Top Things for 04/08/13

What’s up guys! Welcome back to another edition of “Top Things,” in which I try to regulate your lives, one blog at a time. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out this week, so let’s get right to it, yes?

Books

This week sees the release of Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. I haven’t read the series yet (Dragon Keeper), but it’s got pretty decent scores up on Goodreads. So maybe check that out. The only other books I see coming out are diet books, so…

Comics

If, by now, you don’t know that I’m going to recommend SAGA each month, well you clearly don’t know me. Last issue ended on a powerful, if somber, note. And as much as I’m sure our characters could use a minute to grieve, it looks like Prince Robot IV will be making his return to the series.

Over at Marvel, the new Hawkguy issue is out, which promises to be as fast-paced and fun as it has been since the first issue.

Movies

42 comes out this week, if that’s your jam. I don’t typically care for sports movies (with a few notable exceptions), nor do I care at all about baseball. That being said, Jackie Robinson is an important historical figure, so there is a story to be told I’m sure. At this point I’m really just biding time until Iron Man.

Music

Paramore is coming out with their fist album since two founding members left the band. From what I’ve heard/seen, the reviews have been pretty positive, but this could potentially be a make-or-break moment for the band. Will they use this opportunity to shake up their sound, or will they try to reassure long-time fans by sticking to what they’ve done so far?

Television

We’re really living in a sweet spot, television-wise right now. The network shows are still on and ramping up to their season finales. At the same time, cable has started rolling out some of their summer shows, such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men. This week, we’ll be seeing Cece’s bachelorette party on New Girl, Community will be a puppet show, and Leslie takes on the animal control department in Parks and Rec. And as always, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Doctor Who on the weekends.

 

On the blog this week, I hope to have a review of Mad Men‘s premiere, or else maybe Game of Thrones‘ season so far, up on Wednesday, and a movie post from Will on Friday!

Hawkguy

Call me irresponsible. Call me unreliable. Throw in undependable too. Wait. Is that even a word? I don’t care, care me whatever you want – just don’t call me early in the morning!

I apologize for that. And for missing yesterday! Normally when I say I’m going to do something, I do it! Except… law school internships…

Wow, off to a great start. Anyway! Here we go!

Hawkeye! Also known as: The Lamest Avenger. I mean seriously, remember that scene in The Avengers? Hulk is flexing and roaring, Captain America is catching his shield, Thor is swinging his hammer, and Iron Man is like recharging his repulsor rays (Lord have mercy I’m more of a nerd than I thought for knowing that)? Even Tits McGee over there at least has a GUN. And then there’s Hawkeye, loading his bow. I mean really. He’s lame.

But then Hawkeye #1 fell into my lap. Because it was thrown at me with the imperative: “Read this.” And guys. I loved it. Like really loved it.

Basically it’s the story of what Hawkeye does when he isn’t Avenging. This includes: getting a dog, fighting tracksuited Russian mobsters, thwarting the plans of evil circus villains, and making time with sexy ladies.

This is one of the funniest comic books I’ve ever read. Scratch that; it is the funniest comic book I’ve ever read. I love how simply it’s drawn; it really offsets the madcap hijinks beautifully. I love that it includes Kate Bishop from Young Avengers (nerd alert 2). And it really made me realize something: James Bond doesn’t have super powers either. He’s just a badass. The key is not pitting James Bond against Norse gods, aliens with lasers, mutants, or cosmic planet-eaters. You pit him against mobsters. Psychos with big-ass guns. You send him into a casino to intimidate kingpins. You send him to retrieve the plans no matter what.

So while Hawkeye might be the lamest Avenger, he is also the most awesome non-Avenger.

 

Wait what?

The Epoch of Weird

In case you’re new here, the first Wednesday of every month is dedicated to comic books, a personal passion of mine. I say “passion,” because they aren’t a hobby, they aren’t a past-time, and they aren’t just popcorn content that is here today and forgotten tomorrow. I’m totally serious when I say that comic books are (or at least can be) literature – that they can tell stories every bit as powerful and deep as a 500 pg. novel. And in a lot of ways, we’re living in a golden age of comics.

