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Around the DC Universe: Titans Debuts

Welcome once again to Graphic Policy’s regular roundup of the best, the worst and the goofiest content on DC Universe, the premier subscription service for all things from DC Entertainment.

Originals

A new heading gets added to the feature this week with the much anticipated debut of Titans, the first DC Universe exclusive original series. Early reactions to the series’ teaser material was decidedly mixed with many fans decrying what appeared to be it’s dark and gritty tone and the open use of profanity, especially when associated with a franchise with many younger fans thanks to the animated series Teen Titans (also available on DC Universe) and Teen Titans Go!

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed the premier episode. The show is indeed dark and gritty but the tone works really well to provide a fresh take on thirty year old material that has been adapted several times before.

In this iteration Titans is very much an examination of young people coping with trauma, a theme that is all too relevant in the wake of #metoo and a generation of young veterans suffering from PTSD. Raven (played by Tegan Croft) is the real standout of the show and much of what occurs is seen from her viewpoint, something that makes the tone very apropos. I was a little worried that they were going to draw Dick Grayson too far towards the rendition from All Star Batman and Robin but Brenton Thwaites retains an essential likeability and vulnerability even while brutally wading into criminals with no quarter asked or given. “Fuck Batman” was a shocking and needlessly edgy line in the trailer but in the context in which it used it did work for me. I’d go so far as to say that this portrayal of the “boy” wonder might be the definitive live action one for a generation.

If there’s a flaw in the first episode it’s that Anna Diop’s Starfire is too far divorced from Robin and Raven’s plotline for much of the runtime. I get the feeling they were trying to make her mysterious but she came across as more of a distraction than anything else. Hopefully their paths will dovetail together next week. While I’m mostly over the idea of R (or in this case TV MA) rated superheroes I think it does work here.

One episode is not enough to justify $75 for a year’s subscription but if the rest of the season is as good or better a month or two to binge the entire thing will certainly be worth it.

Comics

I’ve been busy catching up on analog comics for the last two weeks so I haven’t spent as much time reading on DC Universe as usual. One title I did get to finish though was Hawk and Dove (2011) by artist Rob Liefeld, scripted for the first five issues by Sterling Gates and done solo by Liefeld for the last three. Hawk and Dove‘s cardinal sin isn’t that it’s bad; it’s that its boring. At no point in this run do we get a sense of the characters as anything other than generic super heroes. There’s nothing compelling here, no reason why we should care what happens to anyone. The story also seems to be a continuation of threads laid down in a previous series, an odd choice given that the New 52 was supposed to be a fresh start for all but the most successful DC titles. It’s not even worth it for Liefeld fans as his work here feels rushed and bland. It’s almost like he lost interest or ran out of time halfway through, producing  a forgettable story and a poor introduction to the characters.

A much better use of your time is the first six issues of All Star Western (2011) written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with artwork by Moritat. Bringing Jonah Hex to Gotham City in the late nineteenth century was a stroke of brilliance and making his sidekick Amadeus Arkham makes for some great odd couple dynamics as the two try to solve a series of murders similar to the Jack the Ripper killings. The art (reminiscent of the french master Moebius) is in turns sexy, and disturbing and never less than brilliant. The only bad thing I can say about these comics is that there are not enough of them. All Star Western ran longer than any of the other New 52 launch titles without traditional superhero leads and only the first trade’s worth of material is available to read online with a DC Universe subscription. Hopefully more will be uploaded soon as these are some of the best comics produced by a major company in recent years and the series only gets better from here.

Comic Book Weekly Reviews – 9/7/11

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It’s the first big release week for DCnU.  Was it worth it and how many of these series will be around for the long run?  Find out my thoughts below.

Action comics #1 – The big behemoth of a title of the DCnU launch has a very green and new Superman dealing with a Metropolis and world that’s just discovered him.  The issues here is this Superman comes off as arrogant and cocky and just an overall dick.  He’s not the icon anymore, he’s just another snot nosed punk.  Add in some questionable artwork and a story that doesn’t totally makes sense at times and this first issue just has a lot of issues.

