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swamp thing #1

Project 52: Week Two (Men of War/Green Arrow/Swamp Thing/Stormwatch/Animal Man)

You remember how DC are scrapping all their comics and launching 52 new ones, right? You remember how we’re reviewing them all? Me, Tim, and Bret? Good. Then enjoy the first dose of this week’s Project 52, including reviews of Green Arrow and Swamp Thing. Men Of War #1Written by Ivan BrandonArt by Tom DerenickReviewed by Tim Men of War is one of DC’s attempts to branch out a little beyond straight-up superheroics – in this case, to a military anthology title. That said, it’s still located within the DCU – the main story in this issue (a modern day version of Sergeant Rock) features a US Army operation that goes tits up when a mysterious superhuman attacks the same target as them. The back-up strip, titled “Navy SEALs: Human Shields”, is much more of a standard military tale, located, like the main story, in some unnamed Middle Eastern country, featuring a team of SEALs pinned down by sniper fire. Both stories are heavy with military jargon (helpfully annotated with translations) and gung-ho spirit. The Sergeant Rock story casts the main character as a scarred enlisted infantryman, still only a Corporal at the beginning of the book, who disobeys his superiors but makes brilliant tactical decisions. His mentor is an equally rebellious badass who is killed in action at the issue’s end, field-promoting our hero. Ivan Brandon creates a compelling tale of what military action in a superpowered world might look like, contrasting the power of one powered individual against the human squad, and Tom Derenick’s art is dynamic and atmospheric, with suitably craggy-faced heroes and explosive action.The back-up strip didn’t work quite as well for me. Jonathan Vankin’s writing felt overly expository, and Phil Winslade’s art, while agreeably reminiscent of British military titles like Commando, was too sparse and his faces all look the same. In addition, there was a hefty undercurrent of conservative values (know your audience, I suppose) with some unfunny homophobic “jokes” and digs at the Peace Corps, as well as a “oh course I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black!” moment that felt a little preachy. Overall, as a genre I’m unused to, I enjoyed the first story more than I thought I would, but the second spoilt the experience for me somewhat. Final Grade: C+ Green Arrow #1Written by J.T. KrulArt by Dan Jurgens & George PerezReviewed by BretOut of the 4 new comics I picked up today, Green Arrow was the one that interested me most. I’ve seen Smallville and liked what they did there with the green leather-wearing archer, Oliver Queen (even if they were trying oh so hard to make him Batman). Sadly the first issue of Green Arrow misses out on the emotional complexity and the “do what it takes to get the job done” attitude we saw from ol’ Ollie in the show. Instead, his new solo comic ends up reading more like a Saturday morning cartoon. And not a very good one at that, with a parent friendly “it’s not good to be a bad guy” moral brought up every other panel and all. I think it’s the fact that, despite passable foreground artwork, the background of the panels were often a single colour block rather than showing any hint of detail. That and the fact that heavy amounts of text were used to tell the story. This made the characters come off as simple and patronising to me. But then maybe Green Arrow has a younger audience in his line of sights. Having said that though, I did find it odd that our seemingly child friendly hero went from using concussive, blinding and freezing arrows to shooting a guy through both palms and forcing him to accidentally electrocute himself. The sudden burst of blood and violence felt very out of place in this black-and-white world of right and wrong. Overall lazy colouring, generic characters and text to explain what I should be seeing explained through art make Green Arrow misfire. Rating: D- Swamp Thing #1Written by Scott SnyderArt by Yanick PaquetteReviewed by AlexFor a comic about Swamp Thing, this issue sure is a brilliant advertisement for the New DC Universe. It opens with a sleek panoramic view – Clark Kent in Metropolis, Batman under Gotham, Aquaman in an unidentified ocean. And so, in three pages, it manages to establish a credible worldwide threat and introduce the heroes and universe better than last week’s Justice League managed in its full 40 pages. It helps that Yanick Paquette’s art is so incredibly gorgeous, of course. Superman’s a square-jawed lump of handsome, and the new costume manages to look regal. Even Aquaman looks good in this comic. And then the Swamp Thing story begins, and it’s an intriguing one. The changes to the Swamp Thing mythos – one with which I must admit only a passing familiarity – don’t feel unnecessary. It feels like a true fresh start, and the changes are woven into a compelling mystery. But that’s not all! Then there’s a brilliant horror sequence that’s probably the creepiest bit of comics I’ve encountered. But wait, there’s more! It alludes fascinatingly to “the events of last year!, just suggesting the slightest edges of a history. And there’s some fun Palahniuk-style facts about botany. And! And! AND! …There’s a lot squeezed into this comic. Snyder takes full advantage of the situation that’s been presented to him, in every facet. Even the DC universe being born again in media res is used to create a sense of mystery. And so it makes a convincing case for this entire relaunch – mystery isn’t something we’re used to in the familiar world of Superman and Batman, and without mystery, any sense of wonder can dissolve – and for the way this character – who, in the most praised comics written about him, appeared in a separate reality – fits into a world of superheroes. It’s comics at a hundred miles an hour and this review was meant to be […]