The New 52, as Read by Non-Dorks (Part 6)


Hey, it’s this again!  The reviewers for this installment all submitted their pieces months ago, so I apologize to them for taking so long to get this up!  By now, all these books are up to their fifth issues, so any the relevance of this concept has sort of been weakened as a result of my dragassery, but I still think it’s fun to see how comix n00bz respond to these stories.  For more, be sure to check out the previous installments of this series (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5).  With no further ado, let’s get started!

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Read by Amy Bilancini

Ok, full disclosure – not a non-nerd.  Not even a non-comics reading nerd – but I am definitely a Marvel, so I guess I’m part of the target demographic for the New 52 reboot.  I ended up with Legion of Super-Heroes which I expected to be the B-Squad JLA and I wasn’t that far off in terms of archetype but way off in quality and give-a-shitness.

The issue starts with a contingent of the LSH landing on the watchworld Panoptes to determine why the Fleet lost communication with the planet.  Apparently, watchworlds exist to keep an eye on The Dominators who I assume are the bad guys because no good guy has ever had the name “The Dominator” except maybe in professional wrestling and even then, probably not.

On Panoptes, we have Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy and two new recruits on their first mission, Dragonwing and Chemical Boy.  Cham, Phan, and Ultra all decide go check out the situation at the comm station while Dragonwing and Chem pretend to bone as a means of distracting Panoptes’ patrolmen (side note: lol, what?  is the patrol full of 16-year-old boys?).

It’s ok Chemical Boy, I wouldn’t want to make out with a poison breathing hippie, either.

Ultra Boy uses his ultra vision to clean up after the squad, but apparently, that doesn’t include the destruction of their beamy downy pods so I’m not sure what the point of the pseudo sex is since the Watchworld army will probably notice some pods from space regardless.  WHATEVER, logic has no place in a comic book, apparently.

What? Transport pods are natural Panoptes flora, you guys.

Colossal Boy (aka Gim Allon) works for Starfleet now and he’s super excited because when he was on the LSH he lost his wife (See Legion Lost #1 – yeah, thanks DC, because drawing in new readers to a comic book totally works when you require them to read more than one series to understand what’s going on!) so now he doesn’t have to worry about losing anyone else since he’s no longer a Legionnaire (side note: lol, what?  You’re still in the space army and all your friends are Legionnaires, buddy!).

Next it’s time for the Mouseketeer roll call at the Legionnaire’s Earth Base and we learn another seven dozen names that don’t matter at all to this issue.  Although I want to pause and say, what’s up with these names, DC writers?  Star Boy is pretty clearly over 40; can’t he get an upgrade to Star Man or something?

The nameless hoard (because I don’t fucking care) works on a machine that gives off Ergs! and everyone cries about Oaa who died, I guess.

Gratuitous Inside Joke

Back on Panoptes, the squad fights some red shirts, find out that (SPOILERS) the watchworld is working with The Dominators, and then almost fights a Daxamite but then the issue is over because, obviously, you don’t want anything exciting to happen in issue #1 of a series reboot of an unfamiliar team of superbeings.

So you mean that isn’t a 15-foot tall Steve Rogers?

So, snarkiness aside, this book could have been good, for me, at least, since I really like superhero teams and their stories and interpersonal dramas.  Unfortunately, the problem lies in what could have made it good – it’s an ensemble story.  There are nearly two dozen different characters and the issue (which comes out to a whopping 20 pages) tries to introduce every single one of them AND set up three distinct plotlines, none of which make sense without a working knowledge of the DC universe, which is counterintuitive considering the purpose of this reboot.  I think this book could have been a fun read had the issue included a title page similar to the ones that appeared in each issue of Marvel’s Civil War that gave a quick summary of previous events important to that issue (*cough* Flashpoint *cough*), if it was released as a double issue, allowing the writer to explore all three plots a bit more, or focused only on one plot line and saved the mass intros for later.  In case you couldn’t already tell, I’m not going to continue reading this series.  Looks like the only DC characters I will continue to care at all about are the Batmen.

tl;dr: nothing happened in this book, too many characters were introduced all at once, and it relied too heavily on prior events in the DC universe to make it enjoyable to a first time reader.

