Tuesday, 22 May 2012
GRAPHIC NOVELS: JUSTICE LEAGUE-ORIGINS; BATMAN-THE COURT OF OWLS; ANIMAL MAN-THE HUNT (DC THE NEW 52, 2012)
The first part of this review (The Justice League) has appeared on Amazon in a different form.
Finally DC have begun to release the trade editions of their new universe - The New 52- and three arrived through my letterbox today. There's a two-page ad in various magazines like SFX which is a checklist of titles and release dates and I ticked about half of them to buy. Anyway, I'm starting with the one which was the first comic to be released -The Justice League.
To be honest, I'm being a little over-generous with a five star rating especially as it's basically a six episode fight scene with character beats. But they are good character beats and the individual characters come over very well -the over-confident eager to impress Green Lantern, the aggressive Superman, the sensible Flash, the ebullient Wonder Woman, the confident Aquaman, and Batman who's, well, just Batman. Throw in the origin of Cyborg who becomes a founder member of the new team and some good jokes by writer Geoff Johns and hyper-dynamic art from Jim Lee and you have a massively enjoyable origin of the new Justice League. Add in a few extras from the original comic and a gallery of alternative covers and you have a great package.
Actually, this would make an even better movie than The Avengers and provide a great introduction to the characters without having single character movies first. Imagine this:
Black screen, the sound of gunfire, then streaks of light (tracer bullets), the sound of helicopters. The screen lightens, though it's still dark, and we are on rooftop level in Gotham city. Suddenly an alien appears leaping towards and over the camera. He's followed a moment later by Batman. The sound of gunfire increases and the camera pans up to reveal helicopter gunships trying to kill both Batman and the creature he's chasing. We hear fragments of radio chatter indicating he's very much a target. We follow hunter and hunted for a few moments as they dart from rooftop to rooftop, dropping down, climbing up. Finally Batman catches the alien and they fight. Then we see a flurry of tracer bullets about to hit Batman. There's a blinding glow of green light and we see a plasma shield protecting him. And there above surrounded by a glowing green aura is Green Lantern. "Turn the bloody light off, you idiot," growls Batman.
Batman: The Court of Owls is set five years later than the JL and superheroes have become an established part of the landscape. The Bat's circumstances are not noticeably dissimilar in this new universe than they were before. The first Robin, Dick Grayson, is Nightwing, ex-Robin Jason Todd is Red Robin and leader of the Teen Titans, Damian Wayne (son of Bruce) is Robin.
The story concerns the discovery by Batman of a group called The Court of Owls whose history is tied intimately with the history of Gotham City itself and they have a pet assassin, The Talon, who may be even more skilled than Batman. They may also have killed his parents rather than them being the victims of a random crime gone wrong.
It's written by flavour of the month Scott Snyder (American Vampire) with pencils by Greg Capullo who does a fine detailed job with good page layouts. I don't usually buy the Batman books but I thought I'd give them a try and this is very good. It's dark and intense with lots of twists and turns and unexpected revelations as Batman is taken to the limits of his physical and mental strength.
Animal Man is one of the biggest critical hits of the New 52 with much praise going to the rather contorted artwork of Travel Foreman as well as the script by Jeff Lemire. The actual premise behind it is adapted from the Swamp Thing mythos created by Alan Moore. There, a human becomes a plant-creature, an avatar of the Green which is the embodiment of vegetation. In Animal Man we discover the Red the embodiment of animal life on the planet and again, there are human avatars. The twist here is that it isn't stunt-man turned superhero (now part time), actor and animal rights activist Buddy Baker but his daughter Maxine and his place is to protect her from the Rot (vile monstrous creatures) which want to take Maxine over. He's also told he needs the help of Alec Holland the Swamp Thing.
I'm really not sure about this title yet and it may take another couple of readings before I make my mind up. The art, which can often be unpleasantly grotesque and ugly is a major factor in this which stands very much in contrast to the bright crisp super-heroics of the Justice League. On the other hand I do like the different take on the character which reminds me, albeit in a different way, of when Grant Morrison reinvented the character for DC/Vertigo. We'll see. I think it's a title which will polarise readers.