Reading the DC New 52: Month Three

Friday, September 28, 2012

We've skipped around a bit this month in reading the DC New 52, jumping forward to review Aquaman: The Trench in the week it came out, and also you'll notice we've moved on to next month already without reviewing Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth.

I want to read Suicide Squad, I know it ties into Resurrection Man, Detective Comics: Faces of Death and later to the Batman "Death of the Family" crossover, but at the same time I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like it, since I didn't like Adam Glass's alternate-reality lead-in, Flashpoint: Legion of Doom.

You commenters have expressed mixed opinions about negative reviews -- if I'm pretty sure I won't like something, but I read it, is it fair to review it to talk about what I didn't like? Or should I only review things I approach "blind" -- if I think I already have an opinion about something, should that disqualify it from review?

Anyway, I've got Suicide Squad right here, but I'm going to hold off until it's really integral to something else I'm reading before I crack it open. Your results may vary, but I think there's something healthy, if you will, about letting a book sit when you recognize you're not in the headspace to enjoy it, even if the book is relevant right there and now.

Otherwise, this month of the DC New 52 felt "gray" to me going in -- three different Bat-family titles, plus Demon Knights, Grifter, and Men of War -- none of these ground-breaking or super-relevant like a new Justice League or Green Lantern title might be. Some books I had been looking forward to, like Demon Knights, but in all not the most exciting month.

As it turns out, all three of the Bat-family titles were pretty good. Gail Simone really impressed with Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection, breathing for me new life into the stale Barbara Gordon character. Batwing: The Lost Kingdom was a great old-school "Bat-apprentice" story in the style of Dennis O'Neil's Azrael, marred only by the announcement that writer Judd Winick is leaving the title. And Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason's Batman and Robin: Born to Kill met my high expectations -- I only wish this title would have stretched a little farther to produce an unexpected Bruce/Damian story, instead of telling well the story we already expected.

Demon Knights: Seven Against the Dark is clearly the best book of the month, a complete story told in seven issues that feels more like a Vertigo book, like a collection of Fables, like a two-hour television show, than a standard collection of comics. If you asked me after the first two issues of Grifter: Most Wanted, I would have said it was a sleeper hit, one of the strongest DC New 52 debuts so far, but the book loses a lot when artist CAFU departs, ending in disappointing fashion.

It is, in all, a very "dark" month, with a predominance of books from DC's Edge line. Batman and Robin, Batgirl, and Batwing all involve mystery and bloody murder, as Bat-titles do; Demon Knights is the most "fanciful" of the books, involving swords and sorcery, but of them all has some of the most gruesome torture and beheadings. Grifter and Men of War are tamer by comparison, but neither offers the uplifting superheroics one might expect from a Superman comic, for instance.

I've been reading a little of Mark Waid's recent Daredevil, and also Waid talking about Daredevil, and I begin to agree that writing dark comics is easy; writing interesting superhero comics that aren't so grim is hard. Next week I'll be reviewing Kyle Higgins's Deathstroke, which is super-violent; Higgins uses violence well in his story and there's nothing wrong with that, but looking at all the Month Three books together, there's an extent to which the darkness becomes repetitive.

Being as I am a sucker for crossovers and continuity, what I liked most this month were the additional hints of the alien Daemonite threat; we didn't see much of this last month, but now Grifter ties into Stormwatch and even Demon Knights has a subtle connection. We trade-waiters will have to wait another two months for the Voodoo collection for more; meanwhile next month has Swamp Thing, with ties to Animal Man, and Superboy, with ties to Teen Titans and Legion Lost, to tide over my crossover cravings.

The books this month were not bad -- the Bat-titles and Demon Knights at the top of the pack -- but neither were they the most exciting. Despite Superboy and Action Comics, next month is a slow one, too. Eyes on the horizon for Month Five, however; with Titans and Legion Lost, plus Birds of Prey and Green Lantern Corps, that should be a good one.

Like I said, Deathstroke next week, and then we'll jump ahead a few months to review Batman: The Dark Knight: Knight Terrors. Plus Doug's got reviews of some classic DC/Marvel team ups -- don't miss it!

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  1. The tie between Suicide Squad and Detective Comics #1 is pretty small. There's no need to read one to follow the other. All you need to know for the SS issues is that the Joker got his face cut off and then vanished, and there's no clue as to his whereabouts given in the SS issues.

    That said, the SS story arc is OK. I ended up dropping the series after #6 or #7 or so but I found some of the earlier issues enjoyable.

  2. Yeah, I grant the ties are small, but they'll probably get stronger with "Death of the Family," and at some point I ought see what's going on in Suicide Squad.

    Tell me more (spoiler-free, if possible) what you liked about the book and then why you dropped it.

    Having enjoyed previous Suicide Squad iterations, and Secret Six, I *want* to enjoy Adam Glass's Suicide Squad, but his Flashpoint tie-in really turned me off.

  3. SS is just kind of this loud, brash, violent book. It moves along at a pretty breakneck pace. Just about anyone can get killed at any moment. (The reader can be pretty much assured that Harley and Deadshot are safe, but everyone else is expendable.) It is completely different in tone to the Ostrander Squad but is a cool, disposable read...

    ... for awhile. Eventually it got boring IMO, as it was the same thing over and over again. There's little in the way of characterization beyond surface level, and really no likable POV character.

  4. CE, I see no problem with you posting a negative review. "If I'm pretty sure I won't like something, but I read it, is it fair to review it to talk about what I didn't like?" Sure, why not? If you read a book that you're expecting to like, and you like it, won't you talk about the things you liked about it?

    I am okay with negative reviews provided they are not unfair. I've generally found with your reviews that you tend to be less harsh than others when it comes to "bad" comics. And hey, it's okay to not like something and then have someone in the comments say that they did like it, in the same way that you could give a glowing review and have commenters not like it.

  5. As far as Suicide Squad goes, I loathed Adam Glass' Flashpoint tie-in miniseries, but found myself considering Suicide Squad a guilty pleasure. I was dead set against enjoying it, and to be honest, the first issue didn't particularly click with me for a variety of reasons, but by the end of the first arc, I noticed it was a series where I'd jump to the next issue when it came out.

    As someone said, it's a loud and violent book where you can't really tell what's going to happen next, and who's going to die or betray the team. It's not a masterpiece of storytelling, and I wouldn't put it on the level of, say, Ostrander's Suicide Squad or Simone's Secret Six, but for what it is, it's a good book. I enjoy it in much the same way as I enjoy Birds of Prey, these days: it's like a fun action movie.

  6. As I said before, I think Suicide Squad is a surprisingly entertaining book. I expected to hate it because it's from the writer of my least favorite series of 2011, but it's a well-paced book that keeps you on your toes. I'd like to see what CE thinks of it.

  7. My main problem with this new Suicide Squad is that it's not even trying much to either be fun, good or original.
    It's more like a sub-par Secret Six than anything close to the old original Suicide Squad...

  8. As long as a review is clear in it's criticism, I don't care if the reviewer has came with pre-judgements. Acknowledge them, address them and tell us what you think! As for Suicide Squad, I liked it a lot. It's no Secret Six, but it's a fun, hi-octane action comic. No more, no less. I'll be buying Vol 2 for sure...