The New 52, as Read by Non-Dorks (Part 4)


Hey some people reviewed some comic books!  They’re not the kind of people you’d expect to review comic books!  It’s very exciting!  If you read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, you know what to expect.  So yeah, just read this shit.  I’m going to play Arkham City.

NIGHTWING #1
Read by Kelly Lynn

The book opens like an action-packed film noir; we see Nightwing’s thoughts narrating the backstory while he’s taking out a psycho criminal on the subway.  It’s actually a great way to introduce us to the character and what he’s about (grew up as circus kid Dick Grayson, played Robin to Bruce Wayne’s Batman, came into his own as superhero Nightwing, has been taking care of Gotham City while Batman is “away” [and has apparently had some kind of nervous breakdown]), and the exposition isn’t forced or cheesy at all.

The art is reminiscent of the Gotham I know or at least have come to expect – lots of deep shadows and edge lighting that highlight our hero as he flips around on top of the elevated train and smashed through the glass to pulverize the thug inside.  There isn’t a gratuitous amount of blood and gore, but there is just enough to remind us that we’re watching Batman’s protégé plow through the criminals of Gotham, and not some wimpy superhero like… I don’t know, Matter Eater Lad?  (Note: If you have the urge and ability to eat things that are not food, you have pica, not a superpower).

After the big el train fight, we see Nightwing come across his old circus for the fourth time in as many days, and he (a little too overtly in the narration) internally debates going down to say hello to all his old buddies.  Apparently, he’s visited them before, but this is the first time Haly’s Circus is in Gotham City since his parents died, which seems like a long time to me.  Maybe they were doing really well in Metropolis for like 10 years.

As we move into the book, we see a guy in sunglasses get off a bus at Port Authority, and get hassled by two really stereotypically written black dudes.  He dispatches them with ease, which becomes important later on in this chapter!

The next morning, we see Dick and his semi-mullet in a downtown loft apartment (must be nice to have Wayne Enterprises money), his Nightwing costume just flopped on the ground in plain sight, next to the sofa.  The costume storage is actually addressed in the narration, along with some more internal monologuing about his troubles past and his similarities to Batman, especially after being on his own, blah, blah, blah.  He decides to go to Haly’s Circus, where he runs into Raya, possibly an old girlfriend, who hilariously mentions his need for a haircut.  Either there are some really detail-oriented dudes writing this comic, or assistant editor Katie Kubert is getting in some good lines.

After Dick leaves the circus, he’s accosted by a green-costumed villain with Wolverine claws and looks to him like a “hired killer.”  A fracas with the police allows Dick to change into his costume in an alley (he must also be a quick-change artist in addition to being an acrobat) and then face the as-yet-unnamed villain as Nightwing.  They have a gymnastic fight for a while, until they wind up on a multi-story roof and the villain tells Nightwing to stay out of his business – he’s looking for Dick Grayson, the fiercest killer in Gotham who doesn’t even know it.

Then Nightwing gets thrown off the roof.  INTRIGUE!

In summary, what this comic does is a few-fold:

1. Introduces us to Nightwing and what he does/why
2. Establishes a Dick Grayson plotline involving his old circus and a hot redhead (he said it, not me)
3. Introduces a new(?) villain who is just as acrobatic as Nightwing himself
4. Keeps us hanging – how is Dick Grayson an unwitting murderer?!

I think the first issue of the reboot does all these things really aptly, and I kind of got into it.  Anybody who knows me knows my preference for slice-of-life, smart and silly web comics rather than superhero books, but I chose this comic because I have always really liked how the Boy Wonder got less lame once he was out of Batman’s shadow (and those dumb green briefs).  This issue does a good job of introducing the high-flying, 20-something Dick Grayson-as-Nightwing character in a way that new or casual readers will enjoy and understand, without alienating established fans.

Unfortunately, if every issue is like this one, these will be really hard to find in stores – I went to several places in NYC and the new books were impossible to get.  I would definitely keep reading if they were readily available and cheaper.  As it is, I’ll probably stick to webcomics, but if anyone wants to lend me issue 2, I wouldn’t turn it down.

