Comic-book consumer guide: Grading the new DC #1s, 'Batgirl,' 'Detective Comics,' and more

DC Comics has released so many new #1 issues this week, it seemed as though a collection of quick, concise reviews is in order. So, with a deep bow to Robert Christgau, who invented the music version of this format, here’s a Comic Book Consumer Guide.

Detective Comics With writer-artist Tony S. Daniel doing Batman, you know the art (sinewy anatomy lessons; crinkly fabric textures) is going to be superior to the story (someone’s been reading his old Thomas Harris/Jack Ketchum paperbacks, hasn’t he?). Still, if you’re up for a bloody, naked Joker fix, this is your go-to book. B

Animal Man From the canny creation of a fake profile in The Believer (let’s hope it boosts sales of that fine mag among superhero fans) to the heartrending family drama that underpins this new story, this is probably the cream of the “New 52!” crop. Writer Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth) really knows how to convey the inner workings of the always-cerebral hero Buddy Baker. For more extensive analysis and reasons why, be sure to read Jeff Jensen’s upcoming post on this title. A-

Batgirl Writer Gail Simone takes her Birds of Prey storytelling powers and focuses them on the newly revived Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. The result is a burst of exhilaration, as Barbara/Batgirl revels in her new freedom even as she encounters a so-far not-terribly-chilling villain called Mirror. B+

Hawk & Dove Mostly an excuse for artist Rob Liefeld to draw even sleeker, more hollow-cheeked, slightly more manga-ized versions of the hero duo he sculpted in the 1980s. Writer Sterling Gates is around to simply retell the (latter-day) origin story. As such, it lives up to DC’s promise to get you started if you don’t know Hawk and Dove from Wolverine and Kitty Pryde, but not much more. C+

And for those of you who missed my first post on this week’s new comics, here’s a quick summary of my review of

Action Comics From writer Grant Morrison, a rousing Superman tale. It presents a Superman who’s the guy we know from the waist up (blue shirt, red cape, “S” symbol on chest, forelock dangling flirtily from dark hair) but new from the waist down (jeans,motorcycle boots). This Superman does not believe the rich and poor are treated equally under the law. Excellent: a Superman with opinions about Earth folks’ justice system. A few comment writers here have observed that the wise-guy/rebel Superman portrayed here is Morrison’s way of harking back to the original, 1930s Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; a good smart aleck is timeless. B+

More DC #1 reviews to come; keep refreshing…

Twitter: @kentucker

More about comic books:
‘Action Comics’ #1 review: A radical Superman, forever in blue jeans?

Crisis In Comic Book Land? Comparing new and old ‘Justice League’ tells the tale

‘Justice League’ #1 review: Batman meets Superman, as DC Comics gets back to basics

Comic Book Heroes: A conversation between Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison

Comments (52 total) Add your comment
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  • Stretch

    The entire Batgirl reboot is not only ridiculous, but offensive in so many ways. I still cannot understand what possessed DC to take Barbara, one of the most powerful, intelligent, and mature women in the DC universe, and reduce her to little more than a bimbo-y college aged “girl” again. Not to mention the implications of removing one of the most positively portrayed disabled superheroes from continuity by “fixing” her (and therefore implying that there was anything to fix, strange considering the fact that Babs accepted her new role in Gotham years ago, after the Killing Joke.) So rather than foster new talent, like Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain in the mantle, and use them to bring in a new generation of readers, DC once again regresses to their usual pattern: reduce, reuse, recycle, and repeat. Anything to appeal to their steadily aging (and shrinking) demographic of men age 15-34. And in the process they’ve reduced one of their most complex female characters into nothing more than a hackneyed parody.

    • Wha’ever

      I agree it’s sad they did this ; Barbara Gordon was probably the best known disabled hero in the comics universe, and at the time, it was a very risky and interesting thing to do that to such a well known and popular character. However, in the “human” context, when you say “there’s nothing to fix”, I think you’re wrong : whe wasn’t born disabled, the Joker hurt her. If she’s had the choice, she would have wished to walk again. Now, in the comics context, I agree there was nothing to fix and making her walk again after all these years – and basically erasing her experience as a disabled hero – was wrong (but made sense as they’re going back in time.)

      • pang

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    • Normalman

      They did this because Barbara Gordon is who the broader public associates with being Batgirl (from movies, cartoons, and everywhere else). I think most current readers were fine with her and didn’t like undoing the seminal Killing Joke.

      As for “fixing” her, I don’t know many paraplegics, but I expect most would like to walk again given the opportunity.

    • Rob Grizzly

      Remember, they are restarting. Who’s to say she won’t be crippled again down the line? Relax

      • Flip

        They aren’t restarting. She was crippled and magically recovered. That’s what’s so insulting.

