Comics: One to keep, one to drop

It’s been five months now since DC’s big reboot and the launch of what has now stuck as the DcnU. I actually picked up more comics with the #1s than I was buying at the time, and stuck with a few of them through the first five issues, determined to hold my judgment until I’d read the first arc or so.

And now, I find the keep/drop decision is remarkably easy to make. So here are two comics I bought this week: one keeper, one dropper. (I’ll probably be going through all of these one a weekly basis now. Be warned.

The cover of Stormwatch #1, from 2011

Keeper: Stormwatch

I picked this up because: Paul Cornell, a writer I discovered when he wrote the excellent Knight and Squire miniseries, has a sense of humour and a feeling for characters I appreciate. I have as yet, read one collected volume of Ellis’ The Authority, and I had some fondness for the characters, especially Apollo and Midnighter.

What’s good about it? Cornell’s grasp of characterisation and his way with dialogue have not let me down – the characters of Jack Hawksmoor, Midnighter, J’onn J’onzz and Adam One, in particular, have been the stars of characterisation, although Apollo, the Engineer, Projectionist and Jenny Quantum have shone in their own ways, and I have no reason to expect anything other than great things from them in future issues.

I’ve also liked the treatment of Midnighter and Apollo: while I was annoyed in general by the number of relationships the DC reboot completely erased, Cornell didn’t waste any time with a blossoming romance. Midnighter saw Apollo, decided he was super hot and when directly after him. (“God, you’re hot.” “They others can hear you.” “I’m the Midnighter. I don’t give a damn.”).He’s not a guy who beats around the bush, when it comes to getting laid.

What’s bad about it?

Well, it’s a little slow in getting going; there are a LOT of characters in this team, and Cornell wastes no time getting to know them. As a result, for someone as new to Stormwatch as myself – or newer – it can be confusing as the characters are thrown at you – and the first issue had multiple plot threads which didn’t help that much. With familiarity it gets easier, though and this only lasts a few issues.

It also ties too much in with events in other books for my liking, because I don’t read Superman or Justice League right now and I have no interest in it. So everytime there’s a note that says “see Superman, or JLA for more information” I just say to myself “well, I guess I’ll never know the full story. That’s OK, neither do the characters. If you’re interested in Big World Building Stories, it looks like you’d have to buy more books. Me, I’m just interested in characters, so this is fine by me.

I’m keeping it because: I like good dialogue and interesting, varied characters. And I care about these guys already.

The cover of Static Shock #1 (2011)

Dropper: Static Shock

I picked this up because: I knew nothing about the character, other than that he was created by Dwayne McDuffie, he had a popular cartoon, and he was a fan favourite. But I wanted to try out new books with a diverse cast, and in particular I wanted to find good current comics for teenage / young adult males.

What’s good about it: I can tell that Virgil Hawkins is a great character, and a very likeable one. He’s a brainy kid with a science nerd streak and people-smarts on top, and loaded with heroic tendencies that make him just the kind of superhero I like. His supporting cast are also interesting, fun, and great characters.

What’s bad about it: The storytelling, frankly, is a mess. There’s too much going on, we’re dropped right into the middle of weird events with no real attempt to cover the backstory, and characters are thrown in without explanation. It’s not a new series, it’s a continuation of an existing series and if you didn’t read those stories, as I didn’t, you’re kind of stuck. And after 6 issues, if you asked me what the plot has been, I’d be at a loss to tell you.

Every issue is far too busy, which is a shame because Scott McDaniel’s bold and dramatic art is at its best with fairly simple panels. I’d forgive a writer who didn’t understand the artist asking for unsuitable requirements, but as McDaniel is also the writer, I’m not sure where to go with it. But it is obvious this is his first writing job; the dialogue is dull, the characters are fleshed out enough that you can tell they’re great characters, but without any character moments to highlight this. It’s all plot-plot-plot and the plot itself is just not good.

I really wanted to like this book. But I can’t be sad that it’s cancelled, only that the character wasn’t given better treatment. The only thing I know from this is that I will really enjoy the original books when I swing around to reading them.

I’m dropping it because: I have no idea what’s going on.

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