Here are our weekly new-comics recommendations. Plus! You've heard about DC Comics New 52? The reboot of the company's entire line? This week, I've got capsule reviews of the final 25 books. I'm tired, and you've got some reading to do. There are some gems in there.
Dare I suggest you buy a comic called "I, Vampire?"
Brilliant #1 Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, the writer-artist duo behind an acclaimed and lengthy run on Ultimate Spider-Man, launch their new series. Official summary: "Brilliant tells the story of a handful of college-age geniuses who challenge each other to solve the mystery of superpowers. Can the best and brightest change science fiction into science fact? And if so, how will the world at large react? Brilliant is a thriller of the highest order. It is a story of how true power can either destroy or protect the strongest of friendships. It is the story of how the world will react when our true potential is finally unlocked."
Cover Story: The DC Comics Art of Brian Bolland Official summary: "Artist Brian Bolland, best known for his work as illustrator of the best-selling title Batman: The Killing Joke, is the subject of this new hardcover collecting his covers for DC Comics. Featuring highly detailed and meticulous craftsmanship combined with dramatic takes on the world's best-known Super Heroes, Bolland's work has been featured on Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Zatanna and the Vertigo series The Invisibles and Animal Man. This spectacular collection includes rarely seen and never-before-published art, along with commentary from Bolland."
Holy Terror This Frank Miller graphic novel was originally supposed to feature Batman hunting down Al Qaeda. Things changes. Official summary: "There's a deadly menace somewhere in Empire City and The Fixer only has until dawn to save his town—and civilization as we know it! Legendary Comics presents an all-out, head-busting, bone-breaking, neck-snapping brawl of a tale from the one of the most celebrated storytellers of the medium, Frank Miller. Years in the making, Holy Terror features a desperate and brutal quest of a hero as he is forced to run down an army of murderous zealots in order to stop a crime against humanity. From the bestselling, critically-acclaimed writer/artist Frank Miller, creator of Sin City, 300, and The Dark Knight Returns."
I, Vampire #1 This vampire comic is the surprise best book of the last week of DC's launch of 52 new comics. Other standouts include Superman and... well, see below.
Ultime Comics: Ultimates #2 The first issue of this alternate-universe Marvel Avengers series started the unraveling of the world via a series of international crises. I don't know where writer Jonathan Hickman is going—and I hope it's not just standard global-catastrophe fare—but I'm optimistic, from interviews he's given, that he's going somewhere unusual.
Duke Nukem Glorious Bastards #3 Official summary: "Duke Nukem has traveled back in time to World War II in order to knock heads with an extraterrestrial threat in the form of a hot Vril babe named Maria and her twisted menagerie of alien monsters. Duke's out to prove he's a dangerous man with a great big gun-in more ways than one! Bullets fly, bombs explode, and the sh*t hits the fan—literally!"
Pokémon: Zoroark, Master of Illusions Official summary: ""Ash and Pikachu travel to Crown City to watch the Pokémon Baccer World Cup competition, but it's not all fun and games. The powerful Pokémon Zoroark has attacked! Ash and his friends must solve an old mystery before they can stop Zoroark and save the people of Crown City!""
The ComiXology Comics app and website offer a fresh batch of new and old digital comics this week (and as of this week, Marvel's are available on Comixology's website, instead of just on iOS… but still not on Droid). Highlights this week include any of the new DC super-hero books you're interested in and Marvel's Ultimate books, since they all hit ComiXology on the same day they come out in shops. Other notables include, well, not a whole lot of great-looking stuff this week. Some curiosities, though: the start of Brian Q. Miller's Batgirl comic, a collection of Jack Kirby's Silver Star, and Roger Stern and John Buscema's Avengers: Under Siege.
This week, I've got short reviews of last week's books and this week's books. Let's finish this thing.
*Week 3 (last week)
Batman One of the better books of the new 52. We get a confident Batman from writer Scott Snyder, dynamic art from Greg Capullo, sly understated storytelling, a good twist on the last page and—rarest of all in this 52 re-boot—a story that may be starting an arc but is also satisfying as a single-issue read.
Birds of Prey The foundation here is fine. A few vigilante women team up to fight crime. This initial issue, however, is bogged down by the inclusion of an unconvincing reporter character who trails the Birds for the apparent dual purpose of giving the writer a chance to explain the premise and to offer a cliffhanger when he ends the issue by exploding. I'm intrigued that the writer says the book's status quo will be changed dramatically in the fourth issue. That kind of bizarre hype will keep me on board until then.
