Free Comic Book Day 2012: DC The New 52

If the purpose of Free Comic Book Day is to attract the attention of non-reading super hero and comic book fans, did DC: The New 52 succeed?

Well…

I would safely say that this was more of a “preaching to the choir” type of promotional item. It really didn’t do anything to gain new readers. If the beauty of the New 52 relaunch was to attract new readers by making things clearer, this freebie furthers what’s going been on in DC the last year.

It starts out with some council of cosmic elders “punishing”  three of their own to wander the Earth. One of them is the hooded woman named Pandora who has been popping up since the beginning of the New 52. The other is a newly revamped Phantom Stranger. But the third is the new Question. Unfortunately he isn’t investigative reporter Vic Sage (or disgraced detective Renee Montoya) taking matters into his own hands. He’s now a dissident faced to wander the world faceless. Eep.

Pandora winds up infiltrating Steve Trevor’s ARGUS facility (in SAT analogy form, Trevor is to ARGUS as Nick Fury is to SHIELD) to steal the contents of Pandora’s box. Not only that, but they see a transmission of the Justice League of Earth 2. The story ends with the Justice League inexplicably fighting a group of other super heroes, including a new Green Lantern, Vibe, Green Arrow and what appears to be Black Adam. Now I’m confused.

What Geoff Johns wrote and the art team of Jim lee, Gene Ha, Ivan Reis and company drew wasn’t bad, there was just way too much stuff going on. Any one of these plotlines would have done, but don’t shove the introduction to Pandora’s back story and new characters into the first contact with another universe and a new group all at once. It was overkill.

The fun stuff was the two page previews for the next wave of New 52 titles. So what do I think about these?

  • The War That Time Forgot looks amazing, solely for the Ariel Olivetti art.
  • Batman Incorporated seems to be going into Batman: The Dark Knight territory.
  • Dial H For Hero looks like an indie horror book.
  • I think I’ll wait for Earth 2 to hit the trades before I consider reading it.
  • World’s Finest‘s revamp of Power Girl and Huntres really really makes me miss the Post-Crisis versions of the characters.
  • With the characters they chose and art by Ian Churchillthe Ravagers book reminds me of something that Wizard would have extensively covered during the 1990s.
  • GI Combat looks really cool, since it’s a non-capes book.
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Namor The First Mutant #1-4: Curse of the Mutants

Thanks to the Twilight novels, vampires are all the rage in popular culture. In 2010, the X-Men spent some times fighting off the bloodsuckers, so it’s no surprise that X-ally Namor would wind up fighting underwater vampires in the first four issues of Namor The First Mutant.

In recent years, living in Atlantis has been pretty rough. The fabled underwater kingdom was destroyed and its residents now live under the X-Men mutants-only island of Utopia. Now they have to deal with a vampire invasion. Great.

It’s up to Namor to gather up the Atlantean forces to fight them off. Not only does he have to recover some ancient relic from the vampires, but it turns out his long missing (and extremely loathsome) grandfather Tha-Korr is not only one of them but their highlord.

Writer Stuart Moore did an exemplary job with this, as he put together a whole mythology for Atlantis that wasn’t ever shown before. I’m sure the vampire business was an editorial mandate and he made it work. Art wise, Ariel Olivetti’s work is mind-blowing as usual. There are some fill-in pages by Andres Guinaldo, though well rendered, are so stylistically different from Olivetti that kind of break up the flow of the book. It’s not a negative against Guinaldo, they just juxtapose too much.

Both artists do deserve a lot of credit for finding interesting ways to depict the characters moving in the ocean. I can imagine it must be pretty hard, as you have to think spatially how characters would relate to each other under water, as there is no up or down. There’s just space. Olivetti and Guinaldo not only understand that, but that everything is perpetually moving by undercurrents. It’s much harder to show ebbs and flows  on the comics page, then say an animated film like The Little Mermaid. But they succeed as you can clearly tell that everything is under the water.

If you read this in its trade paperback format, there’s also a great account of the life and times of Namor, as recounted by his cousin Namora. If you want to read more about the character’s life and personal history, this does a great job of summing up about seventy years of back story.