My first real experience with comics as more than super heroes came my sophomore year of college. Y: The Last Man was just ending, and as an avid reader of IGN’s comic reviews, I simply couldn’t ignore the consistent 9.5 – perfect 10 ratings it was achieving. So with no knowledge of the story, I bought the first volume, and it blew me away. Here was a comic book that swore! There was nudity! But more importantly, there were distressingly real characters coping with horrifying events out of their control. They couldn’t put on a costume and punch this reality away. It was all they could do to get out of bed each morning. Characters joined cults, ran away from their responsibilities, found solace in each others’ arms, or sought death – as real people do. Y was literally a life-changing read for me, and opened up a whole new world of literature for me.

Five-ish years later, comics have continued to tell deep, amazing stories. Ex Machina examined politics from both sides of the spectrum, with a super hero mayor as our POV character. X-Factor has become a character study in modern twentysomethings. X-Men: Legacy completely deconstructed and reconstructed both Rogue and Professor X. Runaways captured the voice of a generation. All-Star Superman took a static, relatively unapproachable hero, and made him relatable and inspiring again. And there are more amazing stories being told in every genre all the time. In particular now, I want to talk about one thing: The Weird.

I read a lot of comics. But I’m finding more and more that each month, the ones I crave the most are just plain strange. Like off-the-wall bizarre. For example…

Morning Glories

I’ve already talked about Morning Glories at length, and you can read more of my initial reaction here.

The Premise: It’s the story of six teenagers who find themselves at the boarding school from hell. It’s just mysteries on top of mysteries.

The Weirdness: You’ve got an energy ghost serial killer. Everyone in the school shares a birthday. There’s time travel – both physical and mental. There’s a psychic girl. Twins switching places. Murder, torture, and cover-ups. There isn’t an issue that goes by that doesn’t leave my jaw hanging, yelling “WHAT THE EFFFFF???” The characters are witty, and very distinct, and I have no idea where anything is going, which is incredibly refreshing.

Manhattan Projects

This was the one that actually inspired me to write this post. It’s only five issues in, so catching up is super easy.

The Premise: That the actual Manhattan Project was just a front, an excuse to gather the world’s most brilliant minds together and explore crazy technology.

The Weirdness: Teleportation gates zen-powered by Japanese Death Buddhists. Killer robots created by Soichiro Honda. A serial killer who absorbs the souls of his victims by eating them. Aliens. Robot arms. Parallel universe doppelgängers. Radioactive scientists. Dead President Computers. The list goes on. It is without a doubt the most bizarre thing I have ever read, but it somehow works. The end result is a story that is interesting, entertaining, and more than a bit chilling – especially with the cryptic hints of an impending distaster of some sort.

Planetary

This one actual ended a few years ago, but it’s available in trade, so you should pick it up.

The Premise: People born in the first second of a new century have super powers. A group of these individuals comes together to protect the planet from threats both internal and external.

The Weirdness: Planetary is really an exploration of just about every genre under the comic book sun. There’s super heroes. There’s aliens. There’s a multiverse. There’s a miniverse. There’s an evil Fantastic Four. There’s magic. It’s just wonderful and entertaining and weird.

The Unwritten

Again, I’ve talked about this one before, but still.

The Premise: Harry Potter becomes flesh. Or does he?

The Weirdness: The Unwritten is a story about story. About the power of the collective unconscious. A power that can be tapped into. When enough people believe in something, it affects reality. And throughout history, an evil cabal has sought to control the narrative. And when Wilson Taylor fights back, he uses the one thing at his disposal: his son. This story is super meta, and poses some interesting questions about faith and literature and reality.