Chadd sez:
Finding some of these #1 issues in comic book stores really was a bit of an annoyance, even here in New York City where there are fifty thousand comic book stores.  Being the savvy comic book consumer that I (unfortunately) am, I knew where I could probably find the books if I really wanted them, but for someone like Kelly it must have been an annoying pain in the ass.  But ultimately, the degree to which these issues have been selling out is a good thing, right?  In any case, I think Nightwing is an excellent choice for a new reader, especially when compared to some of the other batbooks.  Kelly’s not aware of Batman RIP or Battle For the Cowl or any of the recent Dick Grayson history, but she is well aware that Dick Grayson is awesome, and that’s really all you need to know to dive into this series.

Kelly Lynn plays drums and sings in a twee pop band called The Marshmallows.

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AQUAMAN #1
Read by Andy Conway

Long before Aquaman #1 hit newsstands (or illegal underground comic book torrent sites, as it were) I began putting together potential jokes about Aquaman with my submission to this great blog in mind.  Granted, they were going to be a little hackneyed, seeing as Aquaman has been famously shit on by the likes of The Simpsons, SNL, Family Guy and South Park for years now.  Yet, I was still willing to assist in the oversaturation of the “Aquaman is lame” joke market because A) I’m a lazy, unoriginal, hack piece of stupid ugly shit of a writer (sorry, been down in the dumps lately), and B) that’s kinda what he’s known for among the casual observer of the world of comic books.  He’s certainly not known for the blockbuster movies based on him (not yet anyway- according to IMDB, there’s one “in development” with a 2013 release date, which might as well be never).  So, I was all set to trash him.  Then I read this issue..and I was pretty much disarmed within the first few pages.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the final freestyle battle rap showdown from the 2002 film 8 Mile.  B-Rabbit, played convincingly by Eminem playing himself, defeats his greatest rival, Papa Doc, in a freestyle battle.  He does so by spending most of his rap ripping into himself with embarrassing facts about his own life, leaving his opponent with nothing to negative say that wasn’t already just said, subsequently silencing him.  Needless to say, Aquaman #1 left me the proverbial Papa Doc.  What can I say about Aquaman’s supposed lameness and lack of cool that isn’t said by just about everyone in this comic book that isn’t Aquaman?  In fact, the whole plot of this issue has to do with how much of the general public interprets Aquaman- he really sucks.  Everywhere he goes in the pages of this issue, he is met with disrespect and ridicule for being such a lame ass superhero.  So much for my plan of spending 4 paragraphs rifting on how much he likes to fuck fish.

Instead, I’ll just cover my favorite moments of this comic, while trying to stay relatively spoiler-free for those who might be so moved by my review that they go hunt down a copy of this now incredibly sought after back issue. Just be sure to beware of price gougers.

Most of Aquaman #1 takes place on dry land, where an appearance by Aquaman seems to surprise everyone around him.  Midway through this issue, Aquaman really shocks everyone by going to a seafood restaurant.  Everyone there shits their pants in fear, as it’s assumed fish are his close friends and he’s coming there to avenge the senseless death of some salmon.  Instead, he continues to be full of surprises, and sits down to eat.  When confronted about this by a swarm of annoying people who cite the fact that he can’t eat fish because he talks to them, he counters with some mean ass shit about how he does NOT talk to fish because they’re too stupid to hold a conversation.  He just telepathically communicates with them, you fucking morons.  He only uses those dumb fish as a means to an end and they are most definitely NOT his friends and they never ever hang out ever!  What the fuck?  I wondered if this somewhat callous attitude towards fish is new?  It reminded me of a nerdy kid selling out his other nerdy friends just to get a chance to potentially make friends with popular kids.  All this was missing was Aquaman mouthing, “I’m so sorry” to some really offended fish in a nearby tank.  It was sad and fucked up.  Or maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know if this is how Aquaman always feels about fish and I’m just finding out now (it should be noted that he made sure to point out how dolphins were the exception to this rule, which I guess could be foreshadowing for some dolphin bullshit happening in a future issue).

Aquaman is then rudely joined at dinner by an asshole hipster blogger guy (no doubt DC’s attempt at a swipe at bloggers, like this blog’s own Chadd Derkins.  Fuck off, DC, Chadd is giving you tons of free press on Punknews) who begins conducting an unwanted interview with the seafaring superhero (I didn’t want to type Aquaman twice in one sentence).

