REVIEW ROUNDUP: NEW 52 NOVEMBER!!!
As I mentioned in my eBook haul post I have amassed a humble collection of DC comics from The New 52 reboot. I purchased four first volumes each featuring a different character. In this lineup are The Flash, Batman, The Green Arrow, and Aquaman. Most of these were on sale during the time that I bought them hence why I bought more than I could read all at once. During the month of November, I am hoping to read and potentially review these four volumes. Why November - because alliteration that's why. As the month continues on, I will be making updates to this post to reflect my reviews of the individual volumes and The New 52 initiative in general. These reviews will be done a little differently than they have been in the past since this is partially a review of The New 52 universe being written alongside the actual book reviews.
Overall, this was a very fun and entertaining read for me. I've been a fan of The Flash television show which plays on the CW so I was pretty excited to get into some of the source material for where the show's writers get their wacky ideas. I obviously did not have the expectation that this would at all be the same thing as the show, but I definitely wanted it to be just as good.
My feelings after reading are certainly a little mixed. On one hand, this was an action packed collection of issues which are lovingly rendered by some immensely gifted artists. On another hand, it's a narrative that isn't quite flat, but also isn't as approachable as DC Comics would lead you to believe. See although this is Volume 1 of this version of the character, it's not necessarily the beginning of the story. The Flash has already established himself as a hero, loved by many, but not trusted by others. All of the characters certainly get a proper introduction, from Barry Allen's (The Flash's) cute police girlfriend, Patty Spivot, to the icy Captain Cold. Despite everything being presented as fresh and new, I definitely got the sense that DC was trying extremely hard not to alienate or bore their current fan base. Some characters, like Patty Spivot, definitely feel like they are worked into the story in a seamless manner, but entrances for characters like Captain Cold are a bit more forced. This largely comes from the fact that some of these characters have history with the Flash by this point - a history that I as a reader am well informed of, but this is a case where they tell me rather than show me that Flash and Cold are old rivals. Now, yes I know who Captain Cold is from the show, but I wanted to get to know him in THIS world and have him (as well as others like Iris West) feel a bit more fleshed out. Ultimately I just felt like I was trying to catch up with the story even though this is technically the beginning. I liked that there wasn't a tedious origin story, but there is definitely a way that they could have introduced things with a bit more grace.
I mentioned before that this is an action-packed storyline and I don't throw that term around lightly.
|Barry and Patty from the CW TV Show|
|Some of the spectacular action shots this volume has to offer|
THE FLASH VOL. 1 MOVE FORWARD (THE NEW 52) Can be picked up in print and digital formats on Amazon.
I've always been a batman fan. I grew up with the cartoons and have greatly enjoyed the more recent film and video game presentations of this classic character and his vast gothic universe. There's something inherently iconic about Batman. Even people who have never seen a movie, played a game, or read a comic that features him will instantly recognize the cape, cowl, and symbol. Many will even recognize characters like Robin and The Joker and instantly associate those images with the world's most beloved detective-hero. The greatest thing for me about this character is how vast his world is. In Gotham, it feels as though anything is possible. Sidekicks can become heroes of their own, villains might join forces with the good guys, and psychopaths rise up from the shadows at the worst possible times. The number of stories to be told in this place is seemingly endless which is what makes Batman one of the most compelling and complicated superheroes on the DC lineup. Needless to say I was curious to see how they would "reinvent" Batman for the New 52 and my opinion of the first volume is generally favorable.
The story starts off with Batman already very well established. He's on good terms with Commissioner Gordon, Dick Greyson has already assumed the role of Nightwing and he even has, not one, but TWO Robins in his bat-family (one is technically called Red Robin). There are also cameos made by a whole host of classic Batman villains during the opening sequence, but this story isn't really about the Batman that fans know. This volume introduces a villain that has never been part of the Batman mythos before - one that is particularly horrifying. Strange things are happening in Gotham and that's saying a lot considering the city's normal day-to-day. Before long, Bruce Wayne (Batman) find himself a target for a mysterious organization called The Court of Owls. There is a little nursery rhyme associated with this band of Gotham elite and their primary assassin, Talon, but no one considers them to be more than an urban legend - a spooky tale spun to children to get them to behave. Unfortunately for Bruce, The Court is all too real and it is out for his blood.
|Bruce and his boys|
On the villain side of things, I will say that the cameos make a bit more sense. Even if you don't recognize characters like Harley Quin or Two Face, you won't feel like you're missing anything of extreme importance. They mostly only show up in the first issue as inmates of the asylum and they remain there throughout the duration of the remaining issues. If you've been a long-time Batman fan then you will enjoy seeing them pop up, but if you aren't then it won't throw you off too much. Ultimately though, I am still not entirely sold that this is Batman for a brand new audience of readers. It was cool to have a
|A page from the opening sequence|
BATMAM VOLUME 1 THE COURT OF OWLS (THE NEW 52) Can be picked up in print and digital formats on Amazon.
