Friday, 7 March 2014

The Good, the Average and Aquaman: A weekend with DC's latest 'New 52' novels. Pt 1.

Over the last few days, DC publishing have sent out galleys of their latest New 52 runs and I was lucky enough to be given seven of them to review. A tiny confession first though: while I enthusiastically embraced DC's New 52 launch originally, I kind of fell by the wayside due to real life, and lost track of issues, story-lines and my impetus to get back into them, especially considering the unfavourable reviews.
But, when they offer you review copies, who am I to say no? Thankfully, of the seven sent out, one is a totally new launch and three are almost reboots, so prior knowledge isn't a pre-requisite to enjoy these latest offerings. Also, it's handy having the novels written by such an accomplished team that even if you are coming in half way, you not overly 'lost' as the dialogue fills you in quickly enough.
So, I spent a merry couple of days surrounded by post-its and superheroes in an attempt to a) not get lost among the threads b) make sure I had reference points to do background checks and c) encourage my OCD-like obsession with note-taking and not messing up my journal.
No..you shush.

First up is the stand-a-lone launch of Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell the latest from Paul Dini and artist Joe Quinones. A year has passed since Canary's failed attempts to stop a major Vegas heist and the subsequent death of gangleader Tina, yet suddenly the other members of the gang start dying, all taking their own lives in bizarre ways. Black Canary turns to her old friend Zatanna for help, creating a vibrant, powerful and funny team. Dini has always been able to write powerful women well, and Bloodspell is no exception. Whether it's highlighting their past exploits (young Zatanna's training is a stand out here) or their current case, the narrative never loses pace and Quinones' stunning art is a fine accompaniment. Zingy and sassy, this is great launch title for the casual DC fan, but with plenty of nods to previous New52 books for the fans.

4*

From the proudly camp tight-wearing duo I went to a woman who if you ever referred to her as 'camp' you'd still be travelling: Wonder Woman, Vol. 4: War and to be honest that should probably be written as "WAR!!" in as angsty and threatening tone as possible. Not going to lie, this one was hard work to come into half way. A battle of immense proportion has obviously just occurred, and we join her Ladyship and her cohorts in the aftermath. I'd heard rumours of Diana's 're-imagining' as a daughter of Zeus, and I'm not overly sure I buy it. Naturally, her playmates are the likes of War, Hera etc who have been given an 'edgy' look far removed from your regular 'Clash of the Titans' affair.
Everyone is desperate to protect baby Zeke, a child of prophecy, from the evil 'First Born' and along the way we are treated to deaths, twists, more deaths, a lot of arguing and the inevitable big battles. While the art is at times amazing, the confusing voice overs can mean you lose track, and although there are odd moments where the reader is 'filled in' on past events, it all makes for an incoherent volume. A cliffhanger ending would make me consider coming back to the series, but only after I've grabbed issues 1-3 first.

3*

After the draining WW saga, it was a relief to then get to Green Lantern, Vol.4: Dark Days a new chapter in the Corps history from Venditti and Tan. Now, I can take or leave the Green Lantern, but I appreciate it's huge mythology and the impact it has on it's fans (trust me, as the mum of a teenage boy who was the only audience member for the last movie, on it's opening day, I really understand their pain) so I was looking forward to getting stuck into this one. To put it mildly, after volume 4 I'm now ready to get every previous volume of this saga and devour them in one go.

Jordan and Stewart are trying to get the corps back together after previous events, but are hampered by the power starting to drain from  lanterns everywhere. Putting personal conflicts aside (there's a particularly impressive fight between Hal Jordan and Star Sapphire Nol-Anj) all the corps band together to preserve their energy sources. One of the most impressive aspects to this edition is the backstory of main antagonist 'Relic' and his place in the universe, while also expanding on the history of the Lanterns.
An amazing 'relaunch' story, and impressive, striking art, all combine to create possibly the best of this group of volumes and it's impossible to delve any deeper into the story without spoiling it. This is one that I will be following with interest, especially after the cliffhanger ending.

5*

Still to come: the birth of Batman, a wibbly wobbly Arrow, the Justice League goes off the grid and yeah...Aquaman...