Chadd sez:
I’ve always found the Legion of Super-Heroes to be the most impenetrable corner of the DC Universe.  People who love this shit fucking love it, but I’ve always found it confusing and hard to get into.  I was excited that the New 52 would give me an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.  But some lunatic decided that, along with Batman and Green Lantern, the Legion would  also drag the baggage of its history into reboot land.  What the fuck were they thinking??  The new Legion books are completely unreadable gibberish for any newbie hoping to learn about these characters.  What a shame.

Amy Bilancini is still getting used to her new last name.  She has a Tumblr but it is often just GIFs of cats, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and the Red Sox.

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STATIC SHOCK #1
Read by Mark Hughson
Let me preface my review by saying I can count on one hand the number of DC comics I have read.  Killing Joke, some of that Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up, and, uh…Static Shock.  So I guess Nightcrawler could count ’em on one hand!  I’ve got no preconceived notions, no historical baggage, and no stake in the game whether the reboot wins or loses, so let’s just get to it.

How I Liked Static Shock Without Really Trying: Issue # 1 starts off in the middle of the action!  Right away our hero is flying through the streets of NYC, trying to reign in a renegade experiment from S.T.A.R. Labs.  We get to see many of his powers, we get to hear his snappy banter, and with just the right amount of luck, skill, and creative thinking, we get to see him save the day!  Or do we?  Just when you think Static fulfills his heroic duty quota for the day, the rescue mission results in assassination, and the very first arc is underway!  The rest of the issue explores the bad guys, including his soon-to-be arch nemesis Virule, Static’s alter-ego life as Virgil Hawkins, and Hardware – Static’s mentor and tech-supplier whose only seen in holographic form . The main character leans heavily on Spider-Man/Peter Parker – A witty teen superhero living in NYC, who happens to be a science wiz, doesn’t have money to buy a car, and, despite being genuinely pretty cool, has few friends and no luck with the ladies.  It’s hard not to draw parallels, but there’s definitely potential for some distance to open up between the two.

Electro-Magnets, How Do They Work?: So, Static has some special powers.  In the first issue we see him shooting out a “positive charge” to “push” people away from harm, shoot out some static (of course), try to punch a magnetic field, get electrocuted and not be worse for wear, create some kind of ionized electro-magnetic lasso, deflect bullets with his electro-magnetic field, and see parts of the light spectrum a normal human cannot see.  He can also fly on a little hexagonal thing that looks like something out of Tron.  The comic gives no explanation of how he can do these things, nor is it clear if it’s him with the powers or the suit he’s wearing (which he gets from Hardware).  I’ve got no problem with the lead issue NOT being an origin story, but a little more background about how and why it all works would be welcome.

The Static Cling-er…Cliffhanger: Nothing about the first issue turned me off.  It was quick, laid a nice story foundation with no nonsense or clutter, and introduced the main players and setting as well as a comic could in 20 pages.  All it needs is an exciting ending that will leave the reader wanting more – eager to see what happens next.  The book delivers that as well, as Virule shows up and “disarms” Static.  Literally.  Ouch!  Whoa!  Now what!?

Chadd sez:
Well, Static Shock is one of the six New 52 titles which has already been cancelled, so that makes this review extra irrelevant.  Sorry, Mark!  It’s a shame because although this book is by no means great, I think it would have had real potential.  As Mark points out, Static is sort of  like a DC version of Spider-Man, and that’s the type of character we don’t see a lot of in the DCU.  So here’s to you, Static Shock.  You could have been great.

Mark Hughson lives in Syracuse, NY with his wife and cat.  He currently has nothing to plug, which is very unfortunate, because he really, really, really, really, really, really wanted to make another play on words with Static and plug.

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GREEN ARROW #1
Read by Larry Livermore

Like any normal kid, I was, from an early age, utterly enthralled by Superman.  I read every comic in which he appeared, watched the TV show, and tried learning to fly by jumping off porches, fences, and on a couple of occasions, garages.

I was also moderately intrigued by Batman, though kids who were really, seriously into Batman struck me as a little weird.  I mean, here was this guy who hung around in caves, ponced around with a butler and a young guy in tights, and, even though he was obviously clever, agile and innovative, couldn’t even do one tenth the things Superman could.

The way I saw it, if you were Superman, you could do anything you wanted, dress any way you wanted, hang out anywhere or with anyone you wanted, because, after all, you were Superman, right?  Whereas this Batman guy seemed just a little full of himself.

