DC New 52 Review: Justice League #1

The new Justice League, 3 of whom aren't actually in this issue.

So if you’re at all interested in comics, or sleeping with someone who is, you know all about the big DC relaunch that’s coming. DC Comics is essentially wiping the slate clean, and rebooting their entire universe. None of the stories that you loved growing up actually happened, and they are rebuilding their entire continuity from the ground up. It’s like Greedo shooting first, but on an epic, cosmic scale.

I find myself in a perpetual state of not giving a shit. To me, good comic stories are good comic stories. The minute I stopped caring so much about things like continuity, is the minute I started really enjoying comics. And besides, I’m not reading much superhero stuff these days anyways, so they could put a Superman suit on a gay monkey and I probably wouldn’t notice. But because EVERYONE is talking about it, I decided to read the very first issue of the new reboot: Justice League #1. This issue is the first real peak that DC is giving us into their new universe, and as such should be designed to absolutely blow new readers away, and to give old readers a real sense of ‘HOLYCRAPICANTBELIEVETHEYDIDTHATTOSUPERMAN’

This issue succeeds on neither front.

Mediocre is a word that gets thrown around a lot, with usually a more negative connotation than it deserves. But sadly, it’s the perfect word for this sleepy, sleepy comic book. First of all, if you’re going to have a comic book about a team of heroes, I expect to see that team in the book. No? How about half the team? Just barely? Sigh. This issue focuses almost exclusively on Batman and Green Lantern, and one might suspect that writer Geoff Johns thought that his Green Lantern movie was going to be a hit when he wrote this, and thus decided to showcase the two heroes most recognizable to modern audiences. So basically Green Lantern and Batman team up to go after evil aliens, and find themselves on the run from the cops for most of the issue. This gives them plenty of time to snark at each other, and then at the end of the issue a guy shows up that I think is supposed to be Superman but couldn’t be because there is NO way that DC would ever allow such a bad costume design to actually get into one of their comic books.

And that’s pretty much the issue. Two people team up to take down a bad guy, and then another person shows up at the end. Hardly a world building blockbuster. This book wasn’t “bad” in the traditional sense. Jim Lee is considered one of the great living superhero comic book artists for a reason, and he makes pretty much every page pop here. And Geoff Johns put together a decent ‘Heroes put aside their differences” story. But this book is essentially the pilot for the biggest comic launch the business has seen since 1986.. Words like “decent” and “average” shouldn’t be used for this book. Words like ‘Skullripping” and “EyeballExploding” should.

Let me clarify: My negativity isn’t a backlash against the continuity changes they’re making here. I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care that it’s different, all I care about is that it’s good. And this ain’t.

I will still give some of the new issues that launch next week a chance. When it comes to superhero comics these days, It’s creators I care about, not characters. And so since people like Peter Milligan, and Gail Simone, and Nathan Edmonson, and Jeff Lemire, and Matt Kindt, have new books, I will definitely give them a try.
But if Justice League #1 is indicative of what’s in store for me, I’m not holding out much hope.
Rating: C

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 17: DC Comics – The Last of The Justice League!

Ok, I know I said that the last post was the last Justice League post, but I may have been lying. Or drunk. But I pinky swear this is the last of the Justice League.

Justice League - The Lightning Saga and Tornado’s Path

 

Justice League - This Time It's Personal!!!

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the Justice League’s Magnificent Seven years started out well, but eventually fizzled out, as these things often do. A new direction was launched, with Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes at the helm.

 

Although it seemed to start with a bang, I felt upon rereading that the series underwhelmed me a bit. Brad Meltzer gives us some nice character moments here, and Ed Benes always does a nice job. And while it’s definitely a readable story, this never really seems like “THE JUSTICE LEAGUE”. This incarnation isn’t out patrolling or saving the world, they’re essentially dealing with their own personal drama and letting the bad guys come to them. That’s fine for groups like the X-Men and the Teen Titans, which only exist because of interpersonal conflict. But the JLA isn’t supposed to be about personal drama, it’s supposed to be about gods fighting over the earth.

Keep (Barely)

Justice LeagueThe Injustice League

 

As a wedding present, we're going to act a lot dumber than we normally do.

