Wednesday, September 7, 2011

DC Relaunch - Reviews of more #1's! - Batgirl, Justice League International, Action Comics, Animal Man and Stormwatch

It's Wednesday so that means it's time again for some fresh new DC Comics reviews. Last week I reviewed Justice League #1 which, although was fun and light-hearted, did disappoint me a bit. This week I picked up four more #1's from DC's massive relaunch going on all month which resets the entire universe at the first issue with a whole new continuity. These reviews for this week (and likely for the rest of the month) will be shorter than my Justice League review just 'cause there's more to do, and I do my best to avoid being long-winded (and often fail). Just like last week, these reviews are also posted over at - the best site out there for comics news, reviews, and discussion that I can find.

Batgirl #1

Confession time: this is the first issue of Batgirl I've read from start to finish and is the first time I've ever actually read Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. I remember being frustrated when first hearing that DC was taking Barbara out of her wheelchair and giving her back the mantle of Batgirl. Part of this is because I'm a very big advocate for individuals with disabilities in my real (a.k.a. not internet) life. I've always loved that Babs was a much bigger badass after her spinal chord injury than she ever could have been before it. I was also disappointed because Stephanie Brown, the latest - and blonde - Batgirl leading right up to the relaunch would be seemingly written out of continuity. My little sister has started to get into comics lately, and Stephanie was her favorite character. She was pissed, and I was sad that she was already losing a favorite after just getting into comics.

Now, how did Gail Simone do with the new-old Batgirl? Pretty well, actually. I actually preferred this to Justice League last week, although to be fair, I came in with zero expectations, and the story is a lot easier to handle than the big flagship title of the company. At it's core, Batgirl grabbed me with a new villain who carries a grudge and knows too much about those around him. The mystery sucked me in immediately, and has me excited to read next month's issue. I want to see where the story is going, and really, is there any better indicator of quality?

I also loved the final scene of the book in which Batgirl experiences an all-too human reaction that makes me genuinely feel for her. What's even better, it put me in her corner while putting her on the wrong side of the law. As if she weren't an underdog enough, Simone puts her in a bad spot in more than one way, and the best part is that evokes some very familiar - and welcomed - feelings I get when I think about the best Spider-Man stories. Not bad at all.

Story: 4 out of 5 stars
Art: 3 out of 5 stars

Justice League International #1

I've loved team books ever since getting into comics with the early nineties X-Men. There's something predictably fun and comforting about a good team that a solo title can't give you. JLI #1 was fantastic; I'm not going to bury the lead on this one.

While the issue started off slowly with lots of talking, the team comes together very quickly. As a long-time Marvel fan, I don't know a lot of these characters in either their personality traits or their actual powers. One thing that stood out to me was that Booster Gold (who I love as a result of the 52 maxiseries from a few years ago) assumes the mantle of leader of the JLI and knows about just as much about his teammates as I do. Of course he knows about Batman and Guy Gardner (the Green Lantern on the cover there to the right), but everyone else makes about as much sense to him as they do to me (a.k.a. a new reader to most of them). For instance, Rocket Red, the Russian member of this U.N. based version of the Justice League, looks like an Iron Man knock-off. He's a guy in a metal, robotic suit. Booster asks him to scan an area, which he does, but doesn't realize the limits of Red's sensors. Hilarity ensues, and I thought it was an incredibly real moment.

In a single issue, Jurgens builds the foundations of several interesting group dynamics. The aforementioned Russian hero Rocket Red and the badass Chinese hero August General in Iron but heads in an entertaining, if not stereotypical way. The character I know the least about, Godiva (who may or may not be actually completely new with the relaunch) plays against superhero typecasting and looks to possibly have just an inkling of a romantic will-they or won't-they relationship with Booster Gold. And then there's Batman's relationship with the team. I love that he's in this group as it really feels like the professional playing on an amateur team. I thought the little interaction between Bats and Booster while flying away to their first mission was much better written with better comedic timing than the Green Lantern - Batman interaction from Justice League #1. Great stuff, and definitely feels like a breath of fresh air with fresh takes on old characters.

Story: 5 out of 5 stars
Art: 4 out of 4 stars

Action Comics #1

Grant Morrison writing more Superman! Superman's a hero of the people who does almost more good in his day job as a muck-raking reporter than in his cape saving individuals! Lex Luthor is working with Lois Lane's dad!