This then leads to my favorite moment of the comic where the blogger asks how he can even afford to eat at the DC Universe’s version of Long John Silver’s, seeing as he doesn’t have a job.  We then see  Aquaman in the next panel helping himself to gold coins in a treasure chest followed by him saying “I get by”.

I just really liked the idea that Aquaman is able to afford his lavish $14.99 fish dinners at shitty theme restaurants and any other expenses he may incur due to all the buried treasure he finds in the sea.  I mean, why wouldn’t he?  He probably has a ton of sunken ship parts and floating soda cans at his disposal out there too.  Shouldn’t he get paid for being a crime fighting superhero?

The blogger then drops a douchebag bomb on Aquaman, asking him what it’s like to be “no one’s favorite superhero”, which causes the nautical do-gooder (Aquaman) to angrily grab his trident and leave. Not before he gives the waitress some of those gold coins as payment and the artists made sure you can tell she was really psyched about it.

At the end of this issue, it looks like the constant slighting by the general public is causing the A-Man to reconsider this superhero shit and just hang back to fuck his mermaid lady.  Yet, what everyone doesn’t know yet is there are some scary sea monsters conspiring in the depths of the sea to come to the surface and wreak havoc.  These monsters kinda look like Spider-Man villains Venom and Carnage.  Hey, Chadd- Did Venom and Carnage get fired by Marvel and now work for Aquaman?  Feel free to reply to this question with one of those in parenthesis editor note things. (Editor’s Note: Yes, Venom and Carnage did get fired by Marvel and now work for Aquaman – Chucklin’ Chadd Derkins)

I thought this was a successful and easy to get into reboot, as the stage was set for a storyline involving Aquaman retiring, followed by vicious sea monster attack, followed by all those ungrateful people being like “Aquaman, we were kidding, you’re actually not that bad. Please help!! These sea monsters that look like Venom and Carnage are killing all of us”, then Aquaman being like “Alright, I’ll come back, lemme just grab my trident- SIKE!- fuck ya’ll, suck my dick, I’m never coming back” and then, who knows, maybe Batman or Superman or someone cool will show up and convince Aquaman to do what’s right.  Oh, also dolphins will somehow be involved.  I ‘m so intrigued that I might have to flip through Aquaman #2 next time I’m buying Doritos and Coke at 7-11 at 3 am.  Good job, Aquaman!  You don’t totally suck shit after all!

Chadd sez:
Aquaman was definitely one of the biggest surprises of The New 52, and Andy’s analysis perfectly articulates why.  Much like his portrayal in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, this version of Arthur Curry cleverly acknowledges the character’s perception in both the DCU and in popular culture.  It clearly addresses the fact that Aquaman is a big stupid joke, and then makes its goal to show the reader why that’s bullshit.  It’s the perfect approach to this unfairly-maligned character, for both new and old readers alike.  Good on you, Geoff Johns!

Andy Conway plays bass (along with Batman: The Dark Knight enthusiast Chris Grivet) in Panther Moderns, is a regular contributor to Razorcake, and has a blog about movies he never updates.  Don’t let all these links to stuff fool you – he has nothing going on in his life.

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SWAMP THING #1
Read by Tahoe Jeff
First off, I need to apologize to Chadd for taking so long to write this review, but I’m sure he’ll understand when I say that I have been too busy reading comics.  Last month I volunteered to review the first issue Swamp Thing.  I had never read a comic book before.  I always felt that they were too intimidating.  Where do you start?  Can you start in the middle of a storyline and still enjoy it?  I didn’t know, and really I never cared to find out, but DC’s relaunch of the entire DC universe seemed like the perfect time to jump in.

On with the review.  I’ll try not to give too much away.  The plant world is the most violent region in all of biology according to botanist Alec Holland.  I’ll get to him in a little bit.  Something strange is afoot in the DC Universe.  Animals are dropping dead everywhere… Metropolis, Gotham, and in the oceans.  Superman is concerned and seeks out Alec Holland, who is doing construction in Louisiana.  Superman wants Alec to help figure out what’s going on, but Alec wants nothing to do with it.  He is confused and just wants to get away.  You see, Alec Holland was dead.  An explosion in his lab killed him, but somehow he is alive again, and has memories of being some sort of “Swamp Thing”.

