The DC New 52 Reviews: Blackhawks, Justice League Dark, The Flash

Posted: October 2, 2011 in Threat Quality

Regular comics readers talk about “event fatigue” a lot – it’s when there are so many “summer blockbuster”-type crossovers that it simply becomes exhausting mustering up any enthusiasm for them.

Of course, despite the fact that everyone complains about it, the sales are always highest during these periods, so Marvel and DC can be forgiven for not giving a shit about what you say you don’t want. (See: Everyone who said they were going to quit Spider-Man after he sold his soul to the Marvel Cosmic Equivalent of the devil.)

This New 52 deal is the first time I’ve spent both attention AND money on event comics, and 13 issues later, I’m happy to be done with it to get back to my normal routine of waiting for collections and getting full stories I can lend to my friends.

Here’s the last three books I bought, and a few reasons why I didn’t buy a few books, which might be relevant to, say, Nielson pollsters (who should BE PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS, DAMMIT). Let’s start with…

Justice League Dark  

Of all the new books, this was the one I was most nervous about. I liked the idea of a magic-focused JL both for bringing a lot of Vertigo exiles like John Constantine and Shade, the Changing Man back into the DC Universe fold, and for acknowledging the in-story reason that when Superman’s major non-Kryptonite vulnerability is magic (for whatever reason), you should probably have a specialist team for just such an event.

And for those reasons, it works. It specifically shows the Justice League approaching a mystical hazard and getting its ass handed to it, makes the threat pretty fricking creepy (Superman gets cut by a whirlwind of teeth), and does some legwork to establish who will be joining the team.

I’ve seen some reviews complaining about the art, but personally I like it – Mikel Janin has a Gene Ha style of spooky realism that is exactly right for the book, and I think in a few issues, it’ll gel a little better.

The only problem here is the pacing, in that it’s clearly structured for a collected edition (a broad problem for the line so far), to the extent that not a lot actually happens. We get to see the threat, and we’re introduced to the magical anti-heroes who will join to combat it, but nobody really DOES anything in this issue. Example: Constantine – the most recognizable member of the team (literally, since Zatanna’s signature look has been redesigned into blandness), falls from the sky into a T-shirt stand and that’s it.

So it barely works, but it’s one I’ll pay attention to. And for anyone complaining about the title: seriously guys, nobody’s actually going to refer to the team that way. Trust me. (And if they do, we can all scream into a pillow together.)

Blackhawks

This was a wildcard purchase for me. I wanted to see how they took the old WWII era concept and updated it. I was hoping they’d essentially just recast it as “G.I. Joe in the DC Universe.” And on the plus side, that’s exactly what they did, down to the obvious nicknames and exotic vehicles.

Then I realized I didn’t actually have any interest in reading a G.I. Joe comic – or else I’d already be reading G.I. Joe comics. But that’s my problem, not DC’s, and hopefully they can lure in some readers that way all the same.

And as far as first-issue introductions go, this one works pretty well – we see the team on a mission, get to know the basic quirks of each member, the looming problem they’ll be facing and its effects on one of them.

We also get to see another dumb result of suspension of disbelief: This super-secret UN organization is supposed to operate in super-secret. So…they probably shouldn’t have their logo plastered over every vehicle, for anyone to see, take a picture of and do a Google search. Which is exactly what happens, and yet everyone acts surprised.

The only real problem here is a temporary one: the art’s pretty terrible. Graham Nolan – who does old-school work on daily strips like The Phantom and Rex Morgan, MD – does layouts for Ken Lashley, a 90’s-style artist. And the styles clash really, really hard. Again, it’s a temporary problem, since there’s already fill-in artists for the next two issues, so maybe there’ll be a more suitable style in place soon.

The Flash

I’ve left books where sub-par art crippled the writing, but it’s rare that great art has made me happy to read only serviceable writing. But here we are with The Flash, which looks like Bill Peet started doing superheroes based on cues from Will Eisner and Jim Steranko, and it’s goddamn gorgeous.

I’m actually not ragging on the writing that much – it works as a perfect first issue. It starts with an exciting action sequence that showcases the hero’s abilities and factors into the plot later, establishes the hero’s status quo, offers a solid (and actually pretty quirky) cliffhanger to bring you back for the next issue, and overall gives the reader a good idea of what kind of book they can look forward to each and every month.

And if Flash #1 sells the book as anything, it’s this: The Flash protects his city with clever uses of super-speed, while his alter-ego, police scientist and well-adjusted nerd Barry Allen tries to juggle his personal and professional lives, as well as the attentions of two women, one of whom could give Lois Lane a run for her money.

(As someone else pointed out, they made previously-stodgy Barry Allen fun again by basically making him Wally West, the Flash everyone liked for the last 25 years.)

The story’s not reinventing the wheel, but it’s been a long time since anyone really thought about what super-speed looks like visually, and I definitely want to see more of Francis Manapul’s ideas.

What I Didn’t Buy

All-Star Western features bounty hunter Jonah Hex (of the god-awful movie that you shouldn’t judge the character on, please) moseying over to 1880’s Gotham City and teaming with Jeremiah Arkham (of Arkham Asylum fame) to hunt bad guys. Which is a great concept. But I already know the creative team will do just fine, since Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have been writing the solo Hex book for like six straight years and it’s always been good. So, no need for me to investigate.

Meanwhile, reviewers have been oddly quiet about Superman #1, which sports the new costume in action, a new status quo for Clark, and hey, we even get to meet Lois’s new boyfriend in the most skeevy fashion possible. People should be more interested, but none of the major reviewing sites tossed one up for this book. Why?

I’d imagine it’s out of respect for industry vet George Perez, who somehow thought that showcasing journalistic dynamo Clark’s writing with lines like, “The fire creature pointed at the Man of Steel, its language still a Tower of Babel of indecypherability” (which spellcheck is telling me is not a word, actually) would sell him as a gifted word-painter.

Seriously, you go ahead and ask this guy how it feels to be "nobody's favorite superhero." I dare you.

And finally, I’m actively annoyed at Geoff Johns’ insistence at shoving the idea that Aquaman’s a joke into the actual plot of Aquaman #1. It’s stupid. Out here in the real world, yes, we’ve watched SuperFriends, and we’ve seen that delightful Cartoon Network ad where Aquaman dances his butt off, but within the DC universe of the last 20 years or so, Aquaman has never been someone the general populace has ever chuckled at.

In fact, I imagine they’d be goddamn terrified of him. So…shaddup, Johns.

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Comments
  1. braak says:

    Also, does the Enchantress look an awful lot like Diane Farr, or is that just something I am imagining?

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    Now that you mention it, Enchantress looks an AWFUL lot like Diane Farr.

  3. braak says:

    My favorite part about Justice League: Darque, is John Constantine’s whole part:

    POP! “Don’t mind me everyone I am in this comic tooooooooo!” CRASH.

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