Saga

More by Brian K. Vaughan, my literary idol

The Premise: Star-crossed lovers in an interplanetary war find love, and must run from their governments – and bounty hunters – with their new-born child.

The Weirdness: Goat-men using magic. Fairy-people using technology. Robots that look human, except with televisions for heads, that can reproduce (ummm ouch?) and apparently get STDs. A sex planet that is staffed by giant woman heads with legs. A cat that can tell when you’re lying. A spider/woman/bounty hunter. A ghost baby sitter. You know… the usual. This is a super adult story that is anchored around a family. It is shockingly emotional, and complicated, and just plain weird, and I couldn’t love it any more.

Uncanny X-Force

When X-Force started back in the 90s, it was a parody of itself without even realizing it. It was a terrible jumble of cliches that sacrificed storytelling for style. It was unbelievably big muscly guys (even by comic book standards) with unbelievably big “areas” wielding equally unbelievably big guns and swordsthat were IN NO MEANS PHALLIC AND IS TOTALLY STRAIGHT OK GOSSSHHH. It was all pouches and knives and guns and shooting and UGH just stop please. Now, it is so much more.

The Premise: A select squad of X-Men resolve to bloody their own hands and blacken their souls to protect those they love, by murdering their enemies with extreme prejudice.

The Weirdness: A giant dome with a time dilator, evolving at hundreds of times the rate of the rest of the planet. A clone of Apocalypse, raised in a virtual ersatz Smallville. A skinless man who can extend and control his muscle fibers. A world-class thief with multiple brains who coughs up a sentient spaceship. A parallel world where Wolverine is a psychotic genocidal dictator. Life seeds. Killer robots with consciences. A world that builds custom-powered enemies who are grown to hate you from “birth.” It is phenomenal y’all, and dark, and moving, and easily the best X-Men series in decades.

Ultimately, there are more weird comics out there than I can talk about in one post. Anything by Grant Morrison – especially Final Crisis. Any Warren Ellis (including and especially the hysterical Nextwave). Most Robert Kirkman.  And so on.

So look, I know weird can be uncomfortable. It’s strange. It’s bizarre. It doesn’t always make sense. But it can also be fun as hell. It can ask questions about yourself or society without providing easy answers. It can inspire. It can terrify. So why stick to superheroes punching each other (not that that isn’t fun)? That would be like… only watching crime procedurals on CBS. While I’m at it, don’t just watch crime procedurals on CBS! Expand your horizons, and get a taste… for the weird.

My Thoughts on DC’s Gay Superhero

Recently, it was revealed that a prominent, formerly-straight DC superhero would be gay following their line-wide reboot. And boy did the Internets go wild. Speculation ran rampant. There were the obvious Batman/Robin jokes, fueled by author Grant Morrison’s comments about how he believes Bruce to have some fundamental homosexuality at his core. But after six-plus months of the new universe, no one seemed to have suddenly switched teams.

Then, it was leaked that it would be the Green Lantern. But, not the one(s) you think. So first, a brief history of the Green Lantern.

In 1940, All-American Comics (later part of DC Comics) published the story of Alan Scott: a young engineer who found a magical lamp, fashioned it into a ring, and became the Green Lantern – a superhero capable of creating anything he willed out of the mystical energies of the ring. He soon became a core member of the Justice Society of America. However, following World War II, most superhero comics began to decrease in popularity, and were eventually cancelled.

By 1959, superheroes were “in” again, and DC was publishing new superhero comics. These often conflicted with previous depictions of characters like Wonder Woman and Superman, and so in order to explain these differences, the concept of the Multiverse was born. All that old stuff – including the original Green Lantern – was put in another universe: Earth 2.

Earth 1, the main universe, got Hal Jordan – The Man Without Fear. He found a crashed alien, and inherited his Power Ring, which allowed him the same basic powers as Alan Scott. Hal was then recruited into the Green Lantern Corps – an intergalactic police force – and proceeded to have adventures across the cosmos. This shift from the mystical to the science fictional was ultimately far more popular for the times, and Hal continues to be “The” Green Lantern to most people.

