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First Footsteps in the DCnU

Posted onSeptember 17, 2011 by     Leave a comment

Box of comic goodness arrived with the first of the DCnU titles. Figured I had to read these soon, since as #1 arrives I’m about to order #3 and don’t want to be subscribing to toilet paper. Action Comics and Justice League got a bye and went to the back of the pile (I can trust Morrison on Superman – and pretty much anything else – and I’ll stick to the Justice League for 12 issues, regardless). So, for trial by fire, the other 5 arrivals were brought forth….

Swamp Thing #1

Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette

I’ve come to trust Snyder through his work on Batman, so I was hopeful this would be good. The opening few pages so major DC players noticing strange deaths of animals – establishing Swamp Thing firmly back in the DC Universe, rather than out-of-continuity as he was over at Vertigo. Alec Holland, we find, is separate to the Swamp Thing but retains memories of the elemental’s past (like Abby, ST’s lover, indicating that previous history is intact here, but not necessary to know – a comment from Superman about coming back from the dead gives the same idea of this new DCU; much has “still happened” but it’s very compressed).

Half way through the issue, we’re reminded that this is the Dark part of the DCnU, with pestilent flies climbing in ears, a monster and twist-necked zombies (a nod to the creepy invunche Alan Moore introduced, perhaps?). Swamp Thing only appears on the last page, underlining the separation of the characters. The issue is all set up and establishment but it does that well and sets the mood so you know what you’re looking at (and maybe don’t want to!). Certainly worth a few more issues.


Animal Man #1

Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Dan Green

I wasn’t a reader of Sweet Tooth but heard good things; enough to test out Lemire with Superboy. Considering that’s a character I don’t much like, he did well enough to convince me to try this – and I needed convincing because Animal Man, under Morrison, was one of my favourite comics ever and I’ve always had a soft spot for the character. I needn’t have worried.

The first page is an “interview” with Buddy Baker, which smartly gets the reader up-to-date with the character. A trick of exposition handled well and saving precious panels! We’re introduced to Baker as a family man with wife and kids, thinking about taking up the superheroics again. There is soon an opportunity which leads to eyes oddly bleeding then a dream sequence that’s quite creepy and leads in to the cliff-hanger ending.

This is a beautifully balanced book. Like Swamp Thing, it lets you know it’s in the same world as Superman then reminds you it’s not quite the same world. There is a very real family, superpowers and then inexplicable darkness; the Rot in the Red. There are some great touches – Animal Man asking his wife Ellen if he has any clean costumes (hey, modern man, do your own laundry!) and Ellen warning him to take his boots off before he comes back in from adventuring. And a sweet and subtle touch of powers: feeling wired after the action of the day and using the napping ability of a cat to get to sleep.

There seems no doubt that this and Swamp Thing are on something of a collision course but that prognosis reads like a triumphant destination at the moment.


Stormwatch #1

Paul Cornell and Miguel Sepulveda

This was the comic I was fearful about – liking the characters but aware that much has changed with the amalgamation of the Wild Storm universe into the DCU. We open with part of the team trying to recruit Apollo – because he may be strong enough to take down Superman, if required – who, at this point, is not with the Midnighter (so whether they are going to be a couple or not, remains to be seen). We’re also quickly introduced to 2 new characters, the Projectionist and the Eminence of Blades (more mundanely known as Harry Tanner), as well as finding out that Adam One is the leader, not Hawksmoor.

There is a lot going on here and the threat is large-scale (the Moon!), setting out the concept that this is what Stormwatch do – protect the Earth from extraterrestrial forces, as they have for many centuries, going back at least as far as Demon Knights. As that is also written by Cornell, it suggests he’s got some major ideas already in the works.

There’s a good side note that Martian Manhunter is part of the Justice League as well – but when he needs to be a warrior, he’s part of Stormwatch. That difference defines the essential thing to get here: these aren’t cape-wearing superheroes.  Book of the week.


 Batgirl #1

Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes

This was the comic that caused much furore due to the change of Barbara Gordon from wheelchair-bound Oracle back to roof-leaping Batgirl. I’ve read reviews that suggests that the change is handled in a simple reference to a “miracle”. I think that misses the point – there isn’t a full explanation but the change itself is the whole drive of the comic. The villain seems to have Babs in his sights presumably because of surviving the Joker (when her spine was damaged) – the villain is the Mirror, a murderer killing people who somehow survived deadly situations (a sort of dark extrapolation of the ideas in Unbreakable).

She’s also entertainingly impressed to knock out a bad guy because her arms are so pumped (from being wheelchair-bound) but the rest of her needs work. She freezes at a crucial moment because a gun is pointed at her, seemingly aiming at the same spot the Joker hit.

This is fine stuff with a deft touch on humour, peril and narrative balance. Gail Simone is the only person who could have pulled this off. Another keeper.


Men of War #1

Ivan Brandon, Tom Derenick, Jonathan Vankin and Phil Winslade

I’m not a fan of war comics but thought I’d test out at least one different option from the new releases. This concerns the not-yet-Sgt Rock, as a soldier in the modern world and also the world of Superman. I could do without the overly frequent explanations of military jargon or acronyms but hopefully this will not repeat every time a S.A.W.* is mentioned.

But the rest was good. There’s a primary target but the military action is interrupted by unidentified, high-power superhero action. I like the backdrop of this; the notion of the “ordinary soldier” in a superhero world. I’ve not read anything by Brandon before but this is well-written and an alternative to my usual fayre; the ending is expected, as an obvious grounding set up, but not in a bad way. This is a #1, after all. In some ways, the most accessible to new readers of the releases so far.

Back-up story is by Vankin and is more straightforward war comics. And yet I still enjoyed it. Another couple of issues at least.


No fails here. Not great for my wallet but promising for soul. The remaining #1s won’t be with me until October; I can only hope they are of the same overall calibre.


*Squad Automatic Weapon.



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