Batwing was a pleasant surprise in DC's New 52, fresh hero and fresh setting and freshly written from Judd Winick with some very nice, clean art by Marcus To. I don't think the totality of the first year has been up to the promise of the first issue. We got a very attenuated origin that was interesting but which went on too long, a lot of information withheld mostly because, why do in two parts what you can do in four. A lot of effort given to getting Batman involved because its a bat book, to fitting the Batwing square into the circular Night of the Owls. But for all my disappointment that the series isn't as good as it maybe could have been, it's been good enough for me to keep buying it every month. The 0 issue takes us back to that period of time between the "Batwing as a child" part of the origin and the actual becoming Batwing and becoming part of the international network of Bat thingies. No real surprises, there aren't many blanks in this issue that we couldn't have filled in ourselves. But the writing is solid, the art is solid, I'll keep going but always with the deep down wish for it to achieve something more.
One of the frustrations with Geoff Johns is that he doesn't seem to understand in writing Aquaman that there's a minutes-per-dollar part of the value equation that we apply toward our leisure time. Comics are, at best, mid-tier. TV is cheap and plentiful, movies are surprisingly cheap, Broadway is expensive. Regular books are great value. Aquaman is shitty value.
Not Batgirl #0, Gail Simone delivers a script that's sufficiently wordy to make me feel I'm getting my money's worth without being the overly prolix prose of bad Roy Thomas, or the early issues of the New 52 Superman. There's enough room left on the page for me to really admire the artwork of Ed Benes, both pencils and inks. It manages to feel clean and give a sense of charcoals or loosely finished pencils at the same time. It made me want to longer, which hasn't happened too much since I stopped having a chance to admire Pier Gallo's art on the pre-52 Superboy written by Jeff Lemire. Even though Batgirl is a familiar character, there's some fresh ground, fresh insight, into the character. Of the 0 issues I've commented on so far, this might just be my favorite.
Writer Scott Snyder collaborates with penciller Greg Capullo and inker Jonathan Glapion on Batman 0. This would be a good issue by the standards of almost every other book in the New 52. But Scott Snyder's done such excellent work over the first year of his New 52 run on Batman, which might be the most consistently excellent of the books, that his 0 issue falls just a little bit short. In part, I think it's a little too intent on introducing the Red Hoods as villains for a forthcoming arc in the series or event in the DC Universe that it can't quite be all it should be in this issue. But still, good enough. There's a backup story Tomorrow by James Tynion IV and Andy Clarke that does well enough in its purpose-driven life of touching on all the various Robins and other Batman sidekicks that need a shout-out in the 0 issues.
Grifter is the entry point to a discussion of the Daemonite books in the New 52. It, Voodoo and Resurrection Man all started out with first issues that were awfully good and had me looking forward to discovering some new and interesting heroes with new and interesting things going on. But then all of them ended up being part of some mega-story about this group of aliens called the Daemonites that must be part of some pre-52 DCU something or other that I didn't even get the bare outlines of from some kind of osmosis process. The contrast for this is Swamp Thing and Animal Man, which dealt with a lot of stuff about red, green and rot that I hadn't read much of during my many years completely away from comics and then ten years reading some but not too many of the standard Superhero books. As the story lines in all three books converged on the whole Daemonite thing, they became progressively less interesting to me, and I'd look at each new book but became increasinly reluctant to by them. It didn't help that the books were often not offering good value, more 4 or 5 minute reads than 7 or 8 minutes.
Which is kind of the story of Grifter. The creative team has changed, with Rob Liefeld as a new plotter as of the 8th or 9th issue with dialogue by Frank Tieri and art by Scott Clark and Dave Beaty. And there are some interesting concepts in the script about Grifter's background. But there are also those damned Daemonites that I just don't find to be very interesting. And there are too many pages like the double-page spread on page 2+3 or pages 12 and 16 and 17 that don't have many words and don't have art that makes me want to stop and stare and linger, so I'm not feeling a lot of value for my $2.99.
Green Lantern #0 by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke and a trio of inkers got a lot of press (Johns was doing an appearance in Dearborn MI while I was in Ann Arbor, so the local papers were all over this, but the national media was certainly on this) for introducing a new Arab-American Green Lantern.
Other than trying Green Lantern: New Guardians for a few issues before it too drowned in continuity, I skipped the Green Lanterns books because they were too reliant on prior continuity even after the New 52 reboot. To give some credit where due, the attention to this issue, a fresh origin story that was continuity free, inspired me to give it a go. If there are a few other people like me... there's some real thought and real smarts behind what DC's been up to the past year.
I'm not sure where I'll go from here. I'd like to be reading a Green Lantern book. This one isn't bad. But is it good enough? The script and art were unclear enough that I didn't realize until a few pages later on when everyone else was talking about it that the new Green Lantern had found a car bomb in the van he hijacked. I don't instinctively find car thieves to be the kinds of identifiable lead characters that are going to get me super interested in what they are up to. It's hard to sympathize with the guy when he's being interrogated because the bomb might not have been his, but he sure did steal the van that was holding the bomb. There isn't enough in here to explain or justify how this guy is the "man without fear" type that I recall earned a Green Lantern ring, or is that one of the things that changed in the many years I wasn't reading Green Lantern books? But is is new, it is different, there's some nice classic comic book art (the interrogation scenes, especially. We'll see. Not as good as it should be, not bad, the odds are I can give it a few issues, and then it will drown in some big GL title crossover saga that won't interest me, and I'll have a convenient excuse to repurpose that $2.99 in my budget. But I've gotta say, I'd love to be pleasantly surprised, to see this series gain its sea-legs and for the GL titles to enter an extended period when they can be read without requiring a degree in GL history.