So I figured that kids who preferred Batman to Superman had something a little funny going on, something funnier than I necessarily wanted to know about, but still, I basically respected Batman, even though I wouldn’t necessarily want him moving into my neighborhood.  Not, at least, if it meant having him for a neighbor instead of Superman.

But that’s where I drew the line when it came to superheroes.  For the whole rest of my childhood and, apparently, ever since, new ones kept getting invented, and I would be like, what’s the point?

Okay, so the Flash can run really, really fast.  So what?  Superman can run even faster, and if his feet ever get tired (which, of course, they wouldn’t) he can jump in the air and fly.  The Hulk can get mad and punch holes in buildings?  Well, Superman could just take a deep breath and blow the whole building to smithereens as easily as he could blow out a candle on a birthday cake (okay, I never actually saw him do this, but I’m pretty sure he could).

Which brings me to this Green Arrow character.  I don’t know what it is with green superheroes anyway, but there’s also the Green Lantern and the Green Hornet, and I have to admit that I have barely a clue as to what distinguishes one from the other.  I know the Green Hornet has been around for a long time, because my dad used to talk about him when I was a kid, and apparently the Green Arrow has been, too (I just looked it up), but like, big whoop.  Superman could beat all three of them up blindfolded, with both hands tied behind his back.

Anyway, here’s the deal: apparently the people behind the Green Arrow are trying to make some sort of grittier, cutting edge populist superhero out of him.  Maybe they’re trying to hook him up with the Occupy Wall Street people, because he seems really pissed off about big corporations, etc., while at the same time, he’s clued in to Youtube and other modern pop culture references (I don’t think he’s got a Twitter feed, but maybe I didn’t read closely enough).

But you know what?  He mainly just comes off as an annoying hipster who can do some moderately clever things with arrows.  If he put as much energy into coming up with awesome superhero tricks as he does into his almost but not quite witty, ironic and detached repartee, he might be a worthwhile second-tier superhero, the sort who would live in Long Island City but occasionally come over to Greenpoint to solve crimes.  But as it is, he can stay the fuck out in Far Rockaway for all I care.

Chadd sez:
Holy shit, did Green Arrow just make a fucking Sheryl Crow reference??  Anyway, everything Larry implies about this book is pretty accurate.  It’s obnoxious, embarrassingly self-conscious in its attempts to be hip, and sucks every bit of life out of Oliver Queen, who has always been one of my favorite DCU heroes.  Green Arrow is not the worst book of the New 52, but it may just be the book that’s the biggest shame.  That sucks for me as a fan of the character, but it sucks even worse for any new readers who might want to see what this Green Arrow dude is all about.

Larry Livermore is a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, New York.

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BATWOMAN #1
Read by Jenny Incompetence
I was gonna write a big section about me but I’m pretty boring. I used to read a lot of trashy romance comic books, I don’t anymore. Anyways, here’s some words about how terrific Batwoman is:

The art is amazing – Seriously, you guys. It’s really just lovely. The panel layouts are really terrific, the action sequences flow really well together and look really unique and interesting. Also you would think that having several bat shaped panels in one comic book would be silly and weird, but it actually looks great.

It’s pretty creepy– There’s this scary hispanic water monster lady that’s abducting and drowning children. There’s also this  cigar smoking charred skeleton dude who seems to be the head of some sort of shadowy government agency that’s after Batwoman.

I can relate to Batwoman – The one thing that really stood out to me about this book was one panel where Kate Kane, Batwoman’s alter ego, goes into a police station at sees a picture of her ex on a wall of photos of the police force.

This really makes me feel like Batwoman is a believable person who has feelings and regrets, I really love that. I feel like this one panel encompasses what endeared me to Batwoman. That and that she dates some very attractive police officers and kicks all the butts.

She kicks all of the butts – She busts through a window, she grapples with that creepy water monster. Her and her cousin with a terrible commando name beat up a bunch of dudes dressed up like billiard balls and she punches the leader right in the face.

She has six words for Batman – “This is my crime scene now.” That’s right. Fuck you, Batman.

This is pretty much the greatest thing I have ever read. I’m undoubtedly going to buy it every month.

Chadd sez:
Batwoman was fantastic in 52, she was fantastic in her Detective Comics arc, and she continues to be fantastic in her own title.  As Jenny pointed out, the art in this book is unparalleled.  Even if the story sucked, the beautiful layouts and artwork would be more than enough to pick this up, but fortunately the story is great (not quite as great as the aforementioned Detective Comics run, but almost).  Batwoman is a great title for new readers, especially those who’d like to read about a strong female and/or gay character amidst the testosterone sea of superhero strong men.