Meanwhile, at a dig site in New Mexico, a full dinosaur skeleton has gone missing, and a new monster is introduced.  Does Alec help out? Does the monster have anything to do with what is going on in the DCU?  I don’t want to spoil anything, so you’re going to have to read it to find out.

One benefit to writing this review so late is that I’ve now read issue 2, and I can tell you that you are definitely going to want to read this.  The artwork is great, and although the story might be a little confusing to the new reader, it doesn’t take very long to pick things up.  So how is DC doing attracting new readers with the new 52?  I can’t speak for anyone else, but the 17 titles on my pull list seem to indicate that they’re doing pretty well.

Chadd sez:
I am glad Jeff understood and enjoyed Swamp Thing because, as brilliant as I think it is, it seemed like it would be fairly impenetrable to new readers.   To fully appreciate this book, it seems like you’d have to have some background knowledge not only about the character in general, but specifically about both Alan Moore’s classic run and last year’s Brightest Day storyline.  But, based on Jeff’s reaction, it looks like I’m underestimating the ability of new readers to comprehend stories about swamp monsters!  Which is great, because Swamp Thing is in the very tippy-top tier of New 52 books, and should be read by everybody.

Tahoe Jeff goes to school and plays bass in Smokejumper.

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GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #1
Read by Dave Hunter

What I know about Green Lantern, from the Green Lantern trailer, the fake Green Lantern trailer, the Green Lantern roller coaster, and just living life and having a super-sophisticated cultural awareness: Green Lantern is an Earthling, but also he’s the best Earthling, so he’s chosen by an intergalactic space team to fight space battles.  They give him a magic ring, and the ring can make all kinds of green shapes.  That’s all I know about him.

What happens in Green Lantern New Guardians.pdf #1: All the Green Lanterns are dead!  Except for the last Green Lantern, a tiny one named Ganthet.  He’s so cute and small.  All that’s left is one magic ring and Ganthet’s going to make sure a cool guy gets to wear it.  But who?
We meet Kyle Rayner.  I think Ryan Reynolds’ character was a fighter pilot before the ring found him, but Kyle is an unemployed cartoonist who brings his sketchbook when he’s out with friends and quietly draws.  Sounds like the worst!  So I’m not 100% sure if he’s about to get chosen to be the next Green Lantern, but oops, next page yes he does.  He goes to take a leak in the alley – bringing his sketchbook with him, not weird – and there’s Ganthet.

This beginning part reminds me of what happened to Ryan Reynolds in the movie, and to me personally on the roller coaster.  Ganthet’s like “Kyle, you’re the Green Lantern now, deal with it.”  Kyle’s like, “The Green whaaa – ?”  Ganthet’s like, “Magic ring, blah, blah, it makes green shapes,” and Kyle’s like, “Okay, I get it already,” and he is instantly awesome at being the Green Lantern.

Yikes, comic books are really short now.  Twenty pages?  Kids these days don’t have the time!  Which maybe explains why some of the storytelling is so light speed.  But, if there’s no space to include even a single panel of Kyle registering token emotional resistance to the news that he’s just become an intergalactic super-hero, then what’s the point?  If he’s just some blasé asshole about the whole thing, can you even care about him?  I don’t know.  Kids today are monsters.

Next, we travel all over the galaxy, meeting aliens.  An orange one!  A red one!  Two pink girl ones!  They all have magic rings of different colors, and they’re all using their rings to murder people and be jerks.  But, one by one, their rings come off, and the rings are like, “So long, jerks, I’m going somewhere else,” and all the jerks die.

Back on Earth, Kyle Rayner is going around, doing superhero stuff.  Example: a construction crane is toppling over, and Green Lantern lanterns up four giant green construction men to catch the crane and save the day.  The magic construction crew is rendered in intricate detail; they have mustaches and bulging muscles and chest hair, and maybe it’s even a little homoerotic?  Remember that Kyle takes his sketchbook with him to pee.

I guess the idea behind making the new Green Lantern a cartoonist is that he’ll make more interesting green shapes than the giant fists, axes, and buzz saws that shape-shifters who haven’t been to design school usually conjure up.  That sounds promising from a visual standpoint, although it hardly seems practical.  I mean, what if the crane had crashed to the ground while Kyle was deciding what kind of hats his hunky construction crew was going to wear?  They’re all four wearing different kinds of hats!  Indulgent.  But if Kyle keeps using his superhero status to promote his own distinct aesthetic, New Queer or otherwise, I’m all for it.

