Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Grading the New DC

The New 52 didn't last, and now DC is launching titles anew, and showing an interest in allowing its creators to have fun with the books, with the heavy-handed editorial side backing off a bit.  The New 52 would never have allowed such colorful takes on DC's beloved heroes.  But it seems that DC may be taking a page from Marvel's book, and allowing creators to let the books breathe a little bit, with some reinvention and fresh twists.  So, how are they doing so far?  I sampled some titles to find out.

Black Canary #1
Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu

Now, if this isn't a prime example of DC allowing creators to reinvent their characters, I don't know what is.  Lance finds herself the frontwoman of a punk rock band called Black Canary, and trouble seems to follow them everywhere, giving them a bad reputation.  Aliens attack and Lance's past is teased in this action-oriented title.  Wu's pencils give this a fresh, hip look to go along with the interesting place Fletcher has taken this character.  This is a wild, refreshing take on the character of Black Canary, and one that is quite welcome.

Grade: B+

Doctor Fate #1
Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew

Okay, so I will confess that I am a big Sonny Liew fan, so it will come as no surprise that I really liked this book.  Ever since Wonderland, I've loved Liew's unique look and his delicate linework.  I wasn't sure how it would fit in to a superhero comic, but it actually works quite nicely.  I would even compare the look and feel of the book to Marvel's hit Ms. MarvelDoctor Fate follows the very likable Khalid, an Egyptian-American med student who is given the power of Fate's helmet by Bast.  He now has to juggle his family life, love life and college with the powers bestowed on him to save the world from Anubis, who wishes to flood the world and wash humanity from it.  No pressure or anything.  Again, the whole fish-out-of-water, juggling life with powers thing feels a lot like what G. Willow Wilson has done for Ms. Marvel, but the Egyptian mythology and the feral jackals also bring to mind Scott Snyder's Animal Man a little bit.  And if this book can do with Egyptian mythology what Azzarello's Wonder Woman did with Greek mythology, this is going to be one special book.  The only major shortcoming that I found was that there is a prologue that you have to go to DC's website to find to have a clearer picture of what's going on.  A great way to alienate new readers.  DC should know better by now.

Grade: A-

Prez #1
Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell

One of the more interesting titles that DC launched is this remake of an older DC title, about a teenager who becomes president.  It sounds like it would be a whimsical, Richie Rich type of book, fun for all ages.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Instead, Prez takes about every wrong turn you can take in a comic.  There's an over-the-top sob story about a girl who works hard to pay for her dying father's healthcare.  And then there's the in-your-face cultural commentary about social media and politics that just feels dirty and gross.  There's nothing fun here.  There's nothing whimsical.  It just feels heavy-handed as hell.  Throw in some forgettable artwork, and we can all watch this title that had some potential sink quickly.  And that will be a mercy.

Grade: F

Robin, Son of Batman #1
Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray

Damian, done right, is a standout character for DC Comics.  And from the dialogue and actions of Damian in this first issue, the creative team get the character.  Unfortunately, they gave him a very mediocre story to maneuver through.  This is more the type of story we saw in the failed New 52.  Very middle-of-the-road.  The action is boring.  The "villain" is boring (if you can even call that guy a villain - why include such a dull scene, especially to open a new book!?)  The quest introduced gives a glimmer of hope that there will be some good stories down the road, stemming from Damian's "Year of Blood."  But I'm not here to whet my appetite.  I'm here, for this first issue, to be taken in, to be wowed, to be left salivating for more.  I didn't get even close to that.  I got what I get every time I open a mediocre superhero comic - fading interest.  The man-bat, Goliath, is a really neat addition, but...he should have been cooler.  He should have really stood out.  Damien's connection to the League of Assassins was handled competently, but again, nothing to wow me.  This just fell flat in too many areas.  Damian is really the only part of this book that I loved (and they really portrayed him well), but I can't recommend, or continue reading this title, on that alone.

Grade: D+

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