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DC Comics “The New 52” First Issues: “The Dark” Titles

As previously blogged about in the PiercingMetal Musings; DC Comics recently re-launched a number of titles and started them off from issue #1 under the branding of “The New 52”. The initiative’s prime objective being to up the number of titles available each month and to offer new readers an easier chance to jump on board with their characters. New costumes and beginnings are par for the course with the reboot but a number of the company’s most historic moments shall remain unaffected. The New 52 appears to have segmented the titles into a number of different groups based on the relation of the character – for instance there is a Superman and Batman grouping to enjoy and each title relates directly to the character. From these segments I have opted to share my thoughts on the first issues for your reading pleasure. “The Dark” appears to deal with those heroes and villains and others that go bump in the night and that made me think immediately to the nineties and Marvel’s oddly received “Rise Of The Midnight Sons” line of books. There were some winners there and of course losers as well. The Dark line did strike a chord of intrigue for me and those titles are Justice League Dark, Swamp Thing, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Animal Man, I Vampire, Resurrection Man and Demon Knights. I did NOT manage to get copies of every title so those are only presented in their cover art. I do apologize to my readers and should I obtain them going forward the views will be added in post-mortem.

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“Justice League Dark” #1

Justice League Dark #1: The existence of a Justice League Dark piqued my interest quickly and it was a reminder of the whole Legion Of Monsters and the aforementioned Midnight Sons angle that Marvel Comics once did. You might recall those stories where the more questionable powers for good had free reign on the world’s villainy and dispatched them with little worry or mercy. As you know the DC Universe has a lot of mysterious powers of their own and this title rounds a bunch of them up and finds them working together for the sake of the world. That being said we find Madame Xanadu being put to a proper use along with Shade The Changing Man, Zatanna, Deadman and John Constantine (Hellblazer) who have joined together against the madness of The Enchantress in the debut of the new team. What intrigued me was how a number of Vertigo characters were now firmly ensconced in regular continuity and I will say that I was fine with that as periodically the Vertigo line was too “out there” for me. Several members of the Justice League make an appearance to show just how helpless they are against the forces of magic as a whole (with the exception of Zatanna) and while this took more pages than I felt were necessary to establish, it leaves us plenty of room for this team to build into something very interesting. I was happy to find Madame Xanadu in this title because she has a lot of potential as a character and never seems to be used as good as she can be. I also felt that it might be more interesting to see a return to original form for Shade than what his Vertigo title was doing. I am on the fence about Constantine though but remain open minded to see what the Brit brings to the table in this kind of scenario. Deadman barely makes an appearance but Zatanna comes off as a strong and independent character and before you ask, no, there are no fishnets and top hat in this one. Sorry to disappoint you but perhaps she will change over time as well. I am interested in the second issue for sure and hope that we find The Phantom Stranger, Mr. E. or perhaps even Doctor 13 paying a visit. The story is penned by Peter Milligan with art by Mikel Janin. Nice stuff from Mikel for sure and a solid read from Milligan.

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“Swamp Thing” #1

Swamp Thing #1: Since the Swamp Thing was such a respected mythos in the DC Comics library they would really have to do something interesting to make it work with The New 52 and they start off by offering up an environmental upheaval of epic proportions. We see some kind of plague hitting the natural resources of fish, birds and bats in Metropolis, Gotham City and Atlantis and also get glimpses of the main heroes from each of those regions. We meet up with Alec Holland who we learn was never actually Swamp Thing ever but he has memories of the being that might as well be his own. Superman tracks him down as he believes the mystery behind this plague can be answered by him but the man of steel discovers that he could not have been more wrong. There is something truly nasty out there and it’s getting more powerful by the moment and it already has the attention of the Swamp Thing who we (and Holland) meet at the final page of the issue. I found it interesting that Holland was never the creature but had memories of it so I am intrigued at seeing where this goes. It will be very hard to surpass that which was done by Alan Moore but perhaps this will be a good read just the same. Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette work their creative magic on this modern day horror tale.

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“Animal Man” #1

Animal Man #1: This once Forgotten Hero had an interesting title back in 1988 which was written by Grant Morrison. The book made use of several other long unused characters along with some new and very different ones and plugged along steady until becoming more of a horror themed Vertigo title that really threw readers for a loop. Although I lost track of what became of him over the years I can proudly report that he is now back in action as a part of The New 52 and I had to say that I was very surprised to find this title being revisited when they could have given us something that more people might have enjoyed. As the title opens up we find Animal Man being interviewed and learn that an independent film is being made about him. We discover that he is not all that active at this point in time and this seems to annoy his wife and in some sense his children. He chooses to jump into the fray to help out the authorities who are dealing with a hostage situation at a nearby hospital and while he manages to defuse the problem his powers act up and this brings our villain for the tale into the picture. I was not sure if they were called “Rot In The Red” or “Hunters Three” or if that was just their attempt at being poetic, but in any event they seem like a nasty bunch of buggers. They visit him in a dream and when he goes to check on the safety of his loved ones well…..let’s just say that the final page will leave you slightly shaken and wondering how the mere powers of various animals will help him. I can say that this one kept my interest and seemed to blend the original vibe of the comic book along with some of his Forgotten Hero legacy and a twist of the Vertigo style all into one clever soup. This might be a winner in the batch for “The Dark” segmentation of titles. The book comes care of Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman and Dan Green.

