Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reviewing the New 52: Green Arrow, OMAC, Batwing & Swamp Thing

This week was your week if you’ve ever wanted to own a first edition Action or Detective Comics because this was the week DC launched the ‘New 52’ en masse by giving us eight new titles to choose from. 

But because most blogs will be reviewing the new Superman and Batman titles, I decided to review four comics that might not otherwise experience a deluge of traffic. These books: Green Arrow #1, OMAC #1, Batwing #1 and Swamp Thing #1 were also in the $2.99 price category which made them easier on the wallet and held to DC’s earlier promise to ‘hold the line at $2.99’: a welcome development for an increasingly expensive hobby.

Let’s begin with Green Arrow #1. The story starts by ret-conning Star City into Seattle and presenting Queen Industries as a massive conglomerate with a Q-Core division personally operated by Oliver Queen. It isn’t quite clear where the namesake officially stands within the larger company, but it's clear he's at odds with a prominent member of the Board of Directors and this will lead to problems. The main action comes with Green Arrow chasing villains through Paris, and eventually prevailing with the help of high-tech arrows and a team back in the USA. By the end of the book we also meet a nasty group of rogues.   

Seattle in DC's Green Arrow #1, November 2011
This comic was okay. The new Green Arrow is sharply modernized and resembles Smallville’s Oliver Queen rather than the goatee wearing Errol Flynn-like fellow of the past. Beating three baddies simultaneously seemed to be a little formulaic, as did the ineptitude of the French super-authorities towards the end, but the story laid a foundation for another socially-conscious Green Arrow that will be as political as he is heroic. Because of this, I am curious as to where this comic will go and will possibly buy #2.

From DC's Green Arrow #1, November 2011

Our second book is OMAC #1, a reboot of the original ‘One Man Army Corps' series by comics legend Jack Kirby. OMAC first appeared in 1974 and had Buddy Blank, a nobody in the ‘The World That’s Coming’ become a futuristic super-soldier working for the Global Peace Agency. If you’ve ever read the original 70s OMAC, you will remember a very strange comic with faceless men, mechanically made women and a big orbiting satellite called “Brother Eye”. In 2005, the OMAC was changed into a group of fierce looking cyborgs for the Infinite Crisis event, but this new book is clearly a throwback to the earlier Kirby title. 
From DC's OMAC #1, November 2011
The story introduces Cadmus Industries, a 'corporate leader in genetic research and medical technologies', a rogue OMAC doing damage to that business, 'Brother Eye' and an underground group of villains who have the same faceless and mechanical features we saw in Kirby’s earlier rendition. Indeed, this book is clearly a Kirby throw-back and as you can see from the posted panels, Keith Giffen, Dan Dido and Scott Kiblish have worked hard to emulate 'The King', all the while updating this OMAC in ways that will satisfy newer readers who may not know Kirby or appreciate his work. Like the earliest OMAC, I suspect this will not be integrated into the larger DC Universe, which is both a blessing (no crossovers!) and curse (no crossovers!) and will have to stand on its own stories. I am curious to see where it goes, but don’t think it will be a regular purchase and will probably not buy #2.

Kirby's influences are legion in DC's OMAC #1, November 2011

Batwing #1 was another title that caught my interest. Batwing is a new character to the DC universe, appearing only last year in Batman: Incorporated #6. When he made his debut, he received some media attention because he operated out of Africa, making him one of the few comic superheroes from that part of the world.

From DC's Batwing #1 November 2011
Of the comics read, this was by far the most gruesome and mature themed. It features a villain named Massacre, who seems both appropriately named and is quite good at what he does. Batman also makes an appearance and while we were not completely introduced to how Batwing became friends with his Gotham-based benefactor, we see a bond and should expect further cameos by the Caped Crusader.  I actually found the comic quite captivating and the explicit violence aside it was quite a cool experience. The story involves a young police officer turned costumed crime-fighter named David Zavimbe who works both within and outside a corrupt justice system to fight organized crime. I expect this comic will be a mixture of African travel, world politics and superheroes and because of this will certainly buy #2.
From DC's Batwing #1, November 2011
The final comic reviewed is Swamp Thing #1. Now, this was a hotly anticipated book, but I put in into the non-famous category because I hadn’t really read Swamp Thing in the past (including Alan Moore’s legendary run) and wasn’t sure what to expect. Of the four reviewed, I have to say this was my favourite. The story begins with the mass death of animals across the DC universe and we then meet Dr. Alec Holland, a former botanist turned construction worker who is hiding from a troubled past. When Superman arrives to check on our hero, we learn about Dr. Holland’s previous work and his ideas about plants. At this point we are also introduced to his mentor’s ideas and are given some insightful commentary into the natural world. We are also introduced to a elemental villain, but this was not a major focus to the story. 


Above panels from DC's Swamp Thing #1, November 2011

This comic was truly an educational and enjoyable experience. The discussion about botany was above and beyond what is usually found in comics and the Swamp Thing himself looks very well done. Because of this, I will  certainly buy #2 and finally get back into earlier Swamp Thing stories, especially those written by Moore. 

That is it for my reviews today. I will be travelling  for the next little while and will probably not have much to say about the next batch of the New 52. As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to leave some comments or feedback. 

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