1, cover by Adam Hughes


Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Ardian Syaf
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes
Colourist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

I’ve mentioned several times now how little I envy Gail Simone right now. It was clear from the beginning that the decisions DC made about the new Batgirl title would have the consequence of outshadowing the Batgirl title. Controversy spun out of it to such a degree that no matter what happens, somebody is going to be upset at best and personally insulted at worst.

I’m fortunate in how I can approach this book. Not only do I not hold any overt affection for Barbara Gordon (in that my relationship with the mainstream DCU is casual), I also don’t have any for the displaced Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, and I’m also not disabled. There’s a hell of a lot going on around this book that can’t help but colour the opinions of those closest to it; those who care about it the most are those hurt the most. Such a shame.

I stand on the outskirts of that storm. I wish that Barbara had remained as Oracle, but that hasn’t happened and I have the luxury of saying “oh well” and simply reading the story we have. That’s how I’m going to talk about it now.

I found a lot to like in Batgirl. I was quickly absorbed by Barbara’s return to superheroing; the thrill, the uncertainty. As is usual for Gail Simone, she can say so much with so little. Barbara’s “I did?”/”I completely did!” at learning she knocked out a bad guy with one punch sums up where she is right now. And where she is is going out vigilante-ing for the first time since the Joker shot her in The Killing Joke. So in case you were wondering, yeah that all happened. Barbara’s walking again thanks to “a miracle” that goes unexplained, but since “HOW IS BABS HEALED??” is like the question, I have every confidence that we’ll learn in time.

As the issue progresses, we see Barbara beginning her new life while still dealing with the scars of what came before. Does it all work? Not entirely. Her new roommate is practically a caricature for “free spirit” (and the “someone to have tea with” bit just made me go “:( Dinah”). The Big Bad for the issue, “The Mirror” comes across hokey as hell. And don’t get me wrong, Simone can do hokey, but without a Ragdoll/Deadpool-esque voice around to undercut the seriousness it begins to buckle under it’s own weight.

Then there’s the ending.

I like that Barbara is still suffering from the events of The Killing Joke. It gives her realism while acknowledging the serious impact of the Joker’s attack. I feel that Simone is genuinely trying to respect Barbara’s injuries and by extension those who identified with her through them, though the success of her efforts is not for me to judge. I especially liked that when confronted with a gun pointed at the same place she was shot, Barbara has a PTSD flash that leaves her unable to act in a crucial moment. These are good things for me.

Then the whole thing is ruined by the cop who was also in the room who starts screaming “MURDERER!” at Babs for her inaction while the actual murderer who did the actual murdering is still standing right there. What? No I mean what? It was so absurd that it completely ripped me out of the story, ruining the very intense place I’d been just one panel before and leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth. For a book that is going to be leaving sour tastes all over the place merely by existing, this seems an incomprehensible decision for the close of the issue. Barbara’s own thoughts of “What have I done?” would’ve been perfect, particularly for a story where the emotional beats are already internalized. Terrible, terrible decision.

Final panel aside, however, I really did enjoy this issue. I’m still not sold on liking Barbara as Batgirl more than I liked her as Oracle, but I what I saw was compelling enough for me to stick around and find out.

 

Casanova: Avaritia #1 2 of 5 stars

Casanova: Avaritia #1

Casanova: Avaritia #1, cover by Gabriel Bá


Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Gabriel Bá
Colourist: Cris Peter
Letterer: Dustin K. Harbin

I literally have no idea what I just read.

I picked up this title on a whim this week as well. “Another #1? Why the hell not.” Casanova came highly recommended by some people whose opinions I must now question on all things. Perhaps a little unfair. I didn’t hate it. To hate you must have at least a basic idea of what you are hating. I don’t have even the slightest idea about anything.

