Review – Revisiting the New 52 TPBs (Action Comics, Frankenstein, Hawkman, Justice League, OMAC, Suicide Squad)

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Since they seem to have decent library penetration, I’ve been going through and reading the tpbs of some of the DC relaunches that didn’t grab me with the first issue.  Nothing has won me over, but some things are better than others.

The Decent

SuicideSquad 193x300 Review   Revisiting the New 52 TPBs (Action Comics, Frankenstein, Hawkman, Justice League, OMAC, Suicide Squad)While it didn’t inspire me to go out and buy anything, Suicide Squad V. 1 was good enough that I’ll happily reserve the next volume in the library gets it.  There have been a lot of complaints about the New 52-verse being too dark.  This is a book that’s supposed to be dark.

This title could easily have been called “Deadshot and Harley Quinn,” with those two characters taking center stage and this tpb ending halfway into a Harley-specific arc (which looks like it will inevitably lead into the wide world of Bat-Events, so who know how that will work from a tpb perspective).  You’ve got a little bit of nihilism, a little bit of redemption-seeking, a little bit of plain old crazy and a suddenly heart healthy Amanda Waller pushing buttons and being unpleasant.

The Wall being thin is a sore spot, doubtlessly anticipating the public embracing the Green Lantern film (oops), but it’s really OK.  (There’s a “skinny bitch” joke in here, isn’t there?)

The tone reminds me a bit of another series I’ve been known to pull from the library: Secret Six.  I know the Harley redesign is a bit much, but if you liked Secret Six, pull this one from the library.  It might scratch your itch.

Readable +

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. V. 1 is in the nether regions between going and looking for the next volume and maybe I’d read it if there wasn’t anything else handy.

Other people seemed to like this one a whole lot more than I did (not enough to save the title, though), but I’ve never been a huge Jeff Lemire fan.  You’d have to pay me to read V. 3 of Sweet Tooth.  Not my thing, so perhaps take me with a grain of salt here.

Frankenstein is a big goofy high concept science fiction comic trying to be a horror comic and it just doesn’t quite gel, at least not for me.  Frankenstein is given a band of sidekicks that are just a little too cliched for my tastes.  A really whiny werewolf who’s too eager to please and always spouting cornpone aphorisms.  The really whiny faux-vampire who doesn’t want to be there.  The mysterious mummy… well, actually, the mummy was OK.  Father Time regenerated into a little girl was a one-off shock value that didn’t really work past the intro.  Ray Palmer as the scientific adviser — interesting, but not addressing the elephant in the room about why he wasn’t the Atom was a distraction.  Frankenstein’s wife was alright.

Just a lot of mixed elements that didn’t come together for me.  More interestingly, it appears that OMAC and Frankenstein were going to be more intertwined before OMAC got cancelled.  Each had part of a crossover from the title character’s perspective. You can read either straight through (which is unusual), but there are plenty of repercussions for Frankenstein to deal with, going forward.

As this volume ends, again mid-story.  As it ends, Frankenstein seems to get a little more direction.  I might be a little better with V. 2 and then, I gather, it ends in the Rotworld crossover.

Readable

Action Comics V.1 does not seem to be what anyone expected it to be.  Grant Morrison’s run on Action seems to be a massive disappointment to the comics-buying audience, for that matter.  The January sales estimates for the tail end of that run are 58K.  A massive drop and only 8K more than… you know, I’m not actually sure who was writing Superman in January… musical chairs with the writers will do that.  Suffice it to say, I’m not alone in calling this just readable.

Morrison’s twist on Superman is to have him young and all Emo.  The Sulk of Steel, if you will.  The personality starts to even out after a couple chapters, but Super Youth in Revolt didn’t do it for me and the story elements were tired retreads.  Luthor’s reset as the super scientific business consultant.  Brainiac’s first appearing to collect the last Kryptonian.  Oh, look, here are characters from the future.  It’s a reshuffling of the traditional elements and it felt emotionally empty in its attempts to be overwrought and Emo.

The Action material suffers most in comparison, since Morrison did a genuinely brilliant job with All-Star Superman.  That series/book was a love letter to the Silver Age Superman and it resonated with everyone.  I can’t feel the love with this one.  Oh, it’s readable.  There’s craft to it.  But there’s nothing special about it.

OMAC is another big, goofy high concept science fiction comic that just didn’t quite gel.  It’s a retelling of the original Kirby series, but set in present day.  Actually, its a cannibalization of Kirby’s OMAC and Kirby’s Jimmy Olsen.  Buddy Blank is working in genetic research facility that’s more or less cribbed from those Jimmy Olsen issues.  We encounter some influence from Apokolypse.  A lot of things blow up.  Slam.  Bang.

