Last week! I'm gonna go ahead and use the same format I did for the past three, and start with the best-known names, with the other half-dozen to follow tomorrow. As usual, these capsule reviews are geared towards the potential new readers DC claims it is wooing.
One thing Geoff Johns does in this Aquaman relaunch is make it a proper introduction to the character. The powers we don't see in action are at least discussed, his origin is told, Arthur repositions himself as a man who wants to explore his human, not Atlantean, heritage, and all with Ivan Reis' excellent art. Bit heavy-handed however. Most of the information we get because an obnoxious blogger corners Aquaman in a diner (it's tell, don't show), and Johns gets pretty strident (pun not intended) about defending the character. Though there's action and characterization, most of the issue is spent on repeating old Aquaman jokes and deflating them. Telling new readers that they're wrong to denigrate Aquaman only makes sense if you expect new readers that are antagonistic towards the character. For readers who do like Aquaman, they may resent the hell out of being told that Aquaman's no one's favorite and making Arthur suffer the indignity of having that thrown in his face. If you start the series out with Aquaman as a laughing stock, I'm sorry, but you have did him in yourself.
Don't call it a reboot: Unknown. Looks intact, but his history may have been shortened to exclude various eras of his career.
Upgrade? This is pretty much exactly where we left the character in Brightest Day, except the new Aqualad is nowhere to be seen. I hope he shows up later.
Will read? As a card-carrying member of FOAM, I sort of have to. And want to.
Recommended? Aquaman's a badass, and I want new readers to find that out. I just wish Johns hadn't been so gauche in showing it. Hell, new readers will probably get a hoot out of the comedy.
Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Let me tell you how pathetic I find The Dark Knight. First of all, it's a Batman comic designed as a showcase for David Finch. He's an artist I don't like (his perspectives and compositions are as bad as Liefeld's, he just hides them in more intricate detail so many readers won't notice) and an improvised writer, who here gets help from Paul Jenkins (showcase no more). Fans laughed at relaunching this book which took the better part of a year to get to #5, and now it's right back to #1. And this new #1 is just awful. The art is everything I expect it to be, and so is the script. Batman's first person narration is pretentious and overdone. Bruce Wayne swings on ropes without his costume, risking discovery. Anytime a woman shows up, it's a pin-up or ass shot. It's the second Batman book this month to feature an Akrham Asylum break-out, which tells me there's absolutely no editing going on. And don't tell what they've to Two-Face this issue makes him remotely more interesting, because it doesn't. It just comes off as silly.
Don't call it a reboot: Batman Inc. is mentioned, so it's business as usual.
Upgrade? You'd think having help from a co-plotter would help. It doesn't.
Will read? Not a chance.
Recommended? Avoid at all costs. New readers, you want to read Batman and if you have another 3$ in your pocket, Batman and Robin. That's it. You shouldn't even be thinking about picking up Dark Knight.
Francis Manapul is an excellent artist, very well suited to the Flash. I could recommend this book on the art alone. But can he write? Yeah, he can (here with the help of Brian Buccellato). Barry Allen, the fastest man alive, shares superheroics with the wacky world of SF CSI, making this a mystery book as well as a high concept superhero comic. What's here is solid enough, and acts as a pretty good introduction to the character, one I wouldn't mind handing to someone. Longtime fans will gripe at Barry's marriage being undone, Iris West relegated to pesky journalist who bugs Barry, but hasn't really met the Flash yet. For those fans, it's even worse. Barry's on a date with another woman. But as a reboot/relaunch, that's fine. Maybe they can get a will they/won't they dynamic going. Works for half the tv shows out there. What the book needs, however, is a good villain. Like many comics in the New52, the title hero faces off against nameless goons, which again makes me feel like the villains of the new DCU have been short-changed. Certainly makes that cliffhanger stand out as one of the most boring this month.
Don't call it a reboot: Marriage undone, playing the field, probably didn't die in the Crisis and come back. Totally a reboot.
Upgrade? Nah. It's the same series it used to be, without the deeper, richer history and relationships.
Will read? Yes. Enough of a Flash fan to do so, and Manapul's first effort wasn't bad.
Recommended? A solid superhero comic that uses its CSI element better than Johns did in the previous volume. Manapul's art is very nice as well. A good intro overall.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #1
One of DC's more confusing efforts, New Guardians starts with a needless re-origin of Kyle Rayner in a flashback that isn't advertized as such. After that, there's a caption that says "Present day", and when we return to Kyle, he's got a different uniform, but he has to explain to a kid that he's not Hal Jordan. Entirely plausible, but it still makes it feel like Kyle's a rookie, and if you miss that caption (I did, at first), you'll get the feeling Kyle's history's been erased. Hopefully it hasn't, because that would make Tony Bedard's series clash with the rest of GL continuity, one of the few untouched chunks of DC's continuity. Looks like Bedard tried to make New Guardians a better jump-on point for new readers with that origin, but it really isn't. New readers won't really know what the heck is going on with all those colored rings, and like Justice League, the team isn't assembled by the end of the issue. The cover, in fact, acts as a spoiler about who will appear in later issues. The art by Tyler Kirkham is good enough, though derivative of Jim Lee's, and of course, it must include that staple of Lantern comics, gory violence. You only have to wait for page 9 before someone gets graphically disemboweled. So a slow start, though at least it presents an intriguing mystery.
Don't call it a reboot: A small one. Kyle's origin has been tweaked.
