Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The New 52 Pickup

Hello, good day, yo, hiya and hey. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve got a love of all things geeky and related to pop culture. So please allow me to welcome you to my little corner of the Internet. It took me a while to figure out what my first entry should be about. Originally, I toyed with the idea of starting with an ending, meaning I was going to discuss the Doctor Who Series Six finale. One can never really say goodbye to The Doctor, after all, because his regenerations have shown us that every goodbye just leads to an exciting new way to say “Allons-y!” or “Geronimo!” I instead chose to coincide the launch of my new blog with the launch of the new turn in comics that’s been going on. Today, we’re going to take a look at The New 52 by DC Comics. Fair warning: this article is over 2,000 words.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months or are not a frequent comic book reader, The New 52 is neither a miniseries nor is it a sequel to a former year-long event called 52. Instead, it’s a total re-launch of the entire DC Comics franchise. Every single comic has either been cancelled or is restarting back at number one as part of a new continuity. Yes, every single comic. That even goes for Action Comics and Detective Comics, which were the two longest-running superhero comics of all time.

There are many reasons DC is making this move. Some are official and others are so official they’re not being listed as official. The biggest influence came from Warner Bros, the owners of all things DC-related, pretty much demanding that they do this. The argument is that fair-weather fans motivated by the recent stream of video games like Arkham City or movies like Dark Knight and Man Of Steel might want to start picking up comics. These hypothetical fans would then get turned off by seeing that they are literally several hundred stories behind and instead purchase magazines like “Sports Jocks Monthly” or “Anorexic Dress Wearers” (those are real things, right? That’s what non-geeks read, right?) and the like.

I won’t bother debating the logic’s validity. Instead, I’ll just point out that this isn’t the first time a major continuity has occurred with this publisher. The first was the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics, when they pretty much pretended that the Golden Age-Flash and Green Lantern never existed. The second came when the multiverse was introduced, which explained that the Golden Age existed on a parallel Earth. The next big reboot was the Crisis On Infinite Earths, which was a major turning point in comics history (and pretty much spawned all comics mega-events).

So how is The New 52? Actually, it’s pretty frickin’ sweet, overall. I’ve had the profound pleasure to have read every single issue. About 10 I purchased myself and the other 40-something I ALSO TOTALLY PURCHASED AND DID NOT USE BITTORRENT DOWNLOADS TO ACQUIRE (disclaimer: truth in capitalized statement may have been doctored in order to legally cover my ass in the future). For the most part, there has been some serious improvement in artwork, character depth and in narrative as a whole. That’s saying a lot considering we’re still not finished month two yet.

Unfortunately, I have to say that not all of them are amazing. Some just don’t belong. For one thing, Legion Of Super-Heroes isn’t part of the post-Flashpoint continuity (the events of the Flashpoint story were the in-comics explanation for why we’re having this continuity reboot). In issue one, we learn that they can’t time travel safely anymore because of a “Flashpoint Bubble” surrounding the 21st century. Breaking through this wall strands some of them in the Flashpoint timeline in Legion Lost, which is cool. The other Legion comic, however, picks up exactly where Adventure Comics left off pre-reboot, which is nowhere fancy. In fact, I was only still picking up Adventure because I was hoping the story-arc would come to an end soon.

Other stories that simply shouldn’t be include Blackhawks, Red Hood And The Outlaws and Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. That last mention is worth reading, as it’s looking like a great Hellboy story. However, being a complete Hellboy knockoff, it doesn’t feel right under the new DC banner. Meanwhile, Blackhawks isn’t a modern retelling of the best non-powered soldiers from around the globe. It’s a crappy American team filled with racist nicknames and stereotypes to allude to the former global aspect (chock full of token Russians, mid-Eastern terrorists and a leader named after Lincoln). Oh, and they use toxic waste and nanites to imply that they’ll all be super-powered soon. There’s continuity rebooting and then there’s continuity dumping. Blackhawks is a major dump.

The worst comic by far is Red Hood And The Outlaws. We’re a single comic into the story and it’s already dealing with fundamental continuity errors? Roy Harper is indeed Green Arrow’s former sidekick in the new cannon, even though the current Ollie may have never had one. On top of this, Jason Todd rescues him from a prison solely to brag about how he’s sleeping with Starfire, who is a nympho-slut for seemingly no reason. She’s so much of a Paris Hilton space alien that she can’t even remember her days with the Titans or who Dick Grayson is. Which would be fine, if the reason for such was that the Titans never existed prior to Tim’s current forming of the Teen Titans. But it did happen. Just to show us that chicks with 38DDs are nothing but flesh to be fucked.

Oh, did you want to know how I got that measurement? They made a boob joke and later showed her posing in a skimpy bikini for no reason. They then had her randomly sleep with Roy in order to pass some time (traumatic fact: she uses her powers when she cums, as seen by the hand-shaped burn marks in his chest and in the bed frame). The comic is downright insulting to comic book readers and to anybody who isn’t very pro-chauvinistic jock. It’s almost as if the purpose to alternate between Michael Bay levels of action sequences and masturbation inspiration.

You know what? I’m not exaggerating about the masturbation comment. Considering how I work in the back-end of the porn industry (everybody who laughed at that word choice is a commie and a terrorist) and how I recently discovered that 98% of men and 92% of all women in North America masturbate minimum three times per week, I like to consider myself quite open-minded about sex and sexuality. So you know what, fanboys and fangirls, if this does it for you, then go right ahead.