Blue Beetle I like writer Tony Bedard and I've liked the take on Blue Beetle here and in recent years: Jaime Reyes is a teenager with standard teenage problems but also with a scarab attached to his back that was designed to be some sort of interstellar weapon of mass destruction that can kill Green Lanterns. Sure! I'm sticking with this.
Captain Atom This atomic-powered hero tops the list of super-heroes that DC seems to be out of their mind in thinking can carry a monthly book. Their wisdom is not evident in assigning writer J.T. Krul to the task. He turns out a bland story about Captain Atom doing the typical limit-pushing energy-absorbing and expelling thing Captain Atom does in every Captain Atom story. And maybe he died at the end. Captain Atom is such an uninteresting hero, but at least he's got artist Freddie Williams II drawing the issue in what looks like water-colors. Attractive art; dull story.
Catwoman Earns its notoriety as one of DC's most sexed-up new books, but Catwoman is often played for cheesecake, right? Forget the "empowered woman" defense, though. I don't mind reading about a Catwoman who sleeps with Batman, but a Catwoman who walks into a bar full of strangers and thinks: "I could pose as one of the working girls, but then I'd have to deal with being groped by these dirtbags... not that I mind groping, or even dirtbags. But it's the combo I can do without," is not for me.
DC Comics Presents It reads sort of like a Wikipedia entry for Deadman. So if you want to know how his powers work (he's a ghost; he possesses people), you can read a comic all about that, but I wanted an interesting story and didn't find it. This book will rotate new characters and creators. I'll check it out again when Deadman's done.
Green Lantern Corps Solid continuation of DC's ongoing Green Lantern saga that was barely interrupted by this re-boot. I liked it, but, I'm disappointed that this is yet another of DC's absurdly gory books. I do like the pairing of Green Lanterns John Stewart and Guy Gardner, two down to earth guys, one of whom tried to get a job as a football coach this issue (weird!). I like the Corps. I'm hanging around.
Legion of Super-Heroes Like Green Lantern Corps, the 31st-century Legion was barely re-booted by DC. Writer Paul Levitz resists trimming his cast for the sake of new readers, but the bigger problem is that, as pleasingly as he's telling the futuristic stories about the likes of Saturn Girl and Colossal Boy, he keeps telling the same tale about alien planets under attack and the Legion coming to rescue them. I'll stick with it a little longer.
Nightwing I wanted to like this more than I did, but I'm nonetheless intrigued. Batman's former sidekick is supposed to re-join the circus he was a part of when he was a kid, while still working as a super-hero too. They start getting to that with the first issue and I'll hang around for more to see how that plays out.
Red Hood and the Outlaws This one is notorious for turning Starfire, now an idol of little girls thanks to her cartoon, into the most brainless, sexualized version of her character yet. She's so flighty she can't even remember the last super-hero team she was on, but she sure likes having rough casual sex with the two bad-ass hero/outlaw guys she has teamed up with. Also featured in this issue: a kid uploading pictures of bimbo Starfire to the Internet and, in the back of the book, the comic's writer talking about how "joyful" this comic is.
Supergirl She lands in Kansas... or actually she doesn't as her Kryptonian rocket cracks the crust and ends up in Siberia where, confused, she fights men in armored suits, discovering her powers and wreaking havoc until Superman shows up. It read fast but was beautifully drawn and sets up what could be a fun take on the character.
Wonder Woman This might be the best book of the new 52. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang have created an extraordinary horror take on Wonder Woman that casts the heroine as a quiet, mighty warrior and surrounds her with some wonderfully-designed Greek gods as part of a creepy story involving some sort of incursion by members of the old Greek pantheon. I am on board for as many issues as these guys do. No one should skip this book.
*Week 4 (this week)
All-Star Western Gorgeous art married to a well-told story about DC's long-time Wild West outlaw come to the big city (Gotham), back when people still rode stagecoaches. It's fun, not just to see which ancestors of modern Batman lore pop up in this issue, but to read the tale of a country outlaw making his way into a darkening metropolis.
