Thursday, September 8, 2011

Comic Book Review: Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #1

Headlining the first official week of "New 52" releases this September, the newest volumes of Action Comics and Detective Comics, the two main books of DC Comics, have done more than just hype up the fact that the DC relaunch is at hand. They've been generating favorable reviews... And they're selling out fast in comic book stores everywhere as of this post! With the overwhelming buzz surrounding both issues and other new #1 DC books like Batgirl and last week's Justice League, it can be fair to assume that the publisher's gamble at relaunching all of their titles is quickly paying off by spears and numbers. While I'm still deliberating over what other books I'll be picking up in the next few weeks, there was no question in my mind that Action Comics #1 and Detective Comics #1 were definitely required in my pull list. Now, here are my thoughts on both of 'em, and if you're hoping to keep yourself from SPOILERS, best turn away now.

Action Comics #1

I have to admit, I was VERY SKEPTICAL of the new Action Comics series the first time I learned about "The New 52". When advanced solicitations showed an image of a "Blue T-Shirt wearing Superman with a mini red cape and jeans", I just couldn't fathom the idea of everyone's favorite Man of Steel dressed in those clothes and being taken seriously by readers. However, what I didn't count on was the fact that legendary comic writer Grant Morrison was the one handling the writing chores, and given the fact that this is the man who mapped out epic storylines in JLA, New X-Men, and Batman, it was more than enough reason to place faith and trust in the book and reserve judgement until its release. Well, that time has arrived, and after carefully reading page by page of the all-new Action Comics #1, I can honestly say that Morrison has once again delivered a real solid book for the masses, one that will boldly introduce a new kind of Superman for the new DC generation!

To the point, Action Comics #1 is more of a "Smallville" meets "Superman: Year One" type of story, focusing on the early career of Clark Kent as he establishes himself in Metropolis and tries to fashion himself as a career as a hero that champions the oppressed and stands for Social Justice. Morrison clearly has fun writing this one, and his take on Superman is totally different than what I've seen of the hero in recent years. Clearly "cynical and idealistic" as the writer points out in several interviews before the issue was released, Clark is a young man who doesn't like bullies and corrupt people, and will take action as necessary to prove a point and do what he feels is right, even if it means breaking the law to do so. His Superman outfit in this story is as realistic as it gets, wearing a T-Shirt/ Jean combo that takes a cue from the looks popularized by Linda Danvers and Conner Kent, aka Supergirl and Superboy respectively. While it looks outright ridiculous from the onset, I've begun to appreciate the "Superman Begins" more after reading this issue. Clark is still starting out fresh and green, so the outfit compliments his early beginnings. Outside from heroics and vigilantism, he's also still baking bread and starting up as a young reporter, trying to keep up the rent in his simple apartment while tipping off information to fellow co-workers in the industry, namely Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Oh, and Lex Luthor makes his first appearance too, showing that he remains as diabolical and devious as ever.

Feeling a lot more "Spider-Man" attitude wise than the actual Boy Scout I remember, this new take on Superman counts as a remarkable entry point into the new world DC Comics has crafted for readers new and old alike. Morrison's fantastic writing is further complimented by the spectacular visuals of one Rags Morales, who is also known for drawing the controversial but superb storyline Identity Crisis back in 2004. Each page screams of realism and brilliance, and whether or not you're a Superman fan to begin with, this book with a $3.99 will certainly justify the purchase and leave you screaming for more once you gaze at the last page. Bottomline, is Action Comics #1 a successful debut issue? Absolutely.

Rating - 5/5

Detective Comics #1

One of the things I dreaded about the DC Reboot initially was that the publisher would potentially do the proverbial "wipe the slate clean" process on every single one of their characters, thereby erasing years of continuity that took decades to conceive and establish as acceptable canon within the fanbase. Thankfully, such is not the case for certain DC heroes like Batman and Green Lantern, who have their histories intact and carried over prior to the relaunch, effectively landing in the "semi-reboot" category. With that in mind, I was hellbent on procuring myself a copy of Detective Comics #1, one of the four new main Batbooks to hit The New 52 comic stream. From the solicitations and artwork alone, I knew this was my pick for a Batman book, and it also marks the first time that the Dark Knight headlines a 1st issue of Detective Comics, since his original appearance was Volume 1 of Detective Comics #27 in May 1939!

As THE flagship title of DC, responsibility for the new Detective Comics falls squarely in the shoulders of one Tony S. Daniel, who pulls off double duty as the writer and artist of this ongoing new series. Daniel is no stranger to Batman, having worked his share of projects that highlight pivotal moments in the character's history, particularly in Batman R.I.P with Grant Morrison and working the candle at both ends as writer and penciller of Battle of the Cowl and (eventually) the main Batman title during Dick Grayson's tenure as The Dark Knight of Gotham City. With the reboot now in motion, Mr. Daniel now has the prerogative to start fresh with his take on Batman, and this time it's back to the original himself, Bruce Wayne. It's back to the basics with Detective, and while it's not so much a retelling or origin story, this issue does allow entry for even those unfamiliar with anything related to the Bat-mythos. As the title suggests, Detective Comics #1 focuses more on the analytical thought process and detecting capabilities of Batman, with a nice balance of action and mystery thrown in for good measure to keep things from getting too dull or boring. Obviously set during the early years of the Caped Crusader's career,  he tracks down a madman who's "the worst kind of criminal, with no true pattern involved, namely his longtime arch-nemesis, The Joker. Yes, The Clown Prince of Crime also makes an appearance in this issue, and while it's indicated throughout the story that they've encountered each other numerous times, this is like their first major battle here, and it shines through well and good thanks to the direction and artwork of Mr. Daniel. His interpretation of the Joker is pretty much another amalgamation of the comic book one and Christopher Nolan's version from "The Dark Knight". Even Batman is represented here as such, though there are some subtle influences from Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns that show, especially when it comes to the Batman's "never give up" attitude and perseverance towards his mission to stop criminality. It's nothing that hasn't been done before, other than the story also serving as a springboard for a new kind of villain that sounds as cliche as his name implies. Daniel already has a reputation for introducing new blood into his Batman stories, but will it become acceptable in the long run? Since this is just the first issue, we'll just have to wait and see how it performs down the line.

Yes, it may come off as your typical Batman adventure story-wise, but there's no denying that the presentation and art in Detective Comics #1 is simply in touch with the dark and gritty atmosphere a book of its caliber demands. Truth be told, I simply got it for the pencils. Daniel's drawing style fits well with Gotham City and its inhabitants, and while I think his style got harder and edgier than his previous works, I still enjoy it for the most part. Writing-wise it's ok, and I'd recommend this only for casual and longtime Batman fans to explore. I'm a big fan of Batman, but this will sell primarily because of the art in general. Overall a fine debut issue, but those looking for serious reading may want to hold out until Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman #1 hits shelves by the end of this month.

Rating - 4/5

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