Wednesday, 7 September 2011

52 New Beginnings - Justice League/Superman

Action Comics #1
reviewed by Robert Barton-Ancliffe

Re-inventing Action Comics - launched 73 years ago - might seem like a daunting task, but this reviewer, is thrilled to report that Morrison and co. rise to the occasion in fine style. The mantra here is clearly ‘back to basics’ as the issue kicks off with a t-shirt and jeans sporting Superman dispensing rough justice to some corporate “Rats with money…and… guns.” The characterisation is very clear - if a little in your face - as our hero faces off against a hostile police force with the bold statement, “Treat people right, or expect a visit from me.”

Action Comics sets the template for a new DCU where heroes are met with suspicion and fear, and the opening sequence calls to mind the tense atmosphere of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ as a wary police force slowly corner their quarry. There are flashes of the legend to come though as through several brave acts endear this new hero to the people he strives to protect. The brief interludes of alter ego Clark Kent and new friends Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen also introduce the socially minded, if awkward man behind the bravado.

Refreshingly, there is a strong sense of jeopardy too, and as the action escalates, so do the stakes as the Man of Steel becomes increasingly battered and bloody in the pursuit of justice. It is the very fact that Superman can be injured in the face of such seemingly mundane threats as tanks and runaway trains that keep the adrenaline pumping. The seeds are nevertheless sown for a more epic future with the introduction of famous antagonists General Sam Lane and Lex Luthor, who discuss the threat of the increasingly powerful newcomer.

All of this is supported by clean pencils by Morales that provide plenty of detail while remaining uncluttered, particularly when the action kicks in. The final action packed third of the issue proves to be Morales’s forte as he presents a breathless set piece involving a train that is almost cinematic in its execution.

On the basis of this first issue, I can confidently say that Action Comics is essential reading. Morrison’s new Superman is fun, faster than a speeding bullet, almost as powerful as a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. There are still plenty of unanswered questions, but hopefully the issues to come will live up to this intriguing introduction.

Justice League International #1
reviewed by Ben Fardon

The new 52 exist in two eras - the new present day of the DCU and five years ago, when superheroes were first emerging. Justice League #1 and Action Comics #1 are set in those heady early days. Meanwhile, Justice League International is set in the here-and-now and features the United Nations deciding to assemble their own team - one that they can control unlike the independent Justice League.

The roster assemble is done via committee and it's great fun to see certain characters disregarded for various reasons. Plastic Man - crazy. Green Arrow - too volatile. Blue Beetle - unproven. Batman - uncontrollable.

Instead they settle on Booster Gold, Guy Gardner, Vixen and a host of international superheroes such as Fire and Ice - most of which are largely unknown to me. These newer characters don't get much time for characterisation beyond some fairly generic stereotypes from their countries of origin. The Russian character Rocket Red has clipped speech patterns and says "Da!" a lot for example.

There is a nice moment of conflict between the Rocket Red and the Chinese hero August General In Iron which is defused by Booster Gold talking (and potentially lying) about the future. Sadly, this is counter-balanced by the British character Godiva - an over-sexualised blonde who pushes her boobs together with her arms and bats her eyes at Booster, then proceeds to also fall victim to cliches in her dialogue such as calling people "mate" and telling Batman to "sod off".

Wait, Batman? Yup, this is the fun part of this first issue - Batman is part of the team despite the UN's objections. How? Well, he suspects the UN have other motives for forming the JLI and intercedes - first trying to convince an angry Guy to re-join the team and then hijacking the team's Queen Industries jet! The Dark Knight has come to lend a hand and asserts that he think Booster is up to the challenge - possibly a reference to the Return Of Bruce Wayne/Time Masters storylines, assuing they still happened in the new continuity.

While not without it's faults and shortcomings. it's a fun first issue from Jurgens with serviceable artwork from Aaron Lopresti that's very much straight out of the generic DC style of recent years. I hope future issues will flesh out the characters and continue to explore the potential power struggle between the United Nations and Batman, which I really enjoyed.

Green Arrow #1
reviewed by Matt Puddy

Hidden amongst all the powers and abilities in the various teams you will see that occasionally there are loners and those who have nothing but skill. A perfect example of this was the Green Arrow that I was introduced to in the Rise And Fall series following on from a Cry for Justice.

The new beginning, by J.T. Krul is set before all of this so I have taken a small gamble as it is from a time before GA as I knew him.

Balancing the needs and pressure of a multi-national corporation (Queen Industries) with his alternate life as Green Arrow, a youthful Ollie is seen multitasking by hunting across the roof tops of France. Accompanying him behind the scenes are Naomi and Jax. This may have been normal in the past but in one swoop managed to knock out two of the things I liked from my experience. The story isn’t fantastically strong and it didn’t really grab me as you couldn’t see a definitive point BUT this does change in the final panels as it is clearly a scene setter for a much bigger story to come. I still liked the corporate contempt that Ollie has - another sign of things to come too.

Dan Jurgens has created the artwork which does have a slightly dated feel to it, almost a reboot in itself - and although I’m not a complete convert to this new age, it has been upstaged by the cover by Dave Wilkins. I don’t know why but when reading I was struck by the thought, how do you get your abs showing through a hoodie!?

So the big thing now is where can and does this go? An interesting start with some promise but not yet setting the world on fire.

1 comment:

  1. Great reviews you guys! I'm interested to see what you make of Animal Man and Swamp Thing, they seem to have a lot of buzz behind them (and they're definitely on my maybe pile!)