So the biggest thing that Dwayne McDuffie accomplished with his run on the League was to get me to STOP buying JLA comics after a decade of faithful service. Yep, that’s how crappy this is. In fact, I haven’t bought a JLA trade since. The biggest problem I had with this was the complete lack of editorial guidance. To clarify: At this point, DC had decided to marry Green Arrow and Black Canary, and writer Dwayne McDuffie decided to make his first arc about their bachelor/bachelorette parties being invaded by a group of super villains. The heroes fight off the villains, and then decide to get married later on the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. But if you actually read the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, you will notice that some of the very same super villains attack them AGAIN, but with no mention of the previous attack at all. DC, if you don’t even read your own books, why should I? Not to mention how dumb Lex Luthor’s plan is, which seems to be summed up like this: Us attack heroes. Us kidnap heroes, drawing other heroes to our base. Heroes come, and we attack them, hoping beyond hope that we will beat them this time, even though we’ve been trying dumb shit like this for decades and it never works.

 

Anyways, this was the book that made me realize that the JLA wasn’t going to get any better. This was an inane storyline by a writer that I have a lot of respect for.  If I think about it, this (and a lot of the other stuff that DC was doing at the time) was actually the start of my major disillusionment with superhero comics.

CULL

Next up: Finally, no more Justice League!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 16: DC Comics – Yep, still more Justice League

Justice League Justice Vol. 1, 2, and 3.

You can tell that when Alex Ross and Jim Krueger put out their ambitious Justice project, their goal was to produce the greatest non-Silver Age Silver Age DC story of all time. However, that honor goes to Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier, and although I hate to be flippant about a book that looks as good as Justice does, I really can’t help but put it in the “just ok” pile. It does have an interesting concept going for it:  DC’s supervillains get visions of their heroic counterparts destroying the planet, and team up to stop them.

Alex Ross’ art is as gorgeous as always, and seeing him apply his love of the DCU to the Silver-Age versions of these characters is a lot of fun. But while the story has potential, the plot is overly complicated with FAR too many characters to keep track of, and it quickly gets bogged down by it’s own cleverness. It doesn’t take long for it to become  a fairly straight forward simple punch ‘em up. The whole thing is entertaining however, and the only real awful moment of the series comes when Alex Ross decided to pick up a call from DC’s toy department, which resulted in all of his heroes wearing suits of armour for some godforsaken reason.

KEEP

Justice League JLA & JSA: Virtue & Vice

Thanksgiving, super-hero style!

Team-ups between the JLA and JSA have become fairly common over the years, to the extent that DC has made it canon that the teams spend Thanksgiving dinner with each other every year. Now, you may argue that someone who spends 364 days a year dressing up like a loon and fighting crazy people might want to spend the holidays with their actual families, rather than the same fetishists they spend the rest of the year with. You’d be mistaken however, and since the idea has produced some entertaining stories, who am I to judge?

Virtue & Vice is a pretty standard team-up book, but it’s a VERY well-crafted standard team-up book. Though it would never go on my list as one of DC’s truly influential or important graphic novels, it’s definitely one of the stronger JLA/JSA stories in the canon, and Carlos Pacheco’s penciling never looked better.

KEEP

Justice League JLA Vs. The Avengers

Every single superhero fights each other for no reason at all

There have been numerous cross-overs between DC and Marvel over the years, and for the most part they’ve been about as readable as a Tea Party manifesto. This four-part epic featuring comicdom’s two greatest supergroups teaming up for the first time ever, is one of the few exceptions. Quite simply, Kurt Busiek and George Perez put together the greatest cross-over story most fans could possibly hope for.

Note that I said “most” fans. The problem with a story like this is that you will NEVER please everybody, and as thanks for your efforts will probably end up pleasing no one. So although there are scenes here that caused “controversy” (“Superman is stronger than Thor.” “Is not.” “Is too.” “MOM!!!!”) at the time, Busiek’s emphasis on characterization ended up making this a home-run for me.

That’s not to say it’s without it’s faults. To say that’s it’s overly complicated and dense would be an understatement. Keep in mind, some pages feature dozens, if not hundreds of characters, with the characters often changing costumes multiple times in a single page. This book is NOT for the superhero rookie, and even I had a hard time keeping track of what any of the characters were trying to accomplish. Usually that would be a turn-off, but in this case  it simply served the grandiose nature of the story that Busiek was trying to tell.

George Perez is one of the most critically acclaimed artists in the comic industry, and while I’m not really sure what motivated him to produce what ended up being the best work he had done in 20 years, I’m glad that he did. Although Perez has done some fine work since this came out, I think this will end up being being a fine epilogue to an amazing career.

