Monday, June 15, 2015

Bizarro, Midnighter, and Section Eight AKA Throughts on the 1st Issue of Some New DC Comics

Does New = Good?
I talked some months ago about how for the first time in awhile DC appeared to have some newer titles on the horizon that looked intriguing to me. I've mentioned too many times to link-to (although I'll provide some links) how DC's publishing behavior has often irritated me--like when they were running 3 weekly series simultaneously, engaging in bizarre PR campaigns (anyone  else recall when they asked folk to draw Harely Quinn killing herself?), and so forth. That said, their "Batgirling" of the comic-line (also called "DC You") has brought with it the idea that perhaps they just maybe can have fun and energetic series alongside the morbidly depressing ones, and having to worry all the time about continuity should perhaps come second to telling a good story (crazy, I know). 

I keep to a pretty strict budget, but had a wee little bit of wiggle room (e.g. I had some extra scratch thanks to selling stuff on eBay) and have been able to purchase and sample some of DC's new offerings; plus, I dropped "Batman" because I felt 40 issues of the creative team varying between decent and mediocre wasn't worth following anymore, so that freed up some bucks. I picked up the first issues of the ongoing series and mini-series titled "Bizarro", "Midnighter", and "Section Eight", so I figured it would be fun to share my thoughts on them, and if I think they indicate DC moving in a different and fun direction.

The Comics...
Bizarro #1
This is cute. An in-continuity-but-not-requiring-of-any-continuity-knowledge story that is basically a road trip between two sorta-buddies who happen to be Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro. The impetus for the story is basically that Jimmy wants to prove to Clark Kent (before he was outed as Superman in another comic, I presume) he can have a successful trip with the warped-version of Superman and maybe write a book about it so he can get rich and famous. It's a paper-thin excuse for a plot, but everything is just so humorous and fun I bet most readers will let that slide--I know I did. 

Jimmy and Bizarro keep running into problems (some the fault of circumstance but many issues can be blamed on Bizaaro) but thanks to their friendship are able to suffer through the various ordeals. The end of the issue makes it clear that Bizarro may have to step-up as a hero, however, when an evil used-car salesman who uses Egyptian-themes gains a magic staff and he tries to mind-control everyone with it so they buy his cars. Yes, that is what actually happens, and clearly that illustrates better than anything just how enjoyably wacky this title is.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Does this comic indicate a new direction for DC? This strongly gives off the appearance that DC is interested in making more fun and exciting books, with a comic like this seeming like it would have been impossible for it come from DC as recently as a year ago when most titles were morbidly depressed.

Midnighter #1
A DC comic featuring an openly-gay lead that doesn't shy away from the fact that he's gay, yet also avoids coming off as a one big PR effort? Excellent! Within this comic we see Midnighter as the tough fighter he is, along with getting to see how he spends his personal time--with that including having romance with other men, a nice thing to see when comics often will have gay characters,but avoid illustrating them actually doing anything sexual. 

Not too much happens this issue in terms of advancing an overall plot, with only the comic's opening and ending touching upon some extremely dangerous objects getting stolen and taken out into the world. Instead, much of the comic is spent simply enjoying watching Midnighter kicking ass, taking names, and getting in some romance. I feel like the 2nd issue might focus more on the overall plot, as for now we've spent more time getting to know Midnighter than viewing an actual story. That's perfectly alright though, and results in a great read.
4 out of 5 stars.
Does this comic indicate a new direction for DC? While there are dashes of humor, this is more of a general super-hero comic that does have the encouragingly progressive angle of our hero being a happily "out" gay man. Something like this could have been done by DC previously, but probably wouldn't have been as good as it is now.

Section Eight #1
Technically this is humorously titled, "All-Star Section Eight" in a cute way of being able to possibly be in its own continuity like the other "All-Star" books and probably also so Garth Ennis can have a joke at DC's expense about the failure of the actual "All-Star" line. I have to be honest, I've only read some of the original "Hitman" by Garth Ennis (well before "Section Eight" gets introduced in the series) and just as this review by the ever-talented Caleb Mozzocco suggests, that means I'm a little more lost than some folk who fondly remember Tommy Monaghan and this team of super-heroes who are arguably the worst heroes ever. Still, the writing by Ennis and artwork by John McCrea (who illustrated the original past stories with the characters) creates an enjoyable read regardless of how well I actually know the background of everyone within the book.

One thing that did legitimately bug me however, was that this first-issue makes a call-back to how some of the characters in this new Section Eight were introduced in a separate "Harley Quinn" comic. Seriously, this is the first issue and technically we need to track down a completely different comic in order to fully understand what is going on? This just furthers an argument for the practice of, "Waiting for the Trade," in order to get the main issues and the probable inclusion of the, "extra," stories in a TPB. That qualm aside, this was a fun comic, if a potentially intimidating one for those not as familiar with this particular team of "heroes".
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Does this comic indicate a new direction for DC? This comic interestingly is both simultaneously a throwback to past DC works, and a good indicator of the kind of future DC is shooting for. It is sort-of a way for DC to draw in past fans of this creative team and their characters, while also saying, "Hey, we have your old favorites and some great new stuff!" It also is a clever way to get new fans to go and buy all the old "Hitman" trades.

Things Actually Look Encouraging.

It is crazy to think this new "DC You" seems like more a of a reboot than when they re-launched everything back in 2011. True, this time some comics are keeping their original numbering and the DC Universe as we know it hasn't been reset, but the variety of titles, new plot-lines in familiar books (Clark Kent being outed as Superman, and--even if I think it is silly--making Jim Gordon Batman), as well as the appearance of actual humor in titles indicates what is arguably a seismic shift in DC's publishing strategy. 

Whereas back in 2011 mostly everything that was rebooted found itself being grim and a lot like the old DC with just some slightly interesting changes (Superman and Lois Lane weren't married, Oliver Queen got quite altered, and Wonder Woman was given her new origin), now we have honest-to-goodness comics that are funny ("Bizarro", and I heard "Bat-Mite" was cute), portray heroes folk may not know as well but whom are interesting ("Midnighter", "Starfire" the upcoming "Martian Manhunter"), and stuff that references past enjoyable works but can stand alone with new creative changes ("Section Eight", the shifts in the Superman and Batman comics). I'm actually quite impressed by the variety of things DC is doing with their titles now, and am interested to see if things will pan-out well. I hope everything works out, because then maybe DC and their other big competitor (Marvel) will see that taking leaps of creative faith can pay-off. I mean, look how well being open to experimental ideas has worked for Image. They basically have a license to print money now anytime they start-up a new series.

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