By the 1980s, Hal was replaced with John Stewart, “the black Green Lantern,” who – not for that reason – continues to be by far my least favorite. Mostly, I think he’s boring.

Stewart was then replaced by Guy Gardner, the Green Lantern With Attitude – personally my favorite. He’s loud and obnoxious, yes, but ultimately has a good, loyal heart, and the most personality of any of the Lanterns.

And finally there’s Kyle Rayner, The Nineties Green Lantern. He’s nerdy and artistic, but also tends towards being over-powered and/or the occasional Mary Sue. Also, lots of fandom hates him for replacing Hal.

ANYWAY, it has been revealed that Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay in this new multiverse. And while I praise the inclusion of homosexuals in comic books, I’m not sure this was the best way to do it. I mean, DC couldn’t make Batman or Superman or some other “higher profile” character gay without infuriating, well, everyone. And yes DC has created new gay characters – Kate Kane being the best/most prominent – but this actually kind of offends me.

I’m trying not to be hypersensitive guys, I really am. But by making your “prominent gay superhero” the Green Lantern nobody (outside of some comic book fans) has heard of, in a completely separate (or second-string) universe, it’s kind of like trying to have your cake and eat it too, isn’t it? “Oh, look, we have tolerance… in another universe that most people don’t see as ‘official.'”

So is it a step forward to have an openly gay superhero, who will be one of his world’s leading heroes? Absolutely. Is it right to “bury” him in a different, less mainstream universe? Probably not. Hopefully, things turn out well. Hopefully Alan Scott defies some stereotypes. Hopefully he doesn’t defy them so much that he’s really just a straight guy that likes guys. Hopefully his long-time fans don’t jump ship over this. And hopefully we’ll see more gays in the “regular” universe, at least in time.

Comic Book Review: Earth-2

 

So today DC Comics launched its “Second Wave.” Long story short, in September the company relaunched its entire line of comics with 52 new titles. After six months or so, they evaluated their lineup, and saw what was and was not working. What wasn’t working was canceled, given time to wrap up (more or less), and replaced. Hence the “Second Wave” of the relaunch. Today saw the release of the pseudo-flagship title of the new line: “Earth-2.”

When DC Comics was just starting out, its universe wasn’t always that coherent or connected. Superman was Kal-L instead of Kal-El. The Green Lantern was a magical lamp, powered by a magic meteor. The Flash had a weird hat. Those kinds of things. Over time, the company took things in a different direction, and basically ignored all that stuff. We got a new Flash, a new Green Lantern, and tweaked origins for Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. But fans weren’t content to just ignore the past; they needed an explanation.

And so was born the idea of a Multiverse – at least I think this is where it came from in comics. The basic idea is that there is Earth-1 (“our” Earth/the “main” Earth), and then there are other Earths in other universes. All the old (the official term is “Golden Age”) super hero stories happened in Earth-2, while the new stuff was happening in Earth-1.

Over the years, these comics crossed over annually. The Justice League of Earth-1 periodically met with the Justice Society of Earth-2 – either to just hang out or to combat some villain or crisis. Eventually however, it got to be too complicated and convoluted. Newcomers to comics were confused as to why there were multiple Supermen and Wonder Women running around, and didn’t know which to care about. So the universes were collapsed together. Some elements were retained, while others were retconned out of existence. But that’s another, very very long story.

Anyway, since the re-launch, we’ve only seen Earth-1. Fans of Alan Scott (the “magical” Green Lantern) or Power Girl (the buxom, alternate, grown-up Supergirl) were just out of luck.

Until now.

