TRUE BELIEVERS REVIEWS Returns with Reviews of DC New 52 Titles!

27 Sep
Cover art for Justice League: Generation Lost ...

Justice League: Generation Lost featured Aaron Lopresti's previous work on the JLI. (Image via Wikipedia)

Hey folks, Mike here – Chris Lemmerman at True Believers Reviews has taken a look at several of the DC New 52 titles, including some that I either haven’t had a chance to read, or haven’t wanted to read – so I’m glad he can share his take on them with us! As usual, click on the links for the full reviews – and give us your comments! What did you like, or love, or hate about the New 52 so far? (And check out some True Believers Reviews for Marvel’s Spider-Island here!)

Justice League #1: [Geoff] Johns captures both of the main characters essences very well in this first issue. Whilst some have complained that his Batman interpretation is too much of a jerk, he comes across well here…

…Supes doesn’t appear until late in the game, but you can already tell that he is slightly different here, younger and more cocky, challenging the pair to a fight before giving them time to speak to him. This is an interesting take on Clark, and not one I have much like for, but given that he appears on only a few pages, I think it’s a bit early to judge.

It is clear why [Jim Lee] was chosen to pencil the New 52’s flagship book, since he is at the top of his game.

There does feel like there’s something missing to really make this a standout issue, but as a starting point, you could do a lot worse. There’s a good mix of fisticuffs and (re)introductions to the characters, and plenty to have you coming back for more. This is a solid start, and I’m very interested to see where we go from here; hopefully all the new readers DC picked up with the relaunch are along for the ride with me.  7/10

Animal Man #1: Right from the get-go, Jeff Lemire wants to get Animal Man’s differences to the other heroes of the DC Universe right to the fore. The first page of the book, instead of being superhero action, is instead an interview with Buddy (Animal Man himself) in a magazine that sets up what he has been doing in recent years. It’s a fun way to introduce us to the character without huge amounts of exposition, and segues into the story on the following page. The remainder of the first half of the book then follows the normal superhero formula so that we get a feel for Buddy’s powers and the roles that his various family members and friends play in his life.

Of the four books I read this week, Animal Man was the most surprising and the most enjoyable. It lulls you into a false sense of security with some standard superhero fare before doing a complete 180 degree spin in the latter half of the book that will have you begging DC to bring out the next issue to find out what’s happening next. A very impressive debut issue indeed.  10/10

Green Arrow #1: [J.T.] Krul has more freedom with the relaunch, giving Ollie his own direction separate to anything else, and it feels much fresher as a result. This issue establishes all of Green Arrow’s new supporting cast, from his tech buddies to his corporate rivals and easily shows the reader who Oliver is and where he’s heading as a character … it’s been a while since Ollie has had a solid supporting cast … and it makes a nice change.

The rest of the issue gives Ollie a good workout against some drugged up supervillains that feels a bit like a James Bond film, with a bow and arrow. This gives the reader some time in Oliver’s head so we can see how he fights, as well as showing us the extent of his ingenuity and how despite being powerless, he’s anything but helpless.  The use of gadgets and a boat chase increases the James Bond-esque action sequences, and it’s not something I’ve seen in comic books for a while, so this fresh take on the character is interesting.

It’s solid superhero fare that doesn’t disappoint, even if it feels a bit lacklustre for a first issue debut… This isn’t a bad issue of Green Arrow, especially from Krul, but it feels like there’s something missing. It could be that after reading Animal Man I felt like I needed a last minute plot twist to make me happy, but everything here plays out the way you expect, and it’s almost predictable, which is a shame. It’s still a solid debut issue, but there’s something not quite there yet. I’m definitely coming back for the next issue, and on reflection enjoyed the issue more than I initially thought, but I’m hoping that Krul ups his game for the next few issues and throws a few curve balls.  5/10

Justice League International #1: Whilst this new incarnation of the JLI isn’t up to the same level as its predecessor, it doesn’t do badly for a debut issue… The issue opens with the idea of the JLI being put to the UN Security Cabinet, and then the team is selected before being assembled and heading off on their first mission, with a small scene at the end in which the cliffhanger is established…

We don’t get to see very much of any of the characters, and this promising cast includes characters both familiar to JLI fans like Fire and Ice, and newcomers like August General in Iron and Godiva, doesn’t get a chance to shine at all. Booster Gold and Batman get the most screen time, and some characters like Vixen barely get a line throughout the book. It feels like an issue and a half stuffed into one, and it hurts the overall presentation of the debut.