Issue one ends with a cliffhanger.  Green Lantern’s getting congratulated for saving everybody – but, oh no!  Here come all those rings from before!  Not just pink and red, but yellow, purple, and blue.  All the colors of Earth’s rainbow.  The rings are like, “Kyle, we choose you.”  Kyle Rayner is an absolute ring-whore.  Even worse, here come all the jerk aliens, chasing after their rings.  You thought they were dead, but no, they’re alive.  And the jerks are angry at Kyle and want to murder him!  Again, Kyle is just a blasé asshole about the whole thing, but maybe that’s what he’s like when he feels threatened?  Or maybe it’s all no big deal?  Find out in issue two.

Is it good?  Do you want to read more?  It’s okay.  Kyle Rayner is as unappealing a character as his name makes him sound.  His worldview is “Omnipotence?  Whatever, dude.”  He’s probably intended to come across as cute and quippy, like Spider Man.  But Peter Parker had feelings, and doubts.  Kyle’s only moods are “awesome and unimpressed,” and “awesome and annoyed.”  Fuck him.

Still, don’t you want to know what’s going to happen when all the aliens fight each other?  And not just because of the exciting way I described everything, either!  I’d read another issue if Chadd Derkins e-mailed it to me.  Which he won’t.  This was the first time he ever wrote me an e-mail.  Very one-sided friendship.

Chadd sez:
This is not the first time I’ve emailed Dave!   A quick gmail search indicates that we made plans to have dinner in 2009, and that I rejected his invitation to go to a bar in the summer of 2008!  So I’m probably the best friend he’s ever had!  Anyway, having gotten into comic books in a postGreen Lantern Rebirth world, Kyle Rayner has always been a bit of a head-scratcher to me.  He seems like one of those characters, like Wally West, who was created to replace a dead character, and then was rendered irrelevant upon the original character’s return.  I know that’s probably an unfair judgment, but just as a result of when and how I got into comics, Kyle is completely meaningless to me, and New Guardians didn’t do much to change that.  I realize that the title is intended as a team book, and maybe that aspect will pique my interest a little bit more in future installments, but the first issue pretty much reads as Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner and like David, I just have no interest in that.

Dave Hunter is a TV writer who lives and works in Los Angeles.  Just kidding, he’s unemployed.  So wait, how is he a TV writer then?  He’s not.

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SUPERMAN #1
Read by Shawn Hambright

The thing that keeps me away from mainstream comics in general is exactly the kind of thing that Superman #1 has going on on page eight.  A giant creature with four arms, or arm-like appendages, blows a big, crusty looking space horn.  Said giant creature appears nowhere else in the book, and apparently has no bearing on the story being told whatsoever.  Then an editorial box informs us “For more on this mystery, check out Stormwatch #1!”  No.  NO!!!  Go fuck yourselves, DC.  I guess I have just been spoiled on trade paperbacks and indie comics, but I would have loved to pick up this issue and not thought it incomplete if I hadn’t read one or two or five other books.  Eight pages in, and my hopes were simply dashed.  Way to go, DC.

That being said, I thought Superman #1 had one or two cool things going on, for a “reboot.” (God I hate that term. Thanks, Hollywood)  It was interesting to parallel the starting-over point (Shit, I guess reboot DOES sound better) with a literal starting-over point for newspaper The Daily Planet, home to Perry White, editor, Jimmy Olsen, photographer, and the rest of Clark Kent’s too-dumb-to-realize-he’s-Superman-for-Christ’s-sake co-workers.  The paper has been bought by a media conglomerate, run by a black guy, and managed by a Latina woman.  Whose last name is “left” in Spanish.  They don’t know Clark Kent is Superman either.  Or at least, they don’t let on.

While the employees of the Daily Planet (sans Clark) attend a banquet announcing/celebrating the sale, Superman broods over the rubble of the old, now demolished Daily Planet building, looking a lot like Taylor Lautner on that splash page.
 Then Superman chases a hijacked tanker truck; it explodes as he carries it away, and then he has to fight a giant monster made out of fire, who doesn’t set things on fire, he turns things into fire.  Honestly, how old is this writer?  While Supes dukes it out with the Firebird, we see the newly promoted head of new media, Lois Lane, spring into action to cover the story, live on TV.  “And Jimmy, get video on the web ASAP!”

