World’s Finest. Now there’s a title that could just as easily refer to the dynamic duo of Tim Maytom and Alex Spencer as to Power Girl and the Huntress. Unfortunately, in this case, it mostly refers to the latter. Mostly.
Bret Canny steps up to the bat to lend a hand as we review Dial H #1, the Second Wave’s obligatory venture into Vertigo territory.
Hey. My name is Bret. One or two of you may know me better by my online presence as “The Red Bobcat”. An awful name, I know, but one that I’ve had for so long that I could change no more than you could just decide to change who your siblings are. My font is Comic San MS, text size is 12, grasp on the English language is basic and my style with which I write things online is sloppy. So! You’ve been warned! Be prepared to read words like “gonna” instead of “going to”, “rents” instead of “parents”, “tomoz” instead of “tomorrow” and “awful thing that makes me want to scratch my eyes out” instead of “Britain’s Got Talent”. The reason I’m telling you all this: my good friend Rin Tin Tim asked me if I’d like to get involved in a thing he was doing where he would read, review and then blog about all the new DC comics that are coming out. Now I have to tell you, I am by no means a DC fan. I do read comics but I am very much a Marvel boy. So when I questioned Timbelina about the new comics that were coming out, I was surprised to hear that DC were relaunching all of their big titles from issue 1. “Resetting the DC universe”, I thought. “Hmmm, heard that one before, DC”. But what do I know? I don’t think I’ve ever actually picked up an issue of Batman before… apart from that time he beat up Predator. So, what the hell, I decided! To be fair if they’re starting everything again from scratch I’m probably DC’s perfect demographic. I’m geeky, I’m willing to spend money AND I know Jack all about all things DC but am willing to learn! Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin. I should probably warn you now: SPOILERS! The first comic I’m going to write about is DC Comic’s very own JUSTICE LEAGUE (their choice of capital letters, not mine). My plan was to read it first, then write about it straight after. However I got half a panel in (not joking) and already had so much to say that I thought I’d better blog while I’m reading it. That’s right, you’re going to read pretty much the first thoughts that cross my mind as I go. God help you. So we have a cover. It’s your average “all the heroes jumping out at slightly different angles from one point in a generic looking orange background” affair, but whatever. Do I know all these guys? Well, yes. I’m not DC fan but I don’t live under a rock. It’s hard not to notice Superman and Batman straight away. They look a little younger than I would have imagined, but then this is a reset. Plus everyone’s costumes seem a little more detailed that I would have thought. Wonder Woman’s wonder corset for instance seems to be made from a metal of some type… ouch! Also, where the hell are Superman’s red pants? All I can see is blue down there. I know pants on the outside has never been a great idea, but that is just how it is with Superman. And is that Cyborg bottom right? What’s he doing there? I thought he was just a Teen Titan? I really hope he’s there for more than diversity and wasn’t bumped up to the big boys just “because”. Anyway, lets open her up. Batman’s being chased by helicopters and we’ve jumped back in time 5 years already. That’s not a bad thing. Especially as it looks like everything was exploding 5 years ago. Happy memories. Bats is in pursuit of some Zombie/Scarecrow looking dude. So far all he’s said is “RRK”. I assume that translates to “Oh look, Batman is being shot at by those helicopters”. WAIT BAT-MAN! LOOK OUT! THAT’S NO ZOMBIE/SCARECROW! THAT’S A ROBOT/ORC! You should have known by the way he said “RRK”. Call yourself the world’s greatest detective… pfft! The page fills with green light and I can only assume it’s Green Lantern? Turn the page… HA! Fire truck to the face. Yeah that’s Green Lantern alright. OH MY GOD! ROBOT/ORC HAS WINGS?!? AND NOW SPIDER LEGS?!? Ha, DC you’re winning me over. Mostly because Green Lantern’s pointing out the same things I am. “What is that? A Transformer?” Well played, sir, well played. Well now their talking about Superman. “They say he’s an alien”. Not sure how anyone would know that because surely good ol’ Clarky boy keeps that to himself no? Next chapter. We’re in Metropolis and watching someone play American Football. But not for long as Lantern and Bats have turned up. Lantern seems to think he’s going to be able to out muscle Supes, resulting in. Lantern getting hit in the face by a multicoloured cylinder. We’ll assume that’s Superman. And then it ends! Abrupt but at least it’s promised to show us a fight between Batman and Superman next issue! There were a lot of things I liked. The fact that Green Lantern didn’t realise Batman was real for instance. Because, let’s face it, that’s how it would be in reality. I mean if you heard that there was some guy dressing up as a lobster and beating the crap out of robbers would you believe it? I also like the fact that normal people in DC’s new universe seem to hate capes rather than idolise them. Have DC taken a leaf from Marvel’s Spider-man and X-men titles? This issue would have been an A except they didn‘t explain why Lantern bothered keeping Bats with him. Lantern made fun of Bats for not having powers and Lantern even locked him up in the fight against Supes… so why take him to Metropolis at all? I understand that it’s hard to explain how a utility belt holds up against invulnerability. But as a new reader, DC failed to explain what help Batman can be in […]
