Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DC Relaunch Week 4 - Birds of Prey, Nightwing, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batman

It's Wednesday! More reviews of DC #1's! This week has probably the most middling excitement for. Last week had Batwoman and the week before had Action Comics and Animal Man, but this week, while I'm exciting for the titles I bought, none really stand out as a truly "event" of a release. Still, let's see how the five titles I picked up ended performing. As always, these reviews are also posted over at iFanboy.

Birds of Prey #1

I wasn't sure what to expect for Birds of Prey (BoP). It hasn't ever been a title I've been interested in and wasn't going to be on my list to buy for the relaunch. Still, the preview pages I saw online really grabbed me, and there's something about the costume redesign of Black Canary that really spoke to me. The new costumes have been very hit or miss, but one of the things that I really liked about BoP were both Black Canary's and Starling's costumes.

Like I said, I don't know a whole lot about the original BoP. I know that Barbara Gordon as Oracle was always the Professor X of the team and that it was made up of female superheroes, but beyond that, I never really knew the mission of the team or even the tone of their stories. The new BoP presents a budding team of female bad asses who work street-level conspiracies and crime. In this first issue, we're only introduced to Black Canary (the blonde on the cover) and Starling (the corset-wearing superheroine in the center). I really adore the little bits of relationship we get between these two characters.

The art (by Jesus Saiz) is clean and the action looks amazing. Both of the female stars look like they could easily kick Batman's ass while laughing about it the whole time. They both look very distinct, and Saiz makes their personalities shine through his art. It's a very exciting book to look at, and even the quieter scenes have a quick pace that makes it feel like an action movie. Unfortunately, it does end up feeling like a quick read, and I could see an argument that you don't really get your money's worth. However, the story is tight and complete (especially for being a #1) while opening up a whole world of story possibilities. On a side note, we do get two pages where Barbara Gordon makes an appearance, and I'm more intrigued and interested by this depiction of the character than I was with the entire issue of Batgirl #1. I'm excited to see how she will continue to interact with the team she originally founded and would be more than happy if this was her only corner of the DC universe and she didn't have to carry her own book from month-to-month.

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

Nightwing #1

I've always liked Dick Grayson as a comic book character. Nightwing is another character where the costume design draws me in. He's like Batman, but capeless and wearing a domino mask instead of a cowl. He's probably one of the best-developed characters since his first career as Robin way back when. I rather enjoyed his recent turn as Batman. In this new series, we see Dick returning to his Nightwing persona, and this time he is firmly tied to the city of Gotham. Really, in the relaunch, Gotham is as much a character in the book as Dick, and it's not a really nice place to be.

I like the new direction for the character. Dick has decided to take on the worst mundane villains and crime of Gotham by living amongst it. It's a nice contrast to his character. Dick is the anti-Bruce Wayne in that he's cheerful and chooses to see the nice things in life when he can. Whereas Bruce lives in a swanky nice estate apart from the worst aspects of the city, Dick lives in the thick of it. It's a very smart move and direction for the character.

While the concept for the new direction is great, the story itself feels lacking. It doesn't appear to have a real strong conflict, and the main villain is bland and boring. I wish he had something unique or interesting about his design or character, but the basic premise of his character isn't all that intriguing and just doesn't hook me. I think I'll be passing on this one from here on out, which is unfortunate, because I really wanted to like it.

Story: 2 out of 5 stars
Art: 3 out of 5 stars

Supergirl #1

After reading Superboy last week, I got really excited to read some more teenaged-Kryptonian stories, luckily, DC lined up an action-packed issue of Supergirl to feed my hunger. Ironically, although I loved this issue, it's pretty much as far removed as possible from last week's Superboy. The issue is essentially one gigantic fight sequence with a very enticing final page that makes me very excited for issue #2. It's an incredibly quick read and relies more on future superstar artist Mahmud Asrar to convey the awakening of Supergirl's powers and conscience on Earth. There are some huge panels in here with colors that pop, and I'm completely sold on Supergirl's new costume (of course, I've been really enjoying all these popped-collared designs since first seeing them).

Although the actual text is incredibly sparse, I really like the little glimpses we get into Supergirl's train of thought and how she is trying to make sense out of a reality that is completely alien to her. Supergirl uses the time-honored teenager hero tradition of trying to sort out the main character's thoughts while learning how not to be pummeled by giant robots.

