Sunday, October 2, 2011

DC Comics New 52, Week 4 - Part 2 (All Star Western, Teen Titans)

Whoops. Well, I thought I had purchased more of this week's offerings, but maybe 7 DC titles this week was plenty. So, only two more reviews and we're calling it a day on this first part of my reviews of the New 52, ie - the stuff I wanted to spend money on.

Next week we'll be circling back and looking at the stuff I didn't buy, either because I wasn't interested, or because I'd planned to "wait for the trade" (ex: Green Lantern and Batman books).

I will, between now and then, write a post regarding my general impressions of the relaunch, I think.

All Star Western #1 - written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, art by Moritat

Firstly, this is a poorly named book. Most DC readers consider Gotham to be located on the East Coast, and I frequently have heard that we're to consider its location in New Jersey. If New Jersey is the West, then I have absolutely no idea where I live. But its also sort of indicative of the half-baked approach taken to this book, and an eye-rolling pattern I've seen in reading Palmiotti & Gray's Hex work. They aren't students of History or even The History Channel, and, apparently, neither are their editors. They seem to basically know things like "nobody is going to have a cell phone" and "we probably shouldn't show many cars", but everything else seems more or less up for grabs.

Yes, I'm being picky, but the point of historical fiction is to use the setting as part of your story. Getting that setting wrong is a pretty big no-no, and while nobody describes Gotham as located in the West... this is "All Star Victorian", with a westerner wandering about. One of the men describes Gotham as an "infant city", trying to make a point regarding the newness of the place, but in 1880, a city like Gotham would have been about 200 years old. Houston or Phoenix would qualify as "infant cities".

Hex is also still running around, 20 years after the Civil War, wearing his uniform. At this point, I think we can agree that's both kind of gross and ridiculous. Had the story been set in 1871 or so, I might have shrugged it off, but living in the saddle for 20 years was not going to be very conducive to longevity of a Civil War-era cape and uniform.

There's just a lot of stuff like that which just seems like sloppy writing.  Tthe idea that Hex would have just wandered into an East Coast high-class function without an invitation at the height of Victorian-era social custom isn't just...  bad, it misses potential for the "fish out of water" story that Palmiotti & Gray seem to want to tell.

And, of course it all feels a bit like Palmiotti and Gray are lifting material from The Alienist, From Hell and any other number of better sources where the authors did their legwork.  Amadeus Arkham is an interesting figure, but I think Morrison did everything I want to see out of him back in Arkham Asylum when I was in high school.  Re-casting him here is... iffy.

Further, there are just huge leaps in our "mystery" that don't make sense.  I wasn't actually clear as to why Hex was in Gotham.why he was at the murder scene, etc...  And the leap of logic that "we know the killer is a weak man with a gorilla working with him" was awkward enough - and delivered with no clues - but then to jump to "we must go to the fancy dress party!" made absolutely no sense.  If you're going to have a mystery, you have to provide clues and context.  Bizarrely, we get nothing but scenes of Hex beating up poor people.

In short, I'm not impressed with the writing, which is frustrating.  When Palmiotti and Gray are on, they're quite good.  And then, other times, it just really feels like they're phoning it in.  This is one of those times.

As a first issue, its readable, but you can tell the writers hope you already know and love Jonah Hex.  And, of course, that you read Arkham Asylum back in the day.

The dynamic between Hex and Arkham is sort of a reverse Holmes and Watson.  Hex sort of figures things out, but by way of brute force and experience rather than observation, while the more subtle mind of Arkham sits back in rapt wonder at the force of nature he's unleashed on the streets.  

Art by Moritat is actually kind of fun, and I'd like to see more of him, even if he seems to take his cues on drawing women of the era from the actual film Jonah Hex.

All in all, I was hoping for more.  I'd love to see DC mix it up and see a revival of some of their forgotten western figures in an anthology (which this was supposed to be, but there was no back-up story).  But I think if they want success, they need to start seeing who else can write a Western.  Likely not two guys from Jersey.

Teen Titans #1 written by Scott Lobdell and art by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund

Holy 90's, Batman.

I am so not into whatever DC was trying to do with this book.  From the "characterization" of Kid Flash to the "we're a secret, globally chartered organization very loudly/ secrelt hunting teenagers" thing to the wild child Wonder Girl who (roll of eyes)  is introduced after stealing a car, to the fact that DC still thinks having your new character and a hamburger chain share a name is not problematic.

Everything about this comic, from the horrendous rocket pacing and complete lack of characterization beyond a few extremely broad elements - most of which are meant to play "edgy", but in a "Mountain Dew commercial" edginess sort of way.  Robin BLOWS UP an apartment building where we can assume other people were living.  I mean...  wtf?

I remember all of this from the 1990's.  I really do.  And its why I quit reading superhero comics from 1992-1998.  Sure, other folks complained about the writing then, too, but this was back when people genuinely said things like "I only look at the art" while buying a Bart Sears book with absolutely no hint of irony.

It would be easy enough to just not read this book, but its clearly tied in with Superboy and the larger DCU.

This was the first book I read that made me experience my own little bout of comics-nerd-rage rather than just disappointed.

But, maybe, this'll be for you!


Simon MacDonald said...

Regarding All Star Western, stop trying to apply logic and history to a fictional city. You'll enjoy yourself so much more. Looks like we've got a difference of opinion on this one.

You should never judge a book by it's cover but all I needed to see was that promo piece with all the re-designed costumes to realize it just wasn't for me.

The League said...

I have a theory that this is a re-worked story or combination of more than one story. As vexing as I find the lazy historical inaccuracies, the strange delivery of the mystery and logical leaps really annoyed me and made the historical details symptomatic of Palmiotti and Gray's approach.

I get that the DCU has a janky history. I don't expect that Anthro fits in with what we know about neanderthals. But if you're going to go to the effort, you know..? I suppose I could unclench.

I will make the agreement that I'll wait to hear what you have to say in a couple more issues.

I wasn't planning to pick up Teen Titans, but as I genuinely enjoyed Lobdell's Superboy, and this was tied in. I thought I needed to get over my prejudices and give the new TT a shot. And, of course, I regret that decision and am a bit bummed about the connection at this point.

Simon MacDonald said...

I shall report back on ASW as it progresses. I have high hopes that this books villain isn't Dr. Hurt. From Morrison's Batman run but you never know.