Hey, the New 52 #2 issues are out today! Time flies when you’re recreating the universe, but here at the Sense of Right Alliance, we are still examining the premiere issues through the eyes of non-DC fans. If you haven’t already, please also check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this feature.
Also, check out that rad new banner, a joint effort between myself, the lovely Carla Monoxide, and I guess Cliff Chiang ought to get some credit too. I love it; I just wish I could figure out how to get rid of those stupid black borders!
Speaking of stupid things, here’s some shit about comix:
Red Hood does not like Gotham City. He says as much while catching up with sidekick Roy Harper on the “Island Paradise of St. Martinique” (where they go after blowing away all the guards at a Middle Eastern prison—more on that later): “Pffft. Gotham sucks. The psychopaths that live there deserve each other… Even the bad guys.” He’s echoing the conventional wisdom I’ve gathered from Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, and the movies: Gotham is lousy with corruption, and the villains are often the least of the city’s problems.
Trouble is, from this book, I can’t quite figure where Red Hood fits. The Caped Crusader connection is certainly referenced enough. Looking for an escape vehicle, Roy shoehorns, “Tell me you broke down and asked your old pal for keys to the Batmobile.” Back on St. Martinique, Hood talks about Dick Grayson trying to lock him up. Oh, and there’s an actual Batman symbol on the character’s uniform and as part of DC’s branding for the series.
So who is Red Hood? (Or in the words of the Poet Laureate DMX, “Where the Hood at?”) I gather, obviously, that he and Batman were associated. But “old pal” could also mean a familiar nemesis. Roy mentions that Hood often hangs out at the Gotham Opera House, which sounds a lot like a villainous lair. And why else would Dick “Robin” Grayson be against him? But wait! The use of the Batman symbol suggests an alliance, not an antagonism, with the better-known character. Right?
The fact that I can’t determine the basic position of a character within a relatively familiar universe means that Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 fails the primary mission of “The New 52.” I should be able to jump right in on the new adventures of old Red Hood. Instead, I’m just confused—especially the deeper I get into the comic.
But let’s start at the beginning. We cold-open on a full page of a battered prisoner sandwiched between two armored military dudes. “His name is Roy Harper,” Hood’s narration helpfully explains. “He’s an idiot.” Turns out that “he came to the Middle Eastern nation of Qurac to to help the people overthrow an evil dictator.” (That double “to” is not a mistake on my part; copyediting Red Hood is apparently not a priority over at DC Headquarters.) Now he’s imprisoned by the very people he tried to help. You know, in the not-at-all-allegorical “Qurac.”
Luckily, a kindly obese preacher is there to visit him. Guess what’s hidden inside his Bible? Roy’s bow! (Roy uses a bow.) And guess who the obese preacher is? Red Hood, dressed up Nutty Professor style! He un-holsters his handguns and starts firing. The pair promptly kill everyone in sight, even though they have no powers and are completely outnumbered.
On the way out, the guys encounter a bunch of tanks impervious to Roy’s skillful archery. They need help, and so we meet the remaining Outlaw: “Her name is Starfire. She’s not from around here. Specifically, she’s from a planet called Tamaran. Born a princess, raised a slave.” Thanks for the intro, Hood! Starfire has Human Torch-type powers in addition to a bangin’ body, and the tanks are light work. A job well done, the three head to the beach for some relaxation, gratuitous bikini panels (a full page and a half), and clumsy plot exposition.
While Hood—“Jason Todd” as a civilian—and Roy are in their lounge chairs talking about how hot Starfire is, an apparition suddenly appears behind them. “Be right back, Roy,” Hood says. With no further explanation, he walks out of frame to talk with the apparition in plain sight at the beach bar 20 feet away. Her name’s Essence, and she tells him that bodies have been found with missing organs and no incisions. “That can only mean…” Hood starts. “The Untitled,” Essence replies. I have no idea what’s going on at this point, but they seem pretty concerned.