THE GREEN ARROW VOLUME 1 THE MIDAS TOUCH (THE NEW 52)
I was one of the early adopters for the CW's ARROW before it got all the buzz that it now enjoys (and rightly deserves). I knew next to nothing about The Green Arrow, but did enjoy the version of the character that became a part of the supporting cast in later seasons of SMALLVILLE. Aside from that minimal exposure, I had no idea what to expect from a show featuring only that character, but it became my guilty pleasure and when season two came out, it was just a pleasure. Because I am such a big fan of what they did with the TV show, I was definitely nervous to dive into the comic incarnation of this DC mainstay, but I wanted to see what it was all about so I gave it a go and as you might have guessed from the rating, it was a less than favorable result.
It's not so much that any one part of this was particularly bad, it's just that the volume failed to get one particular thing right ... that is make me care. There's just nothing and no one here that really gripped me in any way that truly mattered.
Characters are a little too snarky to be loveable, villains are so numerous that I really only found one, maybe two, of them to be remotely compelling. There's just no one in the cast I really found myself passionately routing for or against which is a major problem in this type of universe.
Then there was the plot - which there wasn't really all that much of. Don't get me wrong, there is a ton of action and some genuinely brutal combat sequences. But that is really all that this story-line
|Ollie charging into battle|
Additionally, I wasn't even that huge a fan of the art style. It's not bad exactly, it just looks dated. Which is weird since the New 52's whole thing is that it is a more modern, hip take on the whole superhero thing. The artist also changes for the last issue of this volume (noticeably). It was sort of a weird transition for me even though the styles are fairly similar - I think it was just that the characters look visibly different so it's kind of strange. That said the art in this last issue is slightly better than that of the previous ones so it's kind of a tossup I suppose. Any way you look at it, this is certainly not the prettiest series in the DC lineup. It is also weirdly erotic - not so much in that people are behaving in a sexual manner - its just in how much skin is shown on both sides of the gender spectrum and how some of the characters are posed during the action shots. That's kind of a weird thing to complain about since it's not really a huge deal, it was just one more thing that I found to be a little off about this comic. While still addressing the visual aspect of this, I will say that I had NO problems this time around with the digital version like I did with THE FLASH VOLUME 1 and BATMAN VOLUME 1. The difference here being that I actually bought this one from Comixology and read it on their app, so maybe I will go to them from here on in since the Kindle versions have been a continual disappointment in terms of the overall reading quality.
Ultimately there just wasn't very much about this work that I enjoyed. The characters were depressingly cynical and annoyingly harsh to one another. The "modern day" references felt more like a crotchety old man's view of my generation. And the plot just didn't rivet me in any way. This volume only amounts to one fight scene after another with sarcastic quips and judgmental sentiments thrown in to fill the space in between. It's overly sadistic in a lot of ways and really just didn't provide me with joy of any kind, nor did it give me a whole lot of entertainment value. If you're a fan of The Green Arrow, just stick to the show, or go and find another comic series featuring this character because I don't think this will do much for you. I certainly will not be continuing with this particular series.
|POW right in the kissa!|
If you do decide to pick THE GREEN ARROW VOLUME 1 THE MIDAS TOUCH up, it can be found in print and digital editions on Amazon, though if you are going to go with digital, then I recommend going with Comixology.
When most people think of Aquaman, they think of a pretty-boy wearing a goofy outfit who talks to fish. While it's true that all superheroes went through a period of being extremely childish and cheesy, Aquaman never really outgrew that reputation in the way that characters like Batman and Superman did. For years, Aquaman has been the subject of obscurity and is probably everyone's least favorite Justice League superhero. From a personal standpoint, I have seen some really fantastic representations of the character that are nothing like what I just described. The version of the character that appeared on SMALLVILLE was seriously badass and the version that appears in Netherrealm's INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US, a one-on-one fighting game, even looks fierce as hell in addition to being a regular boss. Because of these prior experiences with the character, I went into AQUAMAN VOLUME 1 THE TRENCH (THE NEW 52) with a healthy degree of optimism and was very happy that I was not disappointed.
What fans rightfully considered to be one of the lamer characters in the DC lineup has come out in THE NEW 52 with by far the strongest first volume that I personally have read. Aside from comparing it to the rest of THE NEW 52's offerings, this is just a fantastic graphic work in general. The story kicks off with Aquaman dealing with the reputation of being kind of a joke. No one on the mainland takes him seriously or even believes that his kingdom, The Lost City of Atlantis, is real. Being half human on his father's side and half atlantean on his mother's Arthur finds himself in a spot where he belongs to neither the realm of land nor the depths of the sea. He's a bit lost and only seems to be sure of two things: his love for the "mermaid" Mera, and a desire to use his powers to protect the shores along with the people and creatures that live there. Arthur's desire to help others is put to the ultimate test when a hoard of flesh eating sea-humaniods emerge from the depths and begin to harvest the human population that lives in the small seashore town in which Aquaman makes his home with Mera. The police force is at odds about letting Aquaman help, but the jilted hero takes matters into his own hands and takes on the mysterious race of monsters with Mera's help.
