Jun 05 2015

Graphic Bits Reviews: Batman Beyond #1, Bat-Mite #1, Bizarro #1, Justice League #41, Midnighter #1, and Omega Men #1 (New DC Universe Week 1)

New DC Universe (2015) - Week One


Don’t have time for long reviews of comics? Then check out these bite sized chunks of comic book goodness designed to get behind the panels and into your hearts. This is Graphic Bits.

DC Comics kicked off its post-Convergence soft reboot with the DC YOU campaign this week, introducing the first of what will be 25 new titles and new creative teams and directions on a bunch of others. The video commercial is at the bottom of this post. The first round of titles includes a glimpse into the New DC Universe’s future in BATMAN BEYOND, two all-ages titles with BAT-MITE and BIZARRO, a magnificent start to the Darkseid War in JUSTICE LEAGUE, the return of the ultra-violent MIDNIGHTER, and the intriguing new OMEGA MEN.

Not listed in this column is the review for Green Arrow #41, which we have made the feature review for the week.

Batman Beyond #1

DC Comics, Dan Jurgens (writer), Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (artists)
Rating: 8/10

Batman Beyond #1 (2015) coverThe first proper “sequel” to the events of Futures End, it finds the newly minted Batman of the future (now former Red Robin Tim Drake) lost in a world he doesn’t understand. Fans of Terry McGinnis, the former Batman Beyond, may be disappointed that he is no longer a part of this title, and people who didn’t necessarily read the 52 issues of Futures End may take a few issues to get up to speed with this. However, for the most part Dan Jurgens does a solid job of positioning us in this strange new frontier. The most intriguing part, of course, is finding out how much has changed in the future post-Convergence, although Drake’s A.I. ALFRED is conveniently just as unaware of the specific changes. Bernard Chang’s art is wonderful, a sleek modern design that not only captures the future, but the fluidity of Jurgens story as well. His design for the “new” Batman Beyond is true to the original but adding a “Drake twist” to it as well. Marcelo Maiolo’s masterful use of colour, or deliberate absence of it in certain panels, recalls the wonderful collaboration he had with Andrea Sorrentino on Green Arrow recently.

Bottom Line: It’s terrific to see Tim Drake’s Futures End story continued, and while it may be disappointing to some that McGinnis is out of the picture (at least for now) it is difficult to argue with a fast-paced action comic that dares to throw new and existing readers straight into a future world and ask us to come along for the ride and revelations, including a bombshell that is dropped on the final page.

Bat-Mite #1

DC Comics, Dan Jurgens (writer), Corin Howell, Andres Ponce and Mike Atiyeh (artist)
Rating: 7/10

Bat-Mite #1 (2015)Along with Bizarro (reviewed below), BAT-MITE is one of two limited series released this week aimed at an all-ages crowd. Sure, we assume “all-ages” doesn’t extend to newborns, but if they are already up to a barrage of dialogue and non-stop one-liners, then they might be covered by this book as well. Barely seen in modern DC, the new ethos at DC is one of “fun”. Visually and narratively, BAT-MITE aims to follow the Animaniacs school of thought in throwing us straight into it. The titular character is exiled from the Fifth Dimension, and it isn’t long before he is crashing the Batmobile and getting locked in the dungeon of Doctor Trauma. Relative newcomer Corin Howell (Hello Kitty and Friends, Ben 10) is well versed in the cartoony style this book requires, and the lead character is a chibi concoction that updates the original 1959 madness. Whether intentional or not, some of Howell’s designs wander off-model, especially a nurse character, although this is a minor quibble and is in keeping with the tone of the book. [Richard has written a longer review of this book over at Newsarama]

Bottom Line: The energy of BAT-MITE would be difficult to sustain over an ongoing book, so it is probably for the best that this is a limited series. Plus, as a book aimed at being accessible by younger readers, the notions of eventually have a single trade to keep them occupied on long car trips is exactly what the insane Bat-Mite is made for.

Bizarro #1

DC Comics, Heath Corson (writers), Gustave Duarte, Bill Sienkiewicz, Pete Pantazis (artists)
Rating: 9.5/10

Bizarro #1 cover (2015)Me no am love this! Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro on a road trip to Canada. If that hasn’t already sold you, then you are definitely living in a Bizarro universe. The basic premise is that the backwards Superman is a nuisance, and Clark Kent convinces Jimmy that the trip would make for a great coffee table book. It’s all the excuse needs writer Heath Corson  needs for a Sam & Max style of questionable roadside encounters. Corson has most recently been seen as the writer of animated films Justice League: War and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and his tight script feels like a Saturday morning cartoon. Filled with non sequiturs and asides, and a plot that could slip into an episode of Scooby Doo, it’s hard not to be won over immediately by this book. Bizarro was least seen breaking our hearts in the Forever Evil arc, as the failed B-0 experiment of Lex Luthor. This Bizarro is something else entirely, and exactly what the world needed. Brazilian Gustave Duarte has only recently become known in the US, via a Dark Horse compilation Monsters and Other Stories. He is the perfect artist to bring this insanity to life, effortlessly putting dodgy car salesmen, Egyptian gods and aliens in a single page. Bizarro himself is adorable, a clueless lug who looks like he has been captured from animation stills, and can barely contain himself within the frame of the comic. A stunning dream sequence shows that Bizarro, like the rest of us, dreams in Bill Sienkiewicz montages. Sublime.

