Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The New 52 Omnibus

Note - The JLA never appear
as a group in this book
The New 52. A lot of time, money, and effort went into crafting this relaunch, and a lot of time, money, and effort has been spent on reviewing each issue of each title. If you let that stand as any barometer of this review it's intimidating, and requires the best possible review strategy be applied to reviewing The New 52 Omnibus, a collected edition of each of the 52 new first issues.
Alternatively, I've decided to aim for something else. There's plenty of places that a potential reader could find out which titles are likely worth reading on an ongoing basis, and there's plenty of places to get a review of each issue in this book. Most likely anything I could say by way of reviewing each issue would be redundant, and less informative. For that reason I've decided to review this on the basis of the reasons I chose to purchase this beast of a tome.
Reason One: This book represents an interesting idea - a gazette of a single release cycle's worth of issues from a publisher. This idea is nothing new to fans of Manga, where stories are typically published as a single story in a "tankoban"volume, such that reading the issue's first printing is just one of many different issues being read. The order of printing here is different, but the concept is an interesting one.
Reason Two: Rather than rely on any set of reviews of a title, or waiting to see which are worth reading, this volume was to form my personal basis for assessing which (if any) titles from The New 52 I would pay interest to. In order to make this succinct, I've considered a few things, all of which build up to answering the question of whether I'd read each title individually or not. Areas of assessment are:

  • Would a new reader have a chance of understanding what the hell is going on, and as a consequence, were I a new reader, would I read the next issue?
  • Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end? In other words, do I get a full story, or just part of a story?
  • Is the art any good?
  • Is the story given any good?
  • Are there other titles I need to read to understand what is happening?
  • Does the content given irk me for any other reason?
Each issue will be rated based on how I would answer all of these questions in combination, and result in a decision that is one of:
  • Continue reading without reservation;
  • Continue reading for several issues to make a final decision; or
  • Would not continue reading.
With the review criteria established we move to...
What Is It Like To Read A Gazette Of Ostensibly Unrelated Issues?
Actually it's not all bad. Yes the volume itself is thoroughly unwieldy to handle. Yes there's a lot of material that I wouldn't be reading if DC were to release such a book each month. Yes it's far too expensive to expect it to be done each month. You do get a lot of different stories though, so if you aren't enjoying something, the next title is only a handful of pages away. The idea is something I'm interested in, and something that I think merits further investigation, especially given the nature of most comics readers.
Consider this: If you read Superman, you likely have at least a passing interest in Action Comics, Superboy, and Supergirl. When these titles (inevitably) begin to cross over, it will likely become impossible to read just one of the titles. With that in mind, is there merit in publishing these works as just a single issue each month? The experienced comics reader tells you that for they would be most irritated at having to buy all 4 titles, and that there's no guarantee that the titles won't crossover elsewhere (for example Superman and JLA, or Superboy and TeenTitans), and would likely drop a comment that the cost and time frame to publish a consolidated volume would be prohibitive. That doesn't address the question of whether it's a superior approach for enticing new readers, or for the dedicated fan who would get all those titles.
In this particular instance there are only a couple issues that actually reference each other directly, a couple subtle hints at referencing other titles, references to things that happened before the relaunch and have been kept about, and a whole bunch of continuity issues to sort out. (Like how did the Guardians of Oa go from being just Ganthet in Green Lantern New Guardians, to being a whole bunch that kill Ganthet in Green Lantern?) That's something manga titles rarely do - cross over or reference each other.
I personally have no objection to reading my comics this way. Assuming I want to read all these comics (which I'll deal with shortly). Assuming that the gazette isn't every title from the publisher, because the binding of an omnibus always makes it hard to read text near the spine.

In this particular instance the concept works, simply because the problems of not wanting everything in the volume, and dealing with cross-overs (were the volume smaller) do not exist. I do not expect it would always work, and realistically any attempt to force it to work carries with it the bogey-man of the industry - the potential to lose readers.

The next concern is what's worth reading, and what I enjoyed reading. Keep in mind that I'm trying to assess each relaunch title on its merits as indicated by one single issue.

The Reviews
Let's assume I went down to my local library, borrowed this, and used it as the sole indicator of what I was buying. Let's also assume that I don't have any long term attachment to the characters, or creative teams.

Justice League
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jim Lee
It's easy enough to understand what is going on. The cover has nothing to do with what happens in the book itself, and could be considered misleading as only 4 of the characters on the cover are actually in the book (and if you add that Vic Stone isn't Cyborg yet, it's down to 3). The story is by no means a complete story. Barely a beginning really. Batman and GL are tracing some alien bomb tech thingy. They go to Metropolis only because Superman is an alien (though their being in Metropolis gives them a reason to meet Superman). Vic Stone's introduction has more or less nothing to do with the rest of the events, and is either the most obvious foreshadowing ever, or seems completely irrelevant.
My Verdict: Nice art, but this was obviously nothing but set-up for later issues. I wouldn't get the next issues, and I'd wait until I knew something was happening.