|Kids say the funniest things, don't they?|
be made abundantly clear that this was by far the best and most accessible volume that I have read in
Another big part of what made this such an absolutely unhindered delight were the fantastic main protagonists of this tale. Both Arthur and Mera were phenomenal. I loved them as individuals and was touched by their relationship as a super-powered couple. Both characters are estranged from both
|A shot of the power couple|
Lastly, there are all of the gorgeous visuals and intense action shots in this comic. I think my favorite visual piece out of the THE NEW 52 series that I have sampled is still THE FLASH VOLUME 1 MOVE FORWARD (THE NEW 52), but this one is also quite stunning and daringly takes on some very complicated shots. It also does a nice job of making the scenes on land look different from those underwater and flashbacks to the past usually have this sort of hazy quality to them to visually separate them from the current events. All in all, it is just a really good looking comic that oozes with details like the scales on Aquaman's shirt and Mera's bodysuit. Every face looks distinct and are easy to identify and then there are the gruesome monsters
that are a truly horrific image to behold. The action shots are also quite bloody and the gore is eerily realistic. It's nothing so over-the-top that it distracted from my enjoyment of the story, but rather just enough to put me on edge and worry about what might become of the heroes trying to stop the flesh-hungry beasts.
|What big teeth you have!|
AQUAMAN VOLUME 1 THE TRENCH (THE NEW 52) can be found in print and digital formats on Amazon.
SUMMARY (To be updated as this post grows)
I came in with no real idea of what I would be getting myself into and while THE FLASH VOLUME 1 MOVE FORWARD (THE NEW 52) was not a perfect introduction into the universe, it was certainly a very enjoyable experience all the same. Reinventing a classic mythology is certainly no small task, but it definitely could have been done with just a bit more grace. I'm very optimistic about the future of THE NEW 52 incarnation of The Flash and about the other first volumes I have on my TBR!
I found that I enjoyed BATMAN VOLUME 1 THE COURT OF OWLS (THE NEW 52) far more than I did THE FLASH. Part of this probably had to do with the fact that I am already a big fan of all things Batman. I am not a big connoisseur of the comics, but certainly knew enough where I picked up on most of the subtle references and nods. I am still really not sold at all that THE NEW 52 makes these heroes any more accessible to new readers, but this iteration of Batman definitely provided a space to tell an exiting new story that updates the universe in some compelling ways. I also continue to be a little astounded at how sloppy DC is with putting together the digital versions of these comics. I'm hoping that I have seen the worst of it and that things will only get better as I read the first volumes for THE GREEN ARROW and AQUAMAN.
I suppose I'm at a loss for what to say after reading THE GREEN ARROW VOLUME 1 THE MIDAS TOUCH. I didn't enjoy it and basically just chalk it up to being a dud. I know DC writers have some great stories to tell and that there are artists who can render them in stunning portrayals, but this volume had neither good writing nor stellar artwork. It felt like a very half-hearted effort to reinvent a character for the modern reader and is probably a good example of how not to go about telling a superhero story, rebooted or not. Overall, I still have relatively positive notions about THE NEW 52 as a whole and am looking forward to reading AQUAMAN VOLUME 1, the last on my New 52 November Reading List.
After reading AQUAMAN VOLUME 1 THE TRENCH (THE NEW 52) I can honestly say that I have a lot more faith in THE NEW 52 initiative than I ever did before. This is an example of a reboot done right and a series that I actually can't wait to continue. It gets all the essentials right and leaves me wanting more without leaving me feeling unfulfilled. Up until this point, I'd been feeling like THE NEW 52 was a bit of a scam in terms of how it was advertised to comic newcomers, but this volume has made me question that stance. Before I call this post a wrap, I will have one more update on how I felt about the THE NEW 52 in general, but if I got nothing else out of the experience, then I can at least say that I enjoyed the retelling of Aquaman's story in a way that exceeded all of my expectations.
Overall, my experience with THE NEW 52 was certainly not a bad one. It also WAS NOT everything that DC hyped it up to be except in the case of AQUAMAN. Three out of the four of these first issues were solid enough for me to want to continue on with them, but only one of them really wowed me in the way I was hoping for. That said, only one of them was a true disappointment, so overall this initiative fared reasonably well with me. As an overarching reboot THE NEW 52 really does not do a good job of welcoming newcomers in the way it should and I can't really attest to how well it appeals to comic veterans either. I think if you're curious about trying something that belongs to this line of comics, then by all means it is worth a shot. One of the series might just grab you in a way that comics never have before or you might feel like it is more of the same cacophony of confusion. I'm glad I personally gave it a shot and can't help but feel very curious about what other's thoughts are on THE NEW 52 or even just DC Comics in general.