    • Booker Kevin

      This relaunch is being run by the same people who ran the Wildstorm imprint into the ground. Most of these titles won’t survive the first year or hell the first month…Josh, I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use PennyOrder.comONLY

    • gazmo

      Everyone hates Exxon Mobil for gas prices but $4.00 a gallon is only 16 times as much as it cost in 1960 – comics cost 40 times as much and they aren’t worth HALF that.
      Disney/Marvel greedheads make Bernie Madoff look like a philanthropist!!! . . . and DC is just as bad!!
      $3.99 for 24 FREAKIN’ PAGES of the new JLA???
      Playboy gives you nearly 200 pages (and boobies!!) for $5.99.
      Entertainment Weekly is 80 pages (give or take) for 39 CENTS an issue (if you subscribe online – shameless plug)
      24 pages for $3.99 is a MASSIVE RIPOFF!!!
      (and don’t tell me about all the DC and 2nd tier Marvel books for $2.99 – they’ve already cut the page count on those down to TWENTY per issue).
      1960: 24 pages of story for a dime = 4/10 of one cent per page.
      2011: 24 pages of story for $3.99 = more than 16.6 cents per page!!!
      At that price per page EW should go for about $12.50 per issue (omitting ad pages)!!
      In THIS economy ALL these comic companies deserve the demise their GREED calls for!!! The greedy trading card companies totally tanked their business with greed 10 years ago, and comics are begging to be next!!
      I’ve been reading – and enjoying – comics for 48 years but this relentless, unrepentant, corporate GREED BS is just too much!!

    • Mr. Effing Tea Party

      I heard her costume is muslin so I don’t like it.

  • Michael Painter

    Its not exactly Gail Simone’s fault in any of this. If anyone was to right a Batgirl comic, it would have to be Gail. I’m interested to see where this goes. I feel the characterization of the character is strong, but I find it funny that within a world of comics where anything is possible, the explanation for Barbara Gordon’s recovery is a “miracle>”

  • Michael Painter

    Where’s the review for Stormwatch, by the way?

  • Joseph Rice

    i think we’ll see more about the “miracle.” i mean, this is only the first issue. this book was fantastic, and really made Barbara’s return believable and real. the art is phenomenal, and i really can’t get over how excited i am for the next issue.

    • Adriana

      OK, I admit my son’s education had been lcaikng until 3 mins ago and he now reckons Prince is a little weird but does great music’ *snort*. Reply

  • Dustin

    Stormwatch? Swamp Thing?

    • sting314

      He did say there is more to come.

  • T

    Batgirl is back w/ B. Gordon in the suit and out of the wheelchair and away from her suped-up computers….and no Birds of Prey buddies…..


    If this, along with the other DC reboots don’t kill DC….nothing will ! SHEESH !

    The new 52 ? Please ! I rather be at Zero Hour !

    By the way, what happened to the Red Circle heroes like the Shield, Crusaders and the Web ? They were all over the DCU and then…poof !

  • seth

    uhm, detective scoring higher than batgirl and action? I dont trust.

  • redvector

    This relaunch is being run by the same people who ran the Wildstorm imprint into the ground. Most of these titles won’t survive the first year or hell the first month.

  • Mello Mastikan

    While I liked the new JLA, these new books didn’t do much for me (haven’t read Animal Man yet). I understand what DC is trying to do but I feel is a slap to the face to older fans to pretty much erase all continuity. I hope they don’t mess the Green Lantern books too much. BTW, Rob Liefield still sucks @$$!

    • Stretch

      Yeah, who decided re-hiring him was a good idea? I thought the 90’s were dead…

    • murley

      check out animal man. jeff lemire is a great writer (sweet tooth is awesome) and animal man is creepy and very good. it is the recommended pick at my local comic book store!

  • Realist

    You’re being kind to “Hawk and Dove”. And “Green Arrow” was absolutely terrible. “Stormwatch” wasn’t bad; it’s a bit de-fanged from the Ellis days, but it could be entertaining. “OMAC” was fun. Thus far, a mixed bag.

  • Geoff

    I need to run out to buy “Animal Man,” I seemed to have missed it with the other books I picked up yesterday. I’m hoping to wrap my head around “Stormwatch.” I love the Martian Manhunter, but I don’t think I quite understood the tone of the story.

  • John Kruger

    When does the “Archie” reboot arrive?

    • Realist

      Archie has been doing an ongoing soft reboot for a while now in terms of doing more modern stories with more publicity behind them.

  • Bruce Wayne

    I wish ppl would stop complaining about the new reboot. It happened. You can either embrace it or get pissed off and complain about it on comment boards forever. The fact is that these characters have the potential to go on forever and tell countless stories. People are going to come in throughout the years and change things up in order to keep the stories and characters fresh. It’s a way of life. Get over it, roll with the punches and move on. All the stories that have come before this are still there and a decade or two from now im sure many great stories will come out of this reboot.

    • Flip

      Don’t tell people how to feel. Go choke.

  • Normalman

    Frankly, DC could stand more reboot not less. I wish they’d of changed more about Supes – time to stop being a reporter – that made sense maybe 60 years ago. Be nice if Batman stopped being a part time omniscient superhero. He’s supposed to be a highly skilled non-powered human – he should stay away from duking it out with Darkseid. And they really need to rethink WW yet again to give us something interesting.

  • idviceroy

    I haven’t read nor do I intend to read all of the 1st reboot issues, but as a someone noted above, comic book companies will do this periodically AND pretty much HAVE to do this to keep the characters fresh. I was a teenager in the 80’s and there was a lot of backlash against DC for erasing continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths, but that new continuity, with the exception of some unnecessary tweeks (Zero Hour, hypertime) has lasted until, well…10 days ago! While the core of each of the characters needs to remain, I’m all for a fresh take. How fresh all of this remains to be seen, but hey, it’s a comic book. Things can change quickly.

    • ~~~~

      But what you’re referring to in the 80’s was actually part of a larger story, they didn’t just start over like they’re doing now. This isn’t creative at all.

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