“Earth-2” throws us into the middle of a global war for existence. Mankind is being killed off by a demonic/alien horde. Lois Lane has been killed, as has all of Amazon Island (real name: Themyscira, but who wants to type that??). Superman is distracted and dejected. Wonder Woman is rage incarnate. Humanity is out of options, until Batman works out a virus that will eliminate the horde. So Superman and Wonder Woman – with help from Robin (aka Helena Wayne, Bruce’s daughter in this universe, aka eventually The Huntress) and Supergirl (aka Karen Starr aka eventually Power Girl) – buy Bruce time to infiltrate the enemy base and plant the virus.

Spoiler Alert but not really because it says it in the first panel: the Big Three (Supes, Wondy, Batz) all die. Helena and Karen are catapulted into another universe, where they will – I’m assuming – take up their new mantles. So Earth (2) is saved, but at a huge cost. Luckily, there are new heroes on the horizon! Jay Garrick is visited by Hermes with an offer he (obviously) won’t refuse, and I’m sure Alan Scott’s origin story is coming soon.

Overall, I was a big fan of the issue. It moved pretty quickly, and the stakes seemed genuinely high. I mean, the heroes all died, so… yeah. The villains were pretty standard, but they did their job so I’m willing to forgive that. There was also a lot of reliance on captions/inner monologues (which is kind of but not totally a taboo these days), but that’s really the best way to get the story moving while also letting us get to know the characters in as short a time as possible. So again: forgivable.

A big critique I’ve heard is that a lot of cool stuff (destruction of the Amazon Island, Lois’ death, etc.) is glossed over, or that we connect with characters only to immediately have them taken away. And I get that. But I think it’s more acceptable if this issue is really viewed as an Issue 0, an origin story, not just for this book, but for the other Earth-2 books. This gets us up to speed on the world, and primes us for what’s next. It gets us where we need to be for the real start of the books – namely the foundation of the Justice Society, and the journeys of Huntress and Power Girl.

So, I liked it. I feel like James Robinson has a solid handle on the world he’s building, and on the characters we’ve seen so far. I’m confident that he knows the story he wants to tell, and that he’ll tell it pretty well. And honestly, I just like the idea of the Justice Society. True – I’ve never read a book about it. But I like the idea of a team of “second stringers.” A team that isn’t all A-Listers and Heavy Hitters. A team that maybe doesn’t get all the glory, but does a great job, and picks up the slack when the A-Team falls.

After all, it worked for X-Factor.

X-Men: East Coast/West Coast

Since their debut in the 1960s, the X-Men have been based in upstate New York, at Professor Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters (Later Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning). This mansion has been their home, their school, and their training grounds for decades, despite numerous demolishings at the hands of Sentinels, aliens, psychic constructs, villains, aliens again, radical religious fundamentalists, machines, and even the Hulk.

Most recently, the X-Men went to war with various factions of villains, and even themselves. The mansion was destroyed and Professor Xavier was shot in the head, which prompted Cyclops to disband the X-Men. But through various bizarre circumstances, they reunited in San Francisco, raised an asteroid out of the ocean, and founded their own country – Utopia – where almost all the remaining 200 or so mutants now live.

Until “Schism.”

Schism was – in my opinion – a fairly contrived storyline, that saw a bunch of rich child prodigies attack the X-Men. Things were understandably dour, and the time came when it had to be decided whether or not the children would fight. Cyclops – the time-tested, battle-hardened, compulsively militaristic leader – said “Hey, I know they’re kids, too bad, we all grow up eventually.” Wolverine – yes, THAT Wolverine – said “Maaaaaaybe sending kids into battle is NOT the kind of organization we want to be…” which, thank you, it’s about time. So, the two called it Splitsville, and Wolverine moved out.

The thing I’ve really appreciated about Schism is its willingness to unabashedly take sides. On the West Coast, you’ve got Uncanny X-Men (the Flagship Title), Adjectiveless X-Men (or Extraneous X-Men as I like to call it), the New Mutants, and Generation Hope (the new team of super kids). Back on the East Coast – at the renamed Jean Grey School for Higher Learning – we’ve got Wolverine and the X-Men (a second Flagship Title), X-Men: Legacy, Uncanny X-Force, and X-Factor.

