New 52 Volume 1 Trade Post: Teen Titans, Superboy, Supergirl & Aquaman

teen titans vol 1 its our right to fightTeen Titans Volume 1: It’s Our Right To Fight (DC)
Written by Scott Lobdell, drawn by Brett Booth
Collects New 52 Teen Titans #1-7

I’m gonna try something a little different with this trade post: more books with shorter reviews. Let’s see how that works. As I mentioned when I read a bunch of the New 52 #1 issues, this book was one of my favorites. To me, the whole point of relaunching your entire universe is to offer readers something completely new. Some of the New 52 books don’t bother doing much of that from what I’ve seen, but Scott Lobdell does something really cool here. Instead of playing Batman’s sidekick, Tim Drake is running around as Red Robin in an attempt to save superpowered kids from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. This leads him to joining forces with fellow young costumed heroes like Wonder Girl (don’t call her Wonder Girl), Kid Flash, Bunker and Skitter. What I really like about this book is that Lobdell really just throws you into the story and doesn’t slow down too much, but still offers enough information to enjoy.

The whole book revolves around a series of mysteries large and small that continue to draw me in issue after issue. Why is the non-powered Drake so interested in helping super-kids? Why does Wonder Girl dislike being called Wonder Girl so much? Who is N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and what is their game? What’s the deal with these new characters? What’s going to happen with Superboy?

All of the above makes this a very 90s feeling book, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. People dump on the 90s a lot, but there was a lot of newness being explored in those books without getting too far wrapped around itself. And, even though this is technically a “putting the team together” story, it’s done in a less traditional way and it revolves around a less traditional team, so I don’t mind as much. Also in the 90s vein, I love Brett Booth’s art in this book. He’s got a huge amount of detail and never skimps when it comes to either background or characters. That kind of detail is fantastic and not always easy to nail.

superboy vol 1 incubationSuperboy Volume 1: Incubation (DC)
Written by Scott Lobdell, drawn by R.B. Silva
Collects New 52 Superboy #1-7

I was less into Lobdell’s Superboy, though I’m not sure if I can exactly put my finger on why. It’s a completely different kind of story. While Teen Titans is an on-the-run, putting-things-together-as-we-go kind of thing featuring an aloof clone created in an attempt to make their own Superman who’s trying to figure out who he wants to be and what he wants to do with his newfound life and power.

I think one of the reasons I wasn’t as taken with the series is because it feels a lot more “monster of the week.” Superboy wakes up and they send him after King Shark, then they send him after another villain. When he’s talking to the woman who gets revealed as Fairchild (originally from Gen 13) and Ravager or is out in the world trying to figure out if he’s good or bad, those are much more interesting moments for me. Still, I like that this and Teen Titans lead up to a bigger story called “The Culling” that I look forward to reading eventually. He’s an interesting character with a lot in there to check out.

On the art side of things, I don’t know if Silva’s style is really the kind of thing I dig. It’s cartoony and stylized which I like, but at times it feels a little too un-detailed, like you’re just looking at shapes strung together without as much physical continuity.

supergirl vol 1 last daughter of kryptonSupergirl Volume 1: Last Daughter Of Krypton (DC)
Written by Michael Green & Mike Johnson, drawn by Mahmud Asrar & Bill Reinhold
Collects New 52 Supergirl #1-7

I have an interesting history with Supergirl. I dug Peter David’s book, but never really read it on the regular (though I do want to go back and read the whole run in order). Then, when they brought a new version of Superman’s cousin into continuity, I was not into it because I was still a continuity nut at the time and wanted Kal-El to be the only Kryptonian around. I liked how they came up with interesting ways to have a Superboy and Supergirl in the 90s and didn’t want to see that change. Anyway, the idea of Superman’s cousin coming to Earth is one I eventually came to accept, but now that we’re dealing with an all new continuity (and I don’t care nearly as much about the details as I used to) I’m cool with it.

And I think Green and Johnson do a good job with this story. The whole thing is a fish out of water tale with Kara landing on Earth thinking she’s going to protect her younger cousin Kal, who is now Superman. It’s a lot to deal with for a girl who was kind of aimless on Krypton, especially because she doen’st speak the language.

Unlike Superboy, this book is much more of a journey story with Supergirl interacting with different characters offering her different pieces of information to help her figure out exactly what’s going on with her, ultimately leading to another planet. By the end of the journey presented in this trade Kara has a bit of an understanding as to what she wants to do with her weird new life. A life wonderfully drawn by Mahmud Asrar (for the most part) who has a cool kind of indie style that captures Kara’s fragility and strength while also balancing giant robots, monsters and pretty girls. After reading this book I decided that The Big Bang Theory‘s Kaley Cuoco should play Supergirl. Someone make that happen.

aquaman vol 1 the trenchAquaman Volume 1: The Trench (DC)
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Ivan Reis with Joe Prado
Collects Aquaman #1-6

Unlike Supergirl, I had a much deeper relationship with Aquaman (also written by Peter David come to think of it). His lengthy run on that book is pretty much the be all, end all for me as far as that character is concerned. Still, when I heard that Geoff Johns, writer of some of my all time favorite comics (JSA, Green Lantern), was tackling the character I was definitely interested. And you  know what, he does a great job which I’m sure is a shock to no one.

The New 52 version of Aquaman doesn’t seem all that different from the original, a much simpler, more streamlined version. He’s new to the surface world which is good timing considering a race of hyper violent humanoid fish creatures have risen from the depths to kidnap, eat and kill people. While that adventure is an interesting one, I really liked some of the book’s other elements. The waitress being surprised that Aquaman wants fish and chips made me chuckle, then you’ve got the whole issue of Aquaman in the desert which was a great idea. There’s also a lot going on with Atlantis and Mera that makes me curious about what’s coming up. And, man, Ivan Reis kills this art. He’ detailed like book, but with a darker edge that fits the book both thematically and environmentally.

