I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The New DCU: September 14, 2011 - A Simulblog

The following is a simulblog with Chad P. of Political Jesus, Josh Toulouse of Fat Train, and Arthur of Arthur the Lesser. You ought to be forewarned: there will be spoilers.

Chad's article, "Savage Nerdery: Week Two of DC's new 52: Simulblog Reviews" can be read here.

Josh's article, "The New DCU: Sept 14, 2011 A Simulblog" can be read here.

Arthur's article, "Sill Not Quite a Simulblog" can be read here.

This week's list of number ones was just as numerous as the previous week, with Batman and Robin #1, Batwoman #1, Deathstroke #1, Demon Knights #1, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1, Green Lantern #1, Grifter #1, Legion Lost #1, Mister Terrific #1, Red Lanterns #1, Resurrection Man #1, Suicide Squad #1, and Superboy #1. Another similarity between this week and last week is that I intend to tackle a couple of interesting trends in the re-construction of the DC universe that have popped up this week rather than doing individual reviews. Again, that does not mean that I don't want to talk about the individual issues. I read them all, so by all means, let's talk. In the comments section, we shall discuss everything and anything, and you don't have to be a member of this simulblog community to ring in.

It is my observation this week that while the old DCU focused on Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman as their top three heroes, the new DCU has officially changed its focus to Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. On DC's home page for The New 52, the 52 comics are divided first into three families, the Superman family, the Batman family, and the Green Lantern family, and then into four larger groups, the Justice League, The Dark, The Edge, and Young Justice. There are four Super-titles, eleven Bat-titles, and four Lantern-titles. Wonder Woman does have her own comic book, but it doesn't come out until next week. Wonder Woman was not featured in Justice League #1 and even though there was a perfect place for her in Swamp Thing #1, we instead saw Superman, Batman and Aquaman. The only references that we can trace to Wonder Woman is that of a woman named Exoristos in Demon Knights #1 who appears to be an Amazon from Themyscira and a possible appearance of Wonder Girl at the end of Superboy #1. Rather than having a family of comics featuring Wonder Woman, Donna Troy, and Wonder Girl, the entire Wonder story is confined to one title listed under the Justice League heading.

Another thing worth noting about the various families is that there is a fairly strong emphasis on family in these comics. In Batman and Robin #1 the title characters are father and son, embracing their family tree and their interpersonal relationships difficultly ("You were easier to look up to when you weren't around." - Damian), and possibly making the same mistakes (Did the story remind you of the Joker's backstory just a little bit? I have half of a mind to believe that Damian may have just created his own arch-nemesis.). Furthermore, there is a mysterious villain wiping out members of the extended Bat-family, the Batman, Inc. heroes from around the world, starting with a Muscovite Batman who looks like a mix between Azrael, Bane and Man-Bat. In Batwoman #1, Kate Kane is joined by her cousin Bette Kane, and though part of the focus on this book was enough costume change scenes to make a 1980s Dazzler book seem sane, the other part was devoted to the tragedy surrounding Kate's sister. And let's not forget last week's Batgirl #1 where Barbara Gordon is considered the brightest of the Bat family, Batwing #1 which is inevitably going to tie into the Bat-hunt of Batman and Robin #1, Detective Comics #1 (I'm so glad that Alfred is real in modern-day Batman and Robin. The possibility that he was dead and replaced by a holograph in Detective Comics was frightening.), and Damian's teasing of all the other Robins.

Regarding the Super-family, we meet a boy who is a clone of both Superman and some human DNA donor in Superboy #1. While much of the audience can probably guess that the human donor is Lex Luthor, part of me wonders if the negative qualities described aren't also qualities we might find in Lois Lane from time to time. Regardless, the question of Superboy's parentage is a serious issue in this first story arc. And though neither Green Lantern #1 nor Red Lanterns #1 focused on the Green Lantern family we'd expect - Hal Jordan, Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and possibly even Alan Scott - there is a similar sense of cohesion, of a family defined sometimes by opposition and enmity. Sometimes a family member has to deal with the fact that he/she doesn't trust another family member to do the right thing. Through the Bat-family, Super-family and Lantern-family, the new DCU is developing a really interesting emphasis on family being more than just an easy method of categorization.