I got the feeling the DC was trying to re-set the New Gods saga and was trying to lay the seeds for it, between OMAC and Justice League.  The biggest problem with this is that the New Gods saga doesn’t really need to be retold and seeing the Kirby elements rejiggered like this is more than a little odd.  I think we would’ve seen a little more crossover with Frankenstein had this continued.  There was a direction to OMAC, it just didn’t get anywhere nearly fast enough.

Much like Action Comics V. 1, OMAC is readable.  I can’t actually recommend it unless there’s nothing else in front of you, though.

A Mess

I remember trying the first issue of Savage Hawkman, wanting to like it, but ending up calling it a “hot mess.”  Well, when you read that as a tpb, the mess gets even bigger.  The blurb on the back reads:

I’m actually dying to know more about this reinvented Carter Hall.

Well, if his life depended on knowing more about the character, the poor man must be dead.  Talk about a directionless comic…

Carter Hall doesn’t want to be Hawkman anymore.  So he burns his costume.  Then the costume attacks him and… now it lives in him, Spider-Man alien symbiote style — maybe — it isn’t exactly clear.  Then they find an alien in suspended animation who wants the Nth Metal.  Then we meet the Gentleman Ghost.  Then we flop back to the alien storyline, which didn’t exactly finish.

Lots of stuff flying around, not much by way of explanations (at least in a timely enough manner to retain readers or the creators).  I actually enjoy the Philip Tan art.  It’s distinctive and colored for an almost painted quality.  I’m not sure the storytelling is the best, but given the writing problems, I’m not sure where the blame really lies.

The first half of the book has really clunky and overly expository dialogue.  That’s listed as Tony Daniels.  The second half adds James Bonny as co-writer and scripter.  That’s the Gentleman Ghost storyline.  When Bonny comes on, the dialogue is readable and plot easier to follow.  Unfortunately, by that point, there are a tone of things lying around unaddressed from the first, not quite completed arc.  The book also goes from science fiction into pure horror at that point, which is a jarring shift with things having been left hanging.

I partially checked this out to see if Hawkman  had become as big a mess as the online buzz suggested.  Holy buckets!  Believe the hype!  This book is a mess.

Finally, there’s Justice League: Origin (or Justice Leage v. 1, if you prefer).  I had a really bad reaction to the first issue.  Sometimes it takes a couple issues to get going.  Not the case here.  I assume the writing gets better after the first volume, because it’s selling over 100K without Jim Lee’s art and this is a pretty thin plot that reads like it was targeted at 8 year olds… or perhaps was to be presented to the studio as a movie blueprint.

There’s nothing wrong with the art in this… well, I still strongly dislike the Superman costume redesign, but past that.

The writing on the other hand?  Did Geoff Johns really write this?  Every Justice League member comes off like a caricature.   Batman is smart, but mostly angry.  Green Lantern is brave and foolish (and horny).  Flash is all about following authority.  Wonder Woman is naive.  Superman is noble and angry.  Aquaman is full of himself and angry.  Cyborg is inexperienced and angry.  Did I mention they’re all angry?

Past the anger, the dialogue had all the subtlety of a Smurfs cartoon.   And the personalities didn’t quite match up with the characters’ individual comics.  Especially Wonder Woman.

Stuff blows up.  Here’s Aquaman — look, he’s a bad ass now — it’s important you think Aquaman is the biggest bad ass on the planet so you buy his title.  Oh look, here’s the big bad.  Let’s stop fighting each other and fight him.

That was about the sophistication level of the narrative.  If 8 year olds still read comics, I’d have thought this was targeted to them.  Avoid.  Avoid.  Avoid.

Comments

  1. Loved Frankenstein and OMAC. All you needed to know about OMAC was it was 100% loud and fun Kirby worship (except for the Kollins fill-in issue. If you’re not going to draw it Kirby style, then what’s the point?).

    Frankenstein had some cool weird concepts, but it never really caught on for me in the long run. Still sad to see both of these series cancelled; they were far better than some of the rewarmed superhero books DC is squeezing out these days.

  2. “Hot mess” is too generous a description for the Hawkman book. I like the character a lot (couldn’t tell you why, I just do) so I *wanted* to like this book, but it was awful. Unlike you, though, I also disliked Philip Tan’s art. I’ve never been a fan of “shoot the final art from the pencils” style, it gives it a faux painted look that’s actually muddy and washed out at the same time. Ugh. It just looks unfinished and cheap.

  3. Dreamer says:

    Re: Justice League Vol.1 review: No, you suck!

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