DC The New 52 #3 Part 4 (of 4)

It occurs to me I have not given a link to where you can actually get a taster of what I’m talking about. Clicking here will take you to this week’s DC Sneak Peak on the Comixology website.

Talking of Sneak Peaks, it got me to pick up both Batman: The Dark Knight, and Superman, both of which I’d been planning to skip over. That makes it a review of the full 13 releases this month. Enjoy.

All Star Western #3

Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Moritat and Jordi Bernet
Cover by MoritatI like this month’s cover, and its feel of being a Western movie poster. The issue starts, with silent action as Hex’s back story is told in captions unrelated to the panels. It feels a strange place and manner of including a back story that could have been left until later in the run. One of the villains quotes a prophecy, which could be something or nothing. It may have been fulfilled in DC’s pre New 52 continuity, or be yet to come in any one of a number of books based in Gotham.

The art this week falls short, with some really nasty perspective mistakes (watch out for the Gatling gun barrel). The plot sees some of the foundations of the Gotham penal justice system being laid, and a Western style drive by. This issue seems to wrap up part of the plot and move us into new territory, but I expect a reprise soon.

The second story in the book, El Diablo, gets wrapped up with very little ceremony. A two issue short is always going to be a different read compared to a story told over a six issue arc, but it does feel overly truncated. Resolution comes far too swiftly, and the overall piece is left cheapened by this. It has been exploitation of what could have been an interesting premise that fails to deliver.

It’s a sad fall in form this month that I’d hoped not to see, and a particularly worry if parts of the plot are already being squared away, as while I like the idea of playing with the format of the usual 6 issue story arc, in this case I can’t see it working well.

Aquaman #3

Written by Geoff Johns
Art and cover by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado

We start with a flashback, but it’s the cover that lays the groundwork for this issue, with the big fight sequence from last month continuing. It’s conclusion, with the fishy enemies in retreat, leaves a battered Aquaman being once again patronised by the people he has saved. The misconceptions and bad reputation Arthur has been running into since the first issue are clearly going to take a long time to resolve. There’s an interplay with the events of Justice League here, in which his initial appearance is quiet awesome. How he’s moved from one state of affairs to another on the New 52 universe will hopefully be explored soon, rather than simply continuing to trade off the meta perception of him. We see the reappearance of someone who I assume was a pre New 52 character, and a hint at something to come, perhaps. The final panels are interesting, showing a character disillusioned with his lot, and bitter about his treatment by the surface world. Next month’s issue promises to be very good indeed.

Batman: The Dark Knight #3

Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by David Finch and Richard Friend with Jay Fabok
Cover by David Finch and Richard Friend

Not a good cover is it? As I mentioned in the introduction, I almost didn’t pick up Batman this week. I was won over by Sneak Peak, where there was some particularly good dialogue from one of the characters. I don’t want to spoil things, so go take a look via the link at the top of the page if you’ve a burning desire to know. What I am going to take pains to point out is that this character was not Batman. Batman, in this series seems oddly written, taking a different direction from other incarnations. He gets an almost James Bond one liner after finishing off an opponent, running counter to his usually lack of humour, and seems to be acting outside his normal focus with a laughably pompous scene threatening someone. Despite of this there does seem to a genuiene mystery being built up, which remains well veiled. We also get a cameo from Flash, who seems to be getting around quite a bit (which is at least sensible given his powers, unlike Batman’s many appearances). I am divided about the issue. Art and overall plotting are good, but dialogue and characterisation seem below par.

Blackhawks #3

Written by Mike Costa
Art Alessandro Vitti
Cover by Ken Lashley

The opening page is a little odd, both in terms of context and content but in fairness would work nowhere else in the book. Past this the rest of the book is very good. There is a very nicely done bait and switch with some unexpected humour thrown in. There’s also some good dialogue: “We are not made of flesh, we are made of choices”. There’s even a foreshortened eye patch joke in there. One thing that is rubbing me up the wrong way is one of the leads being referred to as “Lady” all the time, even if it is her name, it still manages to come across as derogatory. That aside I’m really enjoy Blackhawks. After a shaky start, in issue #1, things are really coming together, and being considerably smarter in its themes, devices and plotting than I suspected. The nano technology used is a well crafted device, managing to be scary science born horror and plot point. The fight has been cut back this issue in favour of a more science heavy dialogue, and exploration of the antagonists.

