The DC’s New 52 Reviews: Frankenstein, Demon Knights and Animal Man
I’ve been hoping there’d be three new DC books each week to entice me, but then I saw the preview for Grifter.
I think I’m getting the same feeling readers in the 50’s might have gotten when they picked up the new Hawkman and realized it wasn’t a reincarnated prince/archeologist, but an alien space-cop.
In other words, DC clearly liked the NAME “Grifter,” and the basic look (mask and guns), but decided to shuck everything about the character (mercenary with black-ops history and mental powers, in a secret war with alien conquerors) in favor of making Sawyer from Lost into a DC Comic. Which isn’t really something I was interested in reading.
Holy crap is Animal Man good.
It is, in fact, what I was hoping for with the reboot in general – a fresh spotlight on a character that hasn’t reached its potential, that uses what was great about the old stuff but is very new-reader-friendly.
This is a superhero-horror comic whose hero is a very well-adjusted, friendly family-man. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Animal Man is just the title – the actual stars of the book are the entire Baker family. And if traditional superheroics make up one part of the book (and they should, since Animal Man has a really neat power set), then the other part is made of some really creepy supernatural elements that pose an interesting threat to immediately likeable characters.
AM’s Jeff Lemire is a writer I’m now going to pay attention to, since his Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. was also a blast. Full of fun-crazy sci-fi ideas (the location of S.H.A.D.E.’s new headquarters), hilarious turns (the new body of the shape-shifting Father Time) and Frankenstein’s place on the team of Creature Commandoes as the straight man.
The book sets up the status quo quickly before moving into balls-out action, and while the art is not going to be for all tastes (it’s a bit scratchy and muddled in parts), I liked its loose, not-quite-handsome approach as befitting a team of monsters battling a bunch of bigger, weirder monsters.
The only mild disappointment was the thematic brother of StormWatch, Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights. And again, it felt…not quite there. It was easy enough to follow, introduced its cast of medieval heroes (Etrigan the Demon, Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage and “Sir” Ystin, the Shining Knight) with a little more wit than StormWatch did, but at the end it was just “disparate cast members meet up in a tavern, with the actual “story” to be set up next issue.
In fact, it feels for all the world like the first couple of minutes of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, as I understand them.
Notes on the Buying Experience:
My interest in Frankenstein and Demon Knights is couched in my fondness for Grant Morrison’s Seven
Soldiers books where Frank, S.H.A.D.E. and Ystin were big players. And overlapping is my interest for previous creators like Cornell, Morrison and Gail Simone.
Which is all to say, if I were coming into these selections cold, without any prior knowledge of the characters or creators, I’m curious which ones would’ve enticed me most.
Batman & Robin, most likely, and maybe Batwoman, based on the sheer beauty of J.H. Williams’ art, but what would a new reader make of the rage-powered aliens in Red Lanterns? Or Legion Lost, which sounds a lot like a spin-off of a book that hasn’t come out yet?