Deathstroke #1 - When Marvel and DC 's concepts cross over, it is often easy to see which company hit first. In the case of the "Merc with a mouth" known as Deadpool, it is widely known that Wade Wilson is a sort of parody of Slade Wilson, the man called Deathstroke. Over the years, Deadpool has attained legendary status, overshadowing the character the boys at Marvel ripped off. We all knew who Deathstroke was, but rarely got to see him in the spotlight a badass like him seemed to deserve. All that is about to change. This is the story of Deathstroke the Terminator, possessing of enhanced speed and strength, proficient in just about every weapon on the planet, all backed by a brain that can detect a flicker in a trigger finger and plot your next 6 moves before you make them. Our introduction to the man is as blood soaked as you might expect before Slade takes a meeting outlining his next job. The task at hand requires that he take on a little backup...but Slade isn't known for playing well with others. Where Deadpool's books are manic and entirely ridiculous, Deathstroke's book is ANGRY! This comic is a seething, relentless thing..short on talk and big on action. This is not to say you won't find a laugh here and there, but they'll most certainly get filed in your "that's just wrong" folder. We get to watch the man work without hesitation. There is no emotion behind his violent actions, but there is a certain degree of satisfaction that shines through. Slade is a problem solver, and the primary problem is always how to take down a foe as efficiently and quickly as is possible. No need to break a sweat if you know what you're doing. This introductory story gives you just enough to get a taste of the man's demeanor, the life he lives and shades of what's to come. It is also worth noting that the writers take a situation that would normally make you groan and prepare to toss the book across the room and turn it into a thing of beauty. This one is going on my watch list!
Demon Knights #1 - It was a time of swords and sorcery. Those idyllic days of Camelot are long dead and an evil wizard named Mordru spreads terror as his Queen sends her Horde on a quest, destroying everything before them. Luckily, for those merely caught in the path of oncoming death, there are a precious few who would defend them. Enter Jason of Norwich; fused with a demon named Etrigan by the wizard Merlin in dire times for a purpose that is, as yet, unrevealed. Jason travels with an ancient woman (or maybe not a woman) named Xanadu and crosses paths with Vandal Savage, Sir Ystin the Shining Knight, an inventor named Al Jabr and a female of assumed Amazon origin named Exoristos at just the right time. The arrival of the Horde thrusts these individuals together as allies, but we know little to nothing about their motivations, so what happens next is anyone's guess. Demon Knights is likable enough and doesn't get lost in the language books like this tend to drown in, chasing away many a comic reader. I'm certain the intention is to convey high action, magic and swordplay as the band of heroes join forces against Mordru, whom we know as a colossal threat from the Pre-DCNew52 timeline. There's no reason to not expect him to be just as powerful, or at least potentially as powerful in this timeline, especially since Stormwatch #1 identified The Demon and his crew as being a force for good in dire times. Any power Stormwatch would respect has to be a formidable one, and the enemies of such would be substantial as well! We also get the sense that the writer didn't want us to be weighed down with the sort of "world in chaos" motif, so the dialogue is kept light, the banter witty and in the closing pages, the monsters...ridiculous. So much time is spent meeting all the players and laying down the thinnest of plots that you will really have to get the second issue just to decide if you'll be returning to see how the story plays out...as it has barely begun. Demon Knights may get by on the strength of pure charisma alone until we actually know what the hell is going on. I'm certainly curious...and absolutely $2.99 worth of curious.