God.

Perry sends some other reporter guy I never heard of out to the scene as well, to “provide the kind of detail and analysis…that only print can offer.” (Who are you trying to convice, DC? I read this shit online.)  While this goes on, we’re “treated” to what I guess was supposed to be this reportage, doubling as the narration.  But man, if you turned this kind of story into the AP, not only would they shitcan you, I think they might break your fingers so you could never type again.

Another thing I liked was that we weren’t subjected to Superman’s origin for the nine billionth time.  I’ve never picked up a Superman comic in my life, but I know all about all of that.  It’d be interesting to poll random people on the street to see if you could find someone who COULDN’T tell you all about it.  We are treated to flashbacks of Clark and Lois arguing about what the sale of the paper means for its integrity or whatever, but it isn’t really made clear that they’re not dating, or married or anything, until the final panels.  I can’t decide if this is halfway decent storytelling, or simply one last attempt by the writer to say “LOOK HOW DIFFERENT THIS IS FROM LAST MONTH!”  Jury’s still out.

Some of the things I have mentioned as positives also work against the book, especially as a new reader.  The sale of the Daily Planet IS an intriguing conceit, but this would have been topical maybe ten or fifteen years ago.  To “keep it fresh” the (super DIVERSE!) employees at The Daily Planet (or, excuse me, Planet Global Network, as it is now called) use and react to Twitter!  I don’t really have a problem with Twitter in the real world, but I think I’d want to read a comic about a man who can fly, deflect bullets, lift tanker trucks over his head, and throw a fire monster out into space in order to ESCAPE reality.

My final grievance about this book is that somewhere along the way, the writer or editor or somebody had the bright idea to insert EVERY cliched line of dialogue into this story.  “Leaps tall buildings in a single bound?”  It’s there.  “This is a job for Superman?”  That’s there too.  “Faster than a speeding bullet?”  “Look, up in the sky!”  Check and double-check.  Jesus.  I can’t imagine that you’re going to appeal to new readers with these corny old chestnuts that we’ve all heard a billion times.  I can safely say that A) I’m so glad I didn’t lay down three bucks for this and B) I won’t be revisiting this title any time soon.

Chadd sez:
I realize I am in the vast minority here, but I actually really enjoyed Superman‘s narration style.  Don’t get me wrong – the actual content of that narration is dumb as fuck, but the way it’s presented is so refreshingly old school that it ultimately charmed me.  However, I agree completely with Shawn’s opinion on the almost Smallvillian degree to which Superman tropes were mined for this issue.  I realize that the intent was to hook new readers with culturally significant Superman lore, but if Shawn’s reaction is any indication, it has severely backfired.  This book shows a tiny bit of promise, but based on this premiere issue, there’s really no reason to read this when the far superior Action Comics is right there on the rack next to it.

Shawn Hambright is 29 years old. He swears up and down he is going to start a webcomic called Jetpack Asshat one of these days…

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DC COMICS PRESENTS DEADMAN #1
Read by Lisa Ninja

When I first received Deadman #1 to review and looked at the cover, my first thought was that this might be a good one.  He’s kind of creepy looking and since he’s called “Deadman” it implies there might be some supernatural twist to the story.  I was soon disappointed, not for a lack of the supernatural, but for lack of good storytelling.

The comic starts out with narration by our “hero,” Boston Brand a.k.a. Deadman.  He explains how there is this poor sap, named Albert Albertson.  Albert has a death wish because of the shitty, alliterative name his parents gave him.  So now Albert is about to crash his motorcycle performing a stunt and this leads to the moment Deadman (spiritually) enters Albert’s body.

Then we learn that Boston Brand was a trapeze artist “back in the day.”  He was also a total jerk.  So one day, while flying on his trapeze, Boston Brand takes a bullet and ends up chatting with some Hindu goddess type lady.  She tells him he’s been a jerk and he must become a better person and he must help a bunch people she calls “living bricks.”  Apparently they will “pave his way to enlightenment.”

Next we meet the next character that Deadman is going to be, Johnny the Gulf War Vet who had his legs blown off and is seeing a shrink over his guilt being the only member of his squad to survive an I.E.D.