If I had to give a name to this particular week of the New 52, it would not be "Family Week." I think it would be something closer to "Anger Management" week. Though Batman and Robin #1 deals with a murderer who is trying to erase all of Batman, Inc., and some thieves dealing with some dangerous chemicals, the theme of the issue is that Bruce Wayne is taking responsibility for his son and attempting to turn into a Brighter Knight. Rather than obsessing over death, he wishes to ponder life. Rather than fear, he wishes to value hope. Of course, Damian is not going to have any of this. Batman and Robin continues the reversal of roles between Batman and Robin that we saw when Dick Grayson was Batman. Whereas the original combinations featured a dark Batman with a bright Robin, Bruce Wayne attempts to be a bright Batman to his son the dark Robin.

While Batwoman #1, Deathstroke #1, Demon Knights #1, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1, Grifter #1, Resurrection Man #1, Suicide Squad #1, and Superboy #1 all feature characters dealing with their darkness and rage and the potential for redemption, it might be that Green Lantern #1 and Red Lanterns #1 take the cake in this category. Rather than following Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Green Lantern #1 purports itself to be a Sinestro book. And we're not talking about the Sinestro who was originally chosen by the Green Lantern Corps before the time of Hal Jordan. This is the Sinestro who was chosen by the Green Lantern Corps to wear Hal Jordan's ring after Jordan was booted from the Corps. He is the same one who committed atrocity upon atrocity and who lead his own Sinestro Corps in the hopes of destroying the Green Lantern Corps. But now that Sinestro has rejoined the Corps, he seems willing to do the right thing. He even kills a member of the Sinestro Corps, a former ally. When he appears to Hal Jordan in order to give him his ring back, he almost seems frightened of how the Guardians' decision to have faith in him has changed him. Red Lanterns #1 follows the struggles of Atrocitus who is attempting to get his groove back after the passionate anger that used to fuel him has begun to wane. By the end of the issue, we see that Atrocitus has decided to become a kind of righteous avenger, his rage fueled by injustice and his victims all victimizers. Of course, there are two twists. First, it is going to be hella difficult to get the rest of the Red Lantern Corps behind this decision, and second, a young man on Earth is beginning to head down the path that Atrocitus once walked toward rage and he's going to need a mentor.

Finally, I think that we need to talk about this Mystery Woman who keeps popping up. She was there at Victor's football game in Justice League #1 and apparently she showed up in Flashpoint #1, which I didn't read. Chad has mentioned that some people are calling her the Time Trapper, and I've read that there are some calling her Red Raven. There is mention that she can be found in every single first issue of the New 52. I opened Demon Knights #1 as a test case, mainly because I love the art, but found myself confounded by the multitude of women wearing hoods in that book. When I opened up Superboy #1, I was not expecting to have an easy time finding her, but sure enough, she was there. I feel a little like there is pie on my face because I didn't notice this character a single time until I opened up my comic books and looked specifically for her.

So, who is the Mystery Woman? Is this who Superboy describes as "someone else, no, something"? No doubt the Mystery Woman is meant to tie together these comics and provide an upcoming bridge between stories. But what will that crossover look like? We've already got a Grifter comic, and rumor has it that the redheaded woman in Superboy #1 is Caitlin Fairchild from Gen 13. While many people are probably digging through their DC back issues and trying to explain this woman away as some kind of Monitor or variation on Raven, maybe the answer actually lies in former Image/Wildstorm properties. Keep your eyes open. This is bound to turn into something significant.

As for this week's picks, I am definitely going to keep reading Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Demon Knights, Green Lantern, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. I'm going to give Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and Resurrection Man at least one more issue despite the fact that I disliked Frankenstein's art and am a little shaky about how much I care about the character of Resurrection Man. As for the comics I'll be happy never to read again (or, at least, not until they get a new creative team or an interesting arc), their names are Deathstroke, Grifter, Legion Lost, Mister Terrific (I wanted to like this comic, but found it impossible to connect to the main character and his compressed back story), and Suicide Squad (a sexy cover of Harley Quinn does not a good read make, but it is a fantastic cover; part of me thought that they'd take the team on more of a Suicide Girls, hot punk-goth girls, path - that was not the case).

