I was able to get my hands on a few more of the new DC # 1 titles that I thought looked interesting enough to read and I figured it’d be worthwhile to add my two cents as to their overall quality and value. Because I’m an expert. I wrote a book. It’s on Amazon. That gives me free reign to critique whatever I want. At least that’s what I got out of all those literature classes I took in college.
Are you reading Jeff Lemire’s excellent Sweet Tooth by any chance? If not, you should be. It’s the sort of dark, moody, effective Vertigo mystery that keeps that branch of the publishing division alive with its artistic merit. It’s seriously one of the best books on the market right now and at least three volumes are available in trade paperback for your reading pleasure. I say this because it’s not a fluke that Jeff Lemire is able to put out amazing work on a regular basis. That’s evident with his take on Animal Man, a book that, I believe, in a few years time will be held in the same esteem as Grant Morrison’s own vision for the character.
In this version we get Buddy Baker, animal rights activist, indie-film star, and part-time superhero trying to come to terms with what it is exactly that he wants to be. His unease with the way he comes off in an interview recently published in a magazine, which we get to read as the opening page of this debut issue, shows the conflict of this character in a very stark, contrasting light. He knows he does a fair amount of good as a superhero, but also knows his value as a community activist. Add this in with how his family perceives him; a wife and two children who each have their own view of Buddy Baker and what he means to them. Buddy’s son Cliff obviously wants him to be the superhero and hopes that he can in turn share in Animal Man’s adventures. Daughter Maxine just wants her father, a regular father who can provide her with what she wants/needs, and takes it very hard that she cannot have a puppy because of the way it would interfere with Buddy’s connection to his powers. His wife Ellen wants stability. Whether that comes from a movie paycheck, his activism work, or as a superhero doesn’t seem to matter much to her as long as she has Buddy in some constant form. This contrasts with Lemire’s characterization of Buddy as the sort who constantly changes everything about himself.
This is one of the best written books of the relaunch. As with most b-list characters, Lemire is given a longer leash and wider freedom to play with than if he were writing Superman or Wonder Woman. He has more leeway to play with the character and push boundaries. I don’t foresee this one being a major seller but I think it will be a critical hit and a cult favorite for years to come and all of that is deserved because this is a true standout of the relaunch.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Bringing Sgt. Rock into the modern world seemed like a fairly stupid idea. Like Jonah Hex, I always felt like the time period was essential to the character. You can do a one-off story of time displacement but it never feels right. It seemed like this time they were just going to have Sgt. Rock exist in the modern military environment with no reference to WWII. He wasn’t being brought forward, he was never back there in the first place. In Men of War # 1 we get a slight hint that this might be a direct descendant of the Rock we’re accustomed to. In the first segment where we’re introduced to Corporal Rock, an Army sergeant references his great-grandfather who was also a sergeant. I think by dropping that little line of dialog they were able to put aside my fears that this book would in any way be a disservice to the character of Sgt. Rock.
The first segment here sees Rock and his team deployed on a mission where things go pretty haywire and a superhuman, who remains unidentified in this issue but is hinted at being Superman, ends up derailing the overall plan and dumping the team in a violent crossfire. It’s fairly well staged if a bit generic but the cliffhanger ending is more effective than the rest of the issue and makes me want to see how everything plays out.
The second story is more grounded-in-reality with a group of Navy SEALs taking on some insurgents in a classified mission where technically they aren’t even in the area. The pacing is quick and reads like a comic version of Black Hawk Down with a cliffhanger ending that’s just as effective as the one in the preceding Sgt. Rock story.
It’s not an amazing book, in fact it feels fairly by the numbers, but it’s been a while since we’ve gotten a military action book and it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out…
OVERALL RATING: 3/5
I’ve championed Scott Snyder as one of the best new talents DC has picked up in years. His Batman work is exquisite and American Vampire is a damn fine book. So when I saw he would be taking over the reigns of Swamp Thing I figured he was just the man for the job. His sensibilities seem to fit quite well with the themes and ideas that seem tethered to such a character and so I was excited to see how it would work out.
I can report that it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. It’s obvious that this was supposed to come off of the end of Brightest Day and reads like a sequel to a story that I missed. Snyder jumps in head first and establishes the narrative which comes off as a bit of an abrupt start. There are references here to Moore’s work on the title as well as the recent developments of Brightest Day and all of that feels out of line with the rest of the reboot titles in that everything else read like a clean break from what came before in most respects where as this one feels less new-reader friendly. I understand that a lot of these things would feel organic if I had been reading what came before but at the same time that defeats the purpose of a company wide reboot and a new # 1 on the cover.
That nitpick aside it is a well written book that I think will explain everything that needs to be explained in due time. The artwork by Paquette is amazing, as it usually is and it compliments the story and tone perfectly. I think that this will be a great book given time but it simply had a hard time coming off the starting line. Once it rounds the first corner I expect it to pull out ahead of the rest fairly quickly.
Overall Rating: 4/5