THE NEW 52, Week 2:
JLI, Static Shock, Stormwatch, Swamp Thing
It's clear that despite our best efforts, the New 52 is almost overwhelming to review in great detail. Or maybe it's clear (and has been to readers) for a long time that I overthink, overwrite, and overcommit. So I'm going to try and be really, really concise in giving a short overview of each of the books from here on out, beginning with the ones I missed from Week 2, then on to Week 3. Just in time to go to Illusive Comics & Games today and get Week 4.
Justice League International #1
Hey, people who loved Booster Gold's last series, have no fear! He returns as leader of Justice League International, with his adventures written by his original creator, Dan Jurgens. At least, that's what DC promised us as the old universe drew to a close.
But this isn't the Booster Gold that people had been reading for the last four years, the greatest hero you'd never heard of. That Booster would know he's in a different reality, because he'd been anonymously bouncing around the time stream fixing problems in continuity. But when an entire line reboots in order to do the same thing, well, that cool aspect to the character just has to go.
Booster was made funny in the original Justice League International, so for long-time readers, the expectation would be that this revival would follow that idea. Nope. It's a serviceable super team book that might get some new readers excited about following a bunch of neat-looking heroes, including a shoe-horned Batman. (Not quite making sense because in the old continuity, Batman's respect for Booster was based almost entirely on knowing that he was secretly sneaking around the time stream.)
Most of the heroes are characters the general public doesn't know, but that's not the problem. Nobody's going to put the book down because August General in Iron appears. And Jurgens doesn't go overboard with the possible friction between a Chinese hero and a Russian hero, nor does he ignore it.
But a week after reading it, nothing particularly sticks except disappointment that the plot reads like a rehash of the first time Booster joined the Justice League – though now the villainous Max Lord has been taken out of the equation. Aaron Lopresti's art is great, of course, but I want some bwaahaha with my JLI.
Static Shock #1
All of the Milestone Universe must be carried by this one hero, Virgil Hawkins aka Static. So far, it's a decent relaunch. Virgil's powers are well-established, and new readers get to see him in action. For reasons yet to be fully revealed, he's working for the character Hardware, for now best kept in the background to new readers, since he's largely a riff on Iron Man.
But since this is a relaunch designed to appeal to new readers, why force Virgil into a mainstream DC continuity he never really had before? Yes, I get that it is a shared universe, but this is one of those books making people think they've missed something before they even began.
Virgil has moved to New York City to work undercover at S.T.A.R. Labs, itself integral to the DC Universe. His old stomping grounds was the city of Dakota, which gets a few mentions here. Maybe it's because Static has a temperament similar to Spider-Man, and new readers might find it familiar and comforting to be in New York.
At any rate, it's good to see him back in action, important not just because of the diversity he brings to the line, but because Static is also his own character, not spun off of some other legacy. If you're a fan of the animated series, you'll likely enjoy this.
Again, why would this book be neck-deep in a continuity that has yet to be established? It's supposed to spin out of the events of Superman #1 which doesn't come out until Week 5. At least it isn't obvious which book is being referenced, but that's also a problem. Nothing about Stormwatch is obvious.
Yes, this would fit a niche for those who want their team book to be a little darker and more cynical. And combining the old Authority with Stormwatch is an interesting idea for the reboot – they both served a similar purpose, and the latter really has a slightly cooler edge to its name.
But it looks like this book is going to laboriously build relationships readers already know exist, such as Apollo and Midnighter, and likely also only going to expose how similar in archetype they are to Superman and Batman.
Then there's the Martian Manhunter, showing up here while claiming also to work with the Justice League. No writer seems to know what to do with him in a way to make his character stick in people's minds. He's a cool visual with muddled motivation, and that was before all this 52 stuff. Now… still pretty muddled.
Out of the gate, this book hasn't made a case for us to continue watching.
Swamp Thing #1
Selling well because people love Swamp Thing, this relaunch is a decent start, though readers from more than a month back should be bitter that we could have skipped The Search For Swamp Thing mini-series.
Writer Scott Snyder drops hints about what Alec Holland remembers, in fact far more than the mini-series offered. Here's a scientist literally given a new lease on life, but running from a past that he can't even rightfully call his own. Though the Swamp Thing was never actually him, thanks to Brightest Day he has absorbed all its memories.
Other heroes drop in on Holland largely to establish that they know him and to hammer home that he can't run from this destiny; he has to somehow forge a bond with Swamp Thing. (Controversially to long-time fans, Superman also confirms that no matter what changes have happened in his costume, certain key moments still carry over from the old continuity – this Supes still got beaten to death by Doomsday.)
Swamp Thing himself doesn't appear until the last couple of pages, but Snyder inserts enough supernatural dread to keep things interesting. Plus he's got Yanick Paquette doing the art, a slick mainstream artist who still veers over into the horrific without staying too clean. This is a Swamp Thing who can walk through a few nightmares but still carry an action figure line.