Jenny Incompetence hates Glee and would like to tell you all about it. She currently lives in North Carolina where she collects record and feels sorry for herself.  Thanks to Chadd Derkins and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, she now reads DC comic books.

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LEGION LOST #1
Read by Courtney Shove
First of all, what did I miss? I open this thing up and there is a green man exploding things. Apparently he is exacting revenge on people. For what? Who even knows.

Some mutants came from a big time bubble to help contain this green man and stop his rampage.

There is a lot of explosions and AAAAAAHHH and destruction.

At one point a little kid with a stuffed animal comes out of nowhere. Her sister is lost? I mean, an entire town has been wrecked, you probably don’t have parents anymore but you stop some psycho flying green alien dude and want to know where your sister is?
I say get the fuck out of that town like woah.

I flipped back and forth trying to figure out some pieces of the puzzle. AH, I see. We are in present tense and it’s Part 1. Maybe in Part eleventybillion I will know what is happening. Maybe.

Seems like part of the rescue mutants lost a gang member or two.

In the end I learned some new words I shall attempt to throw in my everyday conversations.

Such as “what the sprock is this comic even about?”

Chadd sez:
Courtney’s last sentence there sums it all up perfectly.  I mean, just go back and read my thoughts on Legion of Super-Heroes and then apply it to this book as well.  In the middle of an initiative meant to create a blank slate, these Legion books carry their long and stupid history on their backs like a sack of doofy shit.  For god’s sake, there are constant references to Flashpoint in this book.  Flashpoint!  Great jumping-on point, you guys!  Jeez.

Courtney Shove dislikes mostly everything.  She is from Maryland, 28 years old, and down with the clown.

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THE FLASH #1
Read by Matt Ford
As a kid I was super into the Super Friends cartoon.  From the ages of two to four I would watch the episodes that my mum had taped off TV over and over, along with the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.  I’d play with the action figures all the time and would often get about town in a cape.  I was crazy into this shit.  As far as comics go, I can remember acquiring them randomly and not really knowing what was going on and just looking at the pictures of Batman and Superman doing stuff.  In the mid-90’s when I was around ten a comic book store opened up near my house called The Phantom Zone.  A friend of mine was into Judge Dredd after seeing the Sylvester Stallone film, and wanted to go there and look for comics.  I remember entering the shop for the first time and flicking through the books that were on the shelves and just being amazed by how all these characters were nothing like they were in my head from when I was a child.  Why was Aquaman this moody guy with a beard?  Why was the Green Lantern not Hal Jordan and instead some other guy?  What’s going on here?  Despite my confusion, I started regularly purchasing a few different titles on a monthly basis.  Then the Phantom Zone closed down and I couldn’t really read comics again.

Outside of reading certain titles in trade paperback form (mostly Preacher, The Exterminators and a couple of other things), I haven’t really kept up with comics at all, so when I heard about this DC universe reboot and launch of the New 52, I was incredibly keen to check out some of the books.  So on release day I headed into the city after work to pick up my copy of The Flash #1 from Kings Comics here in Sydney.  I was surprised to find the store absolutely packed, to the point where they actually had security guards working the door to keep things under control.  People were excitedly grabbing books from the shelves and enthusiastically commenting on them to no one in particular.  There were dudes standing there going over the books loudly critiquing them panel by panel, just talking to themselves.  This was amazing to me as I haven’t really witnessed that kind of excitement and enthusiasm in a retail setting since back in the days when I would head into record stores on album release days to pick up the newest offering from a band I was super into.

Anyway, onto The Flash #1…

We’re introduced to a forensic investigator named Barry Allen.  Barry is out on a date at a technology convention with some sassy girl named Patty, who we find out later on works with him.  They’re chatting to a scientist guy about his new environmentally friendly, high-speed monorail when suddenly the tech convention is under siege by a bunch of armoured guys.  Barry Allen disappears for a second and at that moment we find out that Barry Allen is actually THE FLASH.  There’s a big double page spread that shows Barry now as the superhero, along with some text letting us know that he was once upon a time struck by a bolt of lightning and doused in chemicals which turned him into the fastest man alive.  How the reader was informed of this with such brevity was kinda hilarious to me, but this cliff notes version of the characters origin works a lot better than trying to awkwardly cram it into the dialogue, so it worked I think.

