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 22, 2011

The New DCU: September 21, 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 3 of DC's new 52: Simulblog Reviews" can be read here.

Josh's article, "The New DCU: Sept. 21, 2011, A Simulblog" can be read here.

Arthur's article, "The Next Post is Not About Comic Books, I Promise" can be read here.

There were twelve new titles this week: 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. Since there was one last title than the previous two weeks, I consider that a break. At this point, I think you know the drill. I don't like doing individual reviews, so I pick up on some trends in this week's comics and how they construct the new DC universe. As always (Are two previous posts considered always?), leave me some comments if you want to talk about what is going on in the individual comics. And heck, leave me some comments if you want to talk about anything I cover in the post.

The first thing I'd like to discuss is a conversation that you should be familiar with. It revolves around who Batman and Superman are. And why is it so important? Because on October 19th, we're going to see the two battle in Justice League #2. While Week One gave us a good understanding of Superman, neither Week One nor Week Two gave us any significant details as to who Batman is. Batman is Batman. My friend Zac told me, however, that the definitive Bat-book is Batman and I just read #1 this week.

At first, I was unsure whether Zac's proclamation was correct. Batman and Robin wowed me a lot more last week than Batman did, but I learned two of the most important things in this Bat-book. For one, all of the Bat-books are tied together in a really interesting way. When Batman brought Damian to crime alley in an attempt to give up living in the past (and even dwelling on the present) in Batman and Robin, it is because, as Bruce Wayne, he has decided to renovate the city and give it another golden age in Batman. Furthermore, in Nightwing #1, Dick Grayson is described by an unnamed villain as "the fiercest killer in all of Gotham. And he doesn't even know it." In Batman #1, Harvey Bullock shows Batman a victim who was tortured and killed with knives that have pictures of owls on them, and the DNA under the victims fingers, which should tell who his killer was, is that of Dick Grayson. (And let's not forget that when Kara's powers kick in during the action of Supergirl #1, she overhears the same conversation in which Grayson is declared a killer in Nightwing.) For another, I realized that I should stop trying to figure out who Batman is and try to figure out who Bruce Wayne is. In Batman #1, there are a couple of important scenes that tell us exactly who Bruce Wayne is. Reporter Vicki Vale calls him "Gotham's own Man of Tomorrow," which calls to mind the title of the first issue of Action Comics: "Superman vs. The City of Tomorrow." Also, Harvey Bullock describes Wayne as someone who doesn't see Gotham the way the people see Gotham. If, by the time of Justice League #1 and 2, Superman is the blur proper, with the ability to see through costumes and see the real person, he'll see Bruce Wayne. He's a newspaper man, so he'll know exactly who Bruce Wayne is. He's an industrialist, much like Lex Luthor, and as such, he's going to be an enemy of Superman. After all, Superman battled a wrecking ball in order to save poor people from being demolished with a building. Won't there also be wrecking balls and gentrification as Wayne attempts to clean the streets of tomorrow. Superman stands for the poor, who are not receiving equal protection of law, and Bruce Wayne stands for the wealthy, and though he speaks of high ideals, his programs could possibly make things worst. And for the sake of covering over his horrible past.

What we learn of Superman takes place in the pages of Supergirl #1. The take home message seems to be that the entire Super-family is different. Amazingly different. This reboot of the entire universe is first and foremost a Super-reboot. It could be said that the Green Lantern reboot happened when Geoff Johns took over the series and brought Hal Jordan back. It could be said that the Batman reboot never really happened, that Batman never really needed to be rebooted. Or perhaps it simply happened at Crisis on Infinite Earths. But my point is that some things are staying the same and some things are changing drastically. As for Superman, Superboy and Supergirl, it seems like their powers are drastically different, and judging by how long it takes Supergirl to realize her powers versus Superman, it seems like she might actually be more powerful than Kal El in this universe. And since her first appearance is traced to DC's present day (unless she can hear the future, because she certainly heard the events of present-day Nightwing), some other things must be true. Whatever huge role she played in Crisis on Infinite Earths must have been played by someone else if the Crisis remains canon (perhaps the original Dove of Hawk and Dove?). I am excited for two things more than anything else in this new reboot: 1. the Batman/Superman battle as a battle of the people (Superman) vs. the man (Batman), and 2. the new shape the DC universe will take with such a different Super-family present.

