DC Comics New 52 COLLECTED Reviews – Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and Flash

Posted: September 10, 2012 in comic books, Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
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Let’s dive into the next batch,

Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Midas Touch

This was actually what I feared most when the reboot started taking shape and it became clear that some characters’ histories were essentially being jettisoned in favor of a movie-ready high concept pitch.

Green Arrow as a character is someone who benefits from having a long, entrenched history within the DC universe – his growth from a Batman knock-off to that of a social crusader; his friendship with Green Lantern; his hot-and-cold relationship with Black Canary; his complicated mentoring of Speedy/Arsenal; his Mike Grell urban-hunter period, etc.

These milestones greatly inform and enrich his character, so if you cut them out, you damn well better have something solid to replace them with.

Unfortunately, J.T. Krul managed none of that, instead sticking the newly en-young-ened Oliver Queen (who would now be way too young to have mentored the Roy Harper currently starring in Red Hood and the Outlaws, but nevermind that for now) in a status quo that probably sounded clever at the outset: Oliver is essentially Steve Jobs, globe-trotting manhunter. 

An orphan who runs a division of his family-owned Queen Industries – the division that apparently makes smartphones and (on the downlow) weapons for Green Arrow – but frequently shirks his responsibilities in order to do Green Arrow stuff more often. And he’s kind of a jerk, but not in the bloviating lefty way of old. Now it’s mostly a poor-little-rich-boy attitude.

Who does he fight? Well, in the first arc, it’s a superpowered fight club populated by utterly forgettable 90’s-edgy bad guys in tank tops, then a radioactive scientist who’s in love with his robot assassin. Why does he fight them? Because otherwise there’s no reason for this comic to exist. Oliver offers some handwaving “If we don’t, who will?” But that makes no damn sense as a motivation for anything other than a hobby.

So in essence, Green Arrow actually is everything people joke about Batman being: a rich asshole with an expensive hobby.

Krul bounced off the book after three pages, to be followed up by Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen, who do their best with the pretty inexplicable monster-scientist and robot-girl attack. Then they were gone in favor of Ann Nocenti, who apparently wrote a borderline nonsensical arc of her own before also leaving, to be replaced by someone else who doesn’t know what to do with this now completely surface-level character.

The Flash Vol. 1: Mob Rule

Less egregiously, The Flash reboot also ditched 98% of the character’s history (near as I can tell, what’s been kept are Barry Allen’s origin, his job as a CSI, his even-tempered Midwestern disposition, and it seems to be the same Captain Cold I remember, I guess), but…at least the art’s pretty, and the same creative team has stayed on for a whole year at this point, so at least there’s some sense of consistency.

Francis Manapul’s art is, in fact, so pretty, his page compositions so intricate and clever, that it took me the entire opening arc to realize I could not care less about anything that’s happening. Because the opening arc isn’t ABOUT THE FLASH. It’s about a new villain, an Old Friend Of The Hero’s ™ who has gained powers and gone bad.

At the end of the story, you learn virtually nothing new about Barry Allen (who continues to be far more interesting dead than alive), save that when he turns his speed powers to mental problem solving, he physically locks up considering all the possibilities (which is a nice wrinkle, but only an effective cliffhanger once).

It’s less aggressively mediocre than Green Arrow, but on another level it’s actually more offensive to me, as a lifelong Wally West fan, that that character’s 25 years as the star of this book have been cast aside to make way for a bland replacement. This opening arc makes zero compelling argument for why that was done.

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Blood

Azzarello’s first arc on Wonder Woman is solid, and there was a good chance it would fall flat on its face, since it’s built entirely on the Everything You Thought You Knew Was Wrong! ™ retcon that can kill enthusiasm almost immediately.