KEEP

Next up: The Justice Society!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 15 – DC Comics: More Justice League!

As the Magnificent Seven version of the JLA took off, DC felt that it made sense to completely glut the market with an endless series of one-shots, OGNs, and mini-series. Some of these (Christopher Moeller’s under-appreciated League Of One, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s still-excellent Earth 2) were worthy of being part of the canon, but many of these were not.

As my last post showed, there are some good Justice League stories. As this post will show, there are a LOT of really bad JLA stories as well. Team books are hard to write, and I think it’s difficult for some writers to resist the urge to delve into each character’s psyche. You only have 25 pages, and you have 7-10 characters to cram in, PLUS villains, PLUS back story, PLUS plots. If you’re not careful, it can get all get away from you. These are some of the ones that got away.

Justice League -Odds & Ends Part Two: The Elseworlds Stories ( The Nail, Another Nail,  Created Equal, Destiny, Act Of God)

Superman as Amish Farmer. For realsies.

Elseworlds is a tag that DC used to use to tell their “What would happen if?” stories, without disturbing their already much-disturbed continuity. At Marvel these are called “What If” stories. Usually this involved some goofy concept that may have been interesting enough to share a beer and a couple of laughs over (So get this…ok, are you sitting down? Dude, I’m SERIOUS. This a great idea. Ok, Ok. So you’ve got Batman right? Yeah, Batman. You know how usually Batman is really angry? Yeah, what a dick, right? Well, what if instead of his parents being killed, it was only his puppy. I know, right? His PUPPY for chrissakes. No, the puppy doesn’t have superpowers. That would be ridiculous. Dude, I’m trying to tell you something. Ok, maybe it’s not his puppy. What about nobody dies, but he’s gay. Yeah, gay. Who’s his first what? I dunno. Alfred I guess? I haven’t really thought it out. I’m big picture, you’re details. Dude, grab a pen!), but usually ended up not being interesting enough to actually publish a comic book about (Batman as King Of The Vampires? Sure. Superman as Amish Farmer? Not so much).

Superman shares his seed with a grateful nation

The premises here are flimsy (What if Superman hadn’t been raised by Ma and Pa Kent/ What if everyone lost their powers,/What if Superman and Batman never existed at all/ What if all men on Earth died except for Superman/What if Batman was promised a talk-show at 11:35 but Superman plotted behind his back to actually take the show BACK after Batman only had 7 months as host, etc. ), which is fine IF you have a noteworthy tale to tell, or interesting questions to ask. But most of these only delve into unnecessary surface issues (i.e. What kind of costume would the Flash wear if Superman was actually a Chilean miner), rather than anything of real consequence. Only Destiny can claim to having any weight whatsoever, which is interesting because it’s the story that deviates the most from the regular DCU.  I hate to say it, but most of these are utter garbage. Other than Destiny, the only stories here even worth a first look are The Nail and it’s follow-up Another Nail by the usually wonderful Alan Davis, and although his artwork is brilliant as always, the story is so utterly nonsensical (See: Superman as Amish Farmer) that it’s beyond saving. And that’s just The Nail. It’s sequel is even worse.

CULL

JLA - Odds & Ends Part Three:  Welcome To The Working Week, Gods & Monsters, JLA/Witchblade, Primeval, Foreign Bodies, 80 Page Giant, Seven Caskets,  Gatekeeper, New Maps of Hell, Justice League Elite)

CAVE JLA SMASH!

Although these happen in “regular” DC continuity, you may wish they didn’t, due to the rampant mediocrity that seems to be a point of pride for many of these books. Although these technically aren’t “What If” books, they still use the same premise, and most of them rest on the artificial conceit of putting our heroes in somewhat silly situations (Justice League as Cavemen! Justice League on a Dungeons & Dragons Quest! Justice League as Justice League, but they switch bodies! Justice League as Gods! Justice League as Demons! Justice League as socially moderate fiscal conservatives!), rather than actually crafting an entertaining story for them. Many of these are dreadful, and not worth owning, reading, or even reading about.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some decent stories here. Warren Ellis’ New Maps of Hell is a rare mis-step for him, but I could see Ellis completists enjoying it. And while Joe Kelly’s Justice League Elite did say a few interesting things about what a superhero’s role in contemporary society would be, I can’t say it had enough to keep me from putting it into the cull pile.

