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Is The New 52 For You? Part 1: Wonder Woman Shines, Joker Gets Bloody and Green Arrow Misses Mark
DC Comics made the big decision earlier this year to reboot all of its titles in an attempt to attract new readers. Well, yours truly is a lapsed reader who hasn't regularly read any superhero comic books since Batman had his back broken by Bane then battled his way back into the cowl ... you know, before every other superhero in both major continuities suffered such adversities on a regular basis.

Recently, when I was at Comic-Con with the rest of the Gonzogeek gang, I decided to get in the spirit of things and give comics another try. I also decided to give this DC re-boot an honest chance.

While I don't have unlimited funds, I did take advantage of the Comixology app on my smartphone to check out multiple titles. Not the entire 52, but definitely enough to get a good sample size -- to borrow the parlance of any sabermetricians in the audience (nerdy knows nerdy).

Let's dig in with a look at four of the books I sampled in September.

DETECTIVE COMICS

DC Comics is leaning pretty heavily on the Bat Family as part of its new approach. Eleven of the new titles—or more than one-fifth of the entire bunch—are connected in some way to the Caped Crusader.

This was the first of the “New 52” that I read. Bruce Wayne is back in the cowl and the “new direction” is dark and, at times, extremely violent. It’s also difficult to follow on occasion. There’s a sequence of panels early in the issue as the Joker battles an assailant that seems to go from A to C when the Clown Prince of Crime decides to use his teeth as a weapon.

The best part of the issue is the characterization of the Joker, and while Batman and the Joker put on a pretty entertaining battle in the climactic few pages, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The same could be said of the entire issue, which even resorts to the “law enforcement storms the villain’s booby-trapped hideout” plot device.

The cliff-hanger final page has been the subject of much debate. While it certainly was shocking, it might be a little too graphic for kids. We’ll have to see where it goes.

Verdict: One More Month

 

JUSTICE LEAGUE

The first of the rebooted issues released, it looks as if the entire initial arc is going to focus on getting the team together. Aside from a peek at Cyborg before his… enhancements… the only costume-clad folks we see are Batman and Green Lattern, the latter of whom appears to be challenging Ryan Reynolds’ portrayal as part of DC Comics’ decision to hit the reset button.

While many other books in the new DC Universe appear to have held on to at least vestiges of the prior continuity, Justice League—which acknowledges it’s set five years in the past—appears to expect its readers to start from square one. Batgirl still gets paralyzed by the Joker only to recover thanks to a "miracle", Batman works his way through about a Robin per year, and yet we're supposed to just follow along when everyone plays dumb at the mention of Darkseid? Weak. As Bruce noted in his review, this is a bit of a stretch.

Still, what’s here was an entertaining read and the art was pleasing to the eye. I'll give it at least a few more months to see what happens when the whole team gets together.

Verdict: I’m In … For Now

 

WONDER WOMAN

I’ve never been a big Wonder Woman fan, but when I saw that Brian Azzarello—the creator of “100 Bullets”—was going to pen the exploits of the Amazonian? Sold. Azzarello has incorporated a heapin’ helpin’ of Greek mythology into this latest take on Wonder Woman. We get a peek at three of the Greek gods, and I dug artist Cliff Chiang’s depiction of the trio. The art is strong and the overall work definitely emphasizes Wonder Woman’s status as a proven warrior by following the “show me, don’t tell me” mantra of storytelling.

I’m definitely interested to see where the story goes from here, but I wonder if this take on Wonder Woman has long-term viability. When I think about Wonder Woman, it’s a character that kids—and, specifically, girls—are inclined to follow. And yet on one of the first pages of the book, an animal dies in especially gruesome fashion—which precipitates the arrival of some assassins who appear with even more gore. Can a Wonder Woman book that’s basically too violent for kids sustain itself financially? Time will tell. For now, though, I’ll keep following as long the book as Azzarello is writing.

Verdict: I’m In


GREEN ARROW

A pretty basic superhero action yarn. Green Arrow tracks the villains with the help of his Geek Squad of helpers back in America. Arrows fly. Evil-doers are captured. Lather, rinse, repeat. The cliff-hanger at the end is at least somewhat intriguing, and while the gang of villains introduced at the end didn’t wow me, they at least looked good.

But, where’s the back story? Oliver Queen was always a pretty layered, unique character in the DC universe. There’s been nothing thus far to differentiate him from being, in essence, Batman with a bow and arrow. Both characters are rich, intelligent and have seemingly endless resources for their respective crusades against evil. This version of Ollie--which borrows visually from the Green Arrow in the TV show Smallville--makes some vague references to a past trauma or event but I wanted to see more, especially from the first issue of a supposed reboot. 

I'm willing to give this book one more try, but I want to see more character development to go along with the healthy dose of action in the opening issue.

Verdict: One More Month

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