For the ranking of the new 52 books, I’m going to start with the worst. If I wasn’t making a point of reading all 260 issues, I probably wouldn’t have read all of this, which means this has given me a snob like me the incentive to read some below-par comics. There’s certainly value in that, if only because it helps create a baseline about what’s truly average, which is something I’ve been trying to figure out.
I’ll make a note if any series made “Best of 2011” lists, though it’s not an issue with titles that I ranked in the bottom half. And I’ll also note if books have been cancelled, or had any changes in the creative teams. That is an issue with many of the books from the bottom half, and at least one title in my top ten.
I’m probably going to spend more time talking about the worst and best books than the mid-level ones, since there’s more to talk about with something bad than something okay. Though, I will note that the books in the middle are actually pretty good.
52. Green Arrow
They’ve made Oliver Queen into a really generic superhero, with boardroom problems that are a retread of stories we’ve seen with Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark. I liked Phil Hester’s lengthy run on the title with Kevin Smith, Brad Metzer and Judd Winick, so I may be biased against this take on Ollie as a younger guy. It also means that there’s much less to distinguish him from other street-level vigilantes.
The main arc for the first few issues involves a supervillain reality show, and there have been much better swipes at the idea of Reality TV in superhero comics. The one highlight of the book is Oliver Queen’s choice of a weapons guy, which fits the character pretty well. In terms of sales, it’s one of two titles that’s doing worse after the relaunch. With the third issue, JT Krul handed over the writing reins to Dan Jurgens, although there will be another (Ann Nocenti) on the book pretty soon.
Pete Woods’s art is pretty good, and this concept for a Legion of Superheroes spinoff (the team is trapped in the current era, trying to prevent a time-traveller from committing catastrophic harm) is promising. The nature of the threat (essentially a virus that gives people super-powers) is effective, and there’s a cool scene when a civilian decides that he wants to keep the powers for himself.
The problem with the book is that I just don’t care about the members of the team. It might be different for someone more familiar with the Legion, but these guys just seem really generic. Aside from the guy in the containment suit (which has been done in many other superhero titles) there’s no memorable personality, or reason to be emotionally invested. The mission is interesting, but those undertaking it aren’t. This is something that should have high stakes on a personal level for the heroes. I guess I should credit Nicezia for not going with the cliche of time-travelers having comic misunderstandings when trapped in the present, but that could have been entertaining.
Nicezia will be out as writer as of Issue 7, replaced by Tom Defalco.
50. The Savage Hawkman
Phillip Tan’s art reminds me of Tim Sale, especially with the coloring. There’s a brutality to it, which is quite appropriate for the character.
I like Carter Hall as the lead. He’s more arrogant than the typical superhero, which is always entertaining. But the main story for the first four issues is a mess. There’s some sort of ancient alien evil that I don’t really care about. The series had an impressive and promising opening with Carter trying to destroy his suit, but it’s never touched on again. Considering how convoluted the character’s backstory is, I would have appreciated a little more information in the character’s first Post-Flashpoint issue. The last issue is the strongest, with the Gentleman Ghost as a creepy villain.
It’s one of the titles Rob Liefeld will be taking over. While I’m not his biggest fan, Hawk and Dove at least ranks higher than Hawkman.
My biggest problem with this series about an elite government team is that there isn’t much of a frame of reference. It’s just not clear what type of cases these guys usually deal with, which makes it hard to decipher the significance of certain events. All you have to go on is other comic books, with similar protagonists. There also isn’t much of a sense of what these people do in their downtime, or how they usually get along with one another.
The action sequences are competent enough, though there’s hardly a shortage of that in the new DCU. A promising plot about the program being exposed doesn’t go anywhere yet. There are some cool details, with talking dogs and a hanger with dozens of really expensive aircraft. The last issue is the strongest, with two guys trapped in a space station, coming up with a creative solution to their problem.
I like the voices in the hero’s head, and his general badass demeanor. The action sequences are competent, but usually bland. The set-up and the payoff is usually more memorable than the fight. The enemy is increasingly generic, as there are many secret invasions in comic books, and even the new DCU. Hell, this particular enemy seems to be more interesting in another title. There’s something vaguely amateurish about this series, especially in the first and fourth issues.
The book consistently gets a B/ B- grade from Minhquan Nguyen of weeklycomicbookreview,com, so your mileage may vary. This is the other title Rob Liefeld will be taking over.