Deadman narrates a little more back story for us.  On his road to enlightenment he’s been, “a stuntman, and a spy and a police detective.”  Then he goes looking for Rose the Psychic and starts talking to her by possessing other people.  Psychic Rose knew Boston Brand when he was still a trapeze jerk but is understandably freaked out by all of these strangers talking to her as if they know her.  Deadman wants to know the name of some club where people into the occult hang out.  Finally, Rose gives up the name.  It’s the Moonstone Club.  But Rose doesn’t hang there anymore, because it’s a bad place.  But there’s a librarian there that Deadman wants to meet.

Then Deadman tells us more about people he’s “been,” a gambler, a scientist, a priest, a doctor, a prisoner, and a stripper among others.  Then he goes back to Johnny and possesses him.  The last page is Johnny holding a gun to his head and asking the Goddess lady, “You’re probably wondering why I’ve asked you here.”

This comic tries to do too much in 22 pages.  At first, I figured we’d follow the story of Albert Albertson and how Deadman came to help him, but that’s totally glossed over.  The idea of a person becoming a daredevil with a death wish because being given an unfortunate name, made me think this comic would have a tongue-in-cheek sort of humor, but it didn’t follow through in the rest of the issue.

I had a couple major problems with this story.  One being, I couldn’t figure out the timeline.  At one point he says, “I’ve lived lifetimes, more than I can count.”  I just don’t understand how.  Deadman finds Rose, who knew him when he was alive as Boston Brand.  She’s still alive so he couldn’t have been dead that long.  If he’s living “lifetimes” in these other peoples’ bodies, then he must be on some different space-time continuum (which I can accept) or just a victim of sloppy writing.

My other huge problem is that he keeps mentioning that he inhabits these people to help them.  HOW????  We never learn how he’s helped them.  At one point he says, “I think I failed them all,” but the reader has no idea what he does, helpful or not.  He’s supposed to help these messed up people to reach some sort of enlightenment and to become a better man.  I really wish the writers had bothered to explain how he does this with even a tiny bit of detail.  Do his “victims” know that he’s inhabiting them?  How long does he live as them?  Are their lives bettered by the decisions he makes for them?  When does he leave them?  Do they end up worse off after he tries to help them?

When I got to the end of the comic, my first reaction was, “That’s all?”  My comic experience is limited to reading HATE about 17 years ago a few “graphic novels” (Watchmen, Maus and a couple of others of which I can’t remember the names).  I have no idea if comics are generally this devoid of depth and story.  Still, to Deadman’s credit, if I would have had issue #2 available, I probably would have read it, just to see if the writers were able to settle down and develop a little character and story.  It seems like the series could end up being a sort of dour Quantum Leap, which could be mildly entertaining.

Chadd sez:
I really liked this issue, but Lisa’s write-up makes me realize that my enjoyment is largely predicated on my knowledge of the character’s history.  Lisa seems to enjoy Deadman conceptually but doesn’t have any clear understanding of what the character actually does, and the book itself doesn’t seem to offer much help in that regard.  That’s unfortunate.  As I did back in Part 1, I would recommend that Lisa – and anyone else who finds the character intriguing – seek out the original run of Deadman from the 60’s.

Lisa Ninja was in The Bananas for the first 10 years.

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I, VAMPIRE #1
Read by Joe DeCarolis
I cheated a little when I asked Chadd to let me review I, Vampire #1.  I’m already a casual comic reader that mostly follows horror books, and I’m already familiar with the author (Joshua Hale Fialkov).  His Echoes series is one of my favorite recent horror stories in any medium.  What made me want to give this a shot, though, was wondering how DC would work this vampire story into their whole rebooted universe, if at all.  It seemed pretty weird to do this big push, starting over with a lot of characters that millions of people are at least vaguely familiar with, and then also tossing in something like this.  I hoped for the best, especially given Fialkov’s track record, but worried DC might aim for the lowest common horror denominator and try to rope in Twilight fans.