Justice League International
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Aaron Lopresti
Obviously this is set after the Justice League are an established force (though if they're the JL, not the JLA, why would you need to have a JLI?), and obviously this team is being forcibly created by the UN. Couple of immediate questions though: why does Booster Gold have a Legion flight ring (observant new readers would have picked this up from Legion Lost and Legion of Superheroes), and does it work?
The story does a much better job of establishing who is in the team than JL did, but again, we get given the beginnings of a story. Obviously there's at least one more issue to finish the story of JLI vs giant robot. I don't care enough about this group of characters to see what happens. Maybe if we'd spent less time on internal team politicking, we could have seen the end of that fight, and I'd have been able to decide if they were a cool team of heroes.
My Verdict: Not going to try reading again.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ivan Reis
Seems like a fun book. I got teases of something else happening, though unrelated to the main story. References to Aquaman being lame are something I'm familiar with from Family Guy, and Aquaman was well introduced as a character. It's clear that Mera is at least Aquaman's girlfriend, but we get very little more than that. The one criticism I have is that there's very little content here. Funnily enough I look at who wrote this, and then who wrote JL, and it's the same guy. As a new reader I'd be wondering if seeing the name Geoff Johns on a book meant that I was paying for minimal content.
My Verdict: I think I'd read more of this. Not because it was super compelling, or had a huge cliffhanger, but because it was well written, and gave me at least one full story. Obviously something's happening with those fish-faced things, and I'm sure I'l get more in future issues, but if nothing happens for a while, and I get a full story each month, that's fine with me.

Wonder Woman
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Cliff Chiang
Very little about this book makes sense. Very little about this book recommends it to being a repeat purchase. It seems to be all mysterious setup for strange happenings to come. And realistically, none of it was engaging enough to make me think I'd want to read it again. The art though, is a conundrum to me. It's clearly different from the last three titles, and aesthetically less "pretty" for my liking. That said, it offers me something none of the others did: I can actually see when something was moving. That's right, motion lines are consistently included here. Those other books, yeah I could see what was happening and that things must have been moving, but the pictures weren't dynamic. The could easily have just been photographs for the sense of motion imparted (ie none). I liked that I could sense things happening, rather than imagine it.
My Verdict: The art doesn't make it up. I won't be reading this again.

The Flash
Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Bucatello
Art by Francis Manapul
Again, not a full story. Geez, this is getting frustrating. You read 20 some pages and find that you've not go the whole story. In any case, the art is clear, and it's another different approach. Motion lines seem to be used only when Flash does something, and flashback sequences have somewhat of a faded watercolour effect applied. The story gives me little about the Flash himself, and seems to cast this guy as a bit of a loser like Spider-man. There's not a lot of content, but the cliff hanger is at least better than the last couple cliff hangers, and makes me feel like maybe there's an interesting concept behind this.
My Verdict: Art's fine by me, Story was a bit light on, but the concept seems to be good. Feels like something will definitely happen next issue, and that it'll be a doozy. Think I'd give it another go.

Captain Atom
Written by J.T. Krull
Art by Freddie Williams II
This was fractionally less confusing than Wonder Woman, but that upside is negated by the boredom that comes with it. There's nothing compelling here. Unfortunately, the more of these issues I read, the more I'm introduced to some guy who has some power, and in the course of fighting some bad guy or other, falls foul of some other thing on the last page or two to set up a cliffhanger. Is that all I can expect here? non-origin stories that try to give a very small glimpse of the main character, and then throw me at a cliffhanger? Is all the really story going to be in issue 2 for each of these books? This isn't leaving me like I want to read more comics.
My Verdict: I got absolutely nothing from this. At least the art in Wonder Woman was worth discussing, and the story confused me. This didn't even have that. Won't try it again.

The Fury of Firestorm
Written by Joe Harris and Ethan Van Sciver
Art by Yildiray Cinar
An actual origin story. Well, I'm not missing anything on the background of this character at least. There's definitely some shallow characterisation going on in the background, but at least I know core motives, etc. So these two kids that hate each other combine to become this one superpowerful being, that seems kinda cool. I'm sure the next issue will follow on from where this ended, but at least if it didn't, I've got a full origin story. I think I can look forward to the next issue with some promise of a new full story. The art wasn't quite to my liking, but I can't have it all.
My Verdict: The writing could use a little work, and the art's not quite what I like to see, but the story was somewhat interesting, and I don't know exactly what will happen next. Could be an interesting title, and one I'd be watching.