Overall, I lucked out with this crop of New 52 backs. Each one took a different approach to introducing these new versions of old characters. It’s interesting to take a closer look at that aspect of the storytelling and analyze which ones I like better than others. I look forward to reading the second volumes of all of these books…eventually and if I can get my hands on them.

Books Of Oa: Rann-Thanagar War

RANN-THANAGAR WAR (DC)
Written by Dave Gibbons, drawn by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Joe Bennett
Collects Rann-Thanagar War #1-6
Rann-Thanagar War might seems like a strange book to include in the chronicles of the rejuvenated Green Lantern Corps, but GLs Kyle Rayner and Kilowog both played an important, though not main, role in this lead-in miniseries to 2005-2006’s Infinite Crisis which changed the shape of the DC Universe (in a few annoying places for at least this reader). At the time I was super excited about this book along with it’s brother and sister minis OMAC Project, Villains United and Day of Vengeance all of which I bought after being blown away by the Countdown to Infinite Crisis one-shot. I was in hook line and sinker and even liked Infinite Crisis when it came out (haven’t read it a second time, though the trade is on the way), but I was pretty disappointed that the series’ didn’t all really flow into Infinite Crisis as much as I hoped they would. In fact, the minis all lead to a series of one-shots that made the connection to the larger story.

But, enough of my personal history with these books, a little bit of history about the book. Though the series can be read on it’s own, it wouldn’t hurt to have read the 2004-2005 Adam Strange miniseries that Andy Diggle wrote and Pasqual Ferry drew. It was pretty awesome, though I don’t remember all of the details. Luckily–and shockingly depending on your experience–there’s actually a pretty damn solid recap page in the beginning that sums things up pretty well. The deal is that Rann (Adam Strange’s adoptive planet) got teleported out of its old orbit which put it smack up against Thanagar (the Hawkman planet). They’re enemies and both thought the other did this on purpose which spawned a war. Strange got in contact with the Hawks on Earth and brought them into the fight where they were joined by Kyle Rayner, Kilowog, Captain Comet, Vril Dox and L.E.G.I.O.N. and others, including Starfire’s evil sister Blackfire. As it actually turns out it’s not all of Thanagar intent on killed the Rannians, but actually a rogue faction within the society (I didn’t catch the real world parallels until this read), a group who worships death and the Thanagarian death god Onimar Synn. So, while the war’s raging, our heroes band together to fight on various fronts to try and stop the war.

As far as GL involvement goes, R-T W hits somewhere between Rebirth and Green Lantern Corps: Recharge, though the timing is a little strange to me. See, Kyle mentions the reverence which Captain Comet showed for him just because he was a GL in the first issue of Recharge. There’s even a span of time in which Kyle isn’t seen in the book, but he returns later which kind of fits in with his adventures in Recharge, but I assumed those adventures took a longer time with him hopping around the universe. Oh well. Anyway, the Guardians don’t want GLs involved in the war, but  is tasked with kicking some Khunds out of a space sector in which they are unwanted. Seeing as the Khunds are being hired by one side of the other, Kyle gets sucked into things with the aforementioned Captain Comet who’s kicking around with L.E.G.I.O.N. temporarily. He and Comet wind up back on Thanagar where they first throw down with Synn and then discover some living Thanagarians. Things are getting nuts when ‘Wog shows up to help out and also help terraform the planet to make it more livable. That’s pretty  much it until the book ends with Kyle and Kilowog joining back up with the rest of the crew.

It’s interesting to see Kyle not only fighting a death god like he would in Blackest Night with the rest of the universe, but also some actual zombies. I read every issue Kyle appeared in, but I can’t remember if he every fought zombies before that. As a story, I liked this one even more the second time around. Gibbons did a great job crafting a big huge story. It’s almost like he was trying out for Green Lantern Corps (though I’m sure the deal was already done by that point).

Of course, the story doesn’t end there and I’m not even talking about Infinite Crisis itself which has some definite and clear Green Lantern involvement, especially at the very end. But, what I’m really talking about is the Rann-Thanagar Special that came out after the mini finished and while IC was still going on. This one really tied the story into the overall Infinite Crisis mythology by saying that Superboy Prime pushed Rann and Thanagar into one another and caused all the destruction. The one-shot brings a few different storylines together. You’ve got the R-T War stuff but also the then-recently resurrected Donna Troy and her crew of people on her floating Greek city spaceship thing. The biggest piece of Green Lantern business that goes on in this issue is the death of Kyle’s longtime girlfriend and Alan Scott’s daughter Jade who Kyle had given some of his power to so that she could have powers again. As she passed, she gave Kyle his power back and he became Ion again which lead into, the 12-issue series of the same name written by longtime Kyle chronicler Ron Marz (review coming next week). We also see the Guardians call Kyle, with his augmented/increased power a catalyst for change and that he’s the first step in a new breed.

Like I said, my Infinite Crisis memories are a little sketchy and I don’t remember how the war against the space-hands works out as far as that series goes, but I do remember early issues of 52 dealing with many of these characters making their ways back to Earth to varying degrees of screwed-up ness (Alan Scott lost an eye, something happened to Jericho’s voice, etc.). I’ve got a lot more reading to do if I want to make sense of all this stuff again.

I’m pretty solid on the major GL series from here to just before Blackest Night, but I’ve also got to track down my pre-IC JLA issues to see how GL stuff plays into it. That book took such a massive decline in my mind that I think I’ve blocked a lot of the stories out. I know John Stewart was involved and Kyle gives his resignation in the first issue of Recharge, but there had to me a few adventures here and there that I’m missing. I’ll get to them, I promise! Post-OYL, I’m good to go.