Tag Archives: Teen Titans

The New 52: First Casualties

DC announced today that they are canceling six titles of their New 52 launched last September. Gone are Blackhawks, Hawk and Dove, Men of War, Mister Terrific, O.M.A.C. and Static Shock. All will end with Issue #8. I don’t think any of these are a surprise, based on sales figures, but it’s still disappointing that DC didn’t give them a bit more time to develop followings. In my case, I don’t read monthly comics and was waiting for the collected trade editions. I enjoyed the first issues of Mister Terrific and Men of War and was looking forward to reading more of Mister Terrific. Men of War was a quality book, but just not my cup of tea. O.M.A.C. had gotten a fair bit of critical acclaim, but I found it too cartoony and too much like the Hulk for my tastes.

The six books will be replaced by six new titles beginning in May, including World’s Finest by Paul Levitz and George Perez and Kevin Maguire; Dial H by China Miéville and Mateus Santoluoco; G.I. Combat, an anthology title; The Ravagers by Howard Mackie and Ian Churchill; Earth 2 by James Robinson and Nicola Scott; and the return of Batman Incorporated by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.

World’s Finest will star Earth-2’s Power Girl and The Huntress, and Earth 2 will feature the Justice Society as they collide “with other worlds.” It sounds like DC is opening the door to recreating the multiverse that existed before Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The Ravagers is a Superboy and Teen Titans spinoff which will also incorporate elements from Legion Lost.

G.I. Combat will feature “The War that Time Forgot” by writer J.T. Krul and artist Ariel Olivetti, “The Unknown Soldier” by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with artist Dan Panosian, and “The Haunted Tank” by writer John Arcudi and artist Scott Kolins. No mention if Sgt. Rock from Men of War will have a place in the new book, but it sounds like they are going to emphasize more fantastic war stories than the straight-up stories in Men of War.

The title I’m most excited about is Dial H. China Miéville is one of my favorite science fiction writers, with an amazing imagination and literate sensibility. He is a huge DC fan, and I can imagine that he will be able to produce something very special. Another positive note is that the editor on this book will be Karen Berger, Vertigo’s senior vice president and executive editor. This book should nicely complement Animal Man and Swamp Thing. If anything can get me to buy monthly comics again, this will be it.

DC did not announce the page count or pricing on the new books, although it’s certain that G.I. Combat will be an oversized, $3.99 title.

The New 52: Summary

My overall rating for the New 52: 4 of 5 stars

I think DC’s relaunch was largely successful. Their sales numbers certainly reflect a large influx of new readers, with Month 3 of the reboot still beating Marvel’s sales numbers. I haven’t read individual monthly comics in many years and I was enticed to try all 52 titles. I don’t see myself reading any of them consistently on an ongoing basis—it took me 6-7 weeks to read 52 issues, about 1200 pages, and I don’t have that kind of time to read comics on a regular basis—but I can easily see getting several of these when the trade compilations come out. Moreover, modern comic book writing relies heavily on long story arcs that are often best read in chunks.

I applaud DC for realizing that comic books are a medium, not a genre. Although heavily dominated by superheroes, this new line-up includes supernatural, horror, mystery, science fiction, western, and war stories. I hope that these find eager audiences willing to take a chance on something different.

There were a surprising number of variations on covert paramilitary operations. Men of War, Blackhawks, Suicide Squad, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Stormwatch, and perhaps to a lesser extent Birds of Prey, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Justice League Dark, and maybe even one or two others, were formatted almost identically except for the milieu they were in. After a while it became hard to differentiate them all.

It is obvious that DC is catering to an older audience, with lots of gore and sexual titillation throughout the line, not to mention the $2.99 cover price precluding unemployed kids from buying too many. DC is also trying to have their cake and eat it, too, by relying heavily on established continuity to assuage the wrath of long-time fans, yet claiming to be wiping the slate clean for brand new readers. I would rather have 52 really well told stories, even if it means setting aside years of continuity, than try to artificially shoehorn often-contradictory backstories into every title.

DC is also to be lauded for including so many female characters in lead roles. I don’t think Marvel has any solo-character books starring females. DC has Batgirl, Batwoman, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, (half of) Hawk and Dove, Supergirl, Voodoo, and Wonder Woman. Now, let’s see more female writers and artists to create these stories!

Some people have complained about the perceived sexism in titles like Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, and there is certainly a strong case to be made for those criticisms. (Yet, at the same time, there was little or no outcry towards something like I, Vampire’s nearly naked cover art.) What I found most troublesome about some of these titles was the incomprehensible storytelling. These, and many of the other 52, seemed more like Issues #12, or even #50, than #1.

I had fun with the “Where’s Waldo?” hunt for the mysterious hooded figure from Flashpoint #5. There were a few books that took me several tries to find her. Did anyone else note her freakishly long fingers in her appearance in Resurrection Man?

I thought most of the books were good to very good. What were my favorites? All Star Western, Animal Man, Batwoman, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Justice League, Mister Terrific, and Superboy, with guilty pleasures Captain Atom and Red Lanterns. A number of others have the potential to become favorites, depending on how well they continue—for example, Action Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Demon Knights, and Wonder Woman. I suspect there will be other breakout hits as they settle into their strides—and certainly some of what looks good initially will falter along the way.

There were some real duds, though: Aquaman, Green ArrowRed Hood and the Outlaws, and The Savage Hawkman, coming to mind. But I wouldn’t count these out, either, as time may show improvement.

I’m sure we can expect to see a mega-crossover event next summer as sales begin to flag, to recharge interest, reveal the hooded figure’s identity and purpose, and make some final calibrations on the characters in the new DC universe.

I look forward to enjoying many more tales from the creative folks at DC.