Green Arrow
Written by J.T. Krull
Art by Dan Jurgens
If you liked Matt Fraction's Iron Fist, there's a fair chance you'll like this. Not much by way of introduction to the characters involved, and it certainly isn't a complete story, but it's still a decent read. My core complain is that Ollie is a bit of a preachy bastard, and should sometimes shut up and fight.
My Verdict: I think I'd read this on a regular basis.

The Savage Hawkman
Written by Tony Daniel and Jim Bonny
Art by Philip Tan
Very short story, very light on content, very splashy art. Really this did nothing beyond emphasising that I want nothing to do with archeological digs (there's always an alien thing, or a mystic power that's going to kick your ass, and that's if the Nazi's or Communists don't do it first). Thankfully I didn't know what the current Hawkman origin was so I couldn't get upset if it had changed.
My Verdict: Pasing on this, not a hard choice to make.

Mister Terrific
Written by Eric Wallace
Art by Gianluca Gugliotta
We get an origin story, and we get a similar "sciencey guy fighting something" opening sequence to what we had in Captain Atom (there's more of these to come). The story itself wasn't that compelling, but seemed like it might be going somewhere in an issue or two.
My Verdict: Check back on this one in a few issues time to see what happened.

DC Universe Presents Deadman
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Bernard Chang
Have you ever seen Quantum Leap or Highway to Heaven? If so, this is a bit like that. Deadman jumps into a person's body to help sort their lives out, only he wants to start living his own life again. Or at least figure out what the point to all this good work is. It's clear there's more to follow, and it's clear that (at least the first arc) is going to be about Deadman sorting out a motive for continuing on his soul saving path. We got an origin, and some backstory, and we can see there's a lot of potential for further stories. The art was okay, but not spectacular.
My Verdict: I think I'd read this again, but it'd be one of those books that I can't see being an indefinite read. At some point I'll either get bored of it, or it'll have wrapped up. Either way, it's a good concept for a while, but longer term, needs an end point to be established. Ultimately I think I'd pass.

Action Comics
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Rags Morales
How many years did Morrison want to be working on this? How long did we hear about this during relaunch announcements? And really, it's not that great. It's as close as I can ever see Superman being to a street hero, but that's a bit of a problem. He's already overpowered for most fiends he'll encounter, and he'll only get stronger. Even at Morrison's best, I can see this is going to be running the same risks as the first season of Smallville, but with nasty ol' capitalists and crims in place of disaffected youths with Kryptonite poising. There's nothing wrong with the story given, in fact I liked the ending of it, but I can't see it lasting for a great deal of time.
My Verdict: Trade wait this one, and take it one arc at a time. Especially since Grant Morrison can vary in quality from arc to arc, and seems to perform better with particular artists supporting him.

Written by George Perez
Art by Jesus Merino
We get a whole story, we established a status quo, and showed there was some backstory to be mined. We also establish that Clark and Lois are not a couple, leave alone ever been married. This book has the potential to be worth reading or a regular basis, but I couldn't say if it'll get there or not. If it tries to keep rooted in the relationships that make Clark Kent, rather than the adventures that make Superman great, the potential I've seen could be realised.
My Verdict: One to watch. If and when it's clear that this sticks to the character driven story telling of this issue, it should become a regular read. And I hate Superman, so go figure.

Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by R.B. Silvia
Blink and you've missed this issue. It's a bit of an origin story, but it's also a case of establishing Superboy as a troubled character that is going to be struggling to establish an identity. Funnily enough, I expect the book to struggle to establish an identity, and a readership. It's a complete story, but the whole story is still just setup for the rest of the series. The impending conflict of the story will clearly be Superboy vs the Teen Titans (from within) and Superboy vs N.O.W.H.E.R.E. And it's already established that Superboy is Superman sans conscience, so that's obviously an element of character conflict and development that's to be continued.
My Verdict: I'll be interested to see just how predictable this title is, but I don't anticipate paying for the privilege.

Written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
Art by Mahmud Asrar
This is a book with almost no content. I can't believe anyone was paid to write this. The art is delightful, but there's so many splash panels and pages, that I can't keep looking at it forever. That said, it's another origin story (though more via inner monologue than via explicit depiction), and it sets up future stories (and while it seems obvious that the next issue would deal with Superman and Supergirl getting to know each other, it would also be feasible to do something else with the story).
My Verdict: Initially, I was actually quite pleased with this (despite the brevity of the story), but on a secondary look, I think this is really a case of waiting for a trade to see if it's worth reading.

