Six months after DC’s historic line wide relaunch, it’s become clear that the artists have taken over. The four best books from the first wave — Wonder Woman, Flash, Batman and Animal Man — all have talented writers, but with all due respect to Messrs. Azzarello, Lemire and Snyder, the art is the primary appeal. It’s all about Chiang, Manapul, Capullo and Foreman.
Quick(ish) confession: I have a troubling tendency to attribute the authorship of corporate superhero books to the writer by default, particularly when the art’s mediocre. Sure, I spend time thinking about the choices made by the pencillers, inkers, colorists (and sometimes the letterers), but tend to consider them contributors to the writer’s creative vision. It’s an easy and astonishingly lazy way to read comics, but that’s the way they seem to marketed most of the time. Still… no excuse.
The writing has only been interesting to the extent that it serves the needs of the story that the artists are telling. Batman‘s entertaining because of the contrast between Capullo’s post post Bronze Age art and Snyder’s horror/thriller inspired writing. Animal Man is great because of how Lemire’s absurdist gothic horror prose complements Travel Foreman’s body horror. I love Wonder Woman and like Brian Azzarello, but without Cliff Chiang’s spare, expressive art, the story loses some of its meaning: it goes from a gripping tale of a warrior struggling with family and identity to a pretty standard superhero book. Chiang strips the book of the artifice that’s bogged down earlier volumes while retaining the iconic quality that’s central to Wonder Woman. His action scenes are plausibly staged and brutally efficient in a way that grounds a story steeped in Greek mythology. Tony Akins does a nice job and all, but it’s an entirely different book in his hands.
The other books I’ve sampled from the first relaunch wave have been maddeningly inconsistent. The first few issues of Action Comics and Batwoman were pretty good, but painfully slow pacing, reduced page counts and questionable storytelling choices have wasted much of that early promise. Williams is growing as a writer, and Morrison still shows some flashes of brilliance, but there’s something missing from both books.
So, some thoughts on the new 52 books:
Read the rest of this entry »