For me, it started with Spider-Man. The X-Men would come later, but first the Spider-Man film, and then onto Marvel’s website. After-school dips into the library of Marvel’s free online comics reader, dotComics. All done in secret, quietly ashamed of my new habit. For the new DC Universe, it starts with Batman. Of course. The Justice League will come later. For me, this couldn’t be much further from where my relationship with comics began, literally and metaphorically. Literally: I picked up Justice League #1 from London’s Orbital Comics, far from that bedroom in Staffordshire. Metaphorically: A comic printed on real, sniffable paper, read on a train squeezed between passengers giving me funny looks. (This kind of stuff matters with a new #1. Some people get overexcited and want things like variant covers and polybags, but it brings out the luddite in all of us. It warms up big heaped spoons of nostalgia.) And perhaps most importantly, a comic published by DC. As I suspect is going to be a theme of our reviews, Marvel was my entry drug. Superman? Wonder Woman? Green Lantern? These characters didn’t matter to me. Batman, though… Ah, Batman. And that’s how Justice League starts. With Batman, chasing a villain and dodging the police. But don’t forget: this is a new Batman, with swathes of his history (or continuity, as we call it in comics) chopped off. Gruff, black cowl & cape, mistrustful, yellow utility belt, sneaky and smart… The exact same Batman, then. We haven’t shifted far from Status Q, by the looks of things. As a representative of the new DC Universe, the message it’s sending seems to be: don’t worry. things won’t change too much. (It’s telling that the sketch stuff in the backmatter shows designs for new costumes that were rejected for being too different.) Still, the reboot means this comic gets to tell the story of how Batman, Green Lantern and Superman meet for the first time. And how they meet is with the adversial tension and fisticuffs that are a solid tradition of superfriends meeting for the first time. This provides a few nice moments – Green Lantern trying to work out what Batman’s powers are in particular – and momentum for the issue’s plot. The plot being, essentially, get x from a to b (where x = Batman and Green Lantern, a = Gotham city and b = wherever Superman is). The pieces are moved around so that the punching can continue. And that’s it, except for a four page vignette woven into the middle of the story. It offers a glimpse of another character, pre-secret origin, and breaks up the action so the story is a little less formulaic. But this isn’t a story, really. It’s an introduction, to the new readers this relaunch will hopefully pull in. Here’s the world, here’re the characters, here’s the threat. In this it succeeds. The characters are established quickly and easily. Their personalities are drawn a little large, perhaps – Green Lantern’s unbelievably cocky, Batman doesn’t trust anyone – but they’re clear. It’s a reintroduction, too, to the old readers this relaunch hopefully won’t put off. As that kind of reader, I was looking for clues of how it’s going to be, closely studying speech bubbles and the art. Frankly, if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have noticed Jim Lee’s artwork. Lee is an artist whose reputation I’ve never quite understood. He’s headlining the entire relaunch, designing costumes and drawing this flagship title, but his scratchy inexpressive art isn’t likely to open new readers’ eyes to how beautiful a comic book can be. It’s serviceable art that tells the story in a traditional, musclebound way. Again, it says: not much has changed. Justice League #1 is certainly a first issue. But the first issue of a line-wide reboot, the standard-bearer for an entire universe? The kind of comic people will be nostalgically blogging about in ten years’ time? Hmm. Final Grade: C
I’ve already done the hype thing for Project 52 on my Tumblr, but for those of you who don’t want to venture into those dark waters: Fact One DC are cancelling every last one of their titles, and starting at #1 all over again, in theory creating a whole new universe that’s younger, sleeker and different. Renumbering isn’t unusual in comics, but this includes titles like Action Comics – the comic which introduced Superman, and has been running since the ’30s for 904 issues without ever going back to a new #1. Fact Two There will be 52 of these new titles. That’s a potential $160 to be wasted on comics (trust me, I’ve done the maths) in one month. So I’ve assembled my own super-team – my Justice League, if you will – to take that particular bullet for you, and read and review every single one of those titles. Alex Spencer, the incredible Self-Hyper. Tim Maytom, the astounding Trivia Lad. And introducing Bret Canny, the mysterious Third Man (whose secret identity is that he’s a housemate of Tim’s, I believe, but shhh). Fact Three This week – the first of five – is an easy one. One final lingering thread from the old DC universe (Flashpoint #5, which we won’t be looking at) and the First Ever Title of The New DC Universe, Justice League #1. All three of us will be looking at this in turn, and I’ll be adding the reviews as they come in. So with no further ado, it’s time to find out what Tim thought… Tim’s Review