Story: 6.75 Art: 6.5 Overall: 6.75

Animal Man #1 – I didn’t know a whole lot about the character, but this excellent put together comic book has enough story to get you caught up on the characters and any powers, put you into a dangerous situation, but the majority of the book is focused on Buddy Baker and his family.  It’s a great comic for that reason.  Quiet, focused and more about a family dealing with the father’s powers more than anything else.

Story: 9 Art: 8.25 Overall: 9

Batgirl #1 – Gail Simone takes over the reigns on Barbara Gordon’s return to wearing the cowl.  There’s some issues of how they dealt with her previous condition/situation, but it’s better than forgetting what happened and adds some depth to the character.  Overall, it’s a decent read and more than enough to get me to come back for more.

Story: 7.75 Art: 8 Overall: 7.75

Batwing #1 – A series I went in hoping it’d be good comes out the other end as a solid read with fantastic art.  The story has more than enough there to make me want to come back, but so far it’s just “Batman in Africa” with not enough there to really make it stand apart.  The art though is fantastic and the comic overall is one of the surprising solid debuts.

Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.25

Detective Comics #1 – I can’t say everything in this first issue makes sense, but all of the right notes are hit.  In general though, the story is too quick, dumping you in the middle of the action and with no build up.  The highlight of the issue is the end, which goes for shock value more than anything.  I’ve always been a Batman fan, but this comic seems to be more of the same than something really new.  But, more of the same is still entertaining.

Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75

Green Arrow #1 – If there was a write by numbers, this would be it.  The hero fighting bad guys and dealing with personal issues.  The monologue as to why he’s doing just that.  The comic isn’t bad in any way, but it’s also not particularly good either.  It’s ok, it’s average, but worst of all, there’s not much reason for me to come back for the second issue, let along the third or fourth.  This is Iron Man with an arrow, not the character we know.

Story: 6.75 Art: 7.25 Overall: 6.75

Hawk & Dove #1 – The issue’s writing isn’t what I have problems with, it’s Rob Liefeld’s mismatched style.  It doesn’t fit for the book and odd positioning, too many pouches, and a lack of mixed emotions for the characters makes me wonder who thought this would work?  The issue itself sets a lot up, but overall, I kind of feel like this is “white people problems the comic book.”

Story: 6 Art: 6 Overall: 6

Heroes for Hire #11 – The new lame bad guy has a name now, and it’s about as solid as the character itself (not so much) and the fight with Purple Man continues.  I can’t wait for this series to get back on track, cause it’s been derailed since it’s been a part of Fear Itself.

Story: 6.75 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.75

Irredeemable #29 – Plutonian is back and continues to lose his shit as some of the remaining Paradigm do what they can to plan to take him on.  The remaining world leaders also make a deal to end the madness.  There’s also one hell of a twist at the end.  Mark Waid continues to break down the super hero mythos.

Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75

Jennifer Blood #4 – Jennifer continues her war against the mob and checks off a few other bad guys, but not before she takes care of some paid assassins too.  the series is over the top violence with a strong female lead.  The ending also brings a twist that should make the comic stand out from being a female version of The Punisher.  The comic is so wrong in so many ways, but it’s entertaining.

Story: 8 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.75

Justice League International #1 – The tenuous relationship between the members of the team has made the series somewhat interesting, but it’s not enough to really blow me away to the point I want to come back for more.  The ending also seems like a poor copy of something the X-Men might fight.  Again, this is a comic that there isn’t really anything that’s wrong, but nothing that blows me away either.  The series does seem like it has a lot of potential though.

Story: 7 Art: 7.25 Overall: 7

Mega Man #5 – With the first arc over I wasn’t sure where the comic would go from there.  The original robots have been defeated and Dr. Wiley is in jail, but sure enough, the world seems to be expanding with a fun action comic aimed at kids and their nostalgic parents.  A fun read.

Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8

Men of War #1 – An attempt to update Sgt. Rock, the series has potential but falls a bit short.  The military sends Rock and a squad in to retrieve a Senator when it looks like superhumans get in their way.  There’s also a back up story that’s a bit of a throwback and feels like propaganda.  Both together are just ok.  There’s so much potential in this series, but it doesn’t meet it in any way.  The art even is a bit of a let down with figures that seem too boxy and fat.

Story: 6.75 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.75

Moon Knight #5 – Moon Knight has to deal with the cops now as his presence on the west coast isn’t appreciated.  Bendis does a great job of a character who has lost his mind, but at the same time has kept it somewhat together.  One of the best Marvel comics on the market right now.


Story: 8.5 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.5

The New Avengers Annual #1 – The Revengers come calling and put the beat down on this team.  I can’t say that Wonder Man doesn’t have a bit of a point.  What’s more impressive is this is the first annual I’ve enjoyed in a log time.  Just a brutal fight and some great art.

Story: 8.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.5

O.M.A.C. #1 – When you say the name Jack Kirby so many would give you the impression the man could do no wrong.  While I appreciate his contributions and his art style, I’ve never been the biggest fan of a lot of the characters he’s created.  O.M.A.C. comes off as two people attempting to do Kirby, and it’s not done very well.  I’m sure there’s people who will gush over it, but it’s just not for me.

Story: 6.5 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.5

The Punisher #3 – The Punisher versus the Vulture in a forgettable third issue.  There’s nothing horrible with the issue, but there’s nothing that makes it stand out or makes it a must read in this story arc.  The art is really good though, but it’s just one part in a much larger story and it seems like a non-vital one.

Story: 6.75 Art: 8.25 Overall: 7

Static Shock #1 – There’s some I liked and some I didn’t.  The issue is ok, but the tone, the story just didn’t work for me.  It was rushed at points, not explaining enough and other scenes dragged on for too many pages.  There’s also a few spots that made me pause and linger to figure things out.  This isn’t the launch I’d have hoped for with this series.

Story: 7 Art: 7 Overall: 7

Stormwatch #1 – A first issue that’s all set up.  Characters are set up as to how powerful in relation to one-another they are.  Powers are explained.  Mysteries are thrown out there.  It’s all set up, and for that, it doesn’t really blow me away.  This is 3 or 4 short scenes as opposed to a long coherent narrative.  Even with that though, there’s enough here that I want to see what the second issue holds.  Hopefully, it’s more of a narrative than scenes played out.

Story: 7 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.25

Swamp Thing #1 – See the expand review here.

Thunderbolts #163 – The Thunderbolts in the present reflect on their screw up while the Thunderbolts in the past figure out that’s where they are.  Along comes an interesting pair.  There’s something fun, campy and retro about the comic, like it’s back to focusing on bad guys being somewhat bad.  Fun overall.

Story: 7.75 Art: 7.75 Overall: 7.75

Wolverine #15 – Fifteen issues in and the series is finally getting good.  Logan is dealing with the damage he’s caused and his actions in the last arc.  The story has a lot of heart and ok art.  Hopefully this is the beginning of an uptick in the series.

Story: 8 Art: 6.75 Overall: 7.75

X-Factor #224.1 – If the point one comic’s goal is to introduce new readers to a series, this one does it’s job.  You get a rundown of the team, a good sense as to what the comic is like, but my issue is I’m not convinced it’s enough to bring in a new reader.  Overall, a decent comic, but nothing special.

Story: 7.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.5

X-Men #17 – The X-Men and FF are in another dimension and learn the evil bad guy’s plan.  I yawn.  It’s a pretty average story with some solid art.

Story: 6.75 Art: 8.25 Overall: 7

X-23 #14 – X-23 is still with the FF and weirdness is going on.  There’s some great moments here as she has to deal with the FF and children, but the story overall is only ok.  the art I also think has taken a dip from the beautiful last issues.

Story: 7 Art: 6.75 Overall: 6.75