Hood heads back to the group’s cabana, where he ignores the post-coital Roy and Starfire. (Starfire has totally done it with Hood, too, because love is not necessary for sex in Tamaranean culture. This whole subplot comes off as terribly pandering.) He just needs to grab his hood, which is a three-panel sequence.
Cut to: “Twelve hours later… The Well of the All Caste. Somewhere in the Himalayas.” It’s a big, bloody hall. Some stuff has gone down here. Hood cradles a dead woman: “I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you, Ducra.” A bedraggled horde surrounds him. “Finally. Someone to shoot,” he narrates, forgetting about all the Quracis he blasted recently.
And that’s our end. “To Be Explained,” the last page promises. Man, I hope so. If the opaque Gotham backstory didn’t trip me up, all this Untitled business sure did. Who are Ducra and the All Caste? What is Red Hood’s connection with them?
I’m sort of intrigued by these questions, but I’m more intrigued by this comic’s lousiness. Rebooting 52 series at once was clearly a stretch for DC; I assume that many properties, like this one, are already languishing with half-assed writing and art. That can’t please old fans, and for a casual reader like me, it reaffirms the prejudice that well-made comic books are hard to find. Optimistically, maybe the Red Hood character is valuable, and maybe his Batman association is confusing because it’s multifaceted and worth exploring. But after a dumb introduction like this, I won’t bother with a second issue.
Unlike Chris, I’ve read and enjoyed the many adventures of Jason Todd, both pre and post A Death in the Family. I loved Judd Winick’s reinvention of Jason as the Red Hood persona, and have generally enjoyed the character’s presence in Batman’s world since then. But, even with all that background knowledge, I still have no fucking clue what the hell is going on in this book. That’s because the book, or at least this first issue, is a piece of crap – and that’s before you even get to the Starfire stuff. On paper, it sounds awesome: Take two ex-sidekicks gone bad and stick ’em on a team together. But it’s executed so poorly and sloppily that I have no interest in reading what ought to be an interesting character study. Hopefully that changes, but I’m not holding my breath. As for Starfire, well, what can I say that could top this?
Chris A. writes and edits stuff in Berkeley, CA.
Read by Michelle Shirelle
As most of my friends know, I have always been disinterested in anything superhero related. Superhero comics? Meh. Cartoons? No thanks. Movies? Whatever (ok, maybe I DID see Spider-Man 1 and 2 and maybesortakinda liked them). I’m not sure why, maybe the fact that there seemed to be just too much history to catch up on. But whatever. Not important. So Mr. C. Derkz asked me to review an issue for this DC reboot thing and I figured it was time to stop being a wiener and said sure.
So I reviewed Supergirl. This is basically what happens: A meteor crashes into Earth, and inside that meteor is Supergirl. She crawls out of the meteor and is all, “What the fuck is going on?” She doesn’t know where she is or what happened. Big robot dudes that have been tracking the meteor come and attack her. She’s trying to fight them off and while doing so, she realizes she has some powers (super strength and crazy burning red eyes). At the end, Superman shows up and probably saves her from the robot men. The issue was 25% “what’s happening where am I who are these robot men why am I in this outfit is this a dream OMGWTH!?” and 75% “POW! &*%$@! Nnnnhh! SLAM BOOM!”
If I were that guy on NY1 that does movie reviews and rates the movies with apples, out of a possible 4 apples, I would give Supergirl 1 and a half apples. I guess there wasn’t much substance to the first issue; not much was really explained. I know that Zod is a bad man and that Supergirl will probably learn the ropes from Superman. I don’t know who the robot guys were working for. The comic was mostly fighting mixed with Supergirl trying to figure out what was going on. I am willing to bet that the 2nd issue is a lot better and explains more, so because of that I would probably read it. I guess DC’s experiment sorta worked. Yeah.
It’s weird that Michelle only gives this book 1 and a half apples, but then expresses interest in continuing with the series. But whatever, I’m chalking this one up as a win! Supergirl #1 was short. Like, really short. Like, “takes 5 minutes to read, max” short. And as Michelle hilariously expressed, the entire issue is pretty much one fight between a disoriented Kara and some big mecha things. In spite of that, however, I thought it was entertaining, intriguing, and one of the more new-reader-friendly books of the New 52. Michelle, who wouldn’t know a batarang from a boom tube, seemed to understand all there was to understand about this issue, so that makes this one a job well done.