My problem lies with how the portrayal of feminine sexuality and sex-object symbolism is not at all handled as it was in Catwoman. With the Catwoman comic, it was all a series of metaphors about sex and BDSM, the superhero genre and the femme fatale. She even boinks Batman with the two of them both mostly in costume (full-page shot of them in the Lotus position on the last page). Every single moment has a purpose that dives into her character and the mystery men psyche as a whole. All while being too softcore to be called erotic. The Outlaws? Not so much.

So what did make me happy? The nods to the late Dwayne McDuffie and to the early days of DC, “early” being used synonymously with “proto.” Prior to becoming DC Comics, they were actually a series of smaller publications, most founded by the same guy in the Golden Age, and a few being bought up over time once those first ones merged under one name. National Allied Publications launched Action Comics and Detective Comics, whereas All-American Comics brought us titles that are lesser-known by today’s fans, such as All-American Western, All-American Men Of War and All-Star Comics.

Both Action and Detective are part of the reboot and continue to focus on Superman and Batman. However, we now also have some new comics, which include All-Star Western and Men Of War, which are clear nods to the past. Both are a great read, with All-Star Western making my list of top recommendations for the entire relaunch. Western focuses on Jonah Hex and is narrated by Doctor Arkham as the two look for clues pertaining to a serial killer in the early days of Gotham City (so yes, the allusion is that the doc would later found the iconic Arkham Asylum). I’m eagerly awaiting the second issue, as the first was gritty, compelling and shows you just how incredible the character of Jonah Hex can be (despite what that awful movie tried to make you believe).

As for the McDuffie nods, take a look at Static Shock. It’s only an ok comic, but I loved how the first issue had Static’s father drawn to resemble him, while the second issue showed Static’s school is named the “Dwayne G. McDuffie High School.” It’s a great way to incorporate the name of the series creator after death, in the same way that Metropolis has an intersection consisting of Shuster and Siegal streets (named after the guys who created Superman).

If you didn’t know, Dwayne McDuffie created Static, Harley Quinn (who can be found dressed oddly erotically in the amazing Suicide Squad), was integral in the production of many DC animated series and movies, and wrote a bunch of amazing comic issues of his own. His sudden death during a minor, routine surgery earlier this year was a huge shock to fans like me. I’m really proud of how DC chose to give him his posthumous dues.

Not being familiar enough with the Wildstorm comics of old, I won’t comment on their incorporation into the mainstream continuity. I will say that the Martian Manhunter quick explanation as to why he’s with Stormwatch is absolutely perfect (when the world needs a hero, he’s with the Justice League. When the world needs a soldier, he’s with Stormwatch), whereas Grifter was intriguing enough to keep me looking forward to the next issue.

As for the hero comics that are definitely worth looking into, I strongly recommend Batman. There’s not much I can say without going into too many spoilers, but it certainly has a relatable Bruce Wayne/Batman in this comic compared to other Bat titles being released. The mystery ending really gets your mind going and both and the narrative and the artwork appeal perfectly to new and older readers alike.

Batgirl, on the other hand, feels like it’s dropping the ball. I hope it’s just too soon to tell for sure, but they don’t really go into how she was able to get out of the chair. They do explain that she’s perfect for close combat because of how she had to build upper body strength during those years, but how the hell does that explain her quick-footedness and nimble acrobatics? Glaring inconsistency aside, it’s hard to get into her character and the story is far from riveting.

Both Superman and Action Comics are worth a read. It’s a new age in both time periods. Action is set in 2006, shortly after Superman makes his debut and is still greatly considered a freak and vigilante. His powers also haven’t developed as much yet, so he’s back to Shuster and Siegal levels of strength, meaning he leaps tall buildings in a single bound instead of flying. Superman is more modern and is very focused on the characterization in a way that both non-comic and hardcore comic readers will love. The art is perfect in both titles.

Another top recommendation is I, Vampire. I only picked it up because I’m a vamp and supernatural junkie, as well as because my comic shop was giving me a discount for all my purchases pertaining to The New 52 if I bought increments of 10 comics from the line. It was well worth it. It follows two vampires the way they are meant to be: cold-blooded monsters. The protagonist doesn’t want to feed on humans, since they can survive on any blood. But that doesn’t mean he wants to get his angst on with underage girls. He’s just unsure how modern armies could deal against the vampire race, whereas he’s downright certain that all those super-powered beings on the Justice League, etc, would decimate them. His love interest profoundly disagrees and launches the first attack in a vampire-human war. Is it Wednesday, yet?

Last, but certainly not least, is the flagship title. Justice League is a definite must for anybody into hero comics, too. It didn’t cover as much as I’d like, using character designs at the back as lots of filler. However, I greatly enjoyed what little was provided. There’s a strong sense of momentum picking up and you get that same knot of excitement in your gut that you do whenever there’s a TV or comic book crossover. That “shit gon’ get real any second!” phase carries through to the end and seeing Hal’s reaction to learning what Batman’s powers are is really fun. Right now it’s gratuitous team ups, but it doesn’t come off as cheesy or as a marketing ploy in the least. I look forward to seeing what comes down the road.

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