Back to the story… with The Flash now on the scene, the armoured guys are on the run, along with a device that they came for (which we later find out is a portable genome re-coder, belonging to the monorail guy I mentioned earlier).  They all manage to get away into a helicopter slash jet thing that they have waiting for them on the roof, with the exception of one guy that The Flash kills by rugby tackling off of the buildings roof (along with the genome re-coder, which Flash later returns to the monorail guy).

Being forensic investigators, Barry and Patty now turn up on the crime scene to check out the body of the guy that The Flash killed.  When the guy’s mask is removed, Barry is surprised to find out that it is his old friend Manuel.  We’re treated to some panels of dreamy flashback where we find Barry and Manuel running through the woods together, fleeing an angry mob.

Emotional over the death of his friend, and confused by his Manuel’s involvement with the team of masked mystery attackers, Barry heads to his quarters to undertake some intense investigating.  Then – SURPRISE – we find out Manuel isn’t actually dead when he turns up at Barry’s joint looking for help… but then before any information is revealed Barry’s door gets kicked down and they both take off out the window.  They race through the streets, being chased by our unknown attackers.  At one point Barry jumps in some water, and in an awesome sequence turns into The Flash underwater and runs up and out on the water like he was Jesus Christ.  Abruptly he is stopped, now faced off against a Manuel clone army! END BOOK #1.

Did I enjoy the comic?  I think I did!  It wasn’t the greatest thing ever and I wasn’t totally captivated and enthralled in any massive way, but it was pretty cool.  I thought the story was fun and easy to follow.  I found it to be really well paced and plotted with things unfolding organically, and nothing feeling super heavy-handed or like it was being force-fed.  I thought the mixture of dialogue and action was well-balanced.  It’s a quick read, but a fair bit does happen and the story is intriguing enough for me to want to read the next issue.

Chadd sez:
It’s really awesome that Matt enjoyed The Flash without really giving a shit about the character before.  It’s a nice thing to see, although I myself haven’t been able to really get into this particular book.  For me, this is one of those cases where I was really enjoying the pre-New-52 iteration of the title (written in this case by Geoff Johns), and would rather be reading that than this.  Still, this new version of The Flash is pretty good and I’m hoping I’ll be able to get the fuck over myself and just enjoy it for what it is.

Matt Ford is the creator of Australian zine Nerf Jihad.  Matt is a vivacious supporter of animal rights, and his favorite actress is Winona Ryder.  He enjoys eating bananas.

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So there you have it.  For those of you who have been enjoying this series of posts, I am sorry to inform you that this will be the last one.  The people who were assigned the remaining books (All-Star Western, Batwing, Birds of Prey, Blackhawks, Captain Atom, The Fury of Firestorm, Men of War, Resurrection Man, Stormwatch, Superboy, Teen Titans) never turned in their reviews, and what with all the cancellations and new book announcements, it doesn’t seem worth it to pursue this idea any further.

This project has been incredibly fun and insightful, however, and I’d like to take this time to thank everyone who reviewed a book once more.  By way of keeping score, here is a rough assessment of how the reviews broke down:

Now obviously, many opinions offered in this series were a hell of a lot more nuanced than the simple duality of “IT RULES” or “IT SUCKS,” but for this purpose, it paints a clearer picture to break it down into pretty basic figures.  What we come away with is that roughly 1/3 of new readers enjoyed the comic books they read, and have the potential to become new fans of the DC Universe.  All in all, I’d say that was pretty good.  One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the opinions of the new readers didn’t always match up with the general viewpoints of long-time comic book fans.  Animal Man got hated on, for example, while Batman: The Dark Knight got praised.  I don’t know what conclusion could be drawn from that factoid, but it’s gotta mean something, right?  I don’t know.

This has all been really fun, and I know for a fact that this project got a couple of people into comics who had zero interest in the medium before.  It can’t be denied that a lot of the New 52 books are crap, but there are some really brilliant ones in there too, and the initiative has certainly drawn a lot of attention to comics in general.  As a whole I think this reboot has been a great success and a terrific kick in the ass to an industry that has traditionally been afraid to make huge changes like this.  So good job, DC!  I love you.


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