Bottom Line: BIZARRO is one of the most charming books released by DC in a long time. (Or should that be “BIZARRO am worstest most unfriendly book from DC in short time?“) Not just perfect for kids, who will love the visual madness of it, but for adults with a pulse as well.

Bizarro #1 (DC Comics) - Artists:  Gustavo Duarte and Peter Pantazis

Bizarro #1 (DC Comics) – Artists: Gustavo Duarte and Peter Pantazis

Justice League #41

DC Comics, Geoff Johns (writer), Jason Fabok, Brad Anderson (artists)
Rating: 9/10

Justice League #41 (DC Comics)Geoff Johns knows how to write a blockbuster, and that’s exactly how the latest JUSTICE LEAGUE kicks off. Teased for months with preludes to “Darkseid War,” Johns wastes no time in establishing the murderous intent of Darkseid’s minions Lashina and Kanto, as they target versions of Myrina Black across the Multiverse. The hero of the piece is Mister Miracle, whose escape from the slave mines of Apokolips have made him an expert in getting in and out of places. The Justice League arrive on the scene as the Boom Tube technology used by the assassins is detected by Cyborg, although it’s pleasing to see Johns use Wonder Woman as the narrator for the introductory scenes. It’s filled with more show-stopping cliffhanger moments than most arcs, and even in this extended issue, rips along at a pace. Detective Comics artist Jason Fabok, who came on board with “The Amazo Virus” arc, is a worthy successor to Doug Mahnke. His success in playing with Batman’s shadows, along with Forever Evil: Arkham War, makes him ideal for the villains  of this issue. Laid out like a film’s storyboards, the confrontation between Mister Miracle and Darkseid is a masterclass in visual storytelling. Similarly, a scene involving The Flash as a conduit is a mind-blowing concept realised by this next level artist. Brad Anderson expertly handles the various shades of the Multiverse, creating a real sense of dread and foreboding.

Bottom LineOther creators take note: this is how JUSTICE LEAGUE is done. It might be a case of peaking early, but this opening salvo in “The Darkseid War” really has it all. Putting the Multiverse front and centre as a plot device, and pitting a classic Justice League line-up against one of the heaviest hitting villains, this has all the hallmarks of being a classic in the making.

Midnighter #1

DC Comics, Steve Orlando (writer), Aco, Hugo Petrus, Romulo Farjardo Jr (artists)
Rating: 8/10

Midnighter #1 (DC Comics)The New 52 brought the Wildstorm characters into the DC Universe, so now it’s Midnighter’s turn to be front and centre in a mainstream DC book. Some will focus on violence being a part of the DCU, while others will point to Midnighter’s open homosexuality, but either way MIDNIGHTER is one of the most promisingly progressive books DC has released in the last five years. Both are dealt with pragmatically in Steve Orlando’s script. The uncharacteristically unmasked lead starts out on a date, is thrown immediately into a chaotic brawl – which in turn inspires a just as energetic sex scene (or at least the fringes of it) – before setting off on more action. Readers don’t need to know the complex history of Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch/The Authority, Garth Ennis’ solo series or even the previous New 52 Stormwatch, and the joy of this issue is that it’s enjoyable by new readers. Aco, Hugo Petrus and Romulo Farjardo Jr make a terrific art team, using a string of tightly knit panels and inserts to create a constantly moving set of visuals. Whether it focusing on the extra-sensory perception of Midnighter, or a fight sequence, Aco keeps his action energetic and the more intimate moments just as sexy.

Bottom Line: Outside of the forthcoming Section 8, MIDNIGHTER was one of the most surprising titles announced in the New DC Universe. Yet it is a flagship for the progress that DC has shown in the last

Omega Men #1

DC Comics, Tom King  (writer), Barnaby Bagenda, José Marzán, Jr. (artists)
Rating: 6/10

The Omega Men #1This one is a little bit more of a puzzler. Aimed at being something close to DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy, writer Tom King has described it as being “a large, complicated world being shoved into such a small, simple space.” Which might actually be one of the problems with this first issue, with far too much going on, and far too much work on the part of the audience in joining the dots. Seen in various versions since their introduction in 1981, there is no clear sense of who this team is yet. Sure, we have to allow for some of that to develop over time, but it is difficult to make out even who the key players are in this debut issue. The plot here is that White Lantern Kyle Rayner has been murdered, and universe is out for the Omega Men’s blood. Of course, it is difficult to gain that information from just this issue alone.  Bagenda and Marzán’s art is absolutely stunning though, it’s delicate painted beauty giving way to some surprisingly vivid explosions of heads and blood-splattered hallways. There is a lot of information here, and perhaps it will require several readings to fully appreciate everything that is going on here.

Bottom Line: A difficult jumping on point, THE OMEGA MEN aims high, but also asks a lot from the audience for a debut issue. A little homework is required in advance of reading this issue, not least of which is the 8-page preview Marvel released last month. One to watch, although we’re just not sure why yet.