Digesting the New 52: Tales from the Darker Side

4 11 2011

Resurrection Man #1

Sorry for the recent lack of posts, but as I mentioned before, our second daughter arrived a bit early and spent a week in the NICU. Everyone’s home and healthy now, and we’re finally getting caught up on stuff. And now, back to the DC Reboot…

Resurrection Man is an old favorite of mine that I never expected to see make a return, especially since the original series only ran for a couple years in the late 1990s, and has been all but forgotten since. The titular character, Mitch Shelley, is an immortal who returns from the dead with a new super power every time he dies. Maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising that a comic a hero about who comes back from the dead is getting a second chance at life…

The relaunch brings back the original writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, as well as original series penciller Butch Guice. While the new series starts with a bang, and it’s obvious that time has passed, it feels like we’re picking up where the last series left off. There’s plenty of mystery and intrigue, and I can’t help but to love the concept. While the premise is a bit morbid, it’s executed well and has me very interested to see what happens next.

Animal Man #1

Animal Man is another old favorite of mine. Well, sort of. Comics icon Grant Morrison wrote the original series for the first 28 issues, and those comics are absolutely some of the best literature, comics or otherwise, that I’ve ever read. After Morrison left the series, they should’ve just ended it. Writers that followed suffered from a combination of “tough act to follow” and “trying too hard to be shocking/unconventional.”

So, I went into the new series with extreme reservations. As it turns out, the book is pretty good. Buddy Baker is a stuntman who has the ability to tap into the “morphogenetic field,” and mimic the abilities of any animal. He’s also a family man with a wife and two kids… one of which is starting to exhibit powers of her own. Creepy, disturbing powers. Animal Man is not the same as what I remember, but he’s similar enough that I don’t feel that I’m coming into it completely blind. It also feels like there’s a well-thought-out story happening here, and not just a case of a writer being weird and trying to make a name for himself by being outlandish, morbid, and “adult.” I’ll be sticking around for the first few issues, at least.

Swamp Thing #1

Swamp Thing is a book that I could never really get into. By the time I was old enough to be interested in any “mature readers” books, Alan Moore’s reinvention of the character as some sort of plant elemental had fully taken hold, and the book had a very mature, very philosophical bent. Which wasn’t of much interest to a 15-year-old who loved superheroes.

The new approach to Swamp Thing seems to take the character back-to-basics. Alec Holland is back from the dead, and has vague memories of having been transformed into a plant elemental. He’s given up on his work as a botanist, and is trying to escape a past that won’t let him go. He’s faced with the choice of embracing his past, and the mantle of the Swamp Thing, or allowing a potential disaster if he chooses to walk away. The artwork by Yanick Paquette is stunning, and the new direction embraces the past while moving things in a more straightforward, reader-friendly direction.

Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #1

Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE was a book that I hoped that I would like, because the concept was so completely wacky and sounded so fun. Frankenstein’s monster works for a super-secret organization called SHADE that intervenes in emergencies of a supernatural nature. He’s assisted by a cadre of other supernatural creatures, and shoots things with really big guns. It should be a can’t-miss for someone like me, but instead it was a total and complete miss, with every nearly-enjoyable moment falling flat because it was too much like something out of Hellboy.

Stormwatch is another title that I enjoyed back in the day. An Image comic published through the Wildstorm imprint, Stormwatch was a black-ops watchdog organization that provided immediate response to global threats. Thanks to the DC re-launch, all of the Wildstorm properties are being incorporated into the mainstream DC Universe, and Stormwatch is considered a cornerstone of the entire “New 52.”

Stormwatch #1

As the new mythology goes, Stormwatch has been around in some form or another for centuries. While super-heroes are relatively new to the DCU (with Superman being the first to operate in public a mere five years ago), Stormwatch reveals that super powered individuals have been saving the world from the shadows for ages. The new Stormwatch incorporates elements of the original team, while also utilizing characters and ideas from its spinoff, The Authority. And there are a few wild cards in the mix as well, such as the brilliant inclusion of the Martian Manhunter on the team. As a fan of Paul Cornell’s writing, this is one I’ll be sticking around with for a while.

And speaking of Paul Cornell, he’s writing a DC title that’s set in the past, the echoes of which can be seen in the present DCnU. It’s called Demon Knights, and I’m still trying to get a bit of a grip on this one. Set during the middle ages, it brings together such disparate elements as the Demon Etrigan, Madame Xanadu, the Shining Knight, and Vandal Savage, all fighting a common threat.

Demon Knights #1

The book is, frankly, a bit confusing. The purpose of the first issue is apparently to bring the characters together and get the action moving as quickly as possible, and that’s exactly what it does. It doesn’t give you time to say, “Wait! What?!” Cornell is one of the few writers that I trust to throw out big concepts and say, “Just go with it,” and I’m completely cool with it. That trust will buy a few more issues for me, at least.

Next time: We’ll wrap things up by looking at the biggest controversy to come from the New 52: The portrayal of female heroes and sexuality in the DCnU. Starring Catwoman, Voodoo, and Red Hood & the Outlaws, among others!

– dEV

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