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 - We talked a bit about DC and Marvel "borrowing" concepts from each other from time to time, but these aren't the only two comic companies on the planet. You may have heard of a little crew called Dark Horse and one of their most popular books, Hellboy? Well Hellboy belongs to an organization called the B.P.R.D. (the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) who travel the globe stomping on monsters seeking to make a lunch of the local populace or, inevitably, try and take over the planet. It is with this knowledge that we introduce you to Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive..doesn't exactly sing does it) who is seemingly called in to swat down monstrous threats for the body hopping Father Time, and has been doing so for an unrevealed stretch of time (I'd gather it's over 100 yrs), maybe even occasionally alongside his wife; a four armed, green hotty who rocks a hand cannon like no other. For monster fans, I don't even need to continue, do I?! The book is already so weird, it is worth a 5 issue commitment..but I'll sweeten the deal. NOW, a monstrous threat is consuming a tiny town in Washington and Frankenstein must lead a band of "Creature Commandos" into the fray to recover his wife and stop all that chewing on humans nonsense. If claws and fangs weren't enough armament, these Agents of S.H.A.D.E. are also backed by the maddest of SUPER SCIENCE, all watched over by U.N. Science Liaison Dr. Ray Palmer. SOLD, right? We'll make no bones about it...the art is sketchy like another monster book we mentioned...the team is supernatural like another monster book we mentioned and the lead character is old and a loner...like a certain red hero we mentioned...so this book is going to come down to likability for you. So far, Frankenstein has proven to be a multi-faceted comic with interesting, quirky characters, some of which are firmly rooted in DC Comics lore. If they keep their sense of humor cranked up and reveal a plot with more depth than a hellmouth inexplicably opening, this could be a ridiculous amount of fun. Let's see just how weird they can make this title!
Grifter #1 - He's a Grifter (a con man) named Cole...and he can deliver a punch..and is quick with a plan...and was a former government operative of some sort...and we don't know much else. For some reason an otherworldly force has the hots for Cole and pursues him at every turn through human hosts. They've even gotten so close that now, Cole hears them in his head. It's a strange dynamic, and an odd way to introduce a character we need to like enough to want to keep reading. For my part, it's a pass. A guy screaming "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!" while punching men and women in the face is a plot that only works for Nick Cage. As it stands, I have no idea what is going on and the "mystery" of it all is laid down like a smack upside the head, rather than the creeping shadow it should be. With a-typical super hero comic art and a fairly flat story unrolling, I see no chance for impending fun.
Red Lanterns #1 - You should all be familiar with the Green Lantern Corps; those happy go lucky ladies and gents who fly through space, each defending a sector against evil... but did you know there are other colored rings wielded by aliens with their own agenda? This particular book focuses on the Red Lanterns who spit acid blood and are so consumed by rage they can barely form coherent sentences. Their leader is Atrocitus, sole survivor of his planet. It was amid that tragedy that his Red Lantern powers were born, and so he would seek out others like himself who hunger for vengeance and lack the might to claim it. So..just how do you go about writing an ongoing book starring growly, spitty aliens cast as anti-heroes? First, you kick off the book with all out action with Dex-Starr, the red rage kitty (for those unfamiliar, I shit you not), spill some yellow blood and move onto some sort of plot. The Red Lanterns comic then takes a little time to visit a mudball of a planet called Earth, where we will no doubt be recruiting future Red Lanterns in upcoming issues. Hell, New York alone could provide for an army of rage fueled growlers. Saying anything more about the "plot" will give the whole book away, which spends most of its time strolling along with Atrocitus, telling his story in the hopes of making him..what..sympathetic? I'm sorry, I was under the assumption that we were talking about Atrocitus, the huge alien who handed Abin Sur his ass at the end of a clawed hand and looks as if he wants to bite the heads off of babies??!! I don't want to connect with Atrocitus and his Red Lantern Corps. I want to see them fly off on some rage drunk mission that has far reaching implications for the rest of the universe, perhaps pushed to do so by unseen forces with their own evil agenda, leaving a trail of body parts along the way! I like the concept of the Red Lanterns enough to stick around for one more issue, but with fairly standard art and not much going on thus far, there had better be some awesome turn of events in book two to keep me locked in.
