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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DC's New 52 - 3 Months In (Part 2)

Now onto the next batch of books...

Good, But Not Quite There Yet

Justice League Dark by Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin

This was easily one of the new titles that I was most looking forward to but high expectations are something of a double edged sword: when they're fulfilled, the result is usually something special but when they're not, it can turn a really rather solid piece of work into a disappointment. Such is the case with JL: Dark.

Milligan clearly gets these characters and there's a sense that he has stepped back on plot to allow this motley crew of damaged mystical personalities to interact. The result is a slow burn of a comic book that may well read better in large chunks but even if the story has left me somewhat cold, the characterization makes it worth it.

That said, the third issue was clearly the best yet and it looks to only get better from here. This is true of the story but it's even more true of the art. Janin's art didn't really work for me for the first two issues, being a bit too stiff and photo-realistic for its own good but by the third all of the strengths that were already there - layouts, facial expressions - are amplified and the flaws are all but entirely gone.   

Resurrection Man by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Fernando Dagnino

Resurrection Man is pretty much the opposite of JL: Dark in that I'm loving the story (what can I say, I love stories that literally pit the forces of Hell against the forces of Heaven) but three issues in and I still don't know much about the titular protagonist. The result is pretty much the same: I'm interested to see where it's heading and I'm enjoying the ride but it hasn't quite grabbed me yet.

What it really has going for it, though, is a real sense of belonging to the tradition on which Vertigo (DC's "Mature Readers" line) was founded a couple of decades ago. Not only because it features obvious horror, supernatural and mystery tropes but because Dagnino's beautiful but somewhat gritty art is a throwback to that time as well. 

I would imagine that this is a series that I might have gotten more out of, had I already read the original Resurrection Man series but there's certainly more than enough here for me to stick with it. Abnett and Lanning just need to give us a slightly clearer idea of just who Resurrection man is as a person.

Pretty Damn Great... But...

Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman

This comes very, very close to getting an unqualified two thumbs up and, the only reason it doesn't, is because of what came before. Way back before I started updating the blog on a regular basis, I actually reviewed the first issue of Batwoman in Detective Comics by the same artist but with Greg Rucka on writing duties and I noted that, while most of the attention was on the spectacular art, you can't undervalue how important Greg Rucka's writing is.

I wasn't wrong apparently. Don't misunderstand me, Williams and Blackman do a very fine job with the writing but Rucka is a very hard act to follow. Not only are his basic storytelling abilities second to none but no one writes strong female comic book characters better than Greg Rucka - not even female writers. As such, the main plot doesn't have Rucka's rigid structuring and the characterization isn't quite up to what we've been used to.

What this does mean though, is that if you try and put Rucka's previous run out of your mind - and if this is your first Batwoman comic that should be pretty easy - this is a hell of a good read. Yes, the main plot isn't incredible but everything around it is thoroughly engrossing and it becomes more and more captivating as it goes along and, for all my (totally unfair) reservations, Williams and Blackman do have a very good handle on the title character and her constantly expanding supporting cast.

As for the art, I don't have anything to add to my original review except to say this: with his mix of perfect storytelling, innovative page layouts, expressive character "acting" and ability to switch styles completely mid-panel, JH Williams III is simply in a league of his own and pairing him up with the peerless Dave Stewart on colours makes Batwoman the best looking comic book on the stands. 

That should do it for now. Reviews of more great comics coming soon...

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