With the second half of DC's first month of releases about to start, I thought I'd take a moment to list my twelve favorite DC #1's from the first two weeks of September (I already reviewed Justice League #1, so I'm not counting that - just the September books). This is not to say that I only enjoyed twelve of the September books, as that is not the case (I think I enjoyed roughly 18 of them), but here are my twelve favorites!
Read on to see my picks (in alphabetical order)!
Action Comics #1 - I was really impressed with the structure of the issue, the way that Morrison really plays with the idea that this is a Superman who is not quite SUPERMAN, so he goes through the familiar introduction, has Superman be faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he is not quite as powerful as a locomotive. I thought that was cool. Also, Lex Luthor was suitably disturbingly evil. Rags Morales and Rick Bryant did a solid job on the art.
Animal Man #1 - I loved the slow build Jeff Lemire did to the revelation at the end of the issue. Also, wow, how creepy was the revelation at the end of the issue? Lemire has a great handle on the strange fluidity of what Animal Man's status quo is, exactly. The family scenes were realistic while still endearing - Cliff and Ellen can often be tough characters to write. It is way too easy to make Cliff seem like a jerk and Ellen seem unreasonable. Lemire avoided both pitfalls. Travel Foreman's art changes drastically throughout the issue depending on who inks him (himself or Dan Green), but the overall visual effect is good. Foreman's style fits the spooky nature of the issue.
Batgirl #1 - The difficultly level on this one was so far off the charts. Gail Simone had to make this an accessible first issue while still getting in a whole lot of back story for her lead. Not to mention the fact that you have an avalanche of fans awaiting either confirmation or denials regarding Barbara's history as Oracle. So wow, this was a tough book to write. So it was good to see a charming first issue with an engaging take on Babs. The art by Adrian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes was crisp and fun to read!
Batman and Robin #1 - I enjoyed the dedication Peter Tomasi had in the issue to trying to move the Batman mythos forward without making drastic changes. Using the memorial for Bruce's parents' death as an event for change in Bruce's psyche was a smart decision, and it was one of those good decisions that is not obvious at the time (I would not have thought of it) but it really does make sense after the fact. The interaction between Bruce and Damian was enjoyable, although there perhaps is a bit too much of a similarity between Damian's reaction to Bruce and Damian's reaction to Dick. It almost seems like the Dick/Damian interaction was SO compelling (and it really was great) that Tomasi is trying to continue with that set-up even with Bruce stepping in. It is so fun that I really don't mind. Speaking of fun, Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray are a really fun team - Gray really does a great job on Gleason's pencils. The issue was pretty darn violent, but I don't think it was egregiously so.
Batwoman #1 - J.H. Williams' artwork alone would have made this one of my favorite comics, but his story (along with co-writer W. Haden Blackman) was comparable to Greg Rucka's issues, which is heady praise, as Rucka's issues were excellent. I especially enjoyed the diversity of voices within the cast - there are no interchangeable characters here, everyone has a distinct (and interesting) characterization. And, of course, the art is amazing. But as soon as I said "J.H. Williams' artwork" you should have realized that, right?
Demon Knights #1 - What I liked the best about Paul Cornell's story in this issue is the way he was able to give us general impressions of a LARGE cast. It is hard enough making characters compelling period, but to make a multitude of different characters intriguing? Even harder, but he pulled it off well. I look forward to learning more about them all. Of course, in some of their cases we already know a lot about them (like the Demon), but even there, Cornell has his particular twists, like the awesome idea of having a character play the Demon's two alter egos (stress egos) against each other. She likely is only lying to Etrigan, but the fact that she COULD be lying to both Etrigan and Jason and pitting each other against the other? Classic. Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert did a fine job on the art, especially that last page splash.
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #1 - Of the books that aren't actually picking up where their previous series left off (like Batwoman and Green Lantern), Frankenstein probably comes the closest, as Jeff Lemire sticks pretty close to the ideas he established in his fun Flashpoint Frankenstein series. Heck, he even brings the same monster cast members with him! As a result, he is quite comfortable with the characters and that comes across in the writing, which allows him to spend more time introducing trippy ideas. This is a wild ride, with great art by Alberto Ponticelli that fits the mood of the book perfectly. I especially dig Father Time's new look. One thing that sort of confused me was Ray Palmer's inclusion, if only because I don't know if he is supposed to have been the Atom on this world or not.
Green Lantern #1 - What I found most compelling about what Geoff Johns was doing with Green Lantern #1 is the way that he plays with the idea of the transformative power of just BEING a superhero. To wit, Hal Jordan was certainly an outrageous person before he gained a magic ring, but at the end of the day he would be closer to an average guy on the street than he would be to, say, Superman. But after having BEEN a superhero, your personality is so changed that you really can't go back. Johns gets great comedic effect out of Hal's inability to transition to civilian life, but beneath the humor is the poignant reality of it - Hal is a superhero now, with or without the ring, so it perfectly explains his willingness to listen to Sinestro's offer at the end of the issue, as being a superhero withOUT the ring is maddening. Doug Mahnke and his inkers Tom Nguyen and Christian Alamy do an outstanding job, as per usual.
Grifter #1 - At the end of the day, I think Nathan Edmonson probably could have (heck, should have) given us a bit more information in this issue, especially about the star of the book, as Cole Cash does not ACT like a former special ops soldier in the issue even though we are informed that that is exactly what he is. So if there's an explanation for why that is, I think it would have helped to have at least alluded to that (like perhaps Cole has some sort of mental blocks to that time in his life). That being said, I otherwise enjoyed the set-up Edmonson came up with. The twist on the Daemonite storyline from WildCATs (shape shifting aliens) is an entertaining one and it is one that I think could serve as a strong foundation for the series to build on. Cafu's artwork (with inks by Jason Gorder) was not his best, but "less than best" artwork from Cafu is still pretty darn sweet.
Resurrection Man #1 - I was a fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's original Resurrection Man series, and I think they actually have improved on the original series with this new relaunch. That makes sense, though, as they've had time to work on the approach (over the course of the original series and the decade since it ended) so the result is a streamlined and compelling set-up for the comic. I liked the horror vibe that they went for in this issue and with us learning about the peripheral characters, their deaths had more power to them. You really felt the sunken horror of their demise. It was powerful stuff. Fernando Dagnino has some big shoes to fill as Jackson Guice was the original artist on the 1990s series and Guice is amazing, but I think Dagnino handled himself well. The artwork was quite strong.
Static Shock #1 - This was a delightfully enjoyable roller coaster ride of a first issue. What I really appreciated about the comic was much John Rozum and Scott McDaniel really tried to make the science seem plausible, at least the application of the ideas. When Static began, it definitely had that early Spider-Man feel where Peter would explain to the bad guy (and therefore, to us readers) what he was doing and why this scientific principle would help him out. It didn't always make sense (okay, it rarely made sense) but I appreciated the effort, and I appreciated it here, too. In general, though, the best part of this issue is Virgil Hawkins - he is just such a compelling lead, and Rozum and McDaniel exploit his awesomeness to a good degree. McDaniel's artwork (with a pair of inkers) is good.
Swamp Thing #1 - In this issue, Scott Snyder gives us sort of the flip side of Animal Man #1, with Snyder exploring the other side of the horror from that issue. I can see that Snyder and Lemire will definitely have some crossovers between their series. Yanick Paquette is a brilliant artist, and his beautiful work was on full display in this issue (although not even Paquette could make Superman's costume work). This was a suitably spooky first issue and it definitely had a striking cliffhanger. It also reads like the type of series that will only get better as Snyder introduces more and more ideas.
There you have it! #13 would have been Stormwatch #1, for the record.