CULL

JLA- Odds & Ends Part 4: I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, Justice League International Vol. 1, JLA Animated Vol.1)

I Can't Believe I Got Published!

In my previous post, I gave a shout out to Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMattheis’ much loved JLI. I have to confess that I’ve always liked the idea of the JLI more than the actual comics themselves.

I have NO problem with humour being inserted into mainstream comics, and in fact I wish it happened more. But this book quickly devolved into a sophomoric “I can’t believe that they’re actually letting us put this out” quip-fest that completely steered away from it’s prime job: Being a super-hero comic. To make things worse, a series of ill-planned sequels came out a few years ago, the worst of these being I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League, a non-stop joke fest that has almost no emotional impact at all. That would be fine for a comedy title, except that it’s not really funny either.

JLI Volume 1: Keep. I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League and Justice League Adventures: CULL

Whew. I hope it’s a very loooong time before I have to read another DC team book.

Next up: More Justice League!

The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 14 – DC Comics: The Justice League!

This one almost killed me. Seriously. It turns out that no other book demonstrates how good DC comics can be, but also the horrible depths that they can fall to the way that Justice League does.

So before I start I need to give you some Justice League context.

1960-1984 – The “Let’s All Be Superfriends” Years:

Putting all of their popular characters into one team along with a few fresh faces worked 

The JLA's first enemy: Telepathic Space Seafood

well for DC in the 1940′s with the Justice Society, and so DC decided to do it again in the early 1960′s to coincide with the resurgence of the superhero genre. The book originally starred Superman, Batman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the Martian Manhunter. This is important to remember. The line up changed over the years, with some members going away for extended periods of time, and some new blood joining. But the core premise was always that this was earth’s premier super team, and so it always had a core roster of earth’s A-List heroes. They did bring lesser known heroes onboard occasionally (Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Firestorm, Zatanna), but for the most part, this book focuses on big epic adventures, and didn’t spend a lot of time dealing with its heroes personal lives. Although this era is fondly remembered, I find that when I reread these stories very little sticks with me, and it comes across as a faceless blur of spandex.

 

1984-1986 – The “Why are there homeless people on the team?” Years.

The greatest Justice League tribute band in the mid-westAt the time, Teen Titans and X-Men were selling like crazy, and so DC attempted  to add some teen angst drama to its flagship book. The old JLA disbanded, and a new team was formed, composed of the 3 LEAST popular members of the old team, a spoiled trust-fund baby, an offensive Latino stereotype, and a homeless person. To no ones’s suprise, everyone hated it, and it didn’t last long.

1987 – 1996 –  The “Never met a cheap laugh we didn’t grind into the ground” Years:

And now the strangeness begins. There’s some context to note here. DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths megacrisis happened in 1985-1986, and it really did a number on JLA continuity (If Wonder Woman is just becoming a hero now, how was she a founding member of the JLA? If Superman is a fairly recent hero, how was HE a founding member of the JLA?  If Hawkman is just arriving from Thanagar, who was the guy wearing wings in the JLA in the 1960′s and 1970′s. Questions, questions. ) For now, DC decided to ignore a lot of those issues, and rebooted the team again, this time calling it the JLI (Justice League International).

For this version of the team, they went for a combination of veterans (Batman, Martian Manhunter, Black Canary), recent A-listers who had never actually been part of the JLA before (Guy Gardner, Captain Marvel, Dr. Fate), and new faces who were a prominent part of the new universe that DC was creating at the time (Dr. Light, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold), etc. They also decided to make this book funny. Yes, funny.

Although the line up changed a lot, this was the direction of the book for much of the next decade, as well as of its sister books, Justice League Europe, and Justice League Task Force. Although there are some good stories from this decade, I found that the increasing focus on comedy, as well as the ever decreasing focus on having A-listers on the team, made the JLA pretty much irrelevant.

1996 – 2006 – The “Magnificent 7″ Years:

DC apparently agreed with me, and in 1996 decided to bring the band back together. So

The band reunites to play at Aquaman's wedding reception

now the JLA was Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, the new (at the time) Green Lantern, and the Flash (Not the original silver age Flash who was a founding member of the original JLA but his young partner who was originally Kid Flash but took over when his uncle died in the Crisis On Infinite Earths. Except for the fact that we just found out recently that he didn’t die and he’s now back.) After an initial mini-series by Mark Waid, DC brought Grant Morrison on board to write this new JLA. And it was epic. Huge battles, huge concepts, huge EVERYTHING. The only personal issues that the JLA faced in this book were the ones that had to do with the team. This remains a high benchmark for the concept, and remains my favourite incarnation of the league.