It was a relationship that turned sour quickly. I’d looked at her from across the party, knew her reputation: fun but promiscuous, a quick fling. I’d heard the rumours of violence. A real femme fatale.But dammit if I didn’t want to dress up as Batman, so I rented her. It all turned out exactly the way I’d imagined. Okay, the initial thrills were giddier than I’d ever really considered- laughing maniacally at the complete disdain for physics, that ridiculous ‘hai-hai-hai’ noise Liu Kang makes as he flying-kicks across the screen. Carried away into the night chatting about the crazy beautiful stupidity of superheroes and fighting games.When the lows came, they were deep and dark. I found myself alone, sinking unsatisfying hours into the ‘Story’ mode, grinding towards the one unlockable character I was interested in. But even now, having denounced MK vs DC, I can’t forget the first few games together, where I got to play as Batman. I love Batman. All the gadgets and gruffness, pitched against the sci-fi-mentalist world he lives in. I love the childish escapism of it all, both for me and him. I love the Batcave, its giant penny and an unexplained T-Rex. I’ve never understood those particular parts of the Batman mythos, but damn if I don’t love them.So obviously he was the first character I took for a spin. As I discovered each new move, I giggled with delight. I peered into the background of the Batcave level, murmuring approvingly at any recognisable details. I beat up my friends’ assorted choices of fighter (seriously, who plays as a MK character when you’ve got a load of superheroes at your disposal?) and that was fun, but it wasn’t till we were left alone that the thrill of Being Batman really clicked. Looking back, at the way the gruff interior monologue filled my head and how satisfying each avenged punch felt, I worry about myself. I consider myself a (reasonably) balanced human being, never really been the type for role-playing of any type, yet here I was pretending to be Batman. It wasn’t the game- MKvsDC‘s quite a mechanical affair, stiff, not the kind of fighter you’d ever forget you were playing a game with. It’s just the strength of fantasy (and, I suppose, the simple iconography I was given to project on). I remember being young and naive and dreaming about being able to finally do all the impossible acrobatics and kung-fu-moves I’d seen in The Matrix. Enter the Matrix arrived and, looking back, it was a disappointed. But at the time I consumed it hungrily, playing it over and over again and it fulfilled everything I wanted to do- running from unfightable Agents, backflipping off walls and watching bullet tear that wobbly path through air-turned-to-treacle. It was the same with The Punisher game- although I’ll still defend that game today, if only for the bit where you get to pop out of the coffin in the middle of a funeral and mow down half the mob with an M60. I was in the midst of Garth Ennis’ classic work on the Punisher comic when I bought it and with the game being based on Ennis’ Welcome Back, Frank, I was able to summon Frank’s gritty caption-box voice as I tore through enemy after enemy. I felt no pleasure as I forced thugs’ heads under saws, and threw them into woodchippers. It just needed to be done. There are hundreds of other examples- I remember replaying the first Max Payne over and over, in the style of whatever action hero I’d seen that week- slow and steady like the Terminator, or dashing through the level without stopping or worrying about damage. Swinging around New York as Spider-man. (Which felt subtly different to swinging around as Ultimate Spider-man.) Downloading skins of my favourite characters for The Sims. They always seem to tend towards the geekier end of my interests- I’ve never felt the urge to play an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind game, or dress up as Kilgore Trout. I suppose its that simple iconography that the geeky-media tends to provide you with. It’s easy to project on but, frankly, of course I’d want to be the man dressed as a bat, beating up clowns. Surprise surprise, I cannot wait for the new Batman: Arkham Asylum game. I’m already piecing it together in my head, how I’ll hide in the shadows, spooking out the criminals one by one, then pulling them into the darkness. Just like the start of the Tim Burton film, or Old Batman’s comeback in Dark Knight Returns. I’ll be that Batman, and file it alongside my time as the four-coloured square-jawed crusader, punching gods and spacemen in MKvsDC, and I’ll already about fantasising about the next Batman I get to be. (Confessions: I say I’ve quit MKvsDC forever, but the disc is still waiting to be sent back. And, inelegantly, more-or-less unwittingly, I stole the relationship metaphor from the always elegant chewingpixels.)