The New 52: Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, and Batman and Robin

The past and present incarnations of Batman’s sidekick, Robin, in DC’s New 52:

Nightwing

The first Robin, Dick Grayson, grew up, became Nightwing, took over as Batman for a year while Bruce Wayne was… “away,” and is now back to being Nightwing. Writer Kyle Higgins and artists Eddy Barrows and J.P. Mayer present a confident young superhero who returns to visit his circus origins and meets a dangerous new foe. Nightwing appears to be a well-crafted, action-packed superhero comic. It isn’t likely to be revolutionary, and should be a nice, consistent mid-list book.

Red Hood and the Outlaws

The second Robin, Jason Todd, was famously killed by reader request in 1988’s Batman: A Death in the Family, then brought back to life (when did a comic book character ever stay dead?) in 2005’s Under the Hood, eventually becoming the Red Hood, an antihero with a willingness to use lethal force and weapons. Now he is heading a new team composed of Roy Harper, AKA Arsenal, AKA Speedy, the former Green Arrow sidekick who was also a heroin addict, and Starfire, former long-time member of the Teen Titans, who happens to be an alien princess. The story written by Scott Lobdell is a confusing mess of references to previous characters and events—a mysterious woman named Essence warns Jason of something called The Untitled that is battling something else called The All Caste and stealing organs from living bodies… and there were no incisions—cue spooky music! Meanwhile, artist Kenneth Rocafort provides page after page of Starfire in beautiful near-naked pin-up poses as she has meaningless sex with Roy. Starfire is portrayed as a sexpot with a severe case of attention-deficit disorder who sees humans as little more than sights and smells—kind of like a dog. This pure male fantasy may sell subscriptions, but Starfire is not the female role model she was on the Teen Titans TV series, that’s for sure. I feel like I came into the middle of a continued story, and I’m not at all interested in this combination of sleaze and unrepentant violence.

Teen Titans

The third Robin, Tim Drake, can be seen as Red Robin in the new Teen Titans book, which I previously reviewed.

Batman and Robin

The fourth and current Robin, Damian Wayne, is the 10-year-old son of Bruce Wayne and Talia, daughter of Batman’s arch foe Ra’s al Ghul (or, perhaps the clone of Bruce Wayne, depending on who you ask). Damian is impetuous, deadly, and disrespectful, but also amusingly sarcastic and committed to winning his father’s admiration. Writer Peter Tomasi emphasizes family relations as only the dysfunctional Wayne clan can be. Artists Pat Gleason and Mick Gray have a uniquely bold style that gorgeously suits the abundance of action set pieces. This should be a fun series.

The New 52: Blue Beetle, Legion of Super-Heroes, and Teen Titans

Three more titles from the “Young Justice” group of DC’s New 52:

Blue Beetle

Blue Beetle has appeared in a variety of guises from various publishers since 1939. In this incarnation, teenager Jaime Reyes is coping with life in El Paso when an alien artifact latches onto his back, turning him into a cosmic super-soldier—kind of like Green Lantern with a scarab instead of a ring.

Writer Tony Bedard and artists Ig Guara and Ruy José do a serviceable job of introducing us to this Blue Beetle. New readers shouldn’t be too confused by what they read. Blue Beetle has shown surprising popularity on the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, so this book could be around for a while if the creators can manage to maintain the balance between Jaime’s teenage awkwardness and his enormous powers.

Legion of Super-Heroes

Since their début in 1958, The Legion of Super-Heroes has become one of the more popular team-up books, predating the X-Men phenomenon, while simultaneously being perceived as impenetrable to new readers because of its enormous cast of characters and complex history. This reputation is a bit undeserved, since really, how hard is it to figure out that Colossal Boy’s power is to grow, or Lightning Lass’s power is to harness lightning? The first issue of this new series even gives us the Cliff Notes’ on every Legionnaire’s true identity, power, and home world as they are introduced.

Nevertheless, this issue is devoted to telling a tense tale of covert infiltration of a suspicious military compound without a lot of explanation of what’s going on. From bits of dialog the reader can infer that some wrenching events recently happened which killed one or more Legionnaires and sent several others missing (presumably the ones in Legion Lost). If the reader is unfamiliar with the Legion and its recent past, this issue won’t be much help.

Writer Paul Levitz is closely associated with the Legion, having written over 100 issues in the 1980s, returning to the series in the past year or so. Thus, I wouldn’t expect any significant changes from established continuity. Levitz is one of DC’s top writers and knows how to integrate action, romance, and occasionally humor into a compelling story. This is a hard task when working with a team this large. It’s hard to tell from the first issue, but I suspect Levitz will realize the potential he has shown in the past. Artist Francis Portela’s work is a bit dark and crowded as one might expect with so many characters, although some of that may be due to the coloring.

Teen Titans

The Teen Titans have been around since the mid 1960s, but hit their stride in the 1980s with the classic run by Marv Wolfman and George Peréz. In the early 2000s Geoff Johns reinvigorated the series with a new line-up. Now, writer Scott Lobdell and artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund hope to recapture some of that magic.

The first issue centers on Tim Drake, AKA Red Robin, former Batman sidekick and current independent investigative superhero, as he searches out a clandestine organization that is plucking up super-powered teenagers (which turns out to be Project N.O.W.H.E.R.E. from the pages of Superboy). In the process he rescues Cassie Sandsmark, AKA Wonder Girl, from a heavily armed robot helicopter. Meanwhile, a new Kid Flash botches an attempt to help put out a house fire, and we see a repeat of the final scene from Superboy #1.

This looks like a story we’ve seen many times: typical teenagers learning to use their super-powers while fumbling their relationships as a team. The clean, bold artwork saves this from being a generic mid-list title. Perhaps once the complete team is in place and we know how it relates to the rest of the DC Universe it will pick up more interest.