2006 – 2010. The “I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually” years.

It’s no secret that the League has struggled creatively in recent years. Revolving creative teams, and revolving team rosters, have devalued the League’s effectiveness. James Robinson seems to be trying a lot of interesting things in today’s League, but I can’t say it’s doing much for me. That being said, the concept is still a sound one, and eventually the League will be on top again.

Which brings us to the books. Although there are MANY JLA trades out there, most of the ones I own have to do with the Magnificent Seven incarnation of the League. I’ve got a LOT of them, so I’m splitting this into several posts.

JLA - The Magnificent Seven Years as written by Grant Morrison (New World Order, American Dreams, Rock Of Ages, Strength In Numbers, Justice For All, Rock Of Ages, World War 3)

So as I mentioned earlier, this a League full of A-List heroes, tacking A-List threats. I have never been quiet regarding my criticisms of Grant Morrison’s writing, and so it was a great pleasure to discover just how much I still loved his run on the JLA when I reread it recently. I have never felt that Morrison was a character writer. I don’t mean concept, he’s great at those. I mean character. But character is a BIG part of why this book works so well, and I think that a part of it was that Morrison didn’t have to focus on it much. Because this wasn’t a book about how Superman gets through the day with Lois, and the Daily Planet, and all of that nonsense, Morrison was free to focus on loftier concerns (How does Superman deal with having every single hero on earth look up to him?) There are character moments here, but they all are related to how these characters deal with each other, not how they deal with their own private lives.

As I mentioned before, Morrison’s League dealt with universe-destroying threats on a daily basis, and this book remains a highlight in the history of the League.

KEEP

JLAThe Magnificent Seven Years as written by Mark Waid (Tower Of Babel, Terror Incognita, Divided We Fall)

Arguably the greatest JLA run of all time is done, and the question is, who do you get to take over? Mark Waid of course, and he knocks it out of the park.

His League is of a slightly smaller scope than Morrison’s is. He’s using continuity more than Morrison did, and character interaction is slightly more front of mind in his run. Which brings us to “Tower of Babel“, the highlight of his run. Not only is this one of the great JLA stories, it’s also one of the best Batman stories of the modern era. Although Waid’s run wasn’t very long, it’s still holds up extremely well as a worthy successor to Morrison’s arc.

KEEP

JLAThe Magnificent Seven Years as written by Joe Kelly (Future Imperfect, The Golden Circle, Obsidian Age Vol. 1 & 2, Rules Of Engagement, Trial By Fire)

At the time, Joe Kelly had a well-regarded run on Superman, and so I guess it made sense to throw him the League. But he had some pretty big shoes to fill. Although I remember thoroughly disliking his run when it first came out, upon rereading it’s obvious that was just a reaction to some of the small changes Kelly made, as opposed to his run overall. It turns out that this was a solid run, with a bigger focus on character development than either Waid’s or Morrison’s. Of course, the highlight here was the incredibly ambitious Obsidian Age arc, a sprawling epic of time travel, death, and betrayal, with some beautiful art by Doug Mahnke. Probably the biggest misses here are the new characters that Kelly brings into the team. They never really gel with the existing cast, and didn’t seem to serve any real storytelling purpose other than for Kelly’s own ego.

KEEP

JLAThe Magnificent Seven Years – The Rest. (World Without A Justice League, Tenth Circle, Pain Of The Gods, Syndicate Rules, Crisis Of Conscience)

Crucifer is upset because he's in the worst Justice League story ever written

Joe Kelly was the last regular writer on this version of the JLA, and the rest of the run was a rotating cast of different creative teams. Most of this was absolute crap, with the worst of the bunch being a truly awful excuse for a vampire story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, who seemed bound and determined to make you forget how much you loved their X-Men run when you were a kid.

Crisis Of Conscience, Syndicate Rules: KEEP. World Without A Justice League, Pain Of The Gods, Tenth Circle: CULL

 

 

JLA – The Magnificent Seven Years : Odds & Ends (JLA: Earth 2, Superpower, Age Of Wonder, World Without Grownups, Secret Origins, A League Of One, JLA Year One)

Because this version of the Justice League was so popular, DC pumped out an endless amount of one-shots, mini-series, and tie-ins. Most of these were wretched, and are covered in my next post. But there were a few that actually still hold up well today. Age of Wonder was one of many Elseworlds JLA titles from this era, and honestly the only one worth a damn (Justice League as Steampunk scientists: Hooray!). Although Year One, and Earth 2 still gets a lot of praise, A League Of One was a pleasant rediscovery, and I would go as far as to say that it’s one of the best Wonder Woman stories of the past decade.