Aaron Lopresti is a great choice for art duties on this book. He already proved that he can handle the various team members with his work on Justice League: Generation Lost, and he transfers this skill to the new team easily.

As a first issue, there’s a bit of a pacing problem, but for the most part the book is a decent start that won me over with its bold storytelling choices (like not having any team members for most of the book) and snappy dialogue, what little there was. There’s a lot of work to do to make this stand up against its contemporaries, but for its flaws, this isn’t a bad debut.  5.5/10

Swamp Thing #1: From the word “go”, it is very clear that this isn’t going to be a typical DC book, nor is it a typical Swamp Thing story given the history of the character. Indeed, there’s not very much Swamp Thing here at all; instead, Alec Holland is front and centre, narrating the story and catching us up on what he’s been doing…

Meanwhile, something sinister is coming, and a few pages are devoted to a chilling sequence that will disturb a few readers without a doubt. This is very much a calm before the storm issue, but there’s still plenty here to get readers going.

The final few pages are exceptionally powerful, and the last two sentences sent tingles down my spine; that is the power that Snyder has put behind this book. The best part is, despite 22 pages of Swamp Thing, we’re still very much in the dark about everything that’s going on, but instead of feeling lost, we’re scrabbling for answers…

Swamp Thing is in good hands from this first issue. Snyder understands how he wants to move Alec Holland through this story, and manages to turn exposition into a compelling story whilst still boiling away some smaller subplots that will have devastating effects later on. Paquette is developing his own style whilst still staying true to everything that came before. Pairing the two together gives you this – Swamp Thing is here to stay, and he deserves a place on your pull list.  9/10

Green Lantern #1: This issue could technically be numbered Green Lantern #68, since a grand total of nothing has changed as a result of Flashpoint to this title, or any of the other Lantern books, as far as I can tell… Sinestro is now the main Green Lantern in Sector 2814, and Hal Jordan has been resigned to returning to his life as a normal human being. Of course, neither is happy with their new lot in life, but are trying to make the best of it. This leads to some fantastically funny scenes in which Hal deals with the fact that he hasn’t been home in months, and some clashing with on-again/off-again girlfriend Carol Ferris, whilst Sinestro does some reconnaissance on his homeworld of Korugar.

Geoff Johns has been writing these characters for over 6 years now, and he has their voices exactly right. Hal is completely out of his element when trying to readjust to his life on Earth, but still retains some of his old Green Lantern instincts. Carol, hoping against all hope, thinks that she might finally be able to get somewhere with Hal, whilst Sinestro is calculating and constantly trying to save the universe…his way. These characters are easy to enjoy, and play off each other well. The contrast between the mundane Earth scenes and the cosmic powered Sinestro scenes is well used, and was missing from the last few arcs of Green Lantern before the relaunch, making a welcome return here.

I think, for the most part, it is an accessible issue. Whilst there are certain things that won’t make any sense to new readers, most of the book makes sense on its own, and any important plot points that are vital to understand the immediate story are explained fairly well… On the whole, Green Lantern is an accessible new series that will impress new readers and keep its avid followers happy.  7/10

Demon Knights #1: Demon Knights was the New 52 title that I was anticipating the most. Demon Knights is a fantasy tale set in medieval times, featuring some of your favourite DC characters as well as some all new creations. In this issue, we are introduced to all of the Demon Knights, with a little insight into who and what they are, and how they all come together. There are seven in total, and it is clear from the very fleeting glimpses of some of them that this will be an eclectic band of characters that anyone will be able to look at and pick a favourite.

We are also introduced to their setting, and the first major antagonists they will face, the Questing Queen and Mordru. They are set up as devious and scheming, with a side of twisted nobility through a scene involving a demonic exploding baby (yes, really) and the cliffhanger that they set up has all the punch and hook that you would want from the final page of an issue 1. Without spoiling it, let’s just say that you’ll want to come back for issue 2 just to see how they managed that, not saying anything about the rest of the quality of the issue.

The action feels like it has stepped right out of a Dragon Age video game, or something similar, and the fantasy setting works wonders for the narrative. Anyone, new reader or old can pick this issue up and be at the same place by the end of the issue.

The artwork, from Diogenes Neves, couldn’t have been more suitable. Everything on the artistic side of the book is excellently applied, from Neves’ pencils to the bold colouring that gives the issue an almost storybook feel that exudes the fantasy atmosphere that suits it perfectly. Even the lettering is well done, with grey tones used to indicate whispers.