Aquaman DC's lead writer Geoff Johns tries to revive Aquaman as so many have before him. It's a decent start, but the proof isn't in the first issue of an Aquaman issue; it's in whether it's still around in 10. Johns' involvement probably guarantees that and in this first issue we learn that our hero doesn't talk to fish and does eat seafood. OK, but can he be interesting?
Batman: The Dark Knight Did we need another Batman book? Not unless you had to have one that includes David Finch drawing Batman in heroic poses as well as a page where you see three bullets narrowly miss the posterior of a woman wearing bunny ears, a bustier, a thong and thigh-high boots. Oh, the new DC....One issue of this is enough.
Blackhawks If this is DC's answer to G.I. Joe, stick with G.I. Joe. These special agents work for the U.N. They have code-names. They worry about attacks from nano-machines. Some of them sleep with each other. They're crazy Mission-Impossible types....interested yet? I'm not sticking with this.
Flash Francis Manapul sure can draw well, but I can't shake my resentment at DC's strange decision a few years ago to restore 1960's Barry Allen to the role as Flash. That's a dorky reason not to like a comic, but that editorial decision has annoyed people who grew up reading 1980's Flash Wally West. Wally was a kid sidekick who "made it" into the lead role. He's been demoted—vanished, really—in favor of returning crime scene investigator Barry who is now unmarried and, frankly, uninteresting as a modern Flash. I see no good reason to keep reading and many to wonder why Barry was ever brought back.
The Fury of Firestorm It took two writers to tell a clunky tale about two unpleasant high school kids, one a brainy reporter, the other a jock who asks his mom why their family has no black friends. By the end of an issue that also includes bad guys torturing people in unpleasant ways, the two teens have become two irritable versions of Firestorm and battle each other, until they merge into an even more irritated super-Firestorm. As with many of DC's 52, the writers neglected to introduce any likeable characters. I'm bailing.
Green Lantern: New Guardians This is more of a half-story, which is too bad because writer Tony Bedard can tell good sci-fi stories that are worth your dollars. All we've got this issue, though, is Green Lantern Kyle Rayner drawing the attention of Lanterns of several other colors due to some unusual events. I'm sticking around.
I, Vampire The most pleasant surprise of the whole new 52. It's a vampire book. Who needs it, right? Except that the writing and art is lovely. The premise is that two former lovers, both vampires, break up after 400 years when the lady in the couple decides it's time for vampires to rise up and revolt against humanity. He objects. She says she'll love him more for trying to stop him, but, as this issue shows, he's not going to have an easy time. No super-heroes appear, but they're referenced. I don't care if they appear or not; the way this brewing war is depicted is creepy, set in the context of a failed romance. I'll read this for as long as it goes. You should too. And ignore the cover that implies something Twilight-y. This isn't that.
Justice League Dark Decent first issue that shows why the good old Superman Justice League might need the support of a magic-oriented Justice League to fight magical threats. But it's too early to say whether writer Peter Milligan, who can be great or terrible, has a plan here that will work for more than the set-up issues.
The Savage Hawkman They've sort of turned Hawkman into Wolverine, and I just don't care. Bring back the Kyle Baker version, DC.
Superman My fears at this George Perez-written re-boot would stink were allayed by a solid if wordy tale of a brooding Superman who saves Metropolis from some weird fire-beast. The fun of this issue is learning the new status quo of Lois, Perry, Jimmy and the rest, though Perez is too interested in explaining how reporting works, why print is better than TV journalism and other dull details we could do without. I like this start and I'm on board, happier than I thought I'd be.
Teen Titans Some awkward moments here, mostly due to the Liefieldian steroid-ness of the art, but I like the idea of teenage super-heroes freaking out the news media and the world at large—and of a former Robin bringing the teens together to become an effective team. Sure, it's similar to Marvel's X-Men living in a mutant-hating world, but the generational fear of super-powered young people actually feels like the more timely anxiety. I'm sticking with this and looking forward to the book's intriguing Superboy twist.
Voodoo In case you thought DC wasn't selling some of the new 52 books with sex, they set this comic almost entirely in a strip club and include a scene that features the world's most violent lapdance. Before the book launched the tease was that we'd wonder whose side Voodoo was on. By the end, well, a man is dead and I don't know why we're supposed to care aside from the hint that there could be more skin next issue. Not a good enough reason for me to keep reading.
YIKES! That's it for this week. Tell me what you're reading this week and which great comics I'm missing.