Whereas last week was family week and rage week and old DCU week, I think that this week is closer to ladies' week. Birds of Prey is an all-women's team. Catwoman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman were a couple of the strongest titles. And even in the book Red Hood and the Outlaws, which surrounds the exploits of bad boy Jason Todd, the main character was actually Starfire's Tamaran body and the fact that she has loveless sex with anyone she encounters without ever really remembering so much as their name. While the new DCU has a whole lot of exploitation similar to this, from the clothing changing scenes in Batwoman to the flashy Harley Quinn on the cover of Suicide Squad to the half-undressed battle and escape scene in Catwoman, it also features some of the most interesting female leads and female stories I've seen in comics. I'm incredibly interested, for example, to see how Catwoman explores the confusing and erratic relationship of Batman and Catwoman. And Wonder Woman may be the single most necessary reboot since Morrison's take on Action Comics and what I expect to see in Johns' take on Aquaman next week. (Part of me thinks that we're going to be talking about Aquaman and Action Comics more than anything else throughout the next few months, but we'll see.)

Before I move on to my recommendations and what lies ahead, I want to make a note about the Legion books. Last week, I read Legion Lost #1 and this week I read Legion of Super-Heroes #1, and I really didn't like either book. Already, at the beginning of the new DCU, they are engaged in something of a crossover, and it honestly feels like we're entering both stories in the middle of a very confusing arc. Legion Lost had a manageable amount of characters, but the issue went by so quickly and I felt like we had little to no character development. In fact, I think some really important people may have died, but there is no emotional weight because I don't really know anything about them. I remember trying to keep track of the team members of Legion of Super-Heroes. I wrote down Chameleon Boy, Dragonwing, Phantom Girl, Ultra Boy, Chemical Kid (that was a particular favorite name for me), Colossal Boy, Mon-El and Brainiac 5, but I had to stop because every single page introduced at least one new character. My trouble with these books was that I was completely incapable of getting into them, but I also happen to know that they are simulblogger Arthur's favorite books. You don't see why this is troublesome? You see, Arthur has really fantastic taste, and he has great reasons. He is one of the few people in my life where if I disagree with him I feel like I might not understand something that everyone understands, like something went over my head. I understand that the word legion means a lot of effing characters, but is it possible that the Legion books require a pretty heavy investment prior to reading? Must you be familiar with the Legion in order to enjoy the books? Of course, the other side of these questions is: Are any of these books accessible to readers who don't know anything about the characters? I've found that I don't like books as much simply because I don't know the characters sometimes. Not all the time, of course. Animal Man was fantastic and I know nothing about him.

Well, I think those questions could keep us discussing for the rest of the history of the DC universe. Between now and then I think I should let you know which comics I'm going to keep reading. I think that Wonder Woman was the absolute best book that came out this week. I also suggest reading Batman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Green Lantern Corps, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws andSupergirl. I am a little on the fence about DC Universe Presents. There is something really deep going on in this book that currently surrounds Deadman, but sometimes it can be a little too wordy. I think I'll give it another issue or two at the very least. I think I'm definitely going to skip Legion of Super-Heroes, Blue Beetle, and Captain Atom. They didn't do much for me.

Check us out next week for All-Star Western #1, Aquaman #1 (with Geoff Johns), Batman: The Dark Knight #1, Blackhawks #1, The Flash #1, The Fury of Firestorm #1 (which sounds pretty tight), Green Lantern: New Guardians #1, I, Vampire #1, Justice League Dark #1, The Savage Hawkman #1, Superman #1 (so excited), Teen Titans #1 (even more excited), and Voodoo #1. Until then read the Josh's article, Chad's article, and Arthur's article, and leave some comments here. Perhaps about this...


  1. I'm kind of shocked you didn't like Blue Beetle, I'd love to hear your reasons for that, as I thought it was clearly one of the best books of not only the week, but of the relaunch.

    As for Batman, I thought this was the first Batman book to finally get Batman (and Bruce for that matter) right.

    I didn't feel that either Detective Comics or Batman and Robin were really nailing who Batman was (as opposed to nailing Batman the way Catwoman did in her book).

    I agree with your take on Superman vs Batman, at least as far as Clark will take it, as Batman/Bruce is far more than "the man," yet Supes (despite being for the most part a really good guy) always seems to jump to the wrong conclusion where Bruce is concerned, and the first encounter of these two heroes will no doubt be something to see and will probably effect their relationship as it continues to evolve throughout not only Justice League, but all of the DC Universe as well.

