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Jason Schachat left the Earth
five years ago to explore his roots.
It turns out they were dyed.

Jason Schachat's Occasional Breakdown

It’s always hard to resist an 80-pages-for-a-buck oneshot like DCU Brave New World #1. The combined might of volume, low price, and the ever-tempting “#1" usually mean it’s a good deal. The reality? Well, the sampling of stories is often just a bunch of lame prologues to upcoming storylines.

The first of these is an intentionally confusing relaunch of Martian Manhunter. Writer Tony Bedard’s idea is that there’s another J’onn J’onzz running around: the real one. Our beloved green machine is an impostor, and the original isn’t going to take it any more. He bitchslaps some punks and makes a good show of being a real manhunter (while looking oddly Skrull-like).

Unfortunately, it’s just too weird. This sample is afraid to give us any of the real story coming in the new Martian Manhunter book, so it just drops some details and totally confuses issues like how many Martians are still alive and how J’onzz got his weakness to fire.

The second entree is just as confusing. It’s all about OMACs, but doesn’t really tell us anything. There’s this guy, and he’s a loser, and the OMACs, heroes, and villains are all chasing him down. Why? We never find out, since it turns out to be a dream in the end (OR IS IT?!?!?!). Renato Guedes gives us some interesting art, and the production is nice, but Bruce Jones’ story is bland overall.

Jimmy Palmioti and Justin Gray try to resurrect Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters, but the execution isn’t as strong as the ideas behind it. Still, despite the horrific new costumes on the team members, Daniel Acuna’s art makes a great case for giving this book a chance.

We're betting on The Atom being an Alpha.

The fourth story tries to bring back The Creeper, and I don’t know why. DC was smart to put Steve Niles on the team, and Justiniano’s pencils are definitely creepy (though possibly too “superhero”). The problem is that this is too far removed from the pulp styling that gives Niles so much to work with.

The perspective comes from Jack Ryder (known by night as The Creeper), so we’re almost noir... but the story definitely isn’t noir. It’s just too safe, so we end up with something neither mysterious nor creepy. The setup in the ending might make this new take on the Creeper more interesting, but the style shown here doesn’t have much promise.

Thankfully, just as it looks like no good will come of this oneshot, we get a sample of Gail Simone and John Byrne’s all new Atom. And it is awesome. Pulling from ideas developed by Grant Morrison, we get a bunch of rookies taking up the mantle of the Atom and fighting off a microscopic race of mind controllers.

Byrne’s art is perfect for this ultra-magnified world (you can almost smell the mile-high carpet fibers), and Simone weaves her tale like a loom enthusiast on crystal meth. This is the only story featured here that’s turning into an ongoing series, but it’s also the only one you’d want to buy month after month. If the team sticks to it, this book could be amazing.

The final story, leading into The Trials of Shazam! isn’t so thrilling as the new Atom, but it does promise some interesting developments in the Marvel Family. It suffers from the confusion of post-Infinite Crisis “when the heck are we?”, but Howard Porter goes the extra mile to deliver the best art in DCU Brave New World. It won’t lead to another ongoing series, of course, but it might make for an interesting maxi-series.

Ron Marz has talked a good game in interviews, but Ion: Guardian of the Universe #3 shows he’s much better at outlining stories than fleshing them out. Like his notorious ruination of Hal Jordan, this book is trying to reinvent a character DC editorial wants out of the picture (but still close enough to be there when the 1st stringer goes down).

Following Kyle Raynor’s catastrophic loss of control and flight from justice, he now finds himself on Mogo, the living planet that is itself a Green Lantern. While Mogo gives Kyle the “It’s a Wonderful Life” treatment using dead ex-girlfriends, Hal Jordan tries to track him down and help him out.

The issue plods along until a rather satisfying ending, but this maxi-series is pushing it’s luck. Now that Hal is in the picture, we really need to get in his head. After all, he’s the only Green Lantern to commit genocide and walk back into the light. The role they’ve set up for Kyle works to satisfy his fans (even if he’s being canned), but it ultimately makes us question why we won’t have an ongoing series about a flawed everyman with truly godlike powers (rather than a tired everyman with flawed powers).

Captain America hates shilly-shallying.

We knew it would happen, but New Avengers #21 finally faces the hard truth: it’s playing second banana to Civil War. Rather than building on the event, this issue merely fills in a couple of boring blanks (Where’d Captain America run to when S.H.I.E.L.D. messed with him? Who’d Cap first recruit into his army?). But these are questions we never asked. Frankly, these are questions that aren’t worth our time.

Bendis may be great writing Spider-Man or Daredevil, but Cap’s always been a strange fit for him. He may understand him, but you get the feeling he doesn’t quite know him. And his version of The Falcon is pretty much Luke Cage in a dopey costume. After some traditionally decompressed storytelling, we still find ourselves in a prologue to the events of the last issue of Civil War.

Possibly the most jarring aspect of this issue is Howard Chaykin’s art. True, New Avengers has gone through a few artists now, but this look is quite foreign. Bendis may be a master of paneling and pacing, but Chaykin’s art gets a little fugly on the extreme close-ups and doesn’t weather repeat panels very well. Hopefully, next month will give us more of the New Avengers we love, ‘cause this ain’t them.

The better Bendis book this week is Ultimate Spider-Man #96, despite the presence of that harbinger of mediocrity known as Morbius. Sure, this outing doesn’t give us much more in the way of sexy vampire babes, and the only lasting effect is that Peter and Mary Jane are on speaking terms again, but it’s fast-paced and fun to read.

For the most part, it seems like they just wanted to blow off some steam and quickly introduce some new Ultimate characters (Blade and Morbius) rather than plunge us into another drawn out arc like “Silver Sable” or “Deadpool”. Granted, this one is titled “Morbius” and serves the same purpose, but it does the job in two easy-to-swallow issues.

Let’s just hope the same happens with the upcoming “Scorpion” arc...

Jason Schachat

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