The final four titles in the “Justice League” group of DC’s New 52.
Aquaman is a hero in the DC universe who is inexplicably popular despite there never really having been a good Aquaman series. DC apparently wanted to increase his stature by assigning their premier writer Geoff Johns to guide this latest version. Unfortunately, Johns seems to have little to work with, and at least the first issue is reduced to rehashing a lot of the standard Aquaman punchlines, such as he’s the lame-o guy who swims around and talks to fish. Johns is a better writer than that, and I hope that he is simply setting the stage for Aquaman to reveal himself as a kick-ass leading man, to revitalize the character in the same way he’s done for Green Lantern. Artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado have done a great job of interpreting Aquaman as clearly a young man, much more than any of the other New-52 superhero redesigns. Aquaman could turn out to be cooler than we think, and the tantalizing monsters we get a glimpse at may hint at awesomeness to come.
Barry Allen, police scientist by occupation and the fastest man alive by avocation, has been one of the mainstays of the DC universe since the Silver Age renaissance in the late 1950s. Killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 and replaced by Wally West for two decades, Barry Allen’s Flash has been given a new lease on life in the last few years by none other than Geoff Johns. Writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato hope to continue this rebirth. Manapul was, after all, the artist that worked with Johns, so should know what direction to go in.
What we get in the first issue, though, is a pretty insubstantial introduction, with Flash foiling a standard high-society heist at a gala event Barry was coincidentally attending. Then there’s some perfunctory background information about Barry’s coworkers and an old college buddy, which looks like it will lead into a larger story. Manapul and Buccellato’s artwork is clean and elegant, but so far their writing is not enough to keep reading.
In its original concept, Firestorm was a hero that combined the brute physicality of teenager Ronnie Raymond with the telepathic guidance of aged Professor Martin Stein. Somewhat surprisingly, after a bit of a rocky start, the series lasted for well over a decade. It’s been retooled once or twice since then, the most recent version replacing Stein with Jason Rusch, a young black intellectual. In the newest twist, Raymond and Rusch are high school students at opposite ends of the spectrum—Raymond a football star and Rusch a reporter for the school paper. Rusch, for some unexplained reason, is hiding a canister of unknown power given to him by Dr. Stein. A terrorist group finds out he has it, but to save himself and Raymond, Rusch opens the canister transforming them into two Firestorm beings. The two finally merge to create an entity called Fury.
As co-plotted by Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone, scripted by Simone, and drawn by Yildray Cinar, a lot of story gets packed into a short space, but it never really seems plausible (or as plausible as two teenagers turning into elemental nuclear beings can be). This is the kind of character transformation that went out with the Hulk and Fantastic Four fifty years ago. There are enough crumbs strewn about to indicate that the story will become more developed, so this is a title worth keeping an eye on, but don’t hold your breath.
Hawkman is another character that has gone through countless incarnations over the years. In this one, archeologist Carter Hall is an expert in lost languages who is called upon to decipher what appears to be some alien ruins. As the story opens, however, Hall is in the process of trying to destroy the “Nth metal” wings that make him Hawkman, but which somehow have ruined his life in the unspecified years he has used them. The metal explodes, mysteriously transporting Hall back to his apartment with perhaps some newfound powers. So it’s kind of like Indiana Jones meets super science meets demonic alien monsters.
The script by Tony S. Daniel and art by Philip Tan are murky, both literally and figuratively. There’s no explanation of what the Nth metal is, the personality of Carter Hall, or much of anything else. Presumably, it will make sense as the story continues, but for now it’s muddled enough not to care.