Upgrade? Only insofar as Kyle's gotten to lead his own series, whereas he was relegated to sharing the spotlight with two other Earth Lanterns in GLC before.
Will read? I am interested in the Lantern sector of the DCU, so yes. I hope New Guardians starts to move a little faster though.
Recommended? With reservations. New readers are unlikely to understand concepts developed during the War of Light without the help of trade collections despite being thrown a bone with Kyle's origin (which is predicated on some Oan event they won't recognize anyway).
Savage Hawkman #1
Carter Hall is a cryptologist (I guess he helps decipher alien languages or something? he's not a cryptoGRAPHER) who used to be Hawkman. He decides to burn his old wings, but the Nth metal has other ideas. It transforms him into a new-look Hawkman and he must immediately fight the horribly named Morphicus, an evil pile of alien vampiric goo. I didn't think much of Tony Daniel as a Batman writer, but Hawkman's more of a blank slate. Maybe he can do something more original here? It's not a bad start, one that gives the character a new beginning without voiding his past (couldn't have more series in the relaunch gone this route?). Philip Tan's art isn't strong on faces, but is helped along by the painterly colors of Sunny Gho. Tan loses some stiffness when he gets into the more fantastical and action-based scenes, so there's potential there.
Don't call it a reboot: Though some elements have definitely been de-emphasize, it doesn't feel like a reboot. Dialog seems to point to a more or less intact history, though probably without Thanagar in the mix. Let's call it a more streamlined history, then.
Upgrade? Still wondering where the JSA will be, because this is definitely its Hawkman, and not Earth-1's Katar Hol (who I'm kind of missing at this point). The new paradigm still has to prove itself, so I'm not gonna call it an upgrade quite yet.
Will read? Give it a couple more issues. I've been wanting a competent Hawkman series for a while. Is this it?
Recommended? A good jumping on point, with everything you need to understand the series. Doesn't quite stand out as one of the series new readers really should read, but perhaps if it keeps up a kind of Supernatural/X-Files mood, it could find its niche.
George Perez didn't just write this comic, he drew the breakdowns for Jesus Merino's pencils. And it shows. Where a lot of DC's #1s have wide open spaces, a low average for panels per page, and lots of splashes, Perez' Superman is dense almost to the point of claustrophobia. This thing took a lot longer to read than the rest of the line, and I'd call that a good thing. Perez does a lot of things right. For one thing, he successfully tracks how media works these days, turning Lois into a frontline tv news producer, throwing tweets and web exclusives into the mix, all the while keeping old-fashioned guys like Clark and Perry plugging away in the dying print media. That's the real star here, and all the action (a battle against a Kryptonian fire monster) is seen through the news broadcasting process. The soap opera elements recall the late 80s and early 90s, again a good thing, even if I might decry the loss of Superman's marriage (but I'm moving on). Superman isn't THAT brooding, at least not yet. It all seemed justified to me. So it's a hit as far as I'm concerned. If there's a flaw, it's Superman's new costume, and I imagine it's not a coincidence that Perez and Merino often draw him at a distance or in close-up, giving the suit as little play as possible. Other redesigns that look awful: Jimmy's Bieber haircut and the crazy-ass new Daily Planet building. There was talk of making Perry a black man, but it's Morgan Edge who gets a new ethnicity instead. The supporting cast shows a lot of variety, actually, even if the roles were small this time around.
Don't call it a reboot: Completely.
Upgrade? Chris Roberson had brought Superman back from the brink after JMS' false start, so I'm not ready to call it an upgrade, but it's certainly not a DOWNgrade.
Will read? Yes. I liked it more than I thought I would. Reminded me of the franchise's better years. So long as I don't look at the suit directly.
Recommended? A resounding yes. There was a lot of exciting stuff happening, and not just with the superhero - Lois may turn out to be the true protagonist of this book. And you can't beat its content-per-dollar value.
Teen Titans #1
Just horrible. I knew I didn't like the costume redesigns, but I find Brett Booth's artwork disagreeable in general. Generally poor, he has trouble with page layouts, choreography and clarity. But writer Scott Lobdell is more guilty still. Not only does he pull off the New52 trick of taking too much time assembling his team (only three members have speaking roles, despite that being less than half of what's on the cover), but he also writes Teen Titans like it's an X-book. We're told upfront that there's a veritable "plague" of metahuman teenagers. That's not the DC Universe, is it? We meet up with Red Robin who feels the need to assemble these fugitive teens, Kid-Flash who screws up royally on national tv, and Wonder Girl, completely revamped as... well, I can't make sense of who she is really and what her abilities are. So nothing happens much and the Teen Titans don't actually exist by issue's end. Annoying AND ugly.
Don't call it a reboot: Tim Drake was Robin, but his Red Robin series may well have been erased. Wonder Girl's been rebooted entirely. Kid-Flash too, probably. I'm calling it a reboot.
Upgrade? The franchise had had a lot of trouble since, well since Marv Wolfman left it, frankly. Even so, this is a step WAY DOWN from where J.T. Krul left the book last month.
Will read? You can't make me.
Recommended? Not on your life. You do not want to crack this thing open, trust me. Boring, badly drawn and confusing.
The quirkier books I REALLY want to read will be tomorrow (but also Voodoo, so it's not gonna be all roses), I hope you'll come back for that. Of today's crop, Teen Titans and Dark Knight are clear losers, while all the others are imperfect, but pretty solid, Superman especially.