The New 52 Twelve Issues On – Week Three – Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Red Hood, Catwoman, Green Lantern, Shade, DC Universe Presents, Supergirl, Blue Beetle, Birds Of Prey, Nightwing And Captain Atom

UPDATE: Now with added Birds Of Prey

A year into DC’s New 52 and its the third week of looking at the twelfth issues… and the series so far.

In its twelfth issue of Birds Of Prey, the cracks in this coalition of interests break open and crumble. It’s been entertaining to watch the good guys, bad guys and whatever they are in between work together for common interest, mutually assured destruction and pure blackmail. And depsite all that, be surprisingly effective. Here, things fall apart and the centre cannot hold. Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! The book has made a strength over the unlikely participants within in, then exploiting the new popuarity of Batgirl, even if that meant pushing the person responsible for that popularity aside to do so. It’s also a successful all female superbook, a hard thing to get right in this market.

Red Hood And The Outlaws was one of the most controversial relaunches, in that it wiped out history and portrayed Starfire as a sexually obsessed goldfish. Then the critics were accused of slut shaming, epithets rang across the internet and the book… just kept doing it. Originally planned as a T+ title that got shunted to a T, it still wore its intended older audience on its sleeve, and a combination of Lobdell just seeing what he could get away with and Rocafort pushing levels of taste all over the place (and as you can see it hasn’t stopped), strangely enough it fulfilled a similar role to X-Force back in the Liefeld days, with added story content. And it kept its audience as a result. One of the strongest performers given that it’s a brand new title. Lobdell’s Superboy and Teen Titans were tamer… but what will their Superman be like?

 

Blue Beetle gives us sci-fi on the streets and in the schoolyard. It treads a well worn path of a boy and an alien, only in this case the boy is wearing the alien. There’s lots of Terminator 2 in here as well, as danger comes to the ones he loves, and the two try to find a way to co-exist. It hasn’t sold that well as a comic book, and people like me still mourn for the glory JLI days of Ted Kord, but damn it if this isn’t just itching to be made into a TV series. If only it didn’t look like he was crying all the time.

Supergirl has been very much a hero finding her place in the world, a world that seemingly has been prepared for them to come to. There’s a lot of anger here, but it is inherently teenage anger, misplaced, misspent and often pointless, part of the growing process. But she hasn’t done anything too stupid. But that has a tendency to make the comic feel pointless as well, and they haven’t been that good at getting the comic past that.

Oh and by the way, this issue has possible Superman #13 spoilers, two months before that issue comes out. So there’s that…

Wonder Woman has been one of the outstanding comics of the New 52, that took the idea of rebooting/relaunching to heart and gave us a very different book, in both story and art. A darker world has taken us away from humanity and into the world of gods. It seems inconceivable that we are meant to regard this as the same character as in Justice League, but that makes this book even better, it’s a story about a story, it’s another version of this icon, its separate from everything else around it, and it delivers a primal but complex experience. That it sells as well as it does, practically a Vertigo version of the character, is a testament to how well balanced this book is, seemingly without compromise. Dazzling.

Saying that, this month’s Batwoman manages to bring in Wonder Woman with a kind of best-of-both-worlds take, as JH Williams III portrays the journeys of two warriors coming together through their various worlds. This is probably the issue most comparable to Promethea, as the double page spreads split into two tales, with different art styles for each, dancing around the other. Issue by issue, even without JH directly on the page, this comic has delivered the most dazzlingly impressive storytelling and it’s a crying shame that the collection didn’t choose the abandoned Scott Dunbier sideways-Promethea layout to present this comic in hardcover form. My heart races, my pulse quickens, my fingers tremble to pick this comic up month after month. I’m doing it now…

DC Universe Presents gives us a story of Kid Flash dealing with humanoid dinosaurs, with their own issues, running around the place. In the same week as Amazing Spider-Man does that. With both characters exhibiting similar vibes, it was a strange read back to back, but it also made for a poor comparison. This book, jumping from character to character like the Deadman that kicked the series off has had no real anchor to hold it down, and that’s probably a flaw. I keep losing interest in the book and am rarely excited to check it out. This issue hasn’t changed that.

Shade, well, issue eleven, you’ve almost made it, and as this Starman spinoff continues to throw up fantastic images from fantastic artists, this month we get an excuse for Frazer Irving to give us his own take on the Jack Kirby giant cosmic beings. His style is oh so different, but with foreshortening, glowing lines and Aztec influence, Irving portrays one man who is finding a way to dance with the Gods… or the Devils, And isn’t that, made text, what this story has been about?

Green Lantern may have been one of the books that was allowed not to reboot, just jiggle some of the history of certain cast members. Which is probably why we’re back to the Black Hand again. But the play between Sinestro and Hal Jordan, back on the same side, has been a most enjoyable one. And Johns has clearly picked up on the one good thing about the movie, Mark Strong, Sinestro, and played it for everything it’s worth. But just as with Paul Cornell on Lex Luthor, and Kieron Gillen on Loki, you focus on that character so much, I don’t want him to be bad anymore, I want redemption, I want a new accord. And you just know that’s never going to happen. But on Green Lantern, you must ask, if the two must be opposed, I’d much rather Hal Jordan goes the Parallax route again..,. or something similar?

Catwoman was one of the most despised of the relaunch book, but it became a real guilty pleasure for me. Actually not that guilty, I went on about it a lot. It seemed to sag in the middle, possibly a victim of its critics, but in this issue’s mix of crime, murder, sex and depravity, as well as one of the truly great opening lines (I’ll run that later), we also get a slight reprieve of Hitman’s method of summoning Catwoman. Of course, back then, they used a dead cat on a lamp, but the principle is the same.

Nightwing has been a surprising book that has gained an audience through dint of being good. It has explored a number of different genres, within its generally tight street-superhero boundaries, and this issue brings out the Agatha Christie, getting the bad guy to explain his whole plan and for Nightwing to reveal what he did and didn’t know – and more importantly, when. A well structured superhero book that looks pretty dope as well. And eBay likes it too!

Captain Atom is more of an enigma. It skirted the first cancellations of the Second Wave, despite selling less than certain books that were dropped. And it always seemed to have a plan, as certain issues began to dovetail into earlier events, travelling in time, with the rules of causality getting all mixed up. But did it have a grander purpose?

This issue, gives two very strong moments of note. The first, looking at the edge of the known DC Universe sees another universe being wiped out by this one.

Is this the event that occurred at the end of Flashpoint? Is the original Old DC Universe being wiped out constantly by the new? Is this meta commentary on comic book reality…  mourning what was lost for the reboot a year ago? Is it a planned reboot? Is it something to hang a whole crossover on?

The other note… well this book has, naturally, been compared by some to the portrayal of Dr Manhattan in Watchmen, but at the end of this issue, everyone will be doing it. Just before the new Dr Manhattan book comes out as well…

Winner of the week? Batwoman. Winner of the week of the year? Ditto.

Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.