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo
So many Bat-titles. So easy to get confused about which was which. This one is the start of Batman investigating a case where a threat is made against Bruce Wayne, with evidence indicating the threat is being made by Dick Grasyon. Since that would seem a most unlikely situation, let's also throw in that at the start of the story Dick is using ultra-Bat-tech to impersonate Joker while in Arkham. It also establishes that Damian Wayne is the current Robin, and Tim Drake is Red Robin. I'm not sure how far into the New 52 timeline this is meant to be, but that means Bruce has churned through to his fourth Robin (assuming Jason Todd is Red Hood because of his Batman related woes), and that one of them (Dick) has recently stood in for Bruce himself (though the reasons aren't established). I know on his blog, Jim Shooter panned some of the panel layouts and the opening art. It's a fair call, considering he was reviewing it with a view to demonstrating what a new reader might think. It's something that's not as big a concern to the seasoned reader wanting to try the New 52.
My Verdict: Plot is likely promising. Money is on someone impersonating Dick Grayson, but then I didn't find any of this enough of a draw card to try again.

Detective Comics
Written by Tony Daniel
Art by Tony Daniel
Lots of big splashy art pages. Batman's hunting Joker, Joker's going a new kind of crazy, and really there's not a whole lot more to it than that. It's a book strong on graphic violence, light on characterisation, and with a bit of plot progression thrown in. Seems to exist largely for the last page shock image of Joker's face nailed to a wall.
My Verdict: Pass. You've read better, of you've never read before.

Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Hayden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams III and Amy Reeder
Picks up where the Batwoman series (pre-New 52) left off. It's beautifully illustrated, and again deals more with supernatural mystery, and Kate's familial issues than it deals with punching bad guys. I'm not sure I see the need for a sidekick for Batwoman (I found her far more intimidating as a solo act, much like Batman), but it will allow for new character development, which is a good thing.
My Verdict: I'll be following this one along while I wait for the trade. If it's as good as it was pre-relaunch, it'll be worth reading.

Batman: The Dark Knight
Written by David Finch and Paul Jenkins
Art By David Finch
I dunno, this is another Batman book, it's hard to really differentiate between this, Detective, and Batman if you have to pick a single solo Batman book. It really serves to illustrate the ineffective security of Arkham Asylum though, when you consider that Batman also featured a fight in Arkham, and Detective has Joker already on the loose.
My Verdict: If you want a shock value book, read Detective. If you want what looks like being a decent Batman story book, read Batman. If you want a muddle of the two, read this. On the other hand, if you want good Batman stories, go read stories from years gone by that were innovative, fresh, and packed with content and characterisation.

Batman And Robin
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Pat Gleason
Definitely a book that could have been a tremendous flop given that the chemistry of the book previously was based on Dick Grayson as Batman, and Damian Wayne as Bow Whinger. While Damian is still annoying and snarky, Bruce definitely seems to be able to snap him into line... or can he. The story is worth reading. It's clear Bruce has a challenge in training Damian (likely more than Jason Todd ever was), and while we get what seems to be a full case solved to an untrained observer, it's also clear that this is just the beginning of a larger story.
My Verdict: Best Book featuring Batman as a primary character thus far. Definitely one to keep reading.

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ardian Syaf
Not a full complete story in and of itself, but it's interesting that this seems to be one of the books most obviously tied to pre-relaunch continuity. The art is delightfully clear to read, the story is, I think, a good treatment of what a person in Barbara's position would do. I liked where the story was going, and from what I hear, the issue of Barbara's fear of getting hurt again is a prominent feature of the series. Could get old if it's all it's about, but thus far I liked it.
My Verdict: Bucks the trend of incomplete stories being intolerable, and a bit of backstory being poorly presented. Worth reading more of.

Written by Judd Winick
Art by Ben Oliver
This book frustrates the hell out of me. When the New 52 was being solicited I had this earmarked as a pointless exercise, and an early flop. To my amazement, it's actually quite good, or at least what there is of it is quite good. See the story is overly short. The art is pretty, but overly splashy (and too static). But the story telling is great. I don't know what to do with this beast. I desperately want to like it, but paying full price for it seems unfair.
My Verdict: Keep an eye on it. If you see a trade of this going somewhat below price, get on it.

Written by Judd Winick
Art by Guillem March
Ah the smut controversy book. From the cheesecake cover, through the cheesecake opening pages, and the BatCatsex at the end, this book seems to be entirely about delivering readers their monthly does of T&A. It's an easy book to read, though as I've said the plot seems to be purely an excuse to get to the smut. Again, the overuse of splash pages reduces this to a 5 minute read, which is disappointing, though who ever pays that much attention to the storyline in porn?
My Verdict: Superhero smut is an idea that rates well with me. Unfortunately I'm the guy that expects that if you're going to put a story in porn it needs to make sense, and add to the action. I don't see the story here doing that. And really, that pisses me off. I can get my supe porn from Rule42, so I don't need this book. Needs to cost half what it currently does.

Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Eddy Barrows
Seems this book is all about showing Dick Grayson as immature, and Nightwing as underprepared when compared to Batman. Which is interesting since until recently Dick Grayson was Batman. This story seemed like a nostalgia trip for both the reader and the character, and that's not a good way to kick off a relaunch title. I didn't rte the art as anything overly special, so I can't recommend the book on that basis.
My Verdict: Nightwing fans will likely love this. Everyone else will likely want their money back.

Birds Of Prey
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Jesus Saiz
One of the two worst Bat Family books. I think it's in this grouping solely because the heroines are a bit more street level, but otherwise there's no crossover immediately obvious. Here's the deal: the story is awful. The characterisation is awful. The art is average.
My Verdict: Leave this one on the stands to send a message to DC that we won't put up with this shit.

Red Hood And The Outlaws
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Kenneth Rocafort
And here's the worst of the Bat Family books. The Art is awful. The storytelling is awful. The Plot is awful. The characterisation is awful. Who buys this crap? I've read decent Jason Todd stories before. I've read decent Starfire stories before. Those are your draw cards, right? Why do such an awful job with them?
My Verdict: In all honesty, if you can justify why you bought and enjoyed this, I'd love to hear it. Personally we need to purchases less copies of this title than we did of Birds of Prey.

Green Lantern
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke
I understand that this is meant to be picking up where GL left off before the relaunch. Fair enough, but assume you snared me as a new reader with this relaunch idea. I saw that movie with Ryan Reynolds, and boy it did suck, but the idea looked like it had potential. So I picked this up. Reynolds character isn't even a Lantern at the moment, though it seems he has been in the past. And he's totally making the worst of every situation he's given. And there's this one panel where the pink bit between his eyeball and the corner of his eye socket is over-illustrated and he really looks like a stalker. Why do people go on about comics again? Why was everyone in the store raving about how good the guys that made this book were? Man it just sucked! Also, those little blue dudes totally killed that other little blue dude. This is important if you read all the GL titles.
My Verdict: If I didn't know to expect better from Geoff Johns, I'd be advising people to steer clear of this bok. Especially new readers. As it is, I can only suggest it needs  few issues to prove itself.

Green Lantern Corps
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Fernando Pasarin
Here's a book that seems confused. It's all about aliens being brutally slaughtered, while two Green Lanterns whinge about people knowing their secret identities. Yeah it could turn out well. It definitely has potential. But based on this issue alone, I won't recommend it. Throw in that at this point Kyle Rayner has been a GL, and we don't know which guardians are alive, and I'm confused about where this sits in continuity compared to GL.
My Verdict: Apart from it getting harder to provide useful comments on these stories the further I get, it's getting easier to tell people not to read something. Maybe there's something in that... Oh, don't read this book.

Green Lantern: New Guardians
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Tyler Kirkham
Right, so I read GL first. Then I red this. This starts with all the guardians EXCEPT Ganthet being killed. GL had Ganthertbeing killed by all the OTHER Guardians. Just quietly, what the HELL is going on here?! This could almost make sense if Ganthet doing this resulted in some other group of Guardians killing him, but the two seem unrelated. So this is a new origin story for Kyle Rayner as far as becoming a GL. However he almost immediately becomes every other type of lantern too, thanks to some more mass xenocide. A large portion of this book (once it's clear it's about superheroes) is aliens dying  and rings flying off places. Surely people don't want to read al about rings flying places right? IT's just boring after a while. This is clearly going somewhere (given it's poised for a BIG FIGHT SCENE at the end of the issue), the problem is I'm going somewhere too: away from this book.
My Verdict: Don't bother. The continuity issues alone make me shake my head in disgust. There's nothing to redeem this book.

Red Lanterns
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Ed Benes
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid stupid stupid. That's what I think of this book, and it's attempts at the concepts of "story" and "art". If you read this and enjoyed it, then good for you. Don't let me put you off. If you wanted to know what I think is wrong with it, try reading it yourself, and if you enjoyed it you may as well just go with that.
My Verdict: This was worse than Red Hood And The Outlaws.

Justice League Dark
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Mikel Janin
I'm going to open this by discussing page One. The use of tarot cards could have been a great way to introduce all the characters that will form the Justice League Dark team both visually and by summarising their traits in a straight up fashion. Like Marvel's X-Men books having been doing for the past few years. But more naturally. Unfortunately the concept didn't work here because not all the character's cards are shown, and because you have one showing half a person, without giving the character trait. The thing that annoys me most is that in trying to make it look like a natural way of doing it, they've given more space than necessary to Madame Xanadu, and not enough to the exposition. There's another crack at showing the whole team on the last page, but it doesn't help. Potentially a great concept, but poorly executed.The point of this book seems to be purely to establish that the JL can't handle every situation (particularly those involving magic), and that magic people in the DCU are generally jerks. Also there's a new team of magicky types being put together to help the JL. And that's as far as the book gets. Really. I don't know if I can even say this book is all setup, because some of it seems like setup for the setup.
My Verdict: There could be a really good story to come out of all this, but so far I feel like I'm reading the first issue of a Mark Waid JLA story from the early 2000s. If I heard that the story as a whole was worth reading, I'd consider grabbing the trade, otherwise I'll just leave it alone.