The East Coast is undoubtedly the better franchise. Wolverine and the X-Men sees Wolverine in the role of Headmaster, wearing sweaters, drinking coffee, and teaching literature. Iceman is the accountant and constantly worries about money. Kitty Pryde is Headmistress, and is her usual adorable-if-neurotic self. The book is light-hearted, shows great characterization, and is just fun. X-Men: Legacy turns the focus from the senior staff and students to the rest of the staff: Rogue, Cannonball, Gambit, and others. This is the book that literally de-constructed and re-constructed Rogue and Professor X, putting them on their most solid footing in decades. This book has great action, a lot of interpersonal dynamics, power struggles, and a really strong focus: teachers fighting so their students don’t have to. Uncanny X-Force just wrapped up one of the single-most critically-acclaimed arcs in X-Men history, redefining X-Force as a book about personal sacrifice, hard choices, epic plot lines, and witty characters. And finally there’s X-Factor, Team On-The-Sidelines. This book is in its 8th year with the same writer – a rare achievement in comics – and shows no signs of slowing. Writer Peter David is fixing to tell a story that’s been FIFTEEN years in the making, according to him. So I’m pretty pumped. The book is witty, zany, moving, pop-culture-laden, consistent, and did I mention witty? It’s been my favorite Marvel title for oh… EIGHT YEARS.

The West Coast is… well… not my cup of tea. You’ve got Uncanny X-Men, which revolves around the Extinction Team: Cyclops’ first round draft picks. You’ve got Cyclops, Emma Frost, King Namor, Magneto, Storm, Colossus as the Juggernaut, Magik, sentient Danger Room Danger, and Hope – the “Mutant Messiah.” The book has solid concepts and execution, but I don’t particularly connect with it. I love snark more than almost anyone, but this book is ridiculous. There’s just way too much ego in general. Maybe that’s the point, and maybe things are just simmering before a big boil. I don’t know. I still read it, but mostly because I feel like it’s the book where all the “big stuff” is going to happen.

Next you have X-Men. The one I call X-Traneous X-Men because I am clever. This book… is mostly about vampires. And it includes my least favorite X-Man of ALL TIME: Jubilee. Like, grody to the max. Seriously. I hate her. So much. Reviews mostly range from mediocre to straight-up boo boo. It would take a miracle for me to read it.

Then there’s New Mutants, which used to be a book about the next generation of X-Men. Now they’re all early 20-somethings, and through various means they have been resurrected and brought together. Maybe this is a book for long-time fans of the classic team? Not really sure as I’ve only read a few issues. In general, I feel like it lacks a real mission statement or purpose other than nostalgia.

And finally there’s Generation Hope – the current book about the next generation of X-Men. I appreciate that this book is very multicultural, and features youngsters, and is the only book where we’re going to see new mutants appearing. And that’s well and good, except that I think Hope – the protagonist – is exceedingly bland. I mean, stoic is technically a personality type, but it just isn’t compelling to read.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts on the current Schism. Sorry SoCal, but my heart is clearly in En-Why-See. Hopefully this has been a good primer for anyone looking to get into the X-Men line but unsure where to begin (hint: Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender), as I know oh-so-many-of-you are.

See y’all back on Friday, with a Music post from Stephen!

State of the Universe: Thoughts on DC’s New 52 (pt. 2)

So yesterday I talked about DC’s New 52 – DC Comics’ historic rebooting of 52 of their comics, from Batman to Aquaman. In case you didn’t read, the general gist was that I found the whole idea somewhat frustrating. Comics blame their increasingly poor sales on the inaccessibility of the books rather than their quality – or better yet on their COMPLETE LACK OF MARKETING.

I didn’t really address that point actually. But this guy does it better.