The issue opens with who I assume is our hero talking to a guy all wrapped up in bandages like the Invisible Man. They talk about cancer for a bit, then Hero shoots Bandage, and then an entire procession comes out of a church and they too are all Bandage People, including what appears to be Bandage Bishop. Hero shoots them all. All the while his eyes look like someone put electrical tape Xs on them. I still don’t know why; this vanishes in a few pages and is never again mentioned. Then he talks to the one Bandage Person left alive for a minute and I think maybe this dude left alive is himself from an alternate dimension? And then he kills the entire timeline in a burst of fire and demon tigers, and is next sitting naked in an office chair.

I am only 5% into this book.

I can’t help but think I missed something, and that something is “absolutely everything that came before”. That’s fair, you know. There are two series before this one, and I don’t expect the whole class to be held back just because I walked in late. It would, however, have been nice to come away with even the inkling of a desire to go find out more. Compare for a second with Atomic Robo above, another series I don’t know that’s starting a new chapter this week. Reading Robo made me feel like I was walking into a cool new bar I just discovered and I was invited to sit down, have a drink and get to know the place. Bar Casanova on the other hand greeted me with abrupt stony silence the second I walked in, glared at me for invading its space then turned its back and continued the conversation in-progress. A conversation that it’s now having in code to make sure only the people already there have any hope of following along.

Again, I’m the newbie, I expect to have to put in some work to catch up with everyone else, but Casanova had exactly zero interest in giving me a reason to ever want to. The main character was so mired in his misery that I couldn’t bring myself to care about what had him so upset, let alone give a damn as things kept getting worse. He did nothing but kill people and complain, and even his complaining was devoid of a hint that there was anything more to him. The only other characters we saw included a floating multi-eyed blobby shape that I think was a receptionist, Casanova’s bossy ogre of a father who I think I’m supposed to care has cancer but I don’t, and a green-skinned alien bombshell who seems to exist only so that Casanova can shag her and then have a “tender” moment where he complains some more.

All of this surrounded by multiple distinct and different dialogue boxes with no ability whatsoever to tell what they mean. The word balloons are easy enough and I think the white box with the black text is Casanova’s thoughts, but then what are the white boxes with the blue text, why do they appear to also be his thoughts, and can his father in fact hear them or were those responses coincidence? What about those red text boxes, who the fuck owns them? In 40 pages of story I find it hard to believe that someone couldn’t have taken ten seconds to make it clear who owned which words. A comic book has a pretty even storytelling share between words and pictures, so you’d think that keeping one of those parts clear would be pretty, you know, important.

Clearly not. And if the comic doesn’t care if I read it, why should I?

 

Detective Comics #1 1 of 5 stars

Detective Comics #1

Detective Comics #1, cover by Tony Salvador Daniel


Writer: Tony Salvador Daniel
Penciller: Tony Salvador Daniel
Inker: Ryan Winn
Colourist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

Since I’m using the relaunch to test drive a few DC titles, I figured, “What better time than now to finally get into Batman?” The character of Batman has always intrigued me. The sheer number of critically lauded stories attached to just this one guy is amazing. I’ve toyed time and again with starting to pick up the core titles but never do. Since my pull list was getting a major revamp anyway, I decided the time was now.

The time was so not now.

I don’t know how Detective Comics usually works, like what its theme is versus Batman, but this was about as generic a Batman story as I’ve ever read. And I have not read many. Batman vs. crooks, Batman vs. cops, Batman vs. Joker. There wasn’t a single moment that didn’t feel like I wasn’t reading a flat two-dimensional version of something pulled from something else far more interesting. This story committed the ultimate crime in comic books: it was dull. It was dull as a knitting symposium for the dead. I know it’s mid-afternoon and kinda cat nappy warm here by the window where I’m writing this, but I seriously thought “Good god, how much more of this do I have to get through?” while reading. I’m pretty sure boredom is not the emotion the Joker is supposed to elicit.

It’s only the first issue. I don’t know. I’ve only just put this on my list as a last minute addition, so I’ll give it until the end of this storyline. So many DCnU titles have a head start on you, Detective Comics. You’d better run to catch up.