I liked the little hints at her Kryptonian life we get throughout the issue. I'm intrigued to find out what she means when, at one point, she admits to herself that she shouldn't be wearing her "uniform" until she graduates, but doesn't mention what she's supposed to graduate from. This, combined with the fact that Superman's new costume is supposed to be some kind of traditional Kryptonian armor, has me really excited to find out more about the Superman family books and has me really excited for Superman #1 next week. I can't wait to see what her supporting cast of characters will eventually develop into, and more so, I really want to see how she would interact with Superboy and Superman. One would figure character this closely related would have a lot to say to one another, and I hope this book is a sign that the Superman family of characters may develop some lasting relationships that matter just as much as the Bat family has. Here's hoping for more of the same next month.

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

Wonder Woman #1

I've read a lot of WW while never having actually read a single issue of her solo series. She is perennially a second-tier character in a world where she is considered first tier. I'm familiar with her from time versions of the Justice League from Morrison's run on JLA to her key role in Kingdom Come to her characterization in the Justice League cartoon. I've always liked her because she's literally a bad ass Amazon, but to be honest, I've never really felt like there was much depth to her beyond being tough.

While reading this first issue of her new series, I found myself just dreading when I would be done with the issue and would have to wait a month for #2. Where I've been really excited to see the next issue of many of the books I've read from DC this month, WW is the only one to really give me that feeling. The story is thick with Greek myth which is a weak spot for me. I love ancient myth, and pretty much wherever it shows up is something I'm going to want to read. Writer Brain Azzarello uses the mythic aspects of the story to create an engaging narrative in which WW is able to be a true action hero. Much like in Birds of Prey, the female protagonist carries a great presence that shows off just how great a stable of female heroes DC has to offer. It really makes me think of what Marvel could possibly offer up in comparison, but I digress.

Cliff Chiang was the original draw for me. Whoever matched that man up to do the art for Wonder Woman deserves a medal. It's one of those fits of artist to character that just feels so satisfying to see. Chiang does not disappoint. In every frame she appears, Diana looks equal parts fierce and gorgeous. The monsters look nice and terrifying, and the gods, or half-gods (whatever) look very alien in a classic myth-y kind of way. One thing I don't talk about much is the coloring. Colorist Matthew Wilson did an amazing job to make the book look truly unique. The lush greens, reds, oranges, blues, and purples make Chiang's art pop off the page and creates a very Mediterranean flavor (whatever that means exactly) for the book of a pallet that's just off of the basic primary colors. It's vibrant and soothing at the same time.

While the story isn't full of mysteries and hooks like some of my other favorites from the New 52, the combination of story, art, and characterization of WW makes me want to just keep reading this book for ever. Everything clicked here, and I just loved it.

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

Batman #1

I think John Romita Jr. just got out-John Romita Jr.'ed. Artist Greg Capullo just nailed this book. That's the first thing I wanted to say. Next is that this book feels like it's on a scale with my all-time favorite comic - All-Star Superman. Writer Scott Snyder seems to seamlessly work with Capullo's classic art style to create a very iconic superhero tale. But let's go back to the art for a second. I've never read anything of Capullo's before, but much like R.B. Silva from last week's Superboy, I now want to get my hands on everything he's ever done. I don't think I've ever seen a depiction of Batman I've liked more than what weget in Batman #1. He's somehow both blocky and cartoony. It's like if John Romita Jr. and Chris Bachalo birthed a new form of artistic story telling. Batman looks like the type of character who would terrify his enemies and yet have a general appeal to children. I fell in love with his depiction of Batman (along with some great renditions of his rogues), but was really dazzled by his normal human faces. They're incredibly expressive, and both Bruce and Commissioner Gordon are great to look at.

Of course all the art in the world couldn't save a book if the story is no good. Luckily Snyder begins this new Batman series with several awe-inspiring set pieces that play off the contrast between Bruce Wayne's and Batman's lives really well. However, instead of completely separating the two, they're deeply intertwined while existing in very different worlds. Snyder does a great job of pulling those disparate threads together throughout the whole thing. A really easy way to pull me into a story is to introduce some great characters, and with #1, Snyder throws several very engaging personalities as us. He's great at dialog and, when combined with Capullo's facial expressions, the story jumps off the page.

Finally, there's one very specific moment almost exactly halfway through the book that had me full of smiles. I like solo heroes, but there's something about a family that faces all these trials together that will always get me. Father and son relationships have an even more powerful effect on me. I almost didn't expect to see a page like we do in here in any comic ever, so it was a very heart-warming moment that had me so excited to see where this book will continue to take this group of characters.

While I enjoyed Batman and Robin #1 last week, Batman #1 just feels so much more epic and iconic as a Batman story. It hits all the right notes and will likely be all the Batman I need from month to month. It's a fantastic starting or re-entry point into the world of Batman. It also just so happens to be my favorite book out of the entire relaunch so far.

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

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