All that being said, I was really intrigued by this relaunch. I mean, how could you NOT be? Or at least, how could I not be? One of the main selling points for me was that Grant Morrison, one of my favorite comic book writers of all time, would be writing Action Comics, telling the new story of how Superman got started in Metropolis. I was also eager to reconnect with the Green Lantern franchise after hitting budgetary and emotional burnout with them during all the hype for the big movie. So, let’s talk about the New Issue #1s I picked up.

Action Comics

To be totally honest, I was pretty disappointed by the first issue of Morrison’s run. I mean, I liked seeing a Superman that was reckless, arrogant, totally vincible, and running around in jeans. I also liked seeing a Clark Kent that was just as concerned about justice – a young, crusading journalist and blogger, exposing corruption in Metropolis. But otherwise, the origin felt pretty by-the-numbers, and hardly revolutionary. By Issue #5, however, I am singing a totally different tune. Having seen the destruction of Krypton – which was very Last Days of Rome, the story of the Kents, the reveal that Brainiac is now the A.I. to Superman’s ship, the sacrifice of Krypto, the Phantom Zone criminals, and the mysterious time-travelling villains, I am really intrigued, and newly confident that Morrison has got tons of story to tell.

Green Lantern

The Green Lantern franchise was pretty solid before the relaunch. In the hands of Geoff Johns, how could it not be? This man almost single handedly transformed Green Lantern from a fringe comic into one of the mainstays of the DC Universe, in terms of creativity, critical review, and sales. As a result, pretty much NOTHING has changed from before the relaunch. Except that all that history has now taken place in five years rather than ten. So, Hal Jordan has been stripped of his ring. He’s struggling to lead a “normal” life, messing it up at every turn. Sinestro has been given a ring, and he’s equally unenthused. So obviously, they team up, with Sinestro loaning power to Jordan – that he can take away at any time. I must say, I was intrigued by the sort of buddy-cop vibe going on here, as well as the role reversal. But it never really GRABBED me. Maybe this is just GL-ennui from the movie, maybe it’s my very strapped budget, maybe it’s that I find Hal Jordan unbelievably boring. Obviously it’s all three. So I dropped it with a twinge of regret.

Green Lantern Corps

GLC was one of my favorite DC books for a while. It was more of an ensemble book than Green Lantern proper, and was also unabashedly weirder. The artist was unparalleled in creating horrifically bizarre aliens from the edge of space, and the author was a master of capturing different voices and telling stories with both action and resonance. But again, nothing really captured my attention this time around. And with the reboot being so hyped, I felt like that was really crucial.

Green Lantern: New Guardians

OK, so out of the FOUR Green Lanterns from Earth, Kyle Rayner is arguably my favorite. Maybe. Guy Gardner is hilarious. And Kyle’s mask is DUMB. But he’s been the main Earth Lantern most of my comic book life, so I have a sweet spot for him. For a while, New Guardians looked like the GL book for me. I mean, the concept was intriguing: Kyle Rainer all of a sudden finds himself with seven different colored power rings, transforming him into a nearly god-like entity. This in turn threatens the other 6 Corps, as well as his own god-like bosses. I really did like it, despite dropping it mainly for budget reasons. But out of all the Green Lantern books, it was easily my favorite.

Red Lanterns

The source of a Green Lantern’s power is his or her Willpower. But there are six other Corps, powered by different emotions: Rage, Greed, Fear, Hope, Compassion, and Love. So far, only Rage has gotten its own comic. The Red Lanterns are fueled by rage, which pumps their hearts and replaces their blood with acid. As a result, they are somewhat less than rational – with the exception of their leader. The first couple issues feature Atrocitus redefining his raison d’etre – from vengeance for him to justice for the victims of the universe. It’s a really interesting idea, but when most of the supporting cast can only speak in yells, hisses, and the occasional word, it gets a little old.