Tune in next week for Batman #1, Birds of Prey #1, Blue Beetle #1, Captain Atom #1, Catwoman #1, DC Universe Presents #1, Green Lantern Corps #1, Legion of Super-Heroes #1, Nightwing #1, Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, Supergirl #1, and Wonder Woman #1. Until then read Arthur's article, Josh's article, and Chad's article, and leave some comments here.


  1. Funny, the "compressed backstory" I hated was Batwoman, whereas I felt like we really only got hints to Mister Terrific's backstory and that we can continue to get more each issue, meaning it wasn't compressed for me, so much as slowly parceled.

    I also took the end of Green Lantern different than you did, Sinestro isn't offering Hal Jordan the ring back, at least not until Hal Jordan does something for him, I'm assuming freeing his people from the Sinestro Corp.

    I also didn't feel like Sinestro killed his former ally out of any desire to help the Green Lanterns so much as in self defense.

    I definitely see the "family week" and "rage week" motif through these number ones though, good call.

  2. I give a lot of freedom to books that are either Bat-family, Lantern-family, or that have really good art. Batwoman was both Bat-Family and I enjoyed the art. It's a bad bias, but it is MY bias. Haha.

    I agree with you about Green Lantern. What I mentioned in the post is clearly only part of the story. There's never a freebie when it comes to Sinestro. I'm interested to see what Hal has to do in order to get his ring back. As for Sinestro's motivations: I think we're supposed to wonder whether or not he has changed. If he's killed anyone, that means that at best he's a good Corps member during a dark time for the Corps; at worst, he's just Sinestro. I think it's a great direction.

    I didn't mention it, but I think it's old DCU week too. More of the titles were simple continuations of old DCU stories.

  3. The old DCU seriously bugged me, to be honest. There was absolutely no good reason to not completely reboot Batwoman or Legion Lost especially, and yet it felt like nothing had happened. Also, they were both very far from "intro" issues. I felt soiled on them both, as I had very little interest going in.

  4. Well, at least there were a couple of books that did the old DCU well. I would say that those books are Batman and Robin (despite Josh's problems), Green Lantern, and Red Lanterns (depending, of course, on their endgame - if Johns is using this book like he used GLC in order to tie all the stories together into a GL crossover it could be fantastic). I agree with you. Legion Lost lost me immediately. As for Batwoman, the art just had such a fantastic medium for dreamy story-telling. Did that just do nothing for you guys?

  5. To be honest, the art (little a) of comic has always been secondary to me. Unless the art is simply too horrible to look at, it has always more of a cherry-on-top sort of thing. Having said that, I really do like the art in Batwoman, but the narrative is what really motivates me.

  6. over at CBR, it appears that Batwoman is the number 1 book of the second week. Sort of a shocker to me, actually.

  7. I saw that. I was surprised. But I kind of get it. It's all about the sex appeal and the quality of the art. I'm telling you. A lot of readers make their decision on art.

  8. Batman and Robin #2 was even better than the first issue. I think it's heading in an interesting direction. Green Lantern #2 is innovative and brilliant. And The Shade #1 was really cool.

    I think I'm going to keep reading Batgirl because she's a great character and because I'm interested in her villain, but I don't think it's going to be a great book until after this first arc. I'm keeping up with Superboy because of its tie-ins with Teen Titans and the other Super-titles. But the ending of this issue was also pretty cool.

    I think I'm done with Batwoman, Demon Knights, Frankenstein, and Resurrection Man. They just don't seem to be heading anywhere, and the first two don't even have as good of art as in the first issues. As for My Greatest Adventure, it had some promising writing, but terrible art, not enough to hook me, and a title that sounds like a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen straight to video adventure. I'll be skipping that.

    The Shade moves to week three for issue #2.