Michelle lives in Queens, NY and enjoys adventures, cooking, sleeping, and cutting her hair way too often.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1
Read by Chris Fabulous
It’s been a long time since I’ve read any superhero comic books. Marvel Comics were the center of my life from ages 10-13, and I continued reading them on and off for the next ten years or so. When the “dark and gritty” revolution came in the early 1990s, I was at the age where it was easy to sell me the bill of goods that lots of violence and ladies with giant boobs was “mature”. As I grew up, the lack of depth in the “dark and gritty” material became glaringly obvious and I began reading fewer and fewer comics. Now I’m pretty much waiting for semi-yearly works of Charles Burns and Dan Clowes to come out. Otherwise, I stick to reading books about bands I like.
I was very intrigued at DC’s effort to bring in new readers, however. The chance to jump back into a world like that really appealed to me. I liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor, and I went into this with a real desire to like what I read. A real, misplaced, futile desire.
Carter Hall used to be Hawkman, but not anymore. It’s ancient history, so he takes his pickup out to the woods late at night, pours some booze onto what I’m assuming is his little Hawkman outfit, and somehow sets it ablaze by firing a gun at it. This is all accompanied by very surly (and cliché – “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.”) dialogue. After burning it, he buries it, but like a phoenix, it rises again. Literally, like a phoenix. It’s a big bird made of fire and it eats him, I guess.
Later Carter wakes up in the nude in his house, really sore and really confused. (We’ve all been there, right ladies?) A lot of clumsy and needless inner-voice comes to us explaining how sore and confused he is, and also how he’s bummed because he’s got to replace one of his windows that somehow got broken. Usually, I guess, this would be caused by him flying through it as Hawkman, but the Hawkman outfit isn’t in its usual place. (Right, ladies?!)
Then all of a sudden one of Carter’s coworkers shows up. They’re scientists that pull alien spaceships out of the ocean. This seems pretty ho-hum to them. I guess they live in a world where there are lots of alien spaceships down in the ocean to pull up, and they’re pretty nonplussed by it. The most important issue at hand is that Carter was supposed to be at work and now he’s in trouble. He’d better get to the office on the double. There’s some translation of an alien language that needs to be done. Carter’s coworker has very little faith that he’ll be able to do it, but fuck it, right?
When Carter gets to work it turns out it’s not just a spaceship, but an alien mummy that he’s got to check out. They’ve already taken a DNA sample to see what kind of mummy it is, but before they can do anything with it, it explodes out of the bottle they’ve got it in and splashes all over the face of some old guy. Basically, he didn’t wait long enough after he dropped his Cherry Coke on the floor to open it is what it looks like.
Then, before anybody can even get a paper towel, the Cherry Coke goop becomes sentient, takes humanoid form, starts multiplying, and killing everyone. But guess what?! Ever since the phoenix ate Carter, he can turn into Hawkman without putting on a special outfit! This transformation does not hinder his ability to speak in clichés, if you were wondering. “Want a piece of this?” he says. “Come and get it.”
The head honcho goo guy is named Morphicius. We learn this because it tells us so.
It also tells Hawkman how much it wants his nth metal. It’s not explained what that is, but I surmise that’s where Hawkman derives this ability to transform like he did.
The book ends in a cliffhanger, with Hawkman seemingly succumbing to Morphicius as he sucks him dry of precious, precious nth metal.
Despite really wanting to like this book, and get back into superhero comics in general, I can’t really do it. Not this way. It doesn’t suck me in. I don’t care what happens to Hawkman in the next issue. I can’t help but roll my eyes at the cheesy dialogue and the ham-fisted exposition. I can’t put my mind back in the place where a cool dude was someone who goes on a bender and insights things in the woods with nothing but a bottle of gin and a bullet from a gun. It’s not that it’s immature. I could go for immature, even campy. I just can’t stand something this silly that thinks it’s not.
