The reboot launched over four separate release dates in September. Wanting to get a feel for the stories, I opted to pick up a bunch of first issues and see what they were like, and also see which ones I might want to follow. Granted, it's not cheap, at $2.99 an issue ($3.99 for some titles). In any given month I'll usually buy two issues, maybe three. (Money aside, they also take up space.)
There are some common elements throughout. First, most of them feel like first chapters instead of self-contained storylines. The build-up is slow and it makes some of the issues not very satisfying to read by themselves. So really there isn't a whole lot to say about the stories so far.
Second, in each title they're inserting a fuscia-glowing hooded woman that's supposed to signify something. I don't know anything about where this is going but she was a player in Flashpoint. This, and the fact that there are several story intersections (places in a comic that footnote you need to read a different title to know the larger story), and that several characters are sharing turf in different titles, makes me think this reboot is more about being its own giant "event" than just a regular reset button.
And maybe one day it will all be over, the keel evens, and the DCU history is restored.
I can dream, can't I?
Anyway, here's what I got:
Action Comics #1 Set several years in the past, Superman, relatively unknown, confronts a crooked business mogul and evades Metropolis police. The authorities have hired Lex Luthor as a consultant to capture him.
Superman is young, depowered (back to the "leap tall buildings in a single bound" level instead of "godlike ability" level). Metropolis is somewhat corrupt. Clark and Lois work for competing newspapers. He wears a t-shirt and jeans and workboots, which is fine, but then he throws a cape on over it and while it's cute in a I-didn't-have-any-help-from-my-parents sort of way, it's still.... weird. But neither am I a fan of the formal-collar, armored suit he gets in the present timeline.
As for the story, Grant Morrison tends to be hit or miss with me. Mostly miss, on account of his convoluted Batman storylines. And some of the dialogue in this is a little wonky. But Lex Luthor plays an interesting role and his alien xenophobia is handled nicely. Superman is a little cocky, not exactly the Boy Scout everybody knows him as. He's more isolated. He's being Superman as I like him best--fighting bullies who can't necessarily be fought by others.
The last thing I read that was drawn by Rags Morales was Identity Crisis, which I wasn't really sold on. But I think the art is great here. Good use of hands. He's good at splitting Clark (shaggy hair, baggy clothes, coke-bottle glasses) and Superman physically apart.
All-Star Western #1 Jonah Hex arrives in old Gotham, teams up with Amadeus Arkham to hunt for a Jack the Ripper-style serial killer.
Pretty good. The art (by Moritat) is a little rough and unique. The backgrounds are great, and have a Bill Watterson vibe to them with sketchy, uneven lines. Arkham has a creepy vibe, which is exacerbated if you've read Arkham Aslyum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. He narrates the storyline, though, and his clinical narration kinda distances me from Hex. Other than that it's a fun Wild West read, pretty entertaining.
Batgirl #1 Batgirl moves out of her father's house and into college housing, meanwhile begins hunting the suspect in a string of gruesome killings.
I picked this up for someone else, and ended up reading it anyway. Barbara Gordon is regressed to her role as Batgirl. "The Killing Joke" shooting happened, but she can walk. She has PTSD and is insecure. She can perform physically but sometimes freezes on the job.
The villain is interesting. Some of Barbara's dialogue is really at odds with her character. (At one point she calls some villains "babies" while talking to herself. Yeah.) I'm sure it will go somewhere, but there's too much cognitive dissonance for me. The fact of the matter is, I very strongly don't want to read this.
Batwoman #1 Kate and Maggie are on separate sides of a case to hunt down a child abductor who is little more than an urban legend; Kate begins training her cousin Bette Kane; investigator Cameron Chase is sent to Gotham to reconnoiter the Batwoman.
Well worth the wait. It is, hands down, the best title in the New 52.
Added bonus: aside from Maggie as a detective, the whole story reads immune to the reboot.
Blackhawks #1 The UN sponsors an internationally-manned covert military ops unit. Concerns are raised when a civilian takes a photo of the Blackhawks chopper on a mission, blowing their cover.
This book is middle-of-the-pack entertainment so far, with a team of characters not entirely flushed out yet. That said, I really enjoyed it, and I'm liking the character of Kunoichi. She's witty and badass, and the story seems to be focused on her, which is good, because she's the bright spot so far.
They do show her with a bare midriff uniform on the cover, but I didn't see it in the actual page art. So, here's hoping that was just a fluke on the part of the cover artist. I prefer her pink sneakers to the other's heels. (Can't we have just one female combatant in a practical outfit?)
