DC 52 Review: Stormwatch #1

I was a major Image Comics fan in the 90s, and not just for the hyper-kinetic art of departed Marvel artists like Jim Lee. I loved Image because it frequently broke free of typical save-the-world tropes to explore superheroes as a separate society running in parallel to every day life.

Wildstorm Productions was Jim Lee’s imprint at Image, and it was home to every one of my favorite titles and stories. In 1999 Lee allowed DC to acquire the rights to the company so he could focus less on administration and more on creating. Twelve years later, Lee is DC’s co-publisher and penciling their flagship book.

As for the Wildstorm universe, it’s very much alive in DC’s reboot with Stormwatch and solo titles for WildCATs mainstays Grifter and Voodoo -  and they’re all more integrated with DC’s continuity than ever before.

Stormwatch #1

Written by Paul Cornell, art by Miguel Sepulveda

Rating: 3.5 of 5 – Great

In a line: “Do we look like ‘super-heroes’? They’re amateurs. We’re the professionals.”

140 char review: Stormwatch #1: Almost too many chars to keep track, but Cornell teases mysteries w/o sacrificing exposition. Love the psychedelic overlays!

[ Read more about the script & artwork @ CK: Crushing Krisis › DC 52 Review: Stormwatch #1 ]

CK Says: Buy it!

Stormwatch feels decidedly alien, and not just because of star Martian Manhunter and a station in hyperspace. The conceit of extra-dimensional heroes in suits who sneer at the the caped set feels more like Ellis’s superb Planetary than the DC I’m used to skimming.

Cornell is an oddball writer, and he didn’t have enough room to stretch out in Marvel’s great (but decidedly terrestrial) Captain Britain & MI:13. This fast-paced amalgamation of erstwhile-Wildstorm and reinvented-DC is a better fit.

Did he put too many balls in the air for a first issue? I say there’s no such thing. This is exactly what I was hoping for from Justice League – a brisk issue with more questions than answers, hints at multiple threats, and enough plot threads that I’m left pouting for a second issue right away.

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DC 52 Review: Action Comics #1

With DC Comics re-launching its entire slate of books this month, the most-anticipated title after a vaguely-disappointing Jim Lee drawn Justice League is doubtlessly Action Comics, written by Grant Morrison.

Morrison is a hyper-praised comic author who has written everything from indie fare to X-Men. His multi-year shake-up of Batman comics has been to the comic line what Nolan has been to the movie franchise. He’s also an insufferably self-obsessed egoist and drug addict, both as confessed in Supergods, his recent autobiographical look at comic history.

Suffice to say, I run as hot and cold on Morrison as a Katy Perry song. How does his reboot of the longest-running comic title in the world go? Let’s see…

Action Comics #1

Written by Grant Morrison, art by Rags Morales & Rick Bryant

Rating: 4.5 of 5 – Remarkable

In a line: “Non-native strains WILL destroy entire ecologies, given the opportunity.”

140char Review: Action Comics #1: Superman spends a vigilante night in Metropolis; Morrison/Morales show more than tell & maybe make Supes interesting again

[ Read more about the script & artwork @ CK: Crushing Krisis › DC 52 Review: Action Comics #1 ]

CK Says: Buy it!

Action Comics #1 is a thrilling anchor to the clearly all-new continuity of Superman. Anyone hoping for an issue of a big, blue boy scout pushing planets out of their trajectories will be disappointed by this smaller scale exploration of the ambiguities of justice and of being human.

If that sounds like a boring issue, keep in mind that it still involves being faster than a speeding bullet and leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Oh, and a wrecking ball.

No one in the issue makes the case for Superman being human – Morrison is deliberate in having every character refer to him as an animal, alien, or even a thing. However, in our brief time with the bespeckled Clark we’re left to wonder – if it thinks like a man and cares like a man, how can it be an animal? Not for nothing, but Morrison’s book was subtitled “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.”

Is this issue a modern classic? Hard to say, but Superman scholar Morrison doesn’t waste a single word while Morales keeps the issue full of impact – it never feels decompressed to drag out the story.

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DC 52 Review: Justice League #1

This month DC Comics is relaunching their entire line of comics – 52 issues #1s in a single month!

Not only is every series starting fresh, but the relaunch also represents a “soft reboot” of the DC comics universe. That means characters could have a new set of history as they re-debut, including breaking up iconic relationships or being suddenly de-aged back to a more-relatable 20-something.

I am not a DC comics fan, and have never been a regular reader of any of their titles aside than Wonder Woman – so why not try to read and review as many of their new 52 as I can in one month?

Sounds like a plan! The month starts with DC’s biggest gun – Justice League #1, with DC co-publisher and debateably best-penciler in the industry Jim Lee on art, and DC superstar Geoff Johns scripting.

Justice League #1

Rating: 2.5 of 5 – Okay.

In a line: “You’re not just some guy in a BAT COSTUME, are you?”

140char Review: Justice League #1 – Solid art and interactions between Bats & GL, but the quick-to-read debut kinda falls flat. Not the big gun you’d expect

[ Read more about the script & artwork @ CK: Crushing Krisis › DC 52 Review: Justice League #1]

CK Says: Consider it.

Justice League #1 is too quick a read with too little happening along the way.

I don’t mean to grade a comic merely on expectations, but when the words “Justice League” and “Jim Lee” are connected you can’t help but hope for something on the scale of 1991′s all-time best-seller X-Men #1.