The cover art immediately had me expecting the worst.  It’s one dragon away from something on the clearance rack at Spencer’s Gifts.  It’s got a while lot of bats, a shirtless guy looking serious, and a scantily-clad (maybe scantily-tattooed?) girl with blood on one hand.  There’s also some random red lines, but whatever.  It looks exactly like what I was afraid of.  It’s a shame, because the story inside is actually wonderful and pretty much the exact opposite of the image the cover’s trying to sell.  There aren’t any bats or moping in the book itself, but I guess they’ve gotta entice new readers somehow.  I’d just hate to see a cool, unique vampire story get left behind in the superhero dust because it didn’t fit neatly into the modern vampire mold that this cover’s trying to sell.

Thankfully, the issue itself is more than strong enough to make up for shitty cover art.  It’s mostly exposition, setting up the history of two vampires that have known each other intimately for 400 years.  The dialogue is concise enough to stay interesting, never getting too flashback-heavy or overly explanatory.  One or two lines are enough to tell me that vampires have been living among regular citizens of the world for some time, working night jobs and sucking the blood of livestock to survive.  Mary has had enough, and thinks it’s time to move up to people.  She talks about revolution, and references the Revolutionary War and the civil rights movement when arguing her point.

Fialkov packs a lot of character development into one issue, partly through the excellent dialogue and partly through the visual interactions of the characters.  The art is a great complement to the story, and the color scheme really sets a cool mood.  The scenes of just the two vampires debating their revolution have a pale green, almost romantic, tint to them, while the desolate city scenes have a darker, more earthy tone.  Everything looks like night, albeit different aspects of it.  The body language between the two main characters also says a lot, and there are a couple of scenes where the sexuality gets amped up pretty considerably.  I haven’t read a non-Vertigo DC book in quite a while, so I wasn’t expecting that.  Sexuality is an essential part of vampire mythology, and any good vampire story should have at least a subtle undercurrent of it.  Fialkov and Sorrentino pull this off perfectly.

A couple of lines here and there surprised me to indicate that I, Vampire will be looped into the general DC universe.  For one, the story takes place in Boston, and I didn’t think DC used actual US cities in any stories.  Like I said, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a regular DC book, but since their two most popular locations are Gotham and Metropolis, I assumed real-life cities weren’t part of the equation.  Also, part of the argument against a vampire uprising is the question of how they plan to take on Superman, several Green Lanterns, etc.  Mary believes that her kind should have the power and status that’s currently given to “aliens and masked men.”  There are a lot of interesting directions this can go, and only time will tell if it will work.  The potential is pretty exciting, though.

I’d definitely recommend this book to any horror fan, though I’m not sure how much mass appeal it will have.  If Fialkov fleshes out the social and sexual issues that are possible with this sort of story, I can see this being pretty well-received.  Horror books are already a niche market, though, and throwing superheroes into the picture could narrow the audience even more.  I’m also not sure whether this will be a mini-series or a regular monthly book.  The storyline that’s set up in this issue doesn’t seem like one that can be dragged out over a long time.  Either this war and its aftermath will lead to a dramatic change in the world of DC, or it will fail.  There’s a little room for gray area, but I don’t think that’s what Fialkov is going for.  Seeing how some well-known superheroes react to this business should be interesting, just as long as they’re not novelty cameos for the sake of sales.  I’m eagerly going to pick up the next issue, and not just because the end of this one promises New Order in the next.

Chadd sez:
It’s really a shame how much Twilight has ruined vampires for everybody.  I see a vampire story nowadays, and my “don’t give a shit meter” immediately starts whirring and flashing.  Hell, I put off reading Scott Snyder’s brilliant American Vampire until last fucking week just because of the negative association.  Listen: Twilight is stupid and shallow and boring.  We all know this.  Don’t let it turn you off to I, Vampire.  This is a great horror story by one of the best horror comics writers around, and it’s totally worth any horror fan’s time.  On top of that, it’s also our best chance of seeing the triumphant return of Chadd Cole in the New DCU.

Joe DeCarolis has serious opinions about horror stories and Walt Disney World.  He plays bass in a band called Psychic Teens who are often told to turn down.

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Well, this has been a pretty positive chunk of reviews!  4 out of 6 people seemed to enjoy the hell out of their books, which is a much higher ratio than usual!  Tune into future installments to see if this trend continues.  At this rate, we should have all 52 books reviewed just time for the DCU’s next reboot!

One response to “The New 52, as Read by Non-Dorks (Part 4)

  1. Pingback: The New 52 as Read by Non-Dorks (Part 6) | The Sense of Right Alliance

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