Superboy

I. Love. Superboy. He’s a clone of Superman, and he’s a clone of Lex Luthor. He’s trying to discover which “parent” he’s going to follow. He’s trying to discover if he has an identity outside of either. He’s a teenager with all of Superman’s powers, plus raging hormones. There’s something really endearing about him, that makes him one of my favorite heroes.

Until now. The relaunch took him back to square one, as a creature grown in a vat. He seems to be even more powerful than before, but almost completely devoid of emotion. He lives in a tube, analyzing the world around him, and basically sounding like a computer. Except that sometimes he lives in a simulated Smallville, complete with crushes and homework and peer pressure, acting just like a normal kid. It’s jarring, and doesn’t make much sense to me.

Ultimately, they took everything I loved about Superboy, threw it out the window, and started over with an awkwardly-written, unrelatable character I have no desire to interact with again. Easily my greatest disappointment from the relaunch.

Wonder Woman

Oh Wonder Woman. Every bit as strong and virtuous as Superman. By far the most powerful and well-known woman super hero. Consistently lumped together with Supes and Batman as “The Big Three.” But time and again she is relaunched, rebooted, and revamped. The audience has to be TOLD that she’s awesome, rather than seeing it. She’s just never really clicked. Maybe it’s because she has no real mission. She isn’t the last of her planet. She isn’t a traumatized orphan. She isn’t a space cop. She’s an “ambassador for peace” from an island of sexist women… who fights everything. Her arch-villain is… a woman dressed like a cheetah? Really? Her weakness is… being bound by a man? Because that isn’t fetishistic. Well, dear readers…

NO MORE.

That’s right. Wonder Woman is suddenly AWESOME. By tweaking ONE thing about her, they have completely revitalized her, and opened up the door for endless villains, allies, and stories. Instead of being formed from a lump of clay by her mother, she is the illegitimate daughter of Zeus, who has been lied to her whole life. Now, she’s enemies with Hera. Now she’s sister to Hercules and Perseus and Strife and Athena, and SO MANY MORE. Now, she is the protector of Zeus’ latest conquest – who is being targeted by Hera as well. Wonder Woman has suddenly entered the most dysfunctional family in history, and it is fantastic. The story is dark and tense and mysterious and ominous and I really can’t praise it enough.

I, Vampire

OK, so I’m more or less over vampires. Which I say every year until True Blood comes back. So I was loathe to check out a comic called “I, Vampire,” despite the consistently stellar reviews I was seeing on the internet. But eventually [aka after I got a Kindle Fire] I decided I would download the first issue (for a dollar off regular price) and try it. And I actually really liked it. The story is about Andrew Bennett, and his progeny, Mary Queen of Blood. Andrew is an ancient vampire who basically hates vampires. He’s your classic Vampire with a soul. Or at least a conscience. Mary, on the other hand, woke up screaming about how she was going to slaughter all humans. So there’s that.

Mary has been secretly creating an army of vampires. She is tired of cowering in the shadows from the superheroes – whose leader just happens to be SOLAR POWERED – and hopes to conquer. Her tone wavers between Marxist revolutionary/champion of the oppressed under class and the quintessential stalker ex-girlfriend. For even as she is sending an army to kill Andrew for his “traitorous” way of life, she is trying to seduce him and bring him around to her way of thinking.

While this story hasn’t impressed me in the way Wonder Woman or recent Action Comics issues have, I do really enjoy it. It’s brilliantly executed and technically flawless, and the scope just keeps expanding with every issue as supporting cast is brought in and guest stars appear. This is definitely one to watch.

 

OK, so even though I only tried nine or ten of the 52 different comics, I feel like I got a decent sampling. Overall, I would say the relaunch was a resounding success. For one thing, sales were HUGE, which is always nice to see. Many of the books are benefiting from the new status quo, and very few seem actively HURT by it. But the best thing about the reboot was the awareness it brought. It was talked about online and on the national news. If DC can just find a way to keep marketing their books and putting out quality product, I think they could turn around the comic slump.