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“Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E.” #1

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1: Have not reviewed.

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“I, Vampire” #1

I, Vampire #1: The apparent “Vampire Craze” that media has found itself in these days made me slightly fearful of the new go round for “I, Vampire”. I loved the original series that ran in “House Of Mystery” a number of years ago as the premise was a strong one. Do you know what I mean in this? Well, if not we had an unwilling vampire who was trying to stop his mate from ravaging the world around him with her own vampire powers. The character was a Colonial named Andrew Bennett and his popularity found him often starring in the other titles of the day. Fast forward to the re-launch and we find much of the premise the same in terms of the larger storytelling but our vampire antagonist and protagonist are of a much younger vintage. Andrew and his Mary are still vampires at odds but it seems as though Andrew is killing off as many of her creations as possible. I don’t remember this from the original tales but it’s been years since I read them. Bennett respects humanity while Mary (the Queen Of Blood) views us as livestock who merely exist to be food. Nice girl, err vamp I mean. Needless to say Bennett has his work cut out for him, as Mary is a vicious sort who is at war with mankind and wants nothing more than to exterminate us all. Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino are the creative edge behind this dark corner of the DC Comics mythos and I will hope that this gets a little deeper in terms of the tale. Just having vampires being after humans or heroes and vice versa can get boring. Of course as long as this doesn’t get all “Vampire Diaries” or “Twilight” on us I think we shall be alright.

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“Resurrection Man” #1

Resurrection Man #1: : I really enjoyed the Abnett and Lanning creation “Resurrection Man” when it was a short-lived title back in the late nineties and while it was more of a “cult hit” I had to admit a little surprise to find him getting a relaunch in The New 52. To bring those who don’t know the character up to speed. Mitch Shelley is the Resurrection Man and his powers include the ability to rise after being killed and to do so with a different power or gift each time he does. The original series found him facing off with Vandal Savage (another immortal in the DC Universe), The Justice League and many more. The new title finds us watching him rise after a recent termination and being drawn to an airplane for some reason that escapes even him. He appears to detect various metals in this incarnation and let’s just leave the fact that his journey on the plane is interesting to say the least. He encounters trouble as most of our card carrying super types are known to have happen and we get a hint that there are some serious powers looking for him to make his abilities their own. The original creative team is joined by Fernando Dagnino for this one and I rather enjoyed the debut issue. For some reason the character was so different from everyone else and the stories were good. Let’s hope the same remains for the new book. Oh and a quick spoiler, we do see Madame Xanadu in the first issue and that was interesting. Maybe they are teasing readers with the idea of a Resurrection Man and Justice League Dark crossover. Only time will tell.

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“Demon Knights” #1

Demon Knights #1: If you are tired of the hustle and bustle of the Facebook and Twitter world of today then perhaps you would like to take a ride way back in time to the Dark Ages for tales of intrigue and magic among witches, wizards and mystical entities from realms beyond. That’s what we appear to get with “Demon Knights” #1, the story of the demon Etrigan and his human host Jason Blood. We get a little Madame Xanadu as well in the title and apparently she is the lover of The Demon and the sinister Vandal Savage makes an appearance as well. There’s a new version of The Shining Knight who is a female this time around and there is also a character that might be from Wonder Woman’s future birthplace of Themyscira based on the way she describes her homeland. There is a lot of magic and some mayhem and spells to be enjoyed and if you are a fan of the sword and sorcery kind of stuff this one might be for you. I always enjoyed those kinds of tales when they were done right. I am unsure if the title plans on keeping itself firmly in the past or will go making jumps to the future continuity and do back and forth things but I will not mind this if it’s all done to proper effect. The overall mythos of the character does not appear to have changed much from what I remember but they did change the magic phrase of “Change! Change, O form of man! Release the might from fleshy mire! Boil the blood in heart of fire! Gone! Gone! — the form of man — Rise, the Demon Etrigan!” to a simpler “Concealed within the form of man, release the Demon Etrigan”. I guess that is easier to remember at the end of the day. I liked what I read and saw in this one and since it ended with a horde of dragons breaking down a wall I sure do what to see what happens next. You’ll have to pick up the issue as well because Jason Blood will not be Tweeting his actions for you to follow.

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2 thoughts on “DC Comics “The New 52” First Issues: “The Dark” Titles”

  1. I’ll confess to only being familiar with the Justice League gang, but this sounds like the most attractive grouping yet and the one I’d hunt for first. The non-traditional more intricate art looks great.

  2. Of the ones I’ve read so far, I enjoy Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Detective, & Action. My main problem with comics is the price, but the above stories were written & drawn well.

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