It is my humble opinion that this should have been the first book published and released by DC for their new 52. I loved this characterization of Superman and Clark Kent and feel like comics is better off as a result of it. This is out there, in the modern age, and there's no way we won't be seeing more of these "early adventures" type stories for Super in the future. For everyone who complains about Superman being boring because he's invulnerable and the strongest thing there is, you need to read this issue.

I know I've already compared one hero to Spider-Man in this set of reviews, but I'm going to do it again. Never before have I seen Superman get so easily bruised up and beaten down. Never before have I read Superman expressing pain and discomfort so quickly and easily. These are minor things though, compared to the story itself. It's an origin story of Superman we've never read. It feels, in an intangible kind of way, a lot like Superman's version of Batman Year One. It's not at all in the same style, and where I love the art of B:YO, I was left less than thrilled by the uneven drawings of artist Rags Morales. In some panels he shines in both depictions of Lois and Superman, but others just feel clumsy and don't carry the same iconic qualities.

I'm really excited to see where the story goes, and the last page (a full-paged spread of a very unlikely image of Superman), actually made me raise my eyebrows a bit at how surprised I was by it. I'll take more Peter Parker Superman please.

Story: 5 out of 5 stars
Art: 3 out of 5 stars

Animal Man #1

Animal Man is one of those superheroes that became legendary as a result of Grant Morrison working his magic and taking the character in a completely new direction. Morrison's run is one of those collections I've always wanted to read but just haven't had the chance. I didn't want to miss out on this new story of Animal Man, and so here we are with another #1 with another revamped hero.

A-Man is a simple concept. Buddy Baker has the ability to take on aspects of pretty much every animal out there. That's it, that's what he does. On a deeper level, he also has a connection with animals all around him that puts Aquaman's ability to talk to fish to shame. He feels great empathy for animals and risks forging real bonds if staying too close to a single animal for too long.

More importantly, Buddy Baker is a family man. Unlike a lot of what we'll be seeing with DC's superheroes in the next few weeks, Buddy is in a late stage in his career as Animal Man. He's had his fun, he's started a youth pro-animal movement, and now he gets by as a result of his fame while still hopping into the (fantastically redesigned) Animal Man suit.

The art team on this book is the best of all the titles I've seen in the new DC 52. Yes, that includes Jim Lee's work on Justice League. There's something incredibly clean about their work that makes it pop off the page and not feel like a DC Comics book at all. The story pushes this up a notch from a pretty indie looking book to a real horror story. I didn't expect it, but this book gave me chills. Not a whole lot actually happened in the story, but every page felt deliberately planned and plotted so that the story as a whole gets across everything Lemire could have hoped to communicate. The result is a book that anyone could pick up and feel like they didn't waste their money or their time.

Story: 5 out of 5 stars
Art: 5 out of 5 stars

Stormwatch #1

To be my number one pick of the week's releases, all you had to do was tell me that Stormwatch would have Jenny Quantum as a team member. The Authority is one of my all-time favorite teams and books, and Stormwatch simply takes them and throws them in the DC Universe. If The Authority is not your thing (and in this instance, The Authority refers to ridiculously huge threats and the super-powered beings capable of stopping them), Stormwatch might still be right for you.

Where The Authority was outed and figures of the media as much as heroes for the world, Stormwatch returns to its Wildstorm roots making the group secret and deadly. This is basically how I wish Secret Avengers would have been handled from the beginning, and it works very well.

I like the team for its mix of DC characters (this is the coolest depiction of Martian Manhunter since Morrison's JLA) with Wildstorm characters and new characters. I've read that Cornell wanted to firmly plant Stormwatch into this new history of the DC Universe, and it really does feel that way. The mind wanders when thinking about all the events still in DC continuity where Stormwatch might have had a hand in seeing how things played out. For example, I can't wait to read about how they dealt with Green Lantern coming to Earth. That's their role - instead of focusing on just really big threats, they've narrowed in on defending the world from alien invasions. It's a great concept with pretty much infinite potential. The team feels big, but not too big. Cornell's built quite the huge world for himself, and I couldn't be more thrilled that he's gotten the responsibility to take over the team that Warren Ellis made me love.

Story: 5 out of 5 stars
Art: 3 out of 5 stars


  1. Just as an FYI, Godiva was one of the Global Guardians, back in the day.

  2. Sounds like some good work from DC. May have to grab some of these once they hit TP.

  3. @wqrobb Liked her lot from what little we saw of her. Cool to see that she was already out there.


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