The Flash #3

Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art and cover by Francis ManapulAnother lovely cover, and consistently wonderful internal art. Once again, this can be really appreciated via the link at the top of the page. Even the way the book title is show internally is well executed. The art is a close second to Batwoman in my opinion, which given the praise I heaped on that a fortnight ago, is no mean thing. Moving beyond the art, there’s more detail about Barry’s powers, which is very well handled with narrative captions, that avoid feeling like a contrived information dump. The plot gets fleshed out with dark science and pig bits, in a change of tone. In fact, the whole issue is a little darker than the previous two, but we’ll come to that in a moment. There’s an slightly out of place feeling caption box telling readers to “Stay tuned for issue #6”, which manages to be both antiquated and effective. Antiquated crops up again, with the use of a steam powered car, which is quite cool. The flip side of this is that it comes in a glaring bit of sub plotting, narrated with lurid green caption boxes. Flash’s cameo in Captain Atom at the head of the month, gets a reprise this month, in a manner of speaking, however tenuously. There is a dark humour showing through at points, and the issue finishing with one of the best cliff hangers so far, across all 156 issues of the New 52 released to date.The main plot, in particular this month’s conclusion, and the characterisation of Allen’s foes is going to a murkier place than in the first two issues. While it works well, I hope there’s a return to the more upbeat nature of the preceding issues.

Next month is promising to be very good indeed.

The Fury Of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #3

Written by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone
Art by Yildiray Cinar
Cover by Ethan Van Sciver

I find myself with sadly little to say about this issue, which is slightly unfortunate given the length to which I’ve run talking about other releases this month.

There is the dubious return of someone I assume is a pre New 52 character. This is followed by a very long fight scene, and further exploration of the Firestorm power. And yeah, that’s about it, in admittedly very broad strokes. The agency that are attempting to retrieving the Firestorm protocols a pushed from pillar to post,  with an almost sympathetic bit  of characterisation before things swing the other way. The origin story gets fleshed out by a fractional amount, but the narrator is more than a little unreliable.

The characters are being almost overshadowed by the action, but there is development, which will hopefully see fruition next issue. That the series isn’t being knocked off the review list is indication that I am still finding something of worth here, but it’d be nice to have more depth and less explosions.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #3

Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Tyler Kirkham, Harvey Talibao and Batt
Cover by Tyler Kirkham and Batt

I really like this month’s cover, and the issue as a whole; mainly for it running against the status quo of the DC universe, something all four Green Lantern books are doing to greater or lesser extents. Kyle gets the apotheosis, using all the different rings at once, as foreshadowed over the last two issues. The Guardian’s position within the universe is altering, which will develop nicely, fingers crossed. We get answers to questions that were left hanging over the first two issue, which are resolved in an unexpectedly and awesome way. Next month should be very good indeed.

That the above sums up almost all I want to say about the issue should not be taken as an indicator there is nothing going on. Once again it is the case that mentioning the best bits will spoil them, and I’m keen to avoid that.Consider this my elliptical way to coming around to recommending the book, but go with the caveat that of all the books across the New 52 it is New Guardian’s that requires the most pre existing knowledge of the universe, to get the most out. How it feels without this is something I am ill qualified to judge.

I, Vampire #3

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Cover by Jenny FrisonI’m not a fan of this month’s cover, which is a shame after the first two months. Nothing is diminished internally however. Once again the issue takes a different approach to the standard method of telling a story, this time shifting perspective to that of Professor John Troughton, an associate of Andrew’s and a fellow vampire hunter. His narrative manages to encompass back story, the moving forward of the plot, character exploration, and foreshadowing of things to come. There’s the introduction of another new character, who I think I’ll leave people to discover for themselves.

If the above isn’t enough to draw you in this month, maybe that next month promises to be set in Gotham, although I can’t decide if I want to see the implied Batman vs Vampires this implies. Although judging by what I’ve heard about next month, this may get derailed some. I’ll not be giving this away either though.

Justice League Dark #3

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mikel Janin
Cover by Ryan Sook

We are still yet to see the team really assemble as yet. Constantine meets up with Zatanna, and there are definite nods towards a shared past, entrenching him further into the New 52 continuity. Deadman is getting considerable panel time, and remains a bit of an arsehole. Shade gets fleshed out a bit more, with a scene happily reminiscing of Event Horizon, or the Shining, although the book isn’t quite the horror opus that this comparison suggests. There is a lot left high up in the air still this month. Hopefully this will all start falling into place, but not so fast as to ruin the pacing that is being established. Assuming a standard six issue story arc there is a lot to fit into the remaining half of the run.

The Savage Hawkman #3

Written by Tony S. Daniel
Art and cover by Philip Tan

I’m undecided about the art, which veers between looking good and sketchy, without a noticeably style change. I realise that didn’t give much idea of what I’m driving at, but if pictures could be fully described with words then I suspect that a) your reviewer would be a lot better at writing these than his is, and b) it’d be unnecessary art.