It’s interesting how Chris draws a comparison to the 90’s Marvel comics of his youth because, yeah, many of the new DC books seem to be intentionally going for some sort of 90’s retro vibe, which is a gross shame. Aside from that, I have very little to say about this issue; I didn’t completely hate it, I didn’t love it, it was just sort of there. Maybe if I’d ever read any Hawkman stories before, I could have an opinion about this new portrayal of the character, but I haven’t and so this just went in one ear and out the other. One thing Chris is right on the money about is how corny the dialogue is, and for once I don’t mean that as a compliment. I AM MORPHICIUS!
Chris Fabulous just started a punk rock band called The Hellstroms.
BLUE BEETLE #1
Review by Diogo Silva
When I first cracked open Blue Beetle #1, I didn’t know what to expect. I never really read comics and most of my knowledge comes from movies, Heroclix, and hearing my friends talk about it. But I did use the Blue Beetle in a Heroclix battle once, and was interested in learning what this character really is like deep inside.
The first issue I encountered was following the action; I had to go back and reread and examine the frames closely to find out what was going on. The drawings are not my favorite, but they aren’t repulsive.
The “book” opens up with a prologue, of a faraway world being enslaved by the Reach, a race that is taking over worlds to consume their resources. At the front of the invading force is a “blue beetle,” supposedly a native of the planet who was transformed by the Reach.
We cut to another “beetle” traveling through space, and it’s seen by a Green Lantern. The Lantern tries to destroy it, and then it crashes onto Earth. Many centuries pass, and we cut to a high school kid playing soccer in the schoolyard.
Now here is where I was most surprised, as the main character is Hispanic and a lot of Spanish is mixed into the dialogue. They must be reaching for a specific crowd, or comics are more colorblind than I ever thought.
So the kid wants to go to this girl’s party. He really likes her, but his parents have big worries about him being at the girl’s house; seems like the girl’s parents are dangerous. Of course he goes anyway and is picked up by his friend in a low rider.
As they are driving to the girl’s house, they stumble upon a battle. Some baddies have found the “beetle” that crashed on Earth and are trying to get it from these other dudes who brought it in a backpack from Mexico.
The car is crushed by the baddies. The backpack somehow lands on our buddy’s lap and he takes off with it, so the villains go after him. A villain hits the backpack exactly where the “beetle” happens to be, which causes the insect to bury itself on the teen’s back, transforming him into the bluest beetlest guy.
I think I will read the wiki in a few months. I have a slight interest in finding out what happens, but not in paying attention.
I like Diogo’s comment about how comics are less colorblind than he thought – I guess DC’s initiative to add more diversity to their lineup is working! I’ve never really thought much about it before, but I guess the mainstream does see superheroes as a bunch of whitebread wasps running around (and, to be honest, rightfully so), so it makes me happy that DC has transcended this perception for at least one new reader. But on the heels of that, the embarrassingly stereotypical Spanglish dialogue must be a huge turn-off. And really, that’s about all that Blue Beetle #1 has to offer, to new and old readers alike. Khaji-Da.
Diogo Silva enjoys Heroclix and cooking delicious food, and may or may not know who The Jerkingtons are.
Read by Harry Jerkface
This book kicks off with a murder. By a garden hose. That’s pretty brutal. So, apparently, there’s a mysterious killer crossing names off of a list. One of those names happens to be Barbara Gordon. You’ll find out later that she’s Batgirl, the daughter of famed police commissioner Gordon. On the next page in fact.
This comic does a pretty good job of filling you in on the backstory. The splash page with the Batgirl swinging about smiling is pretty cool. Her red hair is striking with her purple cape; however, I think the choice of the coppery gold color for her armor was kinda tacky.
Once we make our way past the credits, it opens up on a scene where a gang of killers are terrorizing a family. They’re wearing some dollar store hollowed masks and stuff. It’s pretty creepy.
They have a scrapbook of their news clippings with them to show the people they rob and kill. They took their MO straight out of the movie The Jerk, randomly picking names of families from phonebooks. I wonder what Steve Martin would have to say about that?