    As for Starfire, as I said in my blog, I have no problem with the idea of a female having loveless sex (and with as many partners as she chooses), but the portrayal of Starfire in Red Hood isn't really about female empowerment, it is far more about a masculine fantasy as Starfire is continually objectified throughout the book, making her decision to have loveless sex with multiple partners more of a masculine fantasy (sex with no commitments... and its HER DECISION!!!) rather than an evolved sense of feminine freedom. That really turned me off of the book, as did the indiscriminate killing that Red Hood (trained by Batman) and Arsenal (trained by Green Lantern) participate in in the beginning of the book. In short, I thought it was by far the worst of the week.

    Catwoman didn't bother me as much in terms of the sexuality, and I agree with you when you say "I'm incredibly interested, for example, to see how Catwoman explores the confusing and erratic relationship of Batman and Catwoman" although I think I'd prefer to do that in a Batman book rather than in a Catwoman book, because beyond that thread (which I find very interesting) I'm not that interested in reading a Catwoman book each month.

    Anyway, look forward to hearing more about why Blue Beetle didn't work for you, as well as any thoughts my rants on Starfire and Catwoman might have provided you.

    Great post as usual!

  2. I am surprised that you didn't like Blue Beetle too. Also, did you guys notice how much shorter Dick was in comparison to Bruce? And Damien's shoes!

    Also, what would you guess Bruce's age to be? 30? Younger? 28? Are we supposed to believe Bruce had a fling with Talia at 16? 18? Strains credulity. Also, this making Batman a man-slut has got to be addressed. Damien himself has to be the biggest reason why the world's smartest man would not have casual sex with someone who doesn't even know his name, but unless we find out that he had a bat-sectomy after Damien, it really takes me aback.

  3. Josh: Blue Beetle reminded me a little too much of Spider-man. And before you say that any kid who becomes a superhero in a comic book is going to feel like Spider-man, I've read Ultimate Comics Spider-man #1, and they reinvented Spider-man in a way that is completely new.

    The Starfire thing was ridiculous. It was like when Jim Lee decided that Cyclops was going to start doing stupid things whenever he saw Psylocke in a bikini. The objectification was kind of insane. But part of me thought that it might start an interesting story and not just be objectification. I think it's possible that further issues can redeem this. But there's a good chance they just won't.

    I imagine the first arc of Catwoman will be about the relationship and it will be brilliant. After that, it might not really have any feel to stand on. (Cats landing on feet joke?)

    Chad: See above regarding Blue Beetle.

    As for the scene where it showed Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damien, I noticed all of that. It seemed like of manga/anime-ish. As for Damien's existence, Batman has always had his fair share of blind spots.

  4. As an avid Spider-man reader, I didn't feel Spider-man at all while reading Blue Beetle (Static Shock, on the other hand...).

    Especially since we didn't see anything about the aftermath of Jamie becoming Blue Beetle and the home life of Jamie wasn't really focused on that much either in this issue (both of these things setting up the "feel of Spider-man") I'd really like you to explain more about why you felt it was too similar to Spider-man.

  5. Maybe saying that it reminded me of Spider-man is not meta enough. It is just that I have seen the whole, "Let's establish that he's a kid with friends and a home life and all that" thing so many times in comic books, and this didn't provide anything new or interesting. It just seemed like the same old same old. I know a lot of people are going to say that this is different because he is not white, and I think that's just DC gimmicking his ethnic identity. Meanwhile, in Ultimate Comics Spider-man #1, Bendis presents us with a character who is not white, but who does not rely on his ethnic identity to breathe life into his background. His background is interesting. I want to know more about him. I don't want to know more about Jaime Reyes.

    So, in other words, they're doing something that's been done to death and they're not making it feel fresh for me. But Spider-man made it fresh. Explaining it now, I can see how the too much like Spider-man description didn't sit with you. It was a little bit of a half-assed explanation on my part.

    I will say that I was interested in the origin of the Blue Beetle as a means of Hive colonization. But it was hard for me to care what those kids were doing.

  6. I'm still interested in the stories that are being built in Justice League, Green Lantern Corps, Catwoman, Supergirl, Batman, DC Universe Presents (which is slowly becoming a favorite), Nightwing (also a favorite now), Red Hood and the Outlaws and Wonder Woman. I had to let Birds of Prey go because I'm not terribly convinced the story's going anywhere interesting, and Batman Odyssey was way too wordy and kind of uninteresting to me.