This issue seems to sadly advance little of the main plot ending depressingly close to its beginning. Between these points the plot does grow so it’s not an entirely filler issue, but it’s perilously close. There is little happening character wise either, which is the real shame, given the conflict shown in issues #1 and #2. As mentioned in the review of Justice League Dark, assuming a 6 issue story arc, then over the next three issues the pacing and story will hopefully see this justified.

Next issue will hopefully see things advance, as I have high hopes for this series. Certainly the cover previews look suitably grand.

Superman #3

Written by George Perez
Breakdowns and cover by George Perez
Art by Jesus Merino

The second book this month to almost not make review, but scrapping through on the benefit of the doubt from Sneak Peak. The opening narrative captions run on far into the issue. There’s a considerable tie into Action Comics and it really embeds Superman in the New 52 version of Metropolis. Told from the viewpoint of a reporters pitch for a new show it neatly touches on some very old and specific clichés, but also puts the spotlight on the dangers that seem to come hand in hand with Superman’s prominent presence within the city.

There’s some almost quietly done character building, before we reach this month’s big bad, which undermines some of the good will the series has built up, with some, for want of a nicer phrase, smack talk, from Superman. Sadly smack talk seems to sum it up perfectly.

As I seem to have said far too often, I hope things improve next month, with the beginnings of some resolution of the over arching plot that has been building behind the big bad of the month.

Teen Titans #3

Written by Scott Lobdell
Art and cover by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

There is a fantastic speedster piece of art, which does things in a very different way to Flash, but is just as brilliant. I really enjoyed this issue, although there is a bit of  iffy over sexualising of a teenager, with Wonder Girl in a nurse outfit. Elsewhere we get another new team member introduced, who walks a very thin line between being unlikeable and brilliant, which is an achievement in and of itself I suppose. Batman also appears to have taught Red Robin a thing or two in the undetermined time he was just Robin (see last week’s issue of Nightwing as to why I’m stressing this) . The crowning achievement of the issue is a character that turns up for a single panel, and in four speech bubbles surpasses many others in sheer brilliantness.

Voodoo #3

Written by Ron Marz
Art by Sami Basri and Hendry Prasetya
Cover by John Tyler Christopher

Despite not having any nudity in this month, Voodoo still seems to have sex as a key theme, between dirty truckers, stereotypical gas station owners, two girls who seem to be taking fashion tips off the Dukes of Hazard, and Voodoo herself the issue is fairly rife with it. The high point is Kyle Rayner’s cameo (another continuity headache in the making), with some nice dialogue and Green Lantern constructs that are both fantastically imaginative and very well drawn. On the subject of art, and as I’ve mentioned before in reviews of this series, it is lovely, which probably only serves to emphasis the whole sex theme. There does seem to be a move towards a more robust plot with the final page bring in an unexpected cameo (no, not Flash again).

Skipped To The End…

Once again I think it’s Aquaman ahead of the rest this month for my recommendation but it is facing tight competition. The Flash is possibly joint first, and if not is only a whisker away. I, Vampire continues to do very interesting things, and Teen Titans has really impressed me this month. Blackhawks has jumped up considerably in my estimation, and is doing something different from the rest of the line; in plot, if not delivery, it feels very much like a Warren Ellis story (a likeness that has been alluded to elsewhere and one I can agree with). Justice League Dark, is possibly still trading on my love of the occult side of the pre New 52 DC universe, but hopefully not to the point it is colouring me objectivity when I was it is worth getting. New Guardians, as a title is a tricky one, as it does rely on a readers love of the Green Lantern books as a whole, and their recent history, to be worth getting, but isn’t a letdown if that is the case.

The other titles are all a little disappointing in their own ways. Nothing stands out as truly awful and deserving of cutting, but neither are they brilliant. Both the big name titles have left me undecided, which I suppose characterise the problem those titles face; they have to stick to the formula that gives them their audience, particularly at this early stage of the New 52. So it’s going to be big fights and maintaining the status quo for a little while yet. Superman may prove to be a little more adventurous given time, just from the way they are redeveloping the character.

All Star Western, Fury of Firestorm and Hawkman all need another issue to set them back on course. Voodoo is showing a tiny bit more promise than it did, but it’ll have to do something phenomenal next month, and effect a change of tone, to drag itself out of the gutter. Should it manage this the first collection will prove to be an odd read as the feel of the book shifts. There is a change of writer coming for Voodoo with #7 (which is not the only title with changes coming), so it may be that things will alter then.

I have a few pieces of housekeeping to deal with before next week’s release roll around, which will hopefully be dealt with in another post. There will also be a book review from me if I can squeeze it in.

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