DC’s New 52 trade book reviews: Animal Man, Justice League and Batman!


Animal Man Vol. 1: The Hunt

Review by: Hayley

When the New 52 was released, Animal Man, to me, was the most intriguing character to get rebooted. Yet somehow he didn’t make it onto my pull list. I probably told myself, “There’s always the trade!” Fortunately for me, and you readers at home, the wait is over and the story is finally out in trade paperback.

What you get with this book is a page-turning story phenomenally executed by Jeff Lemire. This was by far one of the best story arcs I had read in a while, and it is now one of my top 10 of the DC reboot stories. A brief explanation of the story is that after a long break from being Animal Man, Buddy Baker decides it’s finally time to put on the spandex and do what he was born to do: be a superhero. He soon learns that his daughter’s inherited superpowers are dangerously stronger than he could have anticipated. This new discovery leads them on a journey to the otherworldly “Red Place” while a war begins to brew with an ancient evil known as “The Rot.”

The only thing I couldn’t quite get myself into was Travel Foreman’s art, unfortunately. I think most people who pick it up to read won’t have the same struggle I had and will find the art to be rather complimentary to the story. It somehow reminded me of this cartoon that disturbed me to no end as a child, and I couldn’t shake that feeling throughout the entire book. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think all that means is that the book accomplished exactly what it wanted to; it creeped the reader out so that she could understand exactly how disturbing this situation Animal Man has gotten into is.

My biggest complaint is that I would have liked a little more from this book as a graphic novel. There wasn’t much extra at the end, only a few initial concept art sketches. If these sketches had been accompanied by, say, an interview with Lemire or Foreman, then I would have been much more enthusiastic. Still, overall I feel that the story is strong enough to stand on its own, so I’m giving this book 4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.

Justice League Vol. 1: Origin

Review by: Cubby

Restarting 70 years of continuity is no small task. DC’s New 52 campaign was uber-ambitious. Not only were stories ended but they picked up the pieces and created another rich tapestry with connections everywhere, and it all started with Justice League #1. It’s actually a genius idea; take the biggest and best characters from the last couple of years, present them with the biggest baddie they’re likely to face (Darkseid, duh!), add a fan favorite that’s never been a part of the League, and then tell how not only they came to be together as a team, but how those relationships were built. Show that they weren’t really “super friends,” but that they actually mistrusted each other. Superman and Batman didn’t become friends overnight, and Geoff Johns captures that perfectly.

After the last couple decades of everyone knowing everything about everyone in the Justice League, it tends to get a little boring. It does lead to some of the best storytelling, but when everyone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman it makes it hard to believe that no one else knows. The same goes for the whole team really. If Geoff Johns’ promotion to Chief Creative Officer for all of DC Comics says anything about him, it speaks for his experience and familiarity with the characters and their surroundings. His Green Lantern and Flash interactions in this book are some of the best parts, but pale in comparison to the tension between Batman and Green Lantern, setting up the friction to come between those two for years to come. Johns’ take on Aquaman is another strong point in the book; he shows up as a king and makes it known. But Wonder Woman steals the show for me with an attitude reminiscent of a reckless teenager who knows she can beat up on people, as opposed to a royal and regal ambassador of peace. The character work is unparalleled and the back pages of interviews and S.T.A.R. Labs files give you a taste of what’s to come.

To say the artwork in this book was awesome is an understatement. Phenomonally-awesomely-badass is more appropriate. I’m a HUGE Jim Lee fan, ever since his X-Men days all the way to now, the man can do no wrong in my book. He’s taken comics to a different place, and while he doesn’t do a whole lot of growing in the book in terms of style or technique, he still hits you with his normal repertoire of badass panels that make you wonder how he could get that much detail with a pencil and how could any inker or colorist make sense out of what they’re seeing. Thankfully his long time collaborators, Scott Williams on inks and Sandra Hope on colors, can make sense of the madness and add that richness us fans love. Also, being that this is a hardcover, you don’t have to deal with ads that distract from the story, and the splash pages look amazing.

What DC has given us is a new chapter in their storied history that has a lot of potential to be better than anything we’ve read before. They definitely evolved the way a team book should feel and look. The best characters, the best writers, the best artists for your best team; it all comes together to make for some of the best stories. Creators industry-wide should look to this book as a sign that not only can you tell a great story, but it can be amazing to behold. Justice League Vol. 1: Origin easily gets 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.

Batman Vol. 1: Court of Owls

Review by: Brandon

I love a good Batman story, and The Court Of Owls is exactly that. I read Batman monthly, but I could not pass up the opportunity to get my hands on this hardcover. First off, this thing looks beautiful. You get the first seven issues of Batman, as well as a variant gallery, the first issue script, and a few sketches. The artwork in this book is brilliant. Greg Capullo draws with such attention to detail. My favorite part about the art has to be the color. Itʼs gritty and dark, but can explode with bright colors, changing the mood when it needs to.

Scott Snyder is doing things with a Batman story that I never thought Iʼd seen before. Through most of this volume we find Batman to be left very vulnerable. As always, the Dark Knight bounces back, but heʼs never quite on his feet the way youʼre used to. He’s always just a little off which, to be honest, is some of the coolest shit Iʼve seen in a Batman story. Ever. I mean come on, heʼs Batman! Always prepared. Always has a million ways out of a situation. But the Court Of Owls throw him one hell of a curve ball, and you see that everything Bruce Wayne thought or knew about Gotham City isn’t at all what he believed it to be.

Another awesome twist to this story is that itʼs not just about Batman. There is a main focus on the city; its history, the structure and importance of the buildings. Snyder does an incredible job of making the city an actual character in the book. And then we come to find out how the Court Of Owls have more control than Batman ever thought they had. The Dark Knight basically wakes up to find that everything heʼs worked for, every heroic act, has all been for nothing. Heʼs in a city that he thought was an ally, a friend, only to realize itʼs a complete stranger.

Iʼve read a lot of really good Batman stories over the years, written and drawn by incredible teams, but after this first volume, I can easily say that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have taken the gold medal of Batman writing teams. I wait anxiously to see what else becomes of this so-far epic storyline. 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls from this Nerd.

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