Sunday, October 2, 2011

Reviewing the New 52: Dark Knight, Justice League Dark, Savage Hawkman, Blackhawks & Superman

And so it ends: the last of the New 52 arrived in stores this past Wednesday and here's what I thought of the $2.99 titles: Dark Knight #1, Justice League Dark #1, Savage Hawkman #1, Blackhawks #1 and Superman #1 I picked up.

We start our reviews today with Batman: Dark Knight #1, the third of the solo Batman titles of the New 52. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this issue. The story starts with playboy Bruce Wayne doing his charm/disarm thing, and then all of the sudden he’s off to stop a riot at Arkham Asylum. I’m not quite sure if I missed something, but I do know that even Batman isn’t omnipresent and it was a stretch to have him do this. The comic ends with Batman in  the middle of the riot and a Hulked-up Harvey Dent challenging the Dark Knight to battle. Honestly, this book felt rushed and although the art was solid, the disjointed storyline was distracting and I will probably not buy the second issue. Of course, this is a Batman title so it's impossible to say I won't be back in the future.

Our second title is Justice League Dark #1. This is a supernatural book that ties the Justice League to some of DC's occult and supernatural characters, many of whom came over from Vertigo. It wasn’t a bad comic and although it featured some of the mainline Justice League, the relatively unfamiliar (to me) main characters and the story's multi-character intensity meant it was still tough to follow. Not being a big ‘ghost and ghoul’ reader, I'll probably not buy the second issue, but I can see it as an occasional pick-up every now and then – especially when it features John Constantine. 


The third title today is Savage Hawkman #1. This was a good book. The art was strong and while I’m not overtly familiar with the Hawkman background story, the introduction into a reluctant hero Carter Hall, the alien Nth metal and an extraterrestrial undersea relic turned ‘symbiote’ was well done and quite manageable, even for a neophyte reader like me. The comic didn’t grip me like Captain Atom or Swamp Thing, but it kept me interested and because of that, I will probably buy the second issue.       

Blackhawks #1 was okay, but I’ll probably not buy it again. Of all the titles I purchased this month, this is the one I knew the least about. The art was good, and there were parts that seemed like they would eventually lead to to some promising action mixed with global politics, but the large cast meant I wasn’t sure what was going on and felt the story a tad disjointed. Like some other group titles this September, Blackhawks would have been better with a  manageable Justice League style introduction rather than the Legion of Super-Heroes approach we saw here.

Finally we come to Superman #1. There has been a lot of talk this month about Superman losing his red briefs and before my review I'd like to say that having seen Superman in a lot of places these past weeks (Justice League, Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark) I like the changes to the costume. The red belt works well on the blue suit, and losing the old circus strongman look modernizes the Man of Steel in a positive way. 

With regard to this comic, George Perez's story and drawing were very good. It portrayed a modern Metropolis, corporate takeovers and media-based intrigue in an interesting fashion and gave us an interesting Kryptonian fire monster that gave Superman a challenge, but without the distracting high drama that a Brainiac, Darkseid or Lex Luthor would have brought to this establishing story. The best part of the comic was the final page when we see Clark Kent and Lois Lane in an awkward situation and reminded me that the key element of the Superman story is the alienation this exiled Kryptonian feels when trying to make his way in a human world. I will definitely buy the second issue.  

So there you have it. The New 52 has wrapped up and we are now on to the second issues. All in all, it was an interesting month and has given me something to think about with regard to DC. Consistent readers of the blog will notice that I usually lean towards Marvel. But that's about to change because the New 52 exposed me to a number of new titles that I'm already looking forward to reading again. Whether this is sustained, remains to be seen – my favourite characters are still overwhelming Marvel – but there’s no reason why Captain Atomic, Swamp Thing or Superman won’t soon find their way beside FF and Alpha Flight on my long-term pull list.

So well done DC and congratulations! Let's hope this leads to further success for all comic publishers and retailers and a brighter future for our industry. 

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