Hopefully the story sticks to the high road and doesn't stumble into "yeahhh, guns an' shit!" territory. We'll see.
Justice League Dark #1 The Enchantress is casting dangerously uncontrolled spells, the regular Justice League is defenseless against magic, and Madam Xanadu tells Shade he must form a group of magic-users to combat the problem. Zatanna, Deadman, and John Constantine are all featured.
I . . . have no idea who Shade is. Is he a new character, or from a different book? Constantine hasn't done anything yet besides arrive on the scene as Constantine. Which is enough for me so far. Zatanna is pretty boss, although her line to Batman about how he is "too important" to risk losing is cringeworthy.
This is one of those titles where you really feel the slowness of the set-up. Otherwise it might be more enjoyable in a trade paperback collection. I don't know whether the individual issues will carry.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 Red Hood and Arsenal emanate Bill and Ted. Starfire sets feminism back fifty years.
This book is terrible. I don't know what's worse, the misogyny or the storytelling. I don't know what else to say that hasn't already been said.
Suicide Squad #1 A squad of death-row incarcerated villains is press-ganged into working for the government.
I've never read Suicide Squad before, so I don't know how it compares. I picked this up because of Secret Six withdrawal. Two Secret Six characters--Deadshot and King Shark--are on this new team, and Harley Quinn also. Harley still has that goofy clown quality but it comes off more severe, a little more deadly and desperate here. It's a character tweak I like seeing in her.
The book is not without flaws.
Harley Quinn has gone from head-to-toe clothed to a corset and hot pants. Is this pandering? Yes. Is it the worst thing DC's done to a female character, costume-wise? No (see Starfire links above). I mean, it's bad, but it's not surprisingly bad. Comic books are not known for their ability to dress women. I've never understood the idea of battle-applicable fishnets, for instance, and they are synonymous with one of my favorite characters. And Harley's outfit isn't a far cry from what she wore in the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game.
Something far worse is the redesign of Amanda Waller. No-nonsense leader of the Suicide Squad, she's not only a person of color but also a person of size, one of the few in the DC universe. (After her and Harvey Bullock, I have a hard time thinking of even a third.) And DC has effectively body-policed her and made her look like everyone else: conventionally beautiful and thin. And there's no reason to do this.
Remember that commitment to diversity? Yeah, so, where is it, exactly?
Superboy #1 A half-human, half-kryptonian clone grown by project N.O.W.H.E.R.E., he wakes up and begins learning about life.
He's been reset to his origin. Rose Wilson (Ravager) joins the cast. I've always found an appeal in storylines that explore what it means to be human. This one's doing a decent job story-wise, but I'm not crazy about the art. The people look plastic and the anatomy is a little off. It's enough to be distracting.
Supergirl #1 Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth, doesn't speak the language and thinks she's in a dream, is forced to fight Earth authorities before Superman stops her.
Another reset. This story starts off a lot like the animated movie Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. I liked that movie. I enjoyed this issue, too, though it is a very fast read. Mostly action shots, minimal dialogue between characters.
Superman #1 The Daily Planet is sold to new management, Superman fights a fire alien.
It seems much like a run-of-the-mill Superman storyline: reporting for the Daily Planet, at odds with Lois on a professional and personal level, punchin' aliens. Although they are addressing the issue of print media versus digital, which is refreshing and necessary. (Did they do that in earlier storylines?) But on the whole, it didn't charm me like I was expecting it to.
Voodoo #1 Voodoo is a female stripper who is being hunted by two agents, is revealed to be a murderous alien.
This story is a crawler and the artwork is dull. Voodoo makes the same pouty-lipped face in every single panel she's drawn in. She's an alien who is unfamiliar with human society so she strips. Until she doesn't. Why is this even getting its own title?
Wonder Woman #1 Wonder Woman must protect a woman who has been impregnated by Zeus; fights centaurs.
I think it's great so far. Her backstory isn't examined, so it's unclear what remains canon and what doesn't. There is a lot of Greek mythology interspersed, and some parts are a little gory, but the fight scenes are fun. She's competent, a warrior, but the princess part is muted. Some mythological elements get a modern twist, but it's not cheesy. Even the way the centaurs are created is neat.
As for the art, I'm particular when it comes to Wonder Woman. Cliff Chiang is good, but my personal preference for is for Aaron Lopresti or Terry Dodson, someone who gives her a real solid build. Having said that, she ain't weak here.