 

Static Shock #1 3 of 5 stars

Static Shock #1

Static Shock #1, cover by Scott McDaniel with Guy Major


Writers: Scott McDaniel and John Rozum
Penciller: Scott McDaniel
Inkers: Jonathan Glapion and Le Beau Underwood
Colourist: Guy Major
Letterer: Dezi Sienty

Most of what I know about Static Shock comes from the commercials that used to play around the old X-Men cartoon in the 90s. That, and that he was the pride and joy of Dwayne McDuffie, of whom I’d been a casual fan since picking up Damage Control way way back when. I was pretty enthusiastic about this title and really looking forward to it, so it’s a bit of a shame to admit it didn’t go over quite how I’d hoped.

Static as a character reads very much like Spider-Man, which probably isn’t too far off from what they’re looking to capture. He’s got an energetic spirit that’s fully enjoying being a hero, as much for the pure sake of being a hero as for the good he can do. He’s still very young and DC could do worse than trying to make a grab for the youthful allure of Spider-Man; any kid can be Spider-Man, and any kid could be Static.

I enjoyed the pieces where Static was doing his hero thing, and I’d really love to see more interplay between him and his family, but the rest of the book drug a bit for me. The villains are immediately forgettable in that I literally cannot remember their names or anything else about them except for a Power Rangers-esque colour scheme thing; a shout out to early 90s FOX Kids? I’m not feeling a tremendous sense of danger, and I just sort of want the fighting to be over so I can watch Static fly around some more and banter with his sisters.

The art also didn’t hold up well for me. At times the lines looked like they were unraveling, and the faces just seemed like features pasted on in an approximate human face shape. I’m hoping it’s first issue jitters or some kind of rush job or something and that future issues come together better and feel a bit more tight.

It’s a decent start however, and the kind of book that could be a hidden gem to get younger readers more invested in the new DC Universe.

 

X-Men #17 2 of 5 stars

X-Men #17

X-Men #17, cover by Jorge Molina


Writer: Victor Gischler
Penciller: Jorge Molina
Inkers: Jorge Molina with Norman Lee
Colourist: Guru eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Continuing on from last time, a small handful of the X-Men and most of the FF have gone dimension hopping in search of Lee Forrester. They’ve instead run into a couple of warring tribes, several dinosaurs, and now an emperor – who I’m confident could have the “evil” prefix – with designs on conquering our dimension, plus their own ship is now all busted up and they can’t get home. All told, it’s a pretty packed day.

Continuing on from the previous issue is the feeling that this is just a straight adventure story. Even upping the odds to “stop the bad guys from invading” doesn’t feel more threatening than if your four-year old cousin said he was going to come conquer your living room. Everything here is pretty standard fare, even down to the positively Star Trekian division between the two tribes into the super-strong beefy types and the super-smart brainy types.

It’s becoming pretty clear that Victor Gischler is going to be very hit and miss for me. Last week I was able to brush off some bumps in the title, but this week some began to grate. There’s a decided lack of showing going on in this issue. Pixie tells us that she can’t teleport across the bridge, Emma tells us that something’s interfering with her powers. Emma even tells us that Sue’s been all bottled up because she’s so powerful, but we haven’t seen her do a single thing this issue except keep some bugs away. And I’m just going to go ahead and own my comic book nitpicking geekiness here, but come on – spraying tar all over Cyclops’s visor wouldn’t do shit to contain his optic beams unless it was ruby quartz-lined tar. Which I do not buy.

I also would like to formally lodge a complaint at only getting half a page of Reed and Nemsis snarking on each other because that was beautiful.

It’s essentially the same kind of pure adventure-style story that we got last week, but I think it got too bogged down in trying to be something more this week. This isn’t a story that really needs a whole lot of depth and intricacies woven in. That’s not working. X-Men. FF. Dinosaurs. Let’s just stick to what works.

  • Furrysaint

    Atomic Robo: Created by Tesla–who DIDN’T get his ass handed to him by Edison in this universe–and sole owner of the Tesladyne company.

    You REALLY need to get the first series. Because it has the best sound effect EVER: *DOOR!*