Swamp Thing
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Yanick Paquette
Right, so all over the world there's these animals dying. And of course Superman visits this construction worker. Who was kinda sorta maybe Swamp Thing. Not so sure about that. Definitely a messed up backstory. There's also these other guys trying to steal someone else's archeological dig. It wasn't clear to me why they were doing this but, hey, crims will be crims, right? Swamp Thing kills the crims, and then visits Mr Construction. And the story will continue.
My Verdict: Are you a big Swamp Thing fan? Are you at least conversant in the history about the character's identity? If not, just ignore this book and move along.

Animal Man
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Travel Foreman and Dan Green
Animal Man has never been a character I paid a lot of attention too (and hey given what I think of Grant Morrison, I'm not going to try digging up copies of his run without a great price being offered), but this may make me rethink this. It doesn't spend a lot of time on his backstory, and it doesn't labour what his powers are, really they're simple enough in detail anyway. In any case, the story is dealing with issues in Buddy Baker's life since he stopped being Animal Man. He seems much happy with it than his family, but he also finds he's getting weird reactions (and dreams) from using his powers, and that his daughter seems to be able to raise dead animals. This is not normal people. Clearly he's going to try looking into things further in the next issue. Which I may read. If the stylised art doesn't scare me off.
My Verdict: Could be a good one to watch. Suspect it might make a good trade.

Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E.
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Alberto Ponticelli
Oh balls, I forgot this book entirely, and then had to read it again! If you want a book about a bunch of monsters fighting other monsters for some stupid and unresolved reason, then read this book. I'm not recommending it to anyone, and if asked will tell them I thought it had bad art, was heavy handed with the characterisation, and had a silly story.
My Verdict: I've had better times upending a compost bin.

I, Vampire
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Just pretend this book doesn't exist. I can only assume it exists because Twilight and True Blood are popular vampire franchises (though I challenge the factual validity of vampires presented in Twilight).
My Verdict: Just leave it alone. It's not actively hurting me, but let's not encourage it to keep going.

Resurrection Man
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by Fernando Dagnino
Didn't I read a book about some guy who has some kind of mission to do that keeps him coming back from the dead? I did right? Wasn't it DC Universe Presents Deadman? Yes the underlying theme is somewhat similar (by which I mean, it seems similar at first glance, but is almost entirely different), but at the same time clearly following a different path. This version is less Quantum Leap, and much more Supernatural. Probably a good thing, differentiating titles (pity they didn't do that with Batman, but that's not my problem). The story is something you can follow, but you just end up wondering what the point of it is. Given it ends with Madame Xanadu playing with tarot cards, I was wondering if the whole point of this book is going to be to get Resurrection Man in to JL Dark.
My Verdict: If you need a supernatural themes book that seems to be going somewhere and doesn't have a sense of humour, try this. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Demon Knights
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Diogenes Neves
See this is the book for me. If you want to know how to approach this consider it as something of a similar title to Marvel's Journey Into Mystery since Loki became the primary focus, and you've more or less got it sorted. The art is average, but the story, use of humour, and characterisation is better than many others in this review.
My Verdict: While I won't say I'd definitely read this all the time, it's definitely something I could read from time to time. If it didn't have continuously ongoing storylines, this'd be the perfect book to pick up when you wanted a fun lighted hearted read. As it is, I'll be thinking about getting a trade.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Miguel Sepulveda
Did not get much out of this. It's in the same time frame as Action Comics (judging from the horn thingy), and may be up for a cross-ver there. Seems this book was written as some sort of DC vehicle to provide a Brian Bendis style book. That is, talking heads and the occasional punch. After nearly 10 years of that on Avengers, I'm bored with it.
My Verdict: Not a Stormwatch fan, not a Martian Manhunter fan. No reason to read this book.

Written by Nathan Edmonson
Art by CAFU
This to the whole jumping around with timing of the story trick that some people love. I like it when it's done well and not overused. This book used it to setup a cliffhanger during the story and then allow the book to be an origin anyway. I don't mind that at all. This book is clearly an origin though, and it leads me to believe that if I kept reading, I'd get more information about just what happened to Christopher Argent, and would also handle the ongoing attempts to capture him.
My Verdict: Morally ambiguous characters with ill-defined origins were very popular in the 1990s. Pity it's 2012. I don't actively dislike this book, but I'm not interested.