Resurrection Man #1 - Yay. Another book that kicks things off on a plane. A mysterious man awakens on a cold slab discovering strange, new powers at his disposal. With barely enough time to acclimate and follow an overwhelming compulsion for travel, Mitch Shelley finds himself a target of otherworldly forces that have put a high price on his seemingly immortal soul. You see, Mitch isn't you average super hero. The man gets killed and comes back to life, seconds later, possessing of new "gifts" that relate in some way to the manor in which he was killed. This luck of the draw scenario means Mitch can manifest powers as benign as creating a light show from nothing to taking on powers significant enough to allow him a go at Superman himself. Luckily, Mitch is one of the good guys...or so it seems so far. At any rate, the bulk of the book sees Mitch following his nose so to speak, perused by supernatural forces set on punching his ticket for good as well as two stereotypical, sassy hotties with a taste for blood and an agenda of their own. WILL MITCH SURVIVE LONG ENOUGH TO GET AN ACTUAL STORY LINE STARTED??!! Dun dun dun duuuun. It's the first issue and a lot of time is spent giving you a feel for Mitch's personality while sketching out the dark corner of the world he lives in, but the book lacks any sort of concrete feeling. There's no tension, humor or taste of impending dread. All we get is some flat action with an odd looking monster and a promise that Mitch is at the center of something far bigger than himself. There is a bit of poetry to the writing, though. Mitch's inner monologue borders on a classic film noir detective rant, but the look of the book doesn't compliment that style, and sadly suffers for it. Just because you draw a book like a Vertigo title doesn't mean you can force a gritty feeling. I'm hoping now that we've dispensed with the "getting to know you" content, the story is actually going someplace epic. I'm barely hanging on for one more issue, purely on the strength of this one line.. "I taste tears...and I flow away."
Suicide Squad #1 - And now...THE MAIN EVENT! It seems my DC PR reps know I like the oddities, so they've resigned themselves to sending over the "gritty" comics and not the main stream hero stuff. Cut a brother a break! I like Batman too!! Luckily, among the blood soaked books I've reviewed, Suicide Squad feels right at home. In the DC Universe, the criminally insane often wind up at Arkham Asylum. When you are a super powered baddie who has done terrible things, you wind up in Belle Reeve for life on constant lock down. Only one option offers any chance to breathe fresh air once more. The Suicide Squad. Led by Amanda Waller and presumably, powers high up in our nation's government; members of the Suicide Squad are implanted with tiny bombs to assure they tow the line and complete their mission, though the deck is often stacked against them. These are the most expendable of expendable soldiers, and they are assured of that at every turn. Lucky for the reader, the team is made up of some of the most irredeemable villains in the DC Universe, so no doubt, the book will play out like a text book horror film. The more despicable the character, the higher the probability they will get shredded in the freakiest way possible...or at least we can hope for such an outcome. While the crew has members like Chato Satana and Voltaic (the latter of which I couldn't even find in a google search), and a not-so-well-known Black Spider, you could presume a certain degree of unpredictability in regards to potential character deaths. Hell, they could roast King Shark and I'm sure the legions of fanboys/girls would go "Meh..he had it coming." I'm fairly certain Harley Quinn and Deadshot are untouchable...but YOU NEVER KNOW!! Aren't we to assume all bets are off in this new, more realistic universe? The book is nasty and violent, as is befitting the characters in starring roles. Along with the new sex kitten makeover for Harley, it seems Deadshot has new gear and I'll only allude to the hotness of the Halle Berry-esque team leader whom I will not name (but I did somewhere already.) This comic is shaping up to be one mean, dirty, bloody mess. As it stands, the creators went sick house on the content and packed the book with images that would make Hellraiser's Pinhead grin. I'm hoping the writers amp up the black comedy alongside the action, as those responsible for Marvel's Thunderbolts or, not so far removed, the Secret Six, did so well. Let us inside the heads of these evil people to the point where we care about them, then remind us they are sick bastards and we'll be in for a ride we'll never forget. My one request..PICK AN ARTIST!! This book seems to be drawn by two different people; one whose gritty style matches the ultra-violent content and another who draws soft, flat super heroes with little artistic direction. Stick with the gritty and I'll be on board for a long time to come.
Familiar people/organizations revealed in week 3: Black Canary, Savant, Black Spider, El Diablo, Amanda Waller, Scarecrow, Man Bat, The Atom, Vandal Savage, Madame Xanadu, Mordru, Father Time and apparently, all the Red Lanterns.
I'll also note that the "Pink Lady" turns up in all of these books, though in some she is looking a bit mannish. The plot thickens.
Thanks to DC Comics for access! Images from Suicide Squad from TV Guide. Images from Deathstroke from Newsrama. Images from Red Lanterns from IGN. Images from Grifter from iFanboy.