Instead, we’re building up the origin of the Justice League from square one – and you could do a lot worse than that! I’d argue that the first issue of your flagship team should either introduce everyone, be a huge blowout, or do both. This sort of expository story belongs in the individual character books, or – at least – explored after you’ve got your hooks in new readers.

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But I Regress, pt. 2

Where were we? Oh, I was telling you about how with the responsibility of owning a home I have suddenly regressed to being a teenager.
Last time I detailed my overwhelming love for comic books, and how it was vanquished by the great expanse of the internet.
To this day I marvel at how mercenary I was about my decision. When it came down to $40 a month on comics or on internet access I phoned up the comic store and canceled my orders without a second thought.
How could I?
Comics were a world I could dive into and experience alone, but the internet was a world I could lose myself in along with millions of other people. To put it in today's terms, comics weren't social.
The Maxx #11
The Maxx #11
I wanted them to be. I'd skulk at the comic shop ... beg my mother to let me find a pen pal at the back of The Maxx. I would read the letters page in X-Men and imagine being able to talk all day with people as obsessed with the characters as I was.
The internet had all of that, available 24/7. Within days I was on a Dungeons & Dragons listserve and in a Final Fantasy fanfic club. After years of being a pretty insular only child, I found out I had things in common with people. Lots of things! 
And, while building my first website became a top priority, so did Warcraft II.
I have never been much of a PC gamer, so was completely unfamiliar with the concept of real-time strategy war games. When my friend Lucas made me download the WCII demo over my 14.4k modem I was floored - it was like Risk crossed with Dungeons & Dragons, but with none of the plastic pieces or dice rolls.
(I was the kind of kid that, when bored, would set up elaborate six-person games of Risk between my GI Joes and play each side against each other for hours. Actually, I still do that a few times a year with my LOTR Risk, just sans the GI Joes.)
(My wife finds this fascinating)
All it took was one modem game of Warcraft II on the single demo map and I was hooked. I had an army of orcs to do my bidding, and friends to trade taunts with all night. And sea turtles!
I had no interest in quick, decisive battles. When we both bought the full game I'd make maps packed with endless gold mines so we could entrench and battle for hours on end.
Much as my comic obsession stayed mostly contained to X-Men, my RTS urge was isolated to Blizzard games. Even after buying my first guitar put the whammy on many of my other adolescent hobbies (say goodbye, fanfic!), I remained a devoted late-night WCII addict.
The addiction was made worse senior year when one of my friends slipped me their extra copy of Starcraft. It was Warcraft . . . in space!
I think that - and how it relates to my current predicament - is a story for next time.
The impetus for this whole tale is my recently-launched Guide to Collecting X-Men in TPBs, which is meant to aid former adolescent addicts such as myself in catching up on what they've missed.
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But I Regress, pt. 1

With the launch of my monster  definitive guide to collecting X-Men comic books as graphic novels , I have officially become a fifteen year-old.

Allow me to explain. Or, to begin to, as I’m sure this is a multiple-post-spanning story (just as that website feature was a multiple-month spanning obsession to research).

A few months ago Philly-local social media mover/shaker/sandwich-connoisseur @MikeyIl threw a series of events for the Ford #FiestaMovement. One of them was an all-local art show, featuring work by my partner-in-fame Britt Miller, as well as Eddidit and others.

Being Britt’s unpaid intern / personal assistant / life coach and a faithful supporter of friends and local artists, I got my ass there – even though the event was smack in the middle of negotiating the price of our house with our Realtor over the phone.

(Literally. Drunk friends: “What are you doing?” Me, to phone: “Hold on a second.” Me, to friends: “Oh, I just got another few thousand dollars knocked off the price of our house.” Drunk friends: “Wowwww.”)

Where was that fateful art show held?

Brave New Worlds. A comic book shop.

Here at Crushing Krisis I haven’t ever fully explained my addiction to comic books, c. 11/1991 – 4/1996.

It was a brief but tumultuous affair. Comic books combine my love of serial narrative with an OCD urge to make meticulous, alphabetical lists. They created a 10-year-old who would do anything to earn $40 a month to pick up every book bearing the image of Wonder Woman or an X-Man.

(Seriously, I’m surprised I wasn’t peddling coke for my neighbor. It’s a good thing my guitar habit didn’t get to drug-running levels of expense until after college, when I was salaried.)

For only collecting for four-and-a-half years, my comic collection is prodigious. Not only did I collect new issues weekly, but in the pre-spreadsheet days the adolescent OCD Godzilla in my soul – a mere tadpole, at the time – compiled lists of back issues by hand… lists twenty and thirty pages long, complete with estimated budgets and timelines for purchase. Every few months my father engaged my whim, and I checked off line after line.

I was hardcore. The guys at the comic store treated me like I was twice my age (now ironic) because I was so on top of my shit with my pull lists and my back issue pricing and my discussions of the Magneto’s morality and if the ends truly justified the means.

Then came the internet. AOL dial-up cost by the hour, and I was hooked on it within minutes of my first sign-in in January of 1996. Four months later my wallet issued an ultimatum: limit my internet usage, or jettison my comic addiction – now complicated by Marvel’s 90s’ decadence of holographic covers and limited series.

The real decider was probably a demo of Warcraft II, a living digital board of Risk I could play over and over again with my friends over my 14.4 baud modem.

I dropped the comics and never looked back.

Until last month.

(To be continued! In the meantime, if you're a closet x-fan who wouldn't know a pull list from their elbow, check out definitive guide to collecting X-Men comic books as graphic novels - the easiest (and cheapest) way to be an adult comic book fan.)