Written by Ron Marz
Art by Sami Basri
So it's cops investigating a stripper with an ill-defined past. The stripper turns out to be some sort of alien thing. One of the cops end up dead. This reminds me of Species meets a cop drama. It was alright, nothing glaringly off. Did seem a bit short though.
My Verdict: If you like the premise as established here, go with it. If not, give it a miss. I'll pass on it.

Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Joe Bennett
Slade Wilson, the best assassin in the world is an unloved commodity in this story. And I can't work out why. He's clearly as capable as ever, but for some reason his services aren't in huge demand. Don't ask me why, I'm not privy to those details. So in order to make some more money (he's already incredibly wealthy), he takes a job working with a group of kids to stop Iran getting The Bomb. The kids don't entirely suck, but Slade does the heavy lifting. Including fighting some test tube monsters grown by the target (who incidentally looks like he's a sketch of the vampire in the old silent film Nosferatu). Slade survives and kills the team he was hired to help. What will happen next is likely Slade goes after those behind the job, and will rebuild his reputation. But I won't be there to read it.
My Verdict: Bad characterisation, mediocre art, average story, and a focus on people being shot in an unemotional way. That's not good work, and that's not worth getting more of.

Suicide Squad
Written by Adam Glass
Art by Marco Rudy
I can't help but compare this to the pre-relaunch incarnation of this title, which was funny and intelligent. This is like a Guy Ritchie fan writing a bad derivative sequel. The art is not pretty, though I get the story. There's too many perspectives for a single issue, there's no-one likeable in the group, and again, it's all setup.
My Verdict: Leaving this one alone too. DC, you aren't doing well at enticing me to read your titles.

Written by Dan DiDio
Art by Keith Giffen
Really, this is incredibly bad. The art is like bad John Romita Jr work, the way that Kevin got time to change into O.M.A.C. is as awful here as it was in the 1960s when Peter Parker would cut out on something with a poor excuse only for Spider-man to appear. O.M.A.C. seems like some sort of Hulk clone but with technological basis. The next issue brings in Brother Eye.
My Verdict: Hearing this title was cancelled didn't bring a tear to my eye. I just hope Batman appropriates the tech that was floating around here for awesome purposes.

All-Star Western
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Moritat
Take a Western character and dumb them in a major city. And try and make it feel a bit like a Unforgiven meets Sherlock Holmes (the Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr one). Surprisingly it works a bit better than you might be cringing in the corner thinking about. The art is very dul. Not sure why. Just because it's set in the past doesn't mean things need to be all sepia tones or grayscale tones. I'm not drawn to this title, but not repulsed by it either.
My Verdict: Can't say I'll be reading this regularly, but if someone gave me a trade I'd probably be able to enjoy it.

Written by Mike Costa
Art by Ken Lashley
Elite black ops squad does things and has personal dramas. Might be better if we compressed it to about 5 pages, and added another 17 pages of similarly compressed content.
My Verdict: Too decompressed to really get into it, and didn't end up doing much.

Men Of War
Written by Ivan Brandon
Art by Tom Derrenick
This is actually two titles, but in the one book. The first is a modern day Sargent Rock story. The second follows some other guys I've never heard of. Neither was particularly compelling, but given nother issue's worth of Rock, I could be tempted to read that book.
My Verdict: Throw away the non-Rock part of this title, and keep it just as compressed, and you probably have a winner. If that's what they do for collected editions, I would likely get a copy of Rock. Otherwise I'm not paying for something I'll read half of.

Teen Titans
Written by Scott Lobdell
Art by Brett Booth
This is basically the teenage version of Justice League, right down to using only one or two characters properly, not really establishing what was happening, and having Superboy introduced in the last couple pages. Those reading Superboy may see the obvious Superboy vs TT clash coming already. Otherwise, they'll definitely see it coming after reading this.
My Verdict: Like JL, I'll pass on this. All setup, no pay-off, and no indication when the pay-off will be.

Static Shock
Written by Marc Bernadin
Art by Scott McDaniel
A less creative version of Robert Kirkham's Invincible, that seems like a one character version of Marvel's New Warriors as it was in the 1990s. PS, this is another book that makes me think I read the same set of events and origin already.
My Verdict: Pass. Nothing compelling here.

