Twenty-one new series launched in one month. All reviewed and graded on a curve. Are YOU ready?
All Star Section Eight #1
By Garth Ennis, John McCrea and John Kalisz
Did you like Hitman, the best series DC Comics ever published? Well, good news! It's back ... kinda. The Hitman creative team reunites for this miniseries starring the few surviving members of the title.
The premise is that Sixpack, the delusional alcoholic leader of the most dysfunctional superhero team ever created returns from the dead (i.e. being sober) to combat a threat that only Section Eight can stop. Because most of Section Eight is dead, he needs to put together a new team, and he can only come up with seven, so he needs to recruit one more hero. Like Batman, maybe.
Batman doesn't bite, of course, but Ennis and McCrea have come up with a premise that allows them to make fun of the DC Universe, continue the story of a handful of their characters without having to reconcile continuity differences on either side of Flashpoint, or worry about taking away from the tale they so completely and perfectly told in the pages of Hitman.
Batman Beyond #1
By Dan Jurgens, Bernanrd Chang and Marcelo Maidolo
This is a strange one. Despite the title and the familiar character design, this new volume of Batman Beyond doesn't star Terry McGinnis from the cartoon show of the same name. Rather, it features a near-future version of Tim Drake in the now-dead McGinnis’ costume, stuck in a far-future setting that's a mishmash of the TV show and Futures End. How interesting that is depends on a certain degree of affection for one or both of those things, however, and there’s little other than Chang’s fine art to recommend the book to those who aren't fans of Batman Beyond and Futures End.
By Dan Jurgens, Corin Howell, Andres Ponce and Mike Atiyeh
Batman’s rarely seen extra-dimensional arch-pest Bat-Mite gets his very own series … at least for six issues. Writer Dan Jurgens imagines the imp banished from his home dimension to the modern DC Universe, where he stumbles into a villainous plot while trying to help Batman fight crime. Along the way, he decides to use his own special skills to help reform other heroes less popular than his favorite, starting with Hawkman. The premise is a solid one, and should prove sufficient for a six-issue engagement. Artist Corin Howell finds a perfect balance of styles between superhero and comedy.
By Heath Corson, Gustavo Duarte and Pete Pantazis
Writer Corson and artist Duarte’s six-issue miniseries, meanwhile, more aggressively embraces the comedy genre, eschewing most of the trappings of superhero comics. Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro take a road trip to Canada at the suggestion of Clark Kent, and their first stop is Smallville, where they encounter newly empowered used-car salesman King Tut. Nonsense ensues, with Duarte’s caricature-derived artwork making the title look more like what one might find in the funny pages than in your average superhero comic. It may not be the polar opposite of everything else DC publishes, but it sure is different from everything else DC publishes -- even the other comedies, of which you’ll find about a half-dozen being launched this month.
Black Canary #1
By Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge
Black Canary has been a partner to Green Arrow and a member of a handful of superhero teams, but one thing she’s never been – at least, not for long – is the star of her own series. That changes with this issue, courtesy the co-writer of Gotham Academy and Batgirl and the artist of the Kate Bishop issues of Hawkeye.
This reads a lot like what the resume of those creators suggests. Taking advantage of the reboot to do something with a character that would have been impossible otherwise, they re-cast Black Canary as the lead singer of a band named Black Canary (she herself goes by the name D.D.), which is under attack at almost every show by mysterious forces.
Well-drawn, well-colored, well-written and doing something fresh and new with a 70-some-year-old character, Black Canary is one of the more promising of the new ongoing monthlies.
Constantine: The Hellblazer #1
By Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascensia
John Constantine's transition from the Vertigo imprint has often been uncomfortable to watch, as the character has been thrust front and center in a lot of the DCU's superhero events (even playing a starring role in DC Universe Vs. Masters of the Universe, of all things).
Well, based on this first issue of his renamed and relaunched solo title, they seem to have gotten it right this time ... or at least, way righter. This looks and feels like the old John Constantine, from the old Vertigo Hellblazer, but slightly redesigned by artist Riley Rossmo to look more modern, more fashionable and more sexy.
Co-writers Ming Doyle and James Tynion IV do a lot of character introduction and setup here, allowing us to get to know Constantine better than the 25 or so issues of his previous series allowed for, and setting up an imaginative, compelling conflict, involving the murder of ghosts.
There's a bravura sequence on pages 13 and 14 that's worth the price of admission alone. This is probably the best first issue of a comic about Constantine I've seen since ... 1988, I guess?
Doctor Fate #1
By Paul Levitz, Sonny Liew and Lee Loughridge
This issue gets off to a rather clunky start, as it picks up where the eight-page preview left off (I'm assuming it will read fine in trade, though), with our protagonist Khalid (no relation to the Doctor Fate in Earth 2, also an Egyptian-American named Khalid), being presented with the helmet of Fate.
He's reluctant to take it, but when he finds himself, his family and his city caught in a battle between Egyptian gods, he dons the helmet and becomes the title character.
Writer Paul Levitz's story beats are all very familiar, but artist Sonny Liew's art is so different from everything else in the DC Universe (and superhero comics in general), it's safe to say that there isn't another super-book that looks anything like this ... and not many comic books in general that do.
By Scott Lobdell, Javier Fernandez and Ulises Arreola
"Not as bad as it looks" may be damning with faint praise, as is "A lot better than I expected," but there you have it. This is a comic by a writer with an extremely sketchy track record over the course of the New 52, about a brand-new character that's supposedly infected with the New 52 version of '90s Superman villain Doomsday ... although that's not really apparent from the script of the first issue, or the art. Doomed, as protagonist Reiser is going to go by ("Doomsday" is a little more marketable, no?), doesn't look anything at all like Doomsday.
Reiser is an intern at a STAR Labs facility in Metropolis – look for the panel of a Tyrannosaur in a straight jacket during the tour sequence – who accidentally breathes in something that turns him red, gives him energy powers and makes him speak and narrate in a loud and growly looking font.
With little to recommend it until you actually buy it and read it, I imagine the title is more prophetic than DC would like, but trust me, it's not as bad as it looks.