Anyways, Batgirl crashes through the window and starts beating up on these dudes. She’s thinking through the fight as she’s pounding away on these creeps, which is a pretty Batman thing to do. Oh, now they’re threatening the hostages.
The Batgirl starts laughing all crazy and then batarangs the gun out of his hand. He charges her out the window, and she incapacitates all the dudes. She goes into this internal dialogue about how rusty she is and stuff… which brings us to a flashback of her getting shot in the spine by The Joker.
I guess she decided to be Batgirl after recovering from this crazy injury. She was wheelchair bound for 3 years and stuff. Now she’s relearning to live life not as a crimefighter. Which y’know, could be inspirational and a source of tension, but I’m finding I don’t really care. Hahahha. Her new roommate is making her unintentionally uncomfortable by remarking on her wheelchair setup in her van.
…And back to the faceless killer from the beginning of the book. Batgirl is using her dad’s connects as the police commissioner to stay up to date on the goings on of crime. Mirror has forced his way into the hospital, punching a nurse in the face, on his way up to take care of one of the murderers that Batgirl took out the other night. She has a batcycle. That’s kinda cool.
This Mirror dude has a cracked mirror mask . He’s just shooting and killing people left and right. He has something that he flashes the kid with and tells him to see his true face. Is this some Scarecrow-style tactic where the victims see their fears? Batgirl finally arrives on scene, and she chokes! He points the gun at where she got shot before and she FREAKS out. The kid gets thrown out the window and the surviving police officer points a gun at her! Mirror is poised and ready to go.
This comic was okay. It didn’t really grab my interest too much. I understand the internal struggle of the recovering victim becoming a crime fighting hero, and all of the tension and drama that she has to deal with, but I just don’t care about her. There’s nothing there to really make me feel for the character, a spoiled police chief’s daughter who apparently has enough money for a bat cycle to sit in her van at the ready. I do like that she’s in way over her head and is fairly inept and incompetent, but the promise of her transformative journey from n00b to full-fledged Superhero does not lure me in. Sorry Batgirl. I will not be reading you again.
I really enjoyed this book, but then again I am pretty much hopelessly in love with Barbara Gordon. So in spite of its many flaws, a book that features Babs suiting up as Batgirl again was going to hook me in no matter what. What I was wondering was if my longstanding affection for the character was the only thing attracting me to this story, or if I’d enjoy it even if I had no history with her. I guess Harry answered my question for me. Still, I’d follow Barbara Gordon anywhere, so I’m totally on board with this title.
Okay then. I don’t think I’ve ever properly read through a comic in my entire life. I love comic movies, I love comic video games, I love comic cartoons, but for some reason, I’ve never made the transition aside from some Simpsons comics when I was a kid and reading parts of a couple my friends have told me are good (Preacher, if you’re curious; you aren’t).
Green Lantern Corps. I picked this one as I thought it might be about the Green Lantern at military boot camp getting bossed around by some overzealous bitter old man and thought it might make for hilarity. Okay! This cover appears to have black and white Lanterns, a pig Lantern, some kind of Iron Man Lantern and The Silver Thing. Maybe they share a barracks at boot camp?
Here we go! An advert for gum! Okay, awesome, no back story here, just straight into some guy who wanted to kill the Lanterns and got caught. In space, obviously. Okay, I know have no idea what the fuck is going on but I’m enjoying it! Medusa Lantern got beheaded by some random evil thing! Lady Lantern got sliced in half!
Now we properly start! “Hey, can you change into GL so I can take some shots to post on my twitter account?” Oh God, is this how it’s going to go? I don’t want (poorly written) reality! I’m here for aliens and beheadings. A wikipedia reference. Oh, these writers are soooo current. Jesus, there’s a lot of ads in these comics. Oh God, puns now! GL is referring to juggling being the Lantern and coaching high school football and the picture is literally him juggling green versions of himself doing these jobs. I kinda want to just give up now. I know already I won’t care about issue 2. I’ll power through.
