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DC’s Superstravaganza! Dark Horse’s Tie-Ins! And Image’s… Things?

As promised last week, some of the DC, Dark Horse and Image #1s I’ve been reading lately… this time, featuring: Superman/Wonder Woman! Superman: Lois Lane! And even some – a lot of! – non-Supes properties!

Superman/Wonder Woman #1 (Charles Soule, Tony S. Daniel, Matt Banning)

Superman/Wonder Woman is, apparently, DC bowing to an idea that has long had currency in fan circles: that the Big Blue and the Amazonian should “get it on”, Lois nowhere in sight. That interesting scenario granted, one would hope that their solo title would be an interesting mix of the two characters, the more warrior-like Diana and the all-American Boy Scout Clark clashing and bouncing off each other as often as they get along; but no, in this case it’s a straightforward set-up monster mash. Non-chronological storytelling is used in the most clunky way possible, simply as exposition; and the end of the issue, revealing – of course – Doomsday is not only unsurprising, it’s downright dull. All in all, rather a waste of an idea with serious potential.

Superman: Lois Lane #1 (Marguerite Bennett et al.)

A comic centred on Lois Lane sounds like it would be badly written, Supes-centric, and dull, if you’re as cynical as the comics industry has taught its fans to be. However, with a female writer and an art team well-divided between men and women, this isn’t the cock-fest or fan service you might expect; instead, it’s a comic very light on the Boy Scout, rather looking at Lois’ past. The non-chronological storytelling, with multiple different timelines, fleshes out and adds to the comic rather than detracting from it, with an incredibly deft touch from Bennett and excellent use of different artists, whilst the emotional beats and journalistic detective work that form the plot work excellently. A completely self-contained story, it’s easy to see how DC wants to build a series off this, and I’m with them in that endeavour!

Ghost #1 (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Chris Sebela, Ryan Sook)

DeConnick’s brilliant demonhunting semi-undead superheroine, in this second outing from the same writer, is written rather differently; now, Ghost has a mission and is taking it seriously: taking out all the demons the Mayor planted in her first miniseries. The existence of a white-clad serial killer muddying the waters, and a victim of Ghost whom she appears to have had some sort of emotional connection with, add additional peril, complexity and emotional layering; they also rather move the comic away from the Buffy-ish vibe that the first series had. The artwork, with its move away from both realism and Marvel’s specific model of comics-imagery, and the truly beautiful variant of Ghost’s iconic costume work fantastically with the story, and add a personal element to the thing. Brilliant work.

Pretty Deadly #1 (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios)

This Western comic is an absolutely stunning original property. It’s the kind of thing that, yesteryear, Vertigo was publishing; reminiscent of Sandman by way of Jonah Hex, the mythos evoked by DeConnick’s writing is a peculiarly American, peculiarly Old-West blend of different cultural traditions and ideas, and the writing is a beautiful mix of different kinds of work. The layering of story, the reveals running through the novel; these function powerfully, pulling the reader through a story whose beautiful art mirrors excellently the story as it is told (I especially commend pp6-9!). This is what comics are really about; not a story that couldn’t be told in any other medium, but a story that could only truly be told in this one. DeConnick and Rios have got a faithful fan in me.

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 (Zack Whedon, Georges Jeanty)

Whedon properties have a long history of making the leap to comics, Serenity no less than Buffy or Dollhouse, so this fourth post-Firefly miniseries comes as no surprise to Whedonites. What might be a bit more surprising, though, is that this feels… boring. Perhaps because of the loss of Wash, perhaps because of the splitting of the group, or perhaps because of the strange personality-resets which once again appear to have been pushed on some of the characters in the most frustrating way, Leaves on the Wind doesn’t have the je ne sais quoi that made Firefly a cult sensation; indeed, this feels more like the worst moments of Serenity than even the mediocre parts of Firefly, sadly.

Tomb Raider #1 (Gail Simone, Nicolas Daniel Selma)

Gail Simone has won great renown for working on various DC properties, including Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey and, at present, Batgirl. The Tomb Raider franchise is almost as entrenched in the modern psyche as any of these comics, and more than some; so Simone is working within some serious constraints, not least the limits imposed by Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix in the need for sequels. However, that doesn’t excuse the outright clunkiness of the setup offered in this first issue; exposition abounds whilst characterisation is sorely lacking, and the energy Simone’s writing normally sings with is curiously absent here. The game is truly fantastic; but perhaps leave it at that, rather than seeking a sequel here.

Veil #1 (Greg Rucka, Toni Fejzula)

I’m not entirely sure how to discuss this; the first issue is cryptic in the extreme, posing all sorts of questions without offering any answers. It’s also not without problems; gendered violence and gendered responses to violence pervade the comic, and the portrayal of the girl at the centre of it all – the constantly-rhyming, seemingly-insane Veil – is deeply worrying; I hope that will improve over the next few issues. However, the crypticness and straightforward uninteresting, uncompelling writing mean that I won’t be along for the ride.

Velvet #1 (Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting)

This is a fascinating opening issue. Akin to Charles Stross’ Laundry Files novels, we’re looking at an homage to Cold War spy thrillers; Brubaker has us following Velvet Templeton, apparently a kind of Miss Moneypenny figure at the start of the issue who rapidly turns into far more than meets the eye. The layered secrecy and betrayal familiar to every reader of Cold War spy fiction is here, and the palette and art only enhance that, drawing on the style of the pulps with a sort of modernist nostalgia that really puts the reader in the moment and mood. Added to all this, Velvet is a woman in charge of her own sexuality, but throughout the issue never sexualised, and I am really eager to see where this fascinating exercise in spy fiction is going!

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