Hawk And Dove
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Rob Liefeld
There's one reason to at least pick this up on the shelf, and that's if you haven't had a decent laugh at Rob Liefeld's art for a while. Granted neither Hawk or Dove have pouches on their costumes, but he still worked them in. There're still panels where different parts of Dove's body doesn't line up right, feet are still badly drawn or obscured. Hawk is hyper muscled. Dove's breasts are either plum sized or as big as her head. People do not have upper lips, sometimes they don't have lower lips. All the men have late 90's boy-band hair. To be able to rib on Liefeld like this again is a guilty pleasure, but not enough to keep me going indefinitely. The story is banal, but better than most. There's not an overly laboured origin, though there's hints at backstory that don't really shed much light. Maybe next issue.
My Verdict: Much as I like to laugh at Rob Liefeld's art, after a while it just makes me angry. And it's not like I can turn to the story to ignore the artistic issues. I'm not surprised this got cancelled after 8 issues. Suspect Dove will transition to JLDark. If Hawk joins her, they at least get page time as a team.

Blue Beetle
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Ig Guara
If you were hoping for Ted Kord, turn around and leave now. If you wanted a sensitive treatment of Latin-Americans, don't bother either. If you like Jaime Reyes, teen drama, incomplete translations from Spanglish, and poorly explained sci-fi stuff, try this. But don't try and convince me this was a good issue.
My Verdict: I'm passing on this as well.

Legion Lost
Written by Tom DeFalco
Art by Pete Woods
A team book where the team is already formed. And then stuff just seems to happen to strand this team in time. They're in the modern day, but then so is Booster Gold, and he also has a flight ring. Don't know if his works either. Does it matter? Probably not. Will this go somewhere? Probably. Will it be worth it? Don't know.
My Verdict: Watch to see how this turns out via internet reviews. It could be good, it could be another rubbish teen angst book.

Legion of Super-heroes
Written by Paul Levitz
Art by Francis Portela
This is the Legion Unlost, and they are also already a team, and I don't really care about it at all. The Legion Lost at least had an interesting premise. This was a tip you in the deep end and hope you swim type book. Probably fine for existing Legion readers, not for the rest of us.
My Verdict: I'm passing on this too.

Wash Up
In the final tally I've got has 4 books worth reading, 15 to watch before committing to a trade, and 33 that I won't read again. That's not a good strike rate, even assuming I turned all 15 of the maybes into yeses. Apart from getting me to buy all 52 issues in an omnibus, and many others getting them all as single issues, DC ought to have made a huge drop in readers here, and they also ought to have picked up only a handful of new readers.
So what went wrong for me? Really it boils down to a few things:
  • The "ills of modern comics"
    • too many splash pages, and an over emphasis on art
    • too many decompressed stories that gave me little actual content
    • too many issues without a complete story
    • too many titles that were not compelling, or featured art so bad I didn't want to look at it.
  • Laboured origin stories that were as subtle as Stan Lee's use of slang in the 1960s
  • Obvious reliance on readers identifying characters
  • Obvious reliance on readers being conversant in recent continuity
  • Poor panel layouts
  • Poor characterisation resulting in one dimensional characters with poorly established motives
  • Poor story telling
Yeah it sounds harsh when I drop all of that criticism, but being fair, I read through every word, on every panel, on every page, of every one of those 52 issues. And it was largely unrewarding. While I don't wish DC ill, I certainly hope that if this relaunch continues to succeed, it's because the quality of the whole line picks up dramatically. I fear that won't happen though, and Marvel's inevitable need to retaliate with "shocking" changes will draw them down similar holes, which is really to the detriment of the comics industry as a whole.
The thing that jumps out at me every time I think about those origin stories is that surely they could have been done better. Surely if new characters were regularly debuting in new series, writers and artists would be better at this. Surely when it's rebooting a character it's easier. And if they couldn't be better, surely those origins should have been saved for Free Comic Books Day (which coincidentally would have been a great time to do the New 52 launch and give a bunch of teasers to save plowing through this crap). At the end of the day DC, like TLC, only has itself to blame.

So where do I go from here? Well, there's a handful of titles I fell I can commit to buying trades of. There's others I might get trades of, and the rest I will just ignore. In any case, I do prefer Marvel titles, and recently have not been reading a lot of their current output either.
Here's my top tip to new readers: don't jump in with modern stories, do s a little research on the internet to find the stories that are recommended as good introductory books (this doesn't equate to good books overall - I wouldn't wish Watchmen on a new reader), buy those, and then go from there. There's plenty of good DC work that's been collected. Find that. Read that first. Build up familiarity with the DC characters. Then find out what they've been up to lately. Sure, things will have changed a lot in some cases, but if you are going to commit to comics, you need to get used to retcons and reboots really quickly.

Overall, I don't recommend anyone buys this Omnibus. Partly because it doesn't do anything particularly well, and partly because the fewer of them that are available, the more I can eventually sell mine for.

Next time out, I'll try something significantly shorter, that doesn't take 2 weeks to write a review for.
Be afraid.

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