KEEP

Next up: Lots of really bad Justice League stories!

The Great Comic Book Cull of 2010/2011 Part Five: DC Comics – Batwoman to Black Adam

I’ve gotten a few comments commenting on how little I’m culling, as opposed to keeping. I actually culled quite a bit of Batman, probably half a shelf worth, but right now I’m finding that most of the stuff I’m reading still holds up as worth keeping. I’m trying to downsize my collection, not eliminate it, much to my wife’s dismay.

BatwomanElegy

This the collection of a short run that Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams had on Detective Comics last year, focusing on my favourite lesbian that dresses up like a bat. Sorry, Jody Foster, you’re just going to have to keep reaching for the stars.

J.H. Williams has become one of the most unique and interesting artists in comic books today, and it’s a thrill to see him on a smaller profile book like this. Even if Greg Rucka’s script wasn’t good (it is), I’d keep this just for the art. One of the the best DC books of recent years, and I’m hoping that the new upcoming Batwoman series can keep the momentum going.

KEEP.

Birds Of Prey - 11 Assorted Trades.

One of the most successful DC “female” comics.  The concept is this: Barbara Gordon (Quick history: She used to be Commisioner Gordon’s daughter. Then his niece. Then his stepdaughter. Then his daughter again. She also used to be a librarian. Then a congresswoman. Then a librarian again. Somehow in the middle of all this she found time to occasionally be Batgirl, but then Joker shot her and showed her dad/stepdad/uncle naked pictures of her. She’s also now a parapalegic, which I think was the extra cherry on that particular day’s shit sundae. Now she’s called Oracle and works as an IT analyst/information broker for the superhero set.) decides to start sending her own agents out on specific missions she designates. Initially this is limited to Black Canary, but eventually other heroes (Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, etc) join in.

Chuck Dixon was the first writer on this series (orginally a series of minis), and the first two arcs of his run are collected in trade. These trades are decent, and worth keeping if only for Gary Frank’s pencil work, but the misogyny is running high in places. They take every opportunity to showcase Black Canary in skimpy, revealing outfits, and much is made of her horrible taste in men, and how she has very little control of herself around smarmy, overbearing assholes. That being said, it’s a good start to what would become a cult fave among superhero fans. Things went along at a decent pace for about 60 issues, until Gail Simone came along. She almost instantly revitalized the series, to the extent that for a while this was my favourite DC book.

The next 40 issues are a clinic in how to rebuild a character. Simone takes Black Canary from being a B level also-ran, to an A level world-class hero in just a few years. By the end of Simone’s run, Canary is one of the world’s greatest martial artists, and was soon made chairman of the Justice League. Also, this is one of my favourite martial art comic books, and there is more kung-fu asskickery in one trade of this series than a thousand Jackie Chan movies.  

This series isn’t perfect though. The art is inconsistent, especially in later trades, and you can tell that certain editorial decisions (like marrying Black Canary off) don’t sit well with Simone. She left the book soon after, and it didn’t take long for DC to cancel it. Thankfully that’s been rectified, and Gail Simone and Ed Benes are back on the book that they made famous.

KEEP

Black Adam - The Dark Age.

One of the best recent examples of character building that I can remember is DC’s 52 series. They took several forgotten or underused characters, and spent an entire year rebuilding those characters, and giving them new purpose. It stuck for the most part, and several of them have gone on to their own series. Black Adam is a prime example of how well this worked, and between 52 and it’s follow up World War 3, Adam had been set up as one of DC’s great villains. This mini dealt with the aftermath of those series, and shows Adam trying to regain both his power and his lost love. Peter Tomasi is one of DC’s stronger contemporary writers, and he crafts an emotional, and effective tale. Black Adam is such a sympathetic character that you can’t help but cheer for him, even when he’s beating the crap out of your favourite heroes. Kudos also to the great Doug Mahnke for his ever improving artwork here.

KEEP

Next up: Booster Gold. Yes, that’s his superhero name. Hey, I just review ‘em, I don’t write ‘em.