It is well crafted on both the narrative and artistic sides of things, and comes together to form a book that anyone can easily pick up and enjoy. It is funny, engaging and thoroughly unpredictable.  10/10

Superboy #1: Of all the DC Relaunch titles I’ve read so far, this is the most altered from the pre-Flashpoint storyline. Whether everything that went before is still there, or if this is a completely new start isn’t exactly clear, but for now, Conner is the “property” of Project NOWHERE, a creepy science organisation that is experimenting on him for their own nefarious purposes, as you’d expect. After a disastrous lab accident, Superboy is placed into Virtual Reality, where we experience a day in his “life” before he is requisitioned by another shadowy figure to deal with a certain group of individuals that Scott Lobdell is also writing.

I’m still divided on what I thought of this title. The premise is intriguing, and there’s a lot of questions that I’d like to see answered. At some points however, the story gets clogged with too much dialogue for its own good, and it detracts from what’s actually going on. The supporting cast of “Red” and Rose Wilson are compelling characters, and the sinister Templar seems like someone I’d be interested to see more of, but there’s so much babble in some of the pages that their inherent characters get a bit lost. There’s also a subplot involving Lois Lane that gives us two more text-bloated pages. I’ve heard of a text-dump, but some of this is a little ridiculous.

It’s not all bad, however. The Virtual Reality section of the book is cleverly done, and even though Superboy can see through it, he plays along and it gives us (as well as the scientists of NOWHERE) a sense of his character. There’s some fun interactions and chuckle-worthy dialogue between Rose and Superboy that makes me think once Conner gets out of NOWHERE, we’d be in for more of a full story rather than exposition that doesn’t really tell us much. It’s a case of potential buried under blabber.

There are excellent bits of storytelling here, shining out through a wall of text that doesn’t really mean very much, and whilst it may be a bit off-putting, I have a feeling that readers who stick with the title will be rewarded. This is an easy jump on point for new readers, but older readers may feel alienated by the fact that Conner is virtually unrecognisable from his previous incarnation. R.B Silva isn’t given free rein to shine, but like Lobdell, he has potential that shines through in a few instances.  5.5/10

Red Lanterns #1: During the DC meetings around the New 52, I’m sure there was at least once when they thought “What kind of title will make us money, even if it’s a little unnecessary?” One of the results of this kind of thinking is the newest in the Green Lantern line of books, Red Lanterns, which follows the exploits of Atrocitus and his Corps of raging monsters.

Unlike Green Lantern before it, this book doesn’t have quite as much backstory to worry about. After an amusing beginning, the book segues into a narrative about the purpose of Atrocitus and the Red Lantern Corps, and then looks forward to the future. Most of the book is spent in Atrocitus’ company as he rediscovers his place in the universe. You would think that all of this introspection would be off-putting, but Atrocitus’ journey of self-discovery is intriguing both for a new reader and an existing one. His revelation about where he should focus his energies is a clever set-up for the basis of the rest of the series, even if it does take a little while to get there, and it feels like a natural progression for his character if you’ve followed him from Green Lantern’s pages. This is supplanted by some flashbacks to his previous life, where we learn more about him in 2 pages than we have in 20 issues of Green Lantern, which will help new readers also.

The main problem with the title is that it ends very suddenly; Atrocitus realises what to do, and then the issue ends with a little rumbling of civil war. The fact that the other Red Lanterns are unable to form coherent sentences due to their rage means that any time the action moves away from Atrocitus, like this final page, just seems confusing. The intention of Bleez and the other Red Lanterns on the final page could be completely different to what I think is going to happen, mainly because it’s unclear what’s meant to be going on. A team book where the only characters who are able to communicate with the reader are the main character and their cat could make for difficult reading.

Surprisingly, Ed Benes turns out a stellar artistic performance on this issue. His previous work never sat very well with me, yet putting his style onto space aliens and napalm vomiting kitties works wonders.

Red Lanterns has potential, this much is true. Of all the Lantern Corps to get their own ongoing series, they are the most deserving. Ed Benes’ art style lends itself to aliens easily. This is a fairly impressive start that I’ll be following for a while yet.  6.5/10

Readers: what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

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5 Responses to “TRUE BELIEVERS REVIEWS Returns with Reviews of DC New 52 Titles!”

  1. The Hook October 24, 2011 at 10:42 #

    Super share!

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