I’m taking advantage of the light week to catch up on some books from the last couple. So…
Flash #3: Flash is one of the real surprise hits of the New 52 for me. Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul were unknown writing quantities to me coming in, and Barry Allen’s not exactly my favorite speedster, but this book has been totally fantastic. If the comic were accidentally misprinted without captions or dialogue, I think it still might be worth the $3, just for art that’s as pretty and innovative as Manapul’s. It’s nice to see not only a creative team who understand how to use the art to tell the story but who trusts the art to tell the story. The series so far has gotten a lot of mileage out of Barry experimenting with his powers and learning how to use them through trial and error, which does a lot to humanize the character and emphasize his scientific outlook. Manapul and Buccellato are firing on all cylinders, and everyone should be along for the ride. A
Batman #3: Batman makes everything better. Scott Snyder’s Batman has been consistently great since beforeFlashpoint, but the synthesis here of Gotham history (via Return of Bruce Wayne and Gates of Gotham) and some overarching intrigue makes for seriously excellent reading. Greg Capullo is no slouch, either; I was skeptical of how his cartoony style would fit with the book’s tone, but I think it helps keep things feeling dynamic and animated. The Parliament of Owls designs are uniformly impressive as well. About the only complaint I have with this book at all is the slightly unbelievable notion that Batman would accidentally set off a tripwire — and that’s just plain nitpicky. Batman continues to be one of the best books — and quite possibly the best straight-up superhero book–of the New 52. A
Daredevil #6: The last time I regularly read Daredevil was in 1994, with the story that gave us his maligned (but I liked it) armored costume and the alias “Jack Batlin.” I’ve never read the vast majority of great Daredevil stories, whether your Millers or Bendises or Brubakers, so I’m probably not the best person to compare this to the vast Daredevil oeuvre. But I can say that Mark Waid and Marcos Martin (and alternating artist Paolo Rivera) are turning in some fantastic comics work that does some really interesting things with the vast playground of the Marvel Universe. I love it when these shared universe comics run with some of the crazy concepts that have built up over their long histories — and lament the loss of that with the New 52 — and there’s not much crazier than a clandestine cabal of Marvel’s leading secret societies and a wannabe supervillain whose quest to fight the Hulk means beating up every other tough guy and gal in the Marvel Universe. All the while, the book is smart, sharp, and fast-paced, and Martin’s art is unsurprisingly stunning. If you’re not buying Daredevil, then you’re missing out. Correct that mistake pronto. A
Justice League #3: I sure would like to like Justice League, flagship title of the New 52, but Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are making that awfully hard. Rebel Rikki hit most of the points in his quick review, but a few additional things stuck out to me. First, there’s Johns’ continued lack of understanding of what “20 pages” means. When monthly comics are shorter now than they have been in years, filling the book up with splash pages (three full-page splashes, one 2-page spread, one page with a 3/4 splash and one 2-pager where the top half is a single panel) makes it a particularly light read. Adding insult to that injury is the extra dollar in cover price, presumably accounting for the extras in the back. It’s nice to see Cully Hamner’s sketch pages (and desperate attempts to make Jim Lee’s designs make sense), but the excerpt from the fictional book about Atlantis is ridiculous — doubly so since two full pages have zero actual content (the “cover” and inside flap with mock library stamp card).
Aside from the economics, the story doesn’t fare much better. Lee’s art, as Rikki said, seems rushed, though I think Wonder Woman got the best new costume out of the redesigned League (pants or not). Perhaps the lack of detail and depth in Lee’s art this issue was inspired by similar lacunae in Johns’ script — particularly the characterization. Wonder Woman likes to fight. Green Lantern is a cocky hornball. Flash is smart. Batman is level-headed. Aquaman is arrogant. Superman is quippy and violent. The result is a League made almost entirely of completely unlikable people. Not even people, so much as broad caricatures — and in the case of Superman, largely unrecognizable caricatures. I’ve had a lot of back-and-forth over the New 52 portrayals of Superman, and I think it’s safe to say that I have a lot more flexibility in my interpretation of the character than most people I know. But there are a few hard and fast lines that I’d draw for the Man of Steel, and having him decapitate and dismember Parademons en masse, without so much as a “looks like these things aren’t even alive in a conventional sense, guess I can really cut loose,” crosses that line. It’s a little thing — maybe even just a little overzealousness by Lee, but it underscores the major writing problems in this book.
So far, Justice League has been the New 52′s big dumb Michael Bay action movie — light on plot, lighter on characterization, and increasingly feeling like a waste of money. C-
Supergirl #3: What I love about Supergirl is how much thought Michael Green and Mike Johnson have put into the character’s arrival on Earth — more, I think, than anyone has done before. Her unfamiliarity with (and occasional fear of) her newly-developed powers, her inability to understand languages other than Kryptonese (and in the last issue, her recognition of Kryptonian accents) and her refusal to believe what Superman’s trying to tell her, all give a degree of verisimilitude and believability to the ‘fish out of water’ premise that have not appeared in previous incarnations. I also like the introduction of Simon Tycho as a space industrialist, even if I wonder how many billionaire geniuses with interests in trapping Kryptonians the DC Universe can hold. About my only c0mplaint with this issue is artistic; Mahmud Asrar’s work has been a highlight of the series, but in this issue it often feels a bit amorphous. Part of that is the inconsistency in the S-shields (and really, the first step of anyone drawing a Superman family book should be figuring out that thing), but there are also faces and expressions throughout that just seem wrong or off or odd. It’s not terrible, and I really like the way he handles action and figures and body language, but I hope there’s some tightening up of the details in future issues. B+
Superman #3: Superman is not a perfect book, but if you’re looking for a change of pace from the writing-for-the-trade decompression that has become de rigeur for comics writers these days, then George Pérez’s Superman might be the book for you. Issue #3 continues the trend of giving us a complete story in each installment, with subplots building behind the scenes toward various inevitable climaxes. If not for some status quo elements and Superman’s (ugh) new costume, you could have picked this issue up in 1989 and found nothing surprising about the storytelling. As someone who’s gotten a lot of enjoyment out of comics — and particularly Superman comics — from the late ’80s and ’90s, there’s some nice nostalgia to this kind of pacing. It’s a tried-and-true method of telling stories in serial fiction, making each issue feel like it actually counts, and not like it’s padding out a trade or chopping up an OGN. On the other hand, it has a lot of the flaws I see in those old comics as well; it’s overwritten in places (though this issue’s not as bad an offender as the previous one) and the plot’s getting a bit formulaic — where the alien threat in the previous issue felt new and interesting, this one just seemed like a rehash of the enemy from issue #1, and the ending tied things up a bit too tidily. Overall, I’m happy to see that there are still writers in comics who see 20 pages as ample room to tell a complete story, while also laying in larger arc material, and I hope Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen keep up this style and momentum when they take over the title in a few issues. B
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more