Black Lantern is fucking with some high power business suit types for taking bribes or something. The social commentary is both subtle and definitely necessary, much like my sarcasm. Now we’re back in space land. Black and white Lantern are whining about how they should’ve worn masks like Ryan Reynolds did so no one would recognise them. Oh, they don’t know what a normal life is. Poor superheroes.
Some evil guys murdered everyone ever on a planet to leave a message to the Lanterns. I don’t care what that message is.
Liam’s review is short and pissed, and you can just feel him getting angrier and more curt as he begrudgingly reads through this thing. To be honest, I’m actually really surprised that all these reviews aren’t like that – this is exactly how I picture any non-fan reacting to a modern superhero comic book. However, it’d be surprising to me to learn that dudes like John Stewart and Guy Gardener are as little a part of the wider cultural lexicon as Liam makes it seem here – John was the Green Lantern in the Justice League cartoon, after all! Liam just refers to him as the black guy! However, I completely agree about all the tired, forced references to things like Wikipedia. Attention comic book writers: Stop doing things like that! Nobody gives a shit! In any case, I enjoyed Green Lantern Corps, and think it was probably the most accessible of all the new Lantern books – but judging by Liam’s reaction, that’s not saying much at all.
Liam Reynolds is England’s last great hope.
I guess I figured writing about a book called Suicide Squad would be fun. The title seemed moderately interesting, but I knew absolutely nothing about it. I mean, most of what I know about comics comes from soaking up my comic-inclined buddies’ complaints about superhero movies. I probably read 10 isolated issues of various titles when I was a kid. So when I borrowed Suicide Squad #1 from one of my comic-nerd friends, I was kind of surprised to see Harley Quinn on the cover, a character with whom I have a passing familiarity due to an internet pal’s low-grade obsession and Kevin Smith’s kid. Intrigued, I tossed the book in my car and forgot about it for a couple of days.
When I finally remembered I was supposed to do something with it, I pulled it out and read through it once. My first reaction was “That’s it?” I read it again. I read it three or four more times, and then the episode of Bob the Builder my daughter was watching was over. I put it aside for a while again.
See, Suicide Squad has the potential to be a really fun story, if it’s explored right. There’s a group of villains who have been recruited to do some sort of awful work for someone who is presumably involved in government or something at a pretty high level, since she can get them out of prison and implant radio-controlled bombs in their necks. But because it’s a team, if you have no previous knowledge (like me), you get only the most cursory of introductions to the characters and the story. I guess that’s the nature of the beast, but for me it’s an incredibly frustrating beast. I mean, pretty much all I could glean was that there’s a sniper, a Latino dude who shoots/is fire, a masochist who’s obsessed with The Joker, and a half-man/half-shark who, predictably (but still awesomely), rips a guy’s arm off.
There’s a couple of other people, too, but I don’t know anything about them whatsoever, and the book didn’t enlighten me. They were in prison, now they’re not, and the person who could blow them up at any moment wants them to kill 60,000 people… in the next issue.
I guess maybe it’s my ADD showing through, but the idea of watching The Dirty Dozen in four-minute blocks once a month doesn’t appeal to me at all. Suicide Squad has sort of a cool premise, and the characters are potentially really interesting if they’re explored well. If I could read the collected issues two years from now, I’d probably enjoy it a lot, but there’s not anywhere near enough there to keep me coming back.
Once again, a potential new fan balks at the length and format of these books. I think this is a serious issue that DC (and other publishers) really ought to take into consideration. I wonder how sales would change if storylines were released only in trade format? Or, more realistically, just pack the fucking books with story! I feel like many these stories are spread so thin that it would take 4 or 5 issues to be the equivalent of a TV show episode, so I can’t blame new readers (or, hell, even longtime readers) for feeling like they’re throwing their money away. Someone should do something about that.
Aaron Stormo has been voted “Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe” eight times. He also plays in a shitty, shitty band.
Well only one reviewer in this installment, Michelle, expressed interest in further issues, and even that seemed kinda tenuous. Will the next batch fare any better? Stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m going to read the fuck out of Animal Man #2!