But the retcon (and I’ll spoil it here since I want to talk about its greater significance and hey, it’s been nine months since its initial publication) works to refocus a book that often has a hard time knowing what it’s about. By turning Wonder Woman into the child of Zeus and Hippolyta – thus incurring the wrath of Hera, along with the rest of the Amazonians – Wonder Woman gets:

1)      A new arch-villain in Hera

2)      A new “family”/supporting cast in the form of Zeus’s other bastard children (and the injured Hermes), and

3)      An “Us versus the gods” storytelling engine, a quest-style mission sending her around the globe to fight or negotiate with a pantheon of unpredictable deities (redesigned in some amazing ways by Cliff Chiang, whose visuals really help sell the whole thing).

All while keeping Diana the same recognizable character she’s always been: calm, determined, and confident in the face of adversity. This is really a perfect example of how to restart a book without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

But I’m a little irritated that the collection stops one issue before another controversial decision Azzarello made – to reveal that the Amazonians go on periodic sailor-rape missions to replenish their population.

A race of immortal warrior-women do this three times a century. To make babies. And somehow Wonder Woman didn’t know about that.

That shit is just dumb. But I guess I’ll have to wait for the next collection before I really have to judge it.

NEXT TIME: Batman Titles!

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Comments
  1. wwayne says:

    I agree that the New 52 version of Green Arrow destroyed the character. His distinguishing mark was his maturity: now he’s just a young hero like (almost) everyone else, from Spider Man to Superboy. I understand they had to link the comic book to the upcoming tv series, but they could have done that in a far smarter way: for example, they could have created a comic series narrating his early days as Green Arrow, as Marvel did with “X – Men: First Class.”
    As you pointed out, another thing that made Green Arrow great was his group of very interesting and well defined supporting characters: this implies that removing them from the series is another huge mistake DC made. Batman would be great even without Alfred, Robin, Commissioner Gordon and so on: Green Arrow needs “a little help from his friends” to be great.
    When you reboot a character, you can change everything but his spirit: DC didn’t follow this simple but essential rule, so they haven’t been faithful both to their tradition and to their public.
    I loved miss Nocenti’s run on Daredevil, so I was very excited when I heard she was going to write Green Arrow. I thought “She’s one of the very few writers who can fix up this mess.” I bought the 1st issue she wrote, and I think she did an incredibly bad job. The story is: 3 femmes fatales meet Oliver Queen and invite him at their home. Even the silliest superhero could easily understand it was a trap, but not Green Arrow: he shrugs his shoulders and flies with them. Guess what? Oliver ends up in chains! And the so-called cliffhanger is: will our hero get rid of the 3 femmes fatales? When I finished it, I thought that any high school student could have written a better story. Of course I won’t buy Green Arrow any more: it’s too painful to see how deep Oliver and miss Nocenti sank.
    A lot of readers must have thought the same thing, since Green Arrow’s sales are sinking very deep as well.
    Anyway, even if DC made some errors in the last year, I have been mostly satisfied with the New 52 line. Titles like Animal Man and Blue Beetle have been pure awesomeness from the very first issue, and some others DC recently launched, like Team 7, got off on the right foot, and this makes me turn a blind eye to the lows and flaws of DC’s reboot.
    Hope to read your thoughts about the Batman titles soon! : )

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    I was curious to see what Ann Nocenti could do as well – her Daredevil run was completely mental sometimes, and I’m always surprised it’s not more fondly remembered, particularly since it had to do the impossible by following “Born Again.”

    So yeah, it was pretty disappointing to hear just how lousy her run on GA has been, and from what I’ve read about her Catwoman #0 that came out last month, it’s not looking so hot over there either.

    And yes, there DEFINITELY are bright spots – Animal Man, Demon Knights, a few others that I’ll get to (none of which would’ve required a reboot to do, anyway) – I’m pretty sure it wasn’t worth the temporary attention-and-sales-boost (I’m told the sales numbers are back to pre-reboot levels) to toss out the entire back catalogue without even a hint of a plan.

    Thanks for reading, more reviews are